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Moving Right Along: The Chinlock

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Guest TSMAdmin

Moving Right Along


"The Horror" -Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now


The mere mention of it fills the heart of any wrestling fan with pure unadulterated fear. The sight of it tears your soul apart for the feasting of demon lords in a charnel pit. The thought of it sunders your mind as though you just walked in on your grandparents doing a wild horizontal mambo. The writing of an article about it allows for about as much exaggeration as this writer can muster. I speak, of course, of the most dreaded bane of the wrestling world, the chinlock. Yuck… I feel so dirty.


In case anyone does not know why exactly the chinlock is so reviled by myself and just about anyone with any sense in his or her wrestling skull, here’s why. It’s just about the most boring thing the wrestling gods ever developed. Its like Rialf stood on his mighty space mountain and said to his people, “Let there be a time in matches for the fans to read each other’s signs. Whoooo.” And so it came to be. But it was not quite so good, oh no. At the very worst level of chinlock horror, one wrestler will just kneel behind the other and wrap an arm around the other worker’s chin and stay there until its time to move along to something else. And when I say, “stay there” I mean they just put on the lock and don’t bother to move another inch until they figure it is time to get themselves moving again. To make matters even worse the wresters that are using it nine times out ten don’t bother to sell the move even in the slightest within the context of the match. Honestly, when was the last time you saw anyone display the lasting effect of a chinlock after they had broken free? To make matters even worse, workers seldom even bother to sell the move even while they are in it. The person in the hold usually won’t struggle to escape while the aggressor hardly even appears to be exerting any sort of effort. Most times, both wrestlers simply fail to work the position at all until they decide to move onto their next sequence of maneuvers. Quite frankly, the chinlock fails to entertain in just about every conceivable way to just about every type of wrestling fan you could be.


But truthfully the chinlock really isn’t worked into a match for its entertainment value for the fans. In fact, I would wager a guess that the chinlock is one of the favorite moves for up and coming workers to use during their match. Where else can the wrestlers grab themselves a little rest while easily planning out the next couple of sequences while their heads are in such close proximity? If you’re gassed to the max and don’t know where to take the match next, I’m sure a chinlock is a fine way to get out the jam. These really are not bad things to accomplish I suppose, but the price of the chinlock is that it also slows down the pace of a match to a crawl and bore the audience to tears. So what to do with the chinlock? It obviously serves a purpose but does it in such a way that it puts the audience totally off kilter. I would suggest that nowadays, with the climate of the wrestling world in a bit of a decline, it is far more important to draw the fans into the match than it is to figure out what you want to do next and get some rest. But that does that mean the chinlock should find its way into the retired moves hall of shame next to the stomach claw?


In my opinion, the chinlock is actually not quite passed the point of redemption, but it will require a great deal of work in order to make the hold a more enjoyable portion if a match while, at the same time, still serving its purposes for the workers. If I had my druthers it would be a joint effort with the cooperation of both the announcing crew as well as the wrestlers in order to get the hold more over with the viewing audience. Now less it seem I’m going a bit over-the-top with this, I am not saying that the chinlock should become the finisher of choice for wrestlers worldwide. Nor am I saying that wrestlers need to build their matches around the use of the chinlock, the move just isn’t dynamic enough to make itself that important to the structure of a match. But it can surely be improved enough so that its not immediately met with a chorus of groans from the crowds.


The first thing that a company should do with the chinlock is to make sure that their announcers take the time to put the move over as a struggle to escape the hold. The whole point of the chinlock to the fans is how the person in the hold is going to get out of it. That’s just about the only interesting thing to come out of the hold for a fan. Now, if someone can seemingly get out of a hold at will the hold won’t carry any meaning for the fans. Old time WWF fans (I haven’t decided if I should retcon the past to WWE or not yet…) would recognize that Gorilla Monsoon and Jesse Ventura were masters of making the hold seem viable to fans. The point was to make the viewers at home realize that the worker taking the move would be carrying the weight of the aggressor, and would not be able to just stand up easily and force a break. The announcers absolutely have to get across the idea that it would be a struggle for the worker underneath to actually escape the hold so the escape gains a greater degree of interest from the audience. That is why you have announcers in the first place, to tell a story to the audience about the match they are watching. Unfortunately, they’ve been mostly relegated to shilling duty on WWE programming so I guess the storytelling is up to the workers using the hold. Thankfully, they should be doing that anyway.


The major problem with the chinlock from the fans’ perspectives is that there isn’t really a whole lot going on from the basic position. The obvious counter to this apathy is simply to make sure things are always, always happening. The guy underneath needs to be constantly fighting to get himself out of the hold while the worker applying the chinlock needs to doing in his power to keep the other guy down. Now, obviously the pace is going to be slower during a chinlock sequence than during other exchanges, otherwise the chinlock wouldn’t be serving the goals of the workers to rest or plan later sequences. But there is certainly going to be a difference between your basic chinlock and a chinlock that features using the ropes for leverage, hair pulling, and other assorted little tricks that workers can use to make the chinlock somewhat more active. Think of it this way, Ric Flair’s figure-four leglock would not be all that interesting if all he ever did was lock it on and then just lay there. Instead, you see Flair slap his body against the mat in order to further wrench the knee, you will see Flair looking eye-to-eye with his opponent and taunting them, and finally you will almost always see Flair grab the ropes for leverage. All of those little movements add a bit of motion to a rather static hold and provide the fans with something new that they can react to with either cheers or boos.


The point of this whole deal is that no hold, no matter how boring it actually is can be made better if people put emphasis on it. That includes the people announcing the match, the guy using the move, and the guy taking it. Without putting a sense of importance to a move it, get this, ceases to be important. And without a sense of importance, a move is going to be dismissed by the viewing public. And that’s a bad thing for any move, including the chinlock.


Mark Goodhart


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