A24's 'The Iron Claw' Has Renewed Interest in the True Story of the Von Erichs

The tragic story of the Von Erichs is the subject of A24's 'The Iron Claw,' leading many to wonder what happened to the actual family members.


Jul. 28 2023, Published 11:19 a.m. ET

The Von Erich brothers in the ring together.
Source: WWE

The Gist:

  • The Von Erichs were a family of professional wrestlers — a father and six sons — who suffered multiple tragedies.
  • Five of Fritz Von Erich's six sons died before his own death in 1997.

The Von Erichs were best known as a family of wrestlers who had a number of run-ins with tragedy over the course of their lives. Since A24 is making a movie about the family, many people want to know more about the real story behind the family.

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Unfortunately, the circumstances surrounding the Von Erich family are deeply tragic, and involve the deaths of five of the family's six brothers. Here's what we know about the family.

What happened to the Von Erichs?

The Von Erichs were a family of professional wrestlers who were originally from Texas. Their actual surname was Adkisson, but they all went by Von Erich in the ring. Fritz, the family's patriarch, took the surname as part of his wrestling persona. He originally portrayed a Nazi heel in the ring.

By the time Fritz died in 1997, five of his six sons had already died.

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The cast of 'The Iron Claw' pose together sitting on a fence post.
Source: A24

The first son to die was Jack Jr., Fritz's firstborn, who was just 6 years old when he was accidentally shocked and then drowned in a puddle.

David Von Erich, the third-born son, died of enteritis in Tokyo in 1984. Although enteritis is his official cause of death, most people think that David died from a drug overdose.

Fritz's second-born son is still alive, and had a long career as a wrestler.

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Fritz's other three sons all died by suicide. Kerry shot himself on his father's ranch in 1993. Mike injured his shoulder wrestling and had to have surgery, leading to toxic shock syndrome. He took a fatal dose of tranquilizers in 1987. Chris shot himself in 1991 after several years of failing to break into the wrestling business, which were combined with his depression over the death of his brother.

'The Iron Claw' will tell the Von Erich family's story.

Interest in the Von Erichs surged due to a promotional photo for the upcoming film The Iron Claw, which will tell the family's story. The film stars Zac Efron as Kevin, Harris Dickinson as David, Jeremy Allen White as Kerry, and Lily James as Pam Adkisson, Kevin's wife to this day.

The film promises to chronicle their rise to success in the ring, even as they battle the "Von Erich" curse outside of it.

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The excellent cast, coupled with writer and director Sean Durkin, who has made fascinating movies about the darkness at the heart of America before, has many people excited for the project. The movie is set to be released on Dec. 22, 2023, but outside of a single image from the film that showcases four of the brothers together, we haven't seen any trailers or other promotional materials yet.

The story of the Von Erichs is certainly tragic and fascinating, and it could make for a great movie as long as its characters are handled with the sensitivity that they deserve. This kind of story is almost inherently triggering, but that doesn't mean there aren't ways to make it compelling and moving for an audience.

If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call, text, or message the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline. Dial or text 988, call 1-800-273-8255, or chat via their website.

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