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The Von Erich's, A Denton County Dynasty

***Note*** This was sent to us by Kip Davis. He wrote this article for the Woodruff County Monitor in McCrory, Arkansas. It should be appearing in a few weeks and Kip was nice enough to share it with us. Thanks Kip! :-) BTW, you can find a link to Kip's writings by going HERE.

History’s Traveling Sideshow

The Von Erich’s
A Denton County Dynasty
By: Kip Davis

I remember it well; it was 3 o’clock in the afternoon. My cousin Russell and I rushed to turn on the television. It would soon be time for our daily ritual of elbow drops; body slams and Iron claws form off the top of the couch. We rushed over and turned the television to channel 13 and tuned in to Denton County Texas’ World Class Wrestling. There were a variety of wrestlers and characters on the program, but we were waiting for out favorites to appear in the ring - The Von Erich Brothers.

There was David, Kevin, Kerry, Mike and Chris and they were at the top of their game in the wrestling world. Their father Fritz Von Erich (born Jack Adkisson) owned the World Class Wrestling association. He also had been a professional wrestler in his day perfecting a wrestling hold called the Iron Claw, which was also the signature move of his son Kerry.

The Von Erich’s had it all, defeating the top wrestlers and winning major titles. Kerry once took the NWA title from Champion Ric Flair. At one time he was the World Class champion, the NWA champion and the WWF Intercontinental Champion. They are also famed for setting the fast paced style of wrestling that you see today, more energetic and up-tempo.
“My brothers and I didn’t like that old man style.” Says Kevin Von Erich. “ We didn’t like to sit in the middle of the ring and exchange holds. We liked it fast-paced. And we went all out.” Kevin went on to reveal that some of the best times were when they would give them leather straps in the ring and just let them beat the tar out of each other with them.

The Von Erich’s were on top of the world, but in everybody’s world tragedy must fall, and fall it did. David Von Erich was scheduled for a match in Japan when he became ill. Though he was urged to cancel his appearances, he refused and made the trip. On February 10, 1984, the Von Erich’s received a call from Tokyo that David had been found in his hotel room dead. It was later revealed that he died of a severe inflammation of the intestines. David was 25 years old and the wrestling world was stunned by the loss.

Fritz had lost another son earlier in his life. Jack junior was his first-born son and was accidentally electrocuted on their farm when he was 7 years old. Now he was faced with another tragedy. The brothers were also devastated and soon Mike Von Erich, David’s younger brother stepped in to fill his shoes.

Mike wasn’t as big as the other brothers and was not really into conditioning the way the others were. He was tall and skinny and it was hard for him to put on the weight. He possessed the Von Erich flair though and soon he was voted rookie of the year in 1984 and most inspiration wrestler in 1985. In August of 1985, tragedy struck the Von Erich’s again when Mike was treated for an injured shoulder. 4 days after leaving the hospital he suffered toxic shock syndrome disease. He recovered slowly, but had lost all the weight he had gained for wrestling. He had to eventually give up wresting completely because of the disease. On April 12, 1987 he committed suicide by taking an overdose of tranquilizers, he was only 23 years old.

Chris, the smallest and youngest of the Von Erich boys idolized his brother mike and was determined to start his wrestling career and accomplish all the things Mike wanted to do and never got the chance. Chris had taken steroids early in his training, which stunted his growth and left his bones very brittle. He once broke his arm clean by jumping off the top rope. Chris realized he would never be the athlete or champion his brothers were and sank into a depression. On September 12, 1991 Chris Von Erich committed suicide by shooting himself, he was only 21 years old.

Kerry, one of the remaining two brothers was the most famous of all. I remember watching him in a title match in Jonesboro Arkansas as a teenager. He was there for wrestle Jerry Lawler for the Mid South Championship belt. When he came down to sign autographs before the match, I went down and made my way through the crowd. He was in a hurry to get to the dressing room so I tapped him on the arm to get his attention. The guy’s arm was bigger than my whole body. He looked like a giant compared to me. He turned around grabbed my program and signed it. “Here ya go buddy.” He said. Then he made his way to the dressing room. It was something I’ll never forget.

Bad luck struck Kerry on June 4, 1986. While driving his motorcycle he had an accident and skidded into the back of a police car, throwing him 50 feet form his motorcycle. He suffered many injuries, but the worst of all was loosing a foot. He later wrestled for the WWF going by the name of “The Texas Tornado” with a prosthetic foot. No one was aware of this until in one match his boot was pulled off revealing the secret to everyone. More trouble soon followed Kerry. From 1992 to 1993, Kerry was arrested on several different charges, including prescription drug charges and cocaine possession. On February 17, 1993 Kerry was indicted on a cocaine possession charge and was going to go to jail for violating his parole. The next day, he found a quiet spot on the family ranch, sat down and shot himself through the heart. Kerry Von Erich was dead at 33 years of age.

Only one brother remained - Kevin. Kevin left the wrestling world and his father Fritz sold the business. Fritz and his wife soon divorced. It is said she blamed the deaths of her boys on him. In late 1997, Fritz passed away at the age of 68. “ We would like to express thanks to the fans and the community for their prayers, love and support, Dad loved them very much.” Said Kevin Von Erich of his father.

So what has become of Kevin the last surviving Von Erich brother? The most recent article I found was from September of 1999. Kevin, who goes by his birth name of Kevin Adkisson, enjoys watching wrestlers he helped develop. Some who are important figures in the wrestling world today, such as Stone Cold Steve Austin and the ever-popular Undertaker. Mostly, Kevin enjoys being with his family. He has two sons and two daughters, who range form the age of 6 to 18. He also enjoys tending to his cattle. Kevin expressed his thoughts on being famous: “ Someone asked Woody Allen one time if he would like to achieve immortality through his business, I want to achieve immortality by not dying. I guess that’s what I’ve done.”

The Von Erich’s are a family that rose to fame but experienced heart-breaking tragedy. Most of them are gone from this world, but they will never be gone form the fans hearts. And that is the story of the Von Erich’s A Denton County Dynasty.