There’s been a lot of discussion, and criticism, recently, as there often is after big events, about superstars kicking out of opponent’s finishing moves. For me it just seems like the natural progression, but that doesn’t necessarily make it right.
Back in the late 80s a clash between Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts and Ted Dibiase invariably would have invariably been decided with either a DDT or a cobra clutch finishing off the match.
Within a decade these moves would have moved on from being ones that would end a match to the sort that superstars would use during the match as a set-up move or, in the latter’s case, a rest hold.
It was just a natural progression. A flying elbow drop in the 80s would have won a match for Macho Man Randy Savage but in the 90s and 00s Shawn Michaels and CM Punk respectively both used it as part of their repertoire but merely as a high spot during their bouts rather than necessarily a move to end the match.
As the wrestling world moved on, a need for a more impactful style of action was required. That obviously resulted in a moves that would have previously finished a match no longer being suitable or taken seriously as finishers.
The introduction of a more hardcore wrestling thanks to Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) emphasised the need further for higher impact and more forceful moves as finishers.
Which sort of brings us right up to date with the spate of wrestlers kicking out of finishing moves. It’s not the earliest incident by any kind, but one of the most memorable examples featured The Rock and Stone cold Steve Austin kicking out of the Rock Bottom and the Stunner – regardless of who hit the move.
As the impact on fans of the new range of harder hitting finishing moves wore of the Attitude Era served up a spate of stunts to wow the audience and keep them on the edge of their seats. Whether it was Mick Foley tumbling from the top of a cage and through the announce table or Jeff Hardy diving off the top of a 20 foot ladder on to a prone opponent, these moves served to heighten the expectations of wrestling fans even further.
After all, after seeing a guy fall off a cage and through a table and get up, it’s not terribly believable for him to then lose a match with a running leg drop or a sleeper hold, is it?
In many respects, our senses have been numbed by events we’ve seen, such as the ones mentioned above.
However, with a move away from the hardcore inspired wrestling of the Attitude Era, something different was required to keep us on the edge of our seats and to continue to suspend our belief.
Unfortunately, it seems that the choice was made for that decision to be the kicking out, and ultimately devaluing, of finishing moves.
I’d probably consider myself quite a traditionalist when it comes to my wrestling. For example, I tend to like things to be kept simple and when it comes to gimmick matches I see value in them but as a way to round off a feud not, as is now often the case, the way to start a feud.
We’re in the position now where when anyone kicks out of, for example, The Undertaker’s Tombstone Piledriver it’s impact is lessened. Same goes for John Cena’s Attitude Adjustment but apparently that’s more to do with phasing that move out, which is probably a topic for another occasion.
When it comes to kicking out of finishers, the lid is off that particular bottle and it’ll be tough, if not impossible, to ever get it back on.
A real shame or just a natural progression? A bit of both but I lean more towards it being bad for the business rather than the latter.