When you think of a stereotypical Englishman, that person is often envisioned to be very polite, posh, and charming. Enter “Gentleman” Chris Adams.

A native of Rugby, Warwickshire, England, Chris Adams first dipped his hand in the combat sports world as a world-class judoka in his younger years. It wasn’t long before Adams ditched his gi for a set of wrestling trunks, making a name for himself in the British wrestling scene and across the Atlantic for the promotion that elevated his star potential — World Class Championship Wrestling (or WCCW).

Indeed, this episode of Dark Side of the Ring includes numerous quotes from Chris’ former contemporaries who were alongside him during his time in WCCW. You have iconic World-Class greats such as Kevin Von Erich, Iceman King Parsons, and David Manning, just to name a few.

Chris Adams looked the part of a British heartthrob to an absolute tee. For that 1980s era, Adams was a hunk for all those screaming Texan girls, while garnering the envy of Texan men everywhere. Be that as it may, Chris also showed he was more than a clean-cut, cookie-cutter fellow, as he could absolutely turn it up when the bell rang. Despite his shortcomings in the world of judo, never achieving Olympian status like his younger brother Neil, Chris adapted his judoka discipline to become the best version of himself as a professional wrestler.

A 1980 tour of Japan included, clockwise from top left, Stan Hansen, Sgt. Slaughter, Chris Adams, Bobby Duncum Sr., Tiger Jeet Singh, Hulk Hogan, Mike Masters and referee Teruo Takahashi.

A 1980 tour of Japan included, clockwise from top left, Stan Hansen, Sgt. Slaughter, Chris Adams, Bobby Duncum Sr., Tiger Jeet Singh, Hulk Hogan, Mike Masters and referee Teruo Takahashi.

Despite Chris’ talent in the professional wrestling world, he could prove to be an absolute troublemaker outside the ring. His WCCW co-workers recounted a highly-publicized incident in 1986 where Chris Adams slapped a flight attendant and violently headbutted a pilot during a plane ride in Puerto Rico.

I liked how Kevin Von Erich described the look in Chris’ eyes when he’d get mad, on more than one occasion: “When you pissed Chris off, his eyes would shine red. Like a light was on in there.” Followed by the Dark Side episode portraying the incident with the appropriate use of a growling sound effect and Chris’ dramatized silhouette charging up with his action figure-like red eyes. This pre-Plane Ride from Hell incident is described as no different.

No matter what excuse Chris could use regarding his substance abuse, his dive into domestic abuse especially in the example of his assault on his ex-wife Toni is where many in the episode denounce the so-called Gentleman.

  • Close friend of Chris Adams and ex-promoter Tom Lance said: “He beat her up. He messed her up. She had to have facial surgery. I ain’t cool with that s***.”
  • Chris Jr. recounted becoming aware of his mom’s abuse at the hands of his father many years later, saying, “She had shown me some of the pictures of her where that abuse had happened, and she was in the hospital for a while. I couldn’t believe it.”
  • Kevin Von Erich took an angered tone to his once-famed adversary describing Chris’ actions as “heinous” and “disgusting”.

They didn’t spend a great deal of time on it, but I enjoyed the section documenting the Chris Adams-Steve Austin rivalry that ignited a real-life fling between Chris’ ex-girlfriend Jeanie and the soon-to-be “Stone Cold”.

Finally, the Dark Side episode reaches its inevitable climax. Simply put, Chris Adams tended to become angrily aggressive when under the influence of alcohol. Tragically, on the night of October 7, 2001, Adams’ violent outburst ultimately led to his untimely demise.

After reconciling with his friend Brent “Booray” Parnell following his involvement in the death of then-girlfriend Linda in the spring of 2000, Chris seemingly lost his temper in an enraged state at the residence of Booray’s mother. As Booray describes in the Dark Side episode, Chris lunged at him with a heavy bedpost with full intent to take Booray’s life. Faced with the tough decision of his life versus Chris’, Booray decides to defend himself with a gunshot wound that hits Adams in the chest, killing him.

Ultimately, a grand jury acquitted Booray of all charges, determining he simply acted in “self-defense”.

  • However, Chris’ younger brother Neil Adams begs to differ: “Something happened in there. Do I believe him that it was self-defense? No, I don’t.”
  • While Tom Lance sided with Booray: “It was almost like him or me. I feel like Booray had no choice. I don’t think he wanted to roll the dice.”
  • Jeanie Adams described the ordeal as a “very sad and tragic accident between two very good friends,” and pointed to “alcohol being the common denominator,” while describing “forgiveness as being the best way forward.”

After watching the critically acclaimed The Iron Claw film that chronicled the lives of the Von Erichs, I was inspired to immerse myself in all things WCCW to gain a deeper understanding of the legendary family and their wrestling peers. Seeing as Chris Adams was one of the Von Erichs’ most devious foes, I found myself watching an older documentary titled Gentleman’s Choice: The Tragic Tale of Gentleman Chris Adamsbefore I viewed this episode.

In this narration of Chris’ life, there are some stories shared by wrestling personalities no longer alive including Gary Hart, who was very instrumental in the Gentleman’s WCCW career. You also get snippets from Chris’ parents Jean and Cyril, and familiar faces from the Dark Side episode including his younger brother Neil, ex-girlfriend Jeanie, Kevin Von Erich, David Manning, and of course, Brent “Booray” Parnell, just to name a few. Then, it steers into interesting testimonies from Chris’ third and youngest child Julia, Chris’ stepson Tyler, strippers involved in Chris’ life, numerous law enforcement officials, and others attached to Chris’ story and untimely end as the 90-minute-long doc can squeeze in.

I enjoyed both the documentary and the Dark Side episode in their own ways. Seeing as Gentleman’s Choice was released in 2008, it’s a little bit dated and doesn’t feature Chris’ children who appeared in the Dark Side episode, and I feel they have a unique perspective to share. However, what I appreciated about Gentleman’s Choice over Dark Side is its presentation as almost a crime-oriented doc (which it ultimately kind of is) and taking a closer look at the drug life/habits of the region Chris was involved in. The Dark Side does as good of a job as it can portraying Chris’ drug problems in a condensed time, but Gentleman’s Choice is maybe a better watch for someone who wants an even deeper dive.

In conclusion, I lean more toward the belief that Chris Adams was not a fundamentally terrible person, but rather his substance abuse and party lifestyle brought out the worst in him. I think a lot of Chris’ peers and family could see past the demons that came to be in his life and cherished the man hidden beneath his angry, reckless alter-ego. A recurring theme throughout the episode is people describing two sides to Chris Adams à la Jekyll and Hyde. Then again, you hear what Kevin Von Erich said about him almost killing a cab driver in a fit of rage, not under the influence of any substances, and it makes you question the true nature of Chris.

Was Chris Adams merely masking his true colors as a horrible human being under the guise of his “Gentleman” persona? That’s not out of the question either. Maybe he had a rough go-around in his early years and it shaped the unstable and impulsive tendencies that would plague him as an adult. It was Kevin Von Erich who said, “Professional wrestlers are usually ex-bullies from high school. Chris was like that, too.” But no one really knows for sure because Chris Adams is gone. People can only deduce his character from what they saw, heard, and understood from his actions. And really, it seems like a lot of people are still torn on who Chris Adams really was.

Nevertheless, I listened to how his daughter Jade Adams described him in specific, you could see how much she loved her father and wished he had a chance to turn his life around. Or when Chris’ son with his ex-wife Toni, Chris Adams Jr., is introduced in the episode. First of all, Chris Jr. is as much of a Chris Adams-lite as you can get, his resemblance to his father is uncanny. But Chris Jr. shares a similar sentiment to his half-sister, saying, “When he was sober, he was, you know, great. He was dad, he was awesome, he was there. When he started drinking, it just kind of changed.”

It was a positive note to hear that Chris Adams’ funeral was attended by so many people coming to honor his legacy. Whether he’d spiraled out of control leading to his death or not, there was a lasting impact left on the lives of many by Chris and it brought a smile to the faces of his children.

  • Kevin Von Erich in the closing part of Chris Adams’ Dark Side episode: “What a dichotomy. He had a great side, and he had a terrible, ugly side, that really outweighed the good. But I’ll remember the good.”
  • Jade Adams’ closing remarks about her father: “I want my dad to be remembered as an amazing athlete who worked really hard, and as a loving father to his kids, because I think his kids were everything to him. Just wish he could be here to see how we all ended up. Think he’d be proud of us. I think he’d be proud of my brother particularly.”

The tragic downfall of Gentleman Chris Adams is truly disheartening. I can’t help but imagine an alternate reality where he overcame his demons and is celebrated as a trailblazer in the world of professional wrestling. But given his shady track record, the memory of Chris Adams has become largely swept under the rug and forgotten. Alas, only those closest to him can restore honor to his name and I commend those who appeared in this Dark Side episode with the intent to express Chris’ character in a better light, without fully discrediting his obvious mistakes and wrongdoings.

Gino Hernandez and Chris Adams

Gino Hernandez and Chris Adams