Calling the Moves – Detailing the Suplex (Variations, Videos & Rare Facts)

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Hello and welcome back to the Pro Wrestling Culture Cloud (PW2C)! Rather than listing five random moves, this week’s edition of Calling the Moves will focus on one specific kind of moves: the Suplex. Before we start, feel free to take a look at this pro wrestling glossary in order to get more familiar with some terms.

Tazz suplexing Kurt Angle

The Suplex traces its origin to the French word “Souplesse“, which is used by French commentators to this day. Another noteworthy fact has to do with Greco-Roman wrestling, where the term “Suplay” refers to the same move. Legendary pro wrestling commentator Gordon Soilie was famous for using this word. Even though several variations are used in martial arts -and MMA-, pro wrestling as a scripted sport gives more freedom and time to the performers to execute it.

The most common ones must be the Vertical Suplex and the Belly-to-Back Suplex (or simply Backdrop Suplex), which nearly any wrestler uses on an opponent that he/she can carry. The former has the attacker lock the head of his opponent in a Facelock, put the arm of the opponent over his own head and carry him to fall backwards. As for the Back Suplex, the attacker puts his opponent’s arm over his head again, then hooks the closer leg and falls backwards again. Of course, since these moves require a lot of strength, the opponent in pro wrestling discretely helps the attacker with a jump to give more momentum to the move. If the opponent is heavy and does not provide such help, expect a botch; just ask Ryback and Tensai.

Since the Suplex is a prominent move in Greco-Roman wrestling, its first use should be very old, which means that tens -if not hundreds- of variations have been invented and innovated. Let us take a look at some of them.

1. Belly-to-Belly Suplex

This suplex can be used in two ways, both starting with the attacking wrestler facing the opponent and using a Waistlock. Then, the opponent is either thrown over the attacker’s head, or to his side. The first is an Overhead Belly to Belly, whereas the second one is a Side Belly to Belly. Other variations of the Belly-to-Belly involve different ways to hook the opponent’s arms and/or grab his torso. Most of them got their own names, examples being the Northern Lights Suplex and the T-Bone Suplex. Do not get confused though, Shelton Benjamin’s finisher is NOT really a T-Bone Suplex because it ends into a Powerslam instead of throwing the opponent over his head.

2. German Suplex

Shall we pretend it was never famous in the WWE? Never mind, I’m confident Vin…ugh, Mr McMahon will not read this anyway. The German Suplex is a reverse Belly to Belly as the attacker holds the Waistlock from the back. Several top WWE wrestlers have used this move frequently; the Ruthless Aggression era even witnessed 3 wrestlers use the Rolling German Suplex, which is a combo of successive attempts at attempting the move. These guys were Kurt Angle, Brock Lesnar and, more famously, the highly controversial Chris Benoit.

3. Tiger Suplex

This is another type of Belly to Back Suplex where only the initial hold differs. Here, the opponent’s arms are locked in a Double Chickenwing, which means that the attacker hooks the arms and locks hold behind the back of the opponent, thus pulling the opponent’s arms backwards. This Tiger Suplex should not be confused with the Tiger Suplex 85, which is technically known as a “Three-quarter Nelson Suplex” for combining a Half Nelson and a Tiger Suplex. The names are similar because these moves have been innovated by the original Tiger Mask, Satoru Sayama. Similarly, it should not be mistaken with the Butterfly Suplex where the attacker actually faces his opponents and hooks his arms as in Triple H’s Pedigree and throws him sideways.

4. Dragon Suplex

This is the bridge variant of the Full Nelson Suplex. The attacker puts his opponent in a Full Nelson as he hooks both arms and locks his hands behind the opponent’s neck, then proceeds with the usual fall to the back. What does “bridge” mean? It’s the pin move with which the wrestler follows after a successful suplex; when a wrestler arcs his back and puts the back of his head or his neck on the mat. The Bridge can follow almost any type of Suplex as long as the wrestler has the physical ability, so don’t expect the Big Show or the (un)Great Khali to do it.

5. Superplex

The Superplex is just a Vertical Suplex that is executed from the top turnbuckle, with the name combining the words “super” and “suplex”. We have seen it a few times in the WWE, a Superplex involving two super-heavyweights may cause the ring to collapse in kayfabe. Similarly to this attack, a Backdrop Suplex can be executed from the spot as well, it is named the Avalanche Backdrop Suplex. Following this logic, several other suplexes have been executed from the top turnbuckle, and often given names that suit the gimmicks of their respective innovators; hence, you got names such as the Spider Suplex for a “German Superplex”.


Now you should be able to distinguish between the many types of suplexes and, if you pay attention, notice the hybrid moves that originate from suplexes and combined with other moves and holds. I’ll finish this up with a tribute to ECW legend Taz because, you know, no one can discuss this topic without mentioning and showing respect to the Human Suplex Machine.

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