wrestling / Columns

Ask 411 Wrestling: How Are The Rock & Roman Reigns Related?

February 19, 2024 | Posted by Ryan Byers
The Bloodline WrestleMania XL Kickoff Image Credit: WWE

Welcome guys, gals, and gender non-binary pals, to Ask 411 Wrestling. I am your party host, Ryan Byers, and I am here to answer some of your burning inquiries about professional wrestling.
If you have one of those queries searing a hole in your brain, feel free to send it along to me at [email protected]. Don’t be shy about shooting those over – the more, the merrier.

Hey, ya wanna banner?

TaylorMade hits us with an unusually timely question:

The Rock showed off his family tree at the Wrestlemania kickoff show. If I’m reading it right, the Rock’s mom was adopted. Then is the Rock only related to the Anoa’i family by marriage and not actually by blood? If so, that would make a great twist to the whole Bloodline story for Roman to use against him, or do you think the WWE does not want that to be common knowledge?

There is no genetic relationship between the Rock and Roman Reigns, at least not anymore so than any two human beings.

However, it has nothing to do with the fact that the Rock’s mother was adopted.

It is true that his mother, Ata Johnson, was adopted. Ata was the daughter of Lia Maivia, the wife of the Rock’s grandfather, Peter Maivia. However, Ata was not Peter’s biological daughter. She was the biological daughter of Lia and her first husband. Peter did adopt Ata after he married Lia, thus making her his legal daughter.

Again, though, this adoption is not the biggest reason that the Rock and Roman Reigns are not genetically related. It’s because there is no genetic relationship between the Anoa’i family and the Maivia family in the first place.

Instead, the families have always said that they were connected by a “blood brother” relationship between Peter Maivia and Amituana’i Anoa’i, the latter of whom was not involved in professional wrestling but was the father of the generation of the Anoa’i family that included Afa and Sika, the Wild Samoans.

It is also worth noting that Afa and Sika broke into wrestling because they were fans who regularly attended Peter Maivia’s matches in San Francisco in the early 1970s and, believing wrestling to be legitimate, would threaten and/or attack any heels who did anything dastardly to Maivia. The promoter then smartened them up and sent them to train elsewhere so that they wouldn’t beat up his wrestlers anymore.

In other words, there are some deep and abiding connections between the two families. As somebody who believes that chosen family is just as important – if not more important – than the one you’re born into, I’m not going to question the strength of those connections or say that they’re “not family.” However, it is still factually true to say that there is no genetic familial relationship.

Could this be worked into later storylines between the Rock and Roman Reigns? I suppose it could be, but I suspect it might be a bit confusing given that WWE has been pushing this family relationship for decades. Plus, we might need a flow chart to explain all the connections between the players, and, if there’s one thing pro wrestling storylines don’t need, it’s flow charts.

He’s big, he’s Al, he’s Big Al:

In 1993, Money Inc. went against the Beverly Brothers. Both teams were heels so the audience barely reacted. Were the WWF thinking of turning one of the teams face and wanted to see which team would get cheered more?

For those who don’t know the backstory here, on April 12, 1993, there was a live episode of Monday Night Raw from the Mid-Hudson Civic Center in Poughkeepsie, New York. It was the twelfth-ever episode of the show, and it featured a match between Scott Steiner and Irwin R. Schyster that ended in a disqualification when Ted DiBiase interfered on his partner’s behalf. After the bell, the Beverly Brothers – who were featured in a backstage skit with Money Inc. earlier in the show – ran in for a heel beatdown on both Scott and Rick Steiner. However, miscommunication between the two heel teams lead to Money Inc. and the Beverlys coming to blows.

This set up a Beverly Brothers/Money Inc. match on the thirteenth-ever episode of Raw, which was actually taped the same night as the prior episode. Money Inc. prevailed when Ted DiBiase rolled up Beau.

Beau and Blake definitely took on more of a babyface role in the match against IRS and DiBiase, but was this intended to be a full-fledged face turn for the former Destruction Crew?

The answer appears to be no.

The April 26, 1993 issue of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported that the angle was just done to set up a one-off match rather than leading to a change in the Beverlys’ alignment. This is backed up by house show results, because if the Beverly Brothers turned face on television, they would immediately start working as faces on house shows. However, they didn’t. Instead, they went right back to a heel role and had a series of matches against the Bushwackers.

So, why would the WWF want to do a one-off match between two heel tag teams, seemingly out of nowhere?

Most likely, it’s because of a European tour. When the Raw taping for the April 12 and April 19 shows was taking place, half the company’s roster was overseas. They likely needed the match to help round out the cards due to lack of other talent. In fact, the day before the Raw taping, April 11, 1993, there was a show in Sheffield, England which aired on Sky Sports that featured names like the Headshrinkers, Doink, Mr. Perfect, Crush, Shawn Michaels, Jim Duggan, and Yokozuna, all of whom would have been staples of Raw at around this time.

Even if this was intended as a Beverly Brothers face turn, it would have been short-lived, because Beau Beverly (Wayne Bloom) suffered a neck injury and never had another WWF match after April 1993. Blake Beverly (Mike Enos) actually stuck around in the promotion for several more months, until August ’93. He wrestled a lot of singles matches during that time and had a house show run in which he teamed with the Brooklyn Brawler and Little Louie to face the Bushwackers and Tiger Jackson in six man tags. (Tiger Jackson, for those not in the know, would later become Dink the Clown.)

Night Wolf the Wise is actually my half-brother (and you thought it was Tyler from Winnipeg):

What would be your top 10 list of wrestlers who got pushed because of nepotism?

In this list, I’m going to focus on people who were pushed because of nepotism and turned out to not be particularly great at their jobs, because I feel like that’s what most people mean when they ask about nepotism.

However, if you look at the actual definition of the word, there are plenty of wrestlers who turned out to be awesome but technically got their start and their initial push because of nepotism. For example, the Rock became one of the biggest stars in pro wrestling history and parlayed that into being one of the highest paid actors on the planet, but you’d be kidding yourself if you didn’t recognize that he got his foot in the door because of his family lineage. Similar comments could be made about both Dustin and Cody Rhodes – both excellent professional wrestlers, but they probably weren’t getting in where they did, when they did if not for their more famous daddy.

That said, let’s take a look at those instances where nepotism turned out to be a net negative.

10. George Gulas: Beginning in the 1940s, Nick Gulas promoted wrestling in Tennessee, and he ultimately became a player in the NWA during the height of its territorial system. Then, in 1974, his son George decided that he wanted to become a wrestler, and he quickly gained infamy as one of the worst to ever lace up a pair of boots. He looked like a slightly-taller-than-average auto mechanic who got lost and wound up in the ring, and the only thing that looked worse than the man himself was his offense. Despite this, daddy did book Georgie boy in an NWA World Title match against Harley Race.

9. El Hijo de Rey Misterio: No, I’m not talking about the guy who has been wrestling on national television in the United States for almost thirty years now. The current WWE Rey Misterio Jr. is the nephew of the original Rey Misterio. El Hijo de Rey Misterio is the legitimate son of the original Rey Misterio, who started wrestling in 2006. Problem is that El Hijo de Rey can’t seem to decide whether he actually wants to be a wrestler, as he “retired” in 2012, returned in 2016, stopped wrestling full-time part way through that year, and didn’t come back consistently until 2022. It got so bad that the original Rey Misterio eventually gave the El Hijo de Rey Misterio gimmick to a different guy, who is not his son – the wrestler known elsewhere as Rey Horus.

8. Nick & Kelly Kiniski: Gene Kiniski was a former NWA World Heavyweight Champion who had a forty-year career. He was not a colorful personality in the way that a Billy Graham or a Gorgeous George would have been, but he had a tough guy look and persona that made him a credible champion. He then had two sons who broke into wrestling, Nick and Kelly, and I am sure they were nice guys, but they couldn’t fill their father’s shoes. They were pretty skinny, they were pretty bland, and it was pretty hard to imagine they’d have gotten booked if it weren’t for their dad.

7. Michelle McCool: Looking at when she came along in pro wrestling, Michelle McCool was a perfectly acceptable WWE women’s wrestler. Even if she didn’t eventually marry the Undertaker, she was good enough that she was probably going to get multiple title reigns in the company. However, once she and Taker wed, things went to another level. She became a near perpetual champion, and announcers started talking about her like she was an all-time legend among female grapplers when the reality of the situation was, as I said above, she was nothing past fine.

6. Kendall Windham: Blackjack Mulligan was a huge, intimidating brute of a man. Barry Windham was a bit smaller than his father but made up for it by being one of the best in-ring performers of the 1980s. Then, there was Blackjack’s other son, a.k.a. Barry’s brother, Kendall Windham. Rail thin with busy blond hair, detractors dubbed Kendall the “human q-tip,” and he had the personality to match. By the 1990s, he had filled out and didn’t look quite so ridiculous, but early in his career it was apparent that Kendall was just getting by on the family name.

5. Shane McMahon: Shane has some pretty hardcore fans who are probably going to hector me for this one, but, let’s be real. If Shane-o-Mac shows up in the WWF in 1998 and he is anybody other than his father’s son, he doesn’t get let in the front door. Even if he does somehow make it on to the card, he’s not going to be allowed to take massive bumps and then stay off the road for weeks at a time recovering from them while the rest of the roster works house shows day in and day out, destroying their bodies for less than half the push. He’s also not going to be booked as the physical equal of talent like Kane, Randy Orton, and Test when he looks like he inspired the creation of the term “dad bod.” Everything he got in wrestling, he got because of his father.

4. Sim Snuka: Again, I’m sure he’s a nice guy. However, Sim Snuka may be in the ten worst male wrestlers who I’ve seen full-time with a major promotion from the year 2000 onward. (And please, nobody ask me to compile that list.) He never seemed to progress beyond doing more than just throwing a basic punch, and even those didn’t look great. Yet, he made it on to the WWE main roster and even won a championship with the company, even though it involved him being hidden behind a gimmick in which his wrestling ability didn’t matter that much. Oh, he also nearly killed the Undertaker at Wrestlemania XXV. Surely, he got away with all of this because he’s the son of Superfly Jimmy Snuka.

3. The Kat: It’s probably hard for anyone who started watching in the last five years to believe, but there was a period of time during which all you had to do in order to become a WWF Women’s Champion was marry Jerry Lawler. You didn’t even need to know how to wrestle. You just had to wed the King and be willing to take your top off on an international broadcast.

2. Mike & Chris Von Erich: Between online wrestling commentary since the dawn of RSPW, wrestling-centric documentaries produced by Vice and even WWE, and recently major motion pictures, a lot has been said about how Mike and Chris Von Erich were nowhere near ready for prime time when they were pushed in World Class Championship Wrestling. I don’t think that I have much to add to the discourse. However, it’s worth noting that the nepotism was particularly harmful here because it didn’t just result in subpar wrestling product, the pressure to perform when they were not equipped to do so also contributed to the personal issues that lead to their untimely deaths.

1. Erik Watts: Like the Von Erichs, the push of Erik Watts has been the subject of ridicule going back to very, very early “smart” fandom. His staggerlingly bad dropkick to “Dr. Death” Steve Williams became a singular image that defined nepotism in pro wrestling to an entire generation. The funny thing is, Erik Watts actually hung around wrestling unlike a lot of the people on this list who got undeserved early pushes, and he became halfway decent. He was never a top flight in-ring performer, but he was good enough, and I would peg him as an above average promo. He did some mic work during the Impact Wrestling weekly PPV era that cleared the low, low bar to be one of the better things on the show.

And, before I end this answer, let me address the people who are rushing to the comment section to say “WHERE’S DAVID FLAIR?!” I actually didn’t mind David Flair in his role in WCW, because the whole gimmick was that he was an undeserving nepo baby (before that was a term). It worked and drew legitimate heat. If he was pushed as a serious wrestler, that would be one thing . . . but he never was. If you hated David Flair for getting an undeserved push, you were getting worked.

Jim Herd wants to repackage Bryan as Spartacus:

Is there a reason the WWE stopped putting Roman Numerals on their wrestlemania logo? The Super Bowl still does it despite being at 58. Do they think wrestling fans can’t read Roman numerals or is it an aesthetic choice?

According to Chris Jericho on a 2018 episode of his Talk is Jericho podcast, Vince McMahon put the kibosh on using Roman numerals in Wrestlemania logos because he felt that numbering the events made them feel old and thus outdated.

So, as with many things that WWE did which didn’t seem to make much sense, the explanation is “one of Vince’s weird personal hangups,” just like banning the words “belt” and “hospital.”

Tyler from Winnipeg gets his weekly question in:

Just to recap: The 1992 Royal Rumble was the best Royal Rumble right?

Yes. The great Rumble matches, like 1992, focus predominantly on one storyline but pepper in others in a way that serves the main story. The good Rumble matches focus on multiple storylines but don’t tie them together. The mediocre Rumble matches may advance one or two storylines. The below average Rumble matches – including most of the men’s Rumbles of the last several years – don’t have any cohesive narratives but at least have a couple of cool spots or pops for surprise entrances. The lousy Rumble matches – including those from the mid-90s when the roster was super thin and most of the women’s Rumble matches – don’t have anything going for them and just rely on the crutch of the crowd popping for somebody’s entrance music every couple of minutes.

Jonfw2 is going down at the hands of Butterbean:

I’m not going to bother asking about what a horrible idea the Brawl for All was, because we all know the answer to that.

My question is this: once it was evident that this nonsense was VERY real, how did they get away with a bunch of state athletic commissions not jumping in and either regulating or outright banning it?

I think the answer is that it just flew under the radar. For all of the discourse and recaps regarding the Brawl for All that have cropped up over the years, not once have I ever heard anybody who was involved in booking or fighting the fights say that there was ever a problem with the commissions. By the late 1990s, the WWF had convinced commissions that they weren’t real and didn’t need to be regulated, so, by and large the commissions didn’t pay attention to them.

We’ll return in seven-ish days, and, as always, you can contribute your questions by emailing [email protected]. You can also leave questions in the comments below, but please note that I do not monitor the comments as closely as I do the email account, so emailing is the better way to get things answered.