Pro Wrestling Illustrated
Conducted by Dave Rosenbaum
DAVE ROSENBAUM: I understand youíre writing a screenplay. What is it about?
KEVIN VON ERICH: Itís going to be the story of the Von Erich brothers, being the oldest brother and how it all went down. Thereís a whole lot of guesswork and a lot of people are making up the whole story. Iíd like to get the facts out. My brothers were really good people.
ROSENBAUM: Why have you stopped wrestling?
VON ERICH: Iím still in shape, but wrestling is just not fun for me. I didnít leave the business. The business left me.
ROSENBAUM: How do you rationalize what has happened to your family?
VON ERICH: I look at it this way: My brotherís and I lived real dangerously. We were a really reckless group always showing off for each other, like walking on bridges in Japan and taking every chance we could. We were just young kids. We felt like we could do anything and nothing would hurt us. It was reckless. Iím really surprised that I survived.
ROSENBAUM: So whatís your opinion about what happened?
VON ERICH: Iím hearing all this guesswork about what made the Von Erichs do it. Nothing made us do it. We enjoyed ourselves to death. We were always showing off for each other. We used to have this thing called the chance of the day, where weíd take a chance on our lives every day. Dave was always too smart of that, so heíd just watch. Weíd jump on wild bullsí backs, jump on trains going fast. Weíd get on a roof of a car at highway speed. You start thinking nothing can get you and youíre indestructible. Thatís part of being in sports. We were blessed with good bodies and good balance. We showed off for each other.
ROSENBAUM: Why did you survive?
VON ERICH: Thatís a tough question. I think only the good Lord can answer that. Kerry really didnít have anything to live for. He had his two beautiful daughters and a wife he loved, but then heíd come home and all his stuff would be moved out. Sheíd move all his stuff out. Kerry was no saint, either. They both treated each other kind of rough. He had pretty much come to an understanding the day he killed himself. He just left having lunch with Kathy, his wife. Kerry was going to jail and he was afraid of never seeing his girls again.
ROSENBAUM: Did you have any idea he was going to kill himself?
VON ERICH: I had an inkling. I talked to him about 30 minutes before he did it. He said ďKevin, Iím about to kill myself,Ē We had talked for about an hour. We told some good dirty jokes, we laughed and he told me ďIím going to kill myself.Ē I thought I had him talked out of it. He said, ďI didnít want to be like Mike and not say good byeĒ Thatís when I begged him. I said, ďDonít do this. Donít leave me alone. Youíre my only brother. Donít leave me.Ē I thought I had him talked out of it. Thirty minutes later they found his body. He must have gone right out and done it.
ROSENBAUM: I donít think anyone can imagine how painful that must have been for you.
VON ERICH: Any kid reading this article, if you only knew what kind of pain youíd inflict on people who love you and how it stays and stays and never goes away youíd never do it. You may feel like dying at the moment, but if you knew what kind of pain it would put on people who love you, youíd never do it.
ROSENBAUM: Watching five sons die must have been a terrible burden for your parents.
VON ERICH: My parents had been married for 43 years when Chris (commited suicide). Three months later they divorced. I donít know if one blames the other. I donít think it was either oneís fault at all. I saw my dad the other day at my momís in Dallas. My parents got together after Kerry died because they needed each other. They didnít want to start any more of the gossip rags. But my parents never got together. Maybe they will get together one day. Thatís my dream. They need each other.
ROSENBAUM: I know you have a wife and children, but do you ever feel lonely without your brothers?
VON ERICH: It is pretty lonely, but what are you going to do? Life goes on. I have my kids and I put all my love into them. Youíll never know how close my brothers were to me. It is very lonely. Iím the only one alive and some people are taking bets on me. But thereís now way thatís going to happen to me because I have reason to live and itís a good one. Iím happy with my life.
ROSENBAUM: You sound unusually optimistic for someone whoís been through such hard times.
VON ERICH: You just have to be tough, just like in wrestling. Itís not always easy, but the rewards are there. Just like in life. I think things are going to have a happy ending. I have two sons coming up and we just might see them become the masters of the iron claw (laughs).
ROSENBAUM: Do you blame your brothersí deaths on wrestling?
VON ERICH: Not at all. If anythingís to blame, itís our recklessness. Me and my brothers.
ROSENBAUM: And youíre through with wrestling?
VON ERICH: Iíve really had enough.
ROSENBAUM: Is there anything you want to say to the readers?
VON ERICH: Iíd like to say to everybody that we love you all and this is the truth. This is the way it went. My father was not a real brutal man like they try to play him out to be in some of those gossip rags. We were just a lot of fun-loving little boys.
ROSENBAUM: You mentioned your father in a defensive way. Iím sure youíve heard most of the rumors concerning your family.
VON ERICH: Sure, Iíve heard a lot of them.
ROSENBAUM: Well how about commenting on a few of them?
VON ERICH: Go ahead. Thatís what Iím there for.
ROSENBAUM: It has been suggested that drug use was prevalent in your family and your parents didnít discourage it. In fact, some people say your mother encouraged it.
VON ERICH: Iíll say this as far as illegal drugs, thatís not true. Iím talking about drugs prescribed by doctors. Painkillers. Dave and Mike had surgeries. All the brothers had painkillers prescribed by doctors. Kerry was the only one who got into illegal drugs, not prescribed by doctors. The best way to handle pain is to grit your teeth and put ice on it. If you take one pill, next time itíll be two of them and the next itís going to be three. Itís just a crack in the door. Itís just the crack in the door that gets wider and wider. In a way, drugs had to do a lot with quite a few of my brotherís deaths. Mike was into painkillers. Itís a nasty thing to talk about. I donít want to get into it too much, but drugs are deadly. I can tell you from experience, some of my brothers died from legal drugs.
ROSENBAUM: Many people accuse your parents, especially your father, of being abusive,
VON ERICH: I was there. I remember back when my dad was a bad guy in wrestling. My brothers and I would go to school and the bigger kids would watch wrestling on Saturday night and get even on Monday. We fought together and the family who fights together would not only gets good at fighting, it gets really close. I donít remember my parents being really super strict or abusive in anyway at all. I remember a real happy childhood full of running in the Texas sun, just us and nature. We didnít even wear clothes until we went to school. We were so far out in the country. We didnít even have any school chums. (Pauses.) I do feel lonely.
ROSENBAUM: Some people say that you and your brothers were pushed into wrestling.
VON ERICH: Iíve heard that rumor a million times. People love to talk about that one. My dad didnít push my brothers into wrestling.
ROSENBAUM: Do your parents blame themselves for what happened?
VON ERICH: My mother says she doesnít blame my father but I donít know. She doesnít blame herself. My father doesnít blame my mother and he doesnít blame himself. They know how wild we were.
ROSENBAUM: But youíre pretty convinced youíre going to make it arenít you?
VON ERICH: I have beautiful children and a beautiful wife. A nice home. I donít live in opulent surroundings but I have everything I want. I live in the country. I have room to move around, shoot my guns, and be by myself. My little brother (Kerry) figured he didnít have anything, he was rootless. He had no home. Seeing me with my family made his pain greated. It reminded him of what he was missing. It was such a sad, tragic thing.