The World’s Most Devastating Pro Wrestling Moves: Octopus Hold

Kimberly Schueler
source: WWE
AJ Lee’s “Black Widow” Octopus Hold.

Move type: Submission

Notable users: Antonio Inoki, AJ Lee

This week’s Devastating Pro Wrestling Move is the Octopus Hold—also known as the Octopus Stretch, Manji-gatame, Japanese Twist, “The Octopus” (Tajiri’s version), “The Christo” (Gail Kim), or the “Black Widow” (AJ Lee). This unique submission has been used to great effect all over the world, especially helping smaller wrestlers with strong technical skills take down larger opponents.

In the gif above, we get a clear look at the version of this move performed by the man who popularized it in the 1970s, WWE Hall of Famer and New Japan Pro Wrestling founder Antonio Inoki. It’s basically an abdominal stretch made more painful by the use of additional leverage. The attacking wrestler first hooks one of their legs over their opponent’s opposite leg, then traps one of their opponent’s arms with their own arm, and then wraps their free leg over their opponent’s neck, forcing it downward. When the Octopus Hold is perfectly applied, it painfully contorts a wrestler’s pectoral, neck, and abdomen.

Here, you can see Tajiri counter an abdominal stretch from Triple H into Inoki’s version of the Octopus Hold—though not quite tap out The Game—on a 2004 episode of RAW.

Gail Kim used a variation of this move she called “The Christo” as her submission finisher around the same time, including in this match against Victoria on the August 16, 20014 episode of RAW. Kim uses the version of the Octopus Hold we tend to see more of today. After trapping her opponent’s leg, arm, and neck, she pushes down to elevate herself, placing all of her weight on her opponent. This version of the move is even more difficult to escape, as the defending wrestler has to fight through the excruciating pain of the stretch while carrying the full weight of another person.

AJ Lee was an undisputed master of this move, which she aptly called the “Black Widow” and used to submit many opponents and dominate the WWE Divas division in the early 2010s.

Since Lee exited the company, no one in WWE has made their Octopus Hold their signature finisher. However, we have seen it applied by several of the roster’s skilled technicians. Asuka has used it against larger opponents, such as Nia Jax (as seen in their NXT Women’s Championship match above).

Former Cruiserweight Champion TJP can more frequently be seen using an Octopus Hold—on 205 Live—which his crazy athleticism allows him to apply almost out of nowhere, including in his September 4, 2018 match against Cedric Alexander.

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