I have been a wrestling fan ever since I first saw a man wearing a pink and black singlet back in 1998 on WCW Nitro. So in my eighteen years of pure, uninterrupted obsession, I have seen a LOT of finishing moves, thus whittling those hundreds of maneuvers down to just fifteen of my favourites was a daunting task. Nevertheless, I powered my way through this struggle just for you, the reader (yes, I really am that good to you). So after a lot of debate and trips down Nostalgia Boulevard, I have compiled my top 15 favourite finishers of all time.
For this list, I decided not to include any finishers currently being used in WWE, unless they have been used previously by other wrestlers or have been used for a long period of time, as it can be hard to compare moves I’ve adored for years to moves I’ve only recently started to love.
I’ve ranked these moves purely on how much I love them, meaning that this will be one of the most personal lists I have ever done. Also, I’m not going to pick moves that are just downright dangerous – yes, the likes of the Burning Hammer or the Tiger Driver ’91 may be some of the greatest finishers of all time, but that’s only because they literally could finish someone’s career. My favourite finishers of all time will no doubt be different to yours, so let me know what your personal preferences are in a comment below, or tweet them to me @hairywrestling. With that being said, let’s get on with the list.
15. 450 Splash
Not only is the 450 Splash one of the most beautiful aerial moves in wrestling, it’s one of the most brutal. I guess you could call it ‘brutiful’ (I’m copyrighting that piece of literary excellence so don’t even try to use it). 2 Cold Scorpio made it look amazing, whilst Justin Gabriel hit it with so much force that he made it look like something to be feared. No matter who was hitting it though, the 450 Splash was always one of my favourites.
14. Buzzsaw Kick
Yes, it is just a straight-up kick to the side of the head, yet it’s the simplicity that makes me love it. Getting kicked in the head really hurts, it’s a simple as that, especially when those kicks are from the Japanese Buzzsaw himself. Tajiri’s kick were always built-up to be stiff, agonising weapons, so when he sets up his final blow, the audience know it’s enough to put anyone away.
In all honesty, I don’t think I’ve offered a very thorough explanation for my love of this move, and as hard as I may try, I can’t really find the correct words. I just love Tajiri and I love this move, it’s that straightforward.
13. The Worm
Okay, so I will be the first to admit that this is a fucking terrible move. A good 30 seconds of build-up for just a falling chop that wouldn’t finish off a fly, The Worm is definitely one of the worst finishers of all time, yet that doesn’t stop it from being one of my favourites. A move as ridiculous and fun as this is guaranteed a place in my heart. I have so many memories of playing as Scotty 2 Hotty on WWF Smackdown 2 for PS1, giving myself five finishers to start a match with, and then repeatedly spamming this move just to see Mr 2 Hot’s dance moves again and again.
Although it may be completely ineffective, there will never be a time where I won’t smile at the W-O-R-M.
12. Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex
When I was a kid, I played a LOT of WWE video games (and I still do). Whenever I was selecting moves for my newly created wrestlers, there would always be one out of the hundreds that caught my eye – the Queen Suplex. It fascinated me as I had no idea who the move belonged to. I’d never seen it in a WWE ring before. Who was the ‘Queen’? I wasn’t sure of the origins of the move, yet that didn’t stop me from loving it.
The years went by, and as my social life didn’t improve and my wrestling knowledge expanded, I eventually discovered that the Queen was Manami Toyota, possibly the greatest female wrestler of all time, and innovator of the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex (try saying that five times as fast). The move is graceful, yet dangerous, must like Manami herself.
In 2012, at a show to commemorate her 25th anniversary in the wrestling business, Manami competed in every single match on the card. Five matches in one night. If this fantastic finishing move doesn’t convince you of Manami’s bad-assness (is that a word?), then surely that does.
11. Wheelbarrow Neckbreaker
The first time I witnessed this move, it wasn’t even in a wrestling ring, it wasn’t even in real life, it was in the TNA Impact! videogame. And that’s exactly where I thought the move originated from, a videogame. The physics of Eric Young’s Wheelbarrow Neckbreaker didn’t seem plausible for me, therefore I just assumed it had been invented for the game, after all, TNA had created a completely new wrestler (Suicide) just for their debut videogame. However, after doing a little research, I realised that this was actually possible.
Although he didn’t actually use the move regularly for a substantial period of time, the Wheelbarrow Neckbreaker is still extremely pleasing for me to witness. What’s more, to my delight, Eric Young seemed to have reclaimed the move as his main weapon when he recently used it on NXT during his new faction Sanity’s debut. Sadly, based on his most recent NXT appearance, it doesn’t look as though Eric can hit the move quite as spectacularly as he used to, however it managed to garner a “Holy shit!” chant from the Full Sail crowd, as well as making me gasp with excitement just a little from the comfort of my living room. Even if it isn’t up to Young’s previous standards, I’m still exceedingly happy to see one of my favourite finishers finally make it to WWE.
10. Leap of Faith
The Diving Elbow Drop has always been one of my favourites, despite honestly not being able to give any real sort of explanation to it. It doesn’t look particularly impactful, it’s not the most impressive or athletic of diving moves, yet for some reason, I just love it. However, out of all the people who’ve used it as a finisher over the years, I’ve only actually been a fan of one of them, and he isn’t even really a bona fide wrestler.
What makes me love Shane O’ Mac’s Leap of Faith is because most of the time, it genuinely was that. Shane would cross his heart before soaring from the most ridiculous of heights, endangering his own body severely, despite not having any reason to step into the ring in the first place. Shane is the son of a billionaire, he could easily just sit in the back and watch the money roll in, but despite that, he decided to actually step between the ropes and pull off some of the most death-defying stunts ever seen in WWE. Even when Shane didn’t have the aid of a giant steel cell or a titantron, he could still hit the move with an impressive amount of height and distance due to his surprising athleticism.
He may not have always hit the move perfectly; sometimes he’d literally just land completely on his back with pretty much only his wrist actually making contact with his opponents, but regardless, seeing the spawn of Vince McMahon’s giant grapefruits fly through the air will always be one of my favourite sights.
Taz was an innovator in professional wrestling. One of the first Western wrestlers to incorporate MMA elements to his arsenal, Taz had an abundance of impressive suplexes and holds to mesmerise crowds, whilst instilling fear into his opponents. Out of all of the dangerous weapons in his arsenal, none were more deadly than the Tazmission.
This submission was built up as something to be feared; Taz would trap his foe’s entire body whilst choking them out. There was very little they could do once his arm was wrapped around their throat. When this hold was locked on, there was no escaping, only surviving.
8. Clothesline from Hell
There’s something appealing to me about a move every wrestler does being used as a finisher (if done right). A move that only a select group of wrestlers can do significantly better than every single other competitor in the business. A move that most can get up from straight away normally, yet when done by the right person, can leave the toughest of foes knocked out cold for the three count. There is no example of this more filled with brutality and impact than the lariat.
I’ve found with this move that people seem to either love it or hate it as a finisher – some dismiss it as a simple clothesline, whereas others (like myself) realise the devastating collision it can cause. I do have a soft spot for Stan Hansen’s lariats, and can also appreciate Kobashi’s stiff interpretation of the strike, but my favourite iteration is JBL’s Clothesline from Hell. Bradshaw had a way of delivering the move like nobody else – he would stride across the ring as he threw his arm back as far as he could, before swinging it directly into his opponent’s face with a force straight from hell. Even as a kid when I knew I was supposed to hate him and his greedy, materialistic, selfish ways, I couldn’t help but have a soft spot for him because of his finisher. One of the simplest finisher on the list, yet by no means the weakest.
7. Curb Stomp
No matter how big you are, how strong you are, tough, resilient, or monstrous you are, having your face stamped into the floor is devastating. Seth Rollins’ Curb Stomp is one of the most believably effective finishers ever seen in WWE. It ticks every single box: anyone can take the move, from El Torito to Big Show; the pain is instantly translated to the audience; Seth’s leaping delivery is satisfying to the eye; the Curb Stomp is as vicious as its name; and ultimately, it could legitimately finish any fight.
Unfortunately, this is a sight we will never see on WWE television again. I can completely understand why a company that provides PG rated programming beloved by children around the world wouldn’t want to have Crossfit Jesus himself stamping another man’s skull into the floor, especially considering how easily it can be imitated (a move that can be done on everyone clearly isn’t always an advantage). We can still see the likes of Marty Martinez using the move elsewhere, nevertheless, it still disappoints me that one of my favourite moves in recent memory will never be witnessed in the big leagues again, even more so now that Rollins has gone from having one of the best to having one of the worst finishers in WWE (click here for my list on that subject).
Even though WWE have completely emitted the move from their product, they can’t emit it from my mind, and despite being short-lived, it will always be one of my favourite finishing moves.
Despite the level of nostalgia most wrestling fans will have towards the Chokeslam, which may potentially affect its ranking on this list, the fact remains that it is still an almost seven foot tall monster picking somebody up by the throat, lifting them into the air, and slamming them into the canvas. When performed by behemoths the likes of Kane, Undertaker, and Big Show, the height and impact of the move makes it seem fatally ruinous. Also, the Chokeslam is equally appealing at both ends of the weight scale – smaller opponents are hoisted up to the heavens, and sent careening to Earth like a meteorite, whilst seeing a 300+ pounder hoisting another man of similar or greater mass above his head, then subsequently thrusting them onto the floor is comparable to watching two Greek gods colliding.
Although Kane doesn’t deliver it with quite as much drive as he used to, back in his prime, it was one of the most feared, and fantastically destructive moves in wrestling. Iconic, impactful, and impressive; what more does a move need to be considered one of the greatest of all time?
5. Frog Splash
The Frog Splash has a very special place in my heart. Two of my childhood favourites, Rob Van Dam and Eddie Guerrero, both used their own versions of the move to finish off their foes, and I was completely enamoured with both of them. I adored Eddie so much, I even wrote a poem about him (which you can read here), and his froggy aerial antics were a big part of that.
Out of every move on this list, the Frog Splash is definitely the most diverse and the most utilised. When Art Barr innovated the move, it was named after the way he would extend his legs out whilst tucking his arms in mid-flight, just as a frog would do, however over the years, the move has been tweaked and adapted, yet the name has always stayed the same. Eddie (who started using the move as a tribute to Barr after his death in 1994) would jolt his body together before hitting the splash, RVD would soar to the rafters whilst tucking in his knees, giving the move lethal levels of impact, but no matter what variation was used, fans were always guaranteed to be on their feet at the sight of a Frog Splash.
Whether it’s RVD’s Five Star version, or Eddie’s iteration injected with Latino heat, or Art Barr’s original, the Frog Splash is a special move that will always bring back a plethora of memories every time I see it.
4. Canadian Destroyer
The first time you saw the Canadian Destroyer, you were in awe. Admit it, we all were. You probably, like me, had to watch it again and again just to comprehend what you were actually witnessing. The move is quite a common sight on the American indie scene these days, however nobody has ever been able to deliver it with the grace, finesse, and accuracy quite like Petey Williams. Watching him deliver the Canadian Destroyer is oddly satisfying; a mass rotation of humanity spinning through the air and crashing to the floor, it’s bliss to the eye.
Of course the move is ridiculous. Of course it realistically couldn’t be done to someone. Of course the number of people who can take the move is limited. But I don’t care, it’s wrestling, it’s supposed to be a little ridiculous. I’m supposed to suspend my belief enough to think that the Canadian Destroyer is actually possible, or that Paul Bearer really did survive getting buried in cement.
This front flip piledriver is undoubtedly the most unrealistic move on this list, but wrestling is STILL REAL TO ME DAMMIT, and the Canadian Destroyer is one of the most spectacular looking finishers of all time.
3. Chaos Theory
This may be a surprisingly high choice for some, but for me, Doug Williams’ Chaos Theory is one of the most exquisite examples of technical wrestling ever seen. An O’Connor Roll seamlessly transitioned into a deadlift bridging German Suplex is enough to make any pure wrestling fan erupt with delight. It’s the fluidity of the move that makes me adore it so much; Williams seems to flow across the ring in one fluent motion, opponent locked in his grip, before hurling them backwards on their shoulders.
There is an exceptional level of technique and core strength required to pull off this move, yet in the more than capable hands of Doug Williams, it looks effortless. Likewise, American Alpha’s Chad Gable has delivered the move exceptionally on a couple of occasions during his time in NXT, and if he ever embarks on a singles run, it will be wonderful for me to see the move being used regularly on television once again.
In my opinion, Doug Williams is one of the most underrated wrestlers of all time, with possibly the most underrated finishing move of all time as well.
No tag team finisher in history has ever been as consistently perfect as the 3D. No matter how many times D-Von lifted someone up for that flapjack, Bubba always perfectly timed his cutter to create one of the best finishers of all time. By combining two of the simplest wrestling maneuvers, the Dudley Boyz constructed a work of art. Add a table into the equation, and you’ve got the makings of something incredible. It may have just missed out on my top spot, but nonetheless, with or without wood, the Dudley Death Drop holds a wealth of memories and nostalgia for me, and is something I will never tire of seeing.
Honourable Mentions (on a list like this, there was bound to be a lot of them) –
Stunner: Yes, the Stone Cold Stunner isn’t my favourite finisher of all time, it’s not even on my list! The fact is, yes I will get excited whenever I see Stone Cold hit the Stunner, and yes the sheer noise radiating from a WWE crowd every single time he performs the move is staggering, yet still, I just don’t think it’s that great of a finisher. Sorry Steve.
Asai DDT: I was obsessed with this move as a kid. Although my obsession has died down a little over the years, it still impresses me to this day.
Regal Stretch: William Regal is one of my favourite wrestlers of all time. He could tie any opponent up in knots, and I adored it. Please Regal, just one more match.
Vadersault: Seeing a man that size flipping backwards from the top rope is a mesmerising sight, and probably bone-shattering to take also.
Rising Sun: If you’ve never seen this move, please Google it immediately. Samurai Del Sol (now known as Kalisto) used this move to finish off his foes during his indie days, and it left me gobsmacked every single time.
Shooting Star Press: To be able to propel your body forward whilst rotating backwards at the same time doesn’t really make sense, but it does look absolutely beautiful.
Flux Capacitor: Kazarian rarely performed this move in his TNA days, yet when he did, it was jaw-dropping.
Razor’s Edge: Ouch. That’s all I have to say.
- Tombstone Piledriver
Perhaps this a little cliché, but for me, it doesn’t get any better than this. The Undertaker is my favourite wrestler of all time, therefore it’s is no surprise that his finisher takes a very similar honour. The move is so closely associated to the dead man, that it just feels so wrong to me whenever someone else uses it. Even when the likes of Okada and Sting have used the move, it feels completely sacrilege.
If I remove every single bit of nostalgic bias I have towards it, the Tombstone Piledriver still looks devastating. Dropping anyone on top of their head is always going to be an effective method of putting them away, no matter who they are. Add in the mystique, size, and legacy that The Undertaker has, and the Tombstone Piledriver becomes the greatest finishing move of all time. It has everything: the ideal name; the believability factor; the way it perfectly sets up Undertaker’s signature pinning position that accompanies the move so well; it’s guaranteed to get any crowd in the world excited; it even has the greatest counter attack to a finisher of all time, as it can be reversed in a way that allows the potential victim to immediately deliver the move instead of being on the receiving end of it; and having one of the best to ever lace a pair of boots hit the move for over 25 years doesn’t hinder it much either.
When people kick out of the Tombstone Piledriver, it is genuinely shocking, that’s how good it is. Whether I am just completely blinded by my own love for the man who uses it, or it really just an exceptional move, no other entry on this list even comes to close to claiming this spot. It has been my favourite finishers for as long as I can remember, and it always will be.
For more finisher lists, click here.
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