The Von Erichs are a family richly entwined in the history of professional wrestling. Sadly, they are also a family that has had to deal with an incredible amount of heartache over the years. Here, Kevin Von Erich opens up about the grief he has had to endure over the years and how he’s found a way to overcome all of life’s adversities.
The family’s actual last name is Adkisson, though every member of the family who has been in the wrestling business used the ring name ‘Von Erich’ after the patriarch of the family, Jack (Fritz Von Erich) Adkisson.
Fritz lived to the age of 68, though unpleasantly, five of his six sons preceded him in death, three by suicide. The firstborn son, Jack Jr., was electrocuted at the age of six in 1959 in a household accident. In 1984, David Von Erich died in Japan from an unconfirmed cause, although it is widely believed he died from a drug overdose.
Mike, Chris, and Kerry committed suicide in 1987, 1991, and 1993 respectively. Mike died after taking an overdose of Placidyl, a prescription med used to treat insomnia, and alcoholic beverages.
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. This leaves Kevin as the last surviving son of Fritz Von Erich and his wife Doris.
In a recent interview with D. Rosenbaum (H/T: Wrestling’s Glory Days), Kevin Von Erich opens up about the tragic hardship he has had to face over the years:
“My brothers 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. I’m really surprised that I survived…
We used to have this thing called the ‘chance of the day’, where every day we’d take a chance on our lives. Dave was always too smart for that, so he’d just watch. We’d jump on wild bulls’ backs, jump on trains going fast. We’d get on a roof of a car at highway speed. You start thinking nothing can get you and you’re indestructible. That’s part of being in sports. We were blessed with good bodies and good balance. We felt like we could do anything and nothing would hurt us.
My father was not a real brutal man like they try to play him out to be in some of those gossip rags. 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 get good at fighting, it gets really close.
I don’t remember my parents being really super strict or abusive in any way at all. I remember a real happy childhood full of running in the Texas sun, just us and nature. We didn’t even wear clothes until we went to school. We were so far out in the country. We didn’t even have any school chums.
Mike was into painkillers. All the brothers had painkillers prescribed by doctors. Kerry was the only one who got into illegal drugs [that weren’t prescribed].
The best way to handle pain is to grit your teeth and put ice on it. If you take one pill, next time it’ll be two of them and the next it’s going to be three. It’s just a crack in the door. It’s just the crack in the door that gets wider and wider…
Kerry figured he didn’t have anything to live for. He was rootless. He had no home. Seeing me with my family made his pain greater. It reminded him of what he was missing. It was such a sad, tragic thing. He had his two beautiful daughters and a wife he loved, but then he’d come home and all his stuff would be moved out.
She’d move all his stuff out. Kerry was no saint [but] 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.
He said, ‘Kevin, I’m about to kill myself…’
We had talked for about an hour. We told some good dirty jokes, we laughed and he told me, ‘I’m going to kill myself.’ I thought I had him talked out of it.
He said, ‘I didn’t want to be like Mike and not say goodbye.’ That’s when I begged him. I said, ‘Don’t do this. Don’t leave me alone. You’re my only brother. Don’t leave me.’
I thought I had talked him out of it. Thirty minutes later they found his body. He must have gone right out and done it. Do I blame wrestling for my brothers’ deaths? Not at all. If anything’s to blame, [it was] our recklessness. I’m the only one alive and some people are taking bets on me…but there’s no way that’s going to happen to me because I have reason to live and it’s a good one. I’m happy with my life.
I do feel lonely. You’ll never know how close my brothers were to me. But life goes on. It’s not always easy …you just have to be tough. The rewards are there.”
[* After the amputation of his foot, Kerry became addicted to painkillers, followed by several drug problems. Among the many of them were two arrests, the first of which resulted in probation. One day after being indicted on the second charge, which likely would have resulted in extensive jail time (being a violation of his probation), Kerry committed suicide by a shot to the heart on February 18, 1993, on his father’s ranch in Denton County, Texas.]
Kevin Von Erich’s son-in-law reached out to us to give an update on how Kevin is doing these days. This is what he had to say:
“Kevin has always said that God promised him the last half of his life would be better than the first. He is now surrounded by his entire family. His wife, four children, and their spouses along with his 7 (soon to be 8 and counting) grandchildren. We all live on the same property (separate houses) here on Kauai. Kevin spends his time doing what he loves with the ones he loves.”
This is a truly wonderful mindset to have and we couldn’t be happier to hear that Kevin is doing well and living the second half of his life surrounded by family, doing what he loves with his loved ones. It is also great to see his sons Marshall and Ross keeping the Von Erich family legacy and wrestling lineage alive through their success in MLW.