The Von Erich Family

Their name is Adkisson, but the world knows them as the Von Erichs - and to many they are the first family of Professional Wrestling - or should have been. Theirs is a family which was marked by enormous popularity and extraordinary success - but even more so for the continuous tragedy which has struck over and over through the years.

The family patriarch, Jack Adkisson was a former collegiate football star at Southern Methodist University and played professionally with the Dallas Texans. He began his wrestling career under the name Fritz Von Erich, a villain working under the premise of being a Nazi sympathizer, with the accompanying goose step march and Iron Cross. As a promoter, he worked with the governing bodies of the NWA in promoting the sport in his native Texas. When a dispute arose among the NWA members, Fritz formed World Class Wrestling, headquartered in Dallas, Texas. His dream was to build an entertainment empire - his plan was to use his sons as the foundation upon which to build that empire.

The first of the Von Erich boys to carry the family banner was David, the most compelling and charismatic of all the brothers in the Ring. Following in his path were brothers Michael, Chris, Kerry and Kevin. Over a period of time in the early 1980's, the brothers were known and admired world wide and competed in and won championships in several of the existing wrestling promotions in the US and abroad. Kerry, a discus thrower at the University of Houston (and an Olympic hopeful), would go on to win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship and the WWF Intercontinental Championship, among other titles. With five young gifted brothers in the Ring and a father with years of promotional experience, the future for the Von Erich family could not have seemed any brighter - but that bright light of optimism would evolve into a brief flicker symbolizing the fading dreams of a family and the most tragic paths that the sport has ever known.


The family first suffered tragedy in 1959 when the oldest son, Jack Jr. was accidentally electrocuted on the family's farm. Twenty five years later, tragedy struck again when David died of an infection while in Japan on a wrestling tour. Three years later, after being forced to walk away from the sport after an almost fatal bout with toxic shock syndrome, Michael took his own life, overdosing on tranquilizers. Distraught over his brothers deaths and his inability to excel as a wrestler, Chris shot himself and died in 1991. After losing a foot in a 1986 motorcycle accident, Kerry found himself addicted to painkillers. Despite his continuing success as the family star, the pain proved more than he could cope with. A year after pleading no contest to forging a prescription for painkillers, and days after being indicted for drug possession, Kerry took his own life with a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest. Kevin Von Erich is now the only living son from the famed family and carries the burden of his brothers dreams and expectations with him.


As extraordinary as the brothers early success and potential for the future was, so too was the horribly tragic manner in which they fell one after another. As much as the family was loved, respected and admired, they are now looked upon with sadness, compassion and bewilderment. They are looked upon as the family of unfulfilled potential - and as the dynasty that should have been.





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