9 seriously rare and dangerous submission holds
There are countless submission holds in the world of sports-entertainment. Competitors — like Paige and her Scorpion Crosslock — 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.com dug deep and uncovered 9 other holds that have been lost in the art of mat grappling. These tendon-twisting submission maneuvers 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 anguish 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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). Even AJ Lee used a variation of the hold as The Black Widow during her record-breaking reign as Divas Champion.
Especially effective when used by long-limbed Superstars, who’s to say the Octopus Stretch isn’t destined for a comeback? — JOHN CLAPP