Article on Chris Von Erich from Wrestling 89Chris Von Erich Trains For His Pro Debut
By: Bob Smith
”I wanna be world champion. I’m pretty sure I will be, ‘cause I’m gonna work hard. I’m just gonna keep training and training until I get big enough, and then I’m gonna be world champion if I can.”
-Chris Von Erich in Pro Wrestling Illustrated, August 1985
It has been a long time coming, so many assumed this was a project that had been permanently shelved. More than four years ago in the pages of Pro Wrestling Illustrated, 15 year old Chris Von Erich, the youngest of the Von Erich brothers, announced that he intended to become a professional wrestler (“The Von Erich Dynasty: The Kid Who Will Lead Them Into The 21st Century”).
It seemed logical since at that point Kerry, Kevin and Mike Von Erich were three of the most popular and successful wrestlers in the world. But then people got a glimpse of Chris and assumed all the publicity was pure hype. At 5’3” and 140 pounds, his look certainly didn’t mesh well with the ultra-fit images of his older brothers. Chris was clearly overweight. He was short. He certainly didn’t look much like he had the potential to be a wrestler.
But he was also a Von Erich. And that means he was born to overcome odds.
“Of all my achievements in wrestling, I think this one is the one that will make me the proudest,” said Kerry Von Erich, who’s been busy training Chris for his professional debut, tentatively scheduled to take place this fall. “Just four years ago, just about everybody I knew – even friends – said that Chris would never make it into this sport. He just wasn’t big or tall enough, they all said. Well, look at the guy now! He’s 19, he’s just about ready, and man, is he hungry. I really think he’s going to take this game by storm.”
Chris made occasional appearances during World Class cards at The Sportatorium three years ago, but the fans who saw him then would never have dreamed that the roly-poly boy with the cherubic face would ever don a pair of wrestling tights. After months of grueling workouts, however, Chris has lost the baby fat and replaced it with sinew and muscle. But more importantly, he’s also gained maturity and confidence.
“After that feature was printed in PWI, people seemed to immediately forget about me,” said Chris. “I heard all the stories about how I was too small and out-of-shape to make it. But only I knew how badly I wanted to become a pro wrestler. About two years ago, I just decided to block out all the negativity I was hearing and get down to business. Well, look at me now, world! Forget all those photos you’ve seen in the past. This is the way I was always destined to look – and I’ve molded my body with the ring in mind. I just can’t wait to lock up with my opponents and show everybody just how far I’ve come.”
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH
By 1987, Chris’ body still hadn’t begun developing in the way he had always hoped it would. His role model has always been Kerry, whose wealth of wrestling skills and unparalleled physique are considered a standard the entire sport looks to. Chris had undergone nine years of amateur training under the coaching of David Manning, but it was beginning to look like he wouldn’t have the size or strength to compete in the pro ranks.
“Chris got a little depressed at the times,” recalled Kevin Von Erich, who tried to help his brother’s cause in any way he could. “We all tried to tell him that wrestling wasn’t the only thing in life, though. The kid was doing real well in high school, and he had several top colleges offering him scholarships. It would’ve been enough to make most people happy, but Chris didn’t even want to hear about it. All he cared about was making it into wrestling, and he was upset that all the things he said in that PWI article looked like they weren’t ever going to come true.”
Finally, in August 1987, an incident took play at Dallas’ Sportatorium that would change Chris’ life forever. Chris was watching the wrestling action from near the dressing room as Kevin had just completed a victorious match against a preliminary opponent. After the final bell sounded, Kevin was brutally attacked in the ring by Brian Adias.
”It was one of the most horrifying incidents I had ever seen,” recalled Chris. “There was Adias, a man who had been a friend of our family, jamming his ‘Asiatic spike’ taped thumb into my brother’s throat trying to rupture his esophagus. When I saw Brian trying to hurt Kevin, all I wanted to do was run in the ring and help my brother. But it was at that point that I realized there wasn’t a damn thing I could do for him. All I could do was watch.”
After Kerry and a host of wrestlers ran to the ring to break up the unscheduled melee, Chris rushed to the locker room to check the condition of Kevin. Although his brother was not seriously injured, Chris vowed to never let anything like that happen again. He immediately seeked out Kerry and, with tears in his eyes, barely managed to blurt out his request.
”Please, let’s spend more time together training,” Chris begged Kerry. “I know I’m not big enough or strong enough to make it right now, but I never want to see anyone attack one of my brothers like that again. With a guy like you to lead me, there’s no way I can fail. Show me what to do. I promise I won’t let anything stand in my way ever again.”
”Right there, I knew Chris was serious - deadly serious,” Kerry recalled. “It was going to mean a complete change of lifestyle for the kid. No more candy and soda. No more parties and movies. Being a wrestler is a 24-hour a day occupation, and at that stage in his development I knew it would take two more years of serious training to get the job done. I told him that, and the look in his eyes said it all. I knew he was ready to begin his new life in earnest.”
Since early in 1988, Kerry and Chris have gone through a daily regimen of training and exercise that has increased steadily with each passing week. In recent months, the brothers have spent about four hours per day together at Kerry’s private gym in Denton, Texas. The improvements in Chris’ musculature become more apparently every day.
“Every member of the family has been aiding Chris’ development,” said Kerry with pride. “My father, Fritz, has been in from time to time showing him holds, specializing in the claw and a whole series of arm and leglocks. Kevin has been teaching him the proper form for aerial maneuvers and dropkicks. Even my mother has been preparing high-protein, low-fat meals for him. As for myself, I’ve been showing him ways to build up his strength and endurance. I’ve never had a more dedicated pupil than this guy. It just fills me with inspiration to see him work so hard.”
Another important factor in the training has been basic karate, which is vital in today’s sport, according to the former World Class champion.
”More and more guys are learning karate, ju-jitsu, and kung-fu before becoming wrestlers,” said Kerry, “so it’s important that he get a good knowledge of these fighting tactics. But I think it’s important for another reason, too. Even after the way he’s built his body up, it’s become apparent to just about everybody that Chris is never going to be the biggest man in the sport. He’s going to have to take advantage of his natural speed and agility to fend off the offense of his larger opponents. He’s also going to have to keep increasing his body mass gradually.”
To that end, Chris has been spending a large amount of time lifting free weights and working out on Nautilus and Universal weight machines.
”Over the course of the past year, I think I’ve nearly tripled my strength,” said Chris with pride. “It wasn’t all that long ago when I couldn’t bench press more than 100 pounds. Now, I can do repetitions of 150 pounds, and I’ve even gotten as high as 350 pounds at times. Obviously, I could never lift as much weight as Kerry, but I’m getting there slowly. Who knows – maybe someday I might even pass him!”
While Chris struggles to gain bulk, Kerry has also been active teaching his brother every hold in his repertoire. It’s an advantage that Kerry believes will set Chris apart from other young wrestlers.
”Most rookies don’t have a thorough knowledge of holds and maneuvers these days,” insisted Kerry. “This is where Chris is really going to shine. Already stored in his head is a deep-rooted sense of what holds will work best in a given situation. We’ve gone through a number of simulated matches, and he’s been able to counter just about every hold I’ve put him into. In that regard, the guy’s a natural.”
“I just love getting on the mat and showing off everything I’ve learned,” said Chris after working out with Kerry in a rigorous two-hour sparring session. “It’s taken me a long time to get everything together, but over the last few months, everything has been taking shape just wonderfully. I’m about ready to make my debut, so the time for talk will soon be over. Then I can prove all of this hard work hasn’t been in vain.”
After several months of accelerated training, Kerry Von Erich believes that Chris will not only be able to become a professional wrestler, but a championship-caliber one as well. He is glad that Chris has put a high priority on his training, since his body weight still had not passed the 210-pound mark.
”Hey, just because he’s on the smallish side doesn’t mean Chris can’t be a great wrestler,” said Kerry. “Look at guys like Bill Dundee, Shaun Simpson, and Ranger Ross, for example. None of those guys are really big men, but they’ve all been able to forge excellent pro careers. Chris has more than though intestinal fortitude and desire to overcome any opponent they put in front of him. Since his body is in such fine shape now, I don’t think his lack of overall size will really be all that much of a deterrent.”
The biggest obstacle to Chris’ fledgling career, however, may not come in the form of an opponent, but in the Von Erich legend itself. The prospect of living up to the careers of Kerry, Kevin, David and Mike could be enough to force Chris to try to take on too much responsibility.
”I hope nobody puts undue pressure on the kid,” said Kevin. “People should just forget about me and Kerry, and about David and Mike as well. When they see Chris in the ring, he should be judged on his own individual merits, and not against any of our careers. Every man has to make his own way, and I think Chris is man enough to stand up on his own.”
The training is about over. The years of hard work and perseverance are about to pay off. Chris Von Erich will soon step through the ropes and become the sixth member of his family to become a wrestler.
And the Von Erich dynasty may just be beginning.