WWE: Living a Legacy by Marc Madison

Expectations can be very difficult to meet. However, without expectations, how does anyone motivate themselves to achieve? Expectations that people either place on themselves, or have others bestow upon them, are impossible to ignore. Often people’s professional expectations start in childhood. Parents will say they want their children to grow up to be doctors, lawyers or another high-profile position. And what about children who don’t have expectations placed upon them, but need to live up to what was achieved before them? For a number of professional independent wrestlers, they often have to work a full-time job to support their dream of becoming a successful wrestler. In those cases, expectations are internal, and they are not aspiring to anyone else’s expectations, only their own.

Charlotte, Cody, Bray Wyatt, Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel,Goldust,Natayla,Tamina, TheUsos, Randy Orton and Roman Reigns, among others, all have something in common: they are either second or third generation wrestlers that have had expectations placed on them, whether self-imposed or not. In the case of Charlotte, the prospect of living up to her father’s legacy appears almost impossible to reach. Conversely, her brother David wasn’t nearly as successful as she has been during her time in the ring. While Charlotte’s career is far from being over, it will be difficult to ever live up to the legacy that comes with being the daughter of the Nature Boy.

In comparison, TheUsos have always been a team, and in WWE have captured tag team championships on three separate occasions. Compared to their father Rikishi, they have collectively surpassed his accomplishments, based on how they have been used in WWE and how they have managed to evolve and maintain relevance. However, theirs is an interesting legacy because they can’t just be compared to their father in particular, but to the entirety of the Anoa’i bloodline. The family lineage imposes even greater expectations for them to have to reach.

This raises the question is how far into the extended family do you reach for comparison, in evaluating the success of a second or third generation wrestler? Natayla’s family lineage is interesting, as her uncles met with greater professional success than her father. That isn’t to say that her father wasn’t successful; he did capture a number of tag team championships, but really it is the individual success of her uncles that she has had to live up to.

Much like Natalya,Tamina and Charlotte haven’t simply had to live up to the success of their parents, they have had to do that while being a different gender. These three women not only have to live up to what their parents achieved but under the scrutiny that comes with being female in a generally male environment, not to mention the consideration that women tend to have shorter careers. It isn’t easy, but that hasn’t deterred them in any way. In fact, it could easily be seen as a motivating factor for them. Much like a number of second and third generation wrestlers, they have had to face the perception that their making it through the door was because their father ‘called in a favor’. As sad as it is to think that belief if out there, it exists. Really, even if their initial opportunity with WWE was assisted that doesn‘t mean they didn’t have to put in the work to get to where they are.

On social media recently, Roman Reigns used the hashtag #dumbassmark which was directed towards fans that criticized him and suggested that he didn’t deserve his success and had not made comparable sacrifices to others. If any second-generation wrestler today is under a microscope to prove his detractors wrong, it is Roman Reigns. The son of one-half of the Wild Samoans, Sika, and the brother of the late Rosey, Reigns has had to not only face questions of whether he is deserving of being where he is, but also whether his position is attributable to his father’s ties to WWE. What is important to remember is that, whether Sika was a wrestler or a doctor, Reigns would ultimately have to achieve on his own, contrary to the accusations of critics. The microscope with which the wrestling fan base examines someone’s entitlement to their spot is overused. Would a doctor or lawyer face the same criticism that they were given an opportunity because their parents owned practices or law firms? More than likely. However, if these next generation doctors and lawyers did everything in their power to make you well or help you, would you really care who helped them through the door? The same could be same for those attempting to create their own legacy.

While not everyone is blessed with the same success as their parents, two wrestlers, in particular, have exceeded what their fathers and grandfathers before them achieved. Randy Orton and Dwayne Johnson are/were third generation wrestlers. Their skills are different, and the lengths of their wrestling careers have been very different. While both have faced their share of criticism, they have ultimately done everything necessary to create a legacy, and while the names ‘Orton’ and ‘Johnson’ are aligned with the past, they are also tied to the present and future.

Despite walking away from wrestling, at least on a full-time basis, a number of years ago, The Rock was a multiple time champion whose promos would leave fans salivating for more. After a highly successful college football and brief professional football career, he dedicated himself to wrestling. Johnson faced his own share of challenges, not unlike what Roman Reigns faces today.

Orton, on the other hand, was in the United States Marines before wrestling and was actually imprisoned after going AWOL and disobeying his commanding officer/s order. He had to overcome that albatross and then needed to find a new outlook on life. It was wrestling that helped him, and the support of his family led him to overcome those challenges. It is questionable to say any of these trying to create a legacy for themselves have it easy; if anything their lives appear under even more intense scrutiny than others. Each of them continues to work to prove that they are just as good as the previous generation, and at the very least should be respected for their efforts.

Those already mentioned are among the successful second and third generation wrestlers today. However, what if those leaving a mark today had parents that were wrestlers, but weren’t met with the same success as their contemporaries? One name that comes to mind is Smackdown Live wrestler Carmella. She is gifted with a character that believes she is all that. What is interesting to note is that her father was known, if at all, for helping make others appear as if they were all that! Carmella’s father Paul Van Dale was an enhancement talent for WWE during the 1990s. He also competed on the independent circuit. While Carmella hasn’t captured any championships, she has captured attention and gained recognition in the ring, while undergoing training, as part of NXT and under Sara Amato at the WWE performance centre.

Is success measured by how much exposure performers receive? If that is the case, and exposure is defined by television appearances or being seen in a different country, then consider how that applies to the Knight family. Ricky and Saraya Knight are the patriarchs of that wrestling family in the UK, which includes WWE wrestler Paige. Paige has often talked about the influence that her parents have had on her career, but are their careers any less valued because they weren’t regulars on North American television? Many would beg to differ, as the Knights are committed to creating just as many opportunities for talent as they are for themselves. For the Knights, success isn’t measured by a number of championships they have won, but rather what they have done to help aid the development of other talented wrestlers under their tutelage. Paige is in the midst of recovery from her injuries and is a former Divas Champion and the first ever NXT women’s champion. There is no question that she has had to overcome the challenges of being a second-generation wrestler while being successful in a different country. Despite how much she may have been around the business, someone as young as Paige has to feel the toll of being under the spotlight. Any parent will be proud of their children’s accomplishments, and the pride grows when the child has to face the pressure of living up to their parent‘s name. Paige’s life is being made into a film that is, coincidentally enough, being produced by another multi-generational talent in The Rock.

Whatever the expectations are that second and third generations face, and regardless of whether we see them on television or not, their effort is no different; in fact their efforts may even be greater, as unlike the fans watching they don’t simply have to create a legacy, they have to live up to one each and every day.

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