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Joe’s coquina clutch: a clinic in getting a move over

Samoa Joe heads to London to challenge fellow veteran Finn Balor for the NXT Championship. The story of the match has become whether or not the champ can survive, counter or escape Joe’s dreaded signature submission, the coquina clutch.

joevsangleThe angle is an old promoter’s trick, and has stood the test of time. Building up a signature move and its effectiveness is a hallmark of professional wrestling, and its nice to see it still applied today.

When Steve Austin spoke to Paul Heyman on his podcast, he aired grievances he has (not for the first time) about modern wrestling detracting from formerly signature or “finishing” moves like the DDT.


Nowadays, Austin pointed out, the DDT could be applied multiple times during a contest and never put anyone away. It had become demoted to merely a transitional move, instead of the finisher it used to be.

Similarly, Evan “Strangler” Lewis’s sleeper hold, used so effectively by such stars as Brutus “the Barber” Beefcake in the 80s, has lost its ability to inspire dread and finality in the hearts of opponents and fans, and has become nothing more than another rest hold.

Paul Heyman, ever the promotion genius, outlined and described the step by step method of getting a signature move over. It was a lesson that all current members of the WWE creative and booking department should have paid close attention to.

You begin, stated Heyman, by taking a move like the sleeper hold and having a man (Heyman used the example of a star like Mark Henry) use the hold to render opponents unconscious.


Over and over, week after week, you show this man using the sleeper to put people down. The announcers help to sell the devastating effectiveness of the hold by talking about it constantly.

Before long, you build such a hype around the sleeper hold that as soon as the fans feel it may be applied during a match, they anticipate the bell. You have successfully gotten over the move. The world now understands and expects that the move’s application equals victory.

This has been done beautifully in the program between Joe and Balor.


Samoa Joe made his first big impact in NXT at Takeover: Brooklyn. He took monster squasher Baron Corbin through his best match to date. The match ended when Corbin passed out after being locked Joe’s coquina clutch, a modified sleeper hold with a leg waist-lock.

After turning on NXT Champion Finn Balor, Joe has used the same hold in two subsequent attacks. Both times, Balor was unable to escape and was rendered unconscious.


In the go-home episode of NXT, Joe and Balor faced on in a tag match along with Corbin and Apollo Crews. The match ended to same way, with Joe applying the coquina clutch and rendering the champion unconscious.

Now, heading into Takeover: London, the big question on everyone’s mind is: Can Balor escape the dreaded coquina clutch? It has created a monster of a move that Balor has yet to slay. It has become his biggest obstacle and threat to his championship reign.


NXT has effectively gotten over Joe’s signature submission. The fans now have an anticipation and expectation that if Joe applies the hold at any point during the match, the champion is doomed.

The bookers now have a decision to make during this match. Does Balor counter, escape or power out of the submission hold, thus setting a precedent that it can be overcome? Or does Balor skillfully avoid its application, thus booking the champ strong while preserving the submission’s effectiveness?

It serves as a wrestling clinic for all up and coming talent, and should also serve as a reminder for those already established on the main roster. Getting a move over and keeping it strong provides another dramatic device with which to compel the audience.

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