Although it is known alternately as the “Yes Lock” or the “No Lock,” Daniel Bryan first dubbed his signature submission in WWE as the “LeBell Lock.”
Named after “Judo” Gene LeBell, a pioneer in both mixed martial arts and wrestling (and known by many as the “Toughest Man Alive”), the maneuver exemplifies LeBell’s claim to fame: pretzeling opponents into unbelievably painful positions.
“He does the hold very well,” said 80-year-old LeBell. “He mimics me almost perfectly.”
When asked if there are any faults in Bryan’s execution of the move, LeBell pondered for a moment before replying: “There is one thing he does wrong. He’s isn’t as pretty as me, so his version doesn’t have all the virtues of mine.”
At least he didn’t call Bryan a goatface. Such wisecracks and one-liners are peppered liberally throughout any conversation with LeBell. Although he could probably beat up any fighter in the world during his heyday, he clearly doesn’t take himself too seriously.
In a rare serious moment, he explained that he has met Bryan and is truly impressed by how the undersized underdog has ascended the WWE ranks.
“I met up with him in Vegas, and he’s a very good wrestler. A great wrestler, in fact. It’s a great compliment to me that he uses the LeBell Lock.”
Bryan learned the LeBell Lock (essentially an omoplata crossface) from a protege of LeBell’s named Neil Melanson. As head grappling coach at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas — where Bryan trains in grappling when he’s not on the road with WWE — Melanson passes on techniques and wisdom he has learned from LeBell and Gokor “The Armenian Assassin” Chivichyan, among others.
Daniel Bryan isn’t the only WWE star to have built an arsenal based on LeBell’s teachings. Rowdy Roddy Piper often refers to Lebell as “dad” because of the many important lessons — both in wrestling and in life — he learned from the elder statesman of grappling.
“Piper also likes to tell people about throwing up turkey legs and blueberry pie on me,” laughed LeBell.
Judo Gene is currently training another young fighter who is making headlines around the world: the UFC’s first-ever female fighter, “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey.
In fact, when Rousey wanted to adopt the “Rowdy” nickname, it was LeBell who called up the Hot Rod and asked for his blessing.
“Roddy said it would be a privilege to have her use the name,” LeBell said.
Rousey has won all six of her professional MMA fights by armbar, and LeBell predicts the same result in Rousey’s UFC 157 showdown against Liz Carmouche.
LeBell refused to comment on whether Rousey is as as pretty as himself.