Fact-Checking ‘The Iron Claw’ with Zac Efron

Fact-Checking ‘The Iron Claw’ with Zac Efron: We’re dissecting key plot elements of Zac Efron’s latest film, “The Iron Claw,” currently playing in theaters. Spoiler alert for those who haven’t watched it yet.
Film enthusiasts are familiar with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Dave Bautista, and John Cena, wrestlers who transitioned into prominent figures in popular culture. However, the legacy of the Von Erich family remains less recognized by many. Director Sean Durkin aims to spotlight this iconic family in “The Iron Claw.”

Fact-Checking 'The Iron Claw' with Zac Efron

The true story delves into the achievements and challenges faced by the Von Erich brothers in wrestling: Kevin (played by Efron), David (portrayed by Harris Dickinson), Kerry (acted by Jeremy Allen White), Mike (depicted by Stanley Simons), and Chris, who doesn’t appear in the film. Sadly, between 1984 and 1993, four out of these five siblings passed away, with three succumbing to suicide.

“Iron Claw” delves deeply into the passion for wrestling, yet as Durkin emphasizes, “it’s fundamentally a tale about family.” He further elaborates, stating, “It examines the societal notions of masculinity imposed on boys and the weight of those expectations.” While the film draws inspiration from the Von Erichs’ real-life story, navigating between reality and dramatization, much like the wrestling realm itself, can be complex. Durkin sheds light on distinguishing between fact and fiction within “Iron Claw.”

“Did Fritz Von Erich’s Name Alteration Tempt a Family Curse?”

When Kevin takes Pam (portrayed by Lily James) out for their initial date, he recounts how his father, Fritz (acted by Holt McCallany), adopted his grandmother’s surname. This decision seemed controversial as it carried a perceived curse due to the numerous tragedies his family endured.


Durkin reflects on this, stating, “I believe that’s accurate.” Fritz, originally named Jack Adkisson, began using the Von Erich moniker as an antagonistic Nazi character in the 1950s and ’60s before leading the World Class Championship Wrestling organization. Durkin adds, “In the wrestling world, some tales are based on myth while others are rooted in reality. I always viewed this story as a credible narrative based on what I’ve come across.”

The tragic series of events known as the “Von Erich curse” pertains to the unfortunate passing of several members of the family. David, aged 25, passed away in 1984 due to a ruptured intestine. Similarly, Mike, aged 23, lost his life in 1987, followed by Chris at 21 in 1991, and Kerry at 33 in 1993, with each of the latter three succumbing to suicide. Additionally, their eldest son, Jack Jr., tragically died at the age of 6 in 1959 after an accidental electrocution and drowning incident.

“Did Kevin Von Erich Ever Receive a Posthumous Message from His Brother David?”

In the film, after David’s unforeseen passing due to medical issues in Japan, there’s a scene where Kevin receives a postcard from David with the heartfelt message, “I miss you, brother.”
Durkin confessed, “I crafted that scene,” emphasizing that while the suicide notes depicted in the movie were authentic, the postcard concept was a creative addition. Durkin felt it was crucial to capture a sense of connection and symmetry between the brothers through this imagined scenario.

“Did Kevin and Kerry Von Erich Decide via Coin Toss Who Would Face Ric Flair for the Heavyweight Title?”

David was set to challenge Flair for the National Wrestling Alliance heavyweight championship, a title Fritz had always envisioned being held within the family, during a significant Texas event. Following David’s tragic passing, Fritz directs Kevin and Kerry, the latter of whom pursued wrestling after abandoning Olympic aspirations, to settle the matter with a coin toss. Kerry emerges victorious in the toss and later that evening, following his win, he experiences a motorcycle mishap that results in the loss of his right foot.

Kerry indeed triumphed over Flair a few months subsequent to David’s demise in 1984, yet the unfortunate accident transpired in 1986. Durkin affirms the authenticity of the coin toss, stating, “The toss was genuine.” Reflecting on the family’s intricate history, Durkin muses, “Had Kerry not wrestled that particular match or faced the subsequent accident, how might his life have unfolded?” He further ponders the family’s multiple potential trajectories, questioning, “Had David chosen a different path instead of going to Japan, or had Mike not taken his own life, would Chris and Kerry have met similar fates?”

“Were There Truly Impersonators of the Von Erich Family Members?”

Over time, various wrestlers adopted the Von Erich surname despite not being blood relatives of the family. For instance, in 1985, following Mike’s injury, Fritz Von Erich enlisted Ricky Vaughn to portray “Lance,” purportedly the cousin of the Von Erichs and the supposed offspring of Waldo Von Erich, Fritz’s tag-team ally and “brother.”
During a particular period after David’s tragic passing, Fritz’s efforts to sustain the family legacy are briefly depicted. With Mike sidelined due to toxic-shock syndrome post-shoulder surgery, Kerry still recuperating from his foot injury, Kevin appears in the ring, notably teamed with Lance Von Erich (portrayed by actual wrestler Maxwell Jacob Friedman), displaying evident discontent.

“I found that era truly captivating,” Durkin reflects, even though this “pretender” only has a brief appearance in the narrative. “In that segment of the film, the primary focus is on Kevin’s emotional odyssey amidst the profound losses he experienced, which resonated as the core narrative priority.”

“Why is Chris Von Erich Absent from ‘The Iron Claw’?”

A glaring omission in the film that stands out to dedicated wrestling enthusiasts is the absence of the youngest Von Erich sibling, Chris. While Chris’s narrative parallels some of his siblings’ stories, Durkin acknowledges that after delving deep into crafting the “Iron Claw” screenplay, he realized the recurring tragic elements might overwhelm the film’s narrative. He reflects, “I wrestled with this dilemma extensively before ultimately making the challenging decision, which felt appropriate.”


Durkin emphasizes the immense challenge of condensing the expansive Von Erich family saga into a single feature film, stating it was a nearly insurmountable endeavor. He notes that certain heartbreaking events, such as the loss of David’s infant daughter to SIDS at 13 weeks, and aspects of Kerry’s family life, didn’t make it to the screen. Durkin concludes, “Given the constraints, every narrative choice demanded meticulous consideration to hone in on Kevin’s journey of resilience at its core.”

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