BIO: Fritz Von Erich

Real Name: Jack Barton Adkisson

Hometown: Dallas, Texas

Height/Weight: 6'4"/260

Signature Moves: Iron Claw

WCCW Titles Held: NWA American Heavyweight Champion (sixteen times), NWA Texas Heavyweight Champion (three times), NWA American Tag Team Champion (twice with Waldo Von Erich, once each with Billy Red Lyons, Grizzly Smith, Fred Curry, Dan Miller and Dean Ho), WCCW Six-Man Tag Team Champion (with Kevin & Mike Von Erich) and NWA Texas Brass Knuckles Champion (twice). Also held the AWA World Heavyweight Championship.

Need to Know Facts: Born in Jewett, Texas on August 16, 1929, Jack Adkisson played football and held several discus records while attending Southern Methodist University. In 1952 he played briefly for the old Dallas Texans NFL team, then moved on to the Canadian Football League. It was during his stay in Edmonton that Jack met the legendary Stu Hart, under whose tutelage he began to train for a career in professional wrestling.

Adkisson began working as a heel early in his career, playing the role of a goosestepping Nazi sympathizer and adopting the ring name Fritz Von Erich.  His intensity in the ring, combined with his intimidating size and strong interview skills, made him one of the sport's most in-demand heel workers.

In 1959, while living in Niagara Falls, New York, Fritz and his wife Doris were emotionally devastated when their oldest son Jack Jr. died in a tragic accident, drowning in a puddle of melting snow after being electrocuted on a downed power line.  Fritz stated in interviews many years later that he blamed the wrestling business for his loss, and began taking out the anger he felt on his opponents in the ring, which led some wrestlers to refuse to work with him.  Fritz left the east coast soon thereafter, but not before three more sons who would eventually wrestle under the Von Erich name -- Kevin, David and Kerry -- had been born.

On July 27, 1963, Fritz defeated Verne Gagne in Omaha, Nebraska to win the AWA World Heavyweight title, but his reign as champion was brief as he lost the belt back to Gagne in Amarillo, Texas on August 8.  For much of the early '60s, though, Fritz worked for NWA president Sam Muchnick in St. Louis.  However, the NWA board of directors was opposed to giving title runs to wrestlers with gimmick names (its champion at the time, Lou Thesz, was a particularly outspoken critic of wrestling gimmicks in general), and voted against putting their version of the World title on Fritz.

Fritz and his family eventually relocated to Texas, where his youngest sons Mike and Chris would later be born.  He began promoting in 1966, forming a partnership with longtime Dallas promoter Ed McLemore.  Initially continuing to work as a heel, Fritz soon found that his sons were being mercilessly harassed by their schoolmates because of his vicious rulebreaking tactics in the ring.  He decided to turn himself babyface and, along with his fictitious "brother" Waldo (real name Walter Sieber), with whom he had previously teamed on the east coast in the '50s, began feuding with legendary manager "Playboy" Gary Hart and his stable (which, at this time, consisted of Karl Von Brauner and ex-Fabulous Kangaroos member Al Costello).  The feud, which would eventually be carried on by Fritz's sons and numerous heels under Hart's guidance, would continue off and on for the next two decades.

Fritz would take complete control of the promotion (then known as Big Time Wrestling) after McLemore's death in early 1969.  Under his ownership, the group began drawing sellout crowds, attracting top talent such as Wahoo McDaniel, Johnny Valentine, Killer Kowalski, Toru Tanaka, Red Bastien, Boris Malenko and many other giants of the sport.  During this period, Fritz also became a huge star in Japan as a result of his feuds with Antonio Inoki and Giant Baba.

In 1975, Fritz, although still actively wrestling in his own promotion, became president of the NWA.  The latter half of the decade, however, saw his sons Kevin, David and Kerry launch their own highly successful pro wrestling careers, and Fritz (who was now nearing age 50) began to make his in-ring appearances fewer and farther between.

In early 1982, Saturday Night Wrestling commentator Bill Mercer and Mickey Grant of Dallas station KXTX approached Fritz with a number of bold suggestions for a state-of-the-art television production; though Fritz was reportedly skeptical at first, he was eventually persuaded to greenlight the idea.  It wasn't long before the promotion -- now renamed World Class Championship Wrestling -- was seen nationally (and later internationally) on a wildly successful, hour-long syndicated program.  The many innovations conceived by Mercer and Grant, which would become the standard for all pro wrestling telecasts, included ringside cameras and microphones, main event caliber matches presented in their entirety, and taped vignettes which both advanced storylines and provided glimpses into the wrestlers' lives away from the ring.  The combination of this fresh, "up close and personal" approach, and the all-American appeal of the Von Erich brothers, sent the show's ratings through the roof.

Fritz announced his retirement in the spring of 1982, wrestling his final match against King Kong Bundy, although he did return to the ring twice more: once in May 1984 to team with Kevin and Mike to take the World Six-Man titles from the Fabulous Freebirds at Texas Stadium (Fritz would relinquish his share of the title to Kerry, who defeated Ric Flair on the same card to win the NWA World Championship), and again at the 1986 Thanksgiving Star Wars show, where he defeated Abdullah the Butcher in a claw vs python sleeper challenge bout.  By late 1987, the emotional pain Fritz suffered from the deaths of sons David and Mike, and the near-career ending motorcycle crash involving Kerry, had become too much for him to bear.  He elected to sell the promotion to Kevin and Kerry, along with former booker Ken Mantell, who had left World Class the previous year.

Doris Adkisson divorced Fritz in 1992, and he made his final public appearance at the Global Wrestling Federation's April 1993 memorial show for Kerry at the Sportatorium, seconding Kevin and Chris Adams against Freebirds Michael Hayes and Buddy Roberts, who were accompanied by Skandor Akbar. In late July of 1997, while hospitalized due to a stroke, he was diagnosed with inoperable lung and brain cancer.  Fritz Von Erich died less than two months later, on September 10, at the age of 68.