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Von Erich is a Constant Reminder of Tragedy and Triumph

This week was the 57th birthday of Kevin Von Erich, a member of one of the greatest wrestling families of all time and part of one of the greatest tragedies in all of wrestling history. If you are not aware of the story, every member of the family who went into the wrestling business used the ring name “Von Erich”, after the family patriarch, Jack (Fritz Von Erich) Adkisson.

Although the family patriarch Fritz lived to the age of 68, five of his six sons preceded him in death (three by suicide). The firstborn son, Jack Jr., died at the age of six. In 1984, David Von Erich died in Japan from acute enteritis of the upper intestine. Michael, Chris, and Kerry all committed suicide in 1987, 1991, and 1993 respectively. Mike died after taking an overdose of Placidyl. Chris shot himself in the head with a 9mm handgun at his parents’ home in East Texas. Kerry shot himself in the chest behind his father’s house on Shady Shores Road. Kevin Von Erich is the sole surviving child.

It’s a tale of woe that I lived through growing up watching the family every Saturday and remains something that opened my eyes to seedy side of the “sport” back then. But I am also reminded of how great a family of athletes and superstars they were in a time where wrestling was still territorial and Kayfabe ruled the back roads where wrestlers traveled by cars to city after city, not by jetliners and limousines.

The majority of Kevin’s career was spent working in World Class Championship Wrestling, where he had many memorable feuds against legendary wrestlers such as Chris Adams, The Fabulous Freebirds, and Ric Flair. It was there that Kevin became known for utilizing trademark maneuvers like the body scissors and the iron claw, as well as for wrestling barefoot.

Kevin officially retired from wrestling in 1993 to spend more time with his wife and children and run the family investment business. Kevin and his family have since moved to Kauai County, Hawaii. He occasionally makes appearances in wrestling shows, but no longer performs.

The reason for the tribute is more a reminder of how wrestling was a guarded “sport” back in the early 1980s and has become the top-heavy “business” of today. The family of Von Erich’s are honored as members of the WWE Hall of Fame, where Kerry Von Erich performed under the character known as the “Texas Tornado”.

In May 2006, Kevin sold the World Class footage to Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment. By July 2006, Kevin had made two brief appearances at WWE shows that were filmed in Dallas, one before the sale and one after. And if he walked into an arena today, he would still garner the same idol worship he did when he was walking to the ring with music blaring in the background.

While David and Kerry were expected to carry the torch for the NWA back in the mid-1980s (Kerry won the NWA World Title from Ric Flair in a tribute event to honor David’s memory), it was Kevin who was the backbone of the family and in this case the State of Texas and its love of wrestling.

Unfortunately, he was never a serious contender for the NWA World Title, but was a champion of the family’s promotion many times over.

While this was supposed to be a celebration of sorts, the column has become a reminder of the other side of this business – the one where wrestlers leave the business too early for many reasons. A side where drugs, evil and demons rear their ugly heads and in the end, we lose our heroes way too early.

Kevin Von Erich is a reminder of the triumph and tragedy – with his life a constant reminder of how things used to be and how they could have been.

Follow David on Twitter @davidlevin71

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