Once, wrestling pushed for things to be dangerous. In the era of ECW, it was really “anything goes” and fans wanted stuff looking nasty. The time when a body slam could be a finisher was passé, the crowds wanted something new and exciting. Over the years, many have taken on a variety of moves that often blow the mind and are amazing to look at. From the Styles Clash to Sister Abigail, fans love seeing some great finishers in WWE today. However, some finishers or moves are no longer available except online.
The reason is that in the last few years, WWE has become more aware of the long-term damage these moves bring. That’s mostly with concussions as WWE knows a bad blow of some sort can be very damaging over the years. Chris Benoit stands as the ultimate example of how long-term head trauma can lead to disaster. While some criticize WWE’s “main event style,” it really helps avoid further injury to guys. Thus here are 15 moves WWE has basically banned and how the company thinks it’s better to be safe than sorry.
15 Tiger Drive
This may be a bit of a surprise as it’s a move that WWE has been using for years. A good power bomb variation, a guy hooks his opponent’s arms with head down like a pedigree. They then lift him up before dropping him onto his shoulders, often in a pinning position. Ahmed Johnson used it as the Pearl River Plunge (before such a move was commonplace) and it was impressive. Various others have as well such as Cesaro, Chris Jericho and many more. Frankly, it’s one of the safer variations of the power bomb and has never been known to cause major problems. This may be a case of WWE deciding to be safe rather than sorry as basically any version of the underhook power bomb is on the ban list. A shame given so many dangerous moves are allowed but this is on the banned list.
For years, the crossface was a popular submission move. Lying on top of an opponent, you wrap your hands hard around his face, holding him up by the chin, putting pressure on the neck. It led to major fame for Chris Benoit, nicknamed the “Crippler Crossface” which Benoit used through his career. But obviously, Benoit’s name is now something WWE never wants to hear and so the crossface itself is banned. That’s even more so as it’s speculated Benoit might have actually used this move to kill his own son before taking his own life.
When Shawn Michaels used it in a match in 2009, it got a chilly reaction from the crowd, just furthering the ban. As with so much else in his career, Benoit’s final actions ensured his famous finisher is never (or rarely) seen in a WWE ring again.
13 Wings of Love
Michelle McCool used this as her main finisher and it was an impressive sight. A variation on the “Angel’s Wings” finisher of Christopher Daniels, McCool would pick up her opponents in a double underhook grab. She would then lift them up into the air perfectly upside down and use her strength to actually keep them up for a few seconds for fans to enjoy. She would then drive them down face first into the mat. It was a great sight and it got McCool over pretty well as a worker and champion.
However, WWE became concerned about too much damage to the Divas (especially in the face department) with serious concern over someone landing wrong and cracking a nose or tooth. Thus, McCool was soon “encouraged” to drop the move which is too bad as a lady pulling off such a devastating maneuver was quite the sight.
12 Chair Shots
In a recent book on greatest matches, WWE notably changed any reference to a chair to “illegal object.” That might seem a bit off but there’s good reason for it. For years, chair shots were a constant in the business, especially in the Attitude Era. It was the most obvious weapon to use, smacking a guy over the head and always good for a pop.
However, you can lay blame for Chris Benoit on this being banned. Unlike many, Benoit never protected himself from chair shots because he wanted it to look real. This contributed to the concussions which also lay the groundwork for Benoit’s infamous final actions. With concussions a major concern in the last few years, WWE has decided to almost totally do away with chair shots, knowing how dangerous they can be at last. So a long-time mainstay of the company is gone but probably for the best.
11 Burning Hammer
Where else but Japan can this move exist? It’s only been done a number of times and never performed in WWE for very good reason. It was the move of famed worker Kenta Kobashi but even he didn’t use it too often because of how nasty it was. It resembles Cena’s Attitude Adjustment as a guy is lifted up in a fireman’s carry. But then, rather than slammed on his back, the guy is flipped onto the shoulders of Kobashi like a backbreaker before slammed onto his front. Tyler Reeks used a safer version for a time but overall the move still remains a very dangerous one for how a guy’s entire front body is slammed hard into the mat. While it’s impressive, the fact even Japan doesn’t like it used so much speaks volumes on how dangerous it can be.
10 The Original Pedigree
Since his debut in WWE, the Pedigree has been the biggest move of Triple H’s offense. It goes back to his original character as a “Greenwich snob,” meant to look great with a pompous name. The Pedigree is a major bit that always gets fans going. However, look up videos of Triple H in 1995 and you’ll see a key difference. Today, when Triple H does it, after hooking a guy’s arms and jumping up, he lets the arms go, giving the guy a chance to protect himself. In the first version, however, Hunter kept the arms hooked all the way through. This was very dangerous for a guy’s face and head to get crushed and it wasn’t long before Hunter was told to safen it up. As devastating as the Pedigree may look today, it’s safer than the original version.
9 Death Valley Driver
You see this a lot in the indies but WWE has basically decided it’s way too dangerous for them. It’s a variation on Cena’s AA as a guy is put in a fireman’s carry on his opponent’s shoulder. But rather than just be slammed on their backs, the man is then carried and basically drilled into the mat on his neck and shoulders. Some guys go even further to try and put their opponents into a table which is downright insane. The danger of this going wrong is obvious for the neck and head, a major concern nowadays.
Louie Spicolli used it as his finisher in ECW and Joey Styles basically named it after him after Spicolli’s death. As much as fans complain on how “lame” the AA is, it’s a far safer move than this as anything nicknamed “death” is something a WWE worker should avoid like the plague.
8 Randy Orton’s Punt
For a while, Randy Orton seemed to be replacing the RKO with this. True, in some cases, it could look weak but other times, Orton really seemed to go all out with it to risk the future of some workers. It was a simple move, charging in to kick a guy hard and Orton did it to many like Vince McMahon, Triple H and others. However, as the concerns of concussions rose up, WWE realized that promoting a guy nailing folks in the head this badly wasn’t a good image. Orton has been hinting he’ll do it now and again and seeming to set up a charge only for the opponent to nail him first. But the perception of how hard the hit can be and the risk of real damage if it goes wrong as the reasons WWE has given this move the boot.
When Shane Helms came to WWE, he was soon transformed into the nutty superhero character of the Hurricane. Helms actually got over pretty well in the role, winning fans and even holding the Cruiserweight and tag team titles. However, Helms was prevented from bringing in a finisher he’d been making popular in the dying days of WCW. The vertebreaker has Helms picking up his opponent on his back then dropping down to drive him head and shoulder first into the mat. That is a huge risk even with Helms helping prevent the drop from being too severe. Helms isn’t that big a guy so a risk if he takes on too much weight of letting his opponent slip and land the wrong way. The timing has to be perfect, something far too many guys can fail at so it’s no shock Helms only used it a couple of times before WWE banned it to prevent what could have been a nasty injury.
6 The Dragon Screw Neck Whip
This is a move about as nasty as it sounds. Perfected by Keri Mutoh, it was a standout of his move resume but pretty nasty to see and take. Basically, the victim stands outside the ring as the facilitator prepares them for a Back Suplex into the ring. Instead, the facilitator pulls the victim a bit into the ring, propping their feet up onto the top rope and then whips the victim’s neck in a downward motion, falling back into the ring. Obviously, the fact that the move is not only violent, but ends with a striking blow to the victim’s head is a pretty big reason why the move has been outlawed. Even Japan doesn't use it too often as it's way too extreme for WWE and while an impressive sight, not one you want repeated over the years.
5 Shooting Star Press
It took one botched attempt on the biggest stage of all to have this move added to WWE’s ban list. At WrestleMania XIX, Brock Lesnar and Kurt Angle went at it in the main event, an epic match where Angle was wrestling with a bad neck. With Angle down, Brock took to the top rope for a spinning splash but somehow misjudged it. Instead of Angle, Brock landed right on his head, a move that had fans gasping in horror. Thankfully, Brock was able to shake it off but that he came within inches of paralyzing himself at the biggest show of the year is an obvious reason WWE doesn’t want this used anymore. Sure, you’ll see the occasional 450 splash but unless you’re a light guy, trying something like this is way too dangerous both to the worker and the future of the company.
Another move that’s obvious to be banned. The Brainbuster is always notable, a suplex that ends by dropping a guy on his head. Some do variations such as Sami Zayn’s apron buster and even doing it off the ropes. The danger is rather obvious as it’s all too easy for the guy taking the move to hit his head wrong and seriously damage his neck and head. It is still used in Japan and some of the indies but WWE has put its foot down on it ever being used there. Dick Murdoch helped bring the move about in the 1980s, including a famous bit where he did it to Ted DiBiase on the concrete. No way today would WWE ever touch that as the risk of injury is far too great so while it may look a fantastic finisher, it’s probably smart to have it banned from wide use.
3 The Canadian Destroyer
This move was created in Japan but popularized in TNA by Petey Williams. It takes the usual motif of the piledriver and adds a wild spin to it. Taking his opponent, Williams proceeds to flip both himself and the opponent in the air in a somersault move ending in a piledriver. It was quite the sight that got Williams over well in TNA including X Division champion. That WWE has banned it should be no surprise given how dangerous it looks and its possible damage to workers. Of course, another reason it’s banned is because it’s one of the biggest exposing moves in wrestling.
There is simply no way Williams can be performing this move without his opponent giving obvious aid and thus it looks a bit fake. So banning this from WWE not only saves injuries but maintains some illusion of wrestling.
You’ll still see it now and then, the biggest being how Undertaker and Kane use the Tombstone. However, for the most part, WWE has basically told their guys to cut out the piledriver. Once, it was a huge thing, often used as a finisher and devastating. However, at SummerSlam 97, Owen Hart broke Steve Austin’s neck with a piledriver gone wrong. While Austin returned, he was never quite the same and that the move nearly ended his career naturally hit McMahon hard. Thus, you can see how so many variations of the piledriver (such as Kevin Owen’s package one) aren’t accepted in WWE anymore.
Again, it can be used now and then with the okay from Vince but no one dares “improvise” with it anymore. The few times it is used it’s always part of the planned match so both guys are ready to do it properly. It robs a major move of WWE but given how risky it can be, that’s probably a good thing for careers.
1 The Curb Stomp
Some argue that this move isn’t as dangerous as others on the list. It was performed for years without problems and impressive. Indeed, Rollins has caused more damage with his power bombs into corners (see Finn Balor and Sting) than with this. But given the worries about injuries to the head, perhaps it’s not a surprise WWE has decided to do away with this. It’s a cool sight that’s led to great bits such as when Randy Orton memorably caught Rollins in mid-air for an RKO. But given the worries of concussions, it’s no surprise WWE has decided to cut down on a move that targets the head so much.
Indeed, it’s not hard to imagine something going wrong, Rollins coming down too hard on the wrong foot and causing some real damage to the opponent. Given the fears of concussions, more than one worker is probably happy this move got the boot from WWE.