FAQ: The Von Erich Family

What's the story on how Fritz Von Erich turned from hated "Nazi" heel to beloved babyface?

Storyline-wise, the turn was the result of a feud between heel teams and stemmed from a braggadocious (and totally unscripted)  Gary Hart interview on KTVT's Main Event Wrestling in December of 1966. Hart, who had recently debuted in the D/FW area as manager of former Fabulous Kangaroos member Al Costello and another Nazi villain, Karl Von Brauner, legitimately shocked everyone in the Dallas wrestling office by boasting unexpectedly on TV that not only could Fritz and Waldo never hope to be as good as Von Brauner but, in fact, they weren't even real Germans: in reality, Waldo was a native of Canada and Fritz was actually Jack Adkisson, who had once played football for Southern Methodist University!  Hart recalled in his posthumously-published autobiography My Life in Wrestling...with a Little Help from My Friends that then-booker Danny "Bulldog" Plechas made an urgent phone call to KTVT to ask that the interview be edited from the show; Plechas' request for what would then have been a costly post-production fix was denied by station management.

Longtime D/FW-area wrestling fan Gary Gibson fills in more of the details on the turn:  in a December 20, 1966 tag match in Dallas which aired later that week on KRLD's Sportatorium Wrestling, Hart's men (known collectively as The Internationals) took on the team of Waldo Von Erich and Skandor Akbar.  Only the first fall of the bout actually aired, but Waldo and Akbar were shown losing the fall after Hart clobbered Akbar with Costello's boomerang; Gary's men would go on to win the deciding fall as well.

When Waldo was interviewed by KTVT commentator Dan Coates during the taping of the December 26th Fort Worth card, he emphasized the fact that he and Akbar had been victimized the previous week by Hart's interference -- and was then attacked on-camera by Hart and Von Brauner.  The show that evening consisted of a "Cowtown Style" elimination tournament (see the Results section for the full card), with the winners of four three-way matches -- Waldo, Von Brauner, Benny Matta and Nick Kozak -- meeting in a four-way semifinal.  Gary Gibson picks up the story:
During the four way match, Matta was eliminated first. Hart then grabbed Waldo's leg, getting Von Brauner disqualified. Waldo beat Nick Kozak in the finals.  Even though Kozak was the babyface, Von Erich received a round of applause and thus completed the turn. The main event next week was Costello and Von Brauner vs the Von Erichs.

I have to give Gary Hart complete credit for turning the Von Erichs babyface. They were hated more than any other wrestlers in Texas.
This storyline ended not long after it began, with a tag match on March 7, 1967 which stipulated that Hart and his men had to leave Texas if they lost to the Von Erichs, which they indeed did.  The feud was brought to an early end when Gary gave his two weeks' notice after being reprimanded by Fritz and co-promoter Ed McLemore over a confrontation with Houston promoter Paul Boesch.

The real-life reason for the Von Erichs' babyface turn?  Despite how it may have appeared, it wasn't really a case of Hart "going into business for himself" -- he accomplished what Fritz and his family wanted at the time, in perhaps the only way it could have been pulled off.  As explained by former wrestler-turned-chiropractor Dr. Jeff Cunningham:
[Fritz's] wife was upset that he was working a heel in his own hometown and was apparently worried about mentally deranged fans. Also, his boys were catching heat at school and were constantly having to fight over dad's heel work. I am not sure whether Fritz ever did turn in other territories, but he did so in Dallas to keep peace at home and make it easier on his kids. It had, regardless of common myth, NOTHING to do with his anticipation that his boys would be working babyface in Dallas when they grew up.
Although Al Costello and Karl Von Brauner would not return to the Lone Star State, Gary Hart was brought back later in 1967, this time managing the masked Spoiler in a memorable claw vs. claw feud with Fritz.  The Von Erich-Hart rivalry -- which would eventually involve Fritz's sons as well as many of the greatest heels in the sport -- became one of the defining angles of Big Time and World Class Wrestling, continuing off and on for the next two decades.

What were the dates of the Von Erichs' first matches?  Who were their opponents?

Kevin debuted in Fort Worth on August 9, 1976 against Paul Perschmann, who later became better known as Playboy Buddy Rose.  Although the date is often given as Tuesday, August 10th, this is incorrect as there was no TV from the Sportatorium (where wrestling then took place on Tuesday nights) at the time;  the match was taped at the North Side Coliseum and aired on KTVT with commentary by Bill Mercer, and was also shown on a late '80s installment of ESPN's Legends of WCCW.

According to the Sportatorium program of 6/14/77, David "won his first pro bout on a special card in Fairfield, Texas last Saturday!", which would have been June 11; his opponent was George McCreary. The June 28 program, for the card at which David made his Sportatorium debut (also against Perschmann), states: "In a recent Ft. Worth match [the date was June 20], David defeated [Gary] Hart who had boasted that he would 'give the punk a wrestling lesson'".

The earliest match result we've been able to find for Kerry is from July 31, 1978, when he lost to Gary Hart via DQ at the Sportatorium.  However, in his autobiography, Hart states that this was not Kerry's debut and that he actually worked his first-ever pro bout in May of that year; no result has yet been found for that match.

Mike's "official" debut was against Skandor Akbar at Thanksgiving Star Wars on November 24, 1983, although there were reports that he may have faced Buddy Roberts at a spot show one or two nights earlier.

Chris Von Erich participated in occasional angles starting in 1985, when he tackled Gino Hernandez at ringside following the Von Erichs-Dynamic Duo hair vs. hair bout.  His first actual match, however, was against Percy Pringle on June 22, 1990.

Kerry Von Erich's stint in the WWF is well-known, of course, but did Kevin or David ever wrestle for the promotion?

Yes, Kevin and David each worked one match for Vince McMahon Sr. at the legendary Madison Square Garden.  David was the first Von Erich brother to wrestle there, pinning Davey O'Hannon on November 19, 1979.  Kevin followed shortly afterward, defeating "the unpredictable" Johnny Rodz on January 21, 1980. (BTW, Kerry also worked the Garden during this same period, defeating Jose Estrada on March 24, 1980.)

Did David Von Erich really die of a drug overdose?

Since his death in February 1984, members of David's family have maintained that he suffered from "flu-like symptoms" for a number of weeks prior to his ill-fated trip to Japan. They state that David died as a result of that illness, citing a coroner's verdict of acute enteritis -- which was also reported in the mainstream news media at the time -- as the cause of death.

However, a report published later in Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer newsletter stated that, after finding David's body, Bruiser Brody (who was wrestling on the same All-Japan tour that David had been scheduled to participate in) discovered pills in the hotel room and flushed them down the toilet before the police arrived.  Larry Matysik, former St. Louis wrestling announcer and assistant to promoter Sam Muchnick, tells in his book Wrestling at the Chase of his phone conversation with Brody shortly afterward:
A shaken, tearful Brody called me from Tokyo and said, "I don't want to believe it. He had so much to live for. This had to be an accident."...Brody is also, sadly, gone now, so I can relate what he told me. It doesn't change anything. Terrible accident or horrible tragedy, either way, David Von Erich was dead.

Brody found a bottle of painkillers and a few remaining pills in the bathroom. Having himself been trained by Fritz, and also being a close friend of David's, he made a snap decision. Later, he told me there was no reason for the media and the business to cause further agony for the family or to David's memory. He flushed the pills down the toilet and tossed away the bottle.
Considering the controversy that persists to this day, it almost appears that Brody may have inadvertently wound up causing the very thing he did not want to have happen.  However, he could not have known the impact that the Internet -- where information known only to the relative few who read Meltzer's newsletter in 1984 became readily available to the general public a decade or so later -- would eventually have on the wrestling industry.

At least part of this controversy -- specifically, the quickness of some fans to come to David's defense whenever the possibility of an overdose is mentioned --  may stem from the fact that many people tend to associate the phrase "drug overdose" with recreational drug use, which no responsible individual has ever suggested played any role in David's death.  However, stating that painkillers may have been involved does not disrespect his memory; taking prescription medication to numb the aches and pains from night after night of physical punishment is, quite simply, an everyday fact of life for anyone who has been a pro wrestler for any length of time.

Although there is no hard evidence to indicate the true cause of David's death, some fragments of information have surfaced over the years; according to Meltzer in the July 24, 2006 Wrestling Observer, David ate a large steak and drank a considerable amount of beer at Tokyo's famous Ribera Steakhouse (a popular hangout for pro wrestlers) before returning to his hotel room.  Wrestler Gerry Morrow, who was also on the tour and was with Brody and referee Joe Higuchi when they forced their way into David's room, has stated that most of the pill bottles found there were "close to full", according to Matt Farmer in a post at the now-defunct Old School Wrestling forum.  And former WCCW referee David Manning, while insisting in Heroes of World Class that Von Erich died of heart failure caused by internal bleeding from an intestinal rupture (as stated in the autopsy), nonetheless states that he is certain David had taken some painkillers that night.

In the end, Dr. Jeff Cunningham, in the same Old School Wrestling discussion mentioned above, may have come closest to the truth:
It takes only a VERY few pills to kill you if you mix it with hard liquor. It only takes a little bit of hard liquor to kill you if you have a few too many pills. We do not even know what kind of pills were involved here. Not one person has ever mentioned the name of the drug. Regardless, with gastroenteritis, it takes very little booze or pill activity to cause a person to go down pretty quickly. It was a deadly mixture of something that nobody will ever know about.

Some sources state that David Von Erich died on February 10, 1984, while others (including David's grave marker) say he died on the 9th.  Which date is correct?

It was definitely February 10th in Tokyo, where David actually died; but was probably shortly before midnight on the 9th in Dallas, where he is buried.

Keep in mind that the time in Japan is 15 hours later than U.S. Central Standard time, which includes nearly all of Texas.  In Heroes of World Class, David Manning remembers taking the initial call from All Japan Pro Wrestling official Joe Higuchi at approximately 3:00 AM on February 10th (Texas time, which means Higuchi would have been calling at about 6:00 PM that evening in Tokyo).  Assuming that the precise moment of David Von Erich's death was at least three hours prior to the phone call (before 3:00 PM in Tokyo, or before 12:00 midnight in Dallas) -- a reasonable assumption, as we don't know exactly how much time was spent trying to resuscitate David or with the on-scene police investigation -- this apparent "discrepancy" actually has a fairly simple explanation.

Was David Von Erich promised an NWA title reign?

No one can say for sure that such a promise was ever made by the National Wrestling Alliance, but many within the industry feel it was inevitable that David, had he lived, would have one day worn the "ten pounds of gold".

Ric Flair, in his autobiography To Be the Man, commented: "...David would have been an NWA champion and could have carried it." And evidence does suggest that David was being groomed for such a reign; former WCCW announcer Steve Harms has recalled (on the Kayfabe Memories message board) viewing the famous May 27, 1979 episode of the St. Louis program Wrestling at the Chase, in which David defeated then-champ Harley Race with the Iron Claw:
During the match David puts the claw on Harley's face and the blood flows.  I dont remember if it was outside the ring so there was a double countout or it was a non-title match [NOTE: it was actually a non-title gauntlet match, with Race taking on both David and Fritz], but David beat him without winning the belt----on TV in the NWA home territory of St. Louis.  I saw the tape in Gary Hart's office at the Sportatorium and remember Gary saying "This is how it starts for Dave."

Posting under the name "spartan" in an older thread on the KM boards, Steve also remembered:

...sitting in Fritz's office in the old Sportatorium when he showed me a video tape of a match between David and Harley Race from the St Louis TV show.  It was a match in which they let David put the iron claw on Harley's face and the champion juiced.  RIGHT THERE ON TV FOR EVERYONE TO SEE.   I remember Fritz saying very quietly, (Fritz hardly ever said anything quietly) ..."this is the first step to put the strap on Dave.....can you imagine the champion doing the job on TV for my kid.  I will never forget Harley doing this."   If that's not an exact quote, it is very close.  How long David would have held the belt.....I have no idea.   But I do know this......Fritz's grand plan for David was to have a run with the belt and and then come back and run the Dallas office for Fritz.   Fritz knew that David was the only son that could handle the business side of the promotion.   Anyone who knew David would agree.

Some fans who believe David may have been in line for a title run in 1984 point to the stipulation in the Mike Von Erich-Ric Flair non-title match on January 30 of that year:  that David would receive a title shot later in the year if Mike could stay ten full minutes with Flair (which he, of course, did).  Further speculation has it that Kerry's title win at Texas Stadium was originally intended for David, based on Kerry's itinerary during his brief reign: with only three exceptions, all of his title defenses outside the state of Texas took place in Florida -- where David had made a name for himself as a heel a few years earlier.

There is one fact, little-known to many fans to this day, which could actually have put a damper on any long-term World title reign for David: he was a member of the NWA Board of Directors at the time of his death.  Although there was apparently little problem with active wrestlers serving on the board -- Ole Anderson, Victor Jovica, Mike Graham, Dory Funk Jr. and Shohei "Giant" Baba were all still wrestling at the time as well -- anything more than a brief title run for David during this period would arguably have been another matter altogether, and could have run into strong opposition from at least some members of the Alliance (in particular, Jim Crockett Jr., who was then looking to expand nationally with Flair as his champion and was beginning to tighten his grip on the title), as this would have given Fritz and WCCW far too much power for their liking.

At any rate, although Fritz is known to have lobbied heavily for it behind the scenes, there is no proof that the NWA had any definite plan to put the belt on David. So, now that you've read this, we recommend that you refrain from asking this incredibly persistent question on pro wrestling message boards. The moderators will thank you for it.  :)

Is it true that David Von Erich's body was left in his Tokyo hotel room for two weeks after he died?

No.  This story, believe it or not, was told by none other than former WCCW World champ Black Bart in an RF Video shoot interview released in summer 2007.  (A somewhat different version is told by Bill Irwin, who was actually there, in another shoot released in 2008.)  Supposedly, David's body was left in the room to decompose with the air conditioning turned off and the odor spreading to other rooms for two weeks "until Fritz got there" (according to Bart), or for three days, allegedly because it was a Japanese holiday and the coroner was unavailable (according to Irwin).

Aside from the fact that David's body is known to have been buried on February 15, 1984 (five days after his death), it should go without saying that no hotel, law enforcement agency or health department in the civilized world would ever allow such a thing to happen.  Even the "three-day" story defies common sense, as there would be no viable reason to leave a corpse in the hotel room any longer than it took for the police to finish their investigation at the scene. There are, in fact, facilities that are constructed especially for the purpose of storing human remains pending an autopsy: as we're sure everyone knows, they're known as morgues.

While the so-called "shoot interview" DVDs can certainly be fun and entertaining, this is just one example of why it's best to approach them with skepticism.

Ric Flair, in his book To Be the Man, describes a match with Kerry Von Erich in which Kerry was so heavily drugged that Flair had to carry him for a full hour. How much truth is there to this story?

The chapter of Ric's book which deals with World Class has been highly controversial among, and hotly debated by, fans of Kerry and WCCW. Sadly, the story of this bout, which took place on January 7, 1985 in Fort Worth, is all too true. According to Wrestling Observer editor Dave Meltzer in a thread at Wrestling Classics, Kerry had been emotionally distraught because his dog had died earlier that day; he could not be located at match time until Gary Hart and referee Rick Hazzard finally found him passed out in his car. When Kerry was brought to the ring for his match with Flair after a considerable delay, the one-hour draw that followed was such a disaster that, in one of the few taped inserts not related to the death of a wrestler, Marc Lowrance appeared from the KTVT studios to assure Championship Sports viewers that Kerry's condition the previous Monday evening had been due to a "106-degree fever" and that he had "left the hospital" to fulfill his obligation to wrestle for the title. (Only the opening minutes of the match were shown before TV time ran out, but what little footage did air made it quite obvious that Kerry was not in any shape to go through with the bout.)

Ordinarily, a short match ending with the champion deliberately getting himself disqualified might have saved the day in such a predicament, but it wasn't an option here:  because Ric had hung onto the belt via DQ in their Christmas Star Wars '84 encounter at Reunion Arena two weeks earlier, the Fort Worth bout carried the stipulation that the title could change hands on a disqualification.  Since a quick win for the Nature Boy was also out of the question for obvious reasons, and any kind of rushed, indecisive finish would have been costly to everyone involved in terms of credibility, Flair had no other choice but to attempt to work with the severely impaired Kerry for the entire hour.

This was, unfortunately, not the only widely seen drug-related incident involving Kerry during WCCW's heyday. Another was a January 1983 studio interview on WCCW's syndicated TV show in which he commented on the then-recent Christmas Star Wars footage of Terry Gordy slamming the cage door on his head. Astoundingly, this segment was allowed to air (in syndication, on ESPN's Legends of WCCW several years later, and even on WWE 24/7 in recent years) even though Kerry was clearly under the influence, glassy-eyed and slurring his words.

Some lesser-known incidents, in which Kerry tried to wrestle despite being in no condition to do so, have also been discussed from time to time on various message boards by fans who witnessed them.  As we've stated elsewhere in the FAQ, our intent here is not to sensationalize or condemn, but merely to confirm that these events did happen.

Was Kerry Von Erich really scheduled to compete in the discus as a member of the U.S. Summer Olympic team in 1980?  Did he decide to become a pro wrestler after President Jimmy Carter announced that the United States would boycott the Games that year?

We'll answer the second question first:  no.  A quick look in our results section will reveal that Kerry was wrestling on at least a part-time basis as early as the summer of 1978, and appeared on a few more cards toward the end of that year.  He was wrestling full-time by June 1979 at the latest.

The answer to the first question -- although the story was often told on WCCW's TV shows, and some longtime fans believe it to be true to this day -- is also "no."  Kerry did not compete on the 1980 U.S. Olympic team; the three U.S. athletes who qualified in the discus that year were Maurice "Mac" Wilkins, Ben Plucknett and John Powell.

Please bear in mind that embellishment of wrestlers' alleged athletic achievements away from the ring was in fact quite common during the kayfabe era, so no disrespect or criticism is intended toward anyone here.  That said, such claims can be disproved all too easily nowadays with the click of a mouse button.

What happened in the match where Kerry Von Erich lost his prosthetic foot?  Is there video of it?

In the infamous 11/12/88 match at the Showboat Sports Pavilion in Las Vegas, Colonel DeBeers, while attempting to drag Kerry out of the ring, unwittingly pulled off his boot to reveal an empty sock.  Kerry rolled out, put his leg under the ring apron,  reattached the device and went on to win the bout.

The AWA card at which the incident occurred was a house show, meaning that there were no TV cameras present. So, unless someone managed to sneak one of those big, clunky 1980s VHS camcorders into the building and has been sitting on the footage ever since  (which, uh, doesn't seem very likely), the answer to the second question is no.

An interesting footnote: although it was long thought that the public had no knowledge of Kerry's use of a prosthetic device in the ring (and Fritz is assumed to have disclosed this for the first time shortly after Kerry's suicide), at least some fans in the Metroplex were indeed aware of it.  In late 1988, a column in a Dallas newspaper included an account of the Vegas incident, quoting heavily from a report in Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer Newsletter.

Terry Funk, in his book More Than Just Hardcore, mentions that he tried to get Kerry Von Erich a part in Rocky IV, for which Kerry unsuccessfully auditioned.  True?

Yes.  In fact, both Kerry and Kevin auditioned for the role of Rocky Balboa's (Sylvester Stallone) opponent Ivan Drago, which was ultimately played in the film by Dolph Lundgren.

Is it true that Kerry Von Erich once wrestled in ECW?

Yes.  Shortly before his death, Kerry worked one match against Sal Bellomo for the promotion (then owned by Tod Gordon and known as Eastern Championship Wrestling) at the Radisson Hotel in Philadelphia.  Kerry, a last-minute substitute for another wrestler, was accompanied by valet Woman (Nancy Sullivan, a.k.a. Nancy Benoit) and battled Bellomo to a double countout.  The 1/23/93 card was the last show, or one of the last shows, that the group ran before making ECW Arena its permanent home base.

Kerry entered the ring on this occasion wearing a mask as well as the familiar ring jacket bearing his name.  Although some have attributed this to Kerry being in a drug-impaired state, wrestler J.D. McKay has pointed out that it was probably intended as an inside joke.  From 1989 to 1991 in WCW, Woman managed the hooded team known as Doom, who were instantly recognizable, despite the masks, as Ron Simmons and Butch Reed; McKay says the idea of sending Kerry to the ring in both the mask and robe was likely a rib on Doom conceived by Eddie Gilbert (then-booker for ECW, which was known for incorporating such humorous bits of business into its angles from time to time).  Indeed, had this been an actual oversight on Kerry's part, one would think someone backstage would have noticed it before his entrance.

You can view the match in its entirety below.  (Despite published claims to the contrary, this was not Kerry's final match; that would have been a GWF tag bout at the Sportatorium on 2/12/93, which Kerry and Chris Adams lost via DQ to Johnny Mantell and Black Bart.)

Sadly, Nancy later revealed to at least one individual that at the time of this match, Kerry was already talking privately about ending his own life. 

Was the idea of a brother vs. brother angle involving the Von Erichs ever considered?  Did any of the brothers ever wrestle each other in a match?

According to referee James Beard and others, an angle pitting Kevin and Kerry against one another was indeed proposed during the USWA era.  The idea got as far as being hinted at on-air by Marc Lowrance during an interview with Kerry (who basically laughed it off), but was ultimately scrapped, reportedly because Kevin felt uncomfortable with the angle; it's quite possible that Fritz may have objected strongly to it as well.

Kevin and Kerry, however, are known to have wrestled each other on at least two occasions, one of them being a workout match in Fort Worth as part of the buildup for Kerry's classic 8/15/82 World title match with Ric Flair at Reunion Arena (Flair's workout opponent that evening was Brian Adias).  The other, mentioned by Kevin in his RF Video shoot interview, took place on the advice of Fritz after their scheduled opponents, the Freebirds, no-showed a sold-out card in Abilene, TX.

Did Mike Von Erich's death really happen the way Bret Hart says in his book?

Actually, in a bizarre error in the first edition of his book, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, Bret claims that Mike took his own life via two different methods on two different occasions: once by overdosing on Placidyl in April 1985 (note that this would have been prior to his shoulder injury and surgery) and again two years later by loading up his sleeping bag with rocks, rolling into a lake and drowning. We can't imagine where the latter story came from, but proof that it isn't true can be found in local newspaper accounts of Mike's suicide; the sad and simple truth is that he took a lethal dose of Placidyl and was found dead in his sleeping bag near (not in) Lake Lewisville, in a densely wooded area, on April 16, 1987.

Although it doesn't really qualify as a frequently asked question, we thought it best to try to head this one off at the pass, as stories about the Von Erichs that were far more nonsensical have nonetheless taken on lives of their own.  

Was Mike Von Erich's near-fatal illness in 1985 really the result of a drug overdose?

No.  This particularly irresponsible bit of rumor mongering appeared in the 1995 book The Complete Idiot's Guide to Pro Wrestling, written by boxing journalist Bert Randolph Sugar and former WWE manager "Captain" Lou Albano. It's not surprising that some in the wrestling industry -- an industry where the general attitude is that "everything's a work" -- may have believed this to be the case, as Mike was known to have substance abuse issues both before and after his hospitalization for toxic shock syndrome.

It should be self-evident, though, that a physician like Dr. William Sutker, who performed the shoulder operation during which Mike contracted the infection, would not have attempted to help cover up a drug overdose had one actually occurred (unless, of course, he wanted to risk losing his license to practice medicine).  Nor would Fritz have bothered to file a malpractice suit (see the clipping at left) if Mike's brain damage had been the result of recreational drug use; he would have known very well that suing under false pretenses would leave him wide open for serious legal repercussions (not to mention severe public humiliation).

Like many of the rumors about the Von Erichs, this one quickly falls to the ground with a bit of critical thinking.  

Besides Waldo and Lance, have there been any other "Von Erichs" who weren't members of the Adkisson family?

Quite a few, actually...though not all of them have been wrestlers, and most have used the name without permission.  To our knowledge, the only non-Adkisson family member who has done so with Kevin's blessing is Jaret Reddick, lead singer for the Denton-based band Bowling for Soup, who has been credited as Jaret Von Erich on some of the band's CDs. Texas indy wrestler Rick Lerebeus (formerly Marc Valiant in the GWF), who briefly ran the Christian-oriented Acts Wrestling Alliance indy group, has used the name Mark Von Erich and falsely claimed to be an Adkisson relative for a number of years, despite having reportedly been sent at least one cease-and-desist letter by Kevin.

A few years ago, a mixed martial arts fighter and trainer hailing from Mesquite, Ralph Murillo Calvillo -- who was also a convicted sex offender, though he claimed to have been falsely convicted -- was billed as Layn Von Erich, "member of [the] famous pro wrestling family".  (Calvillo did at least contact the family seeking permission, but then went ahead with the use of the name without having obtained it.)   Recently, another faux member of the family -- Kayden Von Erich -- has wrestled for "Killer" Tim Brooks' NAWA promotion, which is based in Waxahachie.

In yet another obviously unauthorized use of the name, the San Francisco-based Incredibly Strange Wrestling promotion once booked a parody character named Karen Von Erich, a suicidal "illegitimate sister" who did not want to be a wrestler.   This, however, would have arguably been legally permissible, as satire -- however tasteless it may be -- is considered to be protected free speech under U.S. law.

 Also (very) loosely qualifying as non-Adkisson "Von Erichs":  The Dead Von Erichs, a now-defunct punk band from Lowell, Massachusetts, whose songs included "For Your Love" (not the old Yardbirds hit) and "The Whites of Their Eyes".  In fairness to the band (whose choice of name we previously dismissed as "crass"), it should be noted that one of its members, in a post at the Wrestling Classics board in 2004, stated that the name was actually meant as the same sort of dark-humored, loss-of-innocence statement as that of The Dead Kennedys, and that no disrespect was intended toward the family.   The same, however, clearly cannot be said of  The Von Erich Suicide Mission (no link provided; Google 'em if you must), who claim both Lyndhurst, NJ and Denton as hometowns, and describe their sound as "(like) wrasslers dying".

Finally, in the mid-'60s, legendary promoter Jack Pfefer, who was notorious for (among other things) using wrestlers with knock-off names such as Ted Blassie, Bruno San Martino, etc. and passing them off as the genuine article, employed a pair of workers by the names of Schlitz and Naldo Von Eric.  History does not record who played the roles.  

Are any members of the Adkisson family wrestling today?

Kevin, the last surviving brother, retired from the ring in 1995 due to injuries.  However, a third-generation Von Erich wrestler made her pro debut in late 2007: Kerry's youngest daughter, Lacey Von Erich, who has worked in TNA and the all-female promotion Wrestlicious, and continues to wrestle for a number of indy feds. Kevin's sons Ross and Marshall have also entered the sport, having debuted in the Japanese promotion Pro Wrestling NOAH in July 2012.

 What was The Von Erichs: A Family Album?
The 1987 book by Kirk Dooley (subtitled Tragedies and Triumphs of America's First Family of Wrestling), now highly collectible, was a brief (approximately 125 pages) telling of the family's story up to that point, concluding with Kerry's motorcycle crash and Mike's suicide.  It was illustrated, as the title suggests, with a number of the family's personal photographs, and was heavily advertised on WCCW telecasts in 1987-88 (the commercial can be seen at WCM's YouTube channel).

 If you're looking to acquire a copy, be forewarned that you'll almost certainly have to cough up a hefty chunk of change to do so, although prices can vary widely depending on seller and condition.  "New" copies (presumably those with no visible wear) sold by Amazon Marketplace Sellers, as of September 2013, were selling for anywhere from $170 to over $800, and even those in "acceptable" to "good" condition will set you back at least fifty bucks.

You say you'd like to read the book but aren't interested in purchasing it?  From WorldCat, here's a listing of U.S. public libraries that have copies on their shelves (not surprisingly, all of them are located in Texas).  Be advised, however, that some of the more battered copies sold at Amazon over the years have been "ex-library", so WorldCat's listing may be out of date!  

Hey, what's with all this Von Erich love, anyway? And why, after everything that happened, should they be remembered so fondly?

 In order for those with contemptuous feelings toward the Von Erichs to better understand why the brothers are still beloved by many wrestling fans to this day, we suggest taking a few moments to consider the story of a man who, in his heyday, was at the forefront of a stylistic revolution in his field; an enormously charismatic entertainer, popular both in the U.S. and abroad, who was showered with adoration wherever he went.

Unfortunately, though he was well-known as a devout Christian, this man was also a heavy user of narcotics, and stories of occasional incidents of strange, drug-fueled behavior in front of live audiences eventually began to circulate among fans.  At the height of his career, he underwent an extended period of forced inactivity; when he returned to performing, he was never really the same, his following diminished considerably, and his addictions would ultimately lead to his self-destruction.

Sounds very much like we just described Kerry Von Erich, right?  Actually, the celebrity we're talking about was at the peak of his popularity a full quarter-century before the rise of World Class Championship Wrestling.  His name?  Elvis Presley.

It goes without saying that there were some serious issues in the Von Erich family, and we at WCM would never try to claim otherwise.  But judging entertainers by their offstage behavior is a slippery slope at best; just about all of the giants of our culture would fall by the wayside if we wrote off every celebrity whose weakness, ego or temperament got the better of them.  By now, the whole world knows that Elvis had more than his share of problems, but his work is nonetheless still massively popular more than fifty years after his rise to fame, and more than thirty years after his untimely death.

And if you understand the reasons for this, then it should be obvious why the same is true of the talented but tragic "First Family of Wrestling": the Von Erichs -- purely and simply -- made huge numbers of people very, very happy.