Wrestling fans will remember “The Gentleman” Chris Adams as one of the top performers in the World Class Championship Wrestling (WCCW) territory. Adams was one of the top faces (and eventually a top heel) in one of the hottest spots in professional wrestling, the lone star state of Texas. Fewer wrestling fans, though, may know the inside story of Adams’ downfall – a sordid tale of alcohol, strip clubs, and drugs – GHB to be exact.
That’s where Mickey Grant comes into the picture. Grant, one of the founders of WCCW, has put together a phenomenal 96-minute documentary talking about Adams’ life. For some idea on how successful Grant has been in the television industry, when he was working with WCCW their television show was ranked number two in syndication coming second only to Soul Train. Before there was a Monday Night RAW or a Friday Night Smackdown, Grant’s television show was showing in 23 different countries! And after watching his documentary on Chris Adams, I expect that it will achieve the same success.
The documentary gives voice to the various aspects of Adams’ life including his parents, close friends, fellow wrestlers, and even one of his children. Grant opens the movie with a clip of Adams beating Rick Rude for a championship. It then quickly flips to 40,000+ fans filling Texas Stadium as Chris is featured in one of the matches. As someone who is viewing the documentary, you are immediately hit by the superstar status that the wrestlers in the WCCW territory enjoyed.
In fact, former professional wrestler Tony Walsh put it in terms that every male wrestling fan can understand: the women loved Chris Adams and he also happened to be a lovable character. Get it? A good guy who was loved by the ladies for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the notoriety one received by being a main event caliber talent in WCCW.
Early on in the film Jean and Cyril Adams (Chris’ parents) are introduced. Of all the people interviewed regarding Chris’ life, I felt that the family members were the most penetrating. Mr. and Mrs. Adams talked a bit about their two sons and their national judo championships and how they encouraged their children to pursue higher levels of success with judo. Then at some point Mr. and Mrs. Adams talk about how Chris told them he was going to become a professional wrestler – apparently he had already set up his professional debut and reported it to his family over dinner. Bon Appetit! It is during this part of the documentary that we learn how Chris actually had a very good job working for the local government. Imagine that dinner conversation, “Mom, Dad – I’m going to become a professional wrestler. Yes, I understand that I’m doing well for myself with the secure, government job, but I just want to wrestle.”
And wrestle he did.
The pinnacle of Adams’ success came in the late 1980’s. However, his stark fall took place at the same time and it all started spiraling out of control with an ill-fated airplane ride…
Grant assembles David Manning (a wrestling promoter) and “Killer” Tim Brooks to tell the tale. A group of wrestlers were leaving San Juan to arrive in Texas for a television taping later that day. As it turned out, Chris Adams did not have a role in that night’s show, so he could relax and not worry about the event. As they were flying home, the plane lost an engine. Pretty scary, huh? The plan obviously had to land so things could be fixed and as a way of expressing their remorse, the airline offered everyone on board free alcohol for 3 – 4 hours while plane was fixed. Most wrestlers on the flight had to wrestle later that day so they only had a few beers. Not Chris Adams. He kept drinking and drinking and eventually the crew tried to cut him off. In fact, when the stewardess came over to tell him he was done his response was, “You f*cking c*nt. You can’t f*cking cut the Gentleman off. Do you realize how much f*cking money I make?” Clearly rattled, the stewardess came back with a steward who attempted to cut Chris off. Didn’t work. At that point, the co-pilot of airplane came back and told Adams he was cut off and that if he didn’t cooperate, Chris would be arrested in Miami. That didn’t sit well with the intoxicated Adams who decided to headbutt the co-pilot and put him in a chokehold. Due to this troubling event, Chris went to federal prison.
Amazing how a man’s life can slowly build to be something that it is not and then change in the matter of a few minutes when the demons come rushing out, huh?
The documentary then goes into Adams’ actual spiral downward and his various attempts to straighten his life out. One of the interviewees reported that Adams couldn’t have one or two drinks – he had to take it to the extreme. Eventually, he overdosed on GHB in April 2000 and the experience seemingly scared him straight. He visited a Pentecostal minister after the event and vowed to change his life by quitting the drugs and alcohol, paying the IRS money they claimed he owed to them, and paying back those in his life that he had borrowed money from. It didn’t work out that way.
I won’t go into too much detail on Adam’s final days, but suffice to say that it is a tragic story. If for nothing else, you’ll want to see this documentary to hear the story of his death from the people who were directly involved. It is truly riveting stuff.
The folks at eyesoda.com – the website that hosts this documentary – have also allowed me access to show the following interview with Gary Hart. Gary Hart was a wrestler, manager, and agent and his last ever recorded interview is below. Given the recent tragedy with Andrew Martin passing, I think some of Hart’s words are more relevant now than ever.
A quick note to all of the wrestling fans who are reading this review – you absolutely should see this documentary. In a world of one major wrestling promotion we, as fans, are essentially only exposed to the histories and stories that the one promotion wants us to know about. Meanwhile, the history of professional wrestling is much more varied and far more interesting than what we are shown on television week in and week out. For those of you who are not wrestling fans, I’d consider watching this documentary anyway as Mickey Grant does a superb job of showing the inside of the wrestling business in a way that you won’t find with The Wrestler or any of the made-for-TV specials.
I took a great deal more notes on the documentary than I am able to put in this post and I think that shows the depth of the Chris Adams story. The best part of the documentary were the clips of wrestlers and those in the wrestling business speaking directly about Chris Adams. In fact, I wouldn’t mind seeing these people in other documentaries about professional wrestling. Mickey Grant did a great job of relaying the story of Chris Adams’ rise and fall as well as how his demise affected his friends and family. This information is relayed through the excellent comments from those who knew Chris the best. I give this documentary my highest recommendation.