In the late 80’s until about 1996 my brother and I really got into the World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment). Most people would consider these years to be the peak popularity of the WWF, with Yokozuna, Bret “The Hitman” Hart, and The Undertaker among the most famous. One of the lesser known wrestlers at the time was the Texas Tornado, a fantastic athlete who was unfortunately considered by others as some kind of an Ultimate Warrior Lite. He was a “face”, the term used for the “good guys” in wrestling parlance. He won an intercontinental championship once, but he never really became one of the A-listers.
I’ve been re-watching the classic Royal Rumble 1994 match-up between Yokozuna and The Undertaker on Youtube, and for some reason I got into some videos about The Texas Tornado. Before I knew it I was reading articles about him and his tragic family life. Kerry Von Erich was one of the six sons of Fritz Von Erich, a famous wrestler in his time. Of his six children, five died early. The first Von Erich child died when he was still a young boy after getting accidentally electrocuted. The second died of an intestinal infection while wrestling in Japan, but there was a persistent rumor that he overdosed on drugs. The other three committed suicide, including The Texas Tornado who shot himself.
Many professional wrestlers died young. The injuries have caused some to become addicted to painkillers, while others succumbed to the long term metabolic adverse effects of anabolic steroid use. I sometimes feel deflated seeing our childhood heroes Bret Hart and The Undertaker now looking very old in their interviews, but also happy that they are alive and well.