‘Iron Claw’ tells story of dynasty scorned by tragedy

Courtesy Photo


“The Iron Claw” made its theatrical debut at the tail-end of 2023, with audiences entering their holiday teary-eyed, after flocking to see what the biographical drama had in store. The film follows the Von Erich family and depicts the tragic story of their legacy through its immense highs to the intense lows that always seemed to follow suit. 

A major qualm I have with the movie lies in the fact that writer-director, Sean Dirkin, chose to completely omit the youngest Von Erich son, Chris, from the movie’s plot. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Dirkin said, “there was a repetition to it, and it was one more tragedy that the film couldn’t really withstand.”  However, it makes little to no sense to exclude a vital player in the Von Erich family’s tragic past. Chris’s death serves as an example, amongst many others, of the damage that the pressure to build the Von Erich’s name inflicted. 

Throughout his life, Chris wanted to go pro, just like his brothers.  He was unable to pursue his dreams due to his health conditions. Chris suffered from asthma and brittle bones, a result of the Prednisone he took as a treatment for the asthma. 

Compared to his brothers, Chris had a smaller physique, standing at 5’5 and roughly 175 pounds, lacking the build and brawn his siblings seemed to be gifted with. He placed an immense amount of pressure on himself to live up to the accolades of his brothers.  When his circumstances prevented him from doing so, Chris spiraled into a depression, eventually causing him to take his own life in September of 1991. Chris’ absence is a missed opportunity to further depict the harm of the Von Erich’s legacy, and truly solidify the bond between the brothers.

Throughout the film, one can’t help but notice how Dirkin depicts the Von Erich patriarch in a domineering and controlling light. This directorial choice emphasizes the notion that the Von Erich boys endured their extreme careers solely for the sake of their father’s dream: to be the best in the professional wrestling world. 

The film itself feels like a warning for the harm a parent’s expectations can inflict on their children. The “not-good-enough” mentality the Von Erich’s patriarch, Fritz, seemed to possess did more harm than good to his sons. The constant comparison between the brothers, disturbingly depicted in the film
when he ranks his children based on their careers and various laurels, shows just how greatly this mentality had skewed his perception of his own sons. 

Dissimilar to reality, the film makes the narrative choice to have Kevin find Terry’s body instead of Fritz. Who, in reality, was the first to discover him. Kevin chastises his father after Fritz fails to look out for Terry, and nearly strangles his own father to death, in a release of his suppressed resentment. The pain and loss he endured throughout his life, both in and out of the ring, could be traced back to Fritz. Fritz chose his dream over the sake and wellbeing of his own children.

The traumas of his expectations snowballed into a crushing avalanche that inadvertently resulted in the deaths of his four sons. David, Terry, Micheal and Chris, who all died from the physical and emotional traumas they endured in the ring, the very source of their legacy. 

The Iron Claw” is a heart -warming yet tragic depiction of an infamous wrestling dynasty’s rise to fame,
immense impact and harrowing descent into tragedy. However, their legacy will grace the history books of the professional wrestling world, and the hearts of their beloved fans for generations to come.

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