As a native Texan, it would be borderline blasphemous to call myself a wrestling fan if I had no knowledge of the Von Erich name. The patriarch of the Von Erich family was Fritz Von Erich, a “foreign” menace who used the dreaded Iron Claw to crush his opponent’s skulls, and he founded World Class Championship Wrestling in Dallas, TX. WCCW was a major territory throughout the 1970s and 80s. Bruiser Brody, Steve Austin, Steve Williams, Mick Foley, Gino Hernandez, Andre the Giant, Ric Flair, Jerry Lawler, The Fabulous Freebirds, and the list goes on. The most important group of performers within WCCW were no doubt the Von Erichs themselves. Kevin, Kerry, and David were actual living legends in the state of Texas; their matches with The Fabulous Freebirds garnered some of the most intense heat ever witnessed in the world of wrestling. Mike and David, perhaps the lesser-known of the Von Erichs, were also members of the wrestling dynasty. In 2020, the only surviving son of Fritz Von Erich is Kevin. The story of the Von Erichs is an almost Shakespearian tragedy. Every son, except for Kevin, died under wildly unfortunate circumstances. If you would like to learn more about the history of the Von Erichs, I HIGHLY recommend their episode of The Dark Side of the Ring, which airs on Viceland.
Kevin Von Erich has two sons of his own, Ross and Marshall. This week’s episode of MLW: Anthology follows the rise of Ross and Marshall through the ranks of the MLW tag team division. Ross and Marshall made their debut in 2012 for Pro Wrestling NOAH in Japan, and since then they have worked in TNA, IWR, and other North American independent promotions. While their story is far from over, the Von Erich’s success in MLW feels like a happy ending. Watching Kevin Von Erich and his boys enjoying success in the wrestling business after all of the tragedy it bestowed upon them, it should give all of us a glimmer of hope in potentially dark times.
War Chamber: Team Von Erich vs. Contra Unit (Dallas, TX – September 2019)
This particular storyline is what actually made me an MLW fan. After watching a few episodes of Fusion in the middle of 2019, I was really beginning to appreciate the dynamic output of the company. War Chamber 2019 solidified my opinions. As mentioned in the Extreme Horsemen review, MLW had appropriated the War Games stipulation and then sold the rights to WWE. War Chamber is MLW’s current iteration which uses the same multi-man match formation as War Games, but only uses a single ring.
In September 2019, Contra Unit is running roughshod over MLW. Tom Lawler and the Von Erichs enlist the help of the man Lawler beat for the MLW World Title, Low Ki. Contra Unit is, of course, made up of Jacob Fatu, Josef Samael, Ikuro Kwon, and Simon Gotch. Being that this is happening in Dallas, the Von Erichs are OVER. The crowd goes absolutely nuts when Kevin accompanies his son, Marshall, to the ring.
The match begins with Gotch and Marshall. Marshall is made to look like the powerhouse immediately, but he is soon outnumbered once Samael enters the ring. A quick note, MLW is cutting segments of this match from Anthology. I imagine this is not solely due to the runtime because matches such as this have a tendency to be slow in certain parts. There is a lot of time to kill. Once Filthy Tom gets inside the Chamber, the excitement level begins to pick up. With half of the men in the ring at this point, I already appreciate how MLW has booked the order of the competitors entering the ring. As a fan of Jacob Fatu, I want to see him destroy both Marshall and Lawler as if they were a single entity; that is exactly what he does.
I haven’t seen much of Low Ki outside of his work in MLW and ROH, so he is not someone that immediately comes to mind when considering my favorite performers. However, every time I see him walking down a ramp, I am immediately taken aback by just how frightening he is. The way he moves is more emblematic of a wild primate than an actual human being. The short exchange between Low Ki and Ikuro Kwon had me drooling for a one on one matchup, hopefully sooner rather than later. The match then officially begins once Ross Von Erich enters the ring.
This match is a difficult one to judge. I remember watching it live and enjoying moments, but as a fan of “work-rate”, it is not the best War Games/War Chamber you will ever see. This match is far more about the personalities involved than it is about the match itself. It also serves as a coming-out party for the Von Erichs, and MLW was successful in that respect. The Von Erichs get the upper hand during the calamity of back and forth confrontations near the end of the match. Marshall gets the pin on Gotch after an electric chair claw slam. I believe that this match being heavily edited actually serves the story of building the Von Erichs as main eventers. You get to see the big car crash moments without the numerous rest spots that are always necessary in a match of this scale.
Von Erichs vs Dynasty – MLW Tag Team Championship (Chicago, IL – November 2019)
Dynasty is undoubtedly one of the best stables in wrestling, especially during the time period in which this match occurred. Made up of MJF, Alexander Hammerstone, Richard Holliday and Gino Medina, the group is endlessly entertaining with their spoiled rich boy antics. MJF recently had his last match in MLW as he was sharing time with AEW. MLW originally had contracts that stated the only other company a wrestler was NOT allowed to work for was WWE. Hence, Jimmy Havoc and MJF were in both companies at the same time. Obviously, MLW has changed the wording of said future contracts. Nonetheless, MJF and Holliday are defending their beloved MLW Tag Titles against perennial good guys, the Von Erichs.
This title match is a Texas Tornado Tag match, where all of the men are allowed to be in the ring at one time. It’s also a fantastic reference to perhaps the greatest Von Erich, Kerry. One of the greatest gifts to the wrestling world is MJF with a microphone. As young as MJF is, he is already one of the greatest talkers of all time (in my oh so humble opinion). Marshall is not having any of it because he, with his brother Ross, immediately comes down to the ring to punch MJF straight in his big mouth.
All four of these men are definitely at their best when working a “classic style”. It’s old school work with new school speed and athleticism. The babyface and heel divide could not be any starker; it is a perfect way to fire up a crowd in the opening match of MLW’s first ever pay per view. Speaking of which, the match begins with Dynasty taking the Von Erichs apart outside of the ring after the initial beatdown. It is a seminar in how to get classic heel heat. Marshall then makes it back in the ring to get back the classic babyface fire. If you can’t tell by my liberal use of the word “classic”, a wrestling fan of any age would be able to appreciate this match for what it is.
This match is surprisingly short, with the Von Erichs taking the victory after the tandem iron claw-back suplex. Personally, I would have been happy to watch ten more minutes between these four. That being said, it was well constructed and well worked. I can’t say much more than that, considering the abbreviated nature. The crowd begins the night with a smile.
MLW has been pushing the Von Erichs incredibly hard since they signed with the company last year. A company such as MLW doesn’t have many legacy acts that are able to capitalize on the nostalgia of wrestling fans. The Von Erichs are the type of act that would be able to bring new fans to MLW solely based on the name. Ross and Marshall are coming along nicely in MLW. Their in-ring work is sharp and smooth; you can always count on them in the ring. They have also improved significantly in their promo skills. Initially, they seemed extremely uncomfortable in front of a camera, but MLW is obviously investing time in the act, which makes me want to invest my time in the act. It is an exciting time for MLW as they are attempting to work their way into being in the second tier of American promotions, along with Ring of Honor and Impact. The Von Erichs look to be significant players in this evolution.