What is 'The Iron Claw' Based On? The True Story Behind the Film

Get to know the true story of the Bon Erich Brothers

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Our holiday movie weekend plate is going to be quite full over the next few days with several anticipated releases like Aquaman, The Color Purple, and more that's going to be coming our way this weekend. One of the newest releases to hit theaters is The Iron Claw, a biographical sports drama directed by Sean Durkin about the life and family of professional wrestler Kevin Von Erich. Zac Efron does the honors of starring as Von Erich, as the film zeroes in on the dynasty of the Von Erich family, the respective legacy they primarily created with their rise in the 1980s, and specifically how they popularized the iron claw professional wrestling hold. Anytime a biopic is released, you always have questions from the general public about how true the film is to the actual story. That said, you are probably asking what is The Iron Claw based on, and how factual is Durkin's retelling to the real life story.

Ahead of the movie’s official release, we’re diving into the backstory of The Iron Claw so that you can either be prepared for hitting the theater, or reflect on what you’ve just watched after you’ve left your screening. Find out everything you need to know about the film below.

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Who was Fritz Von Erich?

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It all starts with the patriarch of the family, Fritz Von Erich, a 3x world champion and a record 20x NWA United States Champion. Von Erich started off his career training with the legendary, Stu Hart, who made the decision to team him with his "play" brother Waldo Von Erich. Together they were known as the "evil German" brothers. Von Erich spent the 60s primarily competing in Sam Muchnick's NWA territorial strong hold in St. Louis, Missouri, where he wrestled until the late 1960s. Von Erich was also a part of rebuilding the Japanese wrestling circuit after the death of Korean-born Japanese wrestler Rikidōzan, which is where he began popularizing "the iron hold," albeit in a controversial manner by taking up the persona of a Nazi villain.

Who were the Von Erich Brothers?

What is the 'Von Erich Curse'?

Is 'The Iron Claw' Based on a True Story?

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The 2023 film The Iron Claw is indeed based on the true story, but it focuses more on the professional successes of the Von Erich brothers and how they made history in the competitive world of 1980s wrestling as opposed to the rather traumatic events of their family. However, the movie doesn't steer entirely away from the ups and downs of the Erich family, as it tackles their respective tragedies and triumphs, along with the brothers sometimes strained relationship with their father.

What parts of the story does 'The Iron Claw' leave out?

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According to Biography, the film leaves out the youngest Von Erich brother (Chris) entirely, which disappoint fans of the family as Chris himself had a professional wrestling career that was well documented in his run. Perhaps that might one day be a story that's explored in the future, but in the meantime this is what's presented in The Iron Claw.

According to an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Durkin omitted the brother simply to make sure the film runtime would not be too long.

Where is Kevin Von Erich now?

After a long career in professional wrestling, Kevin formally retired from the sport in 1995, before making some sporadic appearances over the next few decades. He would make a brief return to the ring in 2017, where he and his sons participated in the The Rage Wrestling Mega Show in Tel Aviv, Israel. Currently, the second oldest son of the Von Erichs lives in Hawaii with his wife Pam Adkisson.

His kids, Ross and Marshall, are active professional wrestlers and continue the legacy of the family.

The Iron Claw is in Theaters on December 22.

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