Clotheslines – every wrestler does them. Standing, running, leaping, flying, diving, corner, springboard, short-arm, the list goes on. Whatever the variation, it’s one of the most simple strikes in wrestling that every performer has used at some point, to varying degrees of success. When a move is done by every single person that’s ever stepped between those ropes, a performer’s own variation of it has to be pretty spectacular to stand out as one of the greatest ever seen. So with the thousands upon thousands of iterations of this move we’ve witnessed all over the globe across the last few decades, which have been the most spectacular, the most effective, and the most memorable? Let’s find out, here are the Top 10 Clotheslines of All Time.
Just to clarify, for this list I am including both lariats and clotheslines, and yes, there is a difference! If we’re going to get technical, a clothesline is when the user doesn’t move their arm, once their limb is thrust forward into their victim, that’s when it becomes a lariat. Despite the slight variation between the two maneuvers though, nine times out of ten, a lariat will be called a clothesline, even when it’s somebody’s finisher (we’ll get to that later), hence why I’m bundling them together. So with that out of the way, let’s dive right into the top ten.
- Ted Dibiase – Rebound Clothesline
The charm to this clothesline isn’t actually the move itself, it’s the trickery involved beforehand that makes it so enjoyable to watch. When his foe went to bounce-off the ropes for momentum, Ted DiBiase (Jr.) would follow his opponent, rebound off the ropes himself, and level his confused opponents with a gorgeous clothesline. Although the son of this hall of famer didn’t make much of an impact on the wrestling world during his time in WWE, his rebound clothesline certainly made an impact on whoever was in the ring with him.
- The Undertaker – Flying Clothesline
Whilst certainly not the most powerful-looking variation of the move on this list, there is something wonderful about seeing a seven-foot giant flying through the air like a cruiserweight to strike his foe. The Undertaker had one of the most diverse movesets of any big man in WWE history, with everything from devastating power holds to amazing displays of acrobatics and athleticism, and his flying clothesline was a perfect example of the latter.
- Hangman Page – Hangman’s Lariat/The Adam’s Apple
Adam Page is one of the best up-and-coming wrestlers in the world. For the last few years in Ring of Honor, Page has been wowing audiences with his beautiful athletic moves, most notably his shooting star press off the apron onto a standing opponent, and of course, the best weapon in his arsenal, the Hangman’s Lariat. Standing on the outside of the ropes, Hangman flips himself over the top, and springboards his body into his opponent, using the momentum to deliver one hell of a beautiful clothesline. With this beautiful move, teamed with his association with Bullet Club and his awesome line of t-shirts, I’m positive Hangman Page will be a main-eventer around the world in no time.
- Bray Wyatt – Turn-Around Clothesline
One of the best aspects of Bray Wyatt’s arsenal is his sudden bouts of viciousness that strike from out of nowhere. Without warning, the Eater of Worlds can unleash a quick burst of destruction at any point, and his turn-around clothesline is a perfect example of that. With his back facing his foe as they bounce off the ropes, Bray suddenly surprises his opponent by striking them with a devastating rotating clothesline. It’s the sudden speed and surprise of this move that makes it so terrifyingly beautiful, much like the rest of Wyatt’s arsenal. Now, if only WWE could surprise us all with a lengthy, dominating run for the New Face of Fear…
- Cactus Jack – Cactus Clothesline
Mick Foley wasn’t exactly the most nimble or athletic of competitors, yet it was his willingness to put everything he had into each match he had that placed him in the hearts of every wrestling fan in the world. If there was any move that summarised Foley’s chaotic nature and disregard for his own body, it was the Cactus Clothesline. Rather than sending his opponent over the ropes by leaning into a clothesline as most do, Foley decided to go down with them. Cactus Jack/Mankind/Dude Love/Mick Foley would hurl himself over the top rope, crashing down along with his opponent in a tumbling mass of humanity. The Cactus Clothesline summed up Foley’s in-ring mentality: to beat his foes, he would have to destroy himself as much as he destroyed them, and it was always wonderful to watch.
- Kane – Diving Clothesline
There’s something wonderful about seeing a seven-foot man wearing a mask, or sporting a very bald head, flying off the top rope and striking down his opponents with a clothesline. If Kane’s hulking size and elevation wasn’t enough, it’s the little swing of the arm and the post-move roll upon landing that add the lovely little touches to this beautiful diving clothesline. This is definitely a move I got shouted at for doing way too many times in my living room back when I was a kid.
- Kazuchika Okada – Rainmaker
A short-arm clothesline is a classic move without question, but has never quite been finisher material – that is until Kazuchika Okada got his hands on it, and turned it into one of the most effective signature moves in the world today. Starting with a wristlock secured from behind, Okada then spins his victim around, and then ripcords him into a stiff lariat, sending them to the mat in quick succession. What makes this move more than just a clothesline is that it’s Okada’s clothesline – it has a very easy to notice set-up for audiences to get excited about, he always puts a lot of impact into the move, and quite frankly Okada is a mega star, which always helps in adding excitement to a move. The Rainmaker seems to divide opinion: some see it as a boring, simple, overrated move, yet most see it is as the flashy, painful, and exciting finisher that it is. Regardless of your opinion though, you’ve got to love it when the Japanese commentators shout, “RRRAAAIIIIINNNMMAAAKKEERRRRR!!”
- Legion of Doom – Doomsday Device
You know what’s better than a flying clothesline? A flying clothesline hit onto someone that’s six feet in the air that sends them backflipping onto the floor. Often cited as one of, if not the greatest tag team finisher of all time, the Doomsday Device saw Road Warrior Animal hoist his opponent up onto his massive shoulders as Road Warrior Hawk ascended to the top rope, and then leapt into the victim, striking them with a brutal clothesline whilst Hawk simultaneously threw their legs up to send them flying to the floor. In the last three decades, very few double team moves have come close to the combination of beauty and destruction that the Doomsday Device could produce. Out of all the clotheslines on this list, this has got to be the most spectacular of them all to witness.
- Stan Hansen – Lariat
Stan Hansen’s lariat is perhaps the stiffest striking finisher in the history of pro wrestling. Whether hitting it onto a standing, sitting, or running opponent, Hansen looked like he could legitimately take his opponent’s head off every single time with this punishing strike. Go and watch his five-star match with Kenta Kobashi – the amount of force he hits his lariat with onto Kobashi as he’s sat on the top turnbuckle his head-rattlingly astounding. It’s thanks to Hansen that lariats are now considered to be such an effective finishing move in Japan these days, hence the success of Okada’s Rainmaker. Nobody could ever hit a standing lariat the way that Hansen could, and I doubt anybody will ever come close, to the relief of every wrestler in the world.
Ryback – Meat Hook
Daniel Bryan – Flying Clothesline
The Miz – Awesome Clothesline
CM Punk – Springboard Clothesline
Jake Roberts – Short-Arm Clothesline
Xavier Woods – Honor Roll
The Hart Foundation – Hart Attack
Kenta Kobashi – Burning Lariat
Hanson – Cartwheel Clothesline
Bull Nakano – Lariat
Luke Harper – Discus Clothesline
- JBL – Clothesline from Hell
Despite what your subjective opinions of JBL as a person are, you cannot deny that he had one of the most beautiful clotheslines to ever grace a ring. Seeing an almost 300 pound man sprinting against the ropes, ploughing towards his foe, throwing his arm back as far as possible, and launching it into his opponent’s face was an incredible sight every single time. Despite technically being a lariat, the Clothesline from Hell was always one of my favourite finishers as a kid (and made my list of favourite finishers of all time) because it was a move that every single wrestler did, but Bradshaw was the only person who could hit it with so much impact that it could believably finish a match. Although it may be rivalled by Stan Hansen’s version of the move for genuine force, it’s the velocity of Bradshaw’s giant body, and the monumental swing of his massive arm that makes this so beautifully brutal. The genius of this move is that it was almost a guarantee that every other wrestler on the same card as JBL would have used a clothesline at some point in that night, yet he was the only one that could execute it the way it deserved to be.
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