By Mike Mooneyham
Oct. 20, 2001
World Class Championship Wrestling once boasted some of the top stars and hottest shows in the industry. Today, sadly, the long-defunct Dallas-based promotion is more remembered as a graveyard for a stable of wrestlers who died far too young.
News of the most recent casualty of a company whose fall from atop the wrestling world during the late ’80s was as meteoric as its rise was more sobering than shocking. To some, it was yet another example of what many in the business have called the “Von Erich curse.” To others, it was the sad end of what began 20 years earlier as a promising wrestling career whose full potential was never fully realized.
On Oct. 7, “Gentleman” Chris Adams was shot to death, allegedly by his best friend, in Waxahachie, Texas, not far from the city where he once headlined shows in front of thousands of fans. The adoration and cheering ceased years ago, however, as the promotion’s macabre body count began to turn away even the most fanatical followers.
Chris Adams was a good-looking, three- time national judo champion from England who immigrated to the United States in the early ’80s. Adams, who was discovered by the Hart family during a tour of Europe, seemed a natural for the high-rolling Von Erich clique as he skyrocketed to fame, strutting to the ring in his trademark Union Jack attire and dropping opponents with his signature “superkick,” a karate- like maneuver that would become the finisher for WWF champion Shawn Michaels a decade later.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]Like the Von Erichs, the charismatic Adams lived bigger than life, at one time owning a house in England, land in Texas, a red Corvette, two condos and a Mazda RX7. But also like the Von Erichs and many of his colleagues from that promotion, Adams’ time in the sun would be tragically cut short by a lifestyle that would result in his personal collapse and, on Oct. 7, his death.
Police say 49-year-old William “Brent” Parnell, a man described as Adams’ best friend and former roommate, shot the 46- year-old to death during a drunken brawl at the home of the suspect’s mother. The two men had been drinking heavily and “roughhousing” when the shooting occurred, police said. The suspect told police he shot Adams in self-defense with a .38 calibre handgun when Adams got out of control, lost his temper and wouldn’t let go of Parnell.
Parnell had served as best man when Adams had married for the fourth time only a month earlier. The two had met 11 years ago while promoting wrestling matches together.
The incident was only the latest in Adams’ long fall from grace. At the time of his death, Adams was awaiting trial on manslaughter charges in last year’s drug death of a girlfriend and faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
In 1986 Adams made headlines for an incident on an American Airlines flight heading for Dallas. Adams was returning from a Caribbean wrestling tour when engine trouble delayed the plane in Puerto Rico. When the plane took off again, a drunken Adams became belligerent after a flight attendant asked him to sit down. “I make 25 times the money you do, and no one like you is going to tell me what to do,” Adams said before head-butting the co-pilot. A federal jury convicted him of misdemeanor assault.
That same year Adams’ “Dynamic Duo” partner, Gino Hernandez (Charles Wolfe), died of an alleged cocaine overdose, although some friends to this day claim that Hernandez was the victim of a drug-related hit. Less than a year earlier Adams and Hernandez had helped draw 26,000 fans to the Cotton Bowl to see them lose a hair vs. hair match against Kerry and Kevin Von Erich.[ad#MikeMooneyham-468×15]
With the collapse of World Class during the late ’80s, Adams remained in Texas as an independent wrestler and opened up a wrestling school where he trained a for mer North Texas State football player named Steve Williams (the future “Stone Cold” Steve Austin), who ended up marrying Adams’ ex-wife. Adams, meanwhile, had taken up with another blonde named Toni, and used the real-life story as an angle for the two to feud with Austin and future bride Jeanie Clark.
Adams was twice convicted of drunken driving in recent years and was sentenced to a year’s probation after a 1989 incident in which he assaulted second wife Toni Adams. The couple divorced. Another relationship of eight years ended in 2000.
In April of that year Adams, who had taken his then-girlfriend for dinner, drinks and pool, decided to take the party to Parnell’s Dallas apartment where the couple drank wine and mixed orange juice with the club drug GHB (gamma hydroxybutyr ate), which Adams later told police he had left in the apartment. Adams later woke up in a hospital. His girlfriend, 30-year-old Linda Kaphengst, died 12 hours later. Fourteen months later, in June of 2001, Adams was charged with manslaughter in her death. A couple of months before Kaphengst’s death, Adams had been hospitalized when friends mistakenly thought he had overdosed on GHB because they couldn’t wake him. Adams and his girlfriend had taken the drug more than 20 times, he said, and still believed GHB was safe.
Adams, who wanted to “kill the pain” by drinking even more heavily, was hospitalized for depression and had recently said that he was seeing a psychiatrist and a counselor.
“I thought I had paid my dues, and that it would never end,” Adams said in an interview earlier this year. “It’s like a roller- coaster ride at Six Flags. It’s up and down, then something comes along and makes it crash.”
Jim Wehba, better known in wrestling circles as Gen. Scandor Akbar, told the Dallas Morning News that he had worried for years about 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 as in a hole and he couldn’t climb out.”