The 15 Most Influential Wrestling Families Of All Time

Many wrestling promotions are family-run businesses, with bookers using their backstage authority to get their relatives into the industry. Nepotism isn't an inherently bad thing in wrestling, as it can help give a foothold to future talent. By signing people who grew up around wrestling, there aren't the growing pains seen in training other outsiders. In some cases, they are handed the gimmick of their predecessors and carry the name in homage as a means of getting the crowd engaged with them. A second and third generation wrestler may become even bigger stars than those before them, ascending the card with near-prodigal talents.

On the other end, giving a young prospect expectations based on their lineage can result in unrealistic ceilings that can't be reached. While they may boast the name value of a legend, some next generation talent don't have the physical and mental gifts needed to succeed in the wrestling business. In many cases, they are relegated to the lower-midcard before shooed off from the sport to find success in other fields. It's a cutthroat business and one can't expect their surname to carry them to championship success — it's also a matter of merit that gets one to the upper echelons of the wrestling world. 

Names mean a lot in wrestling, and there have been several prominent families who've planted their influence throughout promotions around the world.


The first family of the WWE, the McMahons are a fixture of the company's culture and mythology. Born to Irish immigrants in New York City, Jess McMahon promoted boxing, baseball, and wrestling events in the region. Working alongside his son Vincent J. McMahon, the McMahons formed the Capitol Wrestling Corporation and joined the NWA. The CWC became the dominant promotion of the northeast, morphing into the WWWF in 1963 due to a dispute with the NWA. The WWWF would reconnect with the NWA but left again in 1983. As his health declined, Vince sold his stake in the company to his son Vincent Kennedy McMahon. Against his father's wishes, Vince Jr. turned the company into a nationwide promotion by raiding rosters and buying out television time slots. For the next four decades, Vince Jr. ascended to the pinnacle of the wrestling industry — becoming the wealthiest promoter in history as Chairman of the WWF, later WWE.

Vince married Linda Edwards and fathered two children, Stephanie and Shane. The McMahon family as a whole hve been a fixture of the television product since the birth of the Mr. McMahon character during the Attitude Era. Paul Levesque, better known as Triple H, married Stephanie in a relationship that started in kayfabe. After Vince stepped down as Chairman in 2022 in light of a hush money scandal, Stephanie and Levesque stepped up in his stead.


Under the leadership of Stu Hart, the Hart family became a revered family in Canadian sports. With their promotion Stampede Wrestling, they innovated an athletic style that meshed the stiff strikes of Japan and technical grappling of Britain. Rather than the tall, toned demigods of the WWF, Stampede paved the way for shorter, stockier athletes. In order to farm prospects for the territory, the family opened a school in the basement of their mansion to train the next generation of grapplers. The Dungeon became a Mecca of aspiring wrestlers from around the world seeking to train with some of the industry's toughest shooters. Notable alumni include Roddy Piper, Jake Roberts, and Ken Shamrock. When speaking on his time in the Dungeon with Chael Sonnen, Chris Jericho described having his jaw viced shut by an elderly Stu.

The Harts are no victim to the cruelty of the wrestling world, with youngest son Owen dying in a botched in-ring stunt in 1999. Bret's in-ring career came to a sudden end in 2001 as a result of concussions. Davey Boy Smith, who married into the family, died in a heart attack. Smith Hart died in 2017 from prostate cancer. Stu's funeral in 2003 was a day of public mourning, broadcast on CBC with members of the wrestling community and Canadian public figures present to pay respects to the patriarch. Active contributors to the industry include Harry Smith, Teddy Hart, Natalya, and her husband TJ Wilson who is the Dungeon's final graduate.


Blackjack Mulligan served as a Marine and played football with the New York Jets, turning to pro wrestling in 1967. Jim Cornette crossed paths with the mustachioed bruiser for a short time, but with an imposing build and varied background, he summarized with Mulligan with "He was somebody, nobody would f**k with." His two sons, Barry and Kendall, both worked extensively for the NWA and WCW. Barry is remembered for his size and technical prowess, as well as being an acclaimed singles and tag wrestler. During a short WWF run in 1997 Barry formed The New Blackjacks with Justin "Hawk" Bradshaw, in homage to his father's alliance with Jack Lanza. Kendall didn't see the success of his relatives, but he did see a WCW Tag Team Championship run in 1999 with Barry. In 1990, both he and his father were sentenced in a counterfeiting scheme that saw them serve two years in federal prison.

Through marriage to Mulligan's daughter, Mike Rotunda is affiliated with the family. Barry and Rotunda teamed as the patriotically-themed US Express, managed by Lou Albano to two WWF Tag Team Championship runs. Rotunda is perhaps best known as the vigilant taxman Irwin R. Schyster. Rotunda's sons have had notable careers in WWE. Bo Dallas reigned as NXT Champion, portraying an overly optimistic, delusional babyface-heel. Bray Wyatt returned to WWE at Extreme Rules 2022, teased for weeks through the "White Rabbit" mystery. Wyatt cut an impassioned return promo on the following "SmackDown."

Von Erich

As the villainous faux-German with an iron-grip, Fritz Von Erich founded World Class Championship Wrestling out of Texas. Fritz booked his pious, humble sons in their legendary feud with rock-n-roll party animals The Fabulous Freebirds. Headlining cards out of the dirty and intimate Dallas Sportatorium, the Von Erichs became working class folk heroes beloved by the public. In spite of their squeaky-clean Christian image, the Von Erichs struggled with their demons behind the scenes. D Magazine detailed the troubles of the family in 1988, stemming from the death of first-born Jack Jr. in 1959 at seven years old. David died on tour with All Japan in 1984 reportedly from acute enteritis. Mike overdosed in 1987, days after being arrested for DUI. Chris died via self-inflicted gunshot in 1991 and Kerry followed suit, facing prison time for a cocaine arrest in 1993 per The Baltimore Sun. Fritz passed in 1997 from cancer, outliving five of his six children.

The tragedy of the Von Erich family is detailed in pained fashion by VICE TV in "Dark Side of the Ring." Titled "The Last of the Von Erichs," the documentary focuses on sole survivor Kevin's new life on his Hawaiian estate. Kevin's sons, Marshall and Ross, carry the Von Erich name as members of the MLW roster. Kerry's daughter Lacey performed from 2007 until retiring in 2010.

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Built like a refrigerator with a 22-inch neck, Larry "The Axe" Hennig traveled the territories and found success in the AWA with tag team partner Harley Race. Despite suffering a major knee injury in Winnipeg, Hennig continued performing when his son Curt debuted for the promotion in 1984. Curt was an athletic prodigy who wowed audiences with his world championship performances against the likes of Nick Bockwinkel. Curt would find a very successful career in the WWF, primed with a major push as arrogant showman Mr. Perfect and became Intercontinental Champion. Tragically, Curt died in 2003 from cocaine intoxication.

Curt's daughter Amy wrestled independently for a short time. His son Joe joined WWE in 2008, promoted to the main roster as Michael McGuilicutty and later Curtis Axel. During a triple threat match on Father's Day 2013 featuring The Miz and Wade Barrett, Axel pinned Barrett to win the Intercontinental Championship. To date, Perfect and Axel are the only father and son to have won the title. At Elimination Chamber 2014, The Axe accompanied his grandson and Ryback in their tag match. Speaking to Sports Illustrated about Curt, Axel opened up about his father's legacy as one of the all-time greats. Larry commended his son's physical gifts, saying "Curt was one of those athletes who could do it all." In 2018, Larry Hennig died at the age of 82. Axel was released in 2020 due to pandemic cutbacks, returning in 2022 for a three month stint as a road agent.

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Bob Orton Sr. found success in the NWA, capturing several titles across territories in Florida and Georgia. Bob had two sons, Barry and Bob Jr., both of whom wrestled professionally. Orton's grandson Randy spoke to after his grandfather's death in 2006, remembering a key piece of advice passed from generation-to-generation: "to keep my mouth shut and my ears open." Barry wrestled in several territories, mainly as an enhancement talent and teamed with Jody Hamilton as Assassin #3. His career stalled after appearing on "The Phil Donohue Show," speaking against the WWF and accusing the company for allowing sexual assault. Orton retired in 1991 and died in 2021. Journalist Jamie Hemmings spoke of him after his passing, noting that wrestling was a means of income for his dream career in film and music.

Randy debuted in 2002, getting an upset victory over Hardcore Holly. Getting his big break with Evolution, Orton evolved into The Legend Killer. Randy and his father feuded with The Undertaker in 2005, causing controversy after the elder Orton bladed during their Armageddon 2005 Hell in the Cell encounter. Bob Jr. tested positive for hepatitis, which is spread through contact with infected blood. Undertaker was reportedly furious and Bob was released from the promotion soon afterwards. A former multi-time WWE Champion, Randy is a staple of WWE's main event scene with an incredibly popular finisher. Randy has been out of action since May 2022 nursing a back injury, with a return not being estimated anytime soon.


Gory Guerrero debuted in 1937, credited as an innovator of several wrestling holds including the camel clutch. With his wife Herlinda, they had six children including four boys. Chavo Sr., known to some as Chavo Classic, worked for multiple territories along the US-Mexico border. Hector is most infamously known as the Gobbedy Gooker, with other ventures including providing Spanish commentary for TNA. Mando is credited with creating the Moonsault press. He found a career as a stuntman and trainer for GLOW, with his nephew Chavo playing him on Netflix's series on the promotion.

Chavo Jr. signed with WWF in 2001, aligning with his uncle Eddie as part of the iconic Smackdown Six. Eddie was a world-renowned performer known for his crisp in-ring performances and natural charm. After years of grinding on the road and surviving addiction, he defeated Brock Lesnar for the WWE Championship at No Way Out 2004. Tragically Eddie passed away in 2005 from heart problems, leaving his wife Vickie and three children. Vickie became an on-air personality, morphing into one of the most reviled heels of the 21st century and manages AEW's Nyla Rose. One of Eddie's daughters, Shaul, signed to FCW in 2010 but never made it to the main roster. She continues her family's legacy making appearances on the independent wrestling scene. Matt Rehwoldt, known as Aiden English in WWE, married Shaul in 2016. Rehwoldt is a member of the broadcast team of Impact Wrestling and NJPW, retiring from in-ring competition in August 2022.

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Ric Flair is a record holding world champion with reigns in the NWA, WCW, and WWF to his name. Flair's peers such as the legendary "Stone Cold" Steve Austin "continuously heralded Ric Flair as the greatest performer of all time," per Sportskeeda. Three of Flair's children went on to have wrestling careers: David, Reid, and Ashley. His fourth child, Megan Fleihr, is married to wrestling promoter Conrad Thompson. David debuted for WCW in 1997, intertwined in stories involving his father and became United States Heavyweight Champion on one occasion. Speaking on David's inability to step out of his father's shadow, OVW colleague Kenny Bolin chimed "he couldn't figure out who David Flair was." Reid debuted in 2008 in a tag team match in December 2008, joining David to face The Nasty Boys. Reid was found dead of an overdose at the age of 25 in a Charlotte hotel room. An autopsy found traces of heroin and tranquilizers in his system.

Ashley signed with WWE as Charlotte Flair where she'd lead the brand's women's division as a quarter of The Four Horsewomen. She's a record-holding six-time holder of the Raw and Smackdown Women's Championships. Thom Latimer was previously married to Charlotte. In 2022, she married AEW star Andrade El Idolo. Ric accompanied Andrade to the ring Triplemanía XXIX for his bout against Kenny Omega. The Flair siblings were present for Ric Flair's Last Match, which saw Ric team with Andrade against Jeff Jarrett and Jay Lethal at the Thompson-promoted show.

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Angelo Poffo was born to Italian immigrants, playing college baseball at DePaul and serving in the Navy during World War II where he performed a record-setting 6,033 pushups. Turning to wrestling after his service, Poffo toured the territories where he is claimed to have created the neckbreaker. Poffo used his outlaw territory International Championship Wrestling as a vehicle for his two sons, Randy and Lanny. Operating out of Lexington, ICW ran cards in neighboring states rivaling the NWA. He was inducted to the WCW Hall of Fame in 1995. Angelo died in his sleep at the age of 84 in 2010.

"Leaping" Lanny Poffo was a conditioned and agile athlete, with his impressive high-risk moveset including the popularization of the Moonsault. Aside from his aerial in-ring style, he is known for his character "The Genius," an arrogant scholar with an extensive vocabulary. Lanny tours the country as a motivational speaker and makes occasional wrestling appearances, managing "Black Machismo" Jay Lethal at All In. Lanny's older brother Randall performed as "Macho Man" Randy Savage. Randy signed with the WWF in 1985, winning the WWF Championship at WrestleMania IV in a one-night tournament. Savage is a pop culture icon, serving as the mascot of Slim Jim and acting in 2002's "Spider-Man" film. Elizabeth Hulett – better known as Miss Elizabeth — was Savage's manager and was married to him from 1984 to 1992. Randy died behind the wheel of a heart attack due to an enlarged heart, with his wife suffering minor injuries after crashing into a tree.


Joe Blanchard's sports career stemmed in Canada, where he played football and debuted for Stu Hart's Stampede Wrestling in 1953. Working for NWA territories in Hawaii and Texas, Joe settled in San Antonio and in 1978 formed Southwest Championship Wrestling. Joe died in March 2012 at the age of 84. The promotion was a way in for Joe's son Tully, who teamed with his father against Terry and Dory Funk Jr. in his debut feud. As The Brainbusters, Tully and Arn Anderson revolutionized tag team wrestling for their fluid pacing and influenced future teams like FTR. Tully debuted with AEW as Shawn Spears' "exclusive advisor" and aligned with MJF's Horsemen-inspired faction The Pinnacle. After FTR dissolved their relationship with Blanchard, he popped up in ROH as Brian Cage's manager. Establishing Tully Blanchard Enterprises, Blanchard acquired the Gates of Agony and Jonathan Gresham but walked out on the promotion. The stable would be bought out by The Embassy's Prince Nana

After her parents separated, Tully's daughter Tessa was raised by her stepfather Magnum T.A. Tessa was a noted prospect for her young age and in-ring ability, becoming the first woman to win the Impact World Championship. Living in Mexico during the first months of the COVID-19 lockdown, Blanchard had a falling out with Impact management and was stripped of the title. Blanchard was accused of racial misconduct in January 2020, with her denying the allegations. Recently, she walked out of a taping for Women of Wrestling.


Dory Funk began his career during his naval service during World War II, performing in the NWA's junior heavyweight division and leading Western States Sports out of Amarillo. Dory prematurely died of a heart attack in 1973, leaving behind his two sons Dory Jr. and Terry. Revered by his colleagues as a legitimate tough guy, with Moose Morowski saying "Everywhere Senior went, he was a hero." In a promo for ECW, Terry described his father's death as "I figured the Lord had good reason to take him ... it will be the saddest day of my life, probably forever."

Terry and Dory Jr. found success on both sides of the Pacific, becoming the most beloved gaijins in All Japan Pro Wrestling while touring the territories. Terry retired in August 1983, becoming synonymous with several short-term retirements in an over five-decade career. One retirement match saw him face WWF Champion Bret Hart in a non-title bout at the eponymous "Terry Funk's Wrestlefest." After losing to Hart, Paul Heyman declared Funk "Lifetime ECW Heavyweight Champion" for his contributions as a mentor in the locker room. Dory Jr. wrestled well into the 21st century, testing his students in his !BANG! promotion with the occasional marquee performance against standouts like Samoa Joe. He announced his retirement on New Year's Eve 2017. Dory Jr. runs the legendary Funking Conservatory, a wrestling school with alumni including Kurt Angle, The Hardy Boyz, and Genichiro Tenryu. Aside from the fundamentals, the academy offers a curriculum for hardcore wrestling.


Descended from a line of government-appointed executioners and prizefighters, Tom Billington and David Smith began wrestling in their native Britain. Cutting their teeth in Canada for Stampede Wrestling, the Wigan-born cousins faced each other and teamed throughout their tenure. As The British Bulldogs, they traveled the world performing their dynamic style fusing their gifted combination of speed and power. Dynamite Kid's antics of hard drug abuse and backstage bullying came to a head in 1988 when Billington punched Jacques Rougeau in the face with a fist loaded with a roll of quarters. The incident saw Rougeau lose several teeth and the Bulldogs left the WWF after Survivor Series. The Bulldogs returned to Canada and toured in Japan, breaking up when Billington aligned with Johnny Smith to form The British Bruisers. Tom and David experienced a falling out, with David taking the trademark to the team's name and returning to the WWF as The British Bulldog.

Years of substance abuse and the wrestling lifestyle took its toll on Smith, dying of heart attack at 39. Billington died in 2018, living in obscurity and a wheelchair at only 60 years old. While Smith is remembered fondly in the Hall of Fame, Billington's legacy is mired by stories of abuse. The Billington family tree is intertwined with the Hart clan of wrestlers, with Harry Smith acquiring the name trademark in 2015. Dynamite Kid's nephews Mark and Thomas perform as The Billington Bulldogs, booked to team with their cousin in MLW in 2022.

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Despite being loosely associated in the promotions they worked for, the Laurinaitis brothers each found success. Marcus Laurinaitis is most known as one-half The Wrecking Crew, working with his partner Rage in WCW's tag team division under the name Fury. Outside of his appearances for Atlanta, Marcus had championship reigns in several US regional promotions. His brother, Joseph, was one half of the Road Warriors. As Road Warrior Animal, Joseph and his companion Hawk became the top drawing tag team of the 1980's thanks to their legitimate tough guy personas and marketable look. Joseph passed away in September 2020 from a heart attack while on vacation with his wife. Paul Ellering took to social media in wake of the death, tweeting "Today we lost the engine of the train... He will be welcomed home by a waiting Hawk."

The middle child, John, is wrestled as Johnny Ace for WCW and All Japan. While not a notable act in the States, he was a staple gaijin of All Japan with a Meltzer-rated five star match under his belt. His finisher, the Ace Crusher, was adopted by future main eventers such as DDP and Randy Orton. Ace retired in 2000, joining WCW management. Through marriage to their mother, John is related to the Bella Twins and Brie's husband Bryan Danielson. In 2022, amid the Vince McMahon hush money scandal, Laurinaitis was implicated in inappropriate activity and terminated as WWE's Vice President of Talent Relations after 21 years with the company.


Dusty Rhodes was a beloved figure of the NWA, winning over fans with his presentation as a common man with a rotund physique. His first-born son, Dustin, debuted in 1990 working several angles alongside his father. Cody debuted for WWE in 2007, feuding with Randy Orton and later aligning with him as a third of Legacy alongside Ted DiBiase Jr. The two half-brothers joined forces against the Shield, fighting on behalf of their father to keep their jobs. As Goldust and Stardust, two brothers feuded leading to an abysmal match at Fastlane in 2015. Ill-feelings about the match have been apparent over the years, with Dustin calling it a "a s**t match." Dusty passed away in June of that year to kidney failure.

Frustrated with his position in the company, Cody left the organization in 2016 and Dustin followed in three years later. In 2019, they met again at AEW's inaugural pay-per-view Double or Nothing. The two had a story-driven, emotional blood-soaked brawl paralleling the bouts of their father. A victorious Cody stood over his brother, asking for his hand in a tag team match against The Young Bucks. The two embraced, facing the Bucks at "Fight for the Fallen" later that summer. The Rhodes name evokes respect and heritage, one of the last remaining vessels of southern wrasslin' royalty. Fans roared with excitement in a packed AT&T arena at WrestleMania 38 as "Wrestling has more than one royal family," rang throughout to mark Cody's return to WWE.


The Anoa'i family is a lineage of wrestlers with origins in Samoa, where Amituana'I Anoa'i and Peter Maivia became blood brothers to bring the two clans together. Maivia promoted the NWA's Hawaiian branch, wrestling in several Alliance territories as well as WCCW and WWWF. Maivia's adopted daughter Ata married "Soulman" Rocky Johnson, having a son named Dwayne born in 1972. Under the portmanteau of Rocky Maivia, Dwayne debuted for the WWF in 1996. Failing to win over audiences, Rocky turned heel and shortened his name to become The Rock — the most electrifying man in sports entertainment. Other relatives include The Wild Samoans, Rosey, Tonga Kid, Rikishi, and Umaga. Despite being depicted as a sumo champion of Japanese origin, Yokozuna was a member of the family. Gary Albright was also connected to the family, leaving Monica Anoa'i after he died in the ring in 2000.

In modern times, the Anoa'i continue to make an impact in WWE and beyond. Sean Maluta entered the 2016 Cruiserweight Classic, losing in the first round to Kota Ibushi. Jacob Fatu made waves in MLW as the deceptively agile headman of Contra Unit. Lance Anoa'i signed with the promotion in 2022. NBC's "Young Rock" tells the fictionalized account of The Rock's upbringing in the Maivia household, sometimes featuring cameos from Anoa'i family members. WWE Undisputed Universal Champion Roman Reigns leads The Bloodline, a faction featuring his cousins The Usos and Solo Sikoa. Through her marriage to Jimmy Uso, Naomi is a member of the family as well.