Professional has always had a soft spot for familial lineage, both kayfabe and real. Throughout the industry’s storied history, families have dominated territories since almost the beginning – the Von Erichs, the Funks, the Vachons, the Guerreros, even the McMahons, who have owned the WWE (in some shape or form) for three generations (soon to enter its fourth). But while all of these families have cemented their spots in the annals of wrestling lore, no two families have had the impact on the industry like the Anoa’i and Harts. Without their kin and close families, both have trained enough wrestlers throughout history to be noteworthy. But it’s the sheer size of both families direct input into the wrestling industry that is astounding – while many families have supplied four, five, even eight family members into pro wrestling, both the Harts and the Anoa’i have sent over twenty wrestlers each into the world of professional wrestling – and that number is only going to grow. But both families are remarkably more similar than you would think, despite one starting on the tiny island of Samoa in the Pacific Ocean and the other in the frozen tundra of Alberta, Canada. And despite popular myth that both families hold particular sway over pushes and employment in the WWE (more so with the Anoa’i family), they’ve had far more not reach the success of either The Rock or Bret ‘Hitman’ Hart.
ANOA’I AND HARTS: THE PATRIARCHS/MATRIARCHS
While technically the patriarch of the Anoa’i clan is Reverend Amituana’i Anoa’i, it was his “blood brother” bond with High Chief Peter Maivia that began the entire wrestling connection with the Anoa’i. In Samoan culture, close familial friends are considered as close as blood family, and it was this bond between Rev. Anoa’i and Maivia that began the entire legacy of the Anoa’i family. Peter Maivia trained Rev. Anoa’i’s two sons Afa and Sika – collectively known as The Wild Samoans – and referred to Maivia as Uncle Peter. The Anoa’i clan considers anyone born to Maivia’s heritage from him on as part of the Anoa’i family. Maivia relocated to Hawaii and made his pro wrestling debut in 1962, becoming a huge star on the West Coast for the NWA, first with 50th State Big Time Wrestling (the NWA territory that ran from 1949 to 1979 out of Honolulu) and then for NWA Polynesian Wrestling (which he ran until his death in 1982). Maivia toured throughout the NWA, but was biggest on the islands and throughout Australasia, as well as California. He was a 4x NWA Hawaii Tag Team Champion, NWA Hawaii Heavyweight Champion, as well as NWA champion in San Francisco, Los Angeles and other regions. Maivia’s wife, Lia Maivia, took over the booking of NWA Polynesian Wrestling following Peter’s death, running it until it closed in 1988. Rev. Anoa’i and his wife, Tovale, had six children – sons Afa and Sika (The Wild Samoans), Afoa and Sipa and daughters Tumua and Elevera – with five of them continuing the family business. Peter Maivia and his wife Lia had two children – daughter Ata and son Toa. Ata’s marriage to Canadian pro wrestler Rocky Johnson would lead to one of the industry’s greatest stars.
By the time Peter Maivia began wrestling in 1962, Canada’s Stu Hart was already nearly 20 years into his wrestling career. A trainee of Jack Taylor and Toots Mondt, Hart debuted in 1943 and worked several NWA territories throughout the 1940s and 1950s. In 1948, he began Klondike Wrestling in Edmonton, Alberta, and in 1952, purchased another Canadian West Coast promotion, Big Time Wrestling, merging the two to create Wildcat Wrestling. In 1967, Wildcat was rebranded as Stampede Wrestling and the rest is history. Stampede Wrestling still remains Canada’s most legendary promotion, and Stu Hart one of the industry’s most influential trainers. All the while, his wife Helen Hart worked alongside Stu Hart and helped raise their 12 children, all of whom were involved in wrestling in some capacity. Stampede Wrestling was acquired by Vince McMahon Jr. in 1984 when he assumed control of his father’s WWF, but was re-sold back to the Hart Family a year later. While it’s had reboots throughout the years following, it never returned to the glory that was it’s 60s through early 80s, when it was Canada’s premier wrestling promotion. Stu and Helen Hart had twelve children – sons Smith, Bruce, Keith, Wayne, Dean, Bret, Ross, and Owen and daughters Ellie, Georgia, Alison and Diana. All of contributed to the industry, whether by trade or by child. In many cases, both.
ANOA’I AND HARTS: THE SECOND GENERATION STARS
The Anoa’i have definitely had more direct lineage superstars make it in the major promotions, primarily the WWE, than the Harts. Starting with the Wild Samoans, Afa and Sika, who were trained by Peter Maivia, they were one of the top tag teams in the world throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, and the true first generation of the Anoa’i wrestling family. Ironically, it was in Stu Hart’s Stampede Wrestling where they got their start, but they would go on to win countless tag team titles throughout the NWA territories as well as in Puerto Rico with the WWC. They would become huge stars in the WWF, capturing the WWF World Tag Team titles on three occasions. While Afa and Sika were the only two of Rev. Anoa’i’s sons to become wrestling superstars, many of the Reverend’s other children had children who became huge stars (not to mention Afa and Sika’s children).
Afa’s most successful son, Samula, was the first of the Anoa’i children to make the WWF, when he began to fill in when Sika was injured in the Wild Samoans. He lasted a year in the WWF, before starting the Samoan SWAT Team with his cousin Solofa Jr. (who went by Fatu). The duo competed in WWC, WCCW, AWA and finally WCW in the early 90s.
Both of Sika’s sons, Matthew and Leati, made the WWE, although Leati was by far the most successful of the two. Matthew, better known as Rosey, was part of 3-Minute Warning before becoming Hurricane Helms‘ sidekick, but Leati Joseph Anoa’i is better known as Roman Reigns, 3x WWE World Champion. As a member of The Shield and a singles star, Reigns is already on pace to become one of the most decorated Anoa’i to every set foot in the WWE.
Afao Anoa’i’s son Rodney was the first Anoa’i to become a WWE World Heavyweight Champion, as the 2x World Champion Yokozuna. He passed away in 2000 at age 34, but was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame posthumously in 2012.
Elevera, one of Rev. Anoa’i’s daughters, had three sons who went on to successful wrestling careers, starting with Sam Fatu, who wrestled in the WWF from 1983-1988 as Tama (or the Tonga Kid) and principally teamed with Haku in The Islanders.
Solofa Jr. had the greatest success in the WWE, originally starting as part of The Headshrinkers with his former Samoan SWAT Team partner (and cousin) Samu. He briefly went as the masked Sultan in the mid-90s, but it was as Rikishi that Solofa Jr. would have his greatest success in professional wrestling.
The third son of Elevera was Eddie, best known for his 5-year run as Umaga in the WWE, where he was a former 2x Intercontinental Champion. Sadly, Eddie passed away in 2009 at the age of 36.
Of Stu Hart’s many sons and daughters, only Bret and Owen Hart every really caught on as national stars. Bret became a 5x WWE World Champion and the face of the company for the first half of the 90s, while Owen became the first gaijin to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title in NJPW and become one of the most respected stars of the 90s, until his tragic passing in 1999.
ANOA’I AND HARTS: THE JOURNEYMEN
While the Hart family had more of their sons get into professional wrestling of the second generation, most of them failed to become huge stars beyond their own promotion, Stampede Wrestling. While Smith, Bruce, Keith, Dean and Ross had success in other territories of the NWA during the 1970s and early 80s, their increasing involvement in training and booking with Stampede Wrestling as Stu got older, made it difficult to catch on with larger promotions. Although they did periodically get TV time during family storylines in the WWE involving Bret and/or Owen Hart.
Lloyd Anoi’a, one of Afa’s sons and brother of Samu, had several runs as enhancement in the WWF – as Fred Williams, Tahitian Savage and Lloyd Lanui – but never progressed beyond that role. He had far more success in regional indies, often teaming with his brother Samu. He appeared several times in ECW, where he wrestled as LA Smooth, a name he still holds to this day. He still wrestles in indie promotions in the tag team The Sons of Samoa with another brother, Afa Jr.
Speaking of Afa Jr., he briefly appeared with the WWE in the late 2000s, most notably in 2008 as Manu. As Manu, he was one of the original members of Randy Orton‘s Legacy faction, alongside Cody Rhodes and Sim Snuka – although both Manu and Snuka both failed their initiation tests and were ultimately replaced by Ted DiBiase Jr. Both were released shortly after. But as Afa Jr., he continues to work the indie circuit, primarily in Pennsylvania and with his family’s WXW.
Reno Anoa’i, son of Tumua Anoi’l (Afa and Sika’s sister), never made a major promotion, but has worked the indies for nearly 15 years as The Black Pearl. He now works alongside his cousin Rikishi at the Knokx Pro Academy in California.
ANOA’I AND HARTS: THE PRODIGY
Many of the second generation stars on both families are either established stars or emerging talent, with both sides claiming some big stars in the WWE or NJPW, with some other stars thriving or emerging on the indie circuit.
Rikishi’s twin sons, Jonathan and Joshua Fatu, are 5x WWE Tag Team Champions, better known as Jimmy and Jey Uso. The Usos have been a part of WWE’s tag team division for a decade now and are still one of the company’s premier tag team units, and are the current reigning Smackdown Tag Team Champions.
Tama’s son Jacob Fatu has become an up-and-coming indie star on the West Coast since his debut in 2012, where he’s currently the Internet Champion with California’s All Pro Wrestling (APW). Samu’s son, Lance Anoa’i, is also an emerging star, competing with MCW, House of Hardcore, NYWC and many California promotions. Another of Afa’s nephews (on his wife’s side) is Sean Maluta, who was part of last summer’s WWE Cruiserweight Classic. He wrestles primarily with the family’s WXW, but has had several matches on NXT over the past year.
Stu and Helen Hart’s children had their own kids, many of whom also followed the family business. The most successful in the WWE has been Natalya, the daughter of Hart daughter Ellie and Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart. A 2x Women’s Champion, she’s a veteran in the locker room and has been a part of the WWE’s women’s division for a decade now.
Her cousin Harry Smith, the son of another Hart daughter, Diana, and “British Bulldog” Davey Boy Smith, has also had a successful career, beginning as a 2x WWE World Tag Team Champion (as David Hart “DH” Smith), before leaving the WWE for Japan. He’s flourished in the Japanese wrestling scene as part of the Killer Elite Squad with Lance Archer, where he’s captured three IWGP Tag Team titles in NJPW (and currently reigning), as well as two in Pro Wrestling NOAH, where he now competes as Davey Boy Smith Jr.
Yet another offspring from one of the Hart daughters, Georgia, and Stampede wrestler BJ Annis, Teddy Hart has been one of the indie scene’s biggest enigmas of the past decade. He gained worldwide acclaim when he was the youngest wrestler ever signed by the WWE, but his outrageous personality caused clashes and he never made it past developmental. But he’s widely regarded as one of the most innovative indie wrestlers of the past 15 years and has recently begun to clean up his lifestyle and cement his legacy.
Smith Hart’s two sons, Mike and Matt Hart, both continue to wrestle in the Western Canadian indie scene, with Prairie Wrestling Alliance (PWA) and Real Canadian Wrestling (RCW) respectively, while Bruce Hart’s two sons, Bruce Jr. and Torrin Hart, briefly wrestled with the rebooted Stampede Wrestling for a few years, in a tag team called The Hartbreakers.
ANOA’I AND HARTS: MARRIED TO THE MOB
With such huge families on both sides, each has their share of pro wrestlers who have found their way into the family trees through marriage. The Hart family, with so many daughters, leads this category easily.
Ellie’s husband Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart became her brother Bret’s greatest tag team partner in the original Hart Foundation in the 1980s, where they captured the WWF World Tag Team titles on two occasions. Neidhart would constantly remain a presence with the Hart family, either in the New Foundation with Owen Hart, or later in the Hart Foundation that fought DX in the prologue to the Attitude Era.
Diana’s husband Davey Boy Smith was part of one of the greatest tag teams of the 1980s, the British Bulldogs. When the team disbanded, Smith was pushed as a top singles star, whose Intercontinental win over Bret from Wembley in England is still a highly regarded classic.
Georgia’s husband was a body builder that was converted into a wrestler for Stampede in the 1980s, BJ Annis. Allie Hart’s husband, Ben Bassarab, was another Stampede wrestler in the 1980s. Allie and Ben’s daughter, Brooke, married Canadian indie wrestler, “Pistol” Pete Wilson.
Jim and Ellie’s daughter Natalya married her childhood sweetheart TJ Wilson, better known as WWE Superstar Tyson Kidd, who was also trained in the Hart Dungeon alongside his wife.
The first wrestler to marry into the Anoa’i family was American wrestler Gary Albright, who married Afa’s daughter Monica. Again, Albright began in Stampede Wrestling in the 1980s, before moving on to a more successful career in All Japan in the 1990s. Albright tragically passed away in 2000, dying of a heart attack in the ring during a match with the family promotion, WXW.
2x WWE Women’s Champion Naomi is also part of the Anoa’i family through marriage, as she’s married to current Tag Team champion Jimmy Uso. After several years in developmental and then as a cheerleader to Brodus Clay, Naomi has become one of Smackdown’s biggest stars the past year.
ANOA’I AND HARTS: “BLOOD BROTHERS”
The Samoan culture that integrates close family friends into each others families, has added several names to the Anoa’i family, beginning at the very top with Peter Maivia. His daughter Ata married Canadian wrestler Rocky Johnson, whose son Dwayne Johnson became one of the greatest superstars in wrestling history, The Rock. Johnson grew up close to his Anoa’i family, including his cousin Nia Jax, another current WWE Superstar. Jax, real name Savelina Fahene, is from Maivia’s family bloodline (from Maivia’s mother’s side).
“Superfly” Jimmy Snuka came into the Anoa’i Family Tree when he married his second wife, Sharon Georgi, whose father was a Samoan Chief that was also blood brothers with Rev. Anoa’i. Snuka and Sharon’s daughter, Sarona, went on to become WWE Superstar Tamina Snuka for the past seven years, while their son James, was a WWE Superstar for five years, first as Deuce and winning WWE Tag Team gold , then briefly as Sim Snuka during the early stages of Legacy.
Rowdy Roddy Piper has long claimed that he is a distant cousin of Stu Hart’s (Piper’s father’s cousin was a cousin of Stu Hart), and Piper was always treated as close family from the Hart Family. Piper’s son, Colt Toombs, following a brief career in MMA, finally joined the family business for a brief spell from 2013 to 2014.
The Harts often had soft spots for some of the talent they trained, but two in particular became close enough that they were treated as honorary Hart family members. The first was Brian Pillman, who left his CFL career with the Calgary Stampeders to join Stampede Wrestling in the 80s and train with the Harts. He moved on to WCW and ECW, but upon joining the WWF in the mid-90s, he was reunited with his “family” and became part of the new attitude Hart Foundation. His son, Brian Pillman Jr., is currently training for a career in pro wrestling in Calgary with another former Hart trainee, Lance Storm.
The other was Chris Benoit, who moved from Montreal to Alberta to train with the Harts in the 1980s as well. Benoit was close to the Hart family, especially Owen Hart, with whom he travelled and worked in Japan (as the Pegasus Kid). It was this closeness that resulted in Benoit facing Bret Hart in a tribute match to Owen in WCW following Owen’s passing in 1999.
Davey Boy Smith’s real life cousin, Tom Billington, better known to the wrestling world as The Dynamite Kid, also moved to Calgary with his cousin, where they became the British Bulldogs. During his Alberta residence, he married Michelle Smadu, the twin sister of Julie Smadu, Bret Hart’s first wife. Due to the closeness of his cousin and brother-in-law, Billington was treated as Hart family during the 1980s, and his daughter Bronwyne Billington remains an indie wrestler in West Canada, where she goes by The Dynamite Doll and is married to indie wrestler “Dynamite” Dan Myers.
ANOA’I AND HARTS: THE PROMOTIONS
As expected with such storied family legacies, each family has run some influential promotions and training schools. In Florida, the Wild Samoans run World Xtreme Wrestling (WXW), a promotion started in 1996 and still going strong 21 years later, as well as their own wrestling school which has run since the late 70s. The Hart Family will always be associated with Stampede Wrestling, Stu Hart’s promotion that ran from 1948 to 1984, and then in reboots from the sons in the late 80s, 90s, and 2000s. And the Hart Dungeon is widely considered one of the most influential training schools of the past 50 years.
As you can see, both families have added a great deal to the fabric of the pro wrestling industry, from training to World Champions, and continue to inject new life blood into the industry. Our final count found 26 Anoa’i family and 30 Hart Family in the industry today (plus those who have passed). And both those numbers will continue to grow as they remain the forefront of wrestling excellence. With over 25+ members of the family, extended, blood line or marriage, the Anoa’i and the Harts are the two deepest and most influential families to ever get involved with professional wrestling.
NOTE: It’s popularly assumed that Haku and his sons (Tama Tonga, Tanga Loa and Leo Tonga) are also part of the Anoa’i family, but that is not accurate. Haku is from the isle of Tonga and left there as a young man to pursue Sumo in Japan, where his wrestling career began. While Haku did interact with Tama as part of The Islanders in the WWF, Haku’s family is not considered part of the Anoa’i lineage.