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  • Writer's pictureMatt Dod

The Dark History Of The Mandible Claw

Updated: Apr 27, 2020


Driving a car under the influence of alcohol.

Shaking someone’s hand in the bathroom.

Looking at your girlfriend’s dad in the eye whilst eating a banana.

Some things in life, you just don’t do.

One thing that’s probably pretty high up on the list of social etiquette’s do’s and don’ts is putting your chubby little fingers into another person’s mouth without their permission.

A man who has seemingly never strived to fit in, nor conform with society's ideals, is Mick Foley. He proved this when he broke the aforementioned unspoken rule when applying his deadly mandible claw submissions to his foes.

Today with the darkest version of The Mandible Claw yet being used by The Fiend Bray Wyatt in WWE, we are reminded that it is a unique wrestling submission.

Simultaneously acting as a manoeuvre that outside of wrestling, if applied correctly would seemingly be unbearably painful. Whilst at the same time holding a claim to the dubious title of most reality shattering wrestling move.

Why wouldn’t you just bite their fingers?


Based on The Mandibular Nerve Pinch first invented by legitimate physician come pro-wrestler Sam Sheppard. Sam Sheppard grew to notoriety in wrestling after losing his osteopathic license.

After a crooked a murder trial where he was accused of murdering his wife. Sheppard was wrongfully convicted in 1954 and spent 10 years in prison. In 1966 at a second trial Sam Sheppard was acquitted and released after years of high court legal battles.

There is a film loosely based on Sam Sheppard, The Fugitive with Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones, from 1993. And when I saw loose I mean, the film barely resembles the true events at all. Really lose. Like Big Show’s old onesie.

Upon re-joining normal society, Sheppard was still shunned and could no longer practice medicine and, in a strange twist of fate turned to pro-wrestling.

‘The Wife-Killer’ was in no way subtle but was undeniably potent at bringing in crowds to see Sheppard in person. Using his medical background, Sheppard devised a horrific tool of torture.

By 1969, The Mandibular Nerve Pinch made crowds turn away in disgust, the combination of Sam Sheppard’s real-life history and talent for theatrics proved too much to handle for some in attendance.


Pro Wrestling Wiki states: “The hold is applied when the aggressor places his middle and ring fingers into the opponent's mouth, sliding them under the tongue and jabbing into the soft tissue found at the bottom of the mouth. The thumb and/or palm of the same hand is placed under the jaw, and pressure is applied downward by the middle and ring fingers while the thumb/palm forces the jaw upwards. “

So what’s stopping that guy just biting his fingers?


The man who invented the modern-day move – the mandible claw, is a hardcore icon and all-round good guy Mick Foley.

When you take a look back through the storied history of Mick Foley’s career, the gruesome deathmatches in Japan, the permanently scarring barbed wire ring matches and his most iconic match against the Undertaker. Falling from the top of the cell.

You’d be forgiven for missing the soft, warm-core of Foley, who since wrestling has had a successful career as an author and stand-up comedian. All of this just pushes the juxtaposed story of Foley, further into legend.

Mick Foley credits wrestling promoter and manager Jim Cornette with the initial idea for the mandible claw, Cornette heavily inspired by what he had recently read about the Sam Sheppard case.

Before he could officially use the move as his match-ending submission, Foley needed to seek permission from Bill Watts, the former Vice President of WCW.

Upon hearing of the unusual technique involved in the Mandible Claw, Bill Watts instantly shot down Foley’s request by responding, "Why don't I just bite your goddamn fingers off?".

Soon enough, Mick Foley was out the door of WCW and leaving behind his Cactus Jack character in ECW and joining their rivals WWF in 1996, debuting the character Mankind in a string of iconic vignettes and an interview with JR Jim Ross.

In WWF Mick Foley had to persuade Vince McMahon, that the Mandible Claw was credible and explained in a sit down meeting with the owner of Titan Sports, that the submission could be described as a nerve hold, one that immobilizes the recipient’s jaw during the move and stops them from biting Foley’s finger as a means of escape.

Vince bought it more than fans did.

But as soon as Foley started to use the move, sometimes with his fingers strapped in tape to add effect and later in his career with the aid of Mr. Socko, a filthy old sock that Foley kept down his pants at all time.

Ready to pull out at the climax of a match and have the crowd in fits of euphoria as his slips the disgusting rag onto Foley’s hand, holds it high in the air and strikes like a viper onto the bottom jaw and inside of his opponent mouth.

In a television interview, Mick Foley claimed: “The painful sensation in the nerves under the tongue are so strong that it inhibits vision and, when applied long enough, can force the opponent to black-out.”

Ever the demented, deranged combatant. Mick Foley even once applied the hold to himself during a match with Ken Shamrock, deciding it better to knock himself out through the intense pain of the mandible claw, than to submit to Ken Shamrock’s ankle lock.


In modern times, there is none more deranged or demonic in WWE than the Fiend Bray Wyatt.

Hiding behind his carefully constructed curtain of innocence makes Bray Wyatt’s version of the mandible claw, bathed in red light and the screams of children in attendance all the more uncomfortable.

As the arena lighting flashes from black to red, the silhouettes of the wrestlers, contorted in the ring leave a lot to the imagination.

And what is more feared than the unknown. Bray Wyatt is calm and considered, baiting his prey in with kindness and reserve, until the fiend is unleashed when the time is right.

A move that has horrified crowds in recent months and with Bray Wyatt and the Fiend at the top of WWE’s ladder, the mandible claw’s dark and twisted history only looks set to continue.


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