Kerry Von Erich Wins the NWA World Title: For David...For Texas...For Wrestling! By: Craig Peters
There was no way that Ric Flair could have held onto the NWA World title May 6. He was facing too many opponents.
The primary opponent was Kerry Von Erich. Kerry had spent several days in seclusion, working on an accelerated version of his training regimen. He spent many hours watching tapes of Ric Flair's recent title defenses, and had closely regulated his diet so that he could better withstand the usually oppressive Texas heat. Lucky for him that he did: During the title match, the temperature soared to 105 degrees at ringside.
But there were other opponents as well:
One was the record-breaking crowd of 43,517 fans, who, it seemed unanimously supported the challenger. Such a hometown advantage for Von Erich certainly provided him with an extra edge that he wouldn't have had if the match had taken place in the Kiel Auditorium in St. Louis or the Greensboro Coliseum.
Another was the NWA, which granted a request by the Von Erich family to waive the disqualification rule. Flair had filed several protests to NWA president Bob Geigel, but the decision was allowed to stand: if Flair overtly attempted to disqualify himself in order to hold on to his title ( a judgement that would be made by the referee) Kerry would automatically be declared the winner and the new World champion.
One more opponent who had an effect on the outcome of the Kerry Von Erich--Ric Flair title match that nobody could ever measure was David Von Erich. Indeed, the entire Texas Stadium card, dubbed "Parade of Champions" was dedicated to the memory of David Von Erich. And as Kerry and Flair were being given instructions by referee David Manning, a memorial candle with David's picture on it, surrounded by yellow rose petals, burned in Kerry's dressing room.
"It was like David was right there in the ring next to me," Kerry said in an interview shortly after the match. :When I was standing there listening to David Manning give the instructions, all I could think about was David and how it should have been him standing there in the ring with Flair instead of me."
When he entered the Texas Stadium ring, Kerry was wearing a blue jacket with the words "In Memory of David, 1958-1984" and a yellow rose embroidered on its back.
"It was definitely a moment of mixed emotions for me," Kerry said. "Just before the match I had been listening to Glenn Goza sing the song that he wrote about David, 'Heaven Needed a Champion'. It sent chills down my spine, and I'm not ashamed to say it made me cry. It also made me realize how much of a responsibility I had to the fans and to David. I knew that I had to win the title for all the fans in Texas Stadium that day, and for David for all time."
The match was truly one of the classic NWA World title matches.
A brief test of strength saw neither man emerge with a clear advantage, though many ringside observers felt that Kerry had the slight edge. It was Kerry who made the first move: a stunning dropkick delivered to Flair's upper chest. Another test of strength followed with Von Erich forcing Flair to the canvas.
Flair scrambled out from under Kerry's grasp and manuevered himself toward one corner of the ring. Climbing to the top rope, Flair was ready to attempt a flying bodypress, but Von Erich grabbed the champion, hurled him through the air, and sent him sprawling to the mat. Flair retaliated minutes later with a series of powerful closed fist punches to Von Erich's head.
Von Erich had Flair trapped for a pin following a spectactular sunset flip, but the champion worked his way free at the two-count. Kerry then caught Flair in an abdominal stretch that weakened the champion and set him up for the clawhold.
Flair seemed somewhat frantic at this point, and was visibly shaken. Determined to keep his title, Flair broke out of Von Erich's grasp and dropped his challenger to the mat after several smashes to the face.
Sensing an opening and a potential for victory, Flair moved in for the figure-four leglock. Kerry kicked Flair away, but the champion attempted the hold again. Kerry kicked out a second time, but Flair made yet a third attempt. Von Erich used the remaining strength in his legs to kick loose. He grabbed Flair, forced him into the ropes, and rolled him up on the rebound at the 25:42 mark. David Manning slapped the mat three times, and a new NWA World Heavyweight champion was crowned.
The nose from more than 43,000 fans was defeaning. Some ringside fans threw yellow roses and Texas flags into the ring, and many others were seen to be weeping. Kerry's brothers Kevin, Mike and Chris, his father, Fritz, and several other wrestlers came into the ring to congratulate him.
Referee Manning handed the NWA belt to Kerry, who seemed to be lost deep in thought. The new champion took the belt, wrapped it in a large Texas flag, and went back to his dressing room.
"The first thing I saw when I went back to my dressing room was the memorial candle with David's picture on it," Kerry said. "I smiled and I cried. I looked into the flame, and under my breath, I said, 'This one was for all the fans here today, for Dad, for the family, and most of all, brother, for you.'"