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  • Writer's pictureMatt Dod

The Twisted History Of The Sharpshooter

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

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Do you remember a time when you would sit cross-legged on the floor during lessons at school?

The horrible realisation that after enjoying a reading of the hungry caterpillar by your year 2 teacher, you arise to feel your legs have gone numb.

The sensation of blood causing pins and needles down your limbs as you squirm and shake to avoid the discomfort.

Now imagine that times 10 and you have the effect of the Sharpshooter!

Originally called the Sasori-Gatame in Japan, the scorpion hold or sharpshooter is a pro-wrestling move which has seen numerous performers contort and defeat their enemies.

The Sasori-Gatame was originally conceived by Japanese The move was invented by Japanese professional wrestler Riki Choshu legend between the ropes and all-round bad-boy. Riki Chosu used the scorpion lock throughout his entire career, spanning decades.

In an emotional climax to Riki Chosu’s last match of his career, he was poetically defeated when his own creation, the Scorpion lock was used on him and forced him to submit. Looking back through Chosu’s career, it is adorned with many highlights.

His legacy is continued to this day, due to the fact that he was a rarity in the '80s and '90s wrestling. Rare, because he was open and willing to pass his signature moves onto other wrestlers, his knowledge and experience handed to the next generation of performers.


One of those wrestlers was 90’s icon Sting: "I was fortunate enough in those early days, while I was still with Bill Watts, (Giant) Baba from Japan wanted me to come do a show," Sting said. "Bill sent me to Japan and there was a wrestler, Riki Choshu. He used that hold and I went 'oh, I like that' and so then the scorpion kinda popped in all at the same time and attempting to brand myself."

Sting then brought the scorpion deathlock back to the United States and became the first wrestler to become synonymous with the manoeuvre throughout his time as one of WCW’s top stars and later his short but memorable showing in WWE.


In modern times, the move is most associated with Bret Hart. This is where we derive the moves most commonly used name, the sharpshooter. Bret Hitman Hart, renamed the finisher to better suit his personality of ring assassin.

Before his main roster push in WWE, Pat Patterson a producer of the show and leader behind the scenes, wanted Hart to have a decisive submission hold added to his arsenal.

Patterson approached Hart and asked him about the Scorpion Death Lock, a manoeuvre Hart was familiar with from his time wrestling in Japan at the same time as Riki Chosu, but didn’t have any first-hand experience with.

Permission was sought across the pond and the pairing of the Hitman and the sharpshooter was born.

Hall of Famer Bret Hart used the move throughout his entire career with WWE, as part of a winning tag-team the Hart Foundation with Jim The Anvil Neidhart.

His run through the mid-card and Intercontinental title reigns.

And eventually onto the main event where he used the move in one of the most iconic moments in wrestling history against Stone Cold Steve Austin, giving us this famed image.

At Survivor Series 1997, an era-defining moment occurred, now infamously known as The Montreal Screwjob. With Shawn Michaels using the sharpshooter against Bret Hart in a match where the end came with the owner of WWE Vince Mcmahon going beyond the agreed script and forcing referee Earl Hebner to end the match, without Bret Hart tapping or succumbing to the sharpshooter by Michaels. Hart was furious and leapt to his feet and spat in his bosses face.

This instance led to Hart quitting the company as he felt betrayed and lied to by his boss, but not before going backstage to confront Mcmahon with a supposed right hook. Bret instantly joined rivals WCW and took the Sharpshooter submission with him.


Still, today this day the sharpshooter is used by Canadian wrestlers, as well as others whilst performing in Canada as a tribute to the Hart family, who are based in Calgary.

Owen Hart, Bret’s brother used the move to provoke Bret throughout his career as the siblings battled for dominance throughout the ’90s.

Natalya or Nattie Neidhart, daughter of Jim the Anvil and one of the best in-ring wrestlers of all time, continues the family legacy with her underrated version which she has used throughout her tenure in NXT and WWE.

Natalya’s technique is not surprising with the wealth of experience she gained under the tutelage of the Hart family as such her version of the sharpshooter is clean and always technically perfect.

Canadian Attitude-era hero and rated-r superstar, Edge used a variant of the sharpshooter.

Tyson Kidd, regularly used his form of the sharpshooter too.

From Japan to Canada, the scorpion deathlock to the sharpshooter – the Sasori-Gatame has survived through wrestling’s evolution over the past 30 years.

Remembered fondly by some on a rose-tinted nostalgia trip, harking back to a by-gone era of wrestling in the 80s. BY others it’s a reminder of the peak of wrestling through it’s heyday in the late 90’s and the attitude era-defining Montreal screwjob.

What the future holds for the sharpshooter is uncertain for this iconic and ever adapted move, but it will surely remain a leg-twisting favourite for those who like to see a wrestler tortured into submission.

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