Professional wrestling holds
Professional wrestling holds include a number of set moves and pins used by competitors to immobilize their opponents. This article covers the various pins, stretches and transition holds used in the ring.
Table of contents
The purpose of a pinning maneuver is to hold the victim's shoulders against the mat for a count of three (See: pin fall). The count is broken if the victim manages to raise one or both of his shoulders off of the mat, usually by kicking out.
If a wrestler is close enough to the ring ropes, he may aid a pin by propping his legs up on the ropes to gain additional leverage and put more of his weight on the victim. This is illegal according to the supposed rules of professional wrestling, since a wrestler is required to break a hold if he or his opponent is touching the ropes, but is frequently attempted by heels when they think that the referee won't catch them. This tactic is very frequently employed by Ric Flair, almost to the point of cliche.
In some positions, a wrestler may bridge, arching his back so that only his feet and the top of his head are touching the ground, to put more of his weight on his pinned opponent or to prop them up.
The wrestler stands back-to-back with his opponent and hooks both of the opponent's arms. He then leans forward and drops to his knees, sliding the victim down his back so that their shoulders are against the mat and their chin is against their chest. The attacker holds the victim's arms down with his own arms for the pin.
The basic pin. With his opponent lying face-up on the mat, the wrestler lies face-down across his opponent's chest to hold him down. Sometimes, when both wrestlers are supposed to be exhausted or badly hurt (usually in a long, drawn-out match), a wrestler will cover just with his arm. This is also known as a lateral press.
The wrestler lies across his opponent's chest and hooks a leg with the arm on the opposite side (the left leg with the right arm or the right leg with the left arm). Holding the leg supposedly gives the wrestler greater leverage and makes it harder for his opponent to kick out.
La Casita/La Majistral
With his opponent on hands and knees, the wrestler stands next to the victim's hip, grabs one arm and applies an armbar. He then steps over the arm with his inside leg so that he is facing away from the victim. The wrestler continues his turning motion and dives forward over the victim, rolling onto his side. The barred arm acts as a lever, flipping the victim over the attacker and onto the back. The attacker hooks a leg as the victim goes over and holds for the pin.
The wrestler stands to the side of his opponent, who is on hands and knees. The attacker hooks one arm around the victim's neck and one between the legs, and rolls over the victim. The attacker lands on his back or side, and the victim is flipped so that his shoulders are pressed against the floor.
The wrestler rolls his opponent back so that the victim's legs are above the head. The attacker wraps his/her arms around the legs and presses down to pin the shoulders.
The wrestler lies face-down across his opponent, who is face-up. The wrestler uses one arm to hook the victim's closer leg, uses the leg on the same side of his body to hook the victim's other leg, and uses his other arm to put his opponent in a front face lock.
The wrestler and his opponent face each other, with the attacker on higher ground (such as the top turnbuckle). The attacker dives over the victim, catches him in a waistlock from behind, and rolls into a sitting position as he hits the mat. As the attacker rolls over, he pulls the victim over backwards so that he lands on his back.
The wrestler jumps onto his opponent's shoulders from behind and rolls forward. As the attacker flips over, he hooks his opponent's shoulders with his legs, flipping the victim over onto his shoulders. The attacker hooks both of the victim's legs to hold him in place for the pin.
The technical term for the pinning position which results from a sunset flip or a hurricanrana. It is executed with the victim laying shoulders down on the mat, almost completely flat on their back, the wrestler who is performing the move places his legs on the victims shoulders or arms and sits behind them and hooks both legs around the thighs to force their weight down to the mat. Another variation which usually results from hurricanranas sees the one performing the move sit on the victims chest and hook the victims legs behind them whilst hooking their arms with their legs.
Similar to a Rana, except that the one performing the pin is standing, bent over the victim with both legs hooked pressing his weight down. This pin is typically the result of a powerbomb. Also called jack knife pin.
An element borrowed from professional wrestling's catch wrestling origins, stretches (or submission holds) are techniques in which a wrestler holds another in a position that puts stress on their body. They are usually employed to weaken an opponent or to force them to submit, either vocally or by tapping out: slapping the mat, floor, or opponent with a free hand three times.
Many of these holds, when applied vigorously, stretch the victim's muscles or twist their joints uncomfortably, hence the name. Chokes, although not in general stress positions like the other stretches, are usually grouped with them as they serve the same tactical purposes.
In public performance, for safety's sake, stretches are usually not performed to the point where the victim must submit or risk injury. Likewise, chokes are usually not applied to the point where they cut off the oxygen supply to the victim's brain. A notable exception is Japanese shoot-style wrestling, in which wrestlers are expected to apply legit (professional wrestling) submissions to end matches.
While some stretches rely entirely on the acting ability of the victim to sell them as painful or debilitating, many are legitimately effective when fully applied. They should not be attempted without proper training and supervision, as there is significant risk of serious injury.
Head, face, and chin locks
The Anaconda vice is done from a position in which the attacker and the opponent are seated on the mat. The attacker sits on the opponent's right side (the attacker's left), and with his right arm, goes around the left side of the victim's head and grabs their right wrist, bending the arm upwards. Then, the attacker manuevers his left arm through the "hole" created by the opponent's bent right wrist, and locks his hand upon his own right wrist, then pulls the opponent forward, causing pressure on the opponent's arm and neck.
It was innovated by Salvador Gory Guerrero, who gave the move to his tag team partner, El Santo, who then popularised its use. It was first known as the La de a Caballo ('on horseback'). Iranian wrestler The Iron Sheik used it as his finisher, giving it the name "camel clutch". Later, Scott Steiner would use the camel clutch as a finisher starting in the nWo era of WCW; WCW announcers called it the Steiner Recliner. It is now being used by one of the newest wrestlers on the WWE RAW roster, Muhammad Hassan.
The victim is on the ground, and the wrestler is up. The wrestler sits the victim up and places his/her knee in the opponent's back. He/she she grasps the opponent's chin and wrenches the chin either to the side, or straight back. This is an actual effective technique, that if not done carefully could strain, or even snap the tendons in the opponents neck. Also called a rear chin-lock.
AKA "The Iron Claw", the clawhold was a finishinng hold of Teutonic heels, Fritz Von Erich and Baron Von Rasche. The claw was a squeezing of the temples by the thumb and pinkie, while the palm compressed the face. Usually the ref would declare the victim incapacitated and call the match. A ruthless user of the hold, such as Blackjack Mulligan , could draw blood either by braking the nose or inducing a hemmorage. Other practitioners of the claw were The Spoiler , Blackjack Lanza, and Kerry Von Erich .
Also known as a cross-arm lock or cross-arm choke. The attacker stands behind the victim and uses one arm to place the victim in a half nelson. The attacker then uses their left / right arm to pull the victim's right / left arm across the victim's neck, thereby using the opponent's own arm to choke them. This can be set up as a bomb technique as well; after setting the clutch, sitting down and dropping the opponent on the back, using their hands and handles. This was the finishing technique of the wrestling legend Sgt. Slaughter. Is also known as the Million Dollar Dream and was the finisher of The Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase and his then protege "The Ringmaster" Stone Cold Steve Austin.
The wrestler faces his opponent, and both are in same position (prone or standing). The attacker then places his forearm under opponent's chin and armpit on top of it. The attacker may also underhook his opponent's arm with his free arm.
The wrestler faces his opponent, who is bent forward. The attacker tucks the victim's head in his armpit and wraps his arm around the head so that the forearm is pressed against the face. The wrestler then grabs the arm with his free hand to lock in the hold and compress the victim's face.
From behind his opponent, the wrestler slips both arms underneath the victim's armpits and locks his hands behind his neck, pushing the victim's head forward against his chest. It can be combined into either a suplex (throwing the opponent backwards) or a slam (lifting the opponent on the nelson and then releasing).
Standing behind his opponent, the wrestler wraps one arm under the opponent's armpit (on the same side) and places the hand behind the victim's head. The attacker then pulls back with that side of his body while pushing forward with the hand, bending the victim's shoulder back and pressing the chin against the chest.
The wrestler stands behind his opponent and bends him backwards. The attacker tucks the victim's head face-up in his armpit and wraps his arm around the head so that the forearm is pressed against the back of the head. The wrestler then grabs the arm with his free hand to lock in the hold and compress the victim's face against the bicep.
Three-quarters face lock
a Step-over Toe-hold Facelock. This move takes a bit of work to set up, but is difficult to break. The victim is lying face down on the ground. The attacker takes the victim's legs, bends them at the knees, and crosses the feet. The attacker then turns around so that they are facing away from the opponent and hooks their one foot into the gap of the victim's feet. The attacker then does a backwards bridge to reach over their head and grasp the victim's neck. The victim is thus being stretched backwards from the neck and legs.
The STF was invented by Lou Thesz and popularized by his Japanese disciple, Masa Chono. A variation of this was used for awhile by Trish Stratus, who instead of bridging backwards, would simply turn her torso and perform a facelock on her opponent from behind. This move was also used by William Regal for a period of time.
Recently Chono devised a new variation, the FTS (STF spelled backward) in which, after doing the basic STF maneuver, he twists so the opponent is in the air instead of lying down, similar to a surfboard.
The attacker grabs the victim's arm and wrenches it backward, placing pressure on the shoulder and elbow of the victim.
The attacker holds an opponent's arm with his, pulling the arm across his chest. He is situated perpendicular to and behind the opponent. The attacker then holds the other arm with his legs, stretching the shoulders back in a crucifying position and hyperextending the elbow.
This technique is also called a jujigatame, a term borrowed from Judo.
The attacker grabs his opponent's arm, pulling it over the shoulder and behind the upper back so that the elbow is fully bent and sticks up next to the head. This stretches the tricep, lats, and shoulder joint, and immobilizes the arm.
A modification of the move, involving locking the opponent's arm with the attacker's arm brought across the face, serving to bend the neck back as well, is called the crossface chickenwing. It was used by Bob Backlund in the mid-1990s.
The attacker grabs his opponent's arm, pulling it around behind the opponent's back. This stretches the pectorals and shoulder joint, and immobilizes the arm.
More widely known as an arm wrench. this is an arm bar technique used in Judo and Aikido, the wakigatame is a commonly used technique. The wrestler takes the opponents arm and twists it counter clockwise putting pressure of the shoulder and elbow.
A grounded armbar with the victim laying on their belly, the aggressor lays on their back, on a 90° angle to the victim, putting some or all of their weight on the victim to prevent them from moving. The opponents arm is then hooked and pulled back into their body, stretching the forearms, biceps and pectoral muscles. Variations of this can include clasping the victims hand instead of hooking the upper arm for extra leverage and bridging out whilst performing the move to increase leverage and immobilise the victim.
The wrestler darts their middle and ring fingers into soft tissue under the victim's tongue. This hold was first used in the 1960s by Sam Sheppard, who briefly wrestled following his acquittal in a celebrated trial on charges of murdering his pregnant wife. However, the hold is far more identified with Mankind, who often put a sock (which he called Mr. Socko) on his hand before using the move. It is different from the traditional clawhold.
The wrestler grabs his opponent's throat with both hands and throttles him.
The attacker applies a front face lock and proceeds to take the opponent downward, somewhat like a DDT, but without the impact. Then a waistlock is applied with the legs.
Half nelson choke
The wrestler puts his opponent in a half nelson with one arm and grabs the victim's neck with the other. This hold is very similar to the judo choke hold known as a katahajime, frequently used as a finisher by Tazz and dubbed the "Tazzmission" when he used it.
Rear naked choke
A version of the sleeper that is derived from Martial Arts and Ultimate Fighting.
Single arm choke
The wrestler grabs his opponent's throat with one hand and squeezes.
See Sleeper hold
The attacker stands behind the opponent, who is in a sitting position, or lying down, and the attacker then places the opponent in an inverted facelock, except that the attacker's arm, that is used in the facelock, is wrapped around the opponent's throat. The attacker then squeezes the opponent's throat to try to put the opponent to sleep.
The attacker can also use his/her other arm to hold back an arm of the opponent.
Tongan death grip
The wrestler darts his/her hand under an opponent's chin. The wrestler grabs a hold on the pressure point above the throat and squeezes on the nerve.
This was used as a finishing maneuver by Haku.
The wrestler grabs hold of one his opponents arm and wraps his legs around the opponent's throat. Although it is a choke hold, it is still considered a legal hold. Commonly used in UFC and by WWE superstar The Undertaker as a submission hold.
A wrestler stands in front of an opponent and locks his hands around the victim, squeezing him. Often he will shake his body from side to side, in order to generate more pain around the ribs.
A wrestler approaches a sitting opponent from in front or from behind. The attacking wrestler then sits next to the victim and wraps their legs around the victim, crossing their legs and then tightening their grip to choke the wrestler by compressing their torso. This hold is normally used in conjunction with a hold applied to the head in order to restrain the victim.
This is basically a bearhug from behind. A wrestler stands behind an opponent and locks his hands around the victim's stomach, pulling up and squeezing it.
Back and torso stretches
Facing his opponent's side, the wrestler straddles one of the victim's legs. The attacker reaches over the victim's near arm with the arm close to the victim's back and locks it. He then squats and twists to the side, flexing the victim's back and stretching their abdomen. Also known as the Cobra Twist.
Argentine backbreaker rack
The attacker places his opponent face-up across his shoulders, hooks the head with one hand and a leg with the other, and pulls down on both ends to flex the victim's back.
This hold is also called the backbreaker rack, the Argentine backbreaker, and the human torture rack. The last name was used by Lex Luger, who used the move as his finisher.
This move involves the wrestler to lay his opponent's back across one of his knees, then while placing one hand on his opponent's chin and the other on their knee the wrestler would push down to bend the victim around his/her knee.
This move is usually performed at the end of a pendulum backbreaker, a move which sees a wrestler drop an opponent down on the wrestler's knee, thus weakening the back before the hold is applied.
This typically starts with the victim on his back, and the attacker standing and facing him. The attacker hooks each of the victim's legs in one of his arms, and then turns the victim face-down, stepping over him in the process. The final position has the attacker in a semi-sitting position and facing away from his victim, with the victim's back and legs bent back toward his face.
In modern wrestling, the Boston crab isn't treated as a lethal submission maneuver, even though it was considered a finishing hold in the past, used by such wrestlers as Rick "The Model" Martel in the WWF and Nobuhiko Takada in the original Japanese UWF.
Many different variations are used today, including the Elevated Boston Crab used by WWE wrestler Chris Jericho, who calls it the "Walls of Jericho". Jericho's original version while in WCW (known then as the "Liontamer") involved placing his knee in the small of his victim's back, thus (supposedly) further wrenching the neck and causing more pain. Jericho altered the move upon arriving to WWF/E, however, and now the move is nothing more than a higher version of the Boston Crab.
Single leg boston crab
Also known as a Half Boston Crab or Half Crab is a move that typically starts with the victim on his back, and the attacker standing and facing him. The attacker hooks one of the victim's legs in one of his arms, and then turns the victim face-down, stepping over him in the process. The final position has the attacker in a semi-sitting position and facing away from his victim, with the victim's back and leg bent back toward his face, sometimes the attacker will place his leg so that his knee digs into the back of the victim.
Lance Storm's "Canadian Maple Leaf" is a variation of this in which he performs a back somersault roll on the mat, catching a running opponent into a single leg crab.
Bow and arrow hold
The attacker kneels on his opponent's back with both knees, hooking the head with one arm and the legs with the other. He then rolls back so that his opponent is suspended on his knees above him, facing up. The attacker pulls down with both arms while pushing up with the knees to bend the victim's back.
Canadian backbreaker rack
The attacker places his opponent face-up across one of his shoulders, then links his arms around the victim's torso and presses down, squeezing the victim's spine against the attacker's shoulder.
This is also known as the Gory Lock. It was invented by Salvador "Gory" Guerrero, the father of Hector, Eddie, Chavo Sr. and Mando Guerrero. The attacker lifts the victim over their shoulder so that the victim's upper back is across the attacker's shoulder. Thus, the attacker and victim are back to back, facing opposite directions. The victim's legs are tucked around the attacker's hips. The attacker can now apply pressure by applying a chinlock and pressing down. One or both of the victim's legs can also be hooked for extra pressure. This move can also see the attacker drop to a sitting or kneeling position, as in the Widow's Peak, currently used by WWE Diva Victoria as a finisher.
The attacker stands behind the victim and hooks a leg over the victim's opposite leg. The attacker then forces the victim to one side, traps one of the the victim's arms with their own arm, and drapes their free leg over the neck of the victim, forcing it downward. This elevates the attacker and places all the weight of the attacker on the victim. The attacker has one arm free, which can be used for balance.
The attacker grasps both of his opponent's wrists, places his foot on his opponent's upper back, and pulls back on the arms while pushing with his foot to compress the victim's shoulder blades. It is most often applied by a standing wrestler against a prone opponent, but may also be applied by a seated wrestler, or against a seated or kneeling victim.
A wrestler using both arms takes hold of one of the opponents legs and lifts the victim's lower leg from the base of the foot to the shin and wraps both arms around the foot, placing one arm around the ankle tightly and resting his other on the tip of the foot where the toes are, in a butterfly lock position. He then applies pressure on both areas of the foot forcing the ankle to bend unnaturally. This submission move was first popularized in the WWF/WWE by mixed martial arts fighter Ken Shamrock, and later became the signature move of Olympic gold medalist and WWE superstar Kurt Angle.
This move can also see the wrestler fall to the mat and Scissor the leg of the victim. This stops the opponent from rolling out of the move and makes it harder for them to crawl to the ropes.
An elevated Single Leg Crab. The opponent stands over a face-down victim lying on the ground. The attacker lifts one leg of the victim and drapes it over their neck. The attacker then uses their arms to force the shin and thigh of the victim down, thereby placing pressure on the knee of the victim.
Figure Four Leglock
The wrestler using this move stands over the opponent who is laying on the mat, face up and grasps a leg of the victim. The wrestler then turns 180 degrees and grasps the other leg, crossing them as he does so and falls to the mat, applying pressure to the opponent's crossed legs with his own.
Haas of Pain
A submission invented and named by Charlie Haas, this modified inverted reverse figure-four leglock variation, sees Haas cross one leg of an opponent over the other and stand on the the crossed leg, next he would take hold of the free leg and lay down on his back, to raise the victims legs up into the air causing both pain to the lower back and legs of the opponent.
Inverted Three Quarter Figure Four Leglock
The victim is lying faced down on the ground. The attacker kneels over the victims thighs with his left leg between the victims leg, then bends his opponents left leg around his left thigh. After that he places the victims right leg over the victims left ankle and puts his own right leg under the victims left ankle. Finally, he puts both of his feet over the victims right foot and presses on it.
The attacker forces the opponent to the ground and opens up the legs of the opponent, stepping in with both legs. The attacker then wraps his legs around the head of the opponent and crosses the opponent's legs, applying pressure on them with his hands. The attacker next turns 180 degrees and leans back, compressing the spine. This hold applies pressure on the temples, the calves, and compresses the spine. Also known as the D-lock for the capital D formed.
The victim is on his back. The attacker folds his opponent's legs over each other as if putting him in an "Indian sitting" posture, then places his own knee on top of the victim's shins and puts his weight on them.
Reverse Figure Four Leglock
The wrestler using this move stands over the opponent with the opponent face down and grasps a leg of the opponent. The wrestler then turns 180 degrees and grasps the other leg, crossing them as he does so and falls to the mat, applying pressure to the opponent's crossed legs with his own. This move is used by New Japan Pro Wrestling's superstar Yuji Nagata, and is known as the "Nagata Lock I".
The victim starts supine. The wrestler steps between his opponent's legs with one leg and wraps the opponent's legs around that leg. Holding the victim's legs in place, the wrestler then steps over the victim, flipping him over into a prone position. Finally, the attacker leans back to compress the legs.
This hold was first popularized by New Japan Pro Wrestling star Riki Choshu, who called it the Sasori-gatame (Scorpion hold). In North America, it was popularized in the WWE (then WWF) by Bret "The Hitman" Hart, who used it as his finisher and called it the Sharpshooter. It is currently used by WWE wrestlers The Rock and "The Crippler" Chris Benoit, who use Hart's name for the move.
It is also called the Scorpion Deathlock, the name used by WCW mainstay Sting for the same maneuver and the closest literal translation for the Japanese term. Sting, despite not having ties with New Japan until the 1990s, actually popularized the hold under this name in the US before Hart began using it.
Other names include:
- grapevine Boston crab / grapevine crab
- cloverleaf leg-lace crab
The wrestler stands at the feet of his supine opponent, grabs the victim's legs and lifts them up. He then bends one leg so that the shin is behind the knee of the straight leg and places the ankle of the straight leg in his armpit. With the same arm, he reaches around the ankle and through the opening formed by the legs, and locks his hands together. He then steps over his opponent, turning the victim over as in a sharpshooter. Finally, the wrestler squats and leans back, similarly to a Boston crab. The hold compresses the legs, flexes the spine, and stretches the abdomen.
In this variation of a Texas cloverleaf instead of turning round when turning the victim over the wrestler faces the same direction as the opponent to squat and lean forward to apply more pressure to the legs, spine, and abdomen.
Currently, a Sharpshooter variation is used by Edge who refers to it as the Edgeucator.
Some holds are meant neither to pin an opponent, nor weaken them or force them to submit, but are intended to set up the victim for another attack.
The victim is draped face-down across the wrestler's shoulders, with the wrestler's arms wrapped around from behind. It is a key component of several throws, drops and slams.
It is a popular technique for very large wrestlers because it emphasizes their height and power. The Ultimate Warrior would often use this move followed by a body splash as his finisher.
The wrestler stands behind his opponent and bends him forward. One of the victim's arms is pulled back between his legs and held, while the other arm is hooked, then the wrestler lifts the opponent up over his shoulder. From here many throws, drops and slams can be performed.
Facing his opponent, the wrestler reaches between his opponent's legs with one arm and reaches around their back from the same side with his other arm. The wrestler lifts his opponent up so they are horizontal across the wrestlers body. From here many throws, drops and slams can be performed.
This can also can be a transition hold for counter attacks that sees the wrestler (who is being tilt-a-whirled) hit many throws and drops like a DDT or head scissors (hurricanrana).
This move is achieved when a wrestler wraps a forward facing opponent's legs around the his waist (either by stands behind an opponent who is laying face-first on the mat or by catching a charging opponent), then the wrestler would apply a gutwrentch hold and lift the opponent up off the ground into the air, then either continue lifting and fall backwards to hit a variation of a German Suplex known as a Wheelbarrow Suplex, or forcing the victim back down to the mat to hit a facebuster variation.
A spinning Fireman's Carry, used to disorient the victim.
Tree of woe
This involves a wrestler turning a victim upside down on a turnbuckle, and placing the victim's back against the turnbuckle. The victim's legs are then hooked under the top ropes, leaving the victim facing the attacker, upside down.
This is an illegal tactic used by an attacker, only to choke, kick or to stomp on a victim until the referee uses up his five count.