The Von Erich family in a huddle in The Iron Claw
(A24)

‘The Iron Claw’ Trailer Dives Into the Tragic True Story of the Von Erich Family

An American professional wrestling family with a tragic history is the center of A24’s upcoming sports biopic The Iron Claw. Directed by Sean Durkin, the film will tell the story of the Von Erichs, a Texas family whose names are now emblazoned in the WWE Hall of Fame. Their actual surname is Adkisson, but after family patriarch Jack took on the ring name Fritz Von Erich, his sons followed.

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The family’s foray into wrestling started with Fritz, who gained notoriety for his signature move, the Iron Claw, and became an NWA champion. Fritz married Doris J. Smith in 1950 and had six children, all boys. Five of his children—Kevin, David, Kerry, Mike, and Chris—followed in his footsteps and became professional wrestlers. Although each sibling was an accomplished wrestler in his own right, five-time world champion Kerry was the most decorated of the bunch.

Unfortunately, a series of tragedies—known as the Von Erich family curse—have overshadowed the family’s accomplishments. Of Fritz’s six sons, Kevin is the only surviving son and the only one to live past the age of 25. The Von Erich family story is a tragic testimony to the darker world of wrestling. While it’s shocking for this many tragedies to occur in one family, it’s not uncommon for young professional wrestlers to experience increased mortality rates due to the physically and mentally taxing sport. In bringing the family’s story to life, The Iron Claw has the potential to raise awareness for the side of professional wrestling that viewers often don’t get to see.

Here’s what we know about The Iron Claw so far.

When does The Iron Claw release?

The Iron Claw is scheduled to release on December 22, 2023. It is one of several A24 productions to nab an interim agreement from SAG-AFTRA, allowing those involved to promote the film in the lead up to its release date.

Is there a trailer for The Iron Claw?

A24 dropped the official trailer for The Iron Claw on October 11.

The intense trailer features a nearly unrecognizable Zac Efron as pro wrestler Kevin, the only surviving member of the Von Erich family. Kevin mentions that he’s heard of the curse surrounding his family but believed wrestling could protect them. The trailer shows the Von Erich family dynamic, highlighting an intense bond between the brothers and the sense of duty they feel to carry on their father’s legacy. However, the glory of wrestling starts to fade when the brothers begin cracking under the pressures of the sport and the expectations of their own father. It’s clear the Von Erichs are heading towards their father’s dream of being one of the greatest wrestling families in history, but it’s equally clear that it will come at a heavy cost.

Who stars in The Iron Claw?

Zac Efron as Kevin Von Erich in The Iron Claw
(A24)

Efron leads The Iron Claw as Kevin, the second oldest Von Erich son. The Baywatch and High School Musical star looks wildly different with his wrestler’s physique and bowl cut, and seems to disappear fully into the role. Starring opposite Efron is The Bear‘s Jeremy Allen White as Kevin’s younger and most accomplished brother, Kerry. Harris Dickinson and Stanley Simmons round out the sibling group as David and Mike, respectively. It’s unclear if the youngest son, Chris, will also appear in the film.

Nightmare Alley star Holt McCallany portrays Von Erich family patriarch Fritz, while The Affair‘s Maura Tierney plays his wife, Doris. Pro wrestler Maxwell Jacob Friedman also stars in The Iron Claw as Lance Von Erich, whose actual name was William Vaughan. Though he was of no relation to the Von Erichs, Lance was recruited by Fritz and given the family ring name to increase their exposure. Pam and Tommy star Lily James plays Pam Adkisson, Kevin’s wife.

Several of The Iron Claw‘s supporting actors are portraying other professional wrestlers who were active during the Von Erichs’ careers. These include Brady Pierce as Michael Hayes, Kevin Anton as Harley Race, Cazzey Louis Cereghino as Bruiser Body, and Aaron Dean Eisenberg as Ric Flair.

Sean Durkin, who made his directorial debut with Martha Marcy May Marlene, wrote and directed The Iron Claw.

What is The Iron Claw about?

Zac Efron as Kevin Von Erich wrestling in The Iron Claw
(A24)

The official synopsis for The Iron Claw reads:

The true story of the inseparable Von Erich brothers, who made history in the intensely competitive world of professional wrestling in the early 1980s. Through tragedy and triumph, under the shadow of their domineering father and coach, the brothers seek larger-than-life immortality on the biggest stage in sports.

As mentioned above, The Iron Claw dramatizes the true story of the Von Erich family, capturing both the lows and highs of their professional careers. Though the story is based on the Von Erichs, it appears no one from the family was directly involved in the production. However, Kevin did confirm that he was excited for the film and that his sons and niece had visited the set. His biggest concern is that The Iron Claw portrays the Von Erichs correctly. Given the alleged family “curse,” a lot of inaccurate legends and assumptions have arisen on the internet.

As the film draws closer, Kevin has also spoken out to defend his father, denying that he was greedy or hyper-fixated on wrestling, as The Iron Claw trailer seems to suggest. It’s a very delicate topic, and while Kevin acknowledges there were dark moments in his family’s lives, he’s already noticed an increase in negativity when people discuss the family online. While The Iron Claw could potentially do well in telling the true story of the Von Erichs, debunking myths, and raising awareness for the struggles professional wrestlers face, it’s also important to avoid sensationalizing a tragedy and to show respect for the living family members.

(featured image: A24)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.