The tragic story behind The Iron Claw and the Von Erich family

The tragic story behind The Iron Claw and the Von Erich family
The Iron Claw official trailer

*Warning: Contains potential spoilers for The Iron Claw*

The Iron Claw is one of the most hyped films of 2023, but the upcoming wrestling biopic starring Zac Efron is far from your typical, glossy sports movie.

In fact, the real-life story of the people it’s based on is one of the darkest in the world of sport, and fans can expect the movie to draw on a real life story full of family tragedy.

The upcoming movie, directed by Sean Durkin and released on December 22, focuses on the Von Erich wrestling family and their lives in and away from the ring.

The Iron Claw boasts an impressive cast, with Efron joined by the likes of Jeremy Allen White, Harris Dickson and Lily James, who will all be telling the family’s story.


We can’t be sure exactly what the movie will focus on, but the family is synonymous with the US wrestling scene in the second half of the 20th century.

The Von Erich family achieved great success while also experiencing a great deal of tragedy, with the majority of the family members dying young.

Parents Fritz and Doris had six sons together but lost one son at a very young age after he was electrocuted and drowned at six-years-old.

Fritz was a successful wrestler in his time, and his five sons Kevin, David, Kerry, Mike and Chris followed into the industry and became professional wrestlers too. Fritz and his sons famously helped to popularise the iron claw wrestling hold, which the film is named after.

After achieving success, the family experienced more heartbreak. In fact, only Kevin – played by Efron – survived into later life.

Kerry, played by Allen White, became well known under the persona “The Texas Tornado” which he competed as in WWE, where he won the Intercontinental Championship. He suffered a motorcycle accident which saw his right foot amputated in his 20s, before he killed himself at the age of 33 in 1993.


David, played by Dickson, died at the age of 25. His official cause of death was acute enteritis, but there are some who believe he suffered a drug overdose that was covered up.

Mike also died young at the age of just 23 after overdosing on tranquillisers.

It’s expected that the film will focus on the family’s tragic story, as well as Kevin’s marriage to Pamela May, played by James. Kevin went on to be known as the “Golden Warrior” and their sons Ross and Marshall also went on to become wrestlers.

Their story is hinted at in the trailer released earlier this year.

“Ever since I was a child, people said my family was cursed. Mum tried to protect us with God. Pop tried to protect us with wrestling,” Kevin delivers in a voiceover. “He said if we were the toughest, the strongest, nothing could ever hurt us. I believed him; we all did.”

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