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D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: The Von Erich Family Wrestlers

The Von Erichs in 1988. Sons Kerry (top left) and Chris (top center) later committed suicide. Fritz (bottom right) died of cancer in 1997.
The Von Erichs in 1988. Sons Kerry (top left) and Chris (top center) later committed suicide. Fritz (bottom right) died of cancer in 1997.

Maybe the saddest fact about rereading Skip Hollandsworth’s February 1988 cover story about the series of tragedies that had befallen the Von Erichs is knowing now that the family’s heartbreak was far from over. At the time that Hollandsworth spent time with the famed professional wrestling clan they were still reeling from the deaths of sons David (from an intestinal disease in 1984) and Mike (suicide in 1987.) Kerry Von Erich was looking to stage a comeback after a motorcycle accident had kept him out of the ring for 16 months. Family patriarch Fritz Von Erich (aka Jack Adkisson) confessed that he was planning to get out of the business all together.

After the article, one of the 40 greatest ever in D Magazine, was published, the youngest son Chris (who suffered asthma and couldn’t keep up with his more athletic brothers) shot himself in 1991. Two years later Kerry also killed himself with a gun. Fritz and wife Doris divorced in 1992, and Fritz died in 1997, at age 68, from brain and lung cancer.

Kevin Von Erich moved his family to Hawaii in 2006. His sons Marshall and Ross are carrying on the family legacy, as a third generation of wrestlers. If you’re interested in seeing them in action, they’re slated to perform at Coastal Mania VI on July 12 in Galveston. Kevin may also be on hand.

UPDATE: You can see them on June 15 at an event in Arlington too. Details this way.

I’m getting bummed out thinking about this story again. Let’s watch Fritz Von Erich (in his days playing a German villain) fight Bobo Brazil instead:

18 comments on “D Magazine’s 40 Greatest Stories: The Von Erich Family Wrestlers

  1. I can’t even begin to say how much i enjoyed watching Saturday Night Wrestling from The Sportatorium when i was a kid, the Von Erichs were a favorite of course but the really fun nights were when The Great Kabuki was wrestling, that was a great character.

  2. I really enjoy these Top 40 stories with the follow ups. Are you guys going to put them out at random or a certain day of the week or month? This one is so awesome it should be on The Daily Beast best of longforms.

  3. Don’t be sad… wonderful things are happening in the land of all things Von Erich. The later shall be greater than the former…. God is good and redeems those who have faith in Him.

    Viva VE Nation and Von Erich FOREVER, Baby!!

  4. I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting Kerry Von Erich at a Fudruckers in Irving (maybe 1989). What a true gentlemen. We bumped into each other at the front counter where I had just purchased a delicous Fudrucker’s hamburger, fries, and coke. He said hi while he proceeded to help himself to my tray of food. We exchanged a few words, but at this time I can only remember him saying he was going to kick my @#$#ss if i had any problem. I looked to the manager cowering at the cash register. I said, “shouldn’t you call the police?”. He said Kerry is an important guest. Then the manger ran and hid in the kitchen.
    Von Erich was high on something, and could barely stand. He mumbled something about being tired after a long trip back from Japan. My recollection is the manger reappearred and offered me a replacement meal. A year or two later I heard he committed suicide. I was shocked to say the least.

  5. I grew up watching the Von Erich’s every weekend and made plenty of Saturday morning trips from Abilene to the Sportatorium to cheer them on. They epitomized the good guys and have never truly been given their due. It’s a tragic story and a real shame they’re not all still walking the earth and providing entertainment to their fans week in and week out.

    That being said, I will never forget watching Kerry pull up in front of my work one afternoon in his Corvette, cut a rail of blow and snort it before wiping his nose clean, backing up and driving off. This was after his motorcycle accident and before his comeback as the Texas Tornado in the WWF. His demons proved faster than that car…

    Still…the First Family of Texas Wrestling. Nothing will ever change that!

  6. The Von Erichs where a lot of kid’s heroes …. I had the pleasure of meeting Kerry in Oklahoma City ,, one time he was one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet ….

  7. Fritz Von Eric & his famous “sleeper hold”. Loved It!! Used to watch Saturday night wrestling with my Dad.

  8. I used to go there too! It was so dark in there! I remember watching Kerry win that big belt at Reunion Arena!

  9. LOVED WATCHING THEM ON FRIDAY NIGHTS AND SATURDAY MORNINGS AT THE SPORTATORIUM. HAD THE PLEASURE OF MEETING KERRY. HE WAS THE MOST FRIENDLY PERSON. ALWAYS A GENTLEMAN WHENEVER I SEEN HIM. GOD REST ALL THEIR SOULS.

  10. I HAD THE PLEASURE OF WATCHING THEM EVERY FRIDAY NIGHT AND SATURDAY MORNING AT THE SPORTATORIUM….I MET KERRY AND HE WAS THE MOST PLEASANT PERSON EVER. EACH TIME I SEEN HIM AFTER THAT HE WAS A GENTLEMAN. GOD BLESS THEIR SOULS. SUCH A TRAGEDY THAT FAMILY HAS ENDURED.

  11. With all the information we have been finding out about brain trauma with football players, I am wondering if that played a part in the suicides.

  12. I remember being @ 5 and riding on an airplane from Dallas to el Paso begging my older sister to let me use the restroom and her being apprehensivetabout letting me and there was Kerry and Chris telling her it was OK Chris actually carried me to a stewardess explained everything and then waited on me. Then other escorted us off the plane right to my mother. There where great people. Tragedy and they are missed