The Figure Four
Updated: Apr 27
A handsome and well-groomed silver fox is pacing up and down. Erratic, he is shouting and pointing as he continues to stomp his feet.
He unrobes from his $15,000 mink coat and begins to remove his silk tie. Now red in the face, the charismatic man rips away at his Italian tailored shirt and throws it to the ground at his feet.
After explaining his penchant for drinking expensive champagne and travelling with a hareem of beautiful women – The stud jumps a small hop from the floor and lands a devastating elbow on the pile of clothes that have slumped around him.
As he regains his composure and flexes back to his feet, you hear a large “WOOOOOOO” reverberate around you as the man pushes you to your back.
He tangles your legs into an agonising number four shape and slams back to the ground. Congratulations! You’ve just received a figure-four leg lock from The NatureBoy Ric Flair.
The consensus amongst wrestling’s historians, including the official biography of the original “Nature Boy” Buddy Rogers, state that he was the originator of the figure four.
The submission was used in 1961 when Buddy Rogers used the move to keep his NWA World Heavyweight Title against the Original Sheik and was recorded in the official match result.
However it is suspected that Rogers was using the move throughout the 50’s – many of his matches from 1957 ended via submission, which people have come to assume was the figure-four leg-lock.
Borrowing heavily from Rogers, the next “Nature Boy” was Ric Flair, who not only borrowed from Buddy Roger’s long blonde hair and glistening robes but also Flair grew partial to finishing off his opponents with his version of the deadly submission as an homage to his childhood favourite Rogers.
Pro Wrestling Wiki states: “The wrestler stands over the opponent who is lying on the mat face up and grasps a leg of the opponent. The wrestler then does a spinning toe hold and grasps the other leg, crossing them into a "4" (hence the name) as he does so and falls to the mat, applying pressure to the opponent's crossed legs with his own. While the hold applies pressure to the knees.”
The move is also more versatile than some other submission’s in wrestling. Whilst the move is applied, if the opponent’s shoulders lay back to the mat, the referee will usually start the pinfall count of three.
My personal favourite part of the figure four is something that could only ever work in the context of Pro wrestling. If the opponent has enough inner-fortitude and grit, they can roll over and flip as to have both performers laying face down on the mat.
Sometimes referred to as the Indian Deathlock – this reversal of positioning is said to also reverse the pressure of the move and cause the pain to the original attacker.
The figure fours most famed user is Ric Flair. Known for his opulence and lavish lifestyle, the Nature Boy Ric Flair is one of the wrestling industry’s most iconic figures and is believed by some to be the greatest of all time.
Flair owns the record for the most world titles held in a single performers career and his world-class wrestling technique, innovative style and skills on the mic mean none can dispute his worthiness of that title.
After training as a big, strong, powerful style wrestler in his early career with limited success - Ric Flair was involved in a horrific plan crash which unfortunately saw him broke his back. Through trials and determination Flair put in the hard-work to regain his form and come back fitter, more trim and more skilled than before.
At this time he adopted the Nature Boy persona, a greedy, pompous, cocky bad guy. This is when he adopted the now legendary figure four and started to win matches with the submission.
Playing into his cheat to win mentality, Ric Flair innovated the use of the ring ropes whilst the figure four is applied. An illegal move in most matches – Flair would wait for the referee to be distracted and then grab the bottom rope in order to “gain more leverage” which in-turn inflicted more damage and garnered more hatred from the crowd.
The Flair family was seemingly not finished with adapting and evolving the figure four. With now prolific champion and stand-out in recent women’s wrestling in WWE, Charlotte, the Nature Boy’s daughter took the manouver even further and has won many world titles with her version, the figure 8 – a arching and visually more athletic looking version.
Variants of the figure-four have been used by Shawn Michaels, Aj Styles, Jeff Jarrett, Greg Valentine, Tito Santana and Dusty Rhodes.
Though these modified versions of the move have been used throughout wrestling history, non will ever be as famous as the Nature Boy Ric Flair and his iconic use of the move.