Another tragedy was just around the corner for the Von Erich family, this time it was Mike. The WCCW toured the middle east and during a match in Tel Aviv, Israel, Mike’s should popped out and during surgery he developed toxic shock syndrome and his condition was so bad his family were urged to visit him to say goodbye to him. While he pulled through and returned to the ring, his in-ring performances were a lot poorer and his dependence on drugs and alcohol affected his promo work and his speech was noticeably slurred and led to erratic behaviour.
The company became desperate at this stage and started using a wrestler by the name of Lance Von Erich. This hurt the company as fans rightly did not believe he was part of the Von Erich family and this is largely regarded as the worst mistake that Fritz ever made and saw the fans turn against the company after being lied to.
By now Gary Hart had returned to booking for the company and was instructed to help Gentleman Chris Adams turn heel. He soon found himself aligned with Gino Hernandez in a team named ‘Dynamic Duo’. The team was short lived as the two entered into a feud with each other which saw Adams’ being kayfabe blinded – in a move designed to allow him time to travel back to England to spend time with his new wife. The day after this incident Hernandez no-showed a house show and was found dead by local law enforcement officers. Again, there is debate over the cause of his death with it initially being seen as a cocaine overdose yet the autopsy found 3 times the amount of cocaine in his body to cause a fatality and foul play has not been ruled out due to the fact that Hernandez’s dead bolt on his door was not locked and he made it a habit in the past to lock the dead bolt at all times.
The decline of WCCW was in motion. 1986 saw the expansion of the WWF with other promotions, including WCCW, AWA and NWA struggling. It was also at this time that the WCCW split from the NWA due to Fritz’s belief that they did not want Kerry to be champion again. In July ’86, Chris Adams became the first WCCW World Heavyweight Champion but it didn’t hold the same stature as the NWA World Championship then held by Rick Rude.
Kerry Von Erich was involved in a motorcycle accident breaking his ankle and despite the WWE produced DVD showing Kerry state he wouldn’t rush back into the ring, unfortunately this is exactly what happened. With the company struggling and Kerry its biggest star, he felt obliged to return to teh ring far too early and this damaged his ankle further leading to amputation. It was around this time that Mike Von Erich returned to the ring but by this stage he was neither in the physical or mental condition to be there. Gripped by the belief that he was an embarrassment to his family and brought shame to the Von Erich name, he committed suicide.
Several unsuccessful attempts had been made in 1987–88 to take World Class national; among them was a sparsely-attended Von Erichs over America tour, and a merger between World Class, the AWA and CWA the following year. A major pay-per-view card, AWA SuperClash III, was held in Chicago in December 1988, featuring a world title unification match in which Jerry Lawler defeated Kerry Von Erich when the referee stopped the match due to excessive blood loss from Von Erich. However, SuperClash III was not a hit, and Pro Wrestling USA was dissolved. This is described as a futile attempt to recover form in the DVD combining 3 sinking ships to make 1 ship.
Kerry had yet another chance to fulfil his potential in 1990 when he joined the WWF and soon became the Intercontinental Champion. Gary Hart stated that he hoped this would straighten him out. Unfortunately, this wasn’t to be the case. The Kerry Von Erich that joined the WWF wasn’t the same as the one from WCCW and he was largely gripped by a steroid and paid killer addiction.
Further tragedy occurred when Chris Von Erich committed suicide. Despite lacking the athleticism of his brothers, he was desperate to break into teh Wrestling business but picked up numerous injuries, including breaking his arm completing a drop-kick, and realised he wasn’t cut out for it. He was found dead weeks after breaking his arm after shooting himself. Kerry too committed suicide in 1993 due to an impending court appearance for forging drug prescriptions. He believed he was likely to go to jail and couldn’t take it and shot himself in the chest. His death came just two days after a failed attempt to reconcile with his estranged wife and kids.
Without doubt one of the saddest stories associated with the world of wrestling. The Von Erich boys had it all but, as Kevin readily admits; they lived their lives to the max in the 80s and with little in the way of guidance tragedy struck. This DVD is fantastic – equal part joy and equal part sadness. It shows the viewer the great talent and rivalries that the WCCW had as well as the unparalleled grief. The WCCW went from the highest and greatest of highs to the lowest and most brutal of lows. It will be difficult to find a better wrestling documentary on the market. If there is one, I’ve not seen it.
See part one here…