Dark Side of the Ring is a wrestling documentary that usually hits the viewers right in the feels. While some episodes in the latest season were pretty hit or miss for me, a lot of the ones from the first 2 seasons were pretty solid. Many of the episodes were interesting and left me feeling many emotions once the episode ended. This episode featuring the Von Erichs Family & Tragedy was no different.
The Von Erichs were a family well known in the wrestling community. A family where greatness was evident, much like the Kennedy family, one that tragedy struck often.
The episode starts with Kevin Von Erich at his home in Hawaii and how he spends his days in the peace and solitude of his home. Kevin has four children and eleven grandchildren. Two of his children, Marshall and Ross Von Erich are currently signed with MLW. Kevin’s last match happened to be with them in 2017 in Israel.
Fritz Von Erich
Jack Adkisson or Fritz Von Erich was the patriarch of the family. He was trained by Stu Hart. Fritz’s wrestling career was spent mostly in NWA and WCCW a company he was the president of. He was a star in the 50s and the 60s and his reputation of being the toughest guy in Texas was widely known.
Fritz invented the iron claw hold. This was also his nickname in Japan or “Tetsu no Tsume” for the fact that he did the iron claw.
He married Doris J Smith in 1950 and they had their son Jack two years later. Unfortunately, at the age of six, Jack died in a freak accident after an exposed wire shocked him unconscious and he drowned in a puddle.
Kevin and David Von Erich
Kevin the second and last son left was born in 1957 had raw talent. He was a good all-around athlete and it showed in his wrestling. After an injury cut his football career short, Kevin turned to wrestling. Kevin was known for wrestling barefoot and spent most of his career in WCCW.
David Von Erich aka The Yellow Rose of Texas was born in 1958.
Before his love for wrestling, David loved horses. He was considered the break-out star in the family as he had a knack for memorable interviews. David faced Ric Flair many times in the NWA and wrestled in WCCW as well. He also teamed up with his brothers Kevin and Kerry against the Fabulous Freebirds.
Unfortunately, David will pass away on February 10, 1984. During a ring tour in All Japan Pro Wrestling, he was found dead in his hotel room. When Fritz found out the news, he was devastated and wanted to know what happened.
While many speculated that it was a drug overdose, a claim that was heightened by the fact that wrestler Bruiser Brody got rid of drugs by flushing them down the toilet.
However, on the Consular Report of Death that was provided by the U.S. embassy in Japan, it is said that he died from acute enteritis after rupturing his intestines. David was only 25 years old.
Mike Von Erich
Mike Von Erich was the 5th son and also known as the Inspirational Warrior. He was born in 1964. He never really wanted to be in the ring as he worked doing camera work in WCCW. Music was also a big interest of Mike’s as he wanted to be a musician. Mike wrestled in WCCW and New Japan Pro Wrestling.
Much to Fritz’s insistence after David’s death, Mike replaced him in the Fabulous Freebirds feud. In 1985 in a match during a tour in Israel, he injured his shoulder and had to get surgery. After the surgery, he suffered from toxic shock syndrome.
Miraculously, he recovered, but he wasn’t the same. He rushed back, but after losing weight and having some brain damage forced him to retire.
Mike was frustrated that he had to take David’s place and he even attacked a street pole in frustration. After David was arrested, he was gone later on that night as he committed suicide by overdose.
Chris Von Erich
Chris was born in 1969. He was the youngest and smallest of the Von Erich family. He was 5’5” and 175 pounds. Chris wanted to be a wrestler, but he struggled due to his size. Kevin would train him, but he also had to deal with many health issues such as asthma and his bones being brittle. He broke them often.
He would do odd jobs in WCCW and would have other odd jobs backstage. In 1990, he made his official debut. No matter how hard he worked though he didn’t have the same success as his brothers before him due to his size. Chris also got very depressed after Mike’s death and turned to drugs.
On September 12, 1991, Chris was found by Kevin and his mother after shooting himself in the head. He died about an hour later. He was only 21 years old.
Kerry Von Erich
Kerry was born in 1960 and might have been the most known Von Erich. He was known as The “Modern Day Warrior” and “The Texas Tornado”. Kerry worked in WCCW where he wrestled there for 11 years. He held 40 championships through the many promotions he worked on. He was also in the WWE where he won the Intercontinental Championship.
By the time of Chris’s death, Kerry was also feeling a bit depressed and felt like the world was on his shoulders. In 1986, he got into a bad motorcycle accident that almost ended his life. He dislocated his hip and his leg was so badly damaged that his right foot had to be amputated. Kerry kept this secret to the public, wrestling with his prosthetic. It was a secret until he died.
While he was known, Kerry had many issues including drug-related ones. This led to 2 arrests, the first resulted in probation. After the second one, he was worried he will have jail time because he violated his probation.
On February 18, 1993, Kerry committed suicide by shooting himself in the chest. He turned 33 fifteen days before his death.
This episode was hard to watch because it was so full of sadness. To have a family full of sons where 5 were in the wrestling business to have them all pass away so young is heartbreaking. I wish they would’ve felt more inclined to find other ways to be happy without all the weight they were carrying.
As a parent, I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose all but one of your children and again all so very young. Watching Kevin talk about it was also hard as you could tell it broke him to even talk about it. While, he seemed to be a little better, to be alone in that seemed a lot for any person to deal with.
The takeaway I got from this episode is that life is much too short and it isn’t promised. Taking care of your mental health and having other outlets are also so important.
In 2009, WWE the Von Erich’s into the Hall of Fame. Kevin got the rings for himself, his dad, and his brothers.
The Von Erichs Family most certainly had a lot of tragedy, but I hope that the other generations can continue to do great things and thrive.