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Professor Steve Austin explains the science behind a Stone Cold Stunner

Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images

There’s an unwritten rule in professional wrestling that you don’t steal a star’s finishing maneuver, especially if it’s an original move inextricably linked to that wrestler.

So what might’ve been a discussion on the morality codes and ethics between professional wrestlers, became—on the latest podcast of retired WWE wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin—a pedagogical breakdown of the most famous finishing move in history.


Austin’s guest was current WWE Universal champion Kevin Owens. During his excellent title match against Roman Reign at January’s Royal Rumble, Owens executed a jumping version of the Stone Cold Stunner (Reigns kicked out of the move).

This would’ve otherwise been taboo (no one in the WWE would dare steal The Undertaker’s tombstone piledriver). But on the podcast, Owens said he asked for permission from Austin a year earlier, and Austin gave his blessing. But Austin took issue with Owens’ mechanics in executing the move.

“I just thought as smart as I thought you were, as smart as I know you are, you would’ve studied the delivery mechanism, the system, the delivery of a Stone Cold Stunner,” Austin said. “I could’ve explained to you the anatomical, the physiological, the kinesiological aspects that go into performing such a maneuver. I would’ve break it down with you on a scientific and molecular standpoint so you know what the F is going on. Let me break this thing down.”


What followed was a 10-minute dissertation (quasi in-character, beginning at 39:32) on every nuance of the Stone Cold Stunner, perhaps the first time Austin has discussed the move in such detail.

There were three interesting insights Austin offered about delivering the Stunner:

1. The intent of the initial kick to the gut isn’t just for placing your opponent in the correct, head-down position.


As Austin explains:

Sometimes when you get into your oxygen reserves, what happens? You start to lose your thought process. You can’t perform up to your utmost ability. The beauty is when you kick the guy in the gut, right in the diaphragm, boom! You sap his lung of all the oxygen. All of a sudden, his brain’s like, “Ugh… I need to breathe! I’m about halfway blown up! This is deep in the match, I need oxygen.”


2. For maximum effectiveness, the Stunner should be viewed as an uppercut to the jaw, not a blow to the face.

Owens remarked that he always believed the Stunner’s impact zone was more in the general facial region, such as the nose or eye socket, depending on where the deliverer latches onto the face. Austin said he took his cues from Mike Tyson’s uppercut technique. From Austin:

Right underneath the jaw you’ve got two holes on eiach side of your jaw, the foramen nerves. That’s where people get knocked out. So when you grab that head, put it on top of your collarbone, the AC (acromioclavicular) region, your trapezoid, you’re locking that jaw down.


3. The impact of the Stunner is not just when the person delivering it hits the mat.

Because the 20-by-20-foot wrestling ring utilizes springs underneath, the force of the Stunner is amplified by the potential energy traveling upward from the rebound.

Let’s say someone (who’s) 250 pounds hits you with an uppercut. Now let’s take double body weight, 500 pounds, give or take, hitting you with an uppercut—that’s both men’s weights coming down on that shoulder. You hit your ass on the mat, the mat springs you back up, giving that energy a direct path—your vertebrae, your back— through your shoulders to his damn jawbone, wham! Lights out. That’s how scientific it is.


In other words, this is how you hit the Stone Cold Stunner:


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