The armbar is one of my favorite pro-wrestling holds. Three years ago, I summarized my fascination with the hold in terms of Freudian dream imagery: an opponent's arm confiscated for use as a phallic object. That the arm often extends upwards and erect from the attacker's groin might serve as an emblem of manly superiority and dominance. And then there's the recipient's O-face, which does nothing to check my dirty mindedness about wrestling.
For me the armbar's long duration adds to the excitement. I referred to it as "quality-time punishment--not some wham-bam-off-the-top-rope slam," quality demonstrated to perhaps an extreme in Jack Brisco's 1974 epic armbar on Dory Funk Jr. Last year Wrestling Arsenal burst my bubble a little bit on this point in a posting called "Harmless Armbar." The blog stated that the hold is usually a "rest break" from a match's fast-paced and strenuous action--and that the hold, as often applied in pro wrestling, doesn't actually hurt, though the article acknowledges that its very harmlessness makes it "one of the most frustrating, and therefore one of the most arousing, holds to watch." The hold's uselessness in incapacitating or controlling an opponent does, in fact, suggest its overriding importance as erotic spectacle.
The arm holds that from experience I know do actually hurt--like the chickenwing and hammerlock--appeal to me less than the cross armbar, short armbar, headscissor armbar, and, a favorite, the wrist lock, all of which offer the audience extended opportunities to gawk at wrestlers' physiques and marvel at the theatrics of dominance and submission, even while strongly suspecting (if never fully assured) that nothing so crass as actual pain and fear of injury distracts the victim from the pleasure of his tormentor's hot, sweaty touch. Read simply as a gesture, the armbar is a more raucous form of handholding while the wrestlers take a break. But the impact can be amplified with dramatic flourishes like bracing the knee to the side of an opponent's head for added traction (thus spreading the thighs, too), as in the top photo above.
All the photos above, illustrating the armbar and some variations on that hold, are taken from BG East's latest catalog (98), found on The Arena at BGEAST.com. Top, Jonny Firestorm on Charlie Panther in The 3 Stages of Jonny. Second from top, Jake Jenkins on Skrapper in Sunshine Shooters 6. Third, Paladin on Jonny in The 3 Stages of Jonny. Fourth, Tino Valencia on Christian Taylor in Sunshine Shooters 6. Fifth, Reese Wells on Billy Lodi in Sunshine Shooters 6. Sixth, Jonny on Ethan Axel Andrews in The 3 Stages of Jonny. Seventh, Austin Cooper on Rio Garza in Demolition 16. Eighth, Austin on Mister E in Demolition 16.