What Happened To The Members Of The Von Erich Family?

The Von Erichs are one of the greatest wrestling families of all time, but their story is also one of the most heartbreaking. The family's wrestling roots stretch all the way back to 1952, when family patriarch Jack Adkisson Sr. began his pro wrestling career. Jack Sr. wrestled under the persona of Fritz Von Erich — an evil Nazi hailing from Germany — which proved surprisingly popular.

A giant and imposing figure, Jack Sr. experienced tons of success in the ring as Von Erich. While he was still wrestling, he had six sons: Jack Jr., Kevin, David, Kerry, Mike, and Chris Adkisson. Of them, five — Kevin, David, Kerry, Mike, and Chris — continued on in their father's footsteps and also wrestled under the Von Erich name. In addition, Kerry's daughter Lacey Adkisson and Kevin's sons Marshall and Ross Adkisson have kept the Von Erich name alive through the 21st century. Known for their long hair, impeccable physique, and outstanding showmanship, the Von Erichs have entertained wrestling fans for generations. 

However, the Von Erich family's story has also been filled with personal anguish and tragedy, and by the time of Jack Sr.'s death in 1997, five of his six sons had already passed away before him, leaving Kevin as the only survivor. Looking back, this is what happened to all the members of the Von Erich family. 

Content warning: The following article contains multiple mentions of suicide.

Fritz Von Erich

The legend of the Von Erich wrestling family begins with father Fritz Von Erich. Born Jack Adkisson on August 16, 1929, and hailing from Jewett, Texas, Jack Sr. played football as an offensive lineman for the Dallas Texans in their one pro season in 1952 before entering professional wrestling. He married Doris Juanita Smith in 1950, and soon they had their first of six sons, Jack Adkisson Jr., in Dallas.

Jack Sr.'s first attempt at a character, a hometown firefighter, did not work out, but when he started shocking fans as Fritz Von Erich the Nazi, his legend immediately started to grow. At first, he predictably played the role of the "heel," or bad guy, but in 1967 that changed and he started to embrace the "baby-face," or good-guy, role. By that point, Jack Sr. had moved the family back to Texas after a stint in the northeastern U.S. He had four more sons — Kevin, David, Mike, and Kerry Adkisson — but had also lost one, Jack Jr., in 1959. He had a sixth son, Chris Adkisson, in 1969.

Jack Sr. had a very successful 35-year career as a wrestler before his retirement in 1982, and he also founded the World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) organization that helped turn his sons into superstars. Sadly, Jack Sr. would outlive five of his six sons by the time he passed away in 1997. He died of a brain tumor after he was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer. He was 68 years old.

Jack Adkisson Jr.

Born on September 21, 1952, Jack Adkisson Jr. was the first of Jack Adkisson Sr.'s six sons to be born, but also the first to pass away. In 1959, Jack Jr. died in a horrific drowning incident near his family's New York trailer. Jack Sr. had been in Cleveland wrestling at the time but had enlisted a neighbor to do some work on the wiring of his trailer. However, the neighbor inexplicably left one of the wires exposed and went home before completing the job.

A little while later, an unknowing Jack Jr. came walking home and touched the wire, not realizing the potential consequences. While the electric shock did not kill him, it did knock him unconscious, and he fell into the snow face-first. Sadly, no one would find him until it was too late, and he drowned in melting snow. At the time of his death, Jack Jr. had two brothers, David and Kevin Adkisson. In the 1999 documentary "Faded Glory: The Von Erich Story," Kevin recalled playing with Jack Jr. when he was boy, including that he would borrow his older brother's toy pistol.

When Jack Sr. heard the news, he was devastated. Famous Canadian wrestler Gene Kiniski, who was then the world champion, broke the news to him when he arrived home from Cleveland. Jack Sr. was so distraught he punched out his car window. Jack Jr. was only 6 years old when he died.

Kevin Von Erich

Jack Adkisson's second son, Kevin Adkisson, came along five years after his firstborn, on May 15, 1957. Jack trained Kevin and his brothers from a young age to be athletes, making them do calisthenics and weight lifting as soon as they hit puberty. Jack would even hang them upside down and make them fight each other. While attending college, Kevin went to classes in the fall and spring while wrestling in the summer with his father and brothers, which convinced him to pursue a career in wrestling.

By the 1980s, he was wrestling under the family name as Kevin Von Erich. In 1984, Kevin was named Man of the Year by one wrestling magazine, and by 1986 he was a world champion. However, the constant wrestling eventually took a toll on his body. He had started using painkillers as a teen, and he later had to stop wrestling in Texas after sustaining a severe concussion. Yet, of his five siblings, Kevin was the only one to make it to his 34th birthday.

He has largely been retired since 1995, when he stepped away to spend more time with his growing family. Kevin is a grandfather and has four kids, two sons and two daughters. Both of his sons, Marshall and Ross, wrestle under the Von Erich family name. Kevin's last in-ring appearance was in 2017, when he wrestled alongside his sons in a match in Tel Aviv, Israel.

David Von Erich

The third Von Erich son, David Adkisson, was born on July 22, 1958. Like his brothers, David was a great athlete who excelled at sports, and he attended North Texas State University on scholarship playing both football and basketball. At 6-foot, 7-inches tall, David was the biggest of the entire Von Erich family, and he seemed to have the most natural talent. His nickname was "The Iron Nail," and at the time of his death he appeared to be on an upward trajectory to make him one of the biggest names in the industry.

Following a wrestling tour in Japan in February 1984, David was supposed to wrestle the legendary Ric Flair that spring for the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) heavyweight championship. Apparently, David was even supposed to beat Flair and take his title, becoming the new champion, but he never got the chance. Just prior to leaving for Japan, David had fallen ill, but he refused his friends' and family's advice to stay home (via "Faded Glory"). It was a fateful mistake, as David would die on February 10, 1984, while still abroad.

Authorities found David dead of acute enteritis in his hotel room after he did not show up before his scheduled match. He was only 25 years old and the second Adkisson son to die, after Jack Adkisson Jr. in 1959. His funeral was very well attended, a sign of his impact on others, and the local news even ran a special on him as a tribute.

Kerry Von Erich

Of all the Von Erich brothers, it was Kerry Adkisson, born on February 3, 1960, who found the most success. As a kid he excelled at discus, at one point setting a junior world record before turning to wrestling. By 1984, Kerry Von Erich was one of the biggest draws in the country, and he was named the most popular wrestler of the year by a magazine.

Following the death of his brother David Adkisson, Kerry wrestled Ric Flair in May 1984 for the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA) heavyweight championship. It was the same belt his brother was supposed to win before he suddenly died, and a huge audience of around 40,000 saw Kerry defeat Flair to become the NWA world champion. However, disaster struck in 1986, when Kerry got into a motorcycle accident that eventually caused the amputation of his right foot — which he hid from fans — and he wrestled on a prosthetic for the rest of his career. In 1990, he started wrestling in the WWF, the pinnacle of professional wrestling, but it didn't last.

Throughout his career, and especially after his injury, Kerry struggled with both legal problems and unhealthy use of painkillers and cocaine. In early 1993, he was already on probation for prescription forgery when he was caught in possession of cocaine. Facing a potential prison sentence, Kerry died by suicide on February 18, 1993. He left behind an ex-wife and two daughters, and was just 33 years old.

Mike Von Erich

Michael Adkisson (above left) was the fifth Von Erich brother born, arriving in the world on March 2, 1964. Unlike his older brothers Kevin, David, and Kerry Adkisson, Mike was smaller and did not have the same incredible athletic physique. While his brothers excelled at sports and broke records, he never had near the same success, especially after a high school shoulder injury temporarily put a stop to his sports career.

As Mike grew up, he was always closer with his younger brother, Chris Adkisson, than his older brothers due to their age, and he was more fond of playing guitar than wrestling. Still, he joined the family business wrestling as Mike Von Erich, and his role became even bigger in 1984 following the death of his brother David. He essentially replaced David in the tag-team with his brothers, but he kept getting injured. Things became severe in 1985, when he suffered from toxic shock syndrome after having surgery to fix a dislocated shoulder he had suffered during a match in Israel, but he pulled through.

However, his life both in and out of the ring started to deteriorate, including an ugly arrest after he got into a street fight. Then, in April 1987, Mike became the first Adkisson to die by suicide when he overdosed on prescription sleeping pills. He was just 23 years old when he passed.

Chris Von Erich

Even among the members of the Von Erich family, the story of Chris Adkisson is especially tragic. The youngest of Jack Adkisson's six sons, Chris was born on September 30, 1969, and he had a passion for wrestling from the start. Chris grew up playing music with his older brother Michael, with Chris on the drums and Michael on guitar. Of the entire family, Chris was by far the smallest at just 5-feet, 5-inches and only reaching 175 pounds at his biggest, partly by using human growth hormones.

As a kid, Chris was diagnosed with asthma and prescribed prednisone, but the medication gave him osteoporosis, weakening his bones. Though he desperately wanted to join the family business and wrestle alongside his brothers, it was a constant struggle due to his health problems. He would suffer brutal injuries, including one night where he broke both his ulna and radius after successive blows to his arm. The injury left Chris on the sidelines and unable to compete, which devastated him. On September 12, 1991, Chris became the second Adkisson brother to die by suicide. He was found by his older brother, Kevin.

Chris was under the influence of both cocaine and Valium at the time of his death, and his family has expressed doubt that he meant to kill himself, suggested the fatal shooting may have been an accident. He was just weeks shy of his 22nd birthday.

Lacey Von Erich

Kerry Adkisson had two daughters, Lacey and Holly Adkisson. Lacey would briefly follow in her dad's footsteps and set foot in the ring under the persona of Lacey Von Erich — the first female Von Erich to do so. Lacey was born on July 17, 1986, just months after her father's devastating motorcycle accident. As a kid, she grew up going to matches with her father, and has been very open about his death by suicide when she was 6 years old. During a 2017 interview with USA Today Sports, she called her father "the greatest wrestler that ever lived."

From 2007–2009, Lacey wrestled in the WWE and TNA organizations, along with a few independent promotions, too. She was brought into the business by controversial WWE owner Vince McMahon after changing the last name on her social media from Adkisson to Von Erich and getting his attention, but she struggled to balance wrestling with her family life and eventually retired from the ring in 2010.

However, Lacey has far from abandoned the wrestling world. In the 2017 interview, she mentioned she was working on creating a new wrestling promotion with other famous wrestling children, including Brooke Hogan and Ariel Piper — the daughters of superstar wrestlers Hulk Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper. It remains to be seen if the promotion will launch, but she doesn't sound done with wrestling by a longshot. 

Ross Von Erich

David Michael Ross Adkisson, professionally known as Ross Von Erich, is the eldest of Kevin Adkisson's two sons. Ross was born on May 31, 1988, in Texas. As a kid his main interest was in football, and he played defensive end for this high school. Yet, even at a young age Ross had aspirations about following in his father's footsteps and going into professional wrestling, and he was already thinking about the WWE by the time he was 17. Ross did briefly play football for North Texas State University, the alma mater of his father, but he soon decided to dedicate his career to wrestling.

He got his start alongside his younger brother, Marshall Adkisson, training with Harley Race, but they were soon signed to an overseas promotion and began wrestling in Japan. He moved with his family to Hawaii in 2007, and both of the brothers live a holistic, natural, and drug-free lifestyle. Since making his debut in 2012, Ross has wrestled in several different organizations, including for Jim Crockett Promotions, ECWA, and TNA.

In 2017, Ross and Marshall wrestled with their father at an event in Tel Aviv, and they use the same "Iron Claw" finishing move as him in the ring. In 2019, Ross and Marshall signed with Major League Wrestling (MLW), but became free agents in May 2023 when the deal expired. Still, they did manage to become tag-team champions during their stay, just like their dad decades before them.

Marshall Von Erich

The younger brother of Ross Adkisson, Kevin Marshall Adkisson is named after his father, though he goes by the stage persona of Marshall Von Erich. Marshall was born on November 10, 1992. Like his uncle Kerry Adkisson, he was very gifted at discus throwing when he was younger, even setting a state record. While he did not plan on being a pro wrestler, he found himself to be a natural as soon as he and his brother started training and competing.

He got his first in-ring experience for the NOAH promotion with Ross in Japan, though on their first tour they were relegated to cleaning duty. The two subsequently wrestled around the world when their time with NOAH was done, and they pay homage to their family name during their events. Not only do they use the "Iron Claw" finisher, but for their entrance music they play a cover of the song their uncles would sometimes use, Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold."

After taking a hiatus, Marshall posted an Instagram showing him back in the ring in November 2023, at the River City Wrestling (RCW) event alongside his brother Ross. Marshall is open about the so-called "family curse," but it doesn't stop him from trying to carry on the Von Erich family legacy.

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