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Certificate: Not rated
Running Time: 96 mins
This is a little different from the normal reviews you will have read by me on this site. Kam (the overlord of Wrestling 101) was approached by representatives of Mickey Grant (the director of the documentary and the former producer for World Class Championship Wrestling television broadcasts, who, incidentally, was involved in naming the promotion) to ask if the site would be willing to review the story of Chris Adams.
Kam asked me, as the resident wrestling reviewer, if this would interest me and I, without hesitation, said yes.
You see, most people, including myself, only really know of Adams from brief glimpses in WCW, the fact he was the trainer of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (even if Austin is less than complimentary about the training he received, the fact still remains that Chris Adams broke Steve Austin into the business) and how he died. Because I only know small pieced of his history, I jumped at the chance to find out more about the man who brought the superkick to the United States, from Japan, and hopefully see some good wrestling in the progress.
My first fear regarding this documentary was that, due to it being an independent production, the quality would be at the lower end of the scale. Rest assured, this is not the case; the picture quality is superb and the footage doesn’t appear to have degraded with age.
The film opens with the entrances for a tag match pitting The Von Erichs against Gino Hernandez and Chris Adams, a Hair v Hair match. From there, after a nice glimpse of the man himself, the documentary gets under way with the revelation that Adams was an addict; drugs, alcohol, sex, you name it, the man was addicted to it. It’s plain to see that there were two sides to Chris Adams, but which one would prove to be the truth? That is the main story of the film and the journey, based on these first two minutes, seems like it’s going to have a few twists and turns before giving us an answer.
Along the way, we see footage of matches against Rick Rude, The Von Erichs, Jimmy Garvin (as the masked Avenger), etc, and hear about both “Gentleman” Chris Adams and the times when that nickname was null-and-void (like the time he spent in prison for headbutting the co-pilot of an American Airlines plane while it was in flight, the incident where he assaulted his second wife – assault would be a common thread in the stories – and his eventual demise).
To contrast with this serious and, frankly, rather depressing side of Chris’ life, the documentary also details the highs of his career, what his peers thought of him as an in-ring performer and the wrestling school he set up (complete with cheesy infomercial-style advertisement that is splattered with the USWA logo) in the Texas area. Obviously, the latter section features Steve Austin and, logically, why would you not? Steve Austin became, arguably, the biggest star this business has ever seen, so to acknowledge where he got his start and foundation in the wrestling business simply makes sense… even though Chris apparently detested the fact he was more known for training “Stone Cold” than for his own accomplishments and Austin himself doesn’t feel he was treated well during that time period.
The man lived a wild and varied life and was, as one person says early in the film, a real Jekyll & Hyde character.
Some of the talking heads appearing on the documentary are quite the coup for the director. Kevin Von Erich, Bill Mercer, Chris’ mum, dad and brother (who won two silver medals for Judo at the Olympics), Jeanie Clarke (the former wife of Adams who later married Steve Austin), Gary Hart (now deceased), David Manning and his kids are all featured giving various accounts of their dealings with the wrestler (with some of them seem to have their own agenda). Watch out for the former stripper, who seems to be on amphetamines constantly. She has an annoying voice, but is hilarious to listen to… for all the wrong reasons.
With many stories covering the various incidents in Chris Adams’ life (some funny, some serious, some tragic, all interesting) this documentary is a really well put together film that does its best to educate the fans about one of the lost figures in professional wrestling and man who deserves to be known as much more than simply “the guy who trained Steve Austin”.
Some of the cuts are a little ragged, and the musical interludes seem a little random and out of place, but overall, the documentary is well put together and offers a balanced view of the subject without going down a sensationalistic path; something that would have been easy to do with the current “Wellness” situation that is prevalent in pro-wrestling.
The one failing the piece does have, for me, is that there is no complete matches to show off the talent Chris Adams had. Most likely, this is because WWE own all the WCCW footage (as well as most, if not all of remaining footage from the other promotions Adams wrestled for), but it’s still a badly missed feature in an otherwise comprehensive accounting of the man’s life and career. (Edit – after interviewing the director, it was through choice that there are no wrestling matches shown in their entirety).
That being said, I’d still recommend it to any wrestling fan looking to learn about the darker side of the sport (drugs, domestic violence, death by overdose, hiring a hitman, murder). Some words of warning though; the language is a bit fruity at times (with uncensored use of the “C-word” among others), so even though there is no official BBFC-a-like rating, work on the assumption that it is for over-18s only and, in regards to streaming the film from the website, let the entire thing load up before watching unless you have a really fast internet connection.
Click here to read my interview with the director: Mickey Grant
“The Hangman” Draven Cage
Watch the documentary on demand at EyeSoda