Hot Seat with Fritz Von Erich:
Interview conducted by Bill Apter
Fritz Von Erich, the patriarch of the world – famous Von Erich family, has been beaten, bruised, and nearly crippled on several occasions. But he’s always managed to walk out of the arena on his own power – until Christmas 1987. On this most festive of family holidays, Kevin and Kerry Von Erich couldn’t save their father from a brutal attack by Terry Gordy, Buddy Roberts, Iceman Parsons, and The Angel of Death at Reunion Arena in Dallas.
Kerry was scheduled to wrestle World Class champion Al Perez, with Fritz and Perez’s manager, Gary Hart, handcuffed to each other at ringside. Before the match, Gordy came to the ring to challenge the winner. Gordy made several disparaging remarks about Kerry’s 1986 motorcycle accident and the two began fighting. But this was merely a smokescreen for Parsons, Roberts, and Angel, who handcuffed Fritx to the ropes and brutally attacked him.
Kevin ran out to help his father, and the attackers fled the ring. Kevin and Kerry carried Fritz back to the dressing room. Barely out of the ring, however, Fritz collapsed. He was carried off on a stretcher, rushed to Baylor University Medical Center, and placed in intensive care. Fritz was released two days later, but his condition worsened at home. At press time, Fritz was partially paralyzed, though the extent of the paralysis was unknown. Inside Wrestling Senior Editor Bill Apter flew to Fritz’s hom in Denton, Texas to talk with Fritz - in remarkably good spirits – about the attack.
Q: Fritz, it almost breaks my heart to see you sitting here like this. I’ve seen you wrestle hundreds of times, and my image of you will always be of a strong, determined man, a former AWA World Champion, and one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. A: Thank you, Bill and I want to reassure you that although I’lve gotten a little older, I’m still a strong, determined man who believes in fighting his own battles and sticking up for what’s right. The good Lord put us on the earth to fight evil, and although those Freebirds might’ve broken my body, they haven’t broken my spirit. When I recover – and I guarantee you that I will – they’re in for plenty of trouble Q: What were you thinking when Terry Gordy came to the ring with Buddy Roberts, Iceman Parsons and The Angel of Death? Did you have any idea that they planned to attack you? A: Well, Bill, I’m still not sure what they were thinking when they came to the ring. You know, men like The Freebirds are very devious and usually plan out their evil, but I have an idea that Gordy just came out to taunt my son; when they started fighting., the other three took advantage of the opportunity to get me. You know, I’m still the target of a lot of people around here just because I’ve been around for so long and I’m the father of Kerry and Kevin. People figure that the best way to get back at Kerry and Kevin is to do something to me. But I’ve never been the type to back down. If they want a piece of me, all they have to do is come and get me. Q: Which they did. In my opinion, The Freebirds attack on you Christmas Day was one of the most sickening, cowardly, and vile attacks I’ve ever seen. I saw the tape afterward and almost vomited; I would’ve liked to spit on The Freebirds for what they did. How can four young men sink so low as to attack one of the most respected men in this sport? A: Bill, you’re gonna have to ask them that question. All I can say is that those four have a history of that type of behavior, so it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anybody. Besides, I can’t say that I haven’t been the victim of this type of attack before. It’s just that it always happened when I was more prepared to defend myself. I expected to spend the evening handcuffed to Gary Hart, and I didn’t see what could happen with us handcuffed together. I wasn’t prepared to wrestle and I wasn’t prepared for an attack – which probably my own fault, because I’ve always made it a point to be prepared for anything. And, by the way, Kerry is convinced that Hart was behind the attack, and that wouldn’t surprise me at all. Hart is an evil man and he makes no secret of his hatred for me. He just stood there and enjoyed every minute of it. Q: Probably the scariest moment of the evening came when Kevin and Kerry helped you back to the dressing room and you collapsed barely out of the ring. What were you thinking at the time? A: In all honesty, I wasn’t thinking anything. I was practically unconscious. I heard that several people thought I had a heart attack., but that was totally untrue. I’ve never had a heart attack, but I have an idea what one might feel like. The only way I can describe it is to say that I felt nothing. I felt numb, no pain or anything. That’s why I couldn’t walk and I was in a bit of a daze. In fact, I don’t even remember being in the ambulance or going into the hospital. The last thing I remember is being handcuffed to the ropes. Next thing I knew, I was in intensive care with Kevin and Kerry standing over me. I said to Kerry, “How’d you do against Perez?” and he said to me “I haven’t wrestled yet. I came here with you.” Well, I said to him, “You’d better get going, young fella. You’ve got a match to wrestle.” Q: As it turned out, Kerry would’ve been better staying with you. He said he wasn’t into his wrestling, that he couldn’t keep his mind on his match because he was too concerned about you. A: Yeas, and it’s a great thing, Bill, to have people care about you. You know, one thing I have to thank the good Lord about for is having all these people who car about myself, Doris, and all the boys,. I think that comes from the caring the family has within itself. I don’t blame Kerry for not being able to wrestle his best, because if it was me in the ring and Kerry was in the hospital, I don’t think I could’ve wrestled either. The thing is, Kerry felt that he was duty - bound, to the family, to himself, and most of all to the fans to wrestle that night, even if it was after midnight. You know, that title shot was a gift from Kevin. Besides, I wasn’t going anywhere, and Kevin was there from me and Doris. Q: How’d you feel when you finally came to? A: Very tired, but not as bad as you’d expect after going through an ordeal like that. The doctors quickly dispelled any fears that I had a heart attack, and for a while it looked like I only suffered minor injuries to my neck, back, arms and legs, but nothing terribly serious. When they told me that they caried me out of the arena on a stretcher, I wasn’t too pleased. That’s never happened to me before. But let’s face it, the odds were against me, especially since Kerry was tied up with Gordy, and Kevin was back in the dressing room taking a shower. You know, it’s funny how fast news carries in a wrestling arena. Kevin got word immediately that I was getting attacked and people tell me they’ve never seen a guy get dressed so fast. Q: Let’s jump ahead two days, when you were released from the hospital and returned home. That’s when things really started to go wrong. A: That’s right. I was fine when I got home, but I could feel myself getting weaker by the day. Finally, I woke up one morning and could barely walk. I was also having some trouble moving my arms. Doris called the doctor and he came over right away. He said that I had suffered partial paralysis because of the attack – nothing permanent – and although I wouldn’t lose the use of any parts of my body, they’d have to monitor the situation very closely. Right now, I’m starting to feel a little better, but it’s going to take some time. Q: Something tells me that you have every intention of returning to the ring to get revenge by yourself. A: Listen, Bill, I’m not a foolish man. I know better than to take on four men by myself… Q: But if Kerry and Kevin will help you… A: Then I wouldn’t hesitate to get into the ring if the doctors gave me the okay. Look, there’s already been too much lost because of this. I got hurt. Kerry lost a chance to win the title from Perez. Kevin, Chris Adams and Steve Simpson lost the six – man belts by disqualification because Kevin was attacked before the match and got a little carried away when he had to be replaced by Matt Borne. Id prefer not to see this thing drag on forever. On the other hand, I can’t let these men get away with what they did. If not me, who’s next? Who will they attack next with their cowardliness? These men have no respect for fair play. They don’t care about the rules or about the sanctity of the sport. To them, everyone is fair game for their evil. It must be stopped. Q: Can’t Kerry and Kevin take care of things by themselves? A: I don’t know. I guess they can, but I don’t want them to risk their entire careers. Kerry is still trying to come back from his injuries. Kevin wants that heavyweight title badly. If we let The Freebirds control what we do, we’re just playing into their hands. But I have faith that things will turn out okay. Our faith will pull us through, just like it always has.