Submitted by Evil Ed

2 votes 3

The story of the legendary Von Erich family of wrestlers is told with a few omissions and dramatizations. Most significantly, the life and suicide of Chris Von Erich is not depicted.

Fritz von Erich (Holt McCallany – who should be nominated for Best Supporting Actor), his wife Doris (Maura Tierney – who should be nominated for Best Supporting Actress), and two young sons, Kevin (Grady Wilson) and David (Valentine Newcomer), are living in a trailer pulled by a Cadillac as Fritz tries to make his name as a wrestler.

By early 1980, Fritz is running World Class Championship Wrestling out of the Dallas Sportatorium, his sons Kevin (Zac Effron – who should be nominated for Best Actor) and David (Harris Dickinson) are wrestlers, his son Kerry (Jeremy Allen White) is attempting to qualify for the 1980 Summer Olympics in track and field, and Mike (Stanley Simons) is an aspiring musician.

Pam (Lily James) meets Kevin after a tag team match at the Sportatorium with his brother David against Gino Hernandez (Ryan Nemeth) and Bruiser Brody (Cazzey Louis Cereghino). Kevin and Pam start a relationship despite the “Von Erich Curse”, which Kevin believes caused his brother Jack Junior’s (Romeo Newcomer) death by electrocution and drowning as a child. Kevin gets mauled by National Wrestling Alliance Champion Harley Race (Kevin Anton) in a title bout, but Kevin’s win by Disqualification disappoints Fritz. The 1980 Olympic Boycott brings Kerry back home to Texas and he becomes a wrestler.

Kerry, Kevin, and David defeat the Fabulous Freebirds for the NWA Six-Man Tag Team Title, and they become wrestling superstars. David is in-line to get a title shot at the now NWA champion, Ric Flair (Aaron Dean Eisenberg), but at Kevin and Pam’s wedding, Kevin finds David puking up blood in the Men’s Room. David goes on a wrestling tour of Japan and dies of enteritis in his hotel room. Fritz flips a coin between Kerry and Kevin to decide who gets the title shot against Flair. Kerry wins the NWA title from Ric Flair in a match at Texas Stadium while Doris watches the match on TV unemotionally. As depicted in the film, Kerry comes home but is still upset about David’s death. Kerry goes out motorcycle riding, crashes, and loses his right foot. (Although that actually happened a little over two years later – Kerry only held the NWA title for 18 days.)

Mike Von Erich is pressed into the family wrestling stable, but after he dislocates his shoulder during a match, he experiences toxic shock syndrome during the surgery which causes both mental and physical impairment. Not being able to play guitar anymore deepens his depression, and Mike kills himself by overdosing on Placidyl. Kevin also becomes despondent, but Pam is able to help him through it. Kevin fights Ric Flair for the NWA title, and channeling all of his rage into The Iron Claw he clamps on Flair’s head, bloodies Flair and gets Disqualified. Disillusioned with wrestling, Kevin takes over the WCCW promotion, and discovers that it is becoming financially insolvent.

Kerry Von Erich is the only member of the family still wrestling, using a prosthetic right foot. His wrestling career is successful but his marriage unravels as he spirals into drug addiction. After giving Fritz a gun, which Fritz refuses to fire, Kerry flies into a rage at the family Christmas Party. Later, he tearfully calls Kevin to reach out for help. The next morning, Kevin finds that Kerry has commited suicide under a tree at Fritz’s ranch by shooting himself in the chest with the gun that he gifted to Fritz. Kerry meets David, Jack Jr. and Mike in the afterlife. Kevin nearly strangles Fritz to death in a rage, but then carries Kerry’s body back into the house and lays it on the dining room table.

The film ends with Kevin selling the WCCW promotion, Doris returning to painting and distancing herself from Fritz (they would eventually divorce), and Kevin breaking down in tears lamenting that he “was a brother” as his two sons play football on his ranch. His sons comfort him, promising to be his brothers, and he plays football with them as a pregnant Pam watches happily.

In the epilogue, we learn that Kevin and Pam have been married for over forty years, still own a ranch, and they have four children and 13 grandchildren.

This movie is a must for wrestling fans. For non-wrestling fans, the Greek Tragedy aspect of what befell the Von Erich family is compelling.
For further reading, refer to Texas Monthly, October 2005, “Six Brothers”.

02 hours 10 minutes