David Von Erich: We’ll Never Forget You
By: Craig Peters
The news came suddenly and terribly early on the morning of February 10. David Von Erich was found dead in his Tokyo hotel room – the victim of acute enteritis – a severe inflammation of the intestines.
Von Erich was just beginning a three-week tour of Japan. In fact, he hadn’t even wrestled in his first match of the tour. Joe Higuchi, a referee for All – Japan Pro Wrestling Association, discovered Von Erich in his room at the Takanawa Tobu hotel. An ambulance was called, but police said the medical report indicated that Von Erich had died in his sleep an hour before the call was made.
David was only 25 years old when he died, but in those 25 years he rose to the stature of hero not only in his home state of Texas, but in the hearts of wrestling fans across the country and around the world. The weeks following the news of his death saw thousands of cards and letters from all over the world expressing their sympathy sent to the Von Erich family.
David was born in Lake Dallas, Texas on July 22, 1958, the second of the six Von Erich sons. He was a basketball and football star at Lake Dallas high school and attended North Texas State on a basketball scholarship. After a year of college, David quit to become a professional wrestler. His debut match took place in the summer of 1977 against Gary Hart.
“I really don’t know how I could have avoided professional wrestling as a career,” David said in an interview shortly after his debut. “I had grown up in a wrestling atmosphere. My father – well everyone had heard about Fritz Von Erich for years. Wrestling is a part of my family, and I’ve always been a good athlete. It seemed natural for me to become a wrestler. Besides, Kevin needed someone to team with!”
Kevin was the first of the Von Erich brothers to wrestle professionally and David soon followed. In his debut match, David surprised a lot of people, including opponent hart and the man Hart managed at the time, Mark Lewin (who involved in a major feud with Kevin).
Hart felt that David would be a pushover in that match, and claimed that he would be able to beat David in five minutes. David responded by saying that if he could beat hart in five minutes, he wanted to wrestle Lewin. David beat Hart very quickly and went on to beat Lewin as well!
That incident ignited a feud between Hart and the Von Erich’s that lasted for years. Hart brought many wrestlers to Texas over that time to try and run the Von Erich’s out of the state. Bruiser Brody, John Studd, Gino Hernandez, the Great Kabuki, The Spoiler, and Ernie Ladd were just a few of the men that hart sent in against David and his brothers.
David’s excellence in Texas soon catapulted him to the top of the NWA ratings, and her found himself a perennial contender for the NWA World title. He wrestled for that title against Harley Race and Ric Flair. Though he never won the World title, he did succeed in winning several regional singles and tag team titles during his short career.
In 1979, David and Kevin combined to defeat the team of Bruiser Brody and Gino Hernandez for the American tag team belts. Two years later, David won the Texas State heavyweight championship from Hernandez.
With his brother Kevin, David also held the U.S. tag team title, the World-Class tag team belts, and the All – Asian tag team belts (defeating the team of Shohel “Giant” Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta).
With brothers Kevin and Kerry, David feuded with the Freebirds over the last couple of years, with the World – Class Six – Man tag team championship changing hands between the two sides several times.
Alone, David would go on to hold, among other titles, the Texas championship four times, the Southern Title (defeating Jack Brisco) and the United National belt (defeating Michael Hayes).
David also defeated Ric Flair on September 16, 1983m for the Missouri State heavyweight title, an honor he held until January 6, 1984, when he defeated Harley Race in St. Louis.
David made his only Madison Square Garden appearance on November 11, 1979, against Davey O’Hannon. At the time, David noted that “wrestling in the Garden is the thrill of a life time, but I have to admit that I’m looking forward to getting back home to Texas. I’m a Lone Star cowboy at heart!”
Late in 1981, David traveled to Florida and struck up a friendship with dory Funk Jr., a friendship that would soon influence David to adopt some of the stylistic mannerisms of the rule – breaking community. In the autumn of 1982, David vowed that he’d rather “quit wrestling then be Dory Funk’s puppet,” and he triumphantly returned to Texas once again to the overwhelming cheers and approval of his many fans.
Shortly thereafter, The Freebirds arrived in Texas. Originally they claimed to be friends of David’s, but turned on him Christmas Night 1982. That marked the beginning of a feud between The Freebirds and the Von Erich’s that still continues.
Throughout his entire career, David attempted to achieve nothing but excellence in his athletic endeavors. If excellence is measured by attainment of championship titles and becoming the object of unmatched admiration by his peers and by millions of wrestling fans around the world, then David Von Erich certainly reached that pinnacle of excellence be was striving for.
David Von Erich achieved much in his 25 years on this earth, and as long as we remember those achievements, as long as we recall the excellence that is David Von Erich, he will never be gone. Not from our hearts, nor from the pages of wrestling’s history books.