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By Phil Hall | November 19, 2004

Fans of classic professional wrestling will have a blast with the DVD premiere of “Best of the Von Erichs.” Hosted by Kevin Von Erich, the last surviving member of the wrestling dynasty, this collection of seven matches, three music video-style compilations of body slams and pile drives, and interviews with the now 47-year-old Von Erich is too much fun to endure.

During the 1980s, the Von Erich Brothers (Kerry, Kevin, Michael and David) brought an extraordinary amount of attention to the Dallas-based World Class Championship Wrestling bouts. The sons of legendary wrestling villain Fritz Von Erich, the siblings took on the heroic mantle persona instead and were idolized by millions of fans. Many younger kids looked up to the Von Erichs for the precise and athletic manner in which they defeated perennial bad guys like Gentleman Chris Adams, Gino Hernandez and the Fabulous Freebirds. Women, who are usually not the usual wrestling audience kept their eyes on the Von Erichs, obviously enthralled by their muscular physiques and rock star-worthy good looks. Indeed, it was impossible for the Von Erichs to enter the ring without being hugged and kissed by an endless number of female fans. (It helped a lot that the Von Erichs’ competition lacked the photogenic appearance and chiseled physiques of the celebrated brothers.)

By the standards of today’s World Wrestling Entertainment, the grappling during the Von Erichs’ heyday was fairly tame and even a bit lethargic. The complicated storylines, mean-spirited personalities and excessive musculature of today’s wrestling was absent from that distant period; the closest the old school offered to running drama was having the Texas Von Erichs in a running grudge with the Georgia-based Fabulous Freebirds. Yet the Von Erichs brought a refined, almost balletic grace to their competition. They never seemed like big lummoxes, but rather they came across like serious athletes who took their competition very seriously – even when it was too obvious that the matches were anything but spontaneous.

The DVD includes footage with Kevin Von Erich today at his family ranch in Denton, Texas. He speaks warmly of the past and the memory of his late brothers (David died of intestinal complications in Japan, Mike and Kerry died in separate drug-related suicides); he is a very positive force and dwells on the happiness of his wrestling glory days rather than the tragedies which struck his family. Beyond the ring, Von Erich is also surprisingly more humorous and spontaneous than his wrestling persona. At one point he pulls off his shirt and challenges one of his teenage sons to a bout. When he later speaks of preparing his kids as the next generation of wrestling Von Erichs, the youngsters push their ebullient father into a swimming pool!

The only complaint with “Best of the Von Erichs” is the lack of quantity – only seven matches, albeit in their entirety – and the curious absence of Mike Von Erich from the footage. But more DVDs celebrating the Von Erichs are in production, so wrestling addicts will have more vintage fun to explore in the near future.

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