The Von Erich family (from left to right): Kerry, Fritz, Kevin, Chris (front), Mike and David. Only Kevin remains alive as of 2024.

The Von Erich family is an American professional wrestling family. Originally from Texas, their actual surname is Adkisson, but every member who has been in the wrestling business has used the ring name "Von Erich," after the family patriarch, Fritz Von Erich (Jack Adkisson). Jack took on the name as part of his wrestling gimmick (i.e. in-ring persona) as he originally portrayed a Nazi heel, hence his use of a German name.

By the time Fritz died of cancer in his Denton County home in 1997 at age 68, five of his six sons had predeceased him, three by suicide. His firstborn, Jack Jr., was accidentally shocked and drowned in a puddle at age 6 in 1959, outside his Niagara Falls home. In 1984, David Von Erich died in a Tokyo hotel from enteritis at age 25. Mike, Chris, and Kerry all died by suicide; Mike took an overdose of Placidyl near Lewisville Lake in 1987 at age 23, Chris shot himself in the head with a 9mm handgun in 1991 at age 21, and Kerry shot himself in the chest in the family yard in 1993 at age 33. Kevin Von Erich is the last surviving son.

These deaths are the main basis for a widespread myth about a family curse. The term "Von Erich curse" is also used colloquially to refer to the chain of events. The story of the Von Erich family has been presented as a cautionary tale about parental influence, sibling rivalry, and the various dangers of the professional wrestling business.[1]

The Von Erichs' involvement in wrestling has continued to a third generation: Kevin's sons Marshall and Ross began wrestling in 2012, and Kerry's daughter Lacey wrestled from 2007 until her retirement in 2010.


Fritz Von Erich

Main article: Fritz Von Erich

Family patriarch Fritz Von Erich, 1976

Fritz Von Erich was born Jack Barton Adkisson on August 16, 1929, in Jewett, Texas.[2] Originally trained by Stu Hart, Fritz became a top star in many National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) promotions, most notably in St. Louis and in World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW).[3] He held the AWA World Heavyweight Championship at one time in the 1960s. Despite never winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, he maintained his presence within the NWA, holding many other major belts. Fritz also served shortly as NWA President in the 1970s, as well as President of WCCW when it moved to Dallas, Texas. Fritz was also a major part of Japanese wrestling, where he was known as "Tetsu no Tsume" (鉄の爪; "The Iron Claw"), and helped rebuild the business after the death of Rikidōzan.

Fritz married Doris on June 23, 1950. Together, they had six sons before divorcing on July 21, 1992.[4] On September 10, 1997, Fritz died of lung cancer that had spread to his brain.[5][6]

Second generation

Fritz (left) with several of his sons. From left to right: Kevin, Kerry, David, and Mike.

Jack Adkisson Jr.

Fritz Von Erich's first son was born Jack Barton Adkisson Jr. on September 21, 1952. He died at age six in Niagara Falls, New York, on March 7, 1959, after he stepped on a trailer tongue, was electrically shocked, and then fell into a melting snow puddle face first and drowned.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13]

Kevin Von Erich

Main article: Kevin Von Erich

Kevin Von Erich, c. 1983

Born Kevin Ross Adkisson on May 15, 1957, in Belleville, Illinois, "The Golden Warrior" Kevin Von Erich is the second oldest and last surviving son of Fritz Von Erich.

The majority of Kevin's career was spent working in World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW), where he had feuds against wrestlers such as Chris Adams, The Fabulous Freebirds, and Ric Flair. It was there that Kevin became known for utilizing trademark maneuvers like the body scissors and the iron claw, as well as for wrestling barefoot.

Kevin has been married since August 1, 1980, to Pamela J. May.[14] Together they have four children, including two daughters: Kristen Rain (born February 3, 1981)[15] and Jillian Lindsey (born February 10, 1985)[16] as well as two sons: David Michael "Ross" (born June 1, 1988)[17] and Kevin Marshall (born November 10, 1992).[18] Kevin has thirteen grandchildren.

In May 2006, Kevin sold the WCCW footage to Vince McMahon and World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). At WrestleMania 25, Kevin represented the Von Erich family during their induction into the WWE Hall of Fame. In 2015, Kevin appeared in an ESPN 30 for 30 short film titled "Wrestling the Curse".

David Von Erich

Main article: David Von Erich

David Von Erich, c. 1982

"The Yellow Rose of Texas" David Von Erich was the third son of Fritz Von Erich. He was born David Alan Adkisson on July 22, 1958, in Dallas, Texas.[19]

David worked in the World Class Championship Wrestling promotion. It was there that he faced off with Harley Race and later Ric Flair several times for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship (never winning), as well as teamed with brothers Kevin and Kerry against The Fabulous Freebirds. David also wrestled in Missouri, winning the Missouri Heavyweight Championship on a couple of occasions. From late 1981 to mid-1982, David wrestled in the Florida territory to show that he could work as a heel. This run was successful, with David enjoying brief reigns as both singles and tag team champion.

David was married on June 26, 1978, to Candy L. McLeod.[20] Together, they had a daughter Natosha Zoeanna (born October 19, 1978).[21] The baby died in infancy and David's marriage soon ended in divorce on July 12, 1979.[22] He married again on June 8, 1982, to Patricia A. Matter.[22] They remained together until David's death.

David died on February 10, 1984, in Tokyo, Japan. The US Embassy's death report says he died of acute enteritis.[23] Ric Flair wrote in his autobiography, To Be the Man, that "everyone in wrestling believes" that it was a drug overdose that really killed him and that Bruiser Brody (a fellow wrestler who found David) disposed of the narcotics by flushing them down a toilet before the police arrived. Mick Foley also claims that David died from an apparent drug overdose.[3] A tribute show was held a couple of months later in his honor, during which his younger brother, Kerry Von Erich, won the NWA World Title from Ric Flair.[3]

Kerry Von Erich

Main article: Kerry Von Erich

Kerry von Erich in 1987

Kerry Von Erich was the fourth son of Fritz Von Erich. He was born Kerry Gene Adkisson on February 3, 1960, in Niagara Falls, New York. Known as "The Modern Day Warrior" and "The Texas Tornado", Kerry was by far the best-known of the Von Erich Family.

Much like his brothers, Kerry spent the majority of his career wrestling in World Class Championship Wrestling. Amongst the many major feuds he had were those against Gino Hernandez, Iceman Parsons, Chris Adams and The Fabulous Freebirds. Kerry became the most successful of the Von Erich family when he won the NWA World Heavyweight Title from Ric Flair at the David Von Erich Memorial Parade of Champions, a tribute show to his deceased older brother.[3] Kerry lost the belt three weeks later to Flair. Kerry also wrestled for several months under the ring name "The Texas Tornado" in both the World Wrestling Federation (where he won the WWF Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam on August 27, 1990) and Global Wrestling Federation.

Kerry was married on June 18, 1983, to Catherine "Cathy" Murray.[24] Together they had two daughters: Hollie Brooke (born September 19, 1984)[25] and Lacey Dawn (born July 17, 1986).[26] Lacey wrestled for several years, most notably with TNA as Lacey Von Erich, before leaving the wrestling business in 2010. Kerry and Catherine later separated, before divorcing on April 22, 1992.[27]

On June 4, 1986, Kerry was involved in a motorcycle accident that resulted in the amputation of his right foot. He continued wrestling after the accident with a prosthesis and kept the amputation secret from the majority of fans and fellow wrestlers. He became addicted to pain killers, followed by several drug problems and arrests.[28][29] Kerry died after shooting a .44 caliber bullet through his heart on February 18, 1993, on his father's ranch in Denton County, Texas. There is a marker of an angel placed by his father Fritz on the spot where Kerry shot himself. Bret Hart states in his autobiography, Hitman: My Real Life in the Cartoon World of Wrestling, that Kerry had told him months before about his plans, that he had wanted to follow his late brothers, and that they were calling him. His marriage had fallen apart, and he thought his death was inevitable.[30]

Mike Von Erich

Main article: Mike Von Erich

Mike and Kerry Von Erich in 1984

Mike Von Erich was the fifth son of Fritz Von Erich. He was born Michael Brett Adkisson on March 2, 1964, in Dallas, Texas, and was later known as the "Inspirational Warrior".[31]

Mike replaced David in the feud the Von Erichs had with The Fabulous Freebirds following David's death. According to the DVD Heroes of World Class, Mike wanted to work for World Class as a cameraman and had no interest in being in the ring full-time. His only previous appearance on-screen was being involved in an angle where Ric Flair insulted him and wrestled him as a run-up to what was planned as David winning the NWA World Heavyweight Championship, but Fritz pressured Mike into the ring after David's death. Kevin once stated that Mike suffered from the pressure of having to "be David" and to succeed on the same level as his older brothers.[32]

Mike was married on February 14, 1985, to Shani Danette Garza. He was divorced later that year.[33] In 1985, he injured his shoulder on a tour of Israel and had surgery, leading to toxic shock syndrome, as there was an infection missed by the surgeons. He suffered some brain damage as a result of his illness and lost a great deal of weight.[32] In 1986, he also suffered head injuries from a car accident in which his vehicle overturned after he lost control.

Mike tried returning to wrestling after partial recovery. He continued to compete despite lack of mental coordination and strength. After an arrest for DUI and marijuana possession, Mike took a fatal dose of tranquilizers and alcohol around April 12, 1987, in Denton County, Texas. He was missing for 4-5 days, with the date of death being set the Sunday after bailing out of jail.[34][35]

Chris Von Erich

Main article: Chris Von Erich

Born Chris Barton Adkisson on September 30, 1969, in Dallas, Texas, Chris Von Erich was the youngest of the Von Erich family. With his short stature (5'5”), asthma, and extremely brittle bones, which were prone to breaking, Chris was never able to achieve the success that his father and brothers achieved. He made many attempts to succeed in the squared circle because of his incredible love of wrestling, which kept him going despite numerous injuries. He managed one major feud with Percy Pringle in the USWA/World Class, but his career did not take off like the rest of the family's. On occasion, he and his brothers Kerry and Kevin, as well as Chris Adams, wrestled tag-team matches against Percy Pringle and Steve Austin, but Chris only wrestled Pringle, while the much more athletic Adams, Kerry or Kevin wrestled Austin.

After several years of not being able to succeed in the wrestling business, Chris became depressed and frustrated. He was also heartbroken over the loss of his brother, Mike, and experienced drug addiction. On September 12, 1991, aged 21, he shot himself in the head.[36] His brother Kevin and mother attempted to dissuade him from his suicidal tendencies that same day. An apparent suicide note had been found at the scene and toxicology reports also revealed cocaine and valium were in Chris' system at the time of his death.[37]

Third generation

Ross Von Erich in 2019
Marshall Von Erich in 2019
Lacey Von Erich, the first of three third-generation Von Erichs to wrestle in TNA, and a former TNA Knockouts Tag Team Champion

Ross Von Erich

Main article: Marshall and Ross Von Erich

David Michael Ross Adkisson (born June 1, 1988), better known as Ross Von Erich, is the son of Kevin Von Erich. He is named after David and Mike. He was trained by Kevin, Harley Race and the Pro Wrestling Noah dojo. Ross returned to Texas to attend college in 2008, according to the family website, and reportedly has wrestled a couple of times. In a 2010 interview, Ross stated that he and his brother Marshall are also training to become professional wrestlers. They debuted as a tag team for Pro Wrestling Noah on July 22, 2012.[38] Ross and Marshall made their national television debut as part of the Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) Slammiversary XII PPV on June 15, 2014, in a tag match defeating The BroMans via disqualification.[39] In July 2017 Ross, along with his brother Marshall and father Kevin, wrestled at the Rage Megashow in Israel.[40] In May 2019, Ross and Marshall signed a multi-year contract with Major League Wrestling (MLW).[41]

Marshall Von Erich

Main article: Marshall and Ross Von Erich

Kevin Marshall Adkisson (born November 10, 1992), better known as Marshall Von Erich,[42] is the son of Kevin Von Erich. He is named after his father. He was trained by Kevin, Harley Race and at the Noah dojo. He debuted in 2012, with his brother Ross in Pro Wrestling Noah.[38] He adapted his father's trademark of wrestling barefoot. Marshall and Ross made their national television debut at Slammiversary XII on June 15, 2014,[39] where they defeated The BroMans. On May 29, 2015, the brothers debuted at Imperial Wrestling Revolution, their new home promotion. They won the IWR Tag Team Championships from the Arrow Club in 2017. In July 2017 Marshall, along with his brother Ross and father Kevin, wrestled at the Rage Megashow in Israel.[40] In May 2019, Marshall and Ross signed a multi-year contract with Major League Wrestling (MLW).[41]

Lacey Von Erich

Main article: Lacey Von Erich

Lacey Dawn Adkisson (born July 17, 1986), better known as Lacey Von Erich is the daughter of Kerry Von Erich. She was previously with World Wrestling Entertainment and Total Nonstop Action (TNA) where she was a former TNA Knockouts Tag Team Champion. She retired in 2010.

Fictional relatives

Waldo Von Erich

Main article: Waldo Von Erich

Waldo Von Erich was the stage name of Canadian professional wrestler Walter Sieber. Though billed as the brother of Fritz Von Erich when they teamed, he is not related to the Adkisson family. Waldo died in July 2009.

Lance Von Erich

Main article: Lance Von Erich

Lance Von Erich was the stage name of Dallas-born professional wrestler William Kevin "Ricky" Vaughn. He was billed for a brief period of time in the 1980s as the son of Waldo Von Erich, but there was no biological relation between the two. Lance also has no biological relation to the Adkisson family.

Rip Von Erich

On two episodes of MLW Fusion, Tom Lawlor, who was involved in a feud with the Von Erichs after turning his back on them, mercilessly beat and then aligned himself with a wrestler he called "Rip Von Erich", who was played by a wrestler who had previously gone under the name Kit Osbourne in other promotions.

Mark Von Erich

Rick LeRibeus, a Texas-based wrestler, has been billed as "Mark Von Erich" since the 1990s. This eventually became a storyline in the Global Wrestling Federation with Skandor Akbar accusing LeRibeus of being an illegitimate son of Fritz Von Erich.

WWE Hall of Fame

On March 16, 2009, it was announced that the Von Erich family would be inducted (as a group) into the WWE Hall of Fame. They were inducted by longtime Von Erich rival Michael "P.S." Hayes, with Kevin Von Erich accepting the induction and celebrating victory.[43]

Family tree

† = deceased

Fritz Von Erich
Jack Adkisson, Jr.
Kevin Von Erich
(born 1957)
David Von Erich
Kerry Von Erich
Mike Von Erich
Chris Von Erich
Ross Von Erich
(born 1988)
Marshall Von Erich
(born 1992)
Natosha Zoeanna Adkisson
Hollie Brooke Adkisson
(born 1984)
Lacey Von Erich
(born 1986)

Championships and accomplishments

As a family


In popular culture

The A24 film The Iron Claw takes its title from the wrestling move used by several of the family members. The movie portrays the Von Erich family through the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s; directed by Sean Durkin, the film stars Zac Efron, Lily James, Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickinson, Maura Tierney, Chavo Guerrero Jr. and Holt McCallany.[44]

See also


  1. ^ Grater, Tom (January 22, 2020). "'Martha Marcy May Marlene' Director Sean Durkin Plots Pic On Von Erich Wrestling Family; Tessa Ross & BBC Films Onboard". Deadline. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  2. ^ "Von Erich Official Website bio".
  3. ^ a b c d Foley, Mick. Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks (p. 129)
  4. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  5. ^ "Fritz Von Erich dead at 68". Slam! Sports. September 11, 1997. Archived from the original on July 22, 2012. Retrieved May 30, 2007.((cite web)): CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  6. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  7. ^ Hollandsworth, Skip (February 1, 1988). "The Fall of the House of Von Erich". D Magazine.
  8. ^ Malloy, Mason (June 19, 2023). "A Family of Tragedy: The Von Erichs".
  9. ^ "The Von Erich Family's Curse Supposedly Haunts Wrestling To This Day". Oxygen Official Site. April 29, 2019.
  10. ^ Dod, Matt (April 12, 2023). "The Von Erich Curse". Dodwrestlepod.
  11. ^ "Wrestler found shot dead family has lost five sons Latest tragedy apparently a suicide". Baltimore Sun. February 19, 1993.
  12. ^ Mustaqeem, Syraat Al (November 2, 2022). "The Iron Claw: What is the true story behind Zac Efron's new film?". Evening Standard.
  13. ^ "The WAWLI Papers #236–245".
  14. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  15. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  16. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  17. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  18. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  19. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  20. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  21. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  22. ^ a b "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  23. ^ "Acute Enteritis Blamed For Von Erich’s Death", by Debra Martine, Dallas Morning News
  24. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  25. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  26. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  27. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  28. ^ Guerrasio, Jason. "Jeremy Allen White's character in 'The Iron Claw,' Kerry Von Erich, really wrestled his entire WWE career with only one foot, and never told anyone about it". Business Insider. Retrieved March 22, 2024.
  29. ^ "Kerry Von Erich Warrant". The Marshall News Messenger. February 18, 1993. p. 9. Retrieved March 22, 2024.
  30. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  31. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  32. ^ a b Hollandsworth, By Skip (February 1, 1988). "The Fall of the House of Von Erich". D Magazine. Retrieved March 22, 2024.
  33. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  34. ^ "Who's Who in the Von Erich Wrestling Family?". March 2, 2017. Archived from the original on March 2, 2017. Retrieved March 22, 2024.
  35. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  36. ^ "Free Family Tree, Genealogy and Family History – MyHeritage".
  37. ^ Frasier, David K. (September 11, 2015). Suicide in the Entertainment Industry: An Encyclopedia of 840 Twentieth Century Cases. McFarland. ISBN 978-1-4766-0807-5.
  38. ^ a b "NOAH Great Voyage '12 in Ryogoku at New Sumo Hall – Ryogoku Kokugikan wrestling results – Internet Wrestling Database".
  39. ^ a b "Impact Wrestling: Breaking News Von Erich Family Scheduled to Appear at Slammiversary".
  40. ^ a b "'Rage Megashow' wrestling event brings Israel into the ring". The Jerusalem Post | Retrieved November 21, 2017.
  41. ^ a b "MLW Sign Ross and Marshall von Erich; Set to Debut on June 1 | Fightful News".
  42. ^ Kreikenbohm, Philip. "Marshall von Erich « Wrestlers Database « CAGEMATCH – The Internet Wrestling Database".
  43. ^ "The Von Erichs".
  44. ^ Kroll, Justin (October 24, 2022). "Lily James Joins Sean Durkin's 'The Iron Claw' For A24". Retrieved October 28, 2022.

Further reading