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Top 25 most devastating submission holds
How do you make a muscle-bound, 250-pound Superstar cry uncle? If a competitor is skilled in the art of submission, there are many ways. From the Boston Crab to the Indian Deathlock, these dangerous maneuvers can turn even the toughest man into a quivering little girl. But which submission holds are the most destructive? WWE.com locks in the definitive list.
During the peak of his fame in the 1950s, Gory Guerrero was one of the most hated men in all of Mexico. Vicious and bloodthirsty in the ring, the innovative luchador drew the animosity of audiences thanks to the punishment he caused fan favorites with his brutal array of submission holds. The inventor of maneuvers like the Camel Clutch (which he called La de a Caballo), Guerrero's favorite hold was the Gory Special, a modified backbreaker that he used to pummel the spines of legends like Lou Thesz. In later years, the brutal maneuver was regularly performed by Chavo Guerrero in tribute to his legendary grandfather.
How do you get The World's Largest Athlete off your back? If you're locked in Big Show's Colossal Clutch, you don't. First used by the giant in 2009 as a way to combat John Cena's STF during their heated rivalry, the hold is a variation of the Camel Clutch that places all of Big Show's 485 pounds on his opponent's spine. To add to the agony, the former WWE Champion uses his tree trunk-like legs for leverage and pulls back on his victim's chin like he's trying to pop open a pickle jar. In this position, the options are pretty simple — tap out or get snapped in two.
Hovering above most NBA players, The Great Khali is one of the largest people on the planet. But unlike some big men, The Punjabi Titan has the power to back up his shocking height. This Guinness-worthy size and strength is what made the former World Heavyweight Champion's Vise Grip so dangerous. Using his catcher mitt-like hands, the massive Superstar would grab an opponent's head and squeeze as hard as possible, putting an obscene amount of pressure on the skull. Most men who found themselves in this unfortunate spot passed out from the pain. Others weren't as lucky.
Among the most revered veterans in all of sports-entertainment, William Regal started his mat career in the carnivals of his native Blackpool, England. Here, The British Brawler made his money by taking on random challengers who thought they could beat him. Often outsized, Regal learned a series of excruciatingly painful holds that he could use to incapacitate his opponents. This is how the ghastly gentleman came to develop his Regal Stretch, an agonizing hold in which he ties his adversary's legs in knots and yanks on their head. With a maneuver like this, he didn't lose too many challenges.
Quite possibly the most innovative maneuver of the past fifteen years, the Tarantula sprang from the twisted mind of Tajiri, an intense Japanese competitor who found major success in WWE and ECW in the early 2000s. Highly unorthodox, the bizarre hold is similar to a Boston Crab, but Tajiri performs the submission by wrapping himself around his opponent's arms and legs while he hangs upside down on the outside of the ring ropes. Since the hold is technically illegal, the Tarantula can't be used to win a match, but it is both visually thrilling and physically destructive.
The Dragon Sleeper is the kind of hold that's painful just to look at. One of Ultimo Dragon's signature maneuvers, the submission is performed by targeting an opponent from behind and snagging their head in an inverted facelock. Insane pressure is then applied by yanking the victim's neck at an impossible angle and, depending on who is performing the maneuver, driving a knee into the spine for extra leverage. The Dragon Sleeper is so destructive it was later adopted by everyone from Maxine to The Undertaker.
The Texas Cloverleaf is most often associated with grappling great Dean Malenko. But anyone with a modicum of wrestling smarts knows The Iceman hailed, ironically, from sunny Florida. So where did this unique maneuver come from? WWE Hall of Famer Dory Funk Jr., a true wrestling legend, is credited with the innovation of the hold that targets an opponent's legs, stomach and back all at once. It is this overall effectiveness that made the Texas Cloverleaf a favorite of "The Man of 1,000 Holds."
Before he ever captured the WWE Championship, Brock Lesnar was a standout collegiate wrestler at the University of Minnesota. These brutal years on the mat gave The Next Best Thing an extensive knowledge of how to hurt another human being, leading to the development of his dreaded Brock Lock years later. A modified Boston Crab in which Lesnar drapes his opponent's leg over his own neck and cranks on it with all his might, the maneuver was agonizing by design, but the 265-pounder's unmatched power made it even more painful.
A signature hold of feared villains of the 1960s like Killer Kowalski and Baron Von Raschke, The Claw is most closely associated with Texas wrestling legend Fritz Von Erich and his sons, Kevin, Kerry, David, Mike and Chris. Similar to the Vise Grip, The Claw is applied to the victim's head — although some grapplers go for the shoulder or the stomach — with pressure applied to the frontal lobe. Thanks to the impressive size of the Von Erichs, the grapplers were literally able to squish their opponent's heads in their hands, resulting in intense pressure, pain and severely lowered IQs. It's no wonder the vicious Lord Tensai has adopted the crushing hold.
What makes the Sleeper Hold such a devastating maneuver? Rewatch the April 2, 2010 showdown between Dolph Ziggler and The Great Khali on SmackDown and learn. Ziggler, severely outgunned by The Punjabi Titan, jumped on the massive Superstar's back and locked in the submission. Unable to shake off the bleached blonde blowhard, the big man toppled, falling to a competitor nearly half his size. Relatively simple to apply and effective on even the largest opponent, the Sleeper was a favorite maneuver of everyone from Roddy Piper to Brutus "The Barber" Beefcake.
At the peak of his power, Lex Luger was 6'5" and 265 pounds of pure, chiseled muscle. Opponents who were unlucky enough to find themselves in the unflinching agony of Luger's Torture Rack felt every bit of this mythic strength. The big man's version of the Argentine backbreaker, Luger performed the move by hoisting an opponent's entire body onto his shoulders, grabbing their head with one hand and their leg with the other and then cranking up and down until an opponent's spine became a chiropractor's worst nightmare.
At only 5'9", Tazz was far from being the biggest Superstar in the ring, but he still managed to strike fear into men twice his size. The source of this intimidation? A paralyzing submission hold known as the Tazzmission. A modified version of the Katahajime judo choke, the maneuver allowed the former World Tag Team Champion to take down top competitors like Bam Bam Bigelow, Mike Awesome and Chris Jericho and capture the ECW Championship on multiple occasions. The hold even dealt Kurt Angle his first loss.
One of the most devastating holds in CM Punk's destructive arsenal, the Anaconda Vise is a debilitating chokehold with roots in martial arts like judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Performed after an adversary is beaten to the ground, the Anaconda Vise is applied when Punk snakes his arm around his opponent's neck and cinches their arm behind their head, cutting off the flow of oxygen while immobilizing them. The Second City Saint then wrenches the hold, leading to the inevitable tap out.
Of all the maneuvers on this list, none are as bizarre as Mankind's Mandible Claw. Targeting the vulnerable flesh under the tongue, the former WWE Champion would drive his fingers into his opponent's mouth and push down until they convulsed. To add to the insanity of this unique hold, The Hardcore Legend often applied the Mandible Claw while wearing a filthy tube sock named Mr. Socko over his hand. It's hard to say what was worse, the agony of the pain or the taste of the maniac's toe fungus.
A deceptively simple hold, the Full Nelson becomes a particularly dangerous maneuver when applied by a WWE Superstar. A favorite of muscular monsters like The Warlord, Hercules and Chris Masters — who dubbed his version of the hold, The Master Lock — this punishing submission is performed by wrapping both arms around an opponent's neck from behind and then aggressively cranking their head forward. When done correctly, the move is nearly impossible to escape and can cause serious damage to the spine.
Although he's become a comedy figure in recent years, The Iron Sheik was one of the most despised and feared Superstars of the early 1980s. Much of this reputation can be attributed to the former WWE Champion's signature maneuver — the Camel Clutch. The Persian strongman's unforgiving hold was so dreaded that Bob Backlund's manager, Arnold Skaaland, threw in the towel when he saw the Superstar writhing in The Sheik's powerful clutches. The act cost Backlund the WWE Championship and sent a clear message to the WWE Universe — The Iron Sheik and his brutal Camel Clutch were as dangerous as it gets.
The "Yes!" Lock
Before Daniel Bryan’s megalomania took hold of the once humble grappler's psyche, his debilitating finishing maneuver was known as the LeBell Lock in tribute to Gene LeBell — the legendarily tough martial arts expert and former professional wrestler who dreamt up the excruciating hold. Passed onto Bryan in the rough gyms of Las Vegas where he grapples tirelessly, the modified crossface was unleashed on unsuspecting opponents like The Miz and Cody Rhodes who made the mistake of underestimating the formerly modest Superstar. Simultaneously targeting a victim's neck, shoulder, elbow and nose, the newly rechristened "Yes!" Lock is a quadruple threat that proves sooner or later, everyone taps.
The root of any Superstar's power is in their legs. Take away that base and the competitor ultimately topples. This is why the Figure-Four Leglock has been such an effective maneuver for decades. First made famous by the great Buddy Rogers, the hold does leave the performer open for various reversals, but it is fully destructive when properly applied. Synonymous with WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair, the hold was also a favorite of greats like Shawn Michaels and Greg "The Hammer" Valentine.
Crossface Chicken Wing
Before he became the nuttiest presidential candidate since Ross Perot, Mr. Backlund was a skilled amateur wrestler at North Dakota State University. This incendiary mix of submission expertise and clinical insanity made Backlund's signature hold, the Crossface Chicken Wing, particularly dangerous. Using his awesome tendon strength to wrap his opponent's arms in knots, the former WWE Champion would grab his victim by the chin and attempt to separate his head from the rest of his body. The maneuver was so painful that Bret Hart's mother threw in the towel when she saw her son locked in the hold.
Walls of Jericho
Chris Jericho has always believed in pushing things to the limit. From his early days as a daredevil member of The Thrillseekers to his multiple reigns as World Heavyweight Champion, nothing has been too outlandish for the nefarious Superstar. It was this very mindset that created his signature hold, the Walls of Jericho. Starting with a classic Boston Crab, Jericho turns the move up to 11, elevating his opponent's legs more severely and driving a knee into their spine for added agony. If that doesn't kill a man's spirit, the endless stream of insults Jericho shouts out while applying the hold certainly will.
Million Dollar Dream
A variation of Sgt. Slaughter's Cobra Clutch, The Million Dollar Man's signature hold put more men to sleep than a Giant Gonzalez match. Although opponents could submit to the hold, the former World Tag Team Champion usually purchased his victims a one way ticket to dreamland by targeting their carotid artery and stopping the flow of oxygen to the brain. To add insult to injury, the WWE Hall of Famer would often stuff a fat wad of dirty money into the mouth of the poor sap he just put down. How's that for filthy rich?
If you’ve ever rolled your ankle while playing a game of touch football, you know excruciatingly painful an injury to that joint can be. Now imagine what it would feel like to have a Superstar as powerful as Jack Swagger wrenching on that tender part of your body with the intention of detaching it by force. That’s a rough idea of how the Ankle Lock must feel. First popularized in WWE by former Intercontinental Champion Ken Shamrock and later adopted by Kurt Angle, the Ankle Lock became particularly devastating in the hands of "The All-American American." Using his awesome strength, the University of Oklahoma graduate twists his opponent's ankle until he hears the gruesome sound of tendons snapping. The hold can be so debilitating, it put greats like Big Show and Rey Mysterio on the sidelines.
Triple H. Big Show. Shawn Michaels. Randy Orton. The list of Superstar who have tapped out to John Cena's STF reads like a rundown of future WWE Hall of Famers -and that's just to name a few. Short for stepover toehold facelock, the STF was invented by grappling god Lou Thesz, but the former NWA World Heavyweight Champion never performed the maneuver with John Cena's type of intensity. Targeting an opponent's back, knees and neck all at once, the former WWE Champion is literally able to stretch a man to his breaking point.
The Undertaker had already dominated the squared circle for more than a decade before he unleashed the terrifying Hell’s Gate onto a long list of unfortunate Superstars. A version of a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu chokehold known as the gogoplata, this highly dangerous maneuver is performed by pulling an opponent to the ground and then brutally thrusting their throat against the shinbone. When performed with The Deadman's trademark style of intensity, the hold is so dangerous that it actually caused many Superstars to spit up blood, leading to its temporary banishment by Vickie Guerrero.
There's a reason the late Gorilla Monsoon christened Bret Hart "The Excellence of Execution." Among the most technically precise competitors in sports-entertainment history, The "Hit Man" relied on one maneuver to finish his matches — The Sharpshooter. Combining elements of the Boston Crab and the Figure-Four Leglock, the wrenching submission ties up an opponent's legs in a way that's nearly impossible to escape and puts serious pressure on the lower back. The pain is so excruciating, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin actually passed out when locked in the hold. Does it get more devastating than that?