From Ring to Screen

Written by: 
Scott Brown
Kevin Von Erich
Kevin Von Erich

WWE Hall of Famer Kevin Von Erich's time at North Texas as a student-athlete may have been brief, but his family's connection to UNT is stronger than the crushing grip of an Iron Claw.

Von Erich started at NTSU in 1975 and played under College Football Hall of Famer Hayden Fry. It's a time he looks back on fondly.

"Oh, man, it was actually the greatest time of my life," Von Erich says. "I loved hanging out with my teammates and it was just carefree. Yeah, those were some great days."

His younger brother David also played football at NTSU, but the Von Erichs' time on campus wasn't limited to the classroom and the football field -- three generations of the professional wrestling dynasty have plied their craft at UNT. Patriarch Fritz, who originated the infamous Iron Claw finishing move, faced off against Nicolai Volkoff in the Men's Gym in 1973; Kevin and his brothers wrestled in the Super Pit on a nearly annual basis throughout the '80s; and Kevin's sons, Marshall and Ross, stepped into the ring in the stadium after a Mean Green football game in 2018.

But beyond the peaks of the glory and fame the Von Erichs achieved in the ring during the late '70s and early '80s was a steep drop into a valley of tragedy and loss. By the time he turned 36, Kevin had outlived all five of his brothers. One died as a child and the other four died in a span of nine years, with three of those four dying by suicide.

It's a story that was dramatized in the 2023 film The Iron Claw, starring Zac Efron as Kevin Von Erich. Although he admits it isn't entirely historically accurate, Von Erich says the most important thing the movie achieved was showing the love the brothers shared, particularly in a scene depicting his brothers reuniting in the afterlife.

"That's something I think about a lot, one day being together again," Von Erich says. "When I saw that in the movie -- Kerry and Mike and Dave and they see little Jackie -- I got some tears in my eyes. That's a beautiful thought to me."

Since the events of the film, Von Erich left Texas for Hawaii, where he lived with his family for the better part of two decades. But in 2023 the family moved back to the Lone Star State, buying a ranch in Boerne, just north of San Antonio.

The Ironwood Ranch also doubles as an event venue for weddings, quinceañeras, bar mitzvahs and family reunions. Having experienced so much tragedy in his own family, Von Erich takes great pride in being able to help other families celebrate some of their happiest memories. He hopes that message of overcoming tragedy resonates with everyone who sees The Iron Claw.

"It's a movie about the human spirit," Von Erich says. "When a man's down and he's lost a brother and a few years later another and another and another, you could have every reason to duck your head and just say, 'This life isn't worth it,' and just waste away. But when you overcome something like that, it makes you stronger."