Chris Von Erich: What Happened to Him? Why is He Not in The Iron Claw?

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Sean Durkin’s ‘The Iron Claw’ has brought the compelling saga of the Von Erich family into the limelight. The film unfolds the lives of Fritz Von Erich’s four sons — David, Kevin, Kerry, and Mike — who, guided by their father, achieved legendary status as professional wrestlers in the 1980s. Despite this detailed exploration, the absence of Chris Von Erich’s narrative in the cinematic portrayal leaves a void. As the youngest son, Chris also ventured into the wrestling arena alongside his brothers, and his untold story yearns to be heard.

Chris Von Erich Was Depressed After the Loss of His Brothers

Chris Barton Adkisson, born on September 30, 1969, to Fritz Von Erich and Doris, was raised alongside his four elder brothers in Texas. Growing up, the brothers shared a close bond, looking out for each other. While witnessing his elder siblings undergo wrestling training, Chris faced his share of challenges. He was diagnosed with asthma in childhood, and the medication he took rendered his bones brittle. Additionally, standing at 5’5” and weighing 175 pounds, he was shorter and lighter compared to his brothers, presenting physical limitations in pursuing a wrestling career.

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Chris initially took on roles behind the scenes, working the cameras and handling miscellaneous tasks while his elder brothers, David, Kevin, and Kerry, showcased their wrestling prowess at the World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW). Growing up amidst his brothers’ international wrestling acclaim, Chris observed them becoming masters of the sport. Despite his family’s wrestling legacy, Chris didn’t harbor a strong interest in the sport. However, he occasionally participated in run-ins, providing support for his brothers and joining them as part of their tag team on certain occasions.

The Von Erich family faced profound tragedy in 1983 with the loss of David during a wrestling match in Japan. Two years later, in 1985, another devastating blow struck when Chris’s older brother, Mike, experienced complications during shoulder surgery, leading to toxic shock syndrome and kidney issues. Witnessing Mike’s subsequent struggles with drug dependency, Chris suffered another heartbreaking loss in 1987 when Mike took his own life. In an attempt to restore the family’s legacy, Chris, in 1990, decided to step into professional wrestling and carry forward the Von Erich name.

Despite being a fan favorite, Chris faced challenges in his wrestling career. Engaging in a notable rivalry with Percy Pringle, he occasionally teamed up with his brother Kevin in tag team matches. However, Chris struggled with his athleticism and encountered limited success. Battling clinical depression and grappling with a drug dependency, exacerbated by the loss of his brother Mike, Chris became increasingly frustrated with his stagnant wrestling career. In September 1991, Chris approached his brother Kevin in the middle of the night, expressing a desire to retrieve a VCR.

Kevin found Chris sitting alone, who then confided in his brother about breaking his arm earlier that month and feeling frustrated with the direction of his life. Chris revealed thoughts of self-harm, prompting Kevin to plead with him to reconsider. On September 12, 1991, Kevin and their mother, Doris, discovered Chris outside the family farm in Edom after he had shot himself in the head with a 9mm. Rushed to the East Texas Medical Center, Chris succumbed to his injuries shortly thereafter. The coroner’s report disclosed traces of cocaine and valium in his system at the time of his death. Chris was only 21 years old.

Chris’ Life Was Too Tragic To Be Covered in The Iron Claw

Despite Chris Von Erich’s significance within the family, his absence from ‘The Iron Claw’ raises questions. Director Sean Durkin clarified that there was indeed a version of the script that included Chris, with his character outlined for five years. However, a creative decision ultimately led to his omission from the final film. Durkin said, “There was a repetition to it, and it was one more tragedy that the film couldn’t really withstand.” He talked about the difficulty of catching someone’s entire life in a film that runs for just a few hours.

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He added, “When you’re trying to get a film made, you have to separate it at some point and say, ‘These are characters on a page, and this is a film, and there’s no way you’re going to fully capture the life of a person in a film.’ You have to make difficult choices to try and get to something truthful or representative or emotional that reflects the core of the journey you’re choosing to tell within this family.” While Chris may not be in the film, his life transcends being just a name linked to the tragedies of the Von Erich family. A bright and promising young man, he faced some of the most daunting challenges. Despite the difficulties, he fought with resilience for as long as he could, leaving behind a story that goes beyond time.

Read More: The Iron Claw: The True Story of the Von Erich Family, Explained