The Fearsome History of The Claw

CM Punk vs. Daniel Bryan & Lord Tensai - 2-on-1 Handicap Match: Raw, May 7, 2012

Because of his verbal assault against John Laurinaitis, CM Punk learns he has to compete against two opponents in the main event.

Behold The Claw, a cranial-crushing finishing move that may not look as punishing as it actually is, but in the right hand, is a maneuver from which there is almost no escape. This manual compactor is one of the more brutally simplistic moves in a sports-entertainer’s arsenal: You grab hold of your opponent’s head, put pressure on the temples and squeeze his skull like a stress ball, refusing to let up until he’s reduced to a pile of mush on the canvas, either tapping out or passing out and being pinned.

The mighty Tensai is the latest WWE Superstar to adapt The Claw, enhancing the maneuver by dousing his hand in the debilitating Japanese green mist ( WATCH: THE MIST IN ACTION) before he palms an enemy’s face and pushes him to the canvas. But the ex-patriot warrior is hardly the first Superstar to embrace the vicious simplicity of crushing a man’s head like an overripe melon until he simply has no fight left.

The Von Erichs

Mr. Perfect vs. Kerry Von Erich - Intercontinental Championship Match: SummerSlam 1990

Kerry Von Erich uses the move his father made famous against Mr. Perfect.

These WWE Hall of Famers ( PROFILE) are widely known for pioneering the use of the Claw, or as they humbly referred to it back then, The Von Erich Claw. Fritz Von Erich in particular is typically known as the wrestler who first perfected the move, using it to brutalize the likes of King Kong Bundy during his illustrious career. But it was Kerry Von Erich, “The Texas Tornado,” who brought an inimitable sense of style and flair to the wicked maneuver in matches like this Intercontinental Championship bout with fellow WWE Hall of Famer Mr. Perfect at SummerSlam 1990.


Kurrgan vs. The Hardy Boyz - Handicap Match: Shotgun Saturday Night, December 20, 1997

Kurrgan uses The Claw on both Hardy Boyz.

A veritable giant of a man, Kurrgan’s sole mission in WWE was to dole out as much absent-minded punishment as he possibly could. A member of WWE’s circus troupe The Oddities, Kurrgan was notable for both his massive size and seemingly boundless strength, so it was only appropriate that a Superstar of his proclivities adopted the Claw as his signature maneuver. The simplicity – and brutality – of the maneuver fit Kurrgan’s M.O. to the letter, and the towering Superstar certainly used it to devastating effect, sometimes on more than one Superstar at a time and often dragging his opponents all the way back through the curtain by their skulls.

Baron Von Raschke

Baron von Raschke vs. Curt Hennig: June 25, 1988

Curt Hennig battles the legendary Baron von Raschke.

One look at this Superstar should tell the WWE Universe all they needed to know: The Baron, never one for ostentatious posturing, used the Claw in a brutal, no-frills manner that seemed to veer closer to a mauling than a wrestling maneuver. This brutal competitor nonetheless made the Von Erichs’ old trademark his own, using it to fell opponents like WWE Hall of Famer, Jesse “The Body” Ventura. Simply put, there were few Superstars who stood a chance of escape once The Baron had his Claw on them, and that is all the people need to know.

Killer Kowalski

Killer Kowalski vs. Bruno Sammartino: April 29, 1974

Killer Kowalski applies The Claw to Bruno Sammartino's chest.

This WWE Hall of Famer ( PROFILE) – and trainer of future Hall of Famer Triple H – famously thought outside the box when he appropriated the Claw, specifically asking the fairly ingenious question of, “Why stop at an opponent’s face?” Kowalski was notorious for using the Claw to attack other parts of a Superstar’s body, spreading the punishment to various locations so as to wear away quicker at his opponent’s resolve. In one famous match against Bruno Sammartino, Kowalski applied the Claw to the big man’s knees, taking his powerful legs out from under him, but he was better known for using it in a much more vicious manner: Kowalski would take his opponent to his back and, straddling the prone Superstar, would literally dig his claws into their stomach like a wild animal.

Side note: this has nothing to do with the Claw, but yes, the urban legend of Kowalski taking off Yukon Eric’s ear in a Steel Cage Match is true … and frightening.

Blackjack Mulligan

Blackjack Mulligan vs. Barry Hart: All Star Wrestling, March 20, 1982

Blackjack Mulligan uses his deadly claw to vanquish his opponent.

Wearing the black hat of the bad cowboy and sporting an ominous leather glove over his right hand, Mulligan – one half of the WWE Hall of Fame tag team The Blackjacks ( PROFILE) – was never one to shy away from a hard-hitting style of combat. He famously had a brief run in professional football before taking his talents to the squared circle, where he honed his craft and ultimately adapted the Claw as his own, using that gloved hand of his to devastating effect against opponents like Barry Hart.

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