***IMPORTANT. PLEASE READ***
Mr. Raven was a professional wrestler and participant in the wrestling industry, who wrestled under the name Johnny English. In the persona of Johnny English, Mr. Raven appeared as Chris Adam’s manager and also wrestled as Chris Adam’s tag team partner. Mr. Raven was unintentionally characterized in my original review as a hanger-on or someone just wanting to be near a celebrity. That characterization was not accurate. It was the result of an unintentional error on my part which I regret and now want to correct.
“Anyone I’ve ever seen go over there (The US) in our business has either come back in a box, a wheel chair, or a drug addict”? says former British wrestler Tony Walsh in the opening moments of “Gentleman’s Choice: The Chris Adams Story”. Sobering comments that paint a dark picture of the story about to be told; one of riches to rags and the throws of drug and alcohol addiction and their consequences.
“Gentleman’s Choice” is a recently released documentary by Micky Grant, who for those of you not privy to Texas Wrestling, may be one of the most influential, if not THE most influential TV producer for any wrestling promotion, ever.
World Class Championship Wrestling was owned by Fritz Von Erich and operated out of the Sportatorium in Dallas, Texas. World Class was known largely for it’s hard hitting, physical style as much as its young, budding talent. However, it wasn’t just ‘what’ was in World Class that made it so huge at its peak, but how it was presented.
Enter Mickey Grant, who worked with Continental Productions, which was subsidiary of the local KXTX TV station out of Dallas. His work would forever change the way we look at wrestling. Literally.
Grant’s style was very in your face. Grant was the first to produce a wrestling show using multiple mics. We heard every grunt, smack and slam just like it was happening in our living room. World Class was also the first promotion to stray away from the traditional hard-camera only style we were accustomed to seeing from the 1970s and much of the 1980s. Viewers now were in the ring, on the top rope, outside of it and in the back. One truly got a total view of the action in a way they had never had before.
Grant was also a strong proponent of bio pieces, rock n roll music for ring entrances as well as frequently showing shots of the crowd. What resulted was a crowd that was invested in its wrestlers, cheering them wildly. The Dallas Sportatorium was officially the place to be.
Among the biggest stars in the World Class promotion was a man by the name of Chris Adams. Adams was born in the United Kingdom and alongside Adrian Street, was perhaps on of the first genuinely popular foreigners in US Wrestling.
Adams was a stand out worker on a list of young, snug working, up and coming stars in world class. His feuds with Jimmy Garvin & The Von Erichs in World Class would really serve as a launching pad for his career. Adams would go on to great success outside of World Class as well, feuding with Mid South’s Terry Taylor in 1987. His good looks and ability to manipulate the crowd made him an indispensable addition to any roster during the early 80s.
However, Adams’ success in the ring is greatly contrasted with his battles outside of it. Adams’ struggles have been documented numerous times in the past, but perhaps never this vividly. ???A Gentleman’s Choice??? Takes a step into the seedy world of addiction, with its own share of colorful characters who help pave a path of destruction for Adams.
Perhaps the most jarring portion of the documentary are those people whom Adams surrounded himself with; Has beens, never was’ and other miscellaneous hangers-on. Not only is this just a story of addiction to drugs, but an addiction to fame, and how these ‘supporting’ characters all contribute in a way to his ultimate destruction.
Grant presents these characters well, really bringing to light the Grey-induced insanity of Adams’ existence. Even when these people are ‘right’, they’re in so many ways ‘wrong’. All you can conclude by the end of the film was that all of them, in some way, shape or form, wanted a piece of him.
Kevin Adkisson, the only surviving member of the Von Erich wrestling family, saw some of those problems first-hand and goes into great detail regarding them in the film.
Adkisson was on a flight with Mr. Adams in 1986, returning from a series of shows in the Caribbean, when their plane was grounded with mechanical problems. The airline provided an open bar. When the flight finally took off, the crew decided they wouldn’t serve drinks. Mr. Adams objected.
“I was asleep in the back and a stewardess came up and said, ‘Mr. Von Erich, can you help us?’ ” Mr. Adkisson recalled.
Mr. Adams had argued with a flight attendant. When one of the pilots intervened, Mr. Adams knocked him to the floor and head-butted him in the bridge of the nose, breaking it so badly that the pilot had begun spewing blood and his eyes swelled up in the matter of a few minutes.
“I ran up and got him in a half nelson. I said, ‘Chris, you know they’re going to arrest you for this.’ Adams seemed not to care.
Four Von Erich brothers, whose family name is Adkisson, died young, two committed suicide (Michael & Kerry), one died of heat failure largely believed to have been caused by drug abuse (David) and the oldest Von Erich son died at seven years old when he was electrocuted. Mr. Adams’ former wrestling partner, Gino Hernandez, died of a drug overdose in 1986.
Hernandez, Adams and The Adkisson brothers were all at the top of an even longer line of World Class wrestlers who would meet and untimely demise. Frank “Bruiser Brody” Goodish was killed by another wrestler in Puerto Rico in 1988. “Ravishing” Rick Rude died from a drug overdose in 1999. So did Buzz Sawyer. Scott “Super Destroyer” Irwin and Jeep Swenson died of cancer. Terry Gordy suffered a fatal heart attack in July 2001.
As the title states, “Gentleman’s Choice”? is certainly a film about ‘choice’, whether that be the decisions we make for ourselves personally, or even decisions for others. Adams was a man steeped in a perpetual sense of gray, a genuinely good person swallowed up and plunged into the depths of despair by addition. It’s truly a unique and complex look into a unique and complex personality, one that will forever be indelibly etched in the memories of wrestling fans for years to come.
The film may be viewed at http://gentleman.eyesoda.com