By Denny Burkholder
From Wrestleline.com, October 24, 2000
Significant events have happened around "Gentleman" Chris Adams his entire career. Through the 1980s Texas wrestling scene, his training of Stone Cold Steve Austin for a career in wrestling, and his stint in WCW in the late-1990s, it’s no wonder many hold Adams in high esteem. In fulfilling some reader requests, here is Chris Adams, chronicled in Circa and adding his own two cents to his story.
Chris Adams entered the sport of judo at a young age, taking after his father. Chris was National Judo Champion of Great Britain three times in his age class before he was 21. His brother Neil was the coach of Britain's 1996 Summer Olympics Judo team and has held numerous world, Olympic and national judo titles. In 1978, Chris left the judo to Neil and followed a friend into the pro wrestling genre. He was convinced after a strong performance by a wrestling legend.
"I'd been doing judo for a long time and wasn't really keen on pro wrestling," Adams recalls. "But I saw Dynamite Kid in the ring, and he was really, really impressive. I befriended him, pretty much. That's really what made me get into it. The promoter asked me right then and there if I wanted to do pro wrestling, and after I saw the Dynamite Kid in a match, I said 'Yeah, I'll give it a go.' From that day on, whenever I saw Dynamite Kid or Davey Boy Smith -- who was really, really skinny at that time, I think he was about 15 -- we just all became friends. We worked on the same shows throughout England."
Adams was never actually trained to be a pro wrestler. He was thrown into wrestling from judo. "I was more used to athletic contests than the showmanship of pro wrestling."
Adams learned the ropes with guys like Tony Sinclair and "Big Daddy" Shirley Crabtree in England. In 1981, Adams was talked into trying the U.S. wrestling scene by a Japanese wrestler on tour in England. Soon, Adams arrived in Los Angeles, where promoter Mike LeBell set him up with a visa.
"It was unbelievable, a kid from a small town in England jumping off the plane into LA," Adams said. "I thought the whole of the United States was like LA. That was my first impression." Adams spent his initial time in the U.S. working in Los Angeles against the likes of John Tolos and Victor Rivera. His first experience as a champion in the States was with partner Tom Prichard, when they won the American tag team titles.
After LA, Adams did some work in Mexico and Japan. While in those countries, he added international-style matches to his repertoire. Adams returned to America and competed in Portland in 1982. He still made appearances in Mexico, trading the WWF Light Heavyweight title with Perro Aguayo on one occasion. Adams' most pivotal move came in 1983, when he traveled to World Class Championship Wrestling in Texas.
Adams was brought in as a babyface ally of the red-hot Von Erich brothers -- David, Kevin, Kerry and Mike (a younger brother, Chris, would join the scene later). The clan were the sons of wrestling legend Fritz Von Erich (Jack Adkisson), who ran WCCW successfully for several years based in Dallas.
A feud with Jimmy Garvin over the Texas North American title earned Adams lots of cheers from loyal Dallas wrestling fans. Adams traded the title with Garvin three times during the feud, which featured Garvin's valets Sunshine and Precious in prominent roles. Garvin eventually dumped Sunshine in favor of Precious, and Sunshine went to the side of Adams.
"Sunshine was his real cousin," Adams said. "He had a bit of trouble with her. They kind of made friction together." As with many famous angles in wrestling (Conquistadors anyone?), Adams once had to don a mask as the "Masked Avenger" to earn a match with Garvin. Adams' babyface push couldn't have come at a better time -- WCCW was enjoying a large fan base in Texas.
Eventually, Adams tried his hand at turning heel. With Gary Hart as his manager, Adams wrestled Kevin Von Erich at the Cotton Bowl in October 1984. Already inching toward heel status, an unexpected turn of events pushed Adams further into heeldom than even he expected.
"We had a singles match, and he beat me. Because he beat me, he turned his back and I hit him on the head with a chair. But a weird thing happened -- it really split his head open. It knocked him out for real. When he was laid by one of the corners, blood was trickling down from his head onto the mat, then from the mat to the floor. That was picked up by the news, and picked up by, you know... that really shocked everybody."
Taken aback by the mishap at first (and the angry reaction of fiercely loyal Von Erich fans), Adams soon eased into his new heel status.
"When that first happened, it was like 'Oh my God, what have I done?' you know? But after a few weeks, I really got into it. I really enjoyed it. I manipulated the crowd. It was a lot of fun. It really got me over, and got me a lot more notoriety than if I had stayed with them."
The Von Erichs have become one of the most tragic tales in wrestling lore, as David, Mike, Kerry and Chris all died tragically young for varying reasons. Adams remains friends with Kevin Von Erich to this day, but fondly recalls the rest of Jack’s boys.
"I was really good friends with Kerry, really good friends with Kevin -- we've come through all that stuff together," Adams said. "I respect him. And he's got his own family, you know, so he's kind of took on the place of Fritz in a way. I was friends with David, and I was good friends with the little kid, Chris. Chris was like a midget, but he always wanted to be like Kerry. And of course Mike. I really got along well with them."
Soon after assaulting Kevin, Adams would form a heel tag team with Gino Hernandez called the Dynamic Duo. "I first met him -- I'm not sure exactly of the date -- but he came into the office one day. He'd been a big name down in Houston, but then he came to World Class. We sort of met, got along, talked about joining up together."
Adams and Hernandez worked a gimmick for nine months where they clipped locks of hair from the heads of various opponents. The gimmick ended with a hair match against the Von Erichs in which the Duo lost the WCCW tag titles and had their heads shaved by the Von Erichs. Adams and Hernandez won their titles back a month later, but a big feud was on the horizon.
While defending the titles, the arrogant Hernandez refused to take a hot tag from the worn-out Adams. The Duo would split for good on a subsequent show when Hernandez was caught lying to the fans. Hernandez bragged about knocking Adams out in a backstage confrontation over the disagreement, not knowing Adams was on his way to the ring. Adams slapped Hernandez, who then attacked Adams with a chair and started one of the most memorable, if brief, feuds in WCCW history. While the cocky, shades-wearing Hernandez taunted the "Slimy Limey" Adams on television, Adams built up babyface heat. Adams recalls that the feud had the personal touch of himself and Gino all over it.
"Gino and I came up with all of our angles together," Adams said. "The hair and everything. Ken Mantell was booking. We would put ideas to them [Mantell and Fritz Von Erich] and they would take them to the office, talk them over and see what would be good and what wouldn't."
The big match of the Hernandez-Adams feud saw Hernandez take a container of "Freebird hair gel" from a ringside table and use the substance to "blind" Adams. Shortly thereafter, Adams did a promo for WCCW TV where -- with his eyes completely patched and his wife at his side -- Adams announced he may never wrestle again. The cameras followed as Adams was helped into a Corvette so he could go to the airport, en route back to his native England. Though the promo was intended to be a tearjerker, Adams remembers the first take being humorous.
"What happened is that I really couldn't see with those patches over my eyes," he said. "I was getting into the Corvette when they were shooting, and I actually went to get in it the wrong way, facing back. They had to re-shoot it."
Adams left for a hiatus in England. His friend Gino would not greet him when he returned to the U.S. months later. On February 4, 1986, Hernandez would be found dead in his home of an acute cocaine overdose. Hernandez was just 29 when he died.
"I went back to England, and just a few days after that, I heard that he died," Adams remembers. To Adams’ surprise, the authorities considered him a suspect at first.
"I got the news from Scotland Yard, which is the equivalent of the FBI over there. The FBI got in touch with Scotland Yard and they traced my parents down real quick, and wanted to interview me because they thought that I killed him. I mean, they quickly found out that it had nothing to do with me, but that was the initial way I found out."
Adams was never questioned as a suspect.
"They actually talked to me on the phone. They said they would call me back. They did call me back, but they apologized and told me they knew that it was nothing to do with me," Adams said.
Adams was shocked to hear of Gino's death. "I was devastated. I remember I had a little bit of an argument with my mother because she didn't realize how close we were. She didn't realize how upset I was."
Adams was aware of Hernandez' drug problem, but was not aware of how serious it was. "I knew he'd had one, you know, I knew that he could go that way, but I'd never seen it. I had never seen it with my own eyes. I heard he'd had a problem in the past. But he was pretty wild. We lived in the same condominium on Lover's Lane in Dallas together. And we both had red Corvettes that we'd race up Lover's Lane. We were pretty wild back then. He didn't really keep it to himself, it was pretty common knowledge that he had a problem. But I wasn't aware that he had a problem at that time."
Adams returned to World Class in May 1986 and continued the angle he had begun with his departed friend Gino. Adams worked his return match against Kabuki on May 4, in an angle where Adams had only 20 percent vision in his left eye and 95 percent in his left. Adams' eyesight soon would be completely restored, as the story went, by a "Rude Awakening" neckbreaker from a young Rick Rude.
"I thought he was great, he had a hell of a body," Adams recalls of Rude. "He was pretty stealthy, but I really liked him a lot. A real great guy." Adams won the WCCW world title from Rude on July 4, 1986. A few months later, Adams left for Bill Watts' Mid-South territory, which was about to merge into the NWA. There, Adams made what he feels was his biggest career mistake.
"I remember at the time, they had their own clique in the NWA and I had always been working on top. And I think it was silly -- when I look back now, I should have just held my lips, and just hung on and played the game a little bit. But the NWA took so many people from Mid-South wrestling, and then they dropped a lot of people also. And I was one of them that they took. I traveled with them and everything, and I was in some big shows. But I remember I wasn't happy with one of the paychecks, so I just got up and left. And that was the time I remember clearly that Michael Hayes said 'You might want to think about it.' But I was a hothead, and left. I guess I regret that. That was a mistake."
The next big event in Adams’ career came in 1990 when he started training young hopefuls for careers in pro wrestling. At the time, Adams was working for the USWA promotion.
"I started the wrestling school in 1990," Adams said. "At the time it was the USWA (wrestling school) because the USWA had bought out Jerry Jarrett. WCCW was bought out by Jerry Jarrett, because I remember Jerry Jarrett having a problem with Kevin (Von Erich). You know, they had World Class for so long, and it was theirs. They didn't take too greatly to being second -- not that they were second, but they didn't own it anymore."
At the USWA wrestling school, Adams wound up training "Stone Cold" Steve Austin (Steve Williams) -- a man who has become a bona fide wrestling icon since.
"We put an advertisement on the TV for the wrestling school," Adams said. "I had to hold a seminar at the Sportatorium. I think there were 500 people that showed up. I had to get six salespeople from an agency to sit at desks and take down the names. We had all these tryouts, and he was one of the guys that came out - not the first time, I think he came a couple weeks later."
Austin had all the tools for wrestling success from day one.
"I liked him because he had already got a body," Adams said. "He had long blonde hair at the time, and he looked good. And then when I gave him a tryout in the ring... he had a good feel for the business. You could just tell. He had coordination, and he looked great anyway - he didn't have to get that part. He didn't have to work on that."
Austin began competing with Adams in the USWA as his babyface protege. Soon, Austin's feel for the bad-guy persona took over and he been feuding with his mentor. Adams' personal life seeped into the wrestling ring at this time, as his ex-wife Jeannie Clarke began managing Austin. Adams' wife Toni got involved, and a wild inter-gender tag team feud resulted. There were no real hard feelings during the feud, Adams recalls.
"This was all my idea," Adams remembers. "My ex-wife - who is Jean - I came over from England with her. We had just actually separated and I remarried, so she wasn't my wife at the time. It was my suggestion that Steve team up with Jean - who I was still friends with - and he joined up with Jeannie. When she came on the scene it was so shocking to me - you know, in the eyes of the fans - that I'd make a mistake, and he'd win. We played for some time with Steve coming in with my ex-wife... he'd hold me, she'd whack me, that kind of stuff."
When Chris’ wife Toni joined the feud, fans went nuts.
“When she came in, it went crazy," Adams said. Toni and Jeannie played it up for the crowd. "They had a lot of fun. Jeannie had a lot of fun whacking on me," Adams said with a chuckle.
Jeannie eventually married Steve Austin, but remained friends with Adams. They have a daughter together, who lived with Austin and Jeannie for a time before they split up years ago (and eventually divorced). Austin publicly credits Jeannie as being the one who inspired his "Stone Cold" persona while trying to persuade him to eat breakfast one morning. Austin is now remarried to the WWF's Debra (formerly McMichael).
There were no hard feelings between Adams and Austin in the beginning. Now, Adams says the atmosphere is different.
"Him and I don't really contact or speak to each other," Adams said. "It's like he's too good for everybody, I feel. It started about two or three years after they got married. He started... he disliked the fact that I would call the house to speak to my daughter. I think he began to get jealous, which is stupid, because Jean and I are very good friends, even now. We're just good friends, so it wasn't really like that. But apparently, he got a little bit jealous. But she told me he's a pretty jealous guy, period."
Adams competed in various independents in the 1990s, including Global in Dallas. In 1993, he booked an overseas tour in Nigeria, which was financially backed by Pepsi. Adams toured Africa in search of fitting venues for wrestling matches. He eventually settled into soccer stadiums - many of which surprisingly had WWF posters decorating the locker rooms when he found them. Jimmy Snuka, the Iron Sheik, Kevin Von Erich, Tommy Rogers, and Iceman King Parsons were among the talent Adams took to Africa.
Adams rounded out the mid-1990s working for various independents, including the much-hyped AWF in 1995. Backed by a millionaire, the AWF fizzled out when it didn't prove itself a huge moneymaker right away. Then in 1998, Adams secured a spot in the very successful World Championship Wrestling.
"I just talked to Terry Taylor, a real good friend of mine," Adams said. "He was in a position in the office where he couldn't do much - his hands were tied, to a point by (then-WCW head Eric) Bischoff -- but it was mainly a financial deal for me. I wasn't too happy about the way they were using me, but then again, they were paying me. So it's like weighing the situation in each hand."
"I was disappointed in them, to be honest," Adams continued. "There seemed to be a lot of chiefs and no Indians. Back in the World Class days, we'd let angles run. Like in the WWF now, you can follow -- it's like a soap opera. In WCW, they'll start an angle one week and finish it the next. And it's like, 'What's going on?' It was amazing to me - like a huge, corporate mess-up. With such potential and such great workers, but it seemed to lack the direction of a planned-out soap opera. And I never knew why. They had so many guys that they could have used. A lot of people say 'Well, this guy didn't get over, and that guy didn't get over.' Anybody can get over if the TV uses them right. And with a company like WCW, you have no say-so. It's very corporate, very big."
Adams says WCW was not receptive to ideas from the talent, and if they said they were, that would change at the booking meeting. Adams was released by WCW in December 1999. "JJ (Dillon) called me and asked me if I'd go on a nightly contract," Adams remembers. Adams declined the offer and was released from WCW.
Today, Adams is focusing his energies on providing safe equipment for use by “backyard" wrestlers. Through www.wrestlingrings.com, Adams hopes to persuade teens to stop taking unnecessary risks.
"A lot of people are getting injured," Adams said. "They're doing it on the bed, they're doing it on concrete, and mattresses outside, or they're doing it in makeshift rings, which are really dangerous. My friend and I came up with the idea of supplying them a ring, which is affordable -- it's $3,250 for a 15' by 15' ring. It's a steel ring, just like the real thing. It's a safe, real place to do what they're doing."
Adams incorporates the supplies with an instructional video he made in 1990.
"My training tape is really very basic," he said. "I don't do any of the flying, and I don't advise that anybody does anything that they see on TV. Some of those guys in the WWF do some awesome things. This is more of a ground-up deal."
Adams expects people to argue that he is encouraging the unsafe practice of wrestling at home. He disagrees.
"We've had some flak like 'Oh, you're encouraging people to wrestle.' But it's really not us that's encouraging them to wrestle. We're just giving them a safe place to wrestle. It's the TV programs that are encouraging them to wrestle," Adams reasons.
"My daughter lives with me here, she's six. She watches the Powerpuff Girls. They do karate and stuff like that. When she's done watching that on TV, she'll come and start chopping me and kicking me, and I see the way that the TV persuades the kids to do different things. The ring, in my opinion, is the safest place they could do it. But it needs to be, you know, properly watched over by parents, and it just needs to be treated with respect."
"A lot of people are getting injured by doing silly things - diving off the roof onto tables and silly stuff like that," Adams continued. "We're trying to say 'Do this in a ring.' We're expecting flak from some people, but sometimes that can make for good publicity too."
Adams is still active in some Texas independents, and cannot put a time table on when he might finally call it a career.
"I feel great right now. I don't party like I used to. When I start to hurt or when I start to stiffen up and feel I can't do it, then I will quit. But right now, I feel good."
Adams has plans for a weekend wrestling camp to begin after the New Year. If Adams’ record is to be trusted, he just might find the next big wrestling mega-star amongst his latest crop of hopefuls.
By Tanya Eiserer
From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 19, 2001
On a warm spring night in April 2000, Chris Adams took his girlfriend for dinner, drinks and pool.
Still feeling like partying, the couple then went to a friend's Dallas apartment to drink some wine. They mixed the popular club drug GHB with orange juice and drank that, too.
Adams, a British-born pro wrestler who gained fame in the 1980s, said his next recollection is of waking up in Presbyterian Hospital of Plano.
His girlfriend, Linda Kaphengst, died there 12 hours later.
"It was the worst thing that's ever happened in my life," Adams said. "I don't think I ever will get over it."
Adams, 46, was charged in June with manslaughter in the death of Kaphengst, who died from ingesting GHB and alcohol. Under Texas law, a person can be convicted of manslaughter if the defendant recklessly causes someone else's death.
GHB -- or gamma hydroxybutyrate -- was supposedly safe, and many of Adams' wrestling and bodybuilding friends took it. He and his girlfriend had taken it no less than 20 times, he said.
"I liked the high feeling and the sexual feeling," Adams said.
Adams believed the claims that GHB would build muscle while a person slept. "It was meant to be this wonder thing, but obviously it turned sour on me," he said.
Now he knows GHB can kill, particularly when mixed with alcohol.
Adams, who is free on $25,000 bail, is expected to enter a plea of not guilty during a court appearance scheduled for Aug. 30 in McKinney.
"If he had slipped her something, that would be one thing. But she was partaking in it," said David J. Pire, a Dallas lawyer representing Adams. "It's a tragedy that a young woman died, but I don't believe it rises to the level of reckless."
Pire also questions why it prosecutors took 14 months to file charges against Adams. "If it was a reckless act in April 2000, it would make sense to arrest him that day and made him post a bond," Pire said.
Collin County prosecutors and Kaphengst's relatives declined to comment on the case.
More than a year later, Adams is wracked with remorse over Kaphengst's death.
"I can't imagine how her parents feel," he said. "I have three children myself, and it must be awful."
Adams is raising his 7-year-old daughter. His 10-year-old son lives in Detroit with his ex-wife, and a 19-year-old daughter lives in Colorado.
"He's a good guy. He's just made some bad mistakes," said Gary Hart, his former manager and friend.
"Gentleman" Chris Adams was loved and hated by wrestling fans. Loved when allied with wrestling's favorite sons, the Von Erich brothers -- hated when he feuded with them.
"Chris Adams and the Von Erichs were known everywhere," said Dave Meltzer, editor of Wrestling Observer, a weekly industry newsletter. "They were gods."
Adams, a three-time national judo champion in England, immigrated to the United States in the early 1980s.
"You can make people love you or hate you" with wrestling, Adams said. "It appealed to me -- the theatrics mixed with athletic ability."
During the high-rolling Von Erich era, Adams owned a house in England, land in Southlake, a red Corvette, two condos and a Mazda RX7.
"I thought it would never end," he said. "I lost it all through divorces, ignorance and mistakes."
Alcohol was the root of his misfortune, Adams said.
"Alcohol is something that changes Chris," Hart said. "He's no longer a nice, sweet guy."
Adams has twice been convicted of drunken driving, once in Tarrant County and once in Pittsburgh. He was sentenced to a year's probation after a 1989 incident in Lufkin, where he assaulted his second wife, Toni Adams, according to Adams and newspaper accounts. The couple divorced.
Die-hard Adams fans may still remember an incident on an American Airlines flight heading for Dallas on June 30, 1986.
Adams was returning from a Caribbean wrestling exhibition when engine trouble delayed the plane in Puerto Rico. When the plane took off again, he became belligerent after a flight attendant asked him to sit down, he said.
"I make 25 times the money you do, and no one like you is going to tell me what to do," a drunken Adams said, according to court testimony.
He head-butted the co-pilot, according to newspaper accounts. Adams testified he did not remember the assault. But in a recent interview, he said he pushed the co-pilot.
"I'm not proud of it, but I really didn't head-butt him," he said. "If I had, he would have been unconscious."
A federal jury convicted him of misdemeanor assault.
"Chris Adams, as the court knows, is a good young man," his lawyer, Balon Bradley, wrote in court documents. "He is not one who has a criminal outlook on life. His problem is that he tends to abuse alcohol."
In late 1999, Adams left Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling. He and his girlfriend of eight years split early last year.
A friend introduced him to Kaphengst, an insurance office secretary, and they began a romance that lasted four months until her death, Adams said.
"I thought that she was an angel from heaven. I fell absolutely, crazily in love with her," he said.
A couple of months before Kaphengst's death, Adams had been hospitalized in Denton when friends mistakenly thought he had overdosed on GHB because they couldn't wake him, he said. Still, he said he believed GHB was safe.
The liquid drug -- once sold on health food shelves as a sleep aid, sex enhancer and fitness product -- mimics the effects of alcohol without the hangover, experts say.
On that fateful night, the couple decided to go to their friend Brent Parnell's apartment to take some GHB, which Adams had left at Parnell's apartment, he said. Adams had moved out of the house he shared with his former girlfriend and was moving in with Parnell.
Adams said he was supposed to meet Kaphengst's family the next day.
Parnell said Kaphengst called to ask if the couple could visit. "They were laughing, and they had this little dog from Taco Bell. If you squeezed it, it said something. She couldn't hardly talk for laughing."
After the couple arrived, Parnell laid down on the couch. "They were loving on each other, so I decided I'd let them have their good time," he said.
The couple drank some wine and then downed orange juice mixed with GHB, Adams said.
"I said, 'Down the hatch,'" Adams recalled.
Parnell checked on them after noticing they had fallen silent. They were in the dining room. Adams was slumped over a chair. Kaphengst lay on the floor. Parnell frantically tried to administer CPR to her.
"I couldn't wake them up at all," Parnell said.
After Adams regained consciousness in the hospital, a nurse asked him if he wanted to see his girlfriend. Holding Kaphengst's hand, he begged her to get well, not realizing a machine was keeping her alive, he said.
"I said, 'Oh, come on, baby. I'll wait for you downstairs,'" Adams said.
Kaphengst died about 12 hours after arriving at the hospital, according to the Collin County Medical Examiner's Office.
"I wanted to die and be with Linda, but there was this little thing in the corner of my mind saying, 'You have children. You can't leave them,'" Adams said.
"I drank an awful lot after Linda died," he said. "I wanted to kill the pain."
He was hospitalized for depression, and he still sees a psychiatrist and a counselor, Adams said.
Friends say he still has what he calls "Linda attacks."
"He feels terrible about what happened," said Tom Lance, a friend and wrestling promoter. "He still thinks about Linda every day."
In the 1980s, sweaty, frenzied masses would pack into the Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth or the Sportatorium in Dallas every week to watch the modern-day gladiators of World Class Championship Wrestling, operated by local wrestling icon Fritz Von Erich.
Scantily clad women pranced around the outside of the ring, yelling at the opponents and wiping the sweat from their wrestlers' brows. There were throngs of screaming girls, prowling packs of boys, lusting grandmothers and old men intent on the action -- all of them believing every minute of it.
Adams rocketed to fame in 1983 when he joined the WCCW. Strutting into the ring in his trademark Union Jack attire, he often defeated opponents with his signature superkick, a karatelike thrust kick.
Adams achieved greater fame when he broke ranks with the Von Erichs. Wrestling fans may still remember a match at the Cotton Bowl when Adams hit Kevin Von Erich with a chair.
"I wanted to make the people angry," he said. "What I didn't expect was that it would really split his head wide open."
Adams came to enjoy his "bad guy" status, wrestling on the Dynamic Duo tag team with wrestling's casanova, Gino Hernandez. One match featured the tag team getting their heads shaved after being defeated by the Von Erichs.
"It was fun, and we were making so much money that we didn't care," Adams said.
Outside of the wrestling ring, tragedy befell many of Adams' contemporaries.
Hernandez died of a drug overdose in 1986. Three Von Erich brothers committed suicide, and one brother died from an intestinal inflammation in Tokyo during a wrestling tour.
"It was a boom period for wrestling," Meltzer said. "But the human cost from that era is unbelievable."
Wrestling began to fall out of vogue in the Metroplex after the Von Erichs faded, and Adams never regained the notoriety he once enjoyed. He has continued to wrestle off and on during the past decade.
In the early 1990s, Adams operated a wrestling school in Dallas and trained Stone Cold Steve Austin, now a highly paid World Wrestling Federation star.
"I thought I had paid my dues, and that it would never end," Adams said. "It's like a roller-coaster ride at Six Flags. It's up and down, then something comes along and makes it crash."
Adams said he was surprised by the manslaughter indictment, since more than a year had passed since Kaphengst's death. He has a new girlfriend and has been trying to get his life back together, he said. He had been selling wrestling rings and was part of the SuperStars of Wrestling, featuring some of the famed wrestlers from the Von Erich era.
He hasn't wrestled professionally since his arrest.
In a recent appearance at the Collin County Courthouse, Adams looked weary as his daughter played nearby.
"I feel guilty, but I just don't think I'm guilty of what they are accusing me of," Adams said in a later interview. "It was a tragic mistake."
By Joann Livingston
From the Waxahachie Daily Light, Monday, October 8, 2001
Waxahachie Police responded to a 9-1-1 call early Sunday morning, finding pro wrestler "Gentleman" Chris Adams, 46, of Rowlett dead at a local residence. "Mr. Adams died from a single gunshot wound to the chest," said Justice of the Peace Pct. 2 Jackie Miller Jr., who pronounced him dead at the scene at 2 a.m. The incident occurred after midnight at [address deleted] in the Indian Hills subdivision, the residence of William Parnell, 49, a business associate and promoter of Adams'.
Parnell was arrested at the scene and later arraigned on a charge of murder. Bond was set at $300,000.
"Officers responded to a 9-1-1 call at that location," Waxahachie detective Sgt. Nathan Bickerstaff said. "Someone called, saying they had just shot someone and they needed medical help."
Entry was made into the house after Parnell was taken into custody; Parnell's mother and aunt were at the residence, but were not awake at the time of the incident, Bickerstaff said.
"It is still under investigation," said Bickerstaff, who is assisted in the investigation by detective Todd Woodruff. "We do know they were wrestling and there was possibly alcohol involved in it. They got a little carried away and got mad at each other and started getting too rough inside the house. What it appears is that Mr. Parnell shot Mr. Adams."
Officers recovered a .38 caliber handgun at the scene.
Adams was found in the bedroom, lying on a bed, Bickerstaff said, with EMS efforts to resuscitate him unsuccessful.
Miller ordered an autopsy; the body was sent to the medical examiner's office in Dallas.
There was no association between Adams and Parnell, and a pro wrestling event organized by local pro wrestler Tim Brooks Sr. held Saturday night at the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club.
"They were not involved with us in any way. Neither one of them was at our event Saturday night," said Brooks, who had known Adams for about 20 years, but who did not know Parnell.
"I'm really saddened that it happened here, that it happened anywhere.
"It really surprised me," said Brooks. "I know Chris is married and has a 7-year-old daughter. That saddens me because it leaves his wife, and a 7-year-old child, without a parent."
Recalling Adams' life, Brooks said, "Chris was a guy that tried to live life to its fullest every day. He was a very upbeat type person and had a lot of energy. And he was a very, very good pro wrestler."
Brooks said that Adams, who was originally from England, was a top wrestler during the Von Erich period, and still made occasional wrestling appearances.
"I really don't know what to say about this," Brooks said. "I don't know any of the circumstances. All I know is that someone called me Sunday morning and told me the news. And I found it upsetting."
Chris Adams grappled with problems since '80s career heyday
By Michael E. Young and Robert Tharp
From the Dallas Morning News, October 9, 2001
Chris Adams always lived bigger than life, his days bright with promise, his nights black with promise unfilled.
His troubled days ended early Sunday, when police say a man described as Mr. Adams' best friend and former roommate shot the professional wrestler to death during a drunken brawl in Waxahachie.
At the time of his death, Mr. Adams, 46, was awaiting trial on manslaughter charges in the drug death of a girlfriend in 2000 and faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
He'd already served a term in federal prison for assaulting an airline pilot during a drunken rage. And he had seen his career plummet from the days when "Gentleman Chris Adams" was an honest-to-goodness wrestling star.
Waxahachie police said Mr. Adams was shot once with a .38-caliber handgun. Mr. Adams and wrestling promoter William B. Parnell had been drinking late Saturday at the home of Mr. Parnell's mother in the 200 block of [street name deleted].
The two started "roughhousing" and wrestling, and the play got out of hand. Mr. Parnell told police he began to fear for his life, Sgt. Nathan Bickerstaff said.
"He reached over on the nightstand and got a gun and shot Mr. Adams," Sgt. Bickerstaff said.
Mr. Parnell then called police and told them about the shooting. He was waiting inside the house when they arrived.
He was charged with murder and is being held in lieu of $300,000 bail at the Waxahachie jail, police said. Mr. Parnell could not be reached for comment Monday.
Mr. Adams arrived in Dallas in 1983. Raised in Stratford, England, he was a national judo champion as a teenager. And he fast became a star in professional wrestling.
He joined the regional World Class Championship Wrestling circuit, using his British accent to create his ring persona, "Gentleman Chris Adams."
"He became a local superstar," said friend Jim Wehba, who wrestled under the name "Skandor Akbar." "When things got real hot around here, Chris was one of the main cogs. He had a lot of charisma."
"Between 1983 and 1986, he was one of the biggest stars in wrestling," said Dave Meltzer, editor of the Wrestling Observer publication.
"There were a lot of guys you watched then, and he was the one I always thought was going to be as big as anyone could be in wrestling," said Bill Mercer, the WCCW's television voice. "But I guess he was always in trouble."
Though untrained as a wrestler, Mr. Adams was gifted with dramatic flair and exceptional athletic skills. He quickly joined the Von Erichs, Dallas wrestling's royal family, in the flashy new WCCW television broadcasts.
"A lot of guys flooded in here to be part of the WCCW," said wrestling promoter Gary Hart, once Mr. Adams' manager. "He came and he became a sensation."
Actually, the whole WCCW production was something of a sensation, and its young stars pushed life to the edge. A staggering number wouldn't survive.
"It was an unbelievable period in wrestling," Mr. Meltzer said. "It was something wrestling had never seen before. They all had so much fame so early. They weren't equipped to handle it."
Four Von Erich brothers, whose family name is Adkisson, died young – three committed suicide, and one died of an intestinal illness. Mr. Adams' former wrestling partner, Gino Hernandez, died of a drug overdose in 1986.
Frank "Bruiser Brody" Goodish was killed by another wrestler in Puerto Rico in 1988. "Ravishing" Rick Rude died from a drug overdose in 1999. So did Buzz Sawyer. Scott "Super Destroyer" Irwin and Jeep Swenson died of cancer. Terry Gordy suffered a fatal heart attack in July 2001.
Mr. Adams survived, though alcohol haunted him.
"This was a problem he battled for the last 10 or 12 years," Mr. Hart said. "Sometimes he won; sometimes he lost."
Kevin Adkisson, the only surviving member of the Von Erich wrestling family, saw some of those problems first-hand.
Mr. Adkisson was on a flight with Mr. Adams in 1990, returning from a series of shows in the Caribbean, when their plane was grounded with mechanical problems. The airline provided an open bar. When the flight finally took off, the crew decided they wouldn't serve drinks. Mr. Adams objected.
"I was asleep in the back and a stewardess came up and said, 'Mr. Von Erich, can you help us?' " Mr. Adkisson recalled.
Mr. Adams had argued with a flight attendant. When one of the pilots intervened, Mr. Adams knocked him to the floor.
"I ran up and got him in a half nelson. I said, 'Chris, you know they're going to arrest you for this.' I told him we could switch shirts and try to walk out with the crowd. And he said, 'No, I'll go off as Chris Adams.' "
Mr. Adams was one of the toughest wrestlers Mr. Adkisson ever fought, he said.
"He could fight, he really could. And I'm talking Texas style," he said.
Mr. Adams opened a wrestling school – The Gentleman Chris Adams School of Personalized Professional Wrestling Coaching – and it flourished for a while. His most successful graduate: "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, now one of wrestling's biggest stars.
But Mr. Adams eventually lost the school. He started various wrestling ventures, which usually failed. Still wrestling himself, he received a contract with World Championship Wrestling in the late '90s. Eventually, though, he returned to Dallas, his career barely a flicker.
He battled alcohol and developed a drug problem. In April 2000, Mr. Parnell found Mr. Adams and girlfriend Linda Kaphengst of Dallas unconscious in an apartment after they overdosed on gamma hydroxybutyrate, or GHB. Ms. Kaphengst died 12 hours later.
He started drinking again, as heavily as ever.
Mr. Wehba said he worried for years about Mr. Adams' substance-abuse problems.
"I often wondered why Chris didn't get it treated," he said. "God rest his soul, it got worse and worse.
"I think Chris felt his life was in a hole and he couldn't climb out."
By Tanya Eiserer
From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 9, 2001
When William Brent Parnell was arrested in the shooting death of professional wrestler "Gentleman" Chris Adams, he repeatedly told police he was Adams' best friend.
Waxahachie police said Parnell was distraught when he was arrested Sunday on suspicion of murder. Parnell, 49, remained in the Ellis County Jail on Monday with bail set at $300,000.
Adams, 46, died Sunday morning at the Waxahachie home of Parnell's mother where Parnell lived, police said.
The two men had been drinking and "roughhousing" when the shooting occurred, police said. Parnell told police he shot Adams in self-defense.
"I don't know what happened," said Tom Lance, a friend of both men and a wrestling promoter. "I know Brent was a big teddy bear. I don't believe he would hurt anybody."
About 1 a.m. Sunday, Parnell called 911 to report he had shot Adams, Sgt. Nathan Bickerstaff said.
When police arrived, they saw Parnell with a gun in his hand standing in the front bedroom window, Bickerstaff said. Parnell told the 911 dispatcher he was going to put the gun down and come to the front door unarmed, which he did, police said.
"He surrendered to the officers at the scene," Bickerstaff said.
Bickerstaff said it appears Adams and Parnell had been drinking.
"They got to roughhousing with each other," Bickerstaff said. "Evidently ... it got out of hand. That's when Parnell is stating that he was in fear of his life and shot Adams in the chest."
Police recovered a .38-caliber handgun.
Adams died at the scene, police said.
Parnell recently served as best man in Adams' wedding, said Gary Hart, Adams' former manager.
Parnell, nicknamed "Booray," met Adams about 11 years ago and had worked with him promoting wrestling matches. The two were once roommates.
"He's a wonderful person to be around," Parnell said of Adams in a previous interview with the Star-Telegram. "I'd trust him with my life."
Adams' girlfriend at the time, Linda Kaphengst, 30, died in Parnell's far north Dallas appartment in April 2000 from an overdose of alcohol and gamma hydroxybutyrate, or GHB, an illegal designer drug.
Adams was indicted on manslaughter charges in her death in June.
"It was the worst thing that's ever happened in my life," Adams told the Star-Telegram in an August interview.
Trial was scheduled to begin April 8.
Parnell told the Star-Telegram in an earlier interview that he had nightmares after Kaphengst's death. "It really devastated me," he said.
Adams lived in Rowlett with his new wife, Karen, and his 7-year-old daughter.
Hart said Adams recently told him he was compiling a collection of video clips of his wrestling matches. "He wanted to sell them to raise money for his defense," Hart said.
Lance, the friend and wrestling promoter, said Adams talked to him Friday about picking up the weights he had left at Lance's house. "He wanted them back to start getting in shape," Lance said.
He said Adams had talked about wrestling with a new Florida-based company. Parnell mentioned Friday that he wanted to move to Shreveport, La., where he owned rental property, Lance said.
Adams, a British-born pro wrestler, gained fame in the 1980s while wrestling with World Class Championship Wrestling, operated by local wrestling icon Fritz Von Erich, whose sons also gained fame in the sport. Adams' death is the latest tragedy to befall wrestlers who became famous during the Von Erich sons' era.
Adams had acknowledged, and several of his friends agreed, that alcohol use was his Achilles' heel, or his weakness. Lance said that in the past when Adams drank alcohol, he sometimes became violent. Adams had twice been convicted of drunken driving and a federal court jury convicted him of misdemeanor assault after he was accused of head-butting an American Airlines co-pilot in 1986 during a Dallas-bound flight from the Caribbean.
"He was one of the greatest people, a true dear friend, but something about when he starts to drink ... bad things happen," Hart said. "If it wasn't for alcohol, none of this would have happened."