The Generation Gap: Wrestling Legacies

Brian Damage

David Sammartino found it difficult to step out of the shadow of his father (Image courtesy of

David Sammartino found it difficult to step out of the shadow of his father (Image courtesy of

A big misconception by some fans and critics is that simply being the son or daughter of a famous pro wrestler guarantees success for that individual in the sport. While it may help open some doors it normally would not open, it certainly does not guarantee anything but a chance.

For every successful 2nd and 3rd generation wrestler like, Randy Orton, Greg Valentine and Ted Dibiase Sr., there are countless failures like David Flair, Tiger Ali Singh and David Sammartino. Sure, a name can help you get a push if your famous mother or father is the booker or promoter. As was the case with Erik Watts, Jeff Jarrett, The Von Erich boys and Garrett Bischoff….it still doesn’t guarantee success. A door opened can easily close if expectations are not met. It’s up to that individual to knock the door down with no chance of being repaired to close again.

As quick and as easy an opportunity may come for a young wrestler attached to a wrestling legacy, it’s just as hard…if not harder for that young wrestler to succeed on his or her own. Why you may ask? Expectations. A wrestler with a last name like Rhodes, Flair, Steamboat or Hart is automatically expected to be as great or greater than their parent was. It’s an added burden to an already highly competitive and extremely difficult art form to master. It may take a young, green wrestler a few years to find himself and get into a groove. It’s a much shorter time frame for a 2nd or 3rd generation wrestler because of the last name and expectations.

Many fans have been critical of the WWE when they change wrestlers names like Joe Hennig into Curtis Axel, Nattie Neidhart being known simply as Natalya or even Windham Rotunda changing into Bray Wyatt. The truth is, in the long run, it may help…not hinder their careers. It helped Dustin Rhodes when he transformed into Goldust. They can still honor their legacies and still be acknowledged for their own individual performances.

There is an added pressure to succeed when you have a legacy. Failure is harder to swallow because sometimes they feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. They might feel they let their parents down and destroyed the legacies their parents spent years building up. Such was the case with Mike, Kerry and Chris Von Erich who all committed suicide because they felt they let their famous father Fritz Von Erich down.  A failure by a 2nd generation wrestler is greater because of the name. More people will remember Ric Flair’s son David Flair not succeeding A LOT more than Terry Gordy’s son Ray Gordy because Ray was known as Jesse and Slam Master J in the WWE and not Ray Gordy….son of a Freebird.

Cody Hall is going through the same situation now. He’s just starting out his career, but he is getting booked for gigs mainly because of his dad Scott Hall. There will come a time where Cody will have to stand on his own merits. I already hear and read comments where fans compare his style and look to his famous “Bad Guy” father. Is it unfair? Absolutely. It is what it is however.

Ross and Marshall Von Erich are constantly being compared to their infamous wrestling family from the World Class days. People are “concerned” that they will end up with the same fate as many of their uncles did. As tragic and unfortunate as all those deaths were, it shouldn’t be compared with the job their dad Kevin has done raising them.

So as we play the “name game” with all these future and current 2nd/3rd generation wrestlers, admire where they come from, but remember who they are.

6 thoughts on “The Generation Gap: Wrestling Legacies

  1. I can see Greg Valentine, yes but think of some others. Angelo Mosca Jr., Mike Scarpa, Brad & Bryant Anderson….these guys hardly put a dent in anything.


  2. This issue doesn’t only pertain to professional wrestling, but ALL sports and/or entertainment. Think about how many famous children never lived up to their parent’s legacy. For every Barry Bonds there is a Dale Berra. For every Jakob Dylan there is a Julian Lennon. … There are many factors WHY this occurs. Of course timing is everything!! Bruno, Hogan, Flair, Hart are all legends because he came in at the right time. Imagine if any of them came in 10 years earlier or later. Would they still be considered impressive? Their offspring may have the same exact talent as their parent, but because they are breaking in 10-20 years LATER that talent is no longer viewed as “impressive”. I also put some blame onto local promoters. When a “no-name” begins, they learn how to put someone over and work, because they know if they don’t perform well they won’t get booked. When you are the offspring of someone famous, promoters will “cut you slack”, and/or make you win because they think it will win favor with the superstar. In reality, they are doing the offspring a disservice. Of course, there is the reverse reason. Even with all the talent, one has, they are held back because the promoter has “bad feelings” for the famous parent (family connection). There are no secret McMahon had distain for Bruno and Dusty (just to name two). David’s hold back was result of this. Reportedly, David even did things which McMahon “required” of the superstars, and yet was still held back. Reportedly, some actions caused a family riff. Dustin wasn’t properly used until he decided to “dishonor” his Dad and do the Goldust character. Remember at the time Dustin and Dusty were in a legit family feud, and Vince fed into this. IMHO the only reason Goldust was pushed was to taunt Dusty. Not saying Dustin isn’t a good worker, in fact he was. But he had the same exactly talent before Goldust, and he had little success. Finally sometimes the “gene” isn’t in the offspring. No matter how hard they try, they will never be able to live up to their parent talent.


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  6. As the daughter of the Fabulous Jackie Fargo, who helped Lawler get into the business, and the originator of “The Fargo Strut, NOT THE RIC FLAIR STRUT (GOOGLE FARGO STRUT), I would say I could never fill my father’s shoes … but I did have the dream of being a wrestler and carrying on my dad’s name, but my dad forbid it. I respected his wishes but I can say it’s in my blood .. These guys wanna make it on their own .. they have heart!! I can imagine how hard it is because I grew up as “Jackie Fargo’s daughter” I’m proud to be a Fargo .. I’m proud to be a part of the Wrestling family and will continue to share my dad’s name for as long as I live. How could you leave out Jerry Lawler & Brian Christopher :)R.I.P. Dad

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