The Iron Claw True Story & Kevin Von Erich’s Real Life



  • The biographical sports film “The Iron Claw” tells the true story of the Von Erich family and their trials and tribulations in wrestling.
  • The movie showcases every member of the prestigious wrestling family, including Fritz, Doris, and their four sons, Kevin, Kerry, David, and Mike.
  • The Von Erichs experienced tragedy over the years, with multiple family members dying at a young age, which will likely be depicted in the film.



The biographical sports film The Iron Claw revolves around the Von Erich family and the true story of their trials and tribulations in wrestling in the 1960s and later. The movie, which premieres in theaters on December 22, 2023, showcases (almost) every member of the prestigious wrestling family, including the parents, Fritz and Doris, and their four sons, Kevin, Kerry, David, and Mike. Unfortunately, the Von Erichs experienced a lot of tragedy over the years as they made a name for themselves as professional wrestlers, which will all be detailed in the film directed and written by Sean Durkin.

The cast of The Iron Claw consists of Zac Efron as Kevin Von Erich, Jeremy Allen White as Kerry Von Erich, Harris Dickinson as David Von Erich, Stanley Simons as Mike Von Erich, Maura Tierney as Doris Von Erich, Holt McCallany as Fritz Von Erich, Maxwell Jacob Friedman as Lance Von Erich, and Lily James as Pam Adkisson. Only time will tell how accurate the film is regarding telling the Von Erich family’s true story, but, of course, some changes are to be expected for the sake of dramatization. However, knowing the wrestling family’s history, there might not have been a need to add much more drama to the script.

The Von Erich Family’s Wrestling History Explained

Zac Efron fighting in a ring in The Iron Claw

The patriarch of the Von Erich family — Fritz Von Erich — was born Jack Adkisson on August 16, 1929, in Texas. Despite his confusing wrestling name, Fritz was American, but his persona in the ring was that of a “Nazi villain” before he switched to playing a good guy, according to Today. Fritz initially tried his hand at football but found he was more successful as a wrestler. He was trained by Stu Hart and quickly became a star in the National Wrestling Alliance (NWA). Fritz won many championships and titles throughout his career, and he passed on his love for the sport to his sons.

Fritz married Doris Von Erich (née Smith) on June 23, 1950, and together, they had six sons — Jack Barton Jr. (September 21, 1952), Kevin (May 15, 1957), David (July 22, 1958), Kerry (February 3, 1960), Mike (March 2, 1964), and Chris (September 30, 1969). Sadly, Jack Jr. was accidentally electrocuted and drowned when he was only six. After the tragedy, Fritz continued to travel and wrestle, and he was determined to ensure that his remaining sons continued his legacy in the sport.

All five sons (Kevin, David, Kerry, Mike, and Chris) became professional wrestlers. The family (but Fritz in particular) even popularized the iron claw professional wrestling hold, hence the title of the 2023 film. Following his retirement, Fritz briefly served as the NWA President in the 1970s. He and Doris got a divorce in 1992, and a few years later, in 1997, Fritz died of lung cancer at the age of 68. Related: What Movie Is Zac Efron JACKED For: Transformation & Comparison Explained

Kerry Von Erich’s Accident & When He Died

Jeremy Allen White as Kerry Von Erich in The Iron Claw.

Jeremy Allen White plays Kerry Von Erich in the 2023 biographical sports film The Iron Claw. Kerry was Fritz and Doris’s fourth-oldest son who ventured into wrestling as a teenager. He was undoubtedly the most successful and famous of the Von Erich sons during his time in the sport. Kerry went by two names throughout his career — “The Modern Day Warrior” and “The Texas Tornado.” He was mostly known as “The Texas Tornado,” though. Like his father, Kerry won multiple titles and championships, proving he could live up to his family name.

Kerry was involved in a motorcycle accident on June 4, 1986, and nearly died. The surgeons had to amputate his right foot, and he would later use a prosthetic foot while wrestling. However, Kerry never let most people outside his family know about his amputated foot, and it didn’t become public knowledge until after his death years later.

Kerry married Catherine “Cathy” Murray on June 18, 1983, and the couple had two daughters, Hollie and Lacey, together. Lacey carried on her father’s legacy and was a professional wrestler in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA) until her retirement in 2010. Kerry and Cathy divorced nine years after their wedding, and sadly, Kerry soon became one of the many family members to suffer from the “Von Erich” curse. Kerry shot and killed himself on February 18, 1993, at the age of 33, on Fritz’s property in Texas.

When David Von Erich Died & How Old He Was

Harris Dickinson as David Von Erich in The Iron Claw.

David Von Erich is portrayed by Harris Dickinson in The Iron Claw, and David was the third-oldest son in the family. Like his brothers, David pursued a wrestling career, and he was successful, which wasn’t too surprising, given his family history. His nickname was “The Yellow Rose of Texas,” and he worked with the World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW), a professional wrestling promotion owned by Fritz. David had a few championship titles to his name by working as a heel in the arena.

He would go on to marry Candy McLeod on June 26, 1978. The couple had a daughter, but she sadly died shortly following her birth, and David and Candy divorced not too long afterward. David later married Patricia Matter on June 8, 1982, and they stayed together until David’s death.

David died suddenly on February 10, 1984, when he was 25 years old and while staying at a hotel in Tokyo, Japan. It was reported that his cause of death was acute enteritis, but rumors tell a different story. Some believe that David died from a drug overdose that was covered up, but officially, acute enteritis (inflammation of the small intestine) was what killed him.

More Von Erich Brothers Died Tragically

The Iron Claw wrestling family

As mentioned above, the prestigious wrestling family is known for the “Von Erich” curse. Every one of Fritz and Doris’s sons died except for Kevin, who is the only surviving Von Erich brother. Jack Jr. tragically died when he was six years old from accidental electrocution and drowning in 1959. David was found dead in his hotel room when he was 25 in 1984, and his cause of death was ruled acute enteritis. Mike overdosed on tranquilizers when he was 23 in 1987.

Chris, unhappy about not being as successful as his brothers when it came to wrestling and depressed about Mike’s death, shot and killed himself when he was 21 in 1991. Finally, Kerry shot and killed himself when he was 33 years old in 1993. The Von Erich family experienced immense tragedy over the years, which will undoubtedly be showcased in The Iron Claw. Related: The Iron Claw Trailer: Tragic Wrestling Family Gets Spotlight In Zac Efron’s Most Dramatic Role Yet

What Happened To Kevin Von Erich After The Iron Claw’s Story

Zac Efron in the Iron Claw movie

Kevin Von Erich, who is played by Zac Efron in The Iron Claw, is the last Von Erich brother still living today, and he was one of the more successful family members in the wrestling world. Kevin, nicknamed “The Golden Warrior,” worked in the WCCW and is a one-time world champion. He married Pamela May, played by Lily James in the film, on August 1, 1980, and they had four children — Kristen, Jillian, Ross, and Marshall. Kevin first retired in 1995 but made a couple of comebacks in 2005 and 2017. The latter was alongside his two sons, Ross and Marshall, who compete as a tag team in wrestling.

Source: Today