The chokeslam is one of the most popular moves in pro wrestling and has been a signature move for several pro wrestlers over the past couple of decades. Large wrestlers such as The Undertaker, Kane, Vader, Sid and The Big Show, have all incorporated the chokeslam in their arsenal. The Undertaker uses the move before his finishing move — the Tombstone Piledriver— while Kane and The Big Show typically use it as a finisher. The Big Show also incorporated the chokeslam as his finisher while he was known as The Giant in WCW.
As a move, the chokeslam is best described as grabbing an opponent’s neck, lifting the opponent’s throat and typically slamming them where the wrestler stands, hitting the mat back first. Despite the popularity of the chokeslam over the past couple of decades in WWE and professional wrestling, it was originally executed by none other than the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.
Who Invented the Chokeslam?
According to a legendary story, Lincoln arrived in New Salem, Illinois to work as a clerk in the summer of 1831. The person he was working for began to brag about Lincoln to his customers, claiming that he could outfight any anyone in the country. This drew the interest of Bill Clary, whose family was the namesake of Clary’s Grove, Illinois. Clary chose Jack Armstrong — leader of the “Clary’s Grove Boys” gang — to take on Lincoln, and the two engaged in a wrestling shoot fight.
Lincoln won, performing what is now known as a chokeslam to Armstrong, and gained much respect in that town from then on. Lincoln was reportedly involved in several other wrestling matches at this time and was even known to brag about his prowess and success.
Lincoln expert Ronald C. White, Jr. dispelled any rumors of the former President’s wrestling career being false by telling an interviewer during a 2012 interview with WWE.com, “it’s not a mythology… Lincoln definitely wrestled.” He added, “Lincoln had wrestling in his background. His uncle Mord reputably had real talent for it. Lincoln did quite a bit of wrestling during his years he lived in Indiana from ages 9 to 21.”
Abraham Lincoln: Paving the Way for Big Guy Wrestlers
Before the days of WWF, WCW, and ECW, former President Abraham Lincoln was chokeslamming his opponents outside in front of crowds of people. Unbeknownst to him, the chokeslam would become one of the most popular wrestling moves in pro wrestling history. Which Lincoln’s towering size, trash-talking, and confidence as a wrestler before he became a lawyer and politician, it would be interesting to see how he would have fared during the previous couple of decades of professional wrestling against the likes of “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, John Cena, Randy Orton, Brock Lesnar, and chokeslam specialists The Undertaker, Kane, and The Big Show.
Variations of the move developed over the years, including the double chokeslam (popularized by Kronik – Brian Adams & Bryan Clark), the reverse chokeslam (formerly performed by Braun Strowman), the chokeslam backbreaker (performed by Baron Corbin), and the leg trap chokeslam into a kneeling position (performed by Vladimir Kozlov during his stint in the WWE). All Japan Pro Wrestling legend Akira Taue also performed a chokeslam, using a kneeling position to slam opponent’s on their back.
While moves such as the powerbomb, body slam, vertical suplex, and powerslam are known for the mat hitting the opponent’s back, Lincoln was laying the smackdown on his opponents in Indiana and Illinois. If Lincoln did not decide to become the president of the United States, perhaps he would have continued to develop his gimmick in the field of pro wrestling.
This article was originally published August 21, 2019.