The Von Erich Curse Explained

The Von Erich family looked set to be one of wrestling's most successful and long-lasting dynasties when they were at the peak of their fame in the 1980s. The family's patriarch, Jack Adkisson, a former star football player, took the name Fritz Von Erich along with a Nazi persona — in reference to what were said to be his stereotypically German facial features and stature – and soon made a name for himself as one of wrestling's most notorious villains.

However, as the years passed Von Erich's fictional Nazi background faded from memory, and he became a popular figure alongside his sons, Kerry, Kevin, Chris, Mike, and David, all of whom followed their father into the ring with varying degrees of success. The Von Erichs were some of the most visible figures of their day whose wholesome looks and gymnastics in the ring saw them handed several high-profile sponsorship deals. Sadly, a series of heartbreaking tragedies left the family in tatters, starting with a freak accident in 1959 in which Fritz's oldest son, Jack Jr., drowned after an electric shock left him face down in a puddle not far from his home near Niagra Falls. He was just 6 years old, and his death was only the first of many for the Von Erich clan.

Multiple deaths

Fritz Von Erich channeled his despair at the death of his oldest son into wrestling, and became so notorious for taking his aggression out on his fellow wrestlers that many refused to get into the ring with him, according to Texas Monthly. However, Fritz continued to tour America as a wrestler, and he and his wife Doris eventually had five more children together.

The next tragedy to befall the Von Erichs happened when the family was on tour in Japan in 1984, when David was found dead in his hotel room at the age of 25. Though official records reported his cause of death simply as enteritis, many in the wrestling community have since claimed that it was the result of an accidental overdose of painkillers.

The death shook the family deeply. From 1987 and in the space of just six years, Von Erichs brothers Mike, Chris, and Kerry, each died by suicide at the age of 23, 22, and 33 respectively. The deaths were so frequent and so devastating for the family that the wrestling community began to speak of the "Von Erich curse," which some said was the result of Fritz's willingness to make light of wartime atrocities in his early career with his Nazi persona.

A sole survivor

Fritz Von Erich died in 1997 from brain and lung cancer at the age of 68, just four years after the spate of deaths that took the lives of five of his children. At the time, only one of his five sons was still alive to attend his funeral with the family matriarch, Doris Adkisson, who died in 2015.

Kevin Von Erich (pictured, center) has spoken publicly numerous times about the mental toll losing the majority of his family in the space of just over a decade had on him. He told ESPN he went "crazy," adding: "I wanted to die, but I wasn't going to kill myself. I wanted to go to prison and get in fights, and I wanted to be punished like I had done something. It was stupid" (via

However, despite facing such tragedy, Kevin has managed to thrive, raising four kids in Hawaii before relocating to Texas. Kevin's two sons, Ross (left) and Marshall (right), are now respected wrestlers in their own right and continue to carry the illustrious — though fictional — family name.

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