62. CHRIS ADAMS
Hometown – Rugby, England
Debuted – June 1978
Titles Held – WCCW American Heavyweight x3; WCCW Television x3; WCCW Six Man Tag Team (with Jake Roberts and Gino Hernandez); WCCW American Tag Team (with Gino Hernandez) x2; WWF Light Heavyweight; WCWA World Heavyweight; GWF North American x2; NWA Americas Heavyweight; NWA Americas Tag Team x2 (with Tom Prichard and Ringo Rigsby); NWA Los Angeles Beat the Champ Television; UWF World Tag Team (with Terry Taylor); WCWA Six Man Tag Team (with Steve Simpson and Kevin Von Erich)
Other Accomplishments – trained the likes of Scott Hall and Steve Austin; died 7th October 2001 from a gunshot wound; went to 1976 Olympics as part of the Great Britain judo squad
Chris Adams’s early life never showed that he was going to become a professional wrestler. By the age of 11, he had begun taking judo lessons. Judo would dominate his sports life for the next 24 years along with rugby, cricket, soccer, and amateur wrestling. At the age of 21, Adams was on the British Olympic judo team, although he would not be chosen to compete. He would also become a three-time national judo champion as well as a black belt. Adams would return to the Olympics in 1980 and 1984, although both times he was there to support his brother Neil (who won a silver medal in 1980) and also as a consultant to the 1984 team.
In 1978 he began wrestling despite having no formal training after seeing wrestling footage of the Dynamite Kid. He competed in England for two years as Judo Chris Adams, encountering such famed British competitors as Fit Finlay, Davey Boy Smith, and the Dynamite Kid.
1980 saw Adams making his way to the NWA: Hollywood territory run by Mike and Gene LeBell, who were well-known in the judo world. Adams’s first US title win would come here Ã¢â‚¬â€œ on February thirteenth he teamed with Tom Prichard to win the vacant NWA Americas Tag Team titles. They would hold the belts for a month exactly before losing them to Rick and John Davidson. About this same time Adams won his first singles gold Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the Beat the Champ television title. It was on October first of that year that Adams defeated Perro Aguayo (Sr.) to win the WWF Light Heavyweight title. He would lose the belt back to Aguayo in December.
In early 1982 Adams teamed with Ringo Rigsby to win the NWA Americas tag belts for the final time (Adrian Street and Timothy Flowers won them in May). Late 1982 saw Adams winning the NWA Americas Heavyweight title as the territory was dying. Adams lost the belt to El Monarca in early November. The company closed the day after Christmas.
In 1983, Adams headed to the territory which would make him famous Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Fritz Von Erich’s World Class Championship Wrestling. Adams debuted on April 13th (after a sit-down interview with WCCW TV host Bill Mercer) and immediately was catapulted to become one of the company’s top faces. Introduced as Kevin’s pen pal and even named an honorary Von Erich, the fans quickly fell in love with Adams.
Although Adams’s first feud was against the Mongol (who he’d encountered in Don Owen’s Portland territory), his primary opponent soon became Jimmy Garvin. Garvin’s managers (Sunshine and Precious) soon entered the fray as well, resulting in several mixed tag matches. Adams (wrestling as the mysterious Masked Avenger) finally defeated Garvin in an October match to win a shot at Garvin’s NWA American Heavyweight title (WCCW’s primary belt at the time). Adams made the most of his opportunity and captured the belt from Garvin on November 24th. Garvin recaptured the gold on Christmas Day. January 30th saw Adams taking the belt back, only to lose it to Garvin again April 2nd. The rest of the month of April would see Adams recapture the belt yet again and lose it back to Garvin again. In addition, Sunshine (who had been taking the blame for Garvin’s losses) had grown tired of Garvin’s antics and begun managing Adams. The feud concluded on July 4, when Adams defeated Garvin in a loser leaves town match.
Ironically, Adams also began only appearing sporadically for the company during this time due to his commitments to the Olympic judo team.
Adams returned full-time in August, but there was a change in him. Adams, a babyface, hired a new manager Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Gary Hart Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a heel. The Von Erichs pleaded with Adams to drop Hart but he refused.
Things came to a boiling point in September. Adams was tagging with Kevin Von Erich against Jake Roberts and Gino Hernandez. By this point, Sunshine had left the company and her truck driving aunt Stella Mae French was filling her shoes. Stella Mae tried to interfere in the match only to give Hernandez the pin over Adams. After the match, Adams and Hart started yelling at Stella Mae. Kevin came over to try and smooth things over only to get superkicked by Adams for his trouble. In addition, Hart knocked Stella Mae out. Adams and Hart then left Kevin to get double-teamed by Roberts and Hernandez.
Kevin and Adams had a one-on-one match set for the October 27 Cotton Bowl Extravaganza. Before the match, Kevin got the microphone and made Adams a deal Ã¢â‚¬â€œ shake his hand and fire Gary Hart and all would be forgiven. Adams attacked Kevin and would wind up losing the match. Afterward Adams attacked Kevin with a wooden chair. Kevin (who suffered a legitimate concussion) was stretchered out while the crowd nearly rioted.
Adams returned in the main event, where he tagged with Gino Hernandez and Jake Roberts against Kerry Von Erich, Mike Von Erich, and Bobby Fulton of the Fantastics (who was subbing for Kevin). Adams, Roberts, and Hernandez won the match to capture the WCCW Six Man Tag Team titles. Kevin, Kerry, and Mike would recapture the belts in December after the feud between Adams and Kevin was ended quickly (Kevin assaulted Adams with a chair the next month. The chair broke and a piece of wood lodged in Adams’s nose dangerously close to his eye).
Early 1985 saw Adams firing Gary Hart, but maintaining his heelish ways. Adams became an unusual heel in that he wasn’t above cheating, but he was also respectful to the broadcasters and the fans.
Later that year, Adams formed a tag team with Hernandez known as the Dynamic Duo. The two quickly became an iconic tag team from World Class and feuded regularly with the team of Kevin and Kerry Von Erich.
May 5th saw another memorable World Class moment occur. A two-ring twelve man match pitted the Fabulous Freebirds and the Von Erichs against the Duo, Rip Oliver, Kamala, Dr. Death Steve Williams, and the One Man Gang. The winning team would receive a new Cadillac. The Freebirds and Von Erichs won the match. Afterward, Hernandez and Adams led a charge by the heels that destroyed the car.
In June the Duo defeated the Fantastics to win the American Tag Team titles. September 13th saw the belts held up after a match with the Von Erich brothers which had an unclear finish. Kevin and Kerry won the belts a month later, and then saw the belts held up again in October. A November 11th rematch saw the belts return to the Duo.
Along the way, Adams and Hernandez had also begun cutting their opponents’ hair, which led to a hair vs. hair match at the October Cotton Bowl show. Adams and Hernandez were defeated by Kevin and Kerry Von Erich and were shaved bald after the match. The two wore masks until their hair grew back out, but cracks soon began to appear in the partnership.
December 24th saw Adams and Hernandez defending their titles against the masked Cosmic Cowboys, who soon unmasked to reveal the Von Erich brothers (who Adams and Hernandez had denied a title shot earlier). Toward the end of the match, Adams was desperate to tag Hernandez in, but Hernandez wouldn’t accept the tag. Adams threw Kevin over the top rope (a DQ, but they retained the belts), then walked over and slapped Hernandez in the face. Adams then stormed away.
Hernandez had an interview with Marc Lowrance shortly thereafter, where he explained that he’d knocked Adams out and now everything was fine. When Adams came out, Hernandez started backtracking. After Lowrance filled him in on what was said, Adams attacked.
On January 27th, a hair vs. hair match was set between the former partners (the belts had been abandoned when the two split. This was also the time period where WCCW was splitting away from the NWA and renaming itself the WCWA). This time, rather than shaving, the loser would lose his hair via the dreaded Freebird Hair Cream. Adams rapidly took control of the match but kept refusing to pin Hernandez, instead wanting to inflict more punishment. As Adams argued with the referee, Hernandez grabbed the hair cream and threw it into Adams’s face. Adams won the match, but the price was high, as the fans were informed he had been blinded.
The original plan was for Adams to take some time off in England, then return to continue the feud with Hernandez. Those plans never materialized as Hernandez’s body was found in his apartment on February 4th. The cause of death was eventually ruled an accidental overdose. However, before the final ruling was made, Scotland Yard did question Adams about the death.
Adams returned in May, now wearing an eye patch following his blinding. (Adams was also competing for Gary Hart’s Texas All-Star Wrestling in San Antonio where he did not wear the eye patch.) Adams was booked into a feud with World champion Rick Rude. The feud culminated at the July 4th Star Wars where Adams defeated Rude to win the title.
Adams did not have a long run with the belt. He was arrested for allegedly assaulting a pilot on a flight back from the Caribbean, and was sentenced to four months in prison. World Class severed ties with Adams, and announced a phantom title swap to Black Bart.
After Adams was released, he headed to Bill Watts’s Universal Wrestling Federation. Adams soon began tagging with Terry Taylor, and the two entered a tournament to crown new tag team champions in February of 1987 (the belts had been vacated after Taylor’s former partner, Jim Duggan, had lost a loser-leaves-town match). They won, defeating Sting and Rick Steiner in the finals. They lost the belts to Sting and Steiner in April and began feuding with each other.
Adams also renewed his feud with Black Bart. They spent the summer trading victories at major shows Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Bart won at the June Superbowl Extravaganza, and Adams won at the NWA’s Great American Bash that summer.
Adams returned to World Class after the UWF was purchased by the NWA in November. He once again allied with the Von Erichs and the Simpson Brothers as they fought off the newest incarnation of the Freebirds (Terry Gordy, Buddy Roberts, Iceman King Parsons, and the Angel of Death).
In late 1988, Adams opened a school for training wrestlers which operated out of the Sportatorium. While Adams had been training on and off since 1984, now he was doing it on a more permanent basis. In 1989, Steve Williams was one of his first students. Today, Williams is best known as Stone Cold Steve Austin.
In 1990 (after World Class had been absorbed by the USWA), Adams again found himself in a mixed tag feud. This time it was himself and his wife Toni facing off against Steve Austin and Adams’s ex-wife (and Austin’s current wife) Jeannie. The feud also pulled in Adams’s friend Chris Von Erich and Austin’s manager Percy Pringle.
By the end of 1990, World Class was completely gone. The USWA had pulled out of Dallas and the Von Erichs had attempted to run WCCW shows again only to shut down completely in November. Adams teamed with Norman Smiley in December for Starrcade’s Pat O’Connor Memorial International Tag Team Tournament. Adams and Smiley were eliminated in the first round by Konnan and Rey Misterio Sr.
1991 saw Adams being put on probation for DUIs before he returned to Dallas, this time for the new Global Wrestling Federation. He also competed for the Tennessee-based USWA, where he feuded with Brian Christopher over Toni Adams’s affections.
Adams returned to the familiar field of tag-team wrestling in the GWF, as he and Kerry Von Erich began teaming. Their team ended forever in February of 1993 when Kerry committed suicide.
In April, a memorial show was held in honor of Kerry Von Erich. Adams teamed with Kevin Von Erich to take on Michael Hayes and Buddy Roberts in what was billed as the final match ever between the Von Erichs and the Freebirds. Fritz Von Erich was in Adams and Kevin’s corner, while General Skandor Akbar was managing the Freebirds. In the end Fritz locked Akbar in the Iron Claw while Kevin applied the same move to Roberts in the ring. Outside, Hayes and Rod Price attacked Adams until the Angel of Death ran in for the save. This would also be Fritz’s last appearance in a wrestling match.
In December of 1993 Adams defeated Iceman King Parsons for the GWF North American title. In September he had lost a match against Parsons to crown a new champion (former champion Rod Price had been stripped of the title after an incident on a Japanese tour). Adams held the belt until April, when Price regained the title.
As the GWF began dying, the belt was held up following a controversial match between Price and Butch Reed on June 3rd. Follow-up matches also ended in controversy. Adams regained the title on July 1st. He would be the final GWF champion as the company shut down two months later.
After the GWF shutdown, Adams began splitting his time between two short-lived companies. The first was Jim Crockett Jr.’s attempt at reviving the Dallas territory under the NWA banner (which closed in May of 1995). The other was the unusual American Wrestling Federation.
The AWF promoted shows where matches were fought under European rules. The company was headquartered in Chicago and featured bouts with four minute rounds that had a one minute rest period between rounds. After three rounds (twelve for title matches) the decision went to cards held by two ringside judges and the referee to decide the winner. As one of the few men on the roster with any sort of familiarity with these rules, Adams’s assistance was invaluable.
The AWF had a television program that ran throughout 1995 and 1996 called Warriors of Wrestling. They were heading toward their first pay-per-view when the company closed in December of 1996.
Adams made his way to WCW in 1998 as a lower card wrestler. He feuded with Glacier over who had the better superkick as well as a feud with Mr. World Class Chip Minton, a name Adams (according to the storyline) felt disrespected the WCCW legacy. Adams also has the dubious honor of losing the first match that ever aired on Thunder (to Randy Savage).
In 1999, Adams was teamed with fellow Britons Steven Regal and Dave Taylor as the Blue Bloods. However, Regal and Adams did not get along (reportedly due to Adams’s flaunting of his wild lifestyle around Regal, who was trying to escape his own addictions) and Adams was removed from the team. After this, Adams requested his release and received it later in the year.
Adams’s life began spiraling downward shortly thereafter. In April of 2000, Adams and his girlfriend were both found unconscious after overdosing on alcohol and GHB. Adams recovered, but his girlfriend did not survive. Adams was charged with manslaughter, but would never stand trial.
On October 7, 2001 a drunken Chris Adams was in a barroom brawl with his best friend. The man, fearful for his life, pulled a gun and fired, killing Adams. At the time, Adams was preparing to begin working with Ted DiBiase’s WXO wrestling organization.
Former WCCW producer Mickey Grant is currently completing a documentary of Adams’s life which will be called “The Gentleman’s Choice.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Despite Adams’s turbulent personal life, Adams was a great technician and his knowledge of judo could assist in some unorthodox offense. It could be argued that he shone brightest in World Class, where he was consistently at the top of the card whether he was alone or teaming with Gino Hernandez. Sadly, however, Adams’s personal demons consistently hindered his career.
Adams’s longest standing contribution, however, may very well be his training of Steve Austin. Austin helped rejuvenate the WWF in 1996 and 1997, and the aftermath of his Wrestlemania XIV main event against Shawn Michaels propelled the ratings for the WWF’s Raw past WCW’s Nitro for the first time in two years. In addition, Adams had a hand in training Scott Hall, who, as one of the Outsiders, gave WCW the momentum it needed to start defeating the WWF in those very same ratings.
For his contributions to the wrestling business, both in the ring and behind the scenes, Gentleman Chris Adams has definitely earned his place on this list of the top 100 wrestlers of the modern era.
The entire Top 100 Wrestlers feature can be found here.