As one of the most infamous families in all of professional wrestling, the Von Erichs made names for themselves in the 1980s before death began to follow each brother like a shadow. The occasional death in the wrestling community isn’t unusual, but the story of the Von Erichs is unlike any other in wrestling history. Tragedy waited around each corner for this family, and despite their talents in the ring, personal demons from mounting pressure and drug abuse led to the demise of what could have been wrestling’s most dominant family. Theirs is a story that couldn’t have been written by even the most talented authors.
Born to father Fritz Von Erich, the 6 boys that he raised all had lives that seemed filled with tragedy. Beginning with their first son, it seemed that no Von Erich son was safe from living a short life on this earth, and each passing death of a Von Erich brother left holes in the wrestling community. They found success in their father’s wrestling promotion, and even when they performed in other promotions, they were met with great acclaim and fanfare. They helped redefine wrestling by implementing their unique take on the profession, and their contributions to the sport can be felt to this very day. If you are unfamiliar with this family, then get ready to learn some truly tragic facts about the Von Erichs. They were set to take over the wrestling world, and instead, traveled a road that led to death and devastation.
15. Jack Jr. Drowned When He Was 6
To better understand the death of the Von Erich brothers, you would need to take a look back to the family’s first brush with loss. Back in 1959, the first child born to Fritz Von Erich tragically drowned when he was only 6 years old. According to reports, Jack was playing outside when he came into contact with a wire that was attached to an electric fence. The wire electrocuted the young boy, and he fell into a puddle. From there, he tragically drowned. This occurred nearly 6 months before Jack’s 7th birthday.
Losing a family member is always difficult to deal with, but losing a young child has to carry an immense amount of pain with it. At the time of Jack’s death, only 2 other Von Erich brothers were alive, and the oldest wasn’t even 2 when his brother died. They were too young to remember the tragic passing of their brother.
14. David Was Set To Win The NWA World Title From Ric Flair
“The Yellow Rose of Texas” was the third Von Erich son born to father Fritz, and he was considered the best all-around wrestler of the family. He was brilliant in the ring, and was exceptional on the microphone as well. Von Erich had competed in the top wrestling promotions in the country, and had competed against Ric Flair on a number of occasions. Before his death, David had begun to compete in Japan, though he was planning to return to the United States to continue his wrestling career in his native land. He was so talented and was such a highly-regarded performer that he was set to win the prestigious NWA World Title from The Nature Boy himself.
To be the man, you need to beat the man, and in the 1980s, David Von Erich was all set to be the man in the NWA. It was perhaps the premiere wrestling organization in the United States, and a Von Erich was all set to rule it with an iron fist.
13. David May Have Died From An Overdose While In Japan
Sadly, David Von Erich would never get to defeat Ric Flair in the NWA, and he would tragically pass away while competing in Japan. There are several schools of thought about what actually happened to David Von Erich, though the official report states that it was acute enteritis. However, many people believe that David died of a drug overdose, and that his friend and fellow wrestler Bruiser Brody got rid of the evidence. Regardless of the actual circumstances, David Von Erich’s death left a major hole in the wrestling community, and it kicked off a string of tragedies that would plague the Von Erich brothers throughout the next decade.
David Von Erich left behind a wife and a daughter from a previous marriage. The Yellow Rose Of Texas was only 25 years old when he tragically passed away in Japan. In a tribute to David, his younger brother Kerry Von Erich would take his place in the NWA and defeat Ric Flair for the world title.
12. Mike Suffered Brain Damage From Toxic Shock Syndrome
The next Von Erich brother to lose his life would be Mike, Fritz Von Erich’s 5th son. It has been said that Mike never wanted to enter the family business to become a wrestler, and it would be an injury that he sustained from wrestling that nearly cost him his life. While in Israel, Mike passed out during a match, and was rushed to a hospital. Though it is pretty uncommon in men, Mike would suffer from toxic shock syndrome, which can prove fatal. He survived the onslaught, but he was never the same again. Sadly, he suffered brain damage from his bout with toxic shock syndrome, and he would never be the same again.
Imagine feeling pressured to do something that you have little interest in and nearly dying because of it. Unlike some of his other brothers, Mike never achieved the level of success or adoration that they got. Sure, he was a Von Erich, but he was never able to be the star that David was.
11. Mike Committed Suicide By Overdosing
The pressure that Mike felt along with the brain damage that he sustained from getting toxic shock syndrome did him no favors, and he grew depressed. He tried to get back into physical shape, but the damage that he sustained robbed him of his muscle mass, and he was never able to achieve the level of fitness that he once had. Shortly before his death, Mike had gotten a DUI, and had truly reached the lowest point in his life. By now, Fritz had lost 2 of his sons, and unfortunately, number 3 would come sooner than he had hoped.
After leaving a suicide note for his family to find, Mike seemingly disappeared to take his own life. He was found dead several days later. Mike had overdosed on sleeping pills, leaving his family members to mourn the loss of another Von Erich. His legacy isn’t nearly as revered as David’s or Kerry’s, but Mike losing his life had an effect on the wrestling community. Mike was only 23 when he died.
10. Chris Had Very Brittle Bones That Broke Easily
The next Von Erich brother to fall victim to the pressures of the wrestling industry was Chris, who was the youngest of all the Von Erichs. Unlike his brothers who were larger men that possessed tremendous athletic gifts, Chris was only 5’5″, and he had suffered from asthma his entire life. Unlike Mike, Chris wanted nothing more than to be a professional wrestler, but his asthma and physical limitations made success virtually impossible. Chris had bones that were brittle, and they were highly susceptible to breakage while performing in the ring. He still tried his best when healthy enough to compete, and even had a tag team match against future legend Steve Austin.
The youngest Von Erich was unable to live up to the lofty expectations of his brothers, and his drug use did him no favors. His short stature and brittle bones made life miserable for Chris, and this led him to doing something that everyone feared.
9. Chris Committed Suicide By A Gunshot Wound
In September of 1991, Chris Von Erich, the youngest of 6 boys, took his life. He did this by shooting himself in the head a mere 18 days before his 22nd birthday. Outside of Jack who was 6, Chris was the youngest Von Erich brother to lose his life. He was immensely depressed from having a failing wrestling career, though this wasn’t for lack of talent. Chris just physically wasn’t able to withstand the punishment that comes along with being a professional wrestler. It’s sad that his dreams were dashed because of physical ailments, but there are other facets of wrestling that he could have succeeded in. He could have been a great manager for his brothers, or could have tried his hand at booking matches.
8. Kerry Was The Only Brother To Win A Title In The WWE
Out of all the Von Erich brothers that competed in professional wrestling, Kerry Von Erich is perhaps that most famous. The Texas Tornado had a monster physique to go along with his good looks, and fans quickly grew to love his work in the ring. Outside of brothers David and Kevin, Kerry was the only Von Erich brother to compete under the bright lights of the WWE. Kerry Von Erich spent several years competing in the WWE, and his crowning achievement would be winning the Intercontinental Championship by defeating Mr. Perfect at SummerSlam.
Unfortunately, this would be the only title that a Von Erich brother would win in the WWE. The family spent the better part of their careers wrestling in World Class Championship Wrestling, and aside from Kerry, no other brother spent excessive time in the WWE. Sadly, Kerry’s career would be littered with ups and downs, and his lowest valleys were something that few could deal with.
7. Before He Died, Kerry Had His Foot Amputated
Unfortunately, those low valleys that Kerry saw during his professional career would reach the bottom after he was involved in a brutal motorcycle accident. Due to the damage that he sustained in the accident, Kerry wound up losing his right foot. The physical and emotional toll of it all led Kerry to become addicted to prescription drugs. He would go on to receive a prosthetic foot, and even wrestled with it on. Kerry was said to have been very embarrassed about having to wear the foot, and he went to great lengths to keep it concealed while wrestling.
Being in top physical form is essential in having a successful wrestling career, and Kerry losing his foot had done more damage than his family even realized. His depression wouldn’t subside, and he was heading down a very dark path. His family had to have known that Kerry was about to do the unthinkable.
6. Kerry Committed Suicide By A Gunshot Wound
In February of 1993, just two years after his younger brother Chris, Kerry would commit suicide. Similarly, to Chris, Kerry used a gun, but elected to shoot himself in the heart as opposed to his head. In a span of just 6 years, 3 Von Erich brothers would take their own life due to the pressures of the wrestling industry. It is well documented that the brothers, much like other wrestlers during that time, were no strangers to indulging in drugs and partying. While it is rumored that David was the only one to overdose, the other brothers’ drug use in no way helped them through the depression that each faced.
Outside of his numerous in-ring accomplishments, Kerry had even acted in films. He left behind 2 daughters, and had gone through a divorce just one year before he decided to take his life. It is possible that the fallout from his divorce along with the possibility of jail time following a violation of probation could have pushed him over the edge.
5. None Of The Brothers Lived Past The Age of 33
As I’m sure you have noticed, each Von Erich brother that passed away was incredibly young. In fact, outside of Kerry and Kevin, no other Von Erich brother lived to see the age of 30. Kerry was 33 when he took his life, making him the oldest Von Erich brother who died in the 1980s and 1990s. Chris, at 21, was the youngest brother to lose his life during that time period. Each brother’s death no doubt had a massive impact on the ones who remained alive until they inevitably took their own life.
Despite their accomplishments and prestigious last name, the Von Erich brothers lived a life that was filled with incredible pressure to live up to their father’s loft expectations, as well as the expectations of their fans. One by one, the Von Erich family slowly lost their brothers, though no one felt this loss as much as their father Fritz.
4. Father Fritz Lived To See 5 Of His Sons Die
It is said that burying your child is the hardest thing that a parent will ever have to go through, but imagine burying 5 of your children. This was the case for the Von Erich patriarch Fritz, who buried all but 1 of his children. Beginning with the death of his 6-year-old son, Fritz had to watch nearly every one of his sons descend into darkness, and had to watch 3 of them take their own lives. He was said to have been a tough man, but I can’t imagine the pain he felt in burying one son after the next.
In 1997, 4 years after the death of his son Kerry, Fritz Von Erich would die from brain and lung cancer. Unlike his sons who died at a relatively young age, Fritz was able to live a full life. He was 68 when he died, and outliving nearly all of his children must have been an immense burden.
3. Kevin Is The Last Living Von Erich Brother
Despite five of the Von Erich brothers dying throughout the years, there is still one brother that remains alive. Kevin Von Erich is the last living Von Erich brother, and much like David and Kerry, he was a very talented in-ring performer. Throughout his wrestling career, Kevin accrued a number of impressive accolades. In 1991, PWI listed Kevin at number 78 in the top 500 singles wrestlers of all-time. This, of course, comes as no surprise to those who have seen clips of Kevin performing.
He came to the ring barefoot, and his blend of technical skills as well as high-flying maneuvers made Kevin a truly unique talent in his era. He retired from wrestling in 1995, 2 years after the tragic death of his brother Kerry. Von Erich is currently 60, and should he live another 9 years, he will surpass his father Fritz as the longest-living Von Erich.
2. The Von Erich Brothers Were Enshrined In The WWE Hall Of Fame
As was mentioned earlier, Kerry was the only Von Erich that spent a great deal of time in the WWE, winning the Intercontinental Title during his time with the promotion. David and Kevin both had brief stints with the company, but did very little during their time in the WWE. Despite this, the Von Erichs are among the most respected performers in wrestling history, and in 2009, the WWE inducted the family into the WWE Hall of Fame. The event was held in the family’s home state of Texas, and Kevin, being the last surviving brother, was there to accept the prestigious honor.
With the place alongside the pantheon of other wrestling greats solidified, the Von Erichs will truly be remembered as one of the greatest wrestling families that the world has ever known. Currently, the third generation of Von Erichs are wrestling professionally, though none have performed in the WWE.
1. The Von Erich Curse
Given the nature of their deaths and the fact that Kevin is the only brother to make it out of wrestling alive, many people feel that the Von Erich family was cursed during their hay day. After one brother would die, it would seem that the next death was right around the corner, especially once the suicides began. It is a tragic tale that can serve as a warning for those interested in getting into wrestling. The pressures of the business can be too much for some to overcome, and with the Von Erichs, it cost them their lives.
These days, Kevin Von Erich, the last surviving brother, lives a quiet life in Hawaii, far away from their home in Texas. He was featured in an ESPN documentary called Wrestling the Curse, which gives an inside look at the family that changed wrestling in the 1980s. Given all that has happened over the years, Kevin seems to be at peace with life, and the documentary is an excellent watch.
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