Sure, sports-entertainment might not be the first thing that pops into your head when you think of a “family business.” But the fact of the matter is grapplers have been passing on the secrets of wristlocks and hammer throws to their offspring since the 1930s when a band of interrelated terrors known as The Dirty Duseks raised hell across Nebraska. Since then, the sons and daughters of sports-entertainment greats have inherited a passion for the squared circle the same way most of us inherit nearsightedness or male pattern baldness.
With second and third-generation talent in mind, WWE Classics set out to rank the 15 greatest families in WWE history, presented by Wrangler. Because when it comes to sports-entertainment, family matters.
#15 The DiBiases
Before he was The Million Dollar Man, Ted DiBiase was just a kid sitting in the bleachers as his father, “Iron” Mike DiBiase, grappled with Dory Funk, Sr. for nearly two hours and took on fight legend Archie Moore in a rare boxer versus wrestler bout. When the son entered the ring himself, he did his late father proud by becoming a key player in WWE’s rise to international prominence in the late-80s and early 1990s. Now a WWE Hall of Famer, The Million Dollar Man has been afforded an opportunity "Iron” Mike never had — the chance to watch his own boy in the ring as “Fortunate Son” Ted carries on the DiBiase name in WWE. — RYAN MURPHY
#14 The Colons
When you think of successful wrestling areas, look no further than Puerto Rico — home to the legendary wrestling family, The Colons. The patriarch is Carlos Colon, who is revered as an icon in his homeland. He always relied on the support of his fellow countrymen to guide him to victory over rivals like Bruiser Brody and Abdullah the Butcher in brutal battles during his lengthy career. Following in their father’s footsteps were Carlito and Primo, who, after competing in Puerto Rico, took their respective talents to WWE, where they captured the tag titles. In addition, this family boasts a talented young member whose uncle is Carlos Colon. Known as Epico, he has made his mark as part of a duo with cousin Primo. — HOWARD FINKEL
#13 The Poffos
A wrestling family that needs no introduction, the Poffos put Downers Grove, Ill. on the map. For more than four decades, patriarch Angelo Poffo entertained audiences with his villainous style inside the ring. And his two sons followed suit after getting “the bug” from their dad. Younger son Lanny thrilled crowds for more than two decades under the name “Leaping” Lanny as well as his most recognized persona, The Genius. Then there was Randy Poffo, who began competing in 1973. After a baseball career fizzled out, the natural athlete created a charismatic persona known as Randy “Macho Man” Savage, and parlayed it into becoming one of the most successful performers in wrestling history. Macho Man was at the top of his game in WWE rings from 1985 through ’94, and in WCW until 2000. He was a two-time WWE Champion and a four-time WCW Champion. — H.F.
#12 The Hennigs
No, the family’s surname isn’t Perfect, but it could have been. Best known to WWE fans through “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig, the Hennig family’s wrestling lineage begins with Larry “The Axe” Hennig. A rough, muscular bruiser who found his biggest fame in Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association, The Axe was so tough that he once had his knee bent backwards in a match and refused to go to the hospital. Larry’s son, Curt, was the type of rare talent who was born to be a sports-entertainer. Built for the squared circle, the 6’3”, 260-pound Hennig was the consummate technician, which he proved in classics against Bret “Hit Man” Hart. Today, the Hennig family legacy continues with former Nexus member Michael McGillicutty — a Superstar who is just waiting for the opportunity to show sports-entertainment fans how perfect he can be. — R.M.
#11 The Vachons
One wrestling family that no one wanted to mess with was the Vachons. Led by brothers Maurice A.K.A. “Mad Dog” and Paul A.K.A. “Butcher," the unpredictability of both men was well known in the industry. For four decades, The Brothers Vachon wreaked havoc everywhere they went. Maurice was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2010. In addition, there were two female Vachon family members. Vivian Vachon was the sister of Maurice and Paul, and was a successful competitor mainly in the ’70s. And, of course, there was Paul’s daughter, Luna, whose unforgettable looks and volatility made her one of the most successful females in WWE rings in the ’90s. — H.F.
#10 The Windhams
From the great state of Texas came a family that never backed down from a battle. The patriarch is Bob Windham — a feared grappler from the city of Eagle Pass who competed under the name Blackjack Mulligan. Mulligan was a rugged battler who had great success during a career that spanned from the late 1960’s until the mid-80s and eventually gained him entry into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006. Barry Windham, who like his father is a WWE Hall of Fame inductee (2012) was multi-talented. He could brawl, he could give you a technical battle, and he adjusted to his opponent’s style in a flash. Barry was also a member of The Four Horsemen, and is a former NWA World Champion. Younger brother Kendall also competed in rings from the mid 80’s through the ’90s. — H.F.
#9 The Briscos
Ask an old school wrestling fan about Jack Brisco and they’ll tell you few were better. A sharply handsome Chickasaw Indian from Blackwell, Okla., Brisco became the first Native American to win an NCAA wrestling title as a junior at the University of Oklahoma. When he transitioned to professional wrestling, the technician beat Harley Race for the coveted NWA Title and then formed a renowned tag team with his brother, Gerald. Best known to current day sports-entertainment fans as one of Mr. McMahon’s “Attitude Era” stooges, Gerald was a mirror image of his masterful brother and the two captured tag titles across the country. — R.M.
#8 The Rhodes
Known for getting “funky like a monkey” in legendary clashes with the likes of Ric Flair, Harley Race, and “Superstar” Billy Graham, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes launched a wrestling dynasty that belied his humble beginnings as a plumber’s son. In a career spanning four decades, the 2007 WWE Hall of Famer captured illustrious titles such as the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and the vaunted United States Championship. Yet, even more impressive than Rhodes’ in-ring accolades was his ability to connect with crowds across the country despite lacking the chiseled physique and movie star good looks of many of his contemporaries.
The charismatic Superstar went on to father two sons that would carry on his winning legacy: the strange and mysterious Goldust and the unpredictable Cody Rhodes. The half-brothers each went on to find success in WWE’s tag team division, and have earned five Intercontinental Championships between them. In fact, Cody’s first Intercontinental Title reign lasted more than 200 days – one of the longest in history. — JAMES WORTMAN
#7 The Funks
There must be something in the water at The Double Cross Ranch in Amarillo, Texas, where The Funk family called home. Dory Funk, Sr. competed mainly in the southwestern United States before opening a promotion in Amarillo, where his sons, Dory Jr. and Terry, cut their teeth. When the brothers ventured out of the Texas plains and into the squared circle, they returned home with international acclaim.
Dory Funk, Jr. defeated Gene Kiniski for the NWA World Championship in 1963 and successfully defended it for more than four years. Terry captured the same championship in 1975, holding it for more than a year. The brothers later teamed in WWE, making an appearance at WrestleMania 2.
Terry, deemed “middle-aged and crazy” by his peers, had a career renaissance in the late ’80s. His “I Quit” Match against Ric Flair from Clash of the Champions IX is revered as a classic bout and his Barbed Wire Match against Sabu in ECW has to be seen to be believed.
The Funk family’s blood, sweat and tears gave the ultimate return in 2009, when Terry and Dory Jr. were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. — BOBBY MELOK
#6 The Guerreros
Gory Guerrero was such a despised villain in Mexico in the 1950s and ’60s that he grew accustomed to irate wrestling fans trying to stab him in the streets. His boys were a little better received. Hector, Mando and Chavo Guerrero — Gory’s three oldest sons — were a popular trio in territories across the United States and Mexico in the ’70s and ’80s. But it was the youngest son, Eddie, who would have the greatest impact. An international star as a cruiserweight, Guerrero became the first Mexican-American to win the WWE Title when he defeated Brock Lesnar for that coveted championship in 2004. Eddie’s nephew, Chavo, also found success in the ring, as did his wife, Vickie, who went from shy sweetheart to sports-entertainment’s most reviled figurehead seemingly overnight. Gory would be proud. — R.M.
#5 The Ortons
One of the most skillful, yet rugged families are the Ortons. Spanning three generations, the lineage began with Bob Orton, Sr. who made a name for himself during the 1960s and ’70s. He was one of the first individuals to incorporate the piledriver into his arsenal of maneuvers. His son, Cowboy Bob Orton, entered into the industry in the early ’70s, competed in various wrestling organizations until had his ticket punched to enter WWE in 1984. One of the Cowboy’s great accomplishments was to have competed in the main event of the first WrestleMania in 1985. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2005. And the Orton tradition continues with Randy Orton. A multi-time WWE Champion and World Heavyweight Champion, the man known as WWE’s “Apex Predator” has carved himself a WWE career that has contributed in making the Orton family one of sports-entertainment’s best recognized groupings. — H.F.
#4 The Von Erichs
There’s something beautifully American about the Von Erich family name. Appropriated by a Texas wrestler named Jack Adkisson in the 1950s in order to enrage the sensitivities of post-World World II crowds, the surname would soon inspire those same fans when it was passed on to Jack’s handsome sons. The stars of Fritz’s Dallas-based World Class Championship Wrestling, Kevin, Kerry, David, Mike and Chris Von Erich were all-American boys who took a name meant to conjure up images of unspeakable evil and turned it into a symbol of Texas pride. Beloved in The Lone Star State for their unforgettable rivalry with the underhanded Freebirds, the Von Erich boys are known today for the tragic end four of them would meet, but they’re best remembered as they lived — wild, carefree and unmistakably Texan. — R.M.
#3 The Anoaʻi / Maivias
On the islands of Samoa, everyone’s an “uso,” so apologies if some bloodlines get crossed in the lineage of the Anoa’i and Maivia wrestling families. Beginning with WWE Hall of Famer "High Chief" Peter Maivia and his wife, Lia, the family tree branches out to include such ring greats as “Soulman” Rocky Johnson, WWE tag team legends The Wild Samoans and The Usos. But out of all the World Tag Team Champions and WWE Hall of Famers this ancestry has produced, no Superstar was as revered as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Honoring his father and grandfather with his original ring name of Rocky Maivia, WWE's first third-generation competitor combined the power of the Anoa'i family with the swagger of the Maivias to become the most charismatic Superstar of all time. — R.M.
#2 The Harts
The Harts’ legacy began with patriarch Stu Hart’s founding of Calgary’s Stampede Wrestling in 1948, continued with Stu’s son, Bret “Hit Man” Hart, becoming one of the most beloved WWE Champions of all time, and remains with Bret’s niece Natalya staking claim on the Divas roster. The clan has won nearly every possible sanctioned championship in WWE on multiple occasions, and both Stu and Bret were inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
The Hart Foundation first debuted in WWE during the 1980s when Bret and his brother-in-law Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart, Natalya’s father, battled Davey Boy Smith and The Dynamite Kid, who also became members of the family by marriage. At Survivor Series 1993, Bret and his brothers Owen, Keith and Bruce were victorious as a team, and Owen later defeated Bret in the main event of WrestleMania X. In 1997, The Hart Foundation was reborn with Bret, Owen, Neidhart and Davey Boy, and even hosted their own pay-per-view, Canadian Stampede, widely considered one of the finest in WWE history.
12 years later, the family reemerged in WWE as The Hart Dynasty , including Natalya and Davey Boy’s son David Hart Smith. And today, Natalya continues to represent the Harts’ storied legacy in WWE. — ZACH LINDER
#1 The McMahons
The McMahon name has long been synonymous with sports-entertainment, but few realize the family was involved in professional wrestling since before the first television was even invented. In the 1920s, Jess McMahon began promoting matches in the New York City area during the industry's early boom. When he died in 1954, his son, Vincent, took over the business and became one of the most respected and admired promoters. For Jess and Vince, Madison Square Garden was their home, but that regional base was expanded in the 1980s when Mr. McMahon took what would become WWE from an eastern attraction to an international powerhouse. Not just sports-entertainment’s greatest promoter, but one of the genre’s biggest stars, the mastermind behind WrestleMania’s in-ring battles with “Stone Cold” Steve Austin brought his company record television ratings and box-office receipts. His kids pitched in too as both Shane and Stephanie McMahon were key players in the squared circle and at the corporate offices. With Stephanie's 2003 marriage to Triple H, the family lineage extended to include not only sports-entertainment's greatest minds, but one of the ring's biggest legends. — R.M.