The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines nepotism as: “favouritism (as in appointment to a job) based on kinship”, and for better or for worse, nepotism has been a common theme throughout the wrestling industry for decades.
When an individual has any type of power in pro wrestling, it’s only natural that they are going to use their influence to help their family and friends. This means that a wrestler or talent is often pushed and booked in a prominent position on the card, and this push comes solely thanks to their relationship with someone in power, rather than on their merit, and what they can realistically bring to the respective wrestling company.
This isn’t always a bad thing, as certain names that may have been pushed based on pre-existing relationships are sometimes born to be in the squared circle; however, it’s a common case that pushing a wrestler based purely on nepotism is a recipe for disaster.
So, with that being said, let’s examine 10 clear moments of nepotism in pro wrestling.
10: Horace Hogan
WCW had a rotten reputation in terms of pushing wrestlers based on pre-existing relationships, and this was the case when WCW decided to book Horace Hogan in a prominent spot on the show.
Horace Hogan was the nephew of Hulk Hogan, and Hogan used his backstage power and sway to have Horace booked as a member of the NWO faction. This was a backwards move, as Horace had zero credibility as a star, and it achieved nothing other than water down the NWO as a concept and as a faction.
Although Horace would predominantly feature in the lower mid-card in WCW, it was still alarming that WCW had given Horace such a huge opportunity based solely on his relationship with Hogan, as opposed to anything substantial or valuable.
9: The Kat
In early 2001, WWE out of nowhere began to use The Kat in a featured role on WWE TV. This push was unwarranted, as The Kat didn’t really have a justified place on the show, and her work wasn’t exactly great.
The reason for this push was down to The Kat’s husband, Jerry Lawler, and with Lawler being WWE’s top colour commentator, as well as friends with several key names in WWE, it was seen as a favour to use The Kat on WWE TV.
Unfortunately, The Kat was problematic, and the WWE creative team had constant battles in trying to get The Kat to cooperate with storylines. Eventually, WWE had enough, and decided to outright cut ties with The Kat, and this made Lawler so angry that he decided to subsequently quit the company.
Speaking about the incident on Grilling JR, this is what Lawler’s real-life friend, Jim Ross had to say:
“…There’s no way I would have fired her, no matter what the writers said, without talking to the writers and telling me, ‘What did she do that you believe merits her dismissal? Explain to me so I know.’
“I didn’t do that because I had no room to do that. I asked, “Can I do some checking around?’ ‘No, she’s gone.’ You got a decision to make. It’s not like I would have done anything, or I would have challenged Vince in that situation. You’re stupid if you do that. That’s what he wanted because I knew if we got past this day and she took some time off, that there’s a good chance we could bring her back. He forgives. Hell, look at me, I’ve been in and out, in and out. So, I know there’s a propensity to do that by him. What we didn’t count on, and I don’t think Vince did either, was that Lawler was going to support her and leave. That was a little different twist to the plot.”
8: Garrett Bischoff
When Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff virtually took over TNA in 2010, it became an incredibly damaging trend that both men would hire their friends and families, and book them on TV.
Bischoff would bring his son Garrett into the company, and he initially began his tenure as a referee, before he ventured into being a full-time wrestler, which was a role that he needed vast improvement in.
Garrett was heavily featured and pushed in TNA, and despite the crowd not caring about anything he did, the push continued, and TNA would stop at nothing until Garrett was taken seriously by the audience. Naturally, this never happened, and TNA had wasted so many valuable assets and matches trying to get Bischoff’s son over, and these resources could have easily been reallocated to a talent that fans genuinely wanted to see.
7: Brooke Hogan
One of Hulk Hogan’s more polarising hires in TNA was the hiring of his daughter, Brooke Hogan.
Brooke started off as an authority figure in the company, which was fine, yet then she was propelled into a main event storyline with Bully Ray. Whilst this storyline was completely ridiculous, Brooke played her part well, and for someone who was thrown into the deep end in TNA, she did a relatively good job.
Does this mean that TNA were right to bring Brooke into the mix? It’s hard to say, as Brooke’s role could have easily been fulfilled by any other female on the roster, yet TNA, specifically Hogan, would no doubt argue that it needed to be a Hogan in order to keep the Hogan name alive.
6: The Nasty Boys
One of the most frustrating parts of being a TNA fan in 2010 - was how Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff failed to grasp what fans wanted.
In early 2010, Hulk Hogan once again used his real-life relationship with two people to give them jobs in the company, and this time, The Nasty Boys would be signed to lucrative TNA deals.
It’s worth noting that The Nasty Boys hadn’t been remotely relevant in over a decade, and they had both seen better days. Even more frustrating was the fact that Hogan legitimately expected the crowd to love them, so much so that he was no doubt influential in booking Team 3D to lose to the infamous duo on PPV.
The Nasty Boys’ run in TNA would last just a few short months, which was still far too long, and Brian Knobbs was incredibly bitter regarding how TNA handled his release, and this is what he had to say during an interview with WrestleZone:
“The way they got rid of us I thought was really classless. They never called us. They actually put it on the internet that we were let go. They never called me and Saggs. To this day we’ve never gotten a call from Dixie Carter or any of their people in the office that they were letting us go. They just put it out on the internet. After all these years in the business I thought that was very classless for somebody to do that to us. Who put in their time. Who put their blood, sweat and tears. Laid it out there every time we were out there in the ring for the fans…”
5: Charlotte Flair
When nepotism secures an individual a job in WWE, they must work extra hard to prove themselves to the fans, and this was definitely the case with Charlotte Flair.
It’s no secret that Charlotte was signed and pushed early on during her tenure, based solely on being Ric Flair’s daughter, yet in the years that have followed, Charlotte has emerged as one of the top female stars in WWE history.
Charlotte’s body of work speaks for itself, and Charlotte would be the first one to admit that being related to a legend like Ric Flair has helped her career, yet if Charlotte just delivered lacklustre work for the past-decade, there’s no chance she would have become a 14-time Women’s Champion in the top wrestling company in the world.
4: Brutus Beefcake
Brutus Beefcake has benefited throughout his career by being friends with Hulk Hogan. Hogan has continuously used his relationship with Beefcake to secure him major roles, and this was never more detrimental than when Beefcake was in WCW.
Whilst in WCW, Beefcake portrayed numerous roles, and not a single one of them managed to remotely connect with the WCW fans. If this was another wrestler, they would have likely been released, yet due to the friendship between Beefcake and Hogan, Beefcake remained in the company for considerably longer than he should have.
Hogan was even influential in securing Beefcake a role in the legendary faction, the NWO. In the popular faction, Beefcake played the role of Disciple, a character which was basically the bodyguard for Hogan. To nobody’s surprise, the gimmick and character immediately flopped, and somehow, Beefcake was able to keep a regular spot in the company until 1999.
3: David Flair
In the late 1990s, WCW decided to make David Flair a regular on WCW programming.
David Flair is the son of legendary Ric Flair, and unlike Charlotte Flair, David wasn’t cut out for the wrestling industry.
David was pushed instantly, and he was given notable roles on TV, yet each of these fell flat, and David always looked awkward and out of place in anything he did.
Due to loyalty to The Nature Boy, David was given chance after chance to succeed, and David’s final character arc saw him form an alliance with Daffney and Crowbar, and this was moderately entertaining, yet even still David was solely put into this position thanks to who his dad was, rather than anything else.
2: Stephanie McMahon
Over the years, Vince McMahon has been prone to present his daughter, Stephanie McMahon in some of the most prominent storylines on the show.
Whilst there’s no denying that Stephanie was given a job in WWE due to her relation to Vinnie Mac, Stephanie has often been praised for her abilities, specifically in the promo department.
Stephanie has taken part in some epic storylines, including the 1999-2002 story-arc with future real-life husband, Triple H, and who can forget, Stephanie’s acclaimed feud with Randy Orton in 2009.
One of the issues with Stephanie’s presentation during her time on screen, was that Vince often liked to present his daughter as a superior talent. Stephanie would often get the upper hand on any talent she encountered, and this received rightful criticism, as fans were always waiting for Stephanie to get her comeuppance.
Nepotism aside, Stephanie is immensely popular in the backstage area, and when Stephanie formally announced her retirement from WWE in 2023, it was seen as a huge blow to morale, as Stephanie, despite her on-screen presentation, had a positive relationship with pretty much everyone in the locker room.
1: Shane McMahon
Another McMahon that Vince McMahon has been keen to make a key feature on WWE TV is Shane McMahon. Shane has been involved in storylines throughout every era since the Attitude Era, and whilst fans often criticise Shane’s in-ring work, many of his storylines have been highly entertaining.
The problem with Shane in WWE came when Vince booked Shane to virtually be the face of the show. Shane wasn’t a full-time in-ring talent, and revolving the top storylines around him was a recipe for disaster. This was notably the case between 2018-2019, when Shane was consistently hogging airtime on SmackDown, and he was even booked to win the WWE World Cup, which is often labelled as one of the worst booking decisions of the past decade.