Kevin Von Erich - Wrestling 87
By: Dave Rosenbaum
KEVIN VON ERICH
World Class champion Kevin Von Erich has suffered. At 29 years of age, Kevin is the second oldest of six Von Erich brothers; there were only two sons in 1959 when brother Jack accidentally electrocuted himself. Since then, Kevin has watched two brothers die - David, of an intestinal inflammation on February 10, 1984, and Mike, as a result of a suicide on April 12, 1987.
Now, Kevin, Kerry and Chris are the lone surviving brothers; Kevin, however, has been left alone in the ring. Chris is still too young to wrestle, and Kerry has been sidelined for much of the past year because of a near-fatal motorcycle accident. Life has not been kind to Kevin Von Erich, but he continues to survive.
The death of Mike was extremely tragic. The 23 year old had gone through some hard times over the past two years, all of which began with his summer 1985 bout with Toxic Shock Syndrome. Mike was fortunate to survive that battle, but he never got over the aftereffects. The disease ravaged his body and apparently affected his mind. As a result, Mike was never able to live up to his enormous potential. His frustration built up and he was involved in a series of brushes with the law. One night before his suicide, Mike was arrested for driving while intoxicated, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of two ounces of marijuana. Upon his release the following afternoon, Mike drove to his apartment, where he picked up some camping gear and wrote a note to his family. He then drove to Pilot Knoll Park in Lake Lewisville, Texas, and sometime that day took a lethal dose of the tranquilizer Placidyl. After an intensive search, his body as round four days later. As the oldest brother, Kevin was naturally the person the press came to for answers regarding Mikeís death. But, like everybody else, Kevin was left only groping for clues. He took a week off from wrestling following the funeral and returned to wrestle against Nord the Barbarian in the annual David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions at Texas Stadium.
Just two weeks later, more problems befell Kevin. He banged his head against the turnbuckle during an eight-man tag team match in Ft. Worth, Texas, and was hospitalized with a concussion. Since his release, he has spent most of his time at home in Denton, Texas. As of press time, he had not returned to the ring. ďI wanted to know how he and his family have dealt with the death of Mike,Ē said Wrestling 87 Associate Editor Dave Rosenbaum, who interviewed Kevin. ďKevin is a rather articulate individual, and I was sure that heíd have some opinions on why his brother did what he did. Of course, this recent incident in Ft. Worth only gave us more to talk about.
Wrestling 87: Things really havenít been going well for you, have they Kevin? How did you suffer the concussion?
Von Erich: It was in an eight-man tag team match: me, Bruiser Brody, and the Fantastics against Brian Adias, Al Madril, Al Perez, and Black Bart. I was in the ring with Brian Adias and he slammed my head into the turnbuckle, but I hit it the wrong way. All of a sudden, I saw stars. I collapsed and had a seizure in the ring.
Wrestling 87: That must have been a scary moment for you.
Von Erich: Well, I wasnít quite sure what was happening. After I hit my head and the paramedics came into the ring. I felt dizzy and lightheaded, really strange. They took me to Harris Methodist Hospital, treated me, and released me the same evening.
Wrestling 87: But you went back in. Why was that?
Von Erich: Well, my family convinced me that I shouldnít take any chances. You know, Iíve had some problems with my knee and shoulders and they also wanted me to get a complete physical checkup. It turned out that I had suffered a concussion and Iím still not ready to return. Iíll tell ya, Iíve been doing a lot of sleeping lately.
Wrestling 87: Well, itís been a very hectic two months for you. From what Iíve heard, some of the wrestlers in the dressing room that night in Ft. Worth were saying ďOh no, not again. Whatís happening to this family now?Ē I know thatís the first thing that went through my mind.
Von Erich: Iím sure a lot of people were thinking that way, but I donít really think my family has been cursed. Weíve had a lot of blessings. Weíve had some things that other families could only hope for, and we have our faith in the Lord.
Wrestling 87: Still, your faith must have been tested by Mikeís death. Why do you think he did it?
Von Erich: You know, there are a lot of people out there who have made their own little opinions about what made Mike kill himself, and thereís one that I agree with. Mike after the toxic shock syndrome was a totally different person. The disease ravaged his body and made it impossible for him to come back. He had a picture of himself as a great star and he could no longer fulfill that. He worked so hard, lifting weights and all, but he was constantly in pain. He never really recovered. The disease really slowed him down. You know, he took it as a challenge, but there was so much built up against him. He would work out five or six hours a day and not see any progress.
Wrestling 87 How about the arrest the previous day? Do you think that had anything to do with his decision to commit suicide?
Von Erich: The DWI wouldnít made terrible press, no doubt about it. You know, he had already been through one trial, the one where he was found not guilty of hitting the emergency room doctor in Lewisville Hospital, and I think he felt that he had already embarrassed the family too much. You know, some of those TV stations were real cutthroats during this whole thing with Mike. There were 10 helicopters by the scene when they found his body. I wanted to tell these press people, ďHave some compassion. My mother just lost her baby.Ē
Wrestling 87: It must have been horrible for her. How is she taking it?
Von Erich: My mother is a strong woman and sheís taking it fairly well. But you know, itís the third son that sheís lost.
Wrestling 87: And how have you handled it?
Von Erich: Pretty well, I think, although after they found Mike, I took 10 days off before coming back at the Texas Stadium show. I just didnít have it in me to wrestle. I was real close to Mike.
Wrestling 87: So how will you remember your brother? What is it that stands out the most about him?
Von Erich: You know, itís kind of sad in a way, but we didnít find out how good a person he really was until after he died. He gave money to needy people that lived around him. Mike was a very secretive guy. There was a lady in Denton whose husband had left her and their two kids. We didnít know it, but Mike was paying her rent every month. Now we know how good he really was. I donít know if he really projected it that way, because he was too private, but Mike was a caring person. A lot of wrestlers, you know, will come to a town, ravage the town, and pick up every girl around. Mike was a caring guy. Itís almost a blessing that he died, knowing the pain that he was going through, knowing the pressure he was under for every little thing he did.
Wrestling 87: Did he speak to anybody before he went to Lake Lewisville?
Von Erich: He called up my mother, and she didnít know about the arrest. He told her about it and she said something like, ďDonít worry about it. Itís no big deal.Ē But he said, ďYou donít understand, it is a big deal.Ē Mike figured that he let the family down. It wasnít a big deal to my mother and she would have understood, but it was a big thing to Mike. Iím convinced that he had already decided to end his life. He visited a friend of the family, a doctor, and asked for a prescription for Placidyl.
Wrestling 87: Who is this person?
Von Erich: Iíd rather not say. Mike told the doctor that he was in pain and asked for a prescription of Placidyl. The doctor filled the prescription because he thought Mike was hurting. But I have no doubt that he got that Placidyl because wanted to kill himself. That evening, we found a note in Mikeís apartment which said, ďPlease understand. I love you all, but I canít do anything right.Ē We all had a pretty good idea of what he had in mind. We were just hoping to find him before he could do anything.
Wrestling 87: Did you have any idea where he might have gone?
Von Erich: Mike is real good at staying outdoors, so I figured that he might have gone camping somewhere. Unfortunately, we didnít know where he would go.
Wrestling 87: Had he ever gone to this park before?
Von Erich: I donít think so, because itís not really a park where you would go camping. Itís more of a wildlife preserve.
Wrestling 87: So why do you think he went there?
Von Erich: I donít know.
Wrestling 87: But he knew where he was going?
Von Erich: Apparently, he knew where to go. He set up camp about a mile from the lake and they found him in his sleeping bag.
Wrestling 87: The Von Erich family has had more than its share of hard times. Youíve now lost three brothers, David lost his infant daughter, and Kerry is still struggling to return to the ring. Of course, youíve had more than your share of injuries, too. Somehow, though, your family manages to keep the faith. How?
Von Erich: You know, Dave, a lot of people say to us, ďWhy donít you curse God?Ē and we say that you have to take the good with the bad. What are we supposed to do? You just canít say, ďWell, we want the good things, but we wonít accept the bad things.Ē Some people might say that weíve gotten a raw deal from God. I say weíve been blessed.
Wrestling 87: In closing, do you have a message for your fans?
Von Erich: Well, my family and I would like everyone to know that even though we understand why Mike did what he did, we donít think that committing suicide is the right thing to do. A person should try to deal with his problems.