The Lonesome Deaths of the Von Erichs


The world of sports entertainment provides us with treasured memories and an escape from everyday stress. That doesn’t mean its stars are immune from troubles of their own, as was the case for the Von Erichs.

There is no shortage of dynasties in the world of professional wrestling. Even modern wrestling fans who have never known life without a cell phone have at least heard of names like Hart, Hennig, and Funk. Among those families is another name that is just as influential yet far more tragic; Von Erich.

Fritz Von Erich (real name Jack Barton Adkisson) was born in 1929 and trained by Stu Hart. He made a name for himself in the NWA and WCCW and even served as President for both of those organizations. He married Doris Smith in 1950 and they had six sons during their 42 year relationship.

There is a widespread myth about a curse involving the Von Erich family and with good reason. By the time Fritz died of cancer in 1997, five of his children would be dead. Jack Jr., the youngest, drowned at the age of 6 in 1959. David died in 1984 from what was called “acute entiritis” (an inflammation in the small intestine), though several wrestlers including Ric Flair claim it was a drug overdose. The other three children, Mike, Chris, and Kerry all committed suicide in 1987, 1991, and 1993 respectively. Kevin Von Erich is the only remaining son and represented his family during their 2009 WWE Hall of Fame induction. He has four children of his own along with eight grandchildren.

Thankfully, the Von Erich name still lives on today. Both of Kevin’s sons (Ross and Marshall) have been in the professional wrestling business since 2012 and had their first televised match at Slammiversary XII in 2014 for TNA. The brothers now wrestle for Imperial Wrestling Revolution, an independent promotion who also employs former WWE stars Ryback, MVP, and Jim Ross. Kerry’s daughter (Lacey) wrestled briefly for WWE in 2007 and then in TNA from 2007-2010 where she was a one-time Knockouts Tag Team Champion as a member of The Beautiful People with Velvet Skye and Madison Rayne.

While her WWE career never took off, Lacey found success and a renewed love for the family business in TNA. Despite her retirement, she is now working with the daughters of other famous wrestlers to start a promotion of their own. Lacey never even imagined she would follow in her famous father’s footsteps:

"“I never even thought of ever becoming a pro wrestler. Vince McMahon called me and asked if I wanted to be a Diva. I had no idea what that even was. Seeing as how everyone in my family died that wrestled, it was a very sore subject in my family. He flew me out so I could check out a show and I cried a lot. Even though the show was very different than when I was young at the Sportatorium in Dallas, the smell of the Bengay and seeing the guys taping up their wrists, it reminded me of being in the locker room as a child. I signed the contract to wrestle that night.”"

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The “Von Erich Curse” is a colloquialism used not just in reference to the deaths surrounding several members of a family or group but also any tragedy that may befall them. In 2015, ESPN aired a 30 for 30 short film entitled “Wrestling the Curse” which covered this phenomenon. While this film was not a full-length program like the recent Ric Flair biography, it was nonetheless just as heartbreaking and informative. The Von Erich story is a tragic tale about accidents and mental illness and a reminder that even well-known celebrities may be wrestling with unseen opponents.