A couple of celebratory, pro-Von Erich posts at the Kayfabe Memories forum reminded me of an article I read by Irv Muchnick several years ago. As it is fairly hard to find these days - and in the name of historical context, I felt it would be good to post a copy & paste.
Originally published in Penthouse magazine, Muchnick attempts to reconcile Jack Adkisson's evangelical stance in the 1980s with the ever-mounting family tragedies that befell him. Outside of a couple of questionable spins (which is not at all new to him), Muchnick's piece was - and still is - quite powerful.
So without further adieu...
By Irvin Muchnick
MAY 11, 1987. LESS THAN A month after his
brother Mike killed himself because he felt he couldn't live up to the
family name, Kevin Von Erich was working the main event in Fort Worth
when something rare happened: a moment of spontaneous, unmediated
terror. As the television cameras rolled, teenage girls squealed, and
spectators shouted for blood, Kevin and his opponent crisscrossed off
the ropes. No doubt they were setting up the usual wild finish - perhaps
a variation on the patented Von Erich Iron Claw, or a violent collision
followed by an out-of-control brawl outside the ring, or maybe a
miscarriage of justice with the ref taking an accidental bump and
failing to see the heel clobber the baby face with a foreign object.
never know what the climax of this match was supposed to be. For
suddenly, without being touched, Kevin Von Erich's abused body defied
the script. Instead of snapping smartly off the ring's taut ropes, he
sagged heavily against the strands. Recoiling, he wobbled toward the
center of the canvas, then collapsed, torso convulsing, pupils rolled
The fans in attendance at the Will Rogers Coliseum
probably thought they were witnessing the first documented case of a
professional wrestler falling into holy rapture. What they were actually
seeing, though, was the champion of the World Class Wrestling
Association simply passing out in the middle of the ring in the middle
of a match.
No matter what those in legit sports and others of
respectable breeding may think, wrestling is a subtle, extemporaneous
art form; experienced pros pride themselves on their ability to salvage
even the most sour finish. But Kevin Von Erich's swan dive supplied more
grim reality than any ordinary eight-man tag-team match could bear.
Chaos reigned at ringside. The bell rang. The TV cameras were switched
off. Wrestler Tommy Rogers scrambled through the ropes and performed
C.P.R. on his fallen partner, who was turning blue.
being released from Harris Methodist Fort Worth Hospital, Kevin
explained on television how he'd nearly been killed by a dreaded new
oriental neck punch, courtesy of his hated rival, Brian Adias. Kevin
vowed to avenge the blow the next time they met, whether it be in Fort
Worth or Dallas or Mesquite or Lubbock or ...
With the heady
brew of half-truth and chutzpah that only the hypemeisters of wrestling
could concoct, a genuine brush with mortality became just another angle
to sell tickets.
YOU'VE BEEN LIVING ANYWHERE north of the Seychelles Islands, you
already know that the pro wrestling resurgence is the marketing
phenomenon of the eighties. If you're a fan of any seriousness, you've
also heard of the Von Erichs, wrestling's tragedy-plagued, All-American
first family. Hard-core aficionados will tell you that long before
Madison Avenue turned Hulk Hogan, Rowdy Roddy Piper, and Andre the Giant
into household names, the hottest promotion in the country wasn't by
New York's World Wrestling Federation but by Dallas's World Class
The furor over World Class centers on
the fuhrer of World Class: Jack B. Adkisson on his driver's license,
Fritz Von Erich to you and me - a Prussian bad guy who, through the
magic of media manipulation, transmogrified into a God-fearing crowd
favorite before retiring as an active wrestler. As a full-time promoter,
Von Erich proceeded to build an empire around his photogenic sons:
David, the rambunctious Yellow Rose of Texas; Kerry, the dumb but
lovable jock with the long thick hair and Conan pecs; Kevin, the
barefooted high-flying specialist; and Mike, the earnest overachiever.
Together they pioneered the use of modern rock-video production
techniques for their televised wrestling shows, and shattered attendance
records in the early part of the decade.
Today the Von Erich
dynasty is in ruins, both personally and professionally - a cautionary
tale of the bitter price of celebrity, the excesses of parental
authority, and the dangers in believing your own press clippings. Two of
Fritz's boys suffered drug-related deaths. A third continues to wrestle
despite a crippling leg injury. The fourth and oldest, Kevin, is the
hapless hearththrob who took that unscheduled pratfall in Fort Worth. At
a show at Reunion Arena last Christmas, shortly after selling a share
of the promotion to a new partner, Fritz pulled his latest stunt to drum
up sympathy for himself and his kids: He faked a seizure that for a
while, allegedly, left him near death.
Somewhere along the way, a
cute concept decayed into a macabre body count. "I've been around a lot
of special athletes, but I've never witnessed anything like the
development of this single family that, in its day, completely conquered
the world of wrestling," says Bill Mercer, a Dallas sportscaster who
used to announce for the Von Erichs. "For one son to follow in his
father's footsteps is common enough. For two sons to do so is
extraordinary. That a man could wield enough family control for three
and four sons ... well, it's all pretty amazing. And also pretty
Indeed, in the figure of patriarch Fritz Von
Erich, this ten-gallon tragedy, rife with Texas-size scandal, becomes a
melodrama of Shakespearean proportion. In addition to being one of the
top powerbrokers in wrestling - that bizarre amalgam of sport and
theatre rooted in the nineteenth-century carnival tent - Fritz is a
born-again Christian, a respected member of the nation's largest
Southern Baptist congregation, a pillar of the community with ties to
everyone from former presidential candidate Pat Robertson to Forbes 400
oilman H.R. "Bum" Bright, owner of the Dallas Cowboys. In those
capacities, he airbrushes his sons' image, exploiting not only their
bodies but also their misfortunes. The fall of the house of Von Erich is
Jim Bakker with a dropkick, a combination of pseudoathletic zeal and
quasi-religious righteousness, a farcical footnote to the sleazy legacy
There's one key difference, though. At the
P.T.L. ministry the lietmotiv was sexual and financial impropriety; the
scars were essentially psychology and fiduciary. At World Class
Championship Wrestling, people are dying.
6, 1984. WRESTLING HISTORY WAS MADE as 32,123 fans at Texas Stadium -
plus other thousands via closed-circuit - attended the David Von Erich
Memorial Parade of Champions. In those pre-WrestleMania days, the
$402,000 gate was the second-largest of all time.
was much like it was at David's funeral three months earlier at the
First Baptist Church in Denton. On that occasion, almost 3,000 admirers -
many of them kids listening to the service on a makeshift public-
address system on the church lawn - paid their respects. You couldn't
buy a yellow rose in north Texas that day. Now his fans were waiting in
the longest concession lines this side of a Prince concert to pay $10
for the same eight-by-ten color photo of David that used to go for $3.
Underscoring the rock show mood was fan Glen Goza's performance of his
eulogy in song, "Heaven Needed a Champion," which had been getting
airplay on Dallas radio stations.
The main event, between Kerry
Von Erich and Ric Flair for the world title, had great heat. After 13
minutes, Kerry pinned Flair with a backslide; the championship that had
been promised to his late brother was his. As the gold belt was
presented to Kerry, who was surrounded by family and friends, tears
flowed unashamedly under the searing Texas sun.
VON ERICHS REFUSED TO GRANT an interview for this story. "We see no
reason to respond," Fritz wrote in a certified letter, because this
article "is not based on fact and appears to be of malicious intent." A
recent cover story in D, a Dallas magazine, describes Fritz bellowing to
a business associate not to tell us a thing: "We're not going to be
written about like trash.... My family isn't going to be in a damn
pornographic magazine!" As we were going to press, Fritz's partner, Ken
Mantell, told the Dallas Times Herald that "anyone who says the Von
Erichs are not a Christian family, well, that's a crock. An outright
lie.... Being a Christian does not mean you are perfect, does not mean
you haven't made mistakes in your life. There's another book that says,
'Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.'"
warned that the family was prepared to take legal action if any nuggets
of official mythology, such as the circumstances of David Von Erich's
death, were challenged. "His sons' image is very important to Mr. Von
Erich, and he'll do what he feels is necessary in order to protect it,"
the spokesman said.
That much is certainly true, according to
friends and foes alike in the ultrasecretive wrestling business. "If you
know Fritz," says a fellow promoter, "you know he's sincere from the
way he thinks. He truly believes the tragedies of his family have
brought many, many youngsters to Christ. He thinks the Von Erichs are
the most name-conscious family in sports." Another promoter agrees, but
adds, "You have to wonder why, after all he's been through, he doesn't
just find his kids a nice hamburger stand somewhere and say, 'Here,
you'll live longer this way.'"
Jack and Doris Adkisson have
known tragedy from early in their marriage. Their first son, Jack Jr.,
died in 1959, at the age of seven. In those days, climbing the wrestling
ladder, Fritz Von Erich was on the road constantly, working not only
big-city arenas, but also hundreds of tank towns in between.
more boys followed for the Adkissons, and by the time they were in
their formative years, Von Erich had bought out Dallas promoter Ed
McLemore. He was also a millionaire, largely through real estate
investments in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex during a couple of
building booms in the 1970s. At one point he owned three airplanes, a
cattle herd, and 5,000 quail. The family homestead was a 168-acre ranch
near Lake Dallas (now called Lewisville Lake) in the town of Corinth, a
small Denton County community north of Dallas, where he served as a city
Two factors peculiar to the Dallas corporate
culture contributed to Von Erich's business success, the first being the
mystique surrounding his tenure as a football player at Southern
Methodist University. In fact, Fritz was only a part-time offensive
guard for one season at S.M.U. in 1949. But he managed to parlay those
92 minutes of blocking in front of the legendary Doak Walker - as well
as a record discus throw in a track meet the following spring - into a
niche in the S.M.U. business clique: a circle of powerful friends,
including insurance magnates, bankers, and politicians, that controls
much of the city's commercial life.
Then there was religion. In
his recently published "The Von Erichs: A Family Album," Fritz recalls
being deeply moved by a sermon given by Dr. W.A. Criswell at the First
Baptist Church in downtown Dallas around 1974. Shortly thereafter, a
divine voice guided him to open his Bible to Psalms 23; not long after
that, the same powerful force compelled him to pull his car over to the
shoulder of Interstate 35E one day and ponder his sins. Jack "Fritz Von
Erich" Adkisson was born again.
The potent alchemy of sports,
show biz, and evangelism became explicit in the fall of 1981, when World
Class Championship Wrestling began its relationship with the Christian
Broadcasting Network's Dallas station, KXTX, Channel 39. A KXTX producer
masterminded a new-style wrestling show that was briskly paced and
employed four cameras, instant replays, and features edited to the beat
of hit songs, a la MTV. In almost every respect, the program's slick
production values foreshadowed the manufacturing of "Hulkamania" on the
East Coast three years later. At its peak, World Class was syndicated
into more than 60 markets across the country. (Since 1986, it has also
been seen regularly on ESPN, the cable sports network.) Fritz Von Erich
even appeared several times on Pat Robertson's CBN talk show, The 700
Sons Kevin, David, and Kerry fit naturally into the core
of the World Class talent stable - clean-cut, carefree country boys who
looked good in the ring and even better on posters. "These boys were
raised to be jocks," Fritz told The Dallas Morning News in 1983. "When
they were youngsters, there were no kids scrawnier than mine. They were
made into champions." A close observer describes his paternalistic style
as "hands-on": "Fritz is a very aggressive, physical guy. When you saw
him with the boys, there was always a lot of hugging and displays of raw
affection. But he was also very strict. It was all 'Yes, sir' and 'No,
sir.' He ruled the roost with an iron hand."
Kevin started at
fullback as a freshman at North Texas State University before a knee
injury ended his football career, and Kerry earned a track scholarship
at the University of Houston by winning the state high school
championship in the discus throw. Once they got into wrestling, though,
David outshone both of them, due mostly to his fiercely independent
spirit. As the boys grew older and married, Fritz continued to keep them
on a short chain: For years, all of their families lived within a mile
or so of their parents. But in 1981, David rebelled. After a dispute
with his father, David went on the road. During nine months as a villain
on the Florida circuit, he learned all the psychological tricks of the
wrestling trade - working the crowd, calling the "spots" in a tough
match, doing kick-ass interviews - with a thoroughness that would have
never been possible if he hadn't had the courage to leave Fritz's
glowering shadow. When David came back to Texas in late 1982, he was as
polished and professional as the Beatles upon their return to Liverpool
Thanks to David's smarts, Kerry's popularity, and
their antagonists, the perfidious Fabulous Freebirds, Dallas grew into a
major wrestling capital. In 1984, David was slated to capture the
championship of the National Wrestling Alliance (one of the sport's
several major bodies). In Febru ary of that year, hoping to season
himself further and enhance his recognition abroad, he embarked on his
second tour of Japan. On the day of his first scheduled match, he was
found dead on the floor of his hotel room in Tokyo. He was 25 years old.
The cause, or causes, of David's death are a mystery. The Von
Erichs say he died of a ruptured intestine caused by a hard lick during a
match in Japan; but that's obviously false, since David hadn't yet
wrestled there. Nor can we put much stock in the family's other
kaleidoscopic accounts, which have included, but are not limited to, (a)
a stroke, (b) a heart attack after a strenuous match, and (c) food
poisoning from eating sushi.
The gospel inside dressing rooms
and booking offices has always been that David died of drugs. Sources
close to the handful of American personnel who accompanied him on that
tour confirm that, in the hours following the discovery of his body by a
Japanese wrestling official and before the arrival of the police, drugs
were flushed down the toilet. There is, in fact, even reason to wonder
if an autopsy was performed before the body was flown back to the
States. (The Von Erichs at first offered to show me a copy of David's
autopsy report and death certificate, but later reneged.)
drug hidden from the authorities was a sleeping medication called
Placidyl. If David mixed it with alcohol (and he was known to be fond of
Jack Daniels), he may well have taken a lethal dose and, in the
isolation of a foreign hotel room, been beyond the reach of timely help.
Of course, it's also entirely possible that a drug reaction compounded
the effects of a stomach disorder.
Whatever it was that did
David in, his loss devastated World Class. Fritz's religious tone became
more strident and sectarian than ever; the show now even featured an
official World Class chaplain, a charismatic minister named Gary Holder
who regularly used air time to sing his boss's praises. The other
brothers' histrionics increasingly resembled those of just another
old-fashioned local-family promotion with a flashy production number.
Eventually Fritz lost interest in the day-to-day operations and
retreated to his new house near Tyler. Weekly shows at the Sportatorium
used to be automatic sellouts; now they were sometimes lucky to draw 200
people. The booking agenda lurched from the creation of a phony Von
Erich "cousin" to the use of female mud wrestlers. In 1987, World Class
tried to turn things around by parting company with KXTX and signing a
new production deal with Bum Bright, whose personal fortune is estimated
at more than $600 million. But by then Connecticut promoter Vince
McMahon had already turned his World Wrestling Federation into a cash
cow of unprecedented international multimedia merchandising.
the wrestling industry David's demise was one of those events, like
JFK's assassination or Buddy Holly's plane crash, that utterly reshaped
the landscape. The hoopla surrounding his funeral created the uneasy
sense that this goofy fringe form of junk entertainment was getting too
big for its britches. Virtually overnight, wrestling repositioned itself
near the mainstream of the show-biz spectrum via the brave new world of
video - a sea change that would bring both unforeseen marketing
opportunities and unforeseen human costs. And many in this enterprise of
excess couldn't handle the new responsibility.
Abuse of drugs,
especially cocaine and steroids, had long been part of the game. Now the
sums of disposable income grew larger, the pressure to beef up
physiques more intense, the one-night stands more far-flung and
demanding. During pro wrestling's renaissance, the deaths of athletes in
their twenties and thirties - not to mention the auto accidents and
legal scrapes stemming from their impairment - became almost as
commonplace as packed houses and children's toy deals. Some of the most
egregious examples have emanated from that bastion of Christian virtue:
The most potentially damaging drug incident was
Kerry's arrest in Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport in June 1983.
Kerry and his wife were returning from their honeymoon in Puerto
Vallarta, Mexico, when U.S. Customs agents, during a routine inspection,
caught him with 18 unmarked tablets in his right front pocket. Inside
the crotch of his pants was a plastic bag containing an assortment of
nearly 300 other pills (including codeine, diazapem, Librium, and
possibly Percodan), ten grams of marijuana, and 6.5 grams of "blue and
white powder." Eighteen months later the charges were dropped by the
Tarrant County district attorney.
With that kind of discipline
from the top, the word quickly spread that World Class was one of the
worst drug offices in wrestling - a reputation reinforced in February
1986 when Gino Hernandez, one of its leading stars, died of a massive
cocaine overdose. Shortly before his death, Hernandez was feuding on TV
with Chris Adams, and they had recently done one of those ridiculous
skits in which the dastardly Hernandez supposedly blinded the
gentlemanly Adams. World Class announcer Bill Mercer later put
everything in perspective. "We have suffered two terrible tragedies in
the last week - the blinding of Chris Adams and the death of Gino
Hernandez," Mercer deadpanned.
2, 1987. ON CRUTCHES, KERRY Von Erich slipped undetected into the stage
entrance of the Fort Worth Convention Center for his first match since
June 1986, when suffered a dislocated hip, a crushed right ankle, and
internal injuries in a motorcycle accident.
Fans were assured
that Kerry was ready to rumble. What they didn't know was that in the
days after the accident - in which Kerry, traveling at an unsafe speed
and making an ill-advised pass, plowed into the back of a patrol car -
doctors almost had to amputate his foot. In 13 hours of delicate
microsurgery, they transplanted tissue from other parts of Kerry's body
to his extremity in an effort to restore circulation and movement.
opponent this evening was carefully instructed to "sell" for Kerry, for
it was clear in advance that the man who was once among the most agile
250-pounders in wrestling would be virtually immobile. Still, they had
to try to make a good show of it; so while Kerry changed into his
trunks, a doctor filled a syringe with enough novocaine to numb
Secretariat's hoof. Thus fortified, Kerry discarded his crutches,
gritted his teeth, and hobbled into the ring. The match lasted five
minutes and, as planned, Kerry won. Afterward, when the novocaine wore
off, an examination revealed that the ankle had rebroken. Four months
later, in another operation, the foot was permanently fused into a
walking position. On Thanksgiving in 1987, Kerry returned again, but he
would never be the same.
OF THE SUPREME IRONIES of World Class Championship Wrestling was that,
through satellite technology, it became one of the most popular
English-language programs in, of all places, Israel. It was on the
August 1985 tour there that Mike Von Erich began the final fall of his
short, tragic life.
If David's death was a pharmacological
fluke, and Gino Hernandez's just an inevitable part of the business's
ruthless fallout, Mike's was a crime against decency. He never should
have been a wrestler in the first place. Insiders say that, with the
possible exception of an occasional gimmick headliner such as Mr. T,
Mike Von Erich was the single most pathetic piece of talent ever given a
major push. Small, tentative, and uncoordinated inside the squared
circle, weak and halting in interviews, he had nothing going for him
except his name. Mike himself seemed to realize as much, and the guilt
showed in his shifting eyes and erratic body language. Meanwhile,
meeting his father's rigid expectations took an incalculable toll on his
personal growth. Desperate to be as big as his brothers (he was billed
as 220 pounds but never weighed more than 180), he took dangerous doses
of steroids. Despondent over what he interpreted as his inability to
live up to the family name, he took uppers and downers. Once shy and
naturally likable, he became unruly and troublesome. At the end, he made
repeated cries for help - vague smoke signals at first, then stark
sandwich-board signs, finally resorting to wanton binges of self-
"I know we're only 'rasslers,' but we're still
people and we have to treat our children like people," says Lou Thesz,
arguably the sport's greatest performer from the forties through the
mid-sixties. "And you can't live your life through your kids. Fritz
never understood that. I remember watching him one time backstage in
Fort Worth. They had the TV monitor on, and there was this man - grossly
overweight, chain-smoking - sitting there transfixed, watching his
kids. Every time one of them did something, he'd turn and point to the
screen and say, 'Isn't that great?' It was embarrassing."
Von Erich hagiography, Mike was another great one, second only to Kevin
in natural prowess. "He had a bad shoulder which stayed injured much of
the time in high school," the Family Album states. "In track he was an
All-District hurdler, long jumper, and discus thrower." The memory of
Lloyd Taliaferro, the athletic director at Lake Dallas High School,
varies slightly. "Mike was a good boy, but he didn 't compete much
beyond the junior-varsity level," Taliaferro says. "Once, when he was a
sophomore, he took a spill over a hurdle and hurt himself. That shook
him up real bad."
Kevin, David, and Kerry at least had brief
collegiate careers; Mike was funneled directly into wrestling. Within
months he had a world-title shot. But despite Fritz's efforts to sell
Mike as a stud, the fans never bought it. His frustration over his
chronic bad shoulder and inability to get "over" manifested itself in
sprees of ill-tempered violence outside the ring. In May 1985, Mike was
charged with two counts of misdemeanor assault against Dr. Timothy
Shepherd during an emergency-room altercation at First Texas Medical
Center in Lewisville. A Denton County judge later acquitted him.
Tel Aviv Stadium, a bad bump in a rock-hard ring caused Mike's bum
shoulder to pop out again. Following an operation on the shoulder as
soon as he returned to Texas, he somehow contracted one of the rare male
cases of toxic shock syndrome, a form of blood poisoning most commonly
associated with tampon use. Transferred to Baylor University Medical
Center with a 105-degree fever, his kidneys next to useless, Mike clung
to life as calls from concerned fans flooded the hospital switchboard.
(The Von Erichs, with characteristic modesty, say the outpouring
exceeded that which accompanied President Kennedy's trip to the Parkland
Hospital emergency room in 1963.) The Von Erichs held a press
conference for their fans to thank them for their prayers. "Folks, let
me tell you, a miracle took place, just that we have Mike today," Kevin
Fritz, however, was never content with just having his son
alive. Even though Mike's weight dropped to 145 pounds, and many
observers wondered if he'd suffered brain damage because of his slurred
speech, Fritz lost no time in repackaging him for the wrestling "marks."
Mike was nicknamed "The Living Miracle": Fans were promised that he
would defeat the odds, wrestle again, and claim a championship for God
and family. To give the gimmick momentum, Mike was wheeled out in a car
to wave to the 25,000 fans at the big October show at the Cotton Bowl.
He made his official return to the ring on July 4, 1986 - by which time
he was also battling hepatitis.
"There's almost nothing about
pro wrestling that really outrages me, except for the Von Erichs," says
Dave Meltzer, publisher of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter. In 1985,
the publication named the exploitation of Mike's illness "the most
disgusting promotional stunt" of the year.
The extent of Mike's
physical and mental deterioration became apparent during the production
of a TV special entitled The Von Erich Trilogy. At a taping session at a
local health club, Mike was shown working out and getting himself back
into fighting shape. The only problem was that after almost an hour of
takes, the crew couldn't get a coherent interview out of Mike. Never one
of the best "stick" men in wrestling, he was now hopelessly incompetent
at the microphone. He fidgeted, complained about the heat, took his
jacket off (revealing a stringy upper body), mentioned his wife (a
no-no, for as a teen idol he was supposed to make the boppers believe he
was eligible), and trailed off into a rambling monologue about the
biblical character Hezekiah and his attending physician, Dr. William
Sutker ("a great man who saved my life - he's Jewish, by the way, but he
told me this has meant a lot to him spiritually and everything"). When
the production crew finally gave up on the shoot, Mike retreated into
the corner with a young friend, and the two of them bragged loudly about
gang-banging a girl the night before. The others at the gym turned away
in revulsion. This wasn't wrestling. This wasn't religion. This was
Mike's weird behavior started leaking to the public.
In November 1985, he totaled his Lincoln Continental when he ran off an
embankment on State Highway 121 in Lewisville; miraculously, he escaped
with only a minor head injury. In May 1986, he was arrested in the early
morning hours in Fort Worth and spent five hours in jail on charges of
drunk and disorderly conduct. In February 1987, criminal mischief
charges were dismissed by a Tarrant County judge when Mike agreed to pay
a Fort Worth man $900 for kicking in the door of his car.
April 11, 1987, Mike left a bar in Denton and was swerving severely on
Highway 377, headed toward his apartment in Roanoke, when an officer
pulled him over. Inside his Mercury Grand Marquis were a small quantity
of marijuana and two prescription bottles. One of them, with a dirty
label more than three months old, said it contained 50 tablets of
Trinalin, an antihistamine commonly prescribed for hay fever. The bottle
actually contained 78 pills of five varieties: 42 of a barbiturate; 15
of a drug that wasn't analyzed but appeared to be Tedral, an asthma
medicine; ten of Buspar, an anxiety-relieving agent; ten large, round
reddish-orange pills that weren't identified; and one tablet of
Darvocet, a painkiller.
Mike tried to bribe the cop. When that
failed, he agreed to a blood test. It showed a blood-alcohol content of
.05 percent, well under the legal intoxication level of .10 percent, but
probably dangerous in combination with the other drugs in his system:
30 mg/L of ethchlorvynol (presumably from Placidyl - a cruel echo of
David's fate), 1.1 mg/L of butabital (a barbiturate), and 0.26 mg/L of
diazepam (suggesting the intake of Valium or its equivalent).
Von Erichs dispatched the family lawyer to the Denton County jail to
post his $3,500 bond for drunk-driving and controlled-substance charges.
That was at 3:20 p.m. on Saturday, and it was the last time anyone ever
saw Michael Brett Adkisson alive. Early the next week, a note was found
in his apartment. It read: "PLEASE UNDERSTAND I'M A FUCK-UP! I'M
SORRY." Along the side was scrawled: "I love U Kerry, Kevin & your
families." On Wednesday evening, Mike's car was spotted near the
entrance to a park on the south shore of Lewisville Lake; inside was a
second note, which said simply, "Mom and Dad, I'm in a better place.
I'll be watching."
While police combed the many square miles of
woods around the lake, family members gathered for the vigil. But not
Fritz - he attended a scheduled evangelical crusade in Denton. That
night in Lubbock, where Mike was scheduled to wrestle, the crowd was
told that he was missing and that "foul play" was suspected. To the
bitter end, Fritz Von Erich was determined to burnish the family image.
Hours later a K-9 corps dog located Mike's body in a sleeping bag in a
tangle of underbrush.
The cause of death was acute Placidyl intoxication. He was 23.
3, 1987. THE SPRING WRESTLING extravaganza at the home of the Dallas
Cowboys was now an established tradition in the Metroplex sports scene.
Of course, the latest death in the family dictated a few adjustments in
the format. For one thing, instead of the Fourth Annual David Von Erich
Memorial Parade of Champions, this was the David and Mike Von Erich
Memorial Parade of Champions; for another, Sweet Brown Sugar had to
substitute for Mike in the Canadian lumberjack match against Brian
Adias. There were many other changes - most notably the presence of only
5,900 fans, who paid a mere $71,000. The Von Erichs had publicized a
$100 ticket entitling the holder to a luxury box seat and catered meal
with the family; when only 14 fans signed up, that idea was scrapped.
bouts, gospel-singing prodigy Jill Floyd took to the ring to deliver a
stirring reprise of "Heaven Needed a Champion." She was followed by the
composer, Glen Goza, who recited a poem dedicated to young Mike.
while Mike Von Erich's hallowed Christian memory was being invoked,
maintenance workers prepared the pit for an upcoming women's
mud-wrestling special attraction.