The Suplex: The History of Wrestling’s Most Explosive Move

The Suplex: The History of Wrestling’s Most Explosive Move

Anyone who has watched pro wrestling or practiced amateur wrestling is familiar with the suplex. It’s one of the most explosive and flashy moves, which is why it became popular within pro wrestling.

Let’s go over the history of the suplex and how it became one of the most-known moves in the world. Read below to learn about the move’s history in wrestling and details for executing basic suplexes.

What is a Suplex?

The suplex is a classic wrestling move that has been a staple of pro wrestling and amateur wrestling for many years. This technique is classified as a “back arch” or “high amplitude throw” in wrestling, which can be a high-scoring technique.

Most of the general public is aware of suplexes due to the exposure from pro wrestling. Within pro wrestling, many variations of these “high amplitude throws” are used.

Suplex Wrestling move


The suplex has been a part of amateur wrestling for centuries. No one person can be credited for inventing the move as it’s used in many forms of wrestling.

Ancient wrestling cultures such as in Greece, India, Africa, China, and Japan likely contributed to the technique’s evolution. Early forms of wrestling practiced within these areas all used variations of the suplex within them.

In modern amateur wrestling, suplexes are some of the most high-impact techniques that can be executed. If a wrestler is able to execute the technique with good form, they will be granted more points.

The History of the Suplex in Pro Wrestling

The Suplex move

In modern pro wrestling, the suplex gained popularity as a dramatic and impactful move. They have been classically used by wrestlers to showcase their strength and athleticism.

Suplexes have always been used since the first pro wrestling shows took place in the early 20th century. Early 20th-century wrestler and strongman George Hackenschmidt commonly used suplexes in his matches.

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One of the pro wrestlers, who is credited for popularizing the use of suplexes in modern pro wrestling is Karl Gotch. Karl was a legitimate elite-level wrestler, who used a realistic style of pro wrestling, which included suplex variations.

Gotch is credited with teaching Japanese wrestling legends Antonio Inoki, Billy Robinson, Yoshiaki Fujiwara, and Satoru Sayama(Tiger Mask).

In pro wrestling today, the suplex has numerous variations and is a staple of the sport.

Pro Wrestling Suplex Variations

As mentioned above, there are numerous variations of suplexes used within pro wrestling. Here are seven of the most used variations with descriptions below.

  • German Suplex: Named after Karl Gotch, the German suplex is a belly-to-back variation of the move. This is the classic style of the move, where the opponent is lifted as the wrestler’s back arches. The opponent is slammed to the mat into a pinning position.
  • Belly-to-Back: The belly-to-back suplex variation is similar to the German style with a few variations. With a belly-to-back, a wrestler can lift their opponent over their head or shoulder. The opponent will either land on their back, side, or stomach in this variation.
  • Belly-to-Belly: The belly-to-belly variation is done by a wrestler controlling the front of their opponent’s body. Lifting their opponent up and putting them on their back.
  • Exploder Suplex: This variation is characterized by its explosive lifting motion. Where the wrestler quickly hoists their opponent overhead before releasing them to the mat.
  • Fisherman’s Suplex: In this variation, the wrestler hooks their opponent with one arm and wraps the other arm around their head. Once in control, the wrestler lifts their opponent and slams them to the mat.
  • Dragon Suplex: Popularized in Japan, this variation starts from a waist lock from the back, where the opponent is lifted and released midair.
  • T-Bone Suplex: The T-bone variation is executed from front bodylock, where the opponent is thrown overhead onto their back.
Belly to back suplex

The Legalities

Over the years, amateur wrestling organizations and governing bodies have refined and standardized the rules for using suplexes. These rules for suplexes were added to ensure the safety of competitors.

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For example, a suplex can be used as long as a wrestler does not drop their opponent on their head. In BJJ, similar rules are enforced, so competitors don’t drop or spike an opponent, which will cause injury.

Within MMA, the use of suplexes is totally legal and any type of suplex can be used. However, just like with the other types of combat sports, fighters cannot spike an opponent on their head.

Despite the strict regulations, suplexes remain fundamental components of wrestling. As combat sports evolve and in particular amateur wrestling, the suplex will remain an integral technique of these sports.

Belly to Belly Suplex Technique

The belly-to-belly variation of this technique is a legitimate wrestling move that is super effective. To begin this move, you can either have double underhooks or be in a 50/50 position with your opponent.

Either way, you start, you must maintain a low bodylock with your hands locked together on your opponent’s lower back. This is so your suplex is explosive when you step in and throw them.

The first step of the belly-to-belly is an outside step, where you step to the outside. Your foot goes to the outside and you place it behind your opponent’s foot as you bring your hips in.

As your hips come around, the rest of your body follows, hold your opponent tight, and throw them to their back.

There are different belly-to-belly setups and hand positioning, but they all follow the same principles. Have a good low bodylock, bring your hips/body under your opponent’s, and lift with your legs.

Belly to Back Suplex Technique

Suplexes from the back are effective and powerful techniques to take your opponent down. To get to your opponent’s back, you will need to execute a duck under.

This is performed from either an underhook or arm control, where you lift your opponent’s arm up and go to their back. Once you’re on your opponent’s back, your hands need to be clasped tightly around their waist.

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Your chest must also be touching your opponent’s back so as to not give them space to turn and escape.

The key to a good belly-to back suplex is throwing your opponent on your back and not landing on your head. To ensure that you don’t injure yourself, you will have to drill arching your back doing suplexes. 

A good arch requires your heels to come off the mat as you pop your hips and arch your back. If done correctly, your body will not touch the match.

Do the drills as described in the video above before you begin doing belly-to-back drills with a partner.

Tips For Doing a Suplex

No matter what type of suplex, you execute, you will have to remember important tips and details. Here are some important things to remember when executing suplexes.

  • Body Control: No matter which type of suplex you try, you must first have a good bodylock on your opponent. If you don’t have a good bodylock on their lower body, you won’t execute the technique.
  • Body Positioning: In order to lift your opponent involves correct body positioning. You must be controlling your opponent’s body with your body positioning under their hips in order to suplex them. 
  • Arch Your Back: Remember on a traditional belly-to-back throw you must arch your back. By not arching properly, you will either land on your head or your opponent will land on top of you.
  • Lift With Your Legs: Always lift with your legs and never just your arms. Remember this and your opponent will go up no problem.
  • Don’t Fall On Your Head: Remember, you’re suplexing your opponent and not yourself. Remember to use proper technique and not to fall on your head.

Wrap Up

The suplex and its numerous variations are must-know techniques if you practice any form of grappling. Not only are they explosive grappling techniques, but they are easy to learn. Remember the tips above and definitely consider adding suplexes to your repertoire.