(Well, you can't win 'em all, Nattie...)
If there's one wrestling style I adore besides high-flying, it would be the technical style. I'm a sucker for some delicious ring psychology, and to me, knowing that each part of your opponent's body has a weak spot, and knowing just how to exploit that weak spot, is a gratifying thing. Sure, a pinfall victory after a Styles Clash is all well and good, but to hear your opponent scream in agony and tap their little heart out after a solid 15 seconds in the Calf Killer is so much sweeter. You didn't just beat your opponent, you made them quit. What could be better than that?
Today on The Saturday Slam, we'll celebrate the technical style by looking at one of the most well-known, and painful, holds in professional wrestling: The Sharpshooter!
Now, when you hear the name alone, two wrestlers come to mind instantly: Bret Hart and Sting. While it's true these two popularized the hold in the United States, under different names (It was Hart who dubbed the hold the Sharpshooter), neither man innovated it. That honor belongs to this man:
(Pictured with his first of three IWGP Heavyweight Championships.)
Meet Mitsuo Yoshida, better known by his in-ring name, Riki Chōshū. Heralded as one of Japan's most influential wrestlers, it was Chōshū who innovated what was known in Japan as a Sasori-gatame, or a Scorpion Hold. From here, Sting would popularize the move in the United States, branding it the Scorpion Deathlock, a bit in tribute to Chōshū and to establish himself as The Stinger. Then, when Bret Hart began his singles career, he would begin using the hold, branding it the Sharpshooter, and using the hold to win his first singles championship, the WWF Intercontinental Championship, from Mr. Perfect as SummerSlam '91.
The Sharpshooter, since Bret, has become a staple of Canadian wrestling, as many members of the Hart family, from Owen to Natalya to Tyson Kidd, have utilized the hold to finish their opponents. It's become something of a staple of Canadian wrestling as well: Trish Stratus used a Sharpshooter to capture her seventh and final Women's Championship in her retirement match (Against Lita at Unforgiven in 2006), and Chris Benoit had used the Sharpshooter early in his career. If any Canadian uses the Sharpshooter in their home country, it's a guaranteed pop.
The hold is set up with the opponent lying supine (face-upward) on the mat. The applying wrestler steps between the opponent's legs with their left leg and wraps the opponent's legs at shin level around the left leg (A wrestler could step over with the right leg and cross the opponent's legs left over right on their right leg, or vice versa with their left). With the opponent's legs crossed, the applying wrestler grabs the leg they crossed over the other and steps over their opponent, flipping them onto their abdomen before leaning back to compress the lower back and legs.
(Sting's Scorpion Deathlock compared to Bret Hart's Sharpshooter)
Just looking at the hold, you can see how effective it is. The pressure on the back and legs is unbearable, coupled with the prone position making it difficult to crawl towards the ropes unless you exert more energy. It's a safer bet to tap out, why risk prolonged damage to your body?
The Sharpshooter is such an iconic move, very little variations exist. And frankly, why try to tweak an already effective move? Two variations, however, are just as well-known: We have the Edgecator, innovated by WWE Hall of Famer Edge, in which the hold itself is inverted (essentially set up a Sharpshooter as normal, but face the opposite direction) and the applier kneels onto their opponent's back, increasing pressure to the spine; And the Scorpion Cross Lock. innovated by Japanese women's legend Bull Nakano (WWE wrestler Paige adopted this move from her, dubbing the PTO), where instead of stepping over the opponent to flip them over, the applying wrestler flips their opponent over from left to right (keeping them in front of their torso), and grabs the opponent's arms, applying a double chicken wing, then squats down and lifts their opponent into the air.
(Edgecator on the left, Scorpion Cross Lock on the right)
I prefer these variations to the standard Sharpshooter. That's not to say a standard Sharpshooter isn't an effective hold, it's still one of my favorites. But thinking from a technical perspective. you have to get crafty when you attempt to seek out efficient ways to dismember an opponent. That's why technical wrestling appeals to me so much. You can go all in with brute force or aerial prowess, but to truly know the human body, know exactly where to bend a joint, or apply pressure to a part, where to stretch and wrench, all in the name of not only outsmarting your opponent, but making them submit to your skill, is a far superior feeling. Call me a sadist, but I love every second of it.
And that's all for now! When next we meet, we'll shift styles once more and move up top, take to the air, and take a look at a highly requested comparison: Hurricanranas, Frankensteiners, and Headscissors!