Pro Wrestling is a family business. So on a day dedicated to honor dad, what’s a better way to do so than by celebrating some of the greatest (and not so greatest) dads in the sport’s history?
Dusty Rhodes (Cody and Dustin Rhodes)
What has become professional wrestling’s most newsworthy family started with its patriarch. If you grew up a pro wrestling fan during the 70’s and 80’s, there’s likely nobody you idolized more as your pro wrestling dad than the son of a plumber himself, Dusty Rhodes. The multi-time world champion and hall of famer is perhaps wrestling’s most decorated “common man” of all time.
So it was bizarre when his eldest son, Dustin Rhodes, found success as a sexually-suggestive golden-clad villain. It was strange to see his youngest child, Cody Rhodes, build a legacy on elitism. When the two teamed up as “Space Travelers from Another Dimension,” it was entertaining enough, but a far cry from the hard times associated with the Rhodes legacy.
But that’s also a testament to the charisma their father passed along – an innate ability to win over any audience with any gimmick. And Cody has carried these and other learnings along as he’s built his upstart AEW promotion in the mold of Dusty’s throwback booking style. Recently, Dustin has ditched the facepaint and showmanship for raw, bloody emotions.
There’s no greater tribute to a working-man father than helping to build an entire company.
Ric Flair (Charlotte Flair)
One of the greatest of all time, a man who transcends the sport via both his larger-than-life stylin’ and profilin’ persona, and through his endless career accomplishments (a 16 or 25 time world champion depending on who you ask, and so many hall of fame nominations I doubt Flair himself could name them all), has given back to professional wrestling one of its greatest female athletes of all time.
Before Charlotte, both of Flair’s sons entered the ring with little long-term success. But Charlotte quickly found a niche, leaning on her athletic background (she’s former NCAA volleyball player and certified personal trainer), impressive physique, and legendary name to help her stand out.
Charlotte has gone on to win multiple WWE Women’s Championships, headline WrestleMania, and help elevate the entirety of women’s wrestling. And she’s had her dad at her side almost every step along the way.
Earl Hebner (Brian Hebner)
Senior Referee Earl Hebner has been involved in more controversial professional wrestling matches/storylines than anybody this side of Vince Russo. He’s a legend in the business despite never winning a single championship. So it makes since that his son, Brian Hebner, would want to follow in his footsteps.
They’ve worked together in WWE, Impact Wrestling, and across the indies. They’ve even been fortunate enough on multiple occasions to share a ring. And while Brian isn’t as notorious for controversial finishes as his father, the duo once simultaneously called a tag-team title match for opposing teams, thus forcing a restart. At least they didn’t let it come between them?
Cowboy Bob Orton (Randy Orton)
Poor “Cowboy” Bob Orton. While his son, Randy Orton, has many times been billed as someone who was bred for sports-entertainment (being a third generation superstar), Bob Orton has never been fortunate enough to share in those successes. Instead, he’s oftentimes found himself the recipient of a storyline beat down, generally the result of his son’s actions.
But knowing that Cowboy saw his own success as a reflection of his own father, I’m sure Bob Orton is fine with the drama since Randy will likely go down as one of the most successful wrestlers of this, or any, generation.
Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart (Natalya Neidhart)
A WWF mainstay for almost 20 years, Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart was a tag-team workhorse often overlooked in favor of his more popular Hart Foundation stablemates. Still, nothing humanized Neidhart more than frequent Total Divas appearances opposite his daughter Natalya. Their reality-show shenanigans offered Jim an unlikely popularity resurgence in recent years. Natalya even let WWE use her father’s untimely death in a storyline, seeing it as giving The Anvil “one last run.”
Rocky Johnson (The Rock)
The Rock initially leaned into his family heritage, taking both the “Rocky” and “Maivia” names (from his father and grandfather respectively) and “Blue Chipper” character, before ditching it all in favor of his cocky, brash, hysterical, and wildly-successful “The Rock” persona. But the fact that The Rock once played his own father on an episode of That 70’s Show is enough to make any dad proud.
Jerry Jarrett (Jeff Jarrett)
Jeff and Jerry kicked off the NWA: TNA promotion back in 2002. Then the Jarretts had a falling out in 2005 BECAUSE of TNA – apparently sparked by Vince Russo – that they only recently reconciled. Still, the fact that this father/son duo built a long-running (long suffering?) worldwide wrestling promotion together deserves some kudos.
Vince McMahon (Various)
While I’d love to talk at length about Mr. Family Man himself, Vincent Kennedy McMahon, and his relationship with his two legitimate children, Stephanie and Shane? (Remember the time they bought his own competition and tried to put him out of business? Or the various angles where he’s tried to teach those ungrateful children some respect?)
…I’d rather bring up Vince McMahon’s only real failure in life: the parenting of Hornswoggle. You see, once finding out that Hornswoggle was in fact his own human spawn, McMahon decided to show him some tough love by putting him in legitimately dangerous situations: matches against much larger opponents. He eventually whipped Hornswoggle with a belt inside a steel cage (hasn’t McMahon heard that spanking is ineffective and harmful to children?) and left Hornswoggle defenseless as JBL attacked.
We’d later find out that Fit Finaly was ACTUALLY Hornswoggle’s father the whole time (not that a belligerent Irishman who illegally assaults opponents with a shillelagh is a much better influence).
Mark Henry (Hand)