Craig Wilson, Brian Damage & Jamie Lithgow
The best wrestling matches tell a great story. Whether that’s an underdog overcoming adversity or a bad guy being dethroned from his position by a popular story, these are stories that have kept our interest in wrestling as great as it is. Not only does a story need great characters but it also needs a climax or a conclusion.
The very essence of a wrestling match is the building up the crowd to a crescendo that is reached when one superstar is felled by another’s finishing move, bringing the house down. In this Top Five Craig, Brian and Jamie list their five favourite finishing moves.
Spear, Pedigree, Powerbomb
As top rope moves go this has been bettered in recent years by 450 splashes, 720 splashes and shooting star presses but the classic moonsault makes the list due to it coming first. You’ve also never seen a moonsault until you’ve soon the move done by Vader. An awesome spectacle.
To those more familiar with modern day wrestling, the best example of this move would be Bradshaw’s clothesline finisher. A brutal looking clothesline. However, that was nothing in comparison to how it was delivered by Stan Hansen. A terrific looking finisher that particularly wowed crowds in Japan due to the vast differences between the style in the US and over there.
Growing up and seeing Jake ‘the Snake’ Roberts finishing off his opponents with this one is a lasting memory of my childhood. For the time, it always looked like one of the more realistic moves. Ultimately, as wrestling’s moved forward it’s a move we rarely see as a finisher in the classic sense. Cactus Jack/Dude Love/Mankind had the double-arm DDT and Dean Ambrose has the forward falling DDT but it’s the classic Jake Roberts variety that makes this list.
I plucked for the Stunner over the cutter/RKO largely because of the move’s impact during the Attitude Era, when I got back into wrestling. Is it the greatest finisher of all time? No, but when sold well – hats off to The Rock here and, as the video below shows, Shawn Michaels – it really did awesome and boy did it do much damage during the Attitude Era with, it seemed, everyone associated with the WWE from chairman, to commentators to referees and backstage officials all taking a Stunner at one point or another.
A move that’s stood the test of time. From Jerry Lawler using it as a finishing move since, I think, the beginning of time to now with The Undertaker using a variation of the move, it’s still considered a legitimate finisher. A move we don’t see as often now – certainly the traditional Piledriver – owing to the damage it done to Stone Cold Steve Austin when botched and more recently with BJ Whitmer taking one on the ring apron. Still, though, a great looking move that you knew spelled the end for the guy taking it.
5 The Pile driver
I gotta give this move props simply because it is so dangerous and difficult to properly pull off time and time again, it makes you appreciate the legends who utilized it every day. Paul Orndorff immediately comes to mind, because in my view, his was the nastiest. He would pick the opponent up and do a little jump in the air driving their head into the mat. So many times we’ve seen wrestlers botch the move, seriously injuring another wrestler. To my knowledge, Orndorff as nasty as it looked, never did that.
4 The Perfect Plex AKA Fisherman Suplex
Mr. Perfect Curt Hennig did it so seamlessly and flawlessly, it looked like a work of art. His own son Joe Hennig AKA Curtis Axel, has attempted the move with success but even he hasn’t yet mastered it like his legendary father had.
3 Frog Splash
Call me a simplistic mark, but the frog splash is still such a great, classic move. Different wrestlers have different variations of it, but at its core, still relatively the same. From the likes of Jimmy Snuka, Art Barr, Eddie Guerrero, Chavo Guerrero, Rob Van Dam etc…a simple, but effective “maneuver.”
2 The DDT
Just to show you how legendary Jake “The Snake” Roberts was/is, he invented this popular move…by accident! There are so many variations of the DDT now, but Jake’s original variation is still the best. A testament to Jake and his abilities that the move has become as regular as the headlock or clothesline.
1 The RKO/Diamond Cutter
The reason I love this move the best, is because it is so sudden…yet still so visually impactful. Both Randy Orton and Dallas Page have mastered this move and continue to think up new and creative ways to use it. Kudos to both men!
RKO/Diamond Cutter, The F5, Pepsi Plunge, Total Elimination, Spanish Fly & Justin Gabriel’s 450 Splash.
5 The Stone Cold Stunner
In many respects this move is inferior to the similar RKO and Diamond Cutter, but I still hold The Stunner in higher regard. It makes my list ahead of the RKO, Diamond Cutter and other moves purely because it so iconic. I struggle to distinguish between different RKO’s, but there was a whole catalogue of Stunners. The Rock’s over selling and Mr McMahon’s under selling of the move are notorious, but my favourite stunner was delivered to D-Lo Brown, on top of a car.
4 The Lariat/Clothesline From Hell
Stan Hansen’s signature move that JBL adopted in more recent times. It doesn’t get any more simplistic than a really big clothesline, does it? Well, maybe Big Show’s KO punch, but that’s beyond shit. The lariat just looks brutal, you know as soon as it lands that the match is over. Even better is that the move can come out of absolutely nowhere. In his APA days JBL could stop a fast paced tag match dead in its tracks with that clothesline, it’s such an effective and definitive ending. As a side note, if you’re not a wrestling fan then how weird must the term “Clothesline From Hell” sound?!
3 The Piledriver
I’m including all kinds of piledriver in this, tombstone, cradle, seated, inverted, spike, all of them. Throughout the 90’s the standard piledriver was used as a regular move, which I totally disagreed with. The piledriver that did the damage to Steve Austin’s neck was not even meant to be the finish of the match, which is ridiculous given the dangers associated with performing such a move safely. Thankfully these days it has been restored (at least in mainstream promotions) to its former glory. You don’t need to know the ins and outs of the move or the business, anyone off the street can look at a piledriver and know that it’s a brutal move that would most likely finish any match.
2 The Doomsday Device
Pretty much all double team moves are cool, it’s the law. There are more intricate and prettier looking moves out there, like the Spanish Fly and Total Elimination, but nothing tops the daddy of them all – The Doomsday Device. The move pretty much sums up The Road Warriors, it utilised strength, power and given the right recipient looked devastating. One of the most iconic Doomsday Device’s was delivered to Henry Godwinn, when he landed square on his head and legitimately broke his neck. This was a truly bad ass move.
1 The Canadian Destroyer
That’s right, from left field I have catapulted a move that made it no further than TNA’s mid-card ahead of The Stone Cold Stunner and The Dooms Day Device. Technically speaking the Canadian Destroyer is a piledriver, but it’s a front flip piledriver, making it far enough removed to justify inclusion in its own right. It is the finishing move of Petey Williams, and looks fucking awesome! The negative side of this move is that it requires an agile recipient, but hey, it’s not like LOD were able to perform the Dooms Day Device on everyone they faced either. Every time I see it I have to rewind to see exactly what just happened, the move is that good.
You can read all the previous Top Five pieces here.