One of professional wrestling’s greatest and most infamous dynasties will be the subject of an upcoming feature film. Deadline’s Tom Grater reports that filmmaker Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene) is developing a movie project about the Von Erich family, which dominated World Class Championship Wrestling and the NWA during the early- to mid-1980s.
The Von Erichs’ history in professional wrestling dates back to the 1960s, when Fritz Von Erich (real name Jack Adkisson) and his signature “Iron Claw” performed in WCCW, the NWA and AWA, and Japan during his career. Fritz and wife Doris had six sons, five of whom followed their father into pro wrestling.
Kevin, David, Mike, and Chris Von Erich all attempted careers with varying levels of success in the ring. But the most successful of the Von Erich brothers was Kerry, who defeated Ric Flair for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship in 1984 at Texas Stadium. (Flair won the title back from him three weeks later.) He also won the WWE’s Intercontinental title (as the “Texas Tornado”) in 1990.
The Von Erich family was inducted as a group into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009. A third generation of Von Erichs, Ross and Marshall, currently perform in Major League Wrestling. Lacey, who wrestled in WWE and TNA, retired in 2010.
Unfortunately, the Von Erichs might be best known for the number of tragedies the family endured more than their wrestling success. The history of death, the “Von Erich Curse,” among the brothers is stunning.
Fritz’s first son, Jack, died from drowning when he was six years old. David died in Japan at the age of 25, reportedly from acute enteritis, but the prevalent belief in the wrestling community was that he actually suffered a drug overdose. Mike died from suicide at 23 after injuries sidelined him. Chris shot himself at 21, depressed at his failure in the wrestling business.
And Kerry, who needed his right foot amputated after a motorcycle accident — and continued to wrestle with a prosthetic — also killed himself by gunshot when he was 33 years old.
The Von Erichs were previously profiled in an ESPN “30 for 30” short, titled Wrestling the Curse, and an episode of Viceland’s six-part documentary series on pro wrestling, Dark Side of the Ring.
The wrestling careers (brief or not) of six men and their tragic history is a lot to cover in one movie. That makes the project appear to be particularly ambitious for Durkin, who’s only made two films in roughly eight years. (The Nest will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival later this month.)
It’s just a guess, but perhaps the script will focus on a particular period in the Von Erichs’ life, perhaps around Kerry’s career and ascent to the NWA title, with the other stories told in flashbacks.