The Rhodes Family and the 7 Greatest Wrestling Families

Erik Beaston@@ErikBeastonFeatured ColumnistOctober 2, 2013

The Rhodes Family and the 7 Greatest Wrestling Families

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    Society loves a good sports dynasty.

    A dynasty, as defined by Miriam-Webster, is "a family, team, etc., that is very powerful or successful for a long period of time."

    We love those.

    Don't believe me? Look at the NFL and the Manning family. The League never misses the opportunity to rub their story in the faces of its fans. Every week it seems as though there is at least one reference to their heritage.

    When Peyton and Eli actually have to play each other? Forget about it. The entire focus of all NFL programming shifts to the brothers. We hear from mom, dad and brother Cooper. And a whole plethora of analysts debate who is the better QB. The Manning name is spoken ad nauseam.

    Cameras shoot to the sky boxes during the games and show Archie and his wife sweating bullets as they watch their quarterback sons march up and down the field.

    No matter how tired we get of hearing about the lineage of the Manning dynasty, we eat it up each and every time. 

    But why?

    We eat it up because there is something so intriguing about being able to trace the lineage of a current great back through history and revisit those who laid the framework for them to build upon. When those forefathers excelled at their craft and achieved any level of greatness, it makes it that much more interesting.

    The same goes for pro wrestling.

    Take a look at today's WWE roster and you will see a number of second- or third-generation stars that populate the television screens of millions of sports-entertainment fans.

    Randy Orton, Cody Rhodes, Curtis Axel, Natalya, Alberto Del Rio, Bray Wyatt, Los Matadores and the Usos are all members of wrestling dynasties that have laid the groundwork from which their children and grandchildren can continue to grow the family legacies.

    They have all been faced with the task of filling boots that were enormous to begin with. Some have already managed to fill them. One, in particular, has outgrown those boots. Still, others will opt to replace those boots with their own as they try to make their own name.

    Whatever the case may be, the eight elite wrestling families on this list are here because, like Peyton and Eli Manning, every generation sought to be better and to continue the legacy of the father, uncle or brother that came before them.

    Without further ado, here are eight of the finest wrestling families in history.

The Rhodes Family

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    The Rhodes family has been responsible for two of the most enduring characters in sports entertainment and one of the brightest young stars in today's World Wrestling Entertainment.

    Dusty Rhodes was a major star in nearly every promotion he worked. He teamed with Dick Murdoch early in his career, wreaking havoc through the AWA in Minnesota and elsewhere in the Midwest.

    In Florida, he made a babyface turn that would spark his singles career. Rivalries with Terry Funk, Harley Race, Blackjack Mulligan and Kevin Sullivan would establish him as one of wrestling's premiere stars, while his legendary feud with Ric Flair and the Four Horsemen would define him as one of wrestling's iconic figures.

    He represented the common man against the flash, flamboyance and excess of the Horsemen and became a beloved cultural hero because of it.

    Dusty's son Dustin would achieve his own lasting legacy thanks to some gold paint, a sparkly robe and one of the most controversial characters in wrestling history.

    As Goldust, Dustin revolutionized the sport. Goldust threw sexuality in the viewers' faces, using homosexual overtones to get inside the minds of his opponents. He was a completely unique, new and fresh character—one unlike any the sport had ever seen.

    He was edgy years before Steve Austin claimed his first WWE Championship and took the business to limits it had never seen before. For whatever reason, though, he never quite receives the credit he deserves for laying the foundation of the Attitude Era.

    The youngest Rhodes, Cody, is one of wrestling's finest young stars. A multiple time Tag Team and Intercontinental champion, the second-generation star is well on his way to breaking through the glass ceiling and becoming a legitimate main eventer for World Wrestling Entertainment.

    This Sunday at WWE's Battleground pay-per-view, the Rhodes family will be front and center as Dusty accompanies his sons to the ring for their match against The Shield's Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins.

The Guerrero Family

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    The Guerrero family is wrestling royalty. Its wrestling history dates back to patriarch Gory, who made his pro debut in 1937. One of Mexico's biggest stars, his name reflected his bloody matches. An innovator in the industry, he is the creator of the Camel Clutch and the move that sports his own name, the Gory Special.

    His four sons Mando, Hector, Chavo and Eddie would all have careers in the family business with varied degrees of success but it would be Eddie whose star would shine brightest.

    The perfect blend of in-ring ability, charisma and personality, Eddie would win every major championship in World Wrestling Entertainment. His greatest achievement came in February of 2004 when he defeated Brock Lesnar in the main event of the No Way Out pay-per-view to become WWE Champion.

    A champion in every major promotion he performed in, Eddie was one of wrestling's most decorated stars.

    Sadly, he was taken from the world far too early, passing away on November 13, 2005 at the age of 38.

    He would be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006.

    Chavo Guerrero, Jr. would carry on the family's legacy, becoming one of the finest cruiserweights of his generation, which says a lot considering the plethora of talent in the business during the mid-90s and early 2000s.

    Today Vickie, Eddie's wife, appears for WWE as the SmackDown general manager. With a career in the company that eclipses her husband's in terms of length, Vickie has become one of the most hated and most entertaining characters in the sport.

    On-screen relationships with Edge and Dolph Ziggler resulted in several memorable moments, and her willingness to be the butt of the joke on more than one occasion makes her one of the most respected members of the WWE roster.

    In 2010, Eddie and Vickie's daughter Shaul entered the world of sports-entertainment, debuting with developmental company Florida Championship Wrestling.

    She would become the first woman to simultaneously hold the company's women's championship and the Queen of FCW tiara at the same time. Later, she would become the longest reigning Women's champion in FCW history.

    In September of 2012, she announced her departure from developmental in order to focus on school. One year later, she returned to NXT in hopes of carrying on the Guerrero legacy.

The Orton Family

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    Bob Orton, Sr. began his career in 1951.

    The Kansas City native became a two-time NWA Tag Team champion with partner Eddie Graham and enjoyed the most success of his career in Championship Wrestling from Florida and Central States Wrestling.

    He held multiple championships in those two territories but also captured gold in Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association, NWA Big Time Wrestling and NWA Western States Wrestling.

    While he would become a well-respected wrestler across the country, the success he enjoyed in the industry paled in comparison to that of his son and, later, his grandson.

    "Cowboy" Bob Orton, Jr. was one of the World Wrestling Federation's top villains during the days of the Rock and Wrestling Connection. As the enforcer for Roddy Piper, "Cowboy" had no problem mixing it up with top stars such as Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff.

    His most enduring gimmick resulted from a very real incident.

    In a 1985 match with Jimmy Snuka, Bob broke his arm. While a cast was needed to protect the limb for a few weeks after the injury, Orton parlayed it into a gimmick that lasted for years. He would wear the cast in all of his matches, using to it gain his fair share of tainted wins throughout the 80s.

    Upon leaving the WWF, he would appear in NWA, WCW, Smoky Mountain Wrestling and the Universal Wrestling Federation. He even returned to his old stomping grounds—renamed as World Wrestling Entertainment—to second his son Randy during an angle with The Undertaker.

    Speaking of Randy, there was little doubt that the third-generation Superstar would achieve great things in the industry that was very good to his family. But few could have predicted how quickly he would reach the heights he did.

    Four years into his career, he was the youngest World Heavyweight champion. Thirteen years into his career, he was a three time World champion, a seven time WWE champion, the 2009 Royal Rumble winner and a 2013 Money in the Bank winner.

    He has held every major singles championship WWE has to offer and was tag champions with Hall of Famer Edge.

    One of the marquee superstars in the business, Orton has established himself as one of the greatest stars of this generation.

The Hart Family

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    The Hart family from Canada is the very definition of a wrestling family.

    Stu Hart, the patriarch, was a wrestler, a promoter and a trainer in Calgary, Alberta. His sons Dean, Smith, Ross, Bruce, Keith, Bret and Owen were all wrestlers. Wayne was a referee. His daughters Ellie, Georgia, Allison and Dianna all married wrestlers.

    Bret and Owen were major stars for Vince McMahon's World Wrestling Federation throughout the late-80s and for most of the 1990s.

    Bret and his brother-in-law Jim Neidhart formed one of the great tag teams of the 80s. They reigned as champions of a very competitive tag team division on two separate occasions and defeated every great duo that crossed them.

    As a singles star, Bret would go onto even greater success. A two-time Intercontinental champion, 1993 King of the Ring and five-time WWE champion, "The Hitman" built a legacy for himself based on all-time classic wrestling matches against the likes of "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig, brother-in-law "British Bulldog" Davey Boy Smith, Roddy Piper, Ric Flair and his own brother Owen.

    He carried himself as a champion and brought a respect and realism to the sport that was missing when musclebound characters such as Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior were on top of the industry.

    An unmatched technician who utilized the skills taught to him by his father in the storied Hart family dungeon, he became one of wrestling's greatest stars.

    Owen, to his credit, also built a Hall of Fame-worthy career for himself.

    Every bit as good as his brother, Owen was the workhorse for a company that was on the losing end of a ratings war for a three-year period in the mid-90s. He brought a flash and excitement to the ring thanks to an underrated aerial assault.

    Owen would replicate his brother's success in the King of the Ring tournament, winning the 1994 edition of the event. His win over Bret in the opening contest of WrestleMania X would be the biggest of his career, though several Intercontinental and Tag Team Championship reigns cemented his status as one of the WWF's most accomplished stars.

    Unfortunately, Owen's life would come to a tragic end at the Over the Edge pay-per-view in May of 1999 when a stunt went horribly wrong, causing the youngest Hart to fall nearly 80 feet to his death. He was only 34.

    Today, WWE Diva Natalya carries on the family's legacy. A former Divas champion and accomplished technician, she finishes opponents off with the Sharpshooter in tribute to her uncle Bret.


The Anoa'i Family

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    To try to explain the detailed and complex Samoan family tree would take all month. Rather than tracing it back to its beginnings, let us take a look at some of the well-known Superstars that have found varied degrees of success in the world of professional wrestling.

    High Chief Peter Maivia, an adopted member of the Anao'i clan, was the first nationally known Samoan wrestler. His fame is thanks, in large part, to his role in the 1967 James Bond film You Only Live Twice, and his appearances with the World Wrestling Federation in the 70s.

    Afa and Sika, known collectively as the Wild Samoans, would become one of the great tag teams of their generation. Managed by Hall of Fame manager Cpt. Lou Albano, the vicious and savage competitors would collect tag team championships from promotions across the country.

    Their greatest success came in the WWF, where they defeated Tito Santana and Ivan Putski to win their first titles. They would hold the title twice more. Their success in the promotion would lead to their induction into the World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame some 30 years later.

    In 1992, the massive Yokozuna made his debut in the WWF and was immediately pushed to the main events, thanks to his humongous size and his imposing presence. Billed from Japan, he was actually a member of the Anoa'i family and, for the time being, would be its greatest success story.

    He captured the WWF championship from Bret Hart in the main event of WrestleMania IX, then regained it two months later at King of the Ring 1993, where he defeated wrestling icon Hulk Hogan.

    A tag team champion as well, Yokozuna would prove to the world that a man of his size could work and work well.

    His size also worked against him as he ballooned to unhealthy weights, resulting in his release from WWE.

    Yokozuna, real name Rodney Anao'i, passed away in October of 2000.

    The greatest star of the Anao'i family is, like his grandfather Peter Maivia, no related by blood.

    Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson became one of the top stars in professional wrestling during the height of the sport's popularity and, as a result, has parlayed his stardom into a Hollywood career.

    Before he began appearing on the big screen, however, he performed in front of millions and millions on the small screen each and every week.

    Johnson, the son of Hall of Famer Rocky Johnson, overcame adversity early in his career to capture the WWE, Intercontinental and Tag Team titles. He won the 2000 Royal Rumble and was one of the top stars in the industry during the most successful period the sport has ever seen.

    His rivalries with Steve Austin, Triple H, Mankind and Hulk Hogan are the things of legend.

    Yet, for all of his success and accolades, The Rock will forever be remembered for one thing and one thing only: his connection with the people.

    More so than any Superstar before or after him, The Rock had a special connection with the fans. The electricity that accompanied him to every arena he stepped into was something that captured the imagination of the audience. They sang along with every catchphrase and cheered his every move.

    He was a captivating performer unlike the business had ever seen before and, truth be told, may never see again.

    There have been countless other Samoan Superstars that have graced the squared circle. Rikishi, Samu, Rosey, Umaga, the Tonga Kid, LA Smooth and Gary Albright are just to name a few.

    The Usos are among the most exciting young teams on the roster and one of the top contenders to the WWE Tag Team titles.

    Current WWE Tag Team champion Roman Reigns is the son of Wild Samoan Sika.

The McMahon Family

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    The sports entertainment empire known as World Wrestling Entertainment would not exist without the McMahon family. In fact, professional wrestling history would forever be altered without the McMahons, and not necessarily in a positive manner.

    Vincent J. McMahon was a well-respected wrestling and boxing promoter that controlled, for the most part, the northeastern territory. A smart businessman, he helped Madison Square Garden earn its reputation as a world famous arena.

    He was inducted into the building's Hall of Fame in 1984, forever cementing his legacy as an iconic figure in MSG history.

    His son, Vincent K., revolitionized professional wrestling and changed the perception of what the business could be. For years, old school promoters treated the predetermined sport as if it were legitimate. McMahon, however, recognized the potential that existed in recognizing the entertainment aspect of the business.

    He injected mainstream culture into his shows, bringing in the likes of Mr. T and Cyndi Lauper to increase visibility and create must-see events. He created over-the-top characters that would catch the eye of even the most casual fan.

    Succeeding where Verne Gagne and the AWA had failed, he maximized the Hulk Hogan character and rode his mainstream appeal and merchandise sales straight to the bank.

    In only a few years, he had taken control of his father's promotion, driven the majority of smaller promoters out of business and expanded his empire into an international entertainment company.

    He survived ups and downs, legal proceedings and other assorted scandals and  became a publicly traded company watched by millions of fans on a weekly basis.

    Vince even thrived as an on-screen character, becoming the hated evil boss who was opposed to the beer drinking, finger flipping Stone Cold Steve Austin representing his company as champion.

    Son Shane would follow in his father's footsteps, becoming a character on WWE programming. He would also step inside the ring on several occasions, winning critical praise for several of his matches including the "Love Her or Leave Her" Greenwich Street Fight against Test at SummerSlam 1999 and his violent street fight against Kurt Angle at the 2001 King of the Ring show.

    Stephanie McMahon was an on-screen character as well. Debuting in 1999 as the sweet and innocent daughter of the chairman, she would undergo a complete character change by December of that year.

    She became the Billion Dollar Princess, and with Triple H by her side, she did not hesitate to throw her power around.

    Daddy's little girl would end her time as a full-time on-air character in 2003 to focus more on her job with the creative team, as well as being a mother.

    Stephanie will follow in her father's footsteps in the boardroom. The head of the WWE creative department, she is already a high ranking official in the company. Stephanie is married to Paul Levesque, known to wrestling fans as Triple H.

    They have three daughters together.

    Linda McMahon, Vince's wife, long served as the CEO of WWE but two unsuccessful Senate bids brought her run as a day-to-day overseeing executive of the company to an end.

    She is responsible for several of WWE's charitable programs, including Get R.E.A.L., which promotes reading and SmackDown Your Vote, which encourages everyone 18 years-of-age and older to exercise their right to vote. 

    Linda and Vince are also key supporters of the Special Olympics.

The Von Erich Family

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    Perhaps the most beloved and tragic family in wrestling is the Von Erich family.

    Patriarch Fritz Von Erich (real name: Jack Adkisson) was a wrestler who enjoyed great success as a hated heel. His Iron Claw finisher was among the most feared in the industry. He would pass it down to his sons following his retirement.

    As a promoter, Fritz revolutionized the industry. He brought unheard of production value to his shows and had a syndication deal that allowed World Class Championship Wrestling to be seen in living rooms across the country.

    During the 80s, Kevin, David and Kerry Von Erich rocked the Sportatorium in Dallas, Texas. Three good-looking young men who were outstanding athletes and solid professional wrestlers, they starred in their father's promotion throughout the decade.

    Their rivalry with the Fabulous Freebirds is well documented but the effect it had on the business cannot be overstated. The wars between the Von Erich boys and Michael Hayes, Terry Gordy and Buddy Roberts provided fans with some of the most innovative, exciting and interesting programming in wrestling history.

    The angle made World Class must-see TV and huge stars out of all involved. David Von Erich, specifically, who was in line to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

    Unfortunately, in what would become a pattern for wrestling's most cursed family, David would pass away in Japan at the young age of 25.

    What Kerry lacked in in-ring skills, he more than made up for in charisma. The most popular of the Von Erich boys, he defeated Ric Flair to win the NWA title in an emotional match that served as a memorial for David.

    Kerry would later sign with the World Wrestling Federation, where he would win the Intercontinental title from Mr. Perfect. It would be his one major championship in the company.

    Like many wrestlers before and after him, Kerry had his demons. Two drug arrests had all but assured that the celebrated sports-entertainer would be faced with jail time. Ashamed and humiliated, Kerry decided he would rather spare his family the shame, and himself the imprisonment, than live. On February 18, 1993, he committed suicide.

    The Von Erich curse would strike three of Fritz's other sons, each of whom had appeared for WCCW. Mike and Chris committed suicide. Jack, Jr. (Fritz's real name was Jack) died at age six after being electrocuted.

    Fritz would pass away in 1997 following a fight with lung cancer, leaving Kevin as the only surviving member of the family.

    While the so-called curse that enveloped the family led to unfathomable tragedy and heartbreak, the Von Erich family was responsible for some of the greatest professional wrestling matches and moments of the 70s and 80s.


Other Notable Families

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    With so many familes contributing to the history of wrestling, it is impossible to give all of them individual recognition. Instead, here is a brief look at more of the sport's most celebrated families.

    The Funks
    Dory Funk, Sr.; Dory Funk, Jr.; Terry Funk

    The Rotundas
    Mike Rotunda, Bray Wyatt, Bo Dallas

    The Windhams
    Blackjack Mulligan, Barry Windham, Kendall Windham

    The Armstrongs
    "Bullet" Bob Armstrong, Brad Armstrong, Scott Armstrong, Steve Armstrong, "Road Dogg" Jesse James

    The Hennigs
    Larry "the Ax", "Mr. Perfect" Curt, Curtis Axel

    Mexican Royalty
    Mil Mascaras, Dos Caras, Alberto Del Rio

    The DiBiases
    Mike DiBiase, Ted DiBiase, Ted DiBiase Jr., Brett DiBiase, Mike DiBiase

    The Poffo
    Angelo Poffo, Randy "Macho Man" Savage, Lanny Poffo

    The Vachons
    Mad Dog Vachon, Butcher Vachon, Vivian Vachon, Luna Vachon