The title of this story says it all. I will be counting down the top 10 submission holds of all time.
The criteria used to select this list includes who used the submission, how painful the submission is and how iconic the hold is in the history of professional wrestling.
This was a difficult list to whittle down to 10, and I feel bad for excluding a few that many could argue should be on this list. For these holds I am giving a quick shout-out in the honorable mentions listed below.
- The Sleeper Hold—used by Dolph Ziggler, Roddy Piper and Brutus the Barber Beefcake
- Anaconda Vice—used by CM Punk
- Full Nelson—used by Chris Masters
- Cross Face Chicken Wing—used by Bob Backlund
- Hell’s Gate—used by The Undertaker
So, without further ado, here are the top 10 submission holds of all time.
The most excruciating of Malenko’s famed 1,000 holds, The Texas Cloverleaf lands at No. 10 on our list of the greatest submissions in WWE history. The move is very similar to Bret Hart’s sharpshooter; it involves twisting the combatant's legs like a pretzel while applying pressure from the seated position.
Malenko, and later Sheamus, put down numerous opponents with the hold.
Any kid growing up in the '80s probably applied our No. 9 hold to a neighbor kid while wrestling in their parents' basement.
The Camel Clutch is an old-school submission that applies pressure on the back, neck and arms of the opponent. The Iron Sheik owned this move, which helped him become a WWF Champion and a WWE Hall of Famer.
Scott Steiner also used a variation of the Camel Clutch in the late '90s dubbed the “Steiner Recliner.”
Our No. 8 submission is a simple but destructive hold. The Ankle Lock was first popularized in the WWF when former MMA fighter Ken Shamrock began using the move in the '90s.
The most iconic wrestler to use the Ankle Lock has to be Kurt Angle. Angle used the hold en route to four WWE Championships and has continued to put down opponents with the move in TNA.
Jack Swagger currently uses the Ankle Lock in the WWE, but no one else has applied it quite as well as Angle did.
One of the most unique submission holds ever has to be the Torture Rack, and it lands at No. 7 on our list.
The Torture Rack was first made famous during the '90s when the powerful Lex Luger was able to hoist opponents onto his shoulders and simply wrench their body until they were forced to tap.
The Rack is one of the more impressive submissions due to the incredible strength that is needed to perform the move. Ezekiel Jackson used the move more recently to become Intercontinental Champion, but Luger will always be the performer associated with the move.
John Cena has been the most dominating wrestler of the past decade, and our No. 6 hold is a big reason why. The STF (or STFU depending on what year it is) has helped Cena become the most decorated WWE Champion of all time, and the hold has closed out multiple WrestleMania main events.
The hold was originally invented by professional wrestling legend Lou Thesz. Thesz’s move is in good hands going forward, and the prestige of the STF should only continue to rise in the future.
The No. 5 submission on our list has been known by many different monikers, but the original name is the LeBell Lock. The hold was originated by professional wrestling legend Gene LeBell.
Chris Benoit used the lock under the “Crippler Crossface” name to become World Heavyweight Champion in the Main Event of WrestleMania XX.
The hold is now used by Daniel Bryan as the “No Lock.” The hold puts lots of strain on the neck and arm, while incapacitating the use of the legs, making them fairly useless in reversal attempts.
Once our No. 4 submission was locked in, it was night night for Ted DiBiase’s competition.
For years the “Million Dollar Man” would put opponents to sleep with this sleeper hold variation. To add insult to injury, DiBiase would stuff a $100 bill into the mouth of the passed-out wrestler following the match.
The Ringmaster (better known now as Stone Cold Steve Austin) used the hold while under the management of DiBiase to great effect, but the Million Dollar Dream will always be remembered as DiBiase’s main weapon.
Our No. 3 submission may be the most iconic hold of all time. The Figure Four Leg Lock has been used to great effect by Buddy Rodgers, Shawn Michaels and most recently The Miz.
Those wrestlers used the hold well, but no one will ever come close to the perfection of Ric Flair’s Figure Four. The Nature Boy used the submission for decades and helped it become the iconic submission it is. The Figure Four helped Flair become a 16-time World Champion during his Hall of Fame career and will always be associated with “The Dirtiest Player in the Game.”
Even today when The Miz locks in the Figure Four, Flair’s “Woo’s” can be heard echoing around the arena.
Our No. 2 submission was a difficult submission to omit from the No. 1 spot.
Bret Hart’s Sharpshooter is in a class of its own when it comes to submissions. Hart began using the move in the '90s and rode it to multiple WWF Championships. The move has also been used to great effect by his brother Owen, The Rock, Sting and Bret's niece Natalya.
Bret Hart’s Sharpshooter had to be effective, as Hart didn’t have another finisher to put away opponents. The Sharpshooter was the be-all and end-all for Hart.
The move puts tremendous strain on the legs and the lower back. Bret locked it in and was able to torque it in a way that others haven’t been able to duplicate. No one ever quite looks as good applying the Sharpshooter as Bret Hart did, and no one probably ever will.
This may come as a surprise, but my No. 1 pick for the greatest submission hold ever is Chris Jericho’s Liontamer.
The Liontamer was Jericho’s primary way to put away opponents during his run in WCW’s Cruiserweight Division. The move was devastating and nearly impossible to get out of. The hold is similar to a Boston Crab in the way the legs are pulled back, but the Liontamer holds the legs much higher. This puts a lot of strain on the legs, the back and the neck of the opponent.
Wrestlers were really in trouble if Jericho was able to lock in the move by placing his knee on their skull. This wouldn’t allow opponents to reach the ropes and basically assured victory for Jericho.
The move evolved when Jericho moved on to the WWE. He has added the Codebreaker and the Walls of Jericho to his repertoire since then, but no submission is as painful or as devastating as the original Liontamer.
Matt can be heard on Podcast of the Immortals, a WWE podcast with new episodes every Tuesday afternoon.