If a parent is successful in a particular line of work, it’s not uncommon for their children to follow suit.
For brothers Marshall and Ross Adkisson, of Kapahi, they were never forced into the family business. But perhaps it was predetermined from the beginning.
“Well, we were never pressured into it. But we’re athletes,” said Ross, 29. “When I finished high school, I had a really short career in football in college, and Marshall was going to throw discus in college. It just kind of seemed like our destiny.”
On Kauai, they’re just known as the Adkissons. They can be seen riding their mopeds, which is quite the sight because Ross is 6-feet-tall and weighs 220 pounds and Marshall is 6-foot-4 and weighs 250 pounds.
But when they’re on the road, they go by a different moniker — the Von Erichs.
The two brothers are the sons of Kevin Adkisson, known more famously as Kevin Von Erich. The elder is part of the Von Erich wrestling family that is in the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Hall of Fame.
The group, which is comprised of father Fritz Von Erich — whose real name is Jack Adkisson — and sons Kevin, David, Kerry, Mike and Chris, was inducted in the pro wrestling hall of fame in 2009. Much of their success occurred during the 1980s.
Kevin is the last surviving member of that group.
“When we were kids, we were wrestling each other in the grocery stores. My dad was always grabbing us in headlocks,” Marshall said. “It was like a dream. It was like, ‘Eh, it probably won’t happen.’ I never thought wrestling because those guys were larger than life.”
The family is originally from Texas, but Kevin made Kauai his home in 2007.
“The reason we moved to Hawaii was my dad. When he’d fly and wrestle in Japan, he’d stop in Hawaii,” said Marshall, 25. “Each of his brothers had a deep love, especially Kauai. My Uncle Mike, he’d play the guitar. He enjoyed the slower style over here. … (My dad), he lived here in the ’80s. It was like a getaway for him, a break between wrestling and home. He’d stop here in between Japan and Texas.”
Ross graduated from Kauai Christian Academy in 2007, and Marshall graduated from Kapaa High School in 2011.
For a short time, Ross played football at the University of North Texas as a defensive back. But soon after the younger brother graduated from Kapaa High, the two started their journey into pro wrestling.
Kevin’s friend and former pro wrestler Harley Race invited the brothers to a training camp in Missouri.
“He called my dad because our dad sent a picture of us to him. He said, ‘Would your boys want to come to our wrestling academy?’ We were just laughing about it. Like, ‘That will be fun. Let’s do it,’” Marshall said.
“And we invited our family friend, Bryce (Hohenberger). He’s our age. Big dude. We all three went with my dad. Japanese scouts were there from (Japanese promotion) Pro Wresting Noah. We knew nothing about Pro Wrestling Noah. They came up to us like, ‘Hey, you look like Von Erichs. You look like Fritz Von Erich.’ I said, ‘That’s my grandfather.’ They were like, ‘Wow. And you have a brother? You’re real brothers?’ We were like ‘Yes.’”
Soon after, the Von Erichs were off to Japan where they trained for three months before making the pro debuts in 2012.
“I just remember being really nervous. There was so many people, and it was such a big show,” Ross said. “We did so much growing over there. … You’re being tested by the other wrestlers. You’re in the fire a lot, so to speak.”
For two years, the Von Erichs spent six months of the year in Japan and wrestled as often as four to five times a week.
Signing on with IWR
After Japan, the brothers signed on with Texas-Oklahoma regional promotion Imperial Wrestling Revolution (IWR) in 2013. In May, the duo became IWR Tag Team champions and still hold the titles.
The Von Erichs, though, had a chance to sign on with the WWE about two years ago. Some may find it surprising, but they ultimately decided not to go that route.
“When they (WWE) asked us, it really was like, ‘This is what I’ve been waiting for.’ Every wrestler, even in Japan, once they get contacted, they’re gone, no questions asked. I honestly was excited,” Marshall said. “I prayed about it. I went to the Hall of Fame with my dad.”
He explained: “Because what I have — traveling with my brother, going to different countries, we’re defending titles right now — things are still happening and we’re going through doors God opens, but it didn’t feel (like it’s) the right time. If we were going to WWE, we want to give them our best product. At that time, it didn’t feel like we were ready anyway. I don’t know. We don’t really have any interest in going.”
Setting a good example
These days, the two travel as often as once a month to the Midwest for IWR shows and can spend weeks to months on the Mainland. They’ve performed on Oahu as well.
It was on Oahu, in fact, that they realized they were starting to have some clout. And since then, they’ve worked to set good examples for the young fans they encounter.
“This is the day our careers changed. We were wrestling about seven or eight times a year. We were like, ‘Man, this is getting kind of slow. Should we be getting into something else?’ This was about two years ago,” Marshall said. “We had a match on Oahu. … Our pastor, he was telling us how we can use our influence for something good. We started thinking about it.
“We had our match on Oahu. This uncle messaged me on Facebook after and said, ‘Our boys are in the car. They said we shouldn’t fight all the time. We should get along like brothers should. We should stick together like the Von Erich brothers do.’ That right there, it was a changing point in our careers. We knew that, ‘OK. We have an influence on little kids right now. Let’s talk with as many little kids as we can.”
The brothers have also performed abroad. They’ve since returned to Japan after their beginning years and have also done shows in England and Israel.
On a recent trip, the Von Erichs were part of a show in Tel Aviv, Israel. This time, though, the brothers teamed up with their father. It was the first time Kevin Von Erich was seen in action in the ring in about 20 years, the brothers said.
“He called it his retirement match because he never had an official retirement match,” Marshall said. “The reason it’s special to us is because the reason we got into this business is because we wanted to be like our father. My mother told us our whole life, ‘You’re going to be just like your father.’”
Ross added: “It just all came full circle. The whole family got in the ring after. It was just a beautiful (experience).”
Bringing some local boys along
They returned to Kauai from Israel a few weeks ago. But soon enough, the brothers will be back on the road.
And this time, some homegrown talent will be joining them.
Noah Gusman, aka “The Kauai Kid” Noah Kaho’omana, of Lihue, will join the Von Erichs for shows on Saturday on Oahu and on Jan. 20 in Dallas, Texas.
Isaac Worth, of Lihue, will join the IWR Tag Team champs for a show on Jan. 27 in Detroit, Texas. Worth, the brothers said, will make his debut with the ring name “Chris Wild.”
“We train with Isaac and Noah. We constantly wrestle with each other, just to keep it fresh in our minds,” Marshall said. “They’ve been so helpful. They think we’re helping them out, but they’re helping us out so much. Being in that teaching mode, it makes you notice your mistakes a lot easier.”
Looking a bit further down the road, the Von Erichs plan on opening a pro wrestling training academy on Kauai.
They said a wrestling ring is ordered and is on its way. A location is to be determined but they plan on having a facility somewhere on Kauai’s Eastside.
They’re hoping to have the academy up and running sometime in the next one to two years.
“We’d work with the IWR still. So, we’d have some wrestlers come in for training. And also, we’d bring wrestlers in from Israel. And eventually, the long-term goal is to start a wrestling promotion based in Hawaii, in Kauai,” Marshall said. “This is a small island. They love family entertainment. We want to bring a family show to them.”
The academy would also be open to local athletes interested in learning, Ross added.
“There’s a lot of big guys around. Maybe they did sports in high school and they don’t really have an outlet; this is something for them, too,” he said.
Living up to the Von Erich name?
As for their wrestling careers, when asked if they feel they have to fulfill expectations because of their Von Erich name, both said they see it as a blessing, not a burden.
“No pressure ever, I really felt. It’s just how your perspective is,” Ross said.
Marshall added: “There’s two ways to look at that. You could look at it like that, like it’s a lot to handle. Or, ‘These are the cards I’m dealt. I’m going to do the best I can in the situation I’m in.’ Everything’s a gift from God. These muscles, wrestling, it’s a gift from God. God gave me this. What am I going to do with it?
“‘I have a wrestling name. I can use this name and do my best at it.’ That’s how we look at it. We just happen to be brothers, too. He’s one of the best athletes I know, and he’s my brother. So, I’m not worried about anything in the ring. Like, ‘OK. This is good insurance. I’m going to get in the ring and do my best at it.’”