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WWE's 25 Best Second- (& Third-) Generation Wrestlers Ever

Ryan DilbertWWE Lead WriterJanuary 12, 2012

WWE's 25 Best Second- (& Third-) Generation Wrestlers Ever

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    Not surprisingly, many of the greatest wrestlers of all time have been second- and third-generations wrestlers. 

    The genes, the pedigree, the priceless mentoring from a veteran has all helped produce a new line of stars.   

    The sons and daughters of wrestlers often get the unfair advantage of getting opportunities earlier.  Just as often, though, they are burdened with equally unfair expectations.

    Some of the wrestlers ranked here have exceeded the success of their fathers, while others lived in the coldness of their overbearing shadows.   

25. Greg Gagne

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    Son of Verne Gagne

    His father founded the AWA, so as you might have guessed, Greg featured prominently in that promotion throughout the '80s. 

    A career highlighted by feuds with Curt Hennig, Adrian Adonis, Ken Patera and Pat Patterson never saw Greg step out of his father's shadow. 

    Though talented and capable of a thrilling match, Greg was never the draw that his father was or as deft a technician. 

    Borrowing his father’s signature moves in the sleeper hold and dropkick, he spent much of his life being compared to his Hall of Fame dad. 

24. Chavo Guerrero

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    Son of Chavo Guerrero Sr.

    Grandson of Gory Guerrero

    His legacy dampened by WWE's misuse of his talents, Chavo still had a successful career.  Often times a tag team specialist, he wrestled in Mexico, Japan as well as WCW and WWE, winning a number of championships.

    Partnering with his uncle Eddie, they were awarded Wrestling Observer Newsletter's Tag Team of the Year award in 2002.

    Chavo was an exciting high-flyer and a more than competent mat wrestler.  His love and respect for the sport was obvious with the effort he gave every night.

    Though he will always be overshadowed by Eddie and perhaps his father and grandfather, who had far bigger careers in Mexico, Chavo has made his mark on wrestling history. 

23. Alberto Del Rio

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    Son of Dos Caras

    While he has yet to win over the majority of WWE fans, Del Rio had a successful career in Mexico as well as a foray into the world of MMA, where he compiled a winning record.

    Del Rio has certainly benefited from coming out of a famous Mexican wrestling family and perhaps given too many opportunities in WWE too quickly, but silver spoon or not, he is a talented performer. 

    He blends a technical style with compelling in-ring storytelling and a splash of high-flying. 

    A lot has been made of his perceived lack of mic skills and heavy accent, but he has thus far done well in his heel role and will surely grow on U.S. audiences. 

22. Juventud Guerrera

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    Son of Fuerza Guerrera

    When WCW's cruiserweight division was red-hot in the late ‘90s, the Juicy one was a big part of its success.

    The speedy and acrobatic spark plug thrilled fans with matches with Chris Jericho, Ultimo Dragon and Rey Mysterio, rocking the 450 splash long before Justin Gabriel.   

    Guerrera won the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Best Flying Wrestler Award in both 1998 and 1999.

    Aside from his WCW days and his brief stay with WWE, Juventud had a tremendous run in Mexico with Asistencia Asesoría y Administración, where he had many a match with Rey Mysterio.

21. Dustin Rhodes/Goldust

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    Son of Dusty Rhodes

    Before he donned a blond wig and a gold jumpsuit as Goldust, Dustin Rhodes had moderate success with WCW.

    As criticized as his Goldust gimmick was (winning W.O.N.'s Worst Gimmick award three times) it's hard to argue that the bizarre character was captivating. 

    A naturally gifted athlete, Dustin put on a number of good matches, including taking part in the five-star War Games match in 1992. 

    Unfortunately for him, he'll always be compared to his father and not favorably.  Looking at his career outside of that frame of reference, though, Dustin can hold his head up.  He contributed tons of entertainment for years. 

20. Dory Funk Jr.

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    Son of Dory Funk Sr.

    In the end, Dory Funk Jr. may be better remembered for his indirect contributions to the game having trained greats like Kurt Angle, Edge and Jeff Hardy.  Dory also innovated the cloverleaf submission hold. 

    As a wrestler, though, he was certainly no slouch.

    He was involved in two Pro Wrestling Illustrated matches of the year, vs. Harley Race and Jack Brisco, respectively. 

    Dory spent most of his career with the NWA, where he won a multitude of titles in their various regional promotions. 

    While some may consider him a better wrestler than his father, it's his brother Terry who can claim to be the best Funk of them all. 

19. Tully Blanchard

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    Son of Joe Blanchard

    When you're in a stable headed by the incomparable Ric Flair and in a tag team with the great Arn Anderson, it’s easy to get outshined and end up the forgotten man.

    But Tully wasn't just a tag along, but a gifted wrestler and an underrated mic worker. 

    He and Double A perfected the heel tag team dynamic.  In his earlier days, his matches often became thrilling bloody wars including the classic "I Quit" Steel Cage match against Magnum TA. 

18. Cody Rhodes

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    Son of Dusty Rhodes

    When his career comes to a close, Cody will certainly be higher on this list.  In terms of potential, few current wrestlers can claim to have a brighter future.

    A lot smaller than either his father or his brother, he makes up for his lack of strength with speed and agility. 

    He has a dark charisma reminiscent of Jake Roberts that has made his promos eerie and enthralling.  Few guys could have milked the protective mask angle as well as he did.   

    If he maintains the pace at which he's been improving, he may well one day legitimize a debate of whether Dusty or Cody had the better career.

17. Barry Windham

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    Son of Blackjack Mulligan

    With tremendous size and innate ability, many expected Windham to be one of the all-time greats.  And though he had a successful career, it's hard to say he lived up to expectations or his full potential. 

    His father is a Hall of Famer who, as a member of the Blackjacks, changed the tag team landscape forever.  Windham played a significant role as a member of the Four Horsemen, who will be entering the Hall of Fame soon. 

    Windham had two incredible matches with Ric Flair, one in 1986 and the other at the Crockett Cup Tournament in 1987, the latter earning a five-star rating. 

    Watching his work with Flair, one has to wonder why he didn't produce on that level more often. 

16. Greg "The Hammer" Valentine

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    Son of Johnny Valentine

    As his father was still wrestling and didn’t want to appear too old, Greg Valentine was initially billed as being Johnny Valentine’s brother.

    It wasn't long until Greg stepped out of father’s looming shadow and made a name for himself. 

    In his NWA days, he garnered tons of heat for (kayfabe) breaking wrestler's legs with his figure-four. 

    The Hammer's resume boasts a number of matches with Ric Flair, intense brawls with Roddy Piper and a memorable feud with Wahoo McDaniel.

    Some fans may only remember him as Honky Tonk Man's lumbering partner.   Taking a look at his early days, though, and you will see a great wrestler, brimming with intensity, an adept and entertaining performer. 

15. Jake Roberts

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    Son of Aurelian "Grizzly" Smith

    Roberts was the master of the disturbing, quiet promo.  When he stared into the camera and spoke in that rumbling voice, fans could not turn away.

    The innovator of the DDT had one of the most memorable props in Damien the snake.  Roberts had a number of great matches with Ricky Steamboat, Randy Savage, Rick Rude and Ted DiBiase. 

    One of the best in-ring storytellers ever, Roberts made every match more gripping with his presence. 

14. Dick Murdoch

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    Son of Frankie Hill Murdoch

    As a tag partner of either Junkyard Dog, Adrian Adonis or Dusty Rhodes, Dick Murdoch was a tough bastard that fans wanted to see. 

    Dick was a lot like his former partner, Dusty Rhodes, though Dick was a bit quicker and a lot less charismatic. In Japan, Mid-South or Puerto Rico, standard matches or bloody melees, Dick was at home in any ring, anywhere.

    His promos were peppered with his Southern-boy charm, his matches punctuated with one of the finest brainbusters we've ever seen. 

13. Eddie Gilbert

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    Son of Tommy Gilbert

    As talented a booker as he was a wrestler, his life and career ended way too short because of a fatal heart attack.

    Eddie was a natural talent with a great mind for wrestling, for storytelling, for what would grab the fan's attention.

    As smooth as he was in the ring and as moving as he was on the mic, one has to assume that it was at least partly his lack of size that prevented him from being a bigger star in the bigger promotions. 

12. Owen Hart

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    Son of Stu Hart

    The Hart family has sprouted quite the family tree.  Owen and of course his brother, Bret, are the two finest of that clan.

    The Rocket was a great technical wrestler, an even better flying wrestler and he surely possessed the 'it' factor.  His radiant personality outside of the ring shone through when he was inside of it. 

    While he was undoubtedly a more famous and successful wrestler than his father, it was Bret's shadow that Owen spent much of his career trying to step out of.  

    Had the tragic accident at Over the Edge not taken his life, he may have gotten a shot at someday surpassing his brother.

11. Dean Malenko

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    Son of Boris Malenko

    The ever-unappreciated Dean Malenko is not mentioned enough during discussions of the all-time greats. 

    One of the best technical wrestlers ever had instant chemistry with anyone who stepped in a ring with him.

    He could turn out a classic with a marginal talent like 2 Cold Scorpio and forge a classic when given the chance to work with someone like Eddie Guerrero. 

    A lack of charisma and mic skills prevented him from ever reaching main-event status or winning a world title, but Dean's body of work is a tremendous display of submissions, suplexes and toughness.   

10. Ted DiBiase Sr.

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    Son of Iron Mike DiBiase (adopted)

    Son of Helen Nevins

    Father of Ted DiBiase Jr.

    Given perhaps the best heel gimmick ever, the Million Dollar Man was a big part of the WWF's success in the late '80s. 

    His attempt to buy the WWF Championship, the referee switcheroo and all the controversy surrounding that night will go down as one of the best stories told in wrestling.

    But Ted DiBiase Sr. wasn't just a perfected evil laugh and a good gimmick, he could wrestle.  Some of his matches with Jim Duggan, Junkyard Dog and Bret Hart could be used as training videos for young wrestlers.

9. Terry Funk

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    Son of Dory Funk Sr.

    In a career that has spanned six decades, one has to wonder if Terry Funk will ever officially retire.

    Depending on your age, you may remember Funk as an aging legend who helped legitimize ECW and begin to compete in more hardcore matches or remember him for the wars he had with Ric Flair in the NWA.

    In 1989, he and Flair had one of the most intense and compelling feuds in wrestling history which included a five-star "I Quit"  match.

    A great mic worker and brawler, Terry was one of the top wrestlers in the game in the '60s, '70s and '80s.  Had his career ended there, he’d certainly be considered a great success, but he went on to reinvent himself as a hardcore legend. 

    His death match in 1995 against Mick Foley where C-4 explosives went off around the two men will always be one of the most famous matches in wrestling history. 

8. Kerry Von Erich

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    Son of Fritz Von Erich

    Remembering the Von Erichs, one thinks of the overload of talent between the patriarch and his sons, but of course the mind also travels to the great tragedy that the family has suffered.

    Kerry was the most talented and successful of his brothers, even though his life and career were cut short at age 33. 

    His good looks and incendiary charisma might have gotten him pretty far, but Kerry was also the most graceful and athletic Von Erich in the ring.

    In perhaps the greatest feud this sport has seen, the Freebirds and Von Erichs faced off countless times in the '80s.  Kerry was a big part of those matches being so exciting.    

    Kerry also gave us the all-time classic he and Ric Flair put on in 1984.  How many classics would we have seen him produce had he not taken his own life?    

7. Randy Orton

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    Son of Cowboy Bob Orton

    Grandson of Bob Orton Sr.

    A stud from the get-go, Randy became the youngest ever World Heavyweight Champion with good reason.  Bursting with athleticism, blessed with an envied look, he is sure to be at or near the top of the WWE for years to come.

    Either as the Legend Killer or the Viper, Randy's been engrossing even if he speaks much too slowly during promos.

    I've often said that we've seen so much of the Apex Predator in recent years, especially as world champ, that fans have begun undervalue and underappreciate him. 

    When his career is over down the line, it's likely we'll look back and be amazed about how many classic moments he was a part of.

6. Nick Bockwinkel

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    Son of Warren Bockwinkel

    Few wrestlers have meant as much to a promotion as Nick Bockwinkel did for the AWA.

    He was almost always AWA World Heavyweight Champion or in the hunt for it.  Taking on the likes of Jumbo Tsuruta, Hulk Hogan, Jerry Lawler, Verne Gagne and Ric Flair, Nick put on great show after great show. 

    He will go down as one of the more compelling heels we've seen as well.  Throughout his promos as a heel, Nick exuded a maniacal coldness reminiscent of Lex Luthor. 

    Though his style probably wouldn't have married well with the times, one has to wonder how different his legacy would be had he competed in an era where more eyes were on wrestling. 

5. Mr. Perfect

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    Son of Larry "the Ax" Hennig

    Father of Michael McGillicutty

    If you asked wrestlers who the greatest in-ring performer of all time was, a number of them would tell you Curt Hennig.

    There was a majestic touch to everything he did in a wrestling match.  It wasn't just his all-world technical ability, but a grace and deftness that made a simple suplex a piece of art. 

    And unlike some of the great unappreciated technical wrestlers over the years, Mr. Perfect was masterful on a mic.  As a heel, he took hold of your attention and refused to let go.

    It was perhaps the same personal demons that led to his early death that kept him from ever reaching his full potential in the ring.  Nothing can stop a man that talented from ultimate success but himself. 

4. Eddie Guerrero

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    Son of Gory Guerrero

    The most creative cheater in the game and perhaps the most magnetic personality in wrestling, Eddie's early death hit the wrestling world hard. 

    Of course a huge part of that hurt was from losing such a warm and beautiful person, but selfishly, we also knew that his passing would mean losing one of the greatest talents in his prime.

    From his creatively worked battles with Rey Mysterio in WCW or the magic he created with everyone in WWE, you'd be hard-pressed to find an Eddie match that doesn't belong in a fan's collection.    

    The Guerrero family boasted a number of talented wrestlers, but Eddie was far and away the best.  

3. The Rock

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    Son of Rocky Johnson

    Grandson of Peter Maivia

    The Rock followed in his father's and grandfather's footsteps by becoming a wrestler, but then walked miles ahead of both of them.

    There has never been another wrestler that was so drenched in charisma.  With as much star power as he possessed, it's no wonder that the wrestling world had to watch him leave for the less painful world of Hollywood.

    The Great One is an extremely gifted athlete in small part due to the genes he was blessed with.

    Would the Attitude Era ever have taken off if Stone Cold didn't have the Rock to battle?  Would WWE have even won the Monday Night Wars in the end?

    Had his career been a tad longer, had he chosen to main event a few more WrestleManias than to make Race to Witch Mountain, it'd be much harder not to place him at No. 1. 

2. Randy Savage

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    Son of Angelo Poffo

    While Hulk Hogan's charisma and presence brought in a bigger audience to WWE, fans may not have stuck around once the novelty wore off if not for the immense talent of "Macho Man" Randy Savage. 

    A high-flyer in an era where that was much rarer, a superb technician and one of the most entertaining wrestlers to ever hold a microphone made Vince McMahon look smart and made everyone Savage worked with look better.

    While he'll always be remembered for the near-perfect match with Ricky Steamboat at WrestleMania III, Savage’s resume is full of classics.  From bouts with Jake Roberts to Tito Santana, Savage has rarely disappointed.

    He even managed to make the Ultimate Warrior look incredible. 

    Had he stopped wrestling in 1994, his career would still be Hall of Fame worthy, but he went on to play a big role in the Monday Night Wars as a member of WCW.

    Savage will always be one of the most famous and one of the best wrestlers to ever lace up a pair of boots. 

1. Bret Hart

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    Son of Stu Hart

    Following Hogan as the main man in the WWE was a task most men would have failed at.  In some ways, Bret exceeded what Hogan had done and helped keep WWE's evolution move forward.

    A fantastic technical wrestler, Bret didn't just do suplexes and counters well, he made every wrestling move mean so much, turning every match into a story that had fans glued to the TV. 

    No one gave a more consistent effort every night.  That led to any and every match, house show or pay-per-view main event, having the chance to become a classic. 

    Bret took part in some of the greatest matches of all time; vs. Shawn Michaels at WrestleMania XII, vs. Steve Austin at WrestleMania 13, vs. British Bulldog at SummerSlam 1992 and vs. Owen Hart at WrestleMania 10.

    His father, legendary as a trainer, knows as well as we do, that Bret took everything Stu taught him and ran with it, surpassing him and many others along the way. 

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