This week, 40 years ago, Kerry Von Erich made history by defeating Ric Flair to become the youngest NWA World Heavyweight Champion in history.

You see, Kerry’s win wasn’t supposed to happen. Kerry Von Erich was not supposed to be the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Kerry’s brother, David, was earmarked for this title win and was to be Texas’ heir to the NWA crown.

The prior September, David defeated Flair to win the NWA Missouri Heavyweight Championship in somewhat of a test or a stepping stone before he would be christened worthy enough for the top title in the wrestling industry. Supposedly—to my knowledge, nobody has gone on record with this—the NWA Championship Committee voted in January 1984 that David would win the NWA Title from Ric Flair at some point in the calendar year.

David and Flair began building the storyline; Flair had already beaten David on the annual World Class Championship Wrestling Christmas night show and came back a few days later to badmouth David’s younger brother, Mike Von Erich. Flair said he could beat Mike with one arm tied behind his back, and better yet, he could do it in 60 seconds.

In January, David did an interview in which he discussed Flair’s challenge to his brother Mike and offered a stipulation of his own. If Flair could beat Mike in 10 minutes, then David would never again challenge for the Ten Pounds of Gold. But if Flair did NOT beat Mike in 10 minutes, David would get an NWA Title match where he wanted, when he wanted. The idea was, of course, that David would choose his home base of Dallas. When? We’d never know.

On January 30, 1984, Flair failed to beat Mike in 10 minutes. David appeared on the February 6, 1984 World Class show to say how proud he was of his brother Mike and that when he returned from a tour of Japan, he was going to face Flair for the belt.

David never made it back to Japan.

On February 10, 1984, during a tour with All Japan Pro Wrestling, David Von Erich was found dead in his hotel room. Controversy still remains on the exact cause of his death. The family has consistently said David died of a heart attack or ruptured intestines. Others had indicated that it was a drug overdose and that Bruiser Brody, who was on tour with David, removed all evidence of drugs before authorities got to his room.

Regardless of what happened, the wrestling world was devastated by the loss. In Texas, it wasn’t just losing a famous wrestler; the region mourned the loss as if a family member or distinguished dignitary had passed away. The state may have mourned David’s death more than that of John F. Kennedy, who was assassinated in the state for god’s sake.

In his excellent introduction to wrestling in 1984 column, Charles of summed up the true gravity of David’s loss:

“The city of Dallas mourned because the Von Erichs were such a big part of the local culture. In a metro area of 2.7 million people, over 600,000 households tuned in to watch a one-hour tribute to David that aired the following day. His funeral, attended by over 3,000 people, even had 1,500 fans show up and demand to pay their respects. WCCW closed operations for 10 days, an unheard of practice in that era.”

When World Class did open its operations back up, it did so with one goal in mind: to get David’s younger brother Kerry Von Erich the NWA World Title.

While tragedy came to define The Von Erichs in the 80s, triumph reigned supreme on this week 40 years ago.

Read the full piece at