33 Years Ago Today David Von Erich Passes Away
February 10, 2017
33 years ago today in Tokyo, Japan, David Alan Adkisson, best known to wrestling fans as “The Yellow Rose of Texas” David Von Erich, dies while on tour with All Japan Pro Wrestling at the young age of 25.
Born July 22, 1958 in Dallas, Texas, David was an avid fisherman and hunter as a child, and enjoyed hunting with his brothers Kevin and Kerry and father Fritz. David also enjoyed raising horses, a hobby that turned into quite the profitable business away from the ring. David was a two-sport star at Lake Dallas High School and gained a scholarship to North Texas State University, but dropped out to join the other family business: professional wrestling.
David began wrestling in June 1977; just two months in, he went to a thirty-minute draw with Harley Race for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. David was considered a future star primarily for his memorable promos and interviews (his natural fiery temper played a hand in that). David would be well traveled over the next few years. In May 1979, he defeated Harley Race in Missouri in a non-title match. He wrestled one match for the WWF in November 1979, then after briefly returning to Texas, wrestled in Florida under the guidance of James J. Dillon, whose stable included Kendo Nagasaki and Jimmy Garvin. During his brief time there, he was mentored by Dory Funk, Jr., and often teamed with him or Dory’s brother Terry.
David returned to Texas in 1982 with Jimmy Garvin, and the two would create one of the hotter angles in World Class Championship Wrestling History. The angle culminated on July 4, 1983 when David won the WCCW Texas State Championship. The win forced Garvin and his valet Sunshine to serve as valets for David for a day. The two would go their separate ways following the feud; Garvin would feud with Chris Adams, while David joined the rest of the Von Erichs in the blood feud with the Freebirds.
It was David that invited the Fabulous Freebirds to WCCW in the fall of 1982. Michael Hayes and Terry Gordy made the trip initially, but Buddy Roberts did not. Initially booked as faces, the group turned heel when Michael Hayes turned on Kerry Von Erich after gift-wrapping the NWA world title, then Terry Gordy slammed the cage door as Kerry tried to leave the cage. David would be a part of many notable Freebirds vs. Von Erichs bouts, including a handcuff match against Terry Gordy in April 1983, a six-man tag bout at Star Wars in July 1983, and defeating Gordy for the NWA United National Championship in February 3, 1984.
During that time, he also feuded with Ric Flair, whom he defeated for the NWA Missouri Heavyweight Championship in September 1983; the reign was seen as a stepping stone to him winning the NWA world title the following spring. After Flair made some dismissive comments about David’s brother Mike’s wrestling ability, David proposed that Mike could last ten minutes with Flair. If Mike failed, David could never again challenge for the NWA world title; if Mike succeeded, David would get a shot at Ric on his own terms, naming the time, place, and stipulations for the bout. On January 30, 1984, Flair failed to defeat Mike in the 10 minutes, giving David his NWA world title shot.
The match, scheduled for April, would never happen. While on tour with All Japan Wrestling, David was found dead in his hotel room in Tokyo. In the days leading up to his death, David was taken to the emergency room at Spohn Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas after he had complained of dizziness and flu-like symptoms. The official cause of death was never determined.
Many, including Ric Flair, suggested that a drug overdose led to his demise and David’s friend Bruiser Brody removed the evidence, flushing the drugs down a toilet to protect the family name. Bill Irwin, who was on the same tour with David, disputes the claim. The Von Erichs themselves said it was a heart attack caused by ruptured intestines resulting from acute enteritis, a theory supported by Kevin Von Erich and former World Class referee David Manning. At the time of his death, David was survived by his wife Tricia. She was interviewed about the tragedy in the June 1984 edition of The Wrestler magazine, but has largely been out of the public eye since.
On May 6, David’s brother Kerry (whom tragedy would fall upon nearly a decade later) would win the NWA World Heavyweight Championship from Ric Flair in Texas Stadium. Kerry wore a robe memorializing David, but would not wear it again after losing the title eighteen days later.
Mac, The Notorious Eddie. “This Day in Wrestling History (Feb. 10): David Von Erich Passes Away.” Cageside Seats. Cageside Seats, 10 Feb. 2017. Web. 10 Feb. 2017