MOVIE REVIEW: “The Iron Claw” based on the Von Erich wrestling family tragedies including MJF

By David Wolf, PWTorch guest writer


*** out of ***** (three out of five stars)

Warning: This review contains spoilers

I had purchased my ticket early enough to get the best seat in the theater, which thrilled me. I was less thrilled by showtime, as it was packed (maybe a good sign for the film’s fortunes), with people to both sides of me.

As the movie begins, it says it’s “inspired” by a true story, and that’s something to keep in mind. It’s Von Erich mythology, not reality. Chris, the youngest brother, and perhaps the saddest tale of them all, is absent, which has been criticized in some circles.

Director Sean Durkin says he was cut for time, and maybe he was, because at a bit over two hours it is long, but there’s a well-acted television movie feel to the thing that makes me think Chris could have been in it without adding much if anything to its length.

When it comes to the facts, Chris’s absence is far from the worst offense. There’s none of the recreational drug use, and of course, David’s death is the same cover story they’ve told for decades, despite overwhelming evidence it was an overdose.

We don’t even SEE David’s death. We see a phone call where it’s discussed. (The television movie thing.) Kerry, who for whatever reason is way less muscular than Kevin, misses out on his Olympic dream because of the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics (not true). And so on.

The movie is harder on Fritz Von Erich, the father of the Von Erich boys, than I was led to believe it would be. We don’t see him exploit his kids’ deaths, but it’s fair to conclude (and Kevin’s wife says it) that Fritz is responsible for Mike’s suicide and then is clearly, at best, negligent when it comes to Kerry’s (and Kevin chokes Fritz after Kerry shoots himself).

Harris Dickinson as Fritz comes closest to embodying an actual Von Erich, and the first scene is a glorious black and white one of Fritz wrestling and winning with the claw hold. Unfortunately, the movie never delivers on the promise of that opening.

The wrestling scenes are spectacular, the best I’ve seen on film, and some of the matches, like Kevin vs. Harley Race (a PERFECT Kevin Anton) go on for minutes. For me, these were easily the highlights.

The rest was a lot of melodrama, as we go from tragedy to tragedy, with a suggestion of a family curse (yeah, the curse of Fritz) washing over it all. It doesn’t really buy into the curse thing; it’s Kevin’s idea and his wife scoffs at it, but it’s there and we don’t see the facts behind some of the seemingly random events.

The character I connect most with is Mike, who also happens to be the Von Erich I know least about, aside from Chris, who as noted, isn’t even in the movie. Mike is shown as part of a band, with music being his passion, giving Kerry the idea for a “Tom Sawyer” entrance theme as Kerry overhears Mike listening to it, and his death is the only one that genuinely moved me. I was shocked we don’t even see David’s, and Kerry’s is reduced to “I lost my foot; can’t wrestle; going to kill myself.”

I’m pretty sure MJF is seen as Lance for thirty seconds or so. There’s no reference to him; we just see him wrestling and not tagging an annoyed Kevin.

For three decades, I’ve believed the Von Erich story would make a great movie. I judge a film as a film, that the screenplay was myth in itself is not an issue for me, but “good enough” is not great.

Darren Aronofsky remains unchallenged when it comes to who directed the best wrestling movie, at least of the twenty-first century.

(Jules Dassin’s “Night and the City” is by far the greatest wrestling movie, but that’s from 1950 and most won’t give it a chance.)

(PWTorch invites guest editorials from readers on any pro wrestling topic. Submit an editorial for review to

RECOMMENDED NEXT: AEW FEUD TRACKER: Assessing and final grades for MJF-Samoa Joe, MJF-Devil, Copeland-Cage, Julia Hart-Abadon, Toni Storm-Riho, Miro and C.J., more

OR CHECK THIS OUT AT PROWRESTLING.NET: Powell’s WWE Raw Hit List: CM Punk and Seth Rollins, Cody Rhodes vs. Shinsuke Nakamura, Drew McIntyre vs. Jey Uso, Women’s World Champion Rhea Ripley vs. Maxxine Dupri in a non-title match

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply