The actors playing the Von Erich brothers in 'The Iron Claw.'

The Tragic Story Of The Von Erich Brothers Inspired The Iron Claw

The new movie from A24, starring Zac Efron and Jeremy Allen White, comes to Max on May 10.

If you didn’t get a chance to see The Iron Claw in theaters, don’t panic. The critically acclaimed movie about wrestling, family, and tragedy is coming to Max on May 10, so you’ll be able to sob hysterically in the privacy of your own home. Because The Iron Claw might be a movie about a wrestling family, but you are really not prepared for the incredibly moving true story of the Von Erich brothers that inspired this heart-wrenching film. Here’s what you need to know.

Note: Spoilers for The Iron Claw are ahead.

Zac Efron and Jeremy Allen White play brothers taking over their dad’s wrestling legacy in The Iron Claw.

The Iron Claw tells the story of Jack Adkisson (played by Holt McCallany), who wrestled under the name Fritz Von Erich and became famous in the ‘60s and ‘70s as a professional wrestler before taking on more administrative roles and passing the torch on to his five sons. The Texas-based wrestler made a name for himself for his trademark “Iron Claw” move where he would spread his hand over his opponent’s face and squeeze, which usually signaled the end of the match. While five of his sons followed in his footsteps and went into professional wrestling, Kevin (Efron), David (Harris Dickison), and Kerry (Allen White) became famous in their own right.

“Dad never, ever said we had to wrestle, or that we even ought to,” Kevin Von Erich told Dallas’ D Magazine in 1988. “But we all knew what was going to happen in the end. It was inevitable. We were going to go into wrestling because we wanted to be just like our dad.”

The movie also tells the story of the tragedies that befell the Von Erich family.

The “Von Erich Curse.”

The “Von Erich curse,” as it’s called in the trailer for The Iron Claw, could possibly have started when Fritz’s oldest son Jack was electrocuted and killed at just 6 years old. This is largely believed to have started off a tragic chain of events that would eventually leave the family horribly so much smaller than it began. By the time Fritz died of cancer in 1997, five of his six sons had predeceased him.

Where are the Von Erich brothers now?

David Von Erich, the third oldest son who was known by the wrestling name “Yellow Rose of Texas,” died of enteritis, an intestinal infection, in a Tokyo hotel in 1984 when he was just 25 years old. His brother Mike, aka “Inspirational Warrior,” died of a drug overdose in 1987 at 21 years old, while Chris Von Erich, who is not portrayed in the film, died by suicide at his family’s Texas ranch in 1991. Finally, Kerry Von Erich, known as “The Texas Tornado” and “Modern Day Warrior, died by suicide in 1993 at 33 years old, per The Baltimore Sun.

Kevin Von Erich is the last remaining brother with a family of his own.

Kevin Von Erich retired from wrestling and moved to Kauai for some time with his wife and four children before returning to Texas in 2023. “I knew I didn’t want to get old in the ring,” he explained in a WWE feature. “The real thing that took me out of the business was that it wasn’t fun anymore. Everything reminded me of my brothers.” Kevin Von Erich currently has a one-man show called Stories From The Rope where he talks about his brothers and his time in the ring.

His two sons, Ross and Marshall Von Erich, are tag-team wrestlers carrying on the family tradition in the WWE to this day.