Chris Adams: Gentleman's Choice
by erick Von erich
Before we begin, a special thanks to the crew over at eyesoda.com for making this review possible! Check 'em out!
"We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them"
Those words herald the opening of former World Class Championship Wrestling producer Mickey Grant's haunting new documentary of the late "Gentleman" Chris Adams. However, this is a very somber and dark movie, not something to watch to uplift your spirits. The overall feeling is a sad dichotomy, as we see brief clips of Chris's glory days in World Class, mixed in with the downward-- and ultimately, fatal-- path he followed. No true reasons are presented as to why Adams' life ended so badly, but his journey is displayed for us to watch.
The film starts out on a rather upbeat tone, as we hear the familiar entrance music of Chris Adams and Gino Hernandez as the Dynamic Duo, with George Thorogood's "Bad to the Bone". Quick clips of Adams in the ring, including his famous "hair vs. hair" match at the Cotton Bowl, plus Adams pinning Rick Rude for the WCCW title. But then we're introduced to some rather shady characters: "Miss Lacy", "Whitebread Johnson", "L.A. Steele" and Brent Parnell. Just who are these people and what is their significance to Chris? That's what the rest of the documentary will tell us.
A bit of Chris's backstory is included, as we get interviews from his family (parents Jean and Cyril, plus brother Neil), along with British wrestler Tony Walsh, who trained Adams. Walsh's comments seem forboding as he mentions that most wrestlers who had gone to America to pursue the trade came back crippled or worse. Jeanie Adams, Chris's ex-wife (future wife of "Stone Cold" Steve Austin) also chimes in. Some of the most memorable clips stem from Chris' former manager (and WCCW mainstay), Gary Hart. Still able to tell a good story and a great speaker, Hart speaks fondly of Chris. Hart, the booker for WCCW, talks about how Chris first came to him with the idea of going doing a heel turn. Chris had become a popular babyface with the Sportatorium faithful, so Hart gave him some ammunition to spur his heel turn; he told him to get on the mic and say "I'm not gonna' kiss any fat women"!
Next up is a story from "Killer" Tim Brooks (who looks a little bit like horror icon, Sid Haig). Brooks talks about an incident the WCCW wrestlers had on a international flight. The plane had engine problems, so to make up for the delay, the crew offered free drinks to everyone. Chris had more than his share of drinks and ended up completely shliquored. Once the engine was fixed and the flight was in the air, a stewardess told Chris he had had enough and cut him off. Chris wasn't hearing it, so he demanded to see a co-pilot, yelling "don't you know who I am?! I have the power!" When the co-pilot confronted Chris, Chris headbutted him, breaking his nose. Chris was due to be picked up by the authorities once the plane landed....so he got the bright idea of going into the bathroom and switching shirts with Kevin Von Erich, as if that would confuse the cops. Nonetheless, Chris went to prison for a spell as a result of the incident.
Through more interviews with some of Adams's former roomates and friends, we find out that his regiment consisted of "fly/wrestle/party". Chris was never one to shy away from drinking or drugs and his behavior became out of hand. Especially ironic, considering that some footage is included from Adams's late 80's training video; which includes the pertinent rule of "Don't Do Drugs". The point is even driven home in an old interview with Bill Mercer. The substance abuse soon led to erratic behavior, temper tantrums and spousal abuse, as he assaulted his wife Toni in 1989.
Throughout the film, we're constantly shown a later interview with Adams. Conducted sometime in the mid to late 90's, Adams is surrounded by his kids at a playground. Seemingly matured and content being a father, Adams still displays a curious demeanor. At one point in these interviews, he seems to become disjointed and almost frustrated as he attends to his young daughter. Quite sad, considering the context. Adams had talked about being content and happy, but it seemed like an inner demon still lurked just below the skin.
Things become a little bit cloudy as we're formally introduced to Sky Cole ("Miss Lacy") and her partner, Brent Parnell. Details are sketchy, but it appeared that Adams had returned to Texas after leaving WCW in the late 90's and started up his own promotion. Involving indy wrestlers and with a slant toward shoot fighting, Adams went into business with some peculiar characters. Barry Blaustein's "Beyond the Mat" movie came to town and captured some footage of Jake "The Snake" Roberts pinning "L.A. Steele", one of Adams' charges. Adams was apparently upset with how his promotion was portrayed in the flick, as it led to some annymosity among his new business partners.
From there, things become even sketchier. Parnell appears in several different interviews, seemingly in various stages of innebriation in each. Through interviews with Parnell, Cole, a webmistress named Pam Hernandez and some police reports, we discover that Adams had begun to experiment heavily with the drug GHB. Apparently, Adams had once contacted a hitman about killing Cole. No evidence is shown of that, but I really don't want to get too in depth into the details....simply because the people mentioned rather scare me.
GHB reportedly makes its user high-strung, tense and prone to fits of rage. One of these episodes led to Adams' death. After going over to Parnell's house to discuss some business, Adams became enraged and began attacking Parnell. Fearing for his life, Parnell fought back at Adams, hitting him with the butt of a pistol. When that didn't work, Parnell had no choice but to shoot Adams, dead. Parnell was found "not guilty" of any charges and it was chalked up to self-defense. No mystery or shenanigans, as by all reports Adams was clearly the assailant.
The documentary winds down, as several people wonder why Chris chose the self-destructive path he did. Nobody forced him to dive into drugs, so was it really his own choice?
While the point of the film is powerful, there are a few flaws in the production. Primarily, the lack of an overall timeline hurts the flow of the story. It helps to be a World Class fan, as you can kinda' remember some of the dates. But from 1989 to 2002, nothing is spelled out. All of Chris's various marriages become muddled. His fourth and final marriage to Karen, while dressed in a Doc Holiday costume is quickly shoehorned in. His traning of Steve Austin is included, but it seems like this was touched upon just because of what Austin would become (a fun blooper of Austin saying he'll "hang out here at the bar and drink some wings" is shown). But a timeline would've been nice to help a viewer place some of these events. In the end, the film exists as almost a Publice Service Announcement, but it may lose something to anyone NOT familiar with the story of Chris Adams and/or World Class. Kevin Von Erich appears several times (seemingly interviewed at the famous Von Erich pool, no less), almost as if to defend Adams.
The interviews are a curious batch, too. Parnell and his associates are downright creepy. A flitsy stripper named Laurie is also interviewed frequently. Sure, these were the people Adams was associating with, but they don't seem like beacons of credibility. Perhaps it's fitting that the people left to tell Adams's story are of this nature.
Why'd You Watch This?: Chris Adams' life was nothing short of a tragedy. The final days are difficult to watch, as it feel like most of these people interviewed were found holding cardboard signs that read: "Will Talk About Chris Adams 4 Food". I often wonder if he was close to Gino Hernandez, off-camera, and if Gino's untimely death affected Chris in any way. I remember seeing Chris on a WCW Nitro broadcast in March 1999. Lumped in with a sea of jobbers as cannon fodder for then-champ Ric Flair, I felt sad that Adams was out there, like he was nothing special. To me it seemed like he was always overlooked when mentioning stars of the 80's kayfabe years. But knowing how his life fell apart, it's not surprising why he's often forgotten. While his in-ring of the 80's seemed strong, the man behind the character was weak.