Growing up a fan of pro wrestling, I followed a bunch of different promotions, including World Class Championship Wrestling. In watching the different programs, I got to know personalities like the Von Erichs, The Freebirds, Skandor Akbar and others, but one thing that most fans would recognize is the mention of “The World Famous Sportatorium” with its capacity crowds that were so close to the action. After I moved to Dallas in 1996, I heard there was still wrestling going on there, so I had to go, but when I arrived, I was shocked at how small the crowd was and how far the building itself had deteriorated. Now that it’s gone, I see old footage from WCCW and even though it wasn’t in its heyday, I can still say I have been there and will never regret it. There are so many stories that have come out of that building, but the biggest of them is being told with The Iron Claw.
Sean Durkin (The Nest) directs this story of the Von Erich family, who were really the foundation of WCCW in Dallas during the ‘80s. The family is headed up by Fritz (Holt McCallany) and features his sons as the top dogs: Kevin (Zac Efron), David (Harris Dickinson), and over time Kerry (Jeremy Allen White) and Michael (Stanley Simons). The boys’ mother, Doris (Maura Tierney) does her best to keep the family together, but as tragedy begins to befall them, even she and Kevin’s wife, Pam (Lily James) struggle to be their support system.
I was incredibly impressed by Efron’s portrayal of Kevin (who stated that he averaged two hours a day practicing his wrestling skills during the production to give as accurate of a performance as possible) and could easily see some nominations on the horizon for him. The rest of the cast works well together and has strong performances of their own in a way that really accurately portrayed the moments and matches that I remember. Durkin really took time here to make sure each and every set kept the time spot-on with every detail. From the locations to even the houses that were featured, everything kept me engaged all the way through.
However, If I have a gripe here, it lies in the screenplay itself. At two hours and ten minutes, there were so many key moments to this story that were just rushed or barely mentioned in the film like Kerry winning the World Title from Ric Flair at Texas Stadium. An even bigger omission here is the fact that there was another son, Chris, that was left out of the story completely. If they really wanted to paint the complete picture here, his story was necessary and would have pushed this film farther up my list.
However, The Iron Claw is the type of film where even a person who is in no way a pro wrestling fan can watch and learn a lot without getting lost in the business side of the story. For fans, there is not much is new information but is good for remembering that time in pro wrestling’s history. I was really looking forward to seeing this film when it was announced, and getting invited to screen it at its world premiere made the experience that much more special. Given all of that, it felt rushed and was missing that “something really special,” so although I will definitely recommend this film I can only do so as a weekend matinee at the theaters.