Alternate Reality by Vin Tastic – Body parts…
by Vinny Truncellito on November 8, 2009

In a “sport” where there are so many ways to win, including pin fall, knock-out, count-out, and disqualification, the idea of forcing an opponent to give up because they can no longer endure the pain you’re dishing out is a powerful road to victory. Submissions can come from a variety of attacks but a strong game plan for the submission specialist, that wrestler who has perfected a favorite finishing maneuver, is to single out a specific body part and beat it mercilessly so that it’s aching and throbbing before the submission move is ever applied. Then, when the aggressor swoops in for the kill, the targeted limb is primed and ready for the final, debilitating, incredibly painful hold that will end the match.

TODAY’S ISSUE: Picking a body part and attacking it for a potential submission.

In the modern era of professional wrestling in which high-flying style, MMA influence, charisma and promos are an integral part of the program, a wrestler working a body part en route to a potential submission victory is one of the most time-honored, classic methods of telling an in-ring story. Along with a tag team cutting off the ring and focusing on one of their two opponents while making repeated tags to one another, the psychology of body part selection is about as old as the concept of heels versus faces, and when properly executed can make in-ring action much more dramatic and exciting than two guys pretending to punch and kick each other randomly with no sense of purpose or direction.

Unlike Stone Cold Steve Austin’s Stunner, DDP’s Diamond Cutter, AJ Styles’ Styles Clash or Shawn Michaels’ Sweet Chin Music, a submission hold won’t normally be effective it if comes out of nowhere; it usually requires some prior planning. Part of the reason I appreciate submission technicians is that they have a game plan and prepare in advance for their matches, unlike an “instinct” guy who just goes with the flow in the ring. The wrestler who builds his arsenal around a submission finish watches film, studies his opponent, and always works to find the opening required to start punishing a body part that his submission maneuver will exploit once it’s been sufficiently weakened and damaged. That’s a thinking man’s wrestler.

Perhaps one of the most respected and best in-ring performers ever, the Nature Boy Ric Flair did many different things in a match before he got to his bread and butter, the figure four leg-lock. He threw legendary chops to the chest, which obviously won’t win a match or even wear down an opponent for a leg submission later in the contest. They sting the chest and get the victim off his game plan thanks to the pain and humiliation of the strike, plus the crowd singing, “wooooo!” each time Flair connected surely affected the morale of the Nature Boy’s competition. He threw some hard punches to the jaw, but like his chops, those were chess moves to position Flair where he wanted to go strategy-wise, not intended to earn him victory. He played cat-and-mouse with his opponent, winning the battle of mind games and keeping his adversary off balance and frustrated until Flair finally got his shot, normally an underhanded one, to chop-block his victim’s knee from behind and start working over the leg, which Flair considered “taking him to school”.

All of this scheming by the Nature Boy was part of the plan to make the timing right for him to slap on that figure four. If you knew Flair’s in-ring work, you were never too surprised when he targeted the leg and started wearing it down, softening it up for his patented hold. It was always fun to watch that plan unfold, and each time his adversary grimaced, yelled in pain, or bashed his hands upon the canvas, Flair fans applauded the simplicity and effectiveness of the Nature Boy’s strategy. Countless opponents submitted to the figure four at the hands of Ric Flair, and any time a wrestler today pinpoints a body part with a tap-out in mind it’s something of an homage to Flair, whether it’s meant to be or not. That’s how powerful an influence the former 16-time world champion was on professional wrestling in the United States, and how sublime his targeted attack on his victim’s leg was.

Multiple-time world champion Bret the Hitman Hart utilized a leg-based attack much like Flair’s, which often included pounding his intended victim’s the lower back as well, as visions of the Sharpshooter submission hold danced in his head. Since this hold puts extreme pressure on the back and legs, Hart’s psychology was pure poetry. His so-called “five moves of doom”, a series of maneuvers he used when in control toward the end of a match, included a snap-suplex, a side Russian leg-sweep and a big back-breaker over his knee, all of which arguably punish the back and help set up the coup de grace, the Sharpshooter. A fan could almost envision Hart’s game plan unfolding as he pummeled his opponents leg and back while planning the exact perfect moment to execute the Sharpshooter and force yet another rival to submit, earning the Hitman a victory. For the many Bret Hart fans around the world, it was a pleasure to watch this great ring general execute such a flawless strategy and chalk up another “W”.

Former ROH world champion Nigel “Desmond Wolfe” McGuinness has many maneuvers in his offensive arsenal, and while his ridiculously stiff lariats never failed to beat his victims to a pulp, they also damaged his own arms in real life, but his set-up for submission victories was a safer style that ensured his own ring longevity and still gave the impression that he was tearing his opponents apart and making them suffer. By focusing on the left arm of his victim as he plans for the London Dungeon, Nigel makes the hold seem so devastating that when he finally slaps it on in the center of the ring, his challenger appears to be in big trouble. I’ll never forget the image of Tyler Black screaming in agony when the champ tied him up in the Dungeon during their first big meeting in the main event of the Take No Prisoners pay-per-view. Much like Flair, you could see Nigel’s wheels turning as he punished the arm, preparing his adversary to quit from the combination of pain and fear of long-term damage to his arm.

McGuinness’ strike-heavy attack was exciting, but his submission-based style displayed more of a pure wrestling comprehension, which is appropriate for the man who held the ROH Pure Wrestling title longer than anyone else. His grappling prowess is not to be trifled with, and I hope he shows it off in TNA against the likes of Kurt Angle, who also likes to force opponents to tap out with his ankle lock, although his path to the hold isn’t as methodical as other true submission specialists.

Speaking of Angle, plenty of wrestlers occasionally utilize submission moves without basing their entire move set on them. Reigning Ring of Honor world champion Austin Aries has the Last Chancery, John Cena pulls out the STF[U] from time to time, the American Dragon Bryan Danielson uses Cattle Mutilation, the Undertaker has his version of the Gogoplata known as Hell’s Gate, Delirious sometimes uses the Cobra Stretch, the deranged Jimmy Jacobs perfected the End Time, and once in a while CM Punk dusts off the Anaconda Vise, but few wrestlers who employ submission holds scheme, plot, and strategize more completely than Flair, Hart, and (to an extent) McGuinness have in the past. They were submission technicians who relied on a premeditated tactical attack to lead them to the moment where they could force their victim into the ultimate humiliation and admission of being bested by a superior opponent, the submission. What better way to wrestle your way to victory is there?

We now return you to your regularly scheduled reality.

p.s. – “There is no calamity which a great nation can invite which equals that which follows a supine submission to wrong and injustice.” – Grover Cleveland

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  • damurfine

    Thanks, Love your work. Where’s Chris Jericho’s lion Tamer from WCW days. There, was a move that looked truely devastating and unique. He would,like Hart, punish the lower back before locking in the tamer, which looked inescapable.

  • Anthony J. Zinzi

    A good read, as usual. Where would you say Sting fits in?

  • Aaron Glazer

    Most of Danielson’s offense is back work, which supposedly helps with the Cattle Mutilation. Aries mostly works the head and neck, which sets up the Chancery and the Brainbuster.

  • Greg Manuel

    I don’t think Sting’s work in the ring ever showed a strategic progression towards applying the Scorpion Deathlock. I always figured, being something of a power wrestler it wouldn’t matter WHEN he put it on you, he was strong enough to make you submit to it at any given moment.

    I never looked at Ric Flair’s work in the ring in this light until your analysis, Vinny. A fine piece, as always!

  • Vinny Truncellito

    damurfine – thank you very much! I am a Jericho mark and was devastated when the ‘Tamer devolved into a simple Boston Crab (although I guess not too many wrestlers could endure the original version – ouch!). I can’t recall Jericho working the back all that much in his matches, but I do have a notoriously bad memory… still, I’m glad you read and took the time to comment.
    Anthony – thanks! I’d agree with Greg above. Sting isn’t so much a submission wrestler as a high-impact guy (at least vintage Sting was; I haven’t seen what he’s been doing in TNA) so as a big, strong guy who had battered his opponent for several minutes, his application of a submission move might be more difficult to endure even though he didn’t necessarily focus on the back much prior…
    Greg – as you can see, I concur with your assessment of Sting’s Scorpion Deathlock, and I’m glad you enjoyed my analysis of Flair’s ring psychology. Thanks!
    Ace – true. I suppose the surfboard, the modified STF with the posted knee, and the suplexes all do wear down the back. However, I always thought of Cattle Mutilation as more of a shoulder submission lock than a lower back one…

    Aries does attack the upper body, so I see your point with that one.

  • Damnurfine

    I know, He really didn’t but I had to get some love for Jericho. Lol. He basically just beat the snot out of people and then Lion tamer it’s over. He did the back breaker into a knee to back grinding thing, where the guys is reaching out but then Jericho would usually throw them on the mat and do his cocky pin.

  • scott m

    I’ll +1 Glazer’s comments on Danielson. Most mstches I’ve seen him work the back or an arm to set up the Cattle Mutilation or the Cross Arm-Breaker.

    The last DGUSA PPV showed this in his match with Naruki Doi and I’ve seen him do similar work against McGuinness and others.

    I too preferred the pure wrestling flavor of early Nigel McGuinness to the lariat machine he became as his star rose in ROH. The lariats were exciting and filled that Diamond Cutter/Stunner/RKO role of just coming out of nowhere. But the London Dungeon was a great move. And, much like CM Punk’s Anaconda Vise, it seemed to take a backseat without any good reason.

    But if you’re going to include McGuinness as an example of working over a body part, you’ll have to include at least Danielson and Aries in the conversation or you’ll just sound like a fanboy.

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