Dark days ahead?

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November 04, 2007

Last Monday night on Raw, Mr. McMahon sought to impart pearls of wisdom on his bastard son, Hornswoggle. The Chairman advised the newest McMahon that in order to be truly successful he must channel his anger, he must "learn to hate." The scene seemed eerily reminiscent of the cinema classic The Empire Strikes Back, in which the evil Darth Vader pleaded in vain with his long-lost son Luke Skywalker to join the Dark Side.

The question remains, which path will Hornswoggle choose? He desperately wants to win his Dad's approval and acceptance and show that he is worthy of the McMahon name. Does the little guy have the intestinal fortitude to resist his father's counsel and be his own man? Or will the leprechaun follow in his father's considerable footsteps?

These are questions that have plagued many a son of celebrity. If Hornswoggle chooses not to take the already laid path of Mr. McMahon, will he disappoint his father? Then again, if he does choose to emulate his successful father, does he risk traveling a road littered with high expectations and unfulfilled promise?

Prominent among those who've traveled such a road before is Frank Sinatra, Jr., son of the legendary singer and Academy Award winner, Frank Sinatra. Despite crooning in Las Vegas like his father, the younger Sinatra never quite lived up to the hype. In fact, after catching his act one night, Forbes magazine editor Malcolm Forbes remarked, "Junior sure ain't Senior!"

Sinatra's struggles were shared years later by Dale Berra. In the world of sports, few figures are more accomplished and more beloved than Dale's father, New York Yankee great Yogi Berra. Unfortunately, Dale didn't fare nearly as well.

After watching his father earn three MVP awards and a coveted place in Major League Baseball's Hall of Fame, Dale's potential in the sport was lofty. A highly sought prospect during the 1975 draft, Dale played until the mid-‘80s. During that time, however, the younger Berra's career never reached the storied heights of his father. To further add to his troubles, Dale was fined 10 percent of his annual salary after admitting in the infamous 1986 Pittsburgh drug trials that he was a drug user. The following year, Dale quietly retired from Major League Baseball.

Another athlete, whose father who may have set the bar exceedingly high, is David Sammartino. His father, Bruno, is the longest-running WWE champion in history, holding the title for a remarkable 11 years.

David followed his father's career and joined WWE in 1984. With Bruno in his corner, he battled Brutus Beefcake at the inaugural WrestleMania. Unfortunately, though, that may have been David's sole highlight as a WWE Superstar. He could not avoid the comparisons to his "Living Legend" father and found it difficult to carve out his own identity. His career in WWE came to an end in 1985. He wrestled sporadically for the AWA, WCW and other independent promotions until he ultimately retired.

With the lessons of the past prominent for all to heed, will Hornswoggle be able to avoid the pitfalls that invariably helped sink the careers of these sons of celebrities? Or will he somehow be able to escape the long shadow created by his infamous father and set out on his own path?

So far, he has shown hints of independence, apparently getting chummy with guest referee (and McMahon enemy) Mick Foley on Monday night to defeat Executive Assistant Jonathan Coachman in a match. And in September, Hornswoggle used his powerful McMahon name to prevent Coachman from stripping then-WWE Champion John Cena of the title.

Even without a big dose of "hater-ade," Hornswoggle is already an overachiever -- and that still hasn't been enough for his dear old Dad. But will anything ever be enough to please Mr. McMahon?

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