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Wrestling / Von Erich Family

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L-R: Kerry, Fritz, Kevin, Chris, Mike, David

The Von Erich Family was a legitimate Professional Wrestling Family, led by the patriarch Fritz Von Erich (Jack Adkisson, 1929-1997) and consisting of sons Kevin (1957-), David (1958-1984), Kerry (1960-1993), Mike (1964-1987) and Chris (1969-1991). Jack Adkisson debuted as Fritz in 1953 doing a Nazi gimmick. The name stuck even well after the gimmick faded away. Kerry, David, and Kevin debuted in the 1970s, with Mike following in 1983. Fritz set up World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) in Dallas and he and his sons were huge box office draws as Faces. Unfortunately, things started falling apart following the death of David in 1984 at the age of 25 under unclear circumstances.note  Mike, Chris, and Kerry all ended up commiting suicide; Mike in 1987 at the age of 23 by drug overdose, Chris, who debuted in 1990, in 1991 at the age of 21 by gunshot, and Kerry, who had temporarily broken out and had a run in WWE in 1990-1992, in 1993 also by gunshot. Kevin retired in 1995, and his sons Ross and Marshall signed with MLW in 2019, with their contract allowing them to continue to make appearances in their former home of Pro Wrestling NOAH. Kerry's daughter Lacey had a run in TNA as a member of The Beautiful People and also worked for Wrestlicious. Combined, the different blood relatives have held 144 titles. Among the more significant in-ring achievements, Fritz was a 1x AWA World Heavyweight Champion; Kerry was a 1x NWA World Heavyweight Champion and a 1x WWE Intercontinental Heavyweight Champion; Kevin and David were 1x All Japan Pro Wrestling All Asia Tag Team Champions; Marshall and Ross have been MLW Tag Team Champions once; and Fritz, Kevin, Kerry, and Mike combined held the NWA American (World Class) Heavyweight Title 24 times. The family (i.e., Fritz and his sons) was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009.

Besides the actually blood-related Adkisson family, the Von Erichs had fictional relatives. Waldo Von Erich (real name Walter Sieber) was billed as the brother of Fritz Von Erich and they teamed up, and Lance Von Erich (real name William Kevin Vaughan) was billed for a brief period of time in the 1980s as the son of Waldo, but there was no biological relation neither between the two nor the Adkisson family. In the case of Lance, the stunt mostly failed due to audiences recognizing him from his previous run as Ricky Vaughn and, after leaving WCCW following a pay dispute with Fritz, his non-relationship to the family was exposed by Fritz on television in retaliation.

"World Class Tropes":

  • 10-Minute Retirement: Fritz had a few of these during the 1980s.
  • The Ace: While Kevin was considered to be the best pure athlete and Kerry had the looks of a star, David was considered to be the best overall wrestler of the brothers. It helped that he had worked in territories outside of Texas which helped him gain experience and become more seasoned as a wrestler.
  • Action Girl: Lacey, although she was a jobber in WWE's version of FCW.
  • Alliterative Name: When Kerry and Kevin teamed up under masks as the Cosmic Cowboys
  • Arch-Enemy: The Fabulous Freebirds, Devastation Inc.
  • Artifact Title: The Von Erich name itself, which originated from Fritz's days as a German monster heel. Those days were completely ignored once the boys came around, and the family was never mentioned as being anything except full-blooded Texans, which they were, despite the foreign name. It helped that Texas (in areas, granted, that are fairly well south of Dallas, such as the Texas Hill Country) has a significant history of German immigration and several towns and cities with German names, to say nothing of the number of Texans with German ancestry.
  • Bash Brothers
    • As six-man tag team champions most obviously, but also by the fact there were a lot of father-son and brother-brother pairings to go around.
    • Before his sons had gotten started Fritz had won numerous tag team title belts with Lou Sjoberg, Karl von Schober, Gene Kiniski, "Iron" Mike DiBiase, Killer Karl Kox, Duke Keomuka, Billy Red Lyons, Grizzly Smith, Dan Miller, Fred Curry, Dean Ho, Killer Karl Krupp, and, of course, Waldo Von Erich. After his sons got started he still won the NWA North American Tag Team Titles with Larry "The Ax" Hennig.
    • Kerry was known for tagging with Bruiser Brody, Sweet Brown Sugar, El Halcón, Tiger Conway Jr, Terry Orndorff, Al Madril, and Jeff Jarrett.
    • Kevin was known for tagging with Chris Adams and Steve Simpson.
    • David was known for tagging with Dory Funk Jr..
    • Brian Adias and Michael Hayes were known for filling in for absent Von Erich brothers.
    • Lacey was known for tagging with Madison Rayne and Velvet Sky.
  • The Big Guy: The 6'7 David was this to the rest of the family, including older brother Kevin.
  • Boring, but Practical: Kerry defeated Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Title with a backslide. The reason for this is simple; Kerry was extremely messed up on painkillers, and Flair needed a finish that even Kerry couldn't fuck up.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Fritz's heel run was pretty much relegated to this once he turned face, and especially once his sons followed him. The Von Erich name is the only reminder.
  • Crowd Chant: "We want the claw!"
  • Death Seeker: After Jackie's death, Fritz developed a more aggressive wrestling style in the hopes of provoking someone to lash out and kill him.
  • Demoted to Extra: Kerry made a huge splash when he went to the WWF, winning the Intercontinental title almost immediately. But it didn't last long and he was a glorified jobber within a year.
  • Dented Iron: Mike suffered brain damage and toxic shock as the result of a car accident. By all accounts, he was practically an Empty Shell by the time of his suicide.
  • Dumb Blonde
    • Lacey made Mihoshi and Kelly Bundy look like geniuses. She really didn't come off well (but then, none of the Knockouts did) during the "TNA Wrestling Special" week on Family Feud, November 1-5, 2010.
    • Many of the boys' peers will tell you that the brothers played this trope straight (despite them mostly being brown-haired), with the exception of David.
  • Everything Is Big in Texas: With the exception of Chris, all the wrestlers from this large family have been large people, and they were based in Dallas.
  • Face–Heel Turn: David defied Fritz's wishes and had a heel run in Florida.
  • Family Business: WCCW
  • Finishing Move: Iron Claw.
  • Foreign Wrestling Heel: Fritz in his early years. This was completely ignored once he turned face and the family became a Texas institution.
  • Friend to All Children: Kerry loved all the little boys and girls
  • Handicapped Badass: Kerry wrestled with an amputated right foot and managed to hide it his entire WWE run. He had lost it after getting the ankle crushed in a motorcycle accident, and not letting the bone heal properly before attempting to stand on it.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Fritz was turned face in December 1966. Recently arrived heel manager Gary Hart had proclaimed that Fritz and Waldo were neither real brothers nor even real Germans, even going so far as to mention Fritz's real name on the air. Although the in-story explanation involved Fritz and Waldo's feud with Hart's team the Internationals (Skandor Akbar and Karl Von Brauner), it was more a case of necessity due to Real Life Writes the Plot. Fritz's wife was concerned about crazed fans, and the sons were having trouble in school because of having to defend their father. (This was during the time when Kayfabe was absolutely enforced.)
  • Heroic Second Wind: Part of Kerry's gimmick
  • His Own Worst Enemy:
    • Fritz's Fatal Flaw in regards to running WCCW. While there were things that were beyond his control such as David's death and Kerry's accident, but decisions such as Lance Von Erich, exploiting Mike's recovery from toxic shock syndrome, and rehashing the Von Erich/Freebirds feud without Michael Hayes contributed to the eventual downfall of the organization.
    • Also applies to Kerry, whose drug abuse and tendency to no-show shows made him unreliable. This was the reason why his NWA Championship reign only lasted 18 days and why he lost the title unification match to Jerry Lawler at SuperClash III. Also made rash choices, which would ultimately result in losing his foot.
  • How Much More Can He Take?: The WWWF had to call Waldo Von Erich vs Champion Bruno Sammartino a draw because they went so long they were getting too close to an imposed curfew.
  • It Runs in the Family: Excepting the few who were not actually related to the rest
  • Manipulative Bastard: Fritz is generally believed to be one of these. There are accounts of him telling Kevin that he didn't have the guts to kill himself; this, mind you, is after five of his brothers had died, three by their own hand.
  • Martial Arts Headband: Chris wrestled with one, although the big hair characteristic of the decade made it look more like a hippie headband.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Lacey split with Madison in favor of the original Beautiful People due to this.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Lacey, as befitting of a developmental "diva", "Beautiful Person" and any woman on Wrestlicious who wasn't a Lunch Lady.
  • No-Sell: Fritz. Kerry often as part of his comebacks.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: This is why many tried to get the Von Erich boys to wrestle in territories outside of Texas. This would best be shown with Kerry: In World Class, he was a Main Event star, but in WWF he was at best a Midcarder with a brief reign as Intercontinental Champion.
    • That said, the brothers would find good success wrestling in the Missouri territory, Kevin, Kerry, and David ultimately winning the Missouri Heavyweight Title.
  • Odd Name Out: The Warriors, made up of The Road Warriors Hawk and Animal, Ultimate Warrior and...Texas Tornado. That said, Kerry was also known as "Modern Day Warrior".
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Fritz with all of his sons except Kevin. Also David with his daughter Natasha.
  • Pet the Dog: This usually followed Lacey saying something stupid when among the Beautiful People in TNA.
  • Power Trio: Some combination of Mike, Lance, Kevin, Kerry or David was almost always holding on in pursuit of the NWA, WCWA or WCCW Six-Man Tag Titles.
  • Put on a Bus: Lacey from TNA (and pro wrestling entirely), by her own choice. Kerry from WWF, with his suicide coming a year later. The others are kinda used to this trope themselves, though.
  • Red Baron:
    • In Japan, Fritz was known as "Tetsu no Tsume" ("The Iron Claw").
    • Kevin was "The Golden Warrior".
    • David was "The Yellow Rose of Texas".
    • Kerry was "The Modern Day Warrior" in World Class, "The Texas Tornado" in WWF and "Tora no Tsume" ("Tiger Claw") in Japan.
  • Sibling Team: Most notably Kerry and Kevin, but the four main brothers all teamed in different combinations. In the second generation, Ross and Marshall have frequently teamed.
  • Signature Move: Kerry's tornado punch. The Iron Claw for the whole family.
  • Spiritual Successor: Galan Ramírez and Jacob Kilgore as the NWA Bodyslam tag team, The Texas Tornadoes, after Kerry's ring name in WWF.
  • Stage Dad: Fritz was one of the most notorious examples in wrestling history, considering it's one of the primary reasons he outlived all but one of his sons.
  • Tag Team
    • Fritz and Waldo, obviously.
    • Kevin and Kerry were WCCW Tag Team Champions multiple times and NWA American Tag Team Champions.
    • Kevin and David were NWA Texas, All Asia, and NWA World Tag Team Champions.
    • Marshall and Ross were Imperial Wrestling Revolution Tag Team Champions, and MLW Tag Team Champions from November 2019 to January 2021.
  • Unrelated Brothers: Walter Sieber as Fritz's "brother" Waldo, who was the "uncle" of Lance (William "Ricky" Vaughan).
  • Un-person: After Lance left for Wild West Wrestling, Fritz buried him on TV, breaking Kayfabe by saying that he was in no way, shape or form related to the Von Erich family and that he was never going to mention Lance again.
  • The Von Trope Family: Fritz was originally Type 1. The family was Type 2.
  • Wrestling Family: Doy. In the post-territorial days, the family expanded to include Lacey Von Erich, who is Kerry's daughter, and Kevin's two sons, Ross and Marshall.
  • You Wanna Get Sued?: A Texas indy wrestler/promoter named Rick Lerebeus called himself "Mark Von Erich" and claimed to be a relative despite Kevin sending him a cease-and-desist letter.