It’s easy for a wrestling fan to think of a wrestler whose personal demons have negatively impacted their careers. Scott Hall. Jake Roberts. Chris Candido. It should be also be noted that, unlike Candido, many addicted wrestlers find it impossible to escape their demons.
This film is about another of those wrestlers. Gentleman Chris Adams was a star in World Class Championship Wrestling, both as a singles star and as part of the “Dynamic Duo” with Gino Hernandez. He continued to compete in Texas and also had a run in WCW before his death in 2001.
The film opens with footage of Hernandez and Adams on the way to battle Kevin and Kerry Von Erich in a hair vs. hair match at the 1985 Cotton Bowl show.
We also hear opening statements from wrestling manager Miss Lacy, a friend of Adams’s named Laurie Wright, former referee Whitebread Johnson, Kevin Von Erich, promoter Tom Lance, and friend Brent Parnell. We also get a glimpse of Adams defeating Rick Rude for the World Class world title.
Former WCCW commentator Bill Mercer spoke about Adams’s effect on the company. We also saw footage of an old interview with Adams where he discussed his judo training.
We then hear from Chris’s family – parents Jean and Cyril Adams, as well as from brother Neil. First they discuss Adams’s judo training and then move into the beginnings of his wrestling career (at the cost of his career as an architect).
Tony Walsh then spoke of Adams’s appeal to women, which introduces Jeannie Adams – Chris’s first wife (who later married Adams student Steve Austin). Jeannie spoke of meeting Adams and Walsh spoke of training him.
Adams soon got an opportunity to wrestle in America. After words from his parents, we hear ominous words from Walsh, who explains that every wrestler he’d known had gone to America had returned to America either crippled, addicted to drugs, or dead.
Mercer talks about Adams’s debut and his appeal with the fans. Kevin and Laurie Wright add their support to the fact. Film producer Mickey Grant then gave some statistics as to the WCCW show’s popularity at its peak.
Mercer explains that Adams, knowing that the Von Erichs were locked into the top face positions in the company, decided to turn heel. Manager Gary Hart then spoke about Adams’s potential and his heel turn.
We then see footage of Adams’s face turn as he fired Hart as his manager. Hart then introduces an incident that had derailed Adams’s career.
Former WCCW referee David Manning sets the scene – the wrestlers were set to fly from San Juan to bring the wrestlers into Texas for the night’s show. Engine problems set the plane on the ground for hours – during which time the airline opened the bar with free drinks. Adams, who didn’t have to wrestle that night, drank heavily both on the ground and in the air.
Wrestler Tim Brooks (who was on the plane) continues the story as problems arose when Adams was cut off. After verbally confronting two stewardesses, the co-pilot came back and informed Adams he was cut off. The enraged Adams head-butted the co-pilot. Kevin Von Erich was brought up to try and defuse the situation. Adams was choking the co-pilot when he suddenly released him and Von Erich escorted him back to his seat.
Adams’s former attorney Balon Bradley and Hart continued the tale. Adams wound up in jail and wrote to his parents that he was now going to Alcoholics Anonymous.
Adams’s friend JD Reed spoke of Adams’s desire to be a better father to his daughter Julia than he had been to his other two children. We then saw footage of Adams playing with Julia on a playground. He also conducted an interview on the playground where he affirmed his desire to live sober for his children and be a better husband and father than he had been.
Miss Lacy also adds that Chris had been prescribed anti-depressants.
Kevin then adds incidents that had been caused by Chris’s temper when he was intoxicated – he had assaulted a desk clerk in Israel and attacked his wife Toni in 1989.
Whitebread also brings up other issues with Adams’s relationships – namely that his breakups had always been extremely ugly.
Miss Lacy continues telling about Adams’s desire to be a better father to Julia, and he kept claiming he needed to clean himself up for her.
The next blow to Adams happened when Steve Austin married Adams’s ex-wife Jeannie. Tom Lance adds that Adams had been bothered by the fact that he was more remembered as Austin’s trainer rather than as a wrestler himself.
We then get clashing views of Adams. Jeannie talks about how Adams had done everything to help Austin out. Tom Lance then talks about how Adams had been “cold” in business and Kevin Von Erich adds a story of how he’d caught Adams trying to sneak out of town with the gate in the middle of the night without paying anyone.
Hart then discusses how he’d tried to get Adams to join him in North Carolina, only for Adams to instead to decide he wanted to be a promoter. Hart adds that Adams had tried to build a company that could be what WCCW had been.
We then hear about the addictions in WCCW which resulted in suicides and deaths among the roster. Grant adds that he had been one of them who had become an alcoholic.
Adams then discovered a new drug – GHB. Trinka Porrata, a former Los Angeles narcotics officer discussed her experiences with GHB addicts. Laurie Wright adds that Adams wasn’t only using GHB, but also Xanax and Valium.
Parnell then tells of Adams’s overdose on GHB. He woke from a coma, dressed, and walked out of the hospital. Porrata adds that this is actually not unusual for GHB overdoses.
We then see footage of an idea Adams had tried that he called “shoot wrestling.” In the matches, professional wrestlers would battle wearing headgear and boxing gloves.
This introduces LA Steele – former wrestler and Miss Lacy’s husband. Steele discusses the way that he and Adams would lay out matches.
Parnell explains that problems arose with Steele and Lacy after the film “Beyond the Mat” came out because Lacy was in it and Adams felt that his own participation in the film was as nothing more than an extra.
Another conflict occurs as Lacy explains that she and Steele were blacklisted by Adams. Parnell says that he cut Steele and Lacy because they kept pressuring him to hold an autograph party for the movie (that no one else in the film wanted to do).
Hart and Lance tell the story of how Adams had fallen in love with a woman named Linda Kaphengst. Roland Zamorano, a former classmate of Linda’s, adds more details about her. Pam Hernandez, a former promoter’s assistant, also spoke about Linda. Porrata added more information about how GHB was used in strip clubs (which was where Adams and Linda had met).
Parnell tells the story of a night when Adams and Linda had come over. He’d gone to bed and Adams and Linda had mixed GHB with some orange juice. Parnell awoke to silence. He saw the motionless couple and, thinking they were simply drunk, decided to watch and make sure they were all right. With urging from Lance, Parnell called EMTs. They worked to resuscitate Linda and rushed them to a hospital. Word came that Linda had lived and everything appeared to be well.
However, the next day Lance received word that Linda was brain-dead. Parnell told the story of Adams’s call to him when he confessed that they’d taken GHB. Lance adds about when Adams had discovered that Linda’s family had chosen to disconnect her life support.
Parnell adds that no charges were filed.
Miss Lacy then reveals that she had tracked down Kaphengst’s family and had posted online that Chris Adams had given Linda the GHB that had caused her death.
Former security chief Bill Colville then spoke about the destructive people in Adams’s wife. John Raven discusses the effects of drugs around entertainers.
Lance tells that Adams was hospitalized due to fears that he was suicidal. Raven discusses Adams’s state of mind after he was released and stayed with him following his release from the hospital.
Jeannie then told of her telephone conversations with Adams where she urged him to go into rehab.
Pam then talks about a message that a livid Adams had left where he had indirectly threatened to kill her. Lacy pounced at the opportunity and took the answering machine tape to the police. Martin Leyko, a former assistant prosecutor, told of the office receiving the case file on Linda’s death and how Adams was indicted for manslaughter. Lacy adds that the crucial piece of evidence had been the answering machine tape.
Parnell adds that Adams had contacted a hitman to try and have Lacy killed, only for the hitman to refuse the job.
Gary Hart then talks about Adams falling in love with a woman named Karen. We also see home video footage of Adams’s wedding to Karen.
Karen talks about falling in love with Adams. JD adds information about Adams’s hero Doc Holliday. Colville also discusses how happy Adams was.
Karen’s daughter Shea briefly spoke of her good relationship with Chris and Karen adds that she never saw his darker side.
We then meet Parnell’s mother and aunt who discuss how they’d seen Adams at his worst. Parnell’s mother tells of a night when Adams had threatened Karen. Mrs. Parnell had threatened to call the police, so the two had left and were arrested for public intoxication.
Karen spoke of how Adams had wanted to change and he had begun to when he became a Christian. Pastor Tommy Drumm then appears in video from a service where he discusses the night that Adams had converted. Karen also added what she had experienced that night.
Karen revealed that Adams was leaving wrestling behind. He was going to work for Colville and Laurie was going to AA with him.
Parnell and Lance then revealed the darker side of Adams. No one would hire him and owed large sums of money to both the IRS and ex-wife Toni.
Hart then told of a night where Adams was set to work for Tim Brooks until the financial sponsors of the show threatened to pull out if Adams appeared. Brooks called Hart and then Adams to advise them of the situation.
Parnell and Laurie then tell of Adams’s growing depression and darkening state of mind.
Matters came to a head as Parnell and Adams met to work on an upcoming show. After trying to borrow twenty dollars from Laurie for gas, he headed to Parnell’s house that evening. They finally decided to take a break and watch the film “Frank and Jesse.”
While watching the film, Adams’s temper exploded again. Adams began attacking Parnell, trying to kill him. Parnell tells of the fight and how he finally found himself forced to shoot and kill Adams to save his own life. Kevin Von Erich confirms that Adams was trying to kill Parnell from his description of the fight. Porrata adds that this may have been caused by GHB withdrawal.
Police officer Nathan Nickerstaff then recounts the events of that night as he arrived on the scene to investigate. Parnell’s mother also adds her memories.
The film closes with the various interviewees remembering their feelings about Adams’s death. Notably Miss Lacy expresses her regret for her actions that led to Adams’s indictment. The last scene is Cotton Bowl footage of Kevin Von Erich shaving Adams’s head before Adams appears in a clip from a training video, where he advised trainees to stay away from drugs.
The film is a deeply disturbing picture of Adams’s downward spiral due to his addictions – not a wrestling biography. While Adams’s WCCW career is shown (as well as WCCW footage that runs throughout the film), little is mentioned of his independent appearances and his runs in the GWF, the USWA, and WCW are ignored.
There’s really little to say. The film contrasts from the slick WWE bios and instead focuses a spotlight on the darker side of Adams, particularly on the time toward the end of his life. In addition to that, Mickey Grant was the perfect person to make this film. Grant was a former TV producer from WCCW. He’d encountered Adams back then and was able to follow his fall.
One particular flaw I find with the film is that some (especially Kevin Von Erich) state that Adams was more than the last few years of his life. However, we see very little of that and only sparse interviews with his daughter Julia and his stepchildren through his marriage to Karen.
Another flaw is the omission of the outcome of Parnell’s court case. It would have been nice for closure to have been provided by the statement that Adams’s death was ruled as self-defense and Parnell was acquitted of all charges resulting from the death.
Should the film be released on DVD, of course the WCCW footage would be unavailable since the WWE now owns it. A nice addition would be some of Adams’s early matches in Great Britain and some of his later independent work.
Overall, the Gentleman’s Choice is a film that takes an unflinching look at the reasons that Chris Adams is no longer with us. However, as I mentioned above, a viewer should be advised that they will be disappointed if they watch the movie simply expecting documentation of Adams’s wrestling career.
If you wish to see what happened to Adams when the cameras were turned off, this is a definite must-see. The timing is perfect as well – with Mickey Rourke’s “The Wrestler” becoming a hit, this shows what happened to a real-life wrestler.
The film is available at eyesoda.com. A trailer for the film is included below.