Kerry Von Erich was born on February 3, 1960, in Buffalo, New York. That may come as something of a surprise to most wrestling fans who perceive the Von Erich family and the state of Texas as virtually inseparable. Actually, Kerryís father, Fritz, was on a nationwide wrestling tour, and he did not want to be apart from his wife at the time.
Kerry began wrestling at the age of nine and, like his older brothers Kevin and David, played football at Lake Dallas High School. Kerry also participated in track and field, and set a Texas state high school record with a discus toss of 196.7 feet, shattering the old record by more than 14 feet.
After being offered athletic scholarships by 46 major colleges, Kerry finally accepted a full athletic scholarship to the University of Houston. Continuing to concentrate on the discus throw, he broke the schoolís freshman record by 31 feet and the Southwest Conference record by 12 feet. In international competition, Kerry won the world junior discus championship. This training is still in evidence today, as Kerry often delivers what he calls ďthe discus punchĒ in many of his matches.
Kerryís professional wrestling debut occurred on May 7, 1978 when he defeated Paul Perschman in Dallas. With hopes of competing in the discus event in the 1980 Olympics, Kerry refused payments for his wrestling matches and maintained his amateur status. When the United States boycotted the Moscow games, Kerry decided he couldnít remain an amateur athlete until 1984, and plunged into full-time professional wrestling.
In the years that followed, Kerryís fame grew as he racked up an impressive number of championships, including the American tag team title (with Bruiser Brody), the WWC tag team title (with older brother Kevin), the Florida State title, the North American title, and the Missouri state title. He also held the World Class Texas title and American belts, and the World Class six Ė man championship, on several occasions.
But the greatest achievement of Kerryís career came on May 6, 1984, when he defeated Ric Flair for the NWA World title in Texas Stadium in front of more than 43,000 fans. Kerry dedicated that title, who had died nearly three months earlier. Flair regained the belt in Yokosuka City, Japan, on May 24.
Wrestling 85ís Craig Peters spoke with Von Erich several weeks after Kerryís October 29 victory over Gino Hernandez in Ft. Worth, Texas, to capture the World Class American heavyweight title. At the time of their discussion, the final results for the Pro Wrestling Illustrated Achievement í84 awards had recently been tallied: Kerry was voted Most Popular Wrestler of the year by nearly 13,000 fans.
ďKerry was genuinely touched by that award,Ē Peters said. ďHeís always taken the support and attitude of the fans very seriously, and I know it means a lot to him. Itís hard not to look up to Kerry. Heís got a sense of dedication that is rare in any man, a dedication to the fans, to the gym, and to the sport in general. Kerryís truly one of the most admirable figures in the sport today,Ē
WRESTLING 85: In addition in winning the Pro Wrestling Illustrated award as Most Popular Wrestler of the Year, Kerry, your Texas Stadium match with Ric Flair, in which you won the NWA World title, was voted by the fans as Match of the Year,. In addition to that, you were first runner Ė up. In the Wrestler Year voting, and the six-man tag team of yourself and your brothers Kevin and Mike was first runner up in the Tag Team of the year voting. Never before has one man dominated the year Ė end voting like you have this year. How do you feel about that?
VONERICH: Did I really do all that (laughs)? You know, you mention all these categories, and itís all kind of overwhelming to me.
WRESTLING 85: Well, se if this is overwhelming too: Excluding the two categories where you shared votes, Match of the Year and Tag Team of the Year, you received nearly 38,000 votes in the year Ė end balloting. Thatís about 13,500 more than the second place overall vote getter, Hulk Hogan. It shows that the fans were really on your side in 1984.
VONERICH: Boy, they sure were, Craig. ItísÖ well, itís a little embarrassing to see that I got so many votes. Iím happy, of course, and Iím kind of glad you put the voting into this kind of perspective, because it gives em the chance to say something that Iíve said before, but that really bears repeating. See, I consider myself to be one of the luckiest athletes in the entire world. The fans who support me, who support my brothers, and who follow World Class wrestling, are the greatest fans in the world as far as Iím concerned. Thereís a special bond between the fans and the Von Erichs that goes beyond just cheering for your favorite wrestler. Sometimes, with all the matches from week to week, the feuds are that are going on, and the titles changing hands, that bond may be forgotten. I canít begin to describe how much I appreciate all the fans whoíve supported me and my family through the years, and I know my brothers feel the same way.
WRESTLING 85: There really is a special bond with the fans when youíre a Von Erich, isnít there?
VONERICH: Oh, absolutely. I donít want to sound too presumptuous, but I think itís not too far off the mark to say that the fans expect more of a Von Erich than they do ofÖ well, someone else who isnít a Von Erich.
WRESTLING 85: Very diplomatic.
WRESTLING 85: But being a Von Erich also has its advantages, wouldnít you agree?
VONERICH: Well there are pluses and minuses to everything. Letís look at my brother Mike, whoís a good example of what weíre talking about. Sure, the fans were ready to accept Mike when he wrestled his debut match against Akbar. They were cheering him like crazy. Thatís the plus side of being a Von Erich. But the minus side comes when Mike steps into that ring and realizes the pressure heís under. Itís not any pressure that fans put on him, itís a pressure he puts on himself.
WRESTLING 85: The pressure to succeed.
VONERICH: Exactly. And the pressure makes Mike say to himself, What will happen if I lose this match and let the fans down? And then you tell yourself Iím a Von Erich, I canít let the fans down. When you have that much support from the fans, you also have that much more of a letdown should you fail. Mike didnít fail, but the pressure was definitely there. I felt it in my first match, and I know Mike felt it in his.
WRESTLING 85: And Iím sure you felt it in Texas Stadium.
VONERICH: Did I ever! It was just like I was wrestling my debut match all over again. It was worse! I had butterflies in my stomach and sweat pouring down my face before I even stepped into the ring Ė of course it was over 100 degrees in the ring that day! Yes, I felt pressured. But there was also an unbelievable element of exhilaration that day that I never felt before. There were more than 43,000 fans in Texas Stadium that afternoon; it was an attendance record for wrestling. I could feel their support for me with every move of the match. And I knew that they felt the same way I did, that I had to win the NWA World title for David. They were behind me all the way, and with their help and support I managed to win the belt. It was beautiful. That was possibly the most beautiful example of the bond between the Von Erichs and the fans that Iíve been talking about. Iíll never forget the feeling in Texas Stadium as long as I live.
WRESTLING 85: We talked right after you won the World title, and again a few weeks later after Flair won the belt back in Japan. But now itís almost seven months after that match in Yokosuka City, and wonder if, looking back now, you have a new perspective on your title reign.
VONERICH: Not really, just that my initial feelings about the title were pretty much correct. I respect the NWA title that much more, and I respect a man like Ric Flair that much more for the schedule of title defenses he maintains.
WRESTLING 85: What was the biggest surprise of your title reign?
VONERICH: The fans. Weíve talked a lot today about the relationship between the Von Erichs and the fans, but let me tell you something, Craig, thereís a special relationship between the NWA championship and the fans as well. I could feel it in my title matches in Texas and Florida, and I could really feel it when I went over to Japan to defend the belt.
WRESTLING 85: What kind of relationship?
VONERICH: Respect, mainly. In most areas of life, you have to work hard and prove yourself to earn peopleís respect. And more than earning respect, it proves you deserve . The fans realize this. Thatís what comes with capturing the title that represents the oldest and largest governing body of wrestling in the entire world.
WRESTLING 85: Speaking of titles, you recently captured the World Class American title from Gino Hernandez.
VONERICH: Yes, Iím very happy to have that belt around my waist again.
WRESTLING 85: Critics have accused you of using the American title as a steppingstone back to the NWA title. How do you respond to that?
VONERICH: Well, itís simply not true. The World Class American title is a very respected title throughout the wrestling world. Itís a very important title. And when Gino Hernandez held the belt, he took a lot of the respect away from the title. In fact, Gino had both the American and Texas titles. That was almost an insult to me, because of the way he takes the importance of those championships so lightly and of the way he takes the fans so lightly. So not only am I proud to have the American title, Iím proud to have broken Ginoís lock on the World Class singles titles. And let me tell everyone, and especially Gino if heís reading this Ė Mike and Kevin are on your trail and your Texas title reignís days are numbered too, brother!
WRESTLING 85: Iíd like to ask you about some other things going on in the World Class area. For example, what do you think of the Chris Adams situation?
VONERICH: Itís completelyÖ itísÖ I donít know. I get very angry and hurt when I think about Chris Adams. I feel betrayed. Chris has been so close with our family for so long; at one time we even called him an honorary Von Erich brother! Boy, that seems like a hundred years ago now.
WRESTLING 85: I wonder how much of the change in Chrisí personality and style in Chris, and how much is his manager, Gary Hart.
VONERICH: Well thatís the thing, isnít it? I mean, if Gary Hart hadnít gotten himself involved, would Chris be doing the things heís doing today? I doubt it. It was completely unnecessary when he super kicked Kevin. That was vicious. And Chris comes out saying that Hart has helped him gain his string of victories and that Hart is helping him get NWA World title matches. Okay, maybe this is so. But Chris doesnít need Hart, and he doesnít have to take on this kind of an attitude to be successful. Chris has a lot of talent, a lot of shill, and heís using them in completely the wrong way right now.
WRESTLING 85: It must be hard for you toÖ
VONERICH: Oh it is very hard. See, Iíve always looked to Chris as a friendÖ until recently. He was close friend for a long time. But when he super kicked Kevin, he super kicked me. And he also super kicked Mike. Cross one Von Erich and you cross us all, and thatís a painful lesson that Chris Adams will learn very quickly.
WRESTLING 85: Do you think that thereís any hope Chris will come to his senses soon?
VONERICH: Soon? I donít know. As long as Gary Hart has his claws in Chrisí career, then heís going to be the same. Itís really a shame. Chris is not the same man today that he was a year ago, and thatís too bad. He had a lot going for him, and he could be so much farther along in his career today if he hadnít gotten mixed up with Hart, and the lines have been drawn. Deep down, looking back at how close friends Chris and I used to be, I donít like it one bit. I donít like what Chris is doing, and I donít like what Hart is doing to Chris. But like I said, the lines have been drawn, and Chris will do what he feels he has to do, and Iím going to have to do what I have to do. Itís that simple. And that complicated.
TEN MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS:
May 7, 1978: Professional wrestling debut. Kerry defeats Paul Perschman in Dallas. Kerry wrestles only part time and refuses payment for his matches in order to maintain his amateur athletic status.
November 23, 1979: [Kevin] defeats Dick Murdoch for the Missouri State title.
April 12, 1980: The U.S Olympic Committee, at the request of President Carter votes not to attend the Moscow Summer Olympic games. As a result, Kerry has to give up his hope for competing in the discus event in the Olympics. Kerry devotes himself to wrestling.
January 21, 1983: Kerry defeats Harley Race for the Missouri State title. Crusher Blackwell defeated Kerry for the title April 15.
April 16, 1983: The day after he loses the title, a dejected Kerry had a one to one talk with his father and he learned that once you fall off the horse you get right back on.
December 25, 1983: Kerry defeats Freebird Michael Hayes in a loser-leave-town cage match. Hayes was driven from Texas for several months as result of this match..
February 10, 1984: Kerryís brother David is found dead in his Tokyo hotel room. Davidís memory would serve as a major inspiration for Kerryís defeat of Ric Flair on May 6 in Texas Stadium.
May 6, 1984: Kerry defeats Ric Flair for the NWA World heavyweight title.
May 22, 1984: Kerry suffered an injury in the former AWA champion Jumbo Tsurta. It was this injury that caused Flair to win the title back.
August 4, 1984: Mike captures his first major championship when he defeats Gino Hernandez for the World Class American title.