Kerry Von Erich’s Victim List Grows
By: Bill Smith
It was supposed to be an easy victory. Curt Hennig, the reigning Intercontinental champion, had Kerry Von Erich, the newcomer to the WWF, locked in a sleeperhold. For all the world, it seemed as if the “Texas Tornado” was about to black out.
Hennig maneuvered Von Erich into the corner where, for some reason, he released the sleeper. “Mr. Perfect began pounding away at Von Erich, then turned around to confer with his manager, Bobby Heenan. At that point, Von Erich catapulted Hennig toward the top turnbuckle. “Mr. Perfect’s” head hit the iron ring post. Hennig rebounded. Von Erich caught him in a claw, spun around, and delivered a stunning punch to the jaw. Pinfall. New Champion.
Not on your life!
While it’s true that Von Erich had only been in the WWF for a few weeks when he scored an upset over Hennig, the second – generation star’s I-C title victory was only the latest in a long line of triumphs. In fact, with his incredible record during the past few years, Von Erich probably should have been ranked as the favorite coming into the match!
“How can anybody consider Von Erich and underdog?” asked six-time former NWA World champion Ric Flair, whom Von Erich defeated in 1984 to win the title. “That guy has beaten so many great wrestlers over the years that he should be considered the favorite every time he wrestles. He’s been one of the best wrestlers in the world for more than a decade.”
Indeed, WWF broadcasters would have you believe that Von Erich is a newcomer to the sport, but this man was bred to be a champion. Guided into the sport by his father Fritz, and his older brothers David and Kevin, Kerry made his wrestling debut on May 7, 1978 beating Paul Perschman in Dallas. At first, the young Texan started off slowly, wrestling mainly preliminary competition.
By 1980, Von Erich was ready to show what he could do in any arena in the world. It was during that year that he defeated Jose Estrada in his first appearance at New York’s fable Madison Square Garden.
“I’ll never forget how in awe I was of that building,” said Von Erich in the November 1990 issue of Wrestling Classics . “All the greats of the game had wrestled there, and here was this 20 – year – old kid standing in the same ring Bruno Sammartino, The Kangaroos, and other legends had competed in. I’ll never forget how filled with adrenaline I was that night.”
Once Von Erich got a taste of major victory, he wanted more. On January 21, 1983, the rapidly developing young star had an opportunity to wrestle the legendary Harley Race for the Missouri title. After the match, they would call Von Erich a champion for the first time.
“He was still learning his craft in those days, but you could tell Kerry was going to be an excellent wrestler,” said Race recently. “Even though he beat me, I had to admire his drive and tenacity during our match. There was no way he was going to lose that night. Who would have thought that, only one year later, he would become NWA World Champion?”
On May 6, 1984, at Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas 43, 517 fans turned out to see Von Erich use a back slide to pin Flair and capture the NWA World title. Although Flair would regain the belt 18 days later in Japan, Von Erich had reached the most important plateau of his career. He had become a worldwide superstar and he wanted more top competition.
In October of that year, Von Erich defeated another young star, Gino Hernandez, for his first World Class title. While defending his title through 1985, he defeated such stars as Chris Adams, Kamala, and Jim Garvin. Although Con Erich seemed to be on the path to another world title, tragedy struck when he was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident on June 4, 1986.
After two abortive comeback attempts, Kerry finally made a full-time return to wrestling in November 1987 – and it didn’t take him long to reestablish himself as a top contender. In 1988, he won the World Class title twice, from Al Perez and Iceman Parsons. But what ranks as the greatest feud of his career was about to unfold when Jerry Lawler challenged him to a winner-take-all bout at SuperClash III on December 13, 1988, in Chicago: Kerry’s World Class title vs. Lawler’s AWA World title.
“That was probably the toughest match I’ve ever had,” recalled Lawler. “I won when the referee stopped th match because of Kerry’s bleeding, but Kerry wrestled the match of his life. And before too long, he got his revenge on me when he beat me in a non-title match. Even though I have some bad feelings for the guy, I’ve never said he’s less than an outstanding talent.”
The past two years have been the most productive of Kerry’s career. During that period, he defeated Sid Vicious, Kamala, and Col. DeBeers. On October 20, 1989, he defeated the massive 6’9” Punisher for the USWA Texas title. Although Lawler later took that title from him, Kerry regained it on January 5, 1990. The next man to present a challenge to him was former friend, Matt Borne, who defeated him. But, as usual, Kerry rallied back to regain the Texas belt.
Von Erich never really lost the Texas title before leaving the USWA this past summer. He was scheduled to wrestle Angel of Death on July 13 in Dallas, but was attacked before the bout by bodybuilder Rod Price. He was injured and could not defend the title, so it was awarded to Angel by default. However, by that point, Von Erich knew the WWF was beckoning. He knew he could be a champion again.
And he knew another victim would soon be added to his lengthy victory list.