Chavo Guerrero Jr. might be retired from the wrestling ring, but the sport he grew up with is still a huge part of his life. The former ECW World Heavyweight Champion and El Paso native now spends a lot of his time in Hollywood where he’s worked as a wrestling coordinator and stunt performer on TV series like GLOW and Young Rock.
Most recently, Guerrero Jr. served as the stunt wrestling coordinator on The Iron Claw, a biographical drama that tells the tragic story of the legendary Von Erich family from Texas. The film stars Zac Efron (The Greatest Showman) as Kevin Von Erich and Jeremy Allen White (The Bear) as Kerry Von Erich.
“I grew up with the Von Erichs,” Guerrero Jr., 53, told MySA during an interview this week. “They were like a rival wrestling family, so we were very familiar with them, but we were also big fans. They were incredible wrestlers with incredible physiques. They were like rock stars in Dallas.”
Guerrero Jr., who is the son of wrestler Chavo Guerrero Sr. and nephew of Eddie Guerrero, made his professional wrestling debut in Mexico in 1994, the year after Kerry Von Erich killed himself. Von Erich was preceded in death by four of his brothers. Although he considered their families “rivals,” Guerrero Jr. said he never heard a negative thing about the Von Erichs.
“They really were such humble guys,” Guerrero Jr. said. “The Von Erich boys were comrades. They were partners. They loved each other.”
During his time wrestling, Guerrero Jr. remembers him and his uncle would always be hailed as heroes when they visited Texas, even if they were playing villains in the ring.
“Everybody hated us, but they loved us in Texas,” he said. “They would still cheer for us when we were supposed to be the bad guys. They would still cheer for us because we were Texas boys. Texas is such a great wrestling state.”
On the set of The Iron Claw, Guerrero Jr. worked in the ring with Efron, White and other actors like Harris Dickinson (Triangle of Sadness) and Stanley Simons (Angelfish), who played two of the other Von Erich brothers. As the stunt wrestling coordinator, his job was to train the film’s stars to wrestle as authentically as possible.
“I spend my time with [the director] watching and seeing what he felt we needed to tweak in the routines and the choreography,” he said.
With Guerrero Jr. already on the set, filmmaker Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene) decided it would be a great idea to get him to portray a wrestler too. In the film, Guerrero Jr. has a scene where he’s wrestling in the ring as The Sheik, a pro wrestler who performed during the era.
“Being an ex-pro wrestler, you don’t mind being in front of the camera,” he said.
While playing a wrestler came natural for him, Guerrero Jr. knew his most important role on The Iron Claw was to transform Efron, White and the other actors into believable wrestlers. Fortunately, it wasn’t too difficult.
“The most challenging part was to get them free to train more because they were so busy,” Guerrero Jr. said. “But once I got them, they were great. In the ring, they were ready. They came to play. They were all business all the time. It made my job so much easier.”
Guerrero Jr. said being part of a wrestling family from Texas like the Von Erichs is something that made him feel close to the story portrayed in The Iron Claw. Tragedy also links the Guerreros and Von Erichs together. Eddie Guerrero died of heart failure in 2005 at the age of 38.
“Nobody knows your struggles like another wrestling family,” he said. “Wrestling can take a toll. It can bring a family closer or split them apart. It’s great that The Iron Claw is going to introduced audiences to this wrestling family.”
This interview was first published at MySA.com.