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What a maneuver! 15 moves that really exist
There are countless strikes and holds in the world of sports-entertainment. Superstars are always coming up with unique ways to put twists on them, often literally. Yet some moves, no matter how painful, devastating and feared they were in their day, become lost in the sands of time.
In an effort to preserve history, WWE Classics dug deep and uncovered 15 maneuvers that have not been seen on the mat in quite some time. Whether a bone-jarring body blow or a tendon-twisting submission, these moves deserve your attention.
It may sound like candy, but the Sugar Hold will do anything but satisfy a sweet tooth. Mythically practiced by Stu Hart in his legendary Dungeon training center, the Sugar Hold’s origins are unclear, but it might have been invented by the Hart patriarch himself. The WWE Hall of Famer was known for developing unique submissions to induce even his toughest students to cry in aguish while their lips became a stomach-churning shade of blue.
The Sugar Hold application begins as a typical full nelson, but the competitor executing the hold forces his opponent face down on the canvas, then presses his knees into the upper back. With his entire body wrenching in pain and without the use of any limbs, the opponent is forced to concede the matchup as all but won.
Despite being an excruciatingly arduous maneuver, the Sugar Hold has mostly been lost to time as other submissions gained further prominence. Stevie Richards briefly revived a version of the hold as his Rat Trap while competing weekly on the program he referred to as “Stevie Night Heat,” but we might be waiting forever if we hope to see the Sugar Hold on Raw one day. ( WATCH)
Every bully has a go-to maneuver. The wedgie, sticking someone else’s head in a toilet, that thing where they palm someone’s head and keep them at arm’s length so they can’t hit back. All classic moves, but WWE’s resident bully had one that was particularly mean-spirited.
Big Bully Busick wasn’t the type of antagonist to stuff you into lockers in high school. No, he looked like he stepped right out of a time machine from the 1920s with his turtleneck, bowler hat and king-sized cigar. After beating on his hapless opponent, Busick put his dazed foe in a seated position on the mat, sat down on his neck and yanked the opponent’s legs up over his head. This torturous submission is known as the Stump Puller.
We could only find one other Superstar who utilized this nasty hold. Before he lightened up and added a little person to his entourage, Doink the Clown agonized foes with the hold — all the way up to the mid-1990s, when the Stump Puller pulled a disappearing act. We’re stumped as to the reason why. ( WATCH)
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Numerous mystical maneuvers have made their way stateside from Japan. We’re still trying to figure out how guys like Tajiri and The Great Muta spit out that awesome green mist. Emerald-tinted spit isn’t the only unusual move to come over from the Far East, though.
The Asiatic Spike was a simple, yet debilitating submission hold. All someone has to do is take their thumb and find the right pressure point around the throat. Applying consistent pressure to the area causes intense pain to shoot throughout an opponent’s body, even causing some to pass out. ( WATCH)
Superstars like WWE Hall of Famer Don Muraco and Meng were proprietors of the hold, but it was in WCCW where the move came to prominence. It was on a trip to Japan where Fabulous Freebird Terry Gordy first met Killer Khan, who taught him the mysterious Asiatic Spike. Gordy brought the hold, and Khan, back to Texas with him. Khan eventually went out of control with the Spike, and Gordy was the only man who could stop the Mongolian’s reign of terror. The Freebird used his knowledge of the Asiatic Spike, along with some good, old-fashioned brawling, to vanquish Killer Khan.
Superstars with athletic experience outside the squared circle often found a way to incorporate their non-wrestling skills into their in-ring repertoire. “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, once part of football’s Atlanta Falcons, rushed out of a three-point stance inside the ring, bowling over his opponents like an offensive lineman.
No one did it quite like Kerry Von Erich, however. “The Texas Tornado” was a world-class discus thrower in high school, eventually receiving a scholarship to the University of Houston. It has been said Kerry could have competed in the 1980 Olympics, had President Jimmy Carter not boycotted the games.
Instead, Kerry followed in the footsteps of his father, entering competition in the wrestling ring. Von Erich soon developed a devastating maneuver that combined his discus-throwing skills with brute force. Kerry went into his throwing motion, but instead of a discus into the air, he launched his fist into his unlucky opponent’s face. ( WATCH)
The Discus Punch served Von Erich well, especially in his WWE career. Like a twister tearing through Tornado Alley, Kerry Von Erich turned Mr. Perfect inside out with a major league punch to capture the Intercontinental Title. A few competitors since “The Texas Tornado” have tried to utilize the Discus Punch, but none had the mastery of the form, letting this vicious move get lost in time.
Few moves in wrestling lore have ever been as feared as the Heart Punch. Though the men who mastered it may have been vicious brutes, the devastating blow required an innate knowledge of the cardiovascular system.
The Heart Punch is as simple as it sounds — a straight punch to the chest. It’s rumored, however, the anatomy of the move is based on the idea of pressure points located throughout the body. The Heart Punch targets one such point that allegedly stops the heart, albeit temporarily.
Stan “The Man” Stasiak built a reputation on the Heart Punch, eventually leading him to the WWE Championship. However, no one was ever as reviled for his use of the maneuver as Ox Baker. The mountainous grappler traveled the territories, frightening audiences as he clocked foe after foe in the ticker. Legend has it that Baker actually killed two competitors with the devastating blow. Though no evidence to confirm such allegations exists, Ox is scary enough for us to believe them.
The last competitor to use the Heart Punch was Crush when he returned to WWE in 1996. Since then, no Superstar has attempted to learn the brutal strike. Perhaps there should be mandatory lessons on pressure points in wrestling school. ( WATCH)
Many Superstars take time to put a new variation on an old move to make it their own, but few carry the ingenuity to design their own maneuvers. Well, stand back, because Shane Helms (aka The Hurricane) was one of those Superstars.
Breaking out of his “3-Count” boy band shell in spring 2001, Helms’ creative side surfaced when he bowed the breathtaking Vertebreaker. What looked like an advantageous position for Helms’ opponents soon turned into one of the most devastating maneuvers in sports-entertainment history. “Sugar” Shane muscled his opposition onto his back — similar to how Christian sets up his Killswitch — before dropping them straight down on their neck. ( WATCH)
After Helms invaded WWE with his WCW compatriots and morphed into sports-entertainment’s resident superhero, the Vertebreaker disappeared. The Hurricane brought it out of storage every now and again, but it hasn’t been seen in WWE in a very long time.
Once a staple of sports-entertainment, the Airplane Spin now exists solely as cheesy sitcoms’ go-to move whenever they decide to mock the squared circle. Back in the day, however, the spin was a risky, yet effective maneuver.
By lifting one’s opponent up in a fireman’s carry and spinning in circles like a hyperactive child, the executor of the move hoped to throw off his adversary’s equilibrium enough to end the match a little earlier than expected. More often than not, though, both grapplers ended up stumbling around in a dizzy stupor.
One of the most famous incidents involving the Airplane Spin included Muhammad Ali. The cocky world champion boxer stepped into the ring with Gorilla Monsoon following one of the WWE Hall of Famer’s matches. Ali threw a few jabs in Monsoon’s direction, which did nothing more than anger the massive Superstar. Gorilla, tired of playing around, grabbed Ali and lifted him up for his trademark Airplane Spin. The dizzy boxer stumbled away from the ring as Monsoon stood tall. ( WATCH)
Its technical name is the rope-hung Boston Crab. Yet, to compare the Tarantula to a common Boston Crab would be like comparing an actual tarantula to a housefly. Popularized during Yoshihiro Tajiri’s years in ECW, the hold is applied once a competitor is trapped with his back against the ropes. The initiator swings over the other side of the ropes, locks his legs under his opponent’s arms and then pulls on said opponent’s legs. Both ring warriors remain suspended in midair, like arachnids caught in a web. ( WATCH)
“The hold doesn't bend the opponent’s spine far enough against its natural range of motion to cause a submission,” original ECW announcer Joey Styles explained. “But it certainly causes enough pain to keep the back weakened for the remainder of a match.”
“Tajiri used to keep his opponents trapped in his personal torture device for minutes on end while they shrieked in pain,” Styles added. In the Land of Extreme’s rulebook, the lack of disqualifications permitted The Japanese Buzzsaw to keep the Tarantula locked in for as long as he desired. Upon arriving in WWE, however, Tajiri was forced to conform to a new standard, which dictated the hold must be broken by the count of five. With such difficult execution and no way of achieving victory, the Tarantula soon crawled into obscurity.
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If it looks like a Figure-Four and feels like a Figure-Four, it must be … the Indian Deathlock? While similar to the submission hold Ric Flair made famous, the rare Indian Deathlock is even more agonizing and forces opponents to either tap out or become crippled.
A competitor locks his opponent’s leg behind the knee and then traps the other leg over the already-locked foot. The competitor can then use his other foot to press against his foe’s knee, and even come within millimeters of breaking the locked leg. If it sounds complicated, that’s because it is. Furthermore, the Deathlock is as painful as it is complex.
Only the finest ring grapplers possess the expertise to perform this move. Triple H used the maneuver to finish off his rivals early in his career, and revived the Deathlock at WrestleMania XIX. Defending the World Heavyweight Championship against Booker T, The Game applied the hold halfway through the matchup. It caused significant damage to Booker’s limbs and no doubt played a role in Triple H’s eventual victory.
In the 11 years Bruno Sammartino held the WWE Championship, no single maneuver devastated the big Italian more than WWE Hall of Famer Killer Kowalski’s paralyzing Stomach Claw. The terrifying Kowalski simply dug his massive digits deep into the abdomen of legendary competitors like Sammartino, Pedro Morales and Gorilla Monsoon. The Polish savage instantly grounded his foes onto the canvas as they screamed in agony, and Kowalski came dangerously close to seizing the WWE Title on several occasions. Even the sight of the towering villain displaying his hand to the crowd would send fans cowering in fear. ( WATCH)
The maneuver had a minor resurgence in the 1980s, when the Von Erich clan modified their Iron Claw — normally applied to an opponent’s face — to be used on the abdomen. Former Intercontinental Champion Kerry Von Erich famously executed the Stomach Claw during his legendary battles over the WCCW Title with Jerry “The King” Lawler. But the Killer was the true master. “Kowalski believed in the claw,” Gerald Brisco once said. “He believed you weren’t going to get out of it. And after he hooked it on you, you believed you weren’t gonna get out of it.”
Ring post Figure-Four
Bret Hart might be known for cinching countless opponents in the Sharpshooter, but his variation of the fabled Figure-Four Leglock might be even more debilitating, if not more creative. With the opponent on his back in a corner, “Hit Man” hopped out of the ring and applied the Figure-Four around the pole, using the ring post for leverage. The Excellence of Execution hung upside-down and his head rested on the floor at ringside while his opponent writhed in pain.
Similar to the Tarantula, the hold often had to be broken because of a rope break. Yet it successfully weakened Hart’s greatest rivals, including Shawn Michaels and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin.
In the only singles match between Hart and The Rock on WWE television, “Hit Man” challenged for Rocky’s Intercontinental Championship. However, the stubborn Hall of Famer, deciding at that point in time that he cared more about inflicting punishment than winning the title, refused to let go of the hold. “Hit Man” was disqualified, but the damage had been done. ( WATCH)
Spinning Toe Hold
The name of this move probably doesn’t sound that intimidating. After all, how much damage could a toe hold really do?
Quite a lot, as it turns out.
The legendary Funk family mastered the bone-crunching Spinning Toe Hold. With it, Terry and Dory Jr. won a combined three NWA World Championships. The maneuver gets its name because the attacker begins by grabbing the toe of his foe’s boots, in a setup similar to a Figure-Four Leglock. Next, the grappler steps over and spins around his opponent’s leg, using his own leg to apply pressure. ( WATCH)
The Spinning Toe Hold leaves the victim with two choices: submission or a broken leg. It’s no wonder why the Funks were so feared in the ring.
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You might have heard of the Atomic Drop. In fact, you might have seen one performed in a match on Raw. A competitor hoists their opponent in the air from behind, then sends him hurtling back to the mat, his feet landing hard on the canvas. The forceful landing places a significant amount of pain on the lower back and legs. If executed properly, the recipient falls to his knees, unable to quickly recover. ( WATCH)
These days, an Atomic Drop is as innocuous as an armdrag or hip toss. However, in wrestling’s earlier days, the maneuver was straight-up nuclear, finishing off competitors and resulting in a pinfall. Competition has evolved, and today’s Superstars have adapted to endure an Atomic Drop without feeling the long-term effects. Few maneuvers were as intense as former WWE Champion Bob Backlund’s version, but the Atomic Drop no longer carries the impact to send Superstars into a fallout shelter. ( WATCH)
You know that old saying, “It takes two to tango.” For great tag team wrestling, though, it takes four to fight. The Road Warriors’ Doomsday Device, The Hart Foundation’s Hart Attack and The Dudley Boyz’s 3D are some of the most impactful maneuvers used to finish off duos in WWE history. Yet some of the most innovative tandem moves have long been abandoned due to the evolving nature of tag team competition.
No longer do tandems set sail on the open seas to row the boat, but in the early 1990s and prior, duos would take advantage of their prone opponents. With all four competitors seated in the ring creating a star-like shape, one team would grab the legs of the other and, in a measured and rhythmic motion, yank hard several times. ( WATCH)
The Rowboat isn’t quite evocative of floating down a lazy river at your local water park. Rather, this maneuver is as devastating as attempting to navigate white water rapids. If current Tag Team Champion Kane were to attempt this hold, however, we think he might need a bigger boat.
A submission maneuver with international appeal, the Octopus Stretch is a torturous device that has ended matches in North America, Europe and Asia. The stretch dates back to the early 20th century, with its first practitioners being not-quite-household names like Clarence Eklund (“Wrestling’s Octopus”) and Kansas City, Mo., heavyweight champion Homer Wright.
An amplified abdominal stretch, the Octopus Hold owes its pain-inflicting ways entirely to leverage and technique. It’s applied by grapevining an opponent’s leg, wrapping a free leg around the neck and — in a final, painful insult — yanking back on the opponent’s arm. The result for the intended target is an overstretched pectoral muscle, a downwardly contorted neck and a scrunched-up mid-section. ( WATCH)
More contemporary Octopus proponents include WWE Hall of Famers Antonio Inoki (who once used the hold to make Mil Mascaras cry “tio” in Japan) and a young Ricky Steamboat. The stretch rounded out the multifaceted arsenals of world travelers Dynamite Kid, Owen Hart and Tajiri, and it was a potent weapon for Midwestern fan favorite Luis Martinez (though Martinez struggled to lock it in against the larger Moose Cholak).
Especially effective when used by long-limbed Superstars, who’s to say the Octopus Stretch isn’t destined for a comeback? — JOHN CLAPP