Some cynics out there may see wrestling finishing moves as merely part of a fake simulation that includes choreographed action. There may be some validity to such opinions, but remember that finishing “moves” have also been part of legitimate combat sports for decades. Ronda Rousey, for example, routinely utilized an arm bar submission as her finishing move as she made her way up the ranks in Strikeforce. Multiple competitors in the Ultimate Fighting Championship were aware Rousey was keen on locking that hold in and yet they were nevertheless submitted due to Rousey’s skill and also the painful nature of the move. It’s no different than when “Nature Boy” Ric Flair would work on somebody’s leg before putting on his figure four. A match was often over once Flair locked that hold in.
Some professional wrestlers, over time, change their finishing moves for one reason or another. Age and also injuries accumulated throughout a career can affect such a decision. In other instances, a wrestler alters his finishing move because his gimmick and/or his character changed after making a switch to a different promotion. Some of the greatest and most successful performers in the history of World Wrestling Entertainment had multiple finishing moves over the years. You may have forgotten, for example, that “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels did not always finish opponents with a boot that was the infancy of what we now refer to as a “Superkick Party.” We can’t help but wonder if Michaels would be the legend he is today if he would’ve kept his original finishing move.
15 Booker T - Harlem Hangover
Wrestling fans of a certain age or those who did not watch World Championship Wrestling in the 1990s and early 2000s may only associate former World Champion Booker T with moves such as the axe kick, “Book End” and, of course, his beloved “Spinaroonie.”
Before he was a singles star competing for titles at WrestleManias, Booker T was part of the tag team Harlem Heat. Harlem Heat often won matches due to Booker hitting the “Harlem Hangover,” a somersault leg drop that he delivered off of the top rope onto an opponent.
Those who watched Booker work know he is no small man. That was especially the case when he was in his physical prime. Booker moving on from that finishing move after he joined WWE was probably for the best for all involved. Doing any type of leg drop off the top rope night after night can do quite a lot of damage to one’s body.
14 The Undertaker - Heatseeking Missile
The Undertaker is a remarkable athlete for a man his size. He was built like a National Basketball Association power forward and yet could fly off the top rope with ease.
Before his days as a supernatural dead man, The Undertaker wrestled under the name “Mean” Mark Callous. One of his finishing moves, at the time, was the “Heatseeking Missile,” a diving elbow drop delivered after he completed a few steps away from the turnbuckle while on the top rope. Little did wrestling fans know at the time Undertaker was giving us an early look at what we would later refer to as his “Old School” chop.
We don’t know, as of September 2016, if we will ever again see The Undertaker complete a rope walk during a match. Taker doing so always drew a pop from fans because we feared a man of his size could topple all the way down to the floor even though Undertaker made that walk probably over a 1,000 times during his legendary career.
13 Kevin Nash - Snake Eyes
Kevin Nash wrestled under multiple gimmicks and characters during his pro wrestling career before he became Diesel and before he helped launch the New World Order storyline in WCW. It, thus, goes without saying that Nash used finishing moves other than the powerbomb earlier in his career. The “Snake Eyes,” a move Nash continued to use long after it stopped being his finisher, involved the big man tossing an opponent from his shoulder down to one of the top turnbuckles inside of a ring. That move looked good, on television, in part because of Nash’s large frame. It was not nearly as impressive as the “Jackknife” powerbomb though and it is probably a good thing Nash moved on to that finisher once he became a singles act in the WWE.
There are likely still pockets of fans out there who would say Nash’s powerbomb is the best in the history of the WWE.
12 Randy Orton - O-Zone
The WWE seemingly did not know what to do with Randy Orton during his early days with the company after he was called up to the main roster in 2002. Orton’s character was bland, to the point that he was just a guy wrestling on shows such as SmackDown.
Orton used the “O-Zone,” the overdrive neckbreaker that was later utilized on WWE shows by the wrestler known as Montel Vontavious Porter (MVP). Somebody working within the WWE eventually realized Orton needed and, in reality, deserved a better finisher. Thus, the “RKO” was born. This modified version of the “Diamond Cutter” used by Diamond Dallas Page during his days in WCW is, even today, a move that always brings fans to its feet, particularly when Orton hits it “out of nowhere.”
Orton always possessed the necessary skills to be a star. Having such a dynamic finishing move helped push him to the next level.
11 Jack Swagger - Gutwrench Falling Powerbomb
We can hear some WWE fans out there all asking the same thing upon getting to this portion of the piece: “Jack Swagger has a finishing move?!?” Swagger has not only had multiple finishing moves, most notably the ankle lock, throughout his WWE career. He even won matches with those moves! Swagger, legitimately one of the better overall wrestlers and athletes on the WWE roster when at his physical peak, utilized the gutwrench falling powerbomb after he was called up to the main roster. He continued using that finishing move for years even after the WWE stopped pushing him as a true main event act.
In September 2016, the WWE moved Swagger to SmackDown and teased that he could become something noteworthy on that brand. We’ll see if the WWE chooses to push Swagger up through the end of the year. Maybe Swagger will even get another new finishing move. It couldn’t hurt the guy.
10 A.J. Styles - Spiral Tap
We will just come right out and say we are glad A.J. Styles rarely uses the “Spiral Tap” corkscrew senton bomb now that he is a member of the WWE roster. Too many things could go wrong for Styles and also for an opponent. It is also worth saying that Styles doesn’t need to perform such a move at this stage of his career.
The “Styles Clash” is over with fans all around the world. The WWE has done well to make it known Styles can submit opponents using the “Calf Crusher” finishing move. Even Styles’ springboard forearm smash has helped him win matches and that move looks incredible each time Styles delivers it.
It is only a positive for a wrestler to have multiple finishing moves in his arsenal. Styles could go ahead and retire moves such as the “Spiral Tap” for good without fans even noticing he no longer uses them.
9 Paige - Paige-Turner
Paige has been in wrestling headlines in 2016 for a variety of reasons. She was sidelined in August due to injury and she has not, as of the posting of this piece, wrestled since the WWE Draft that occurred in July. We then learned that Paige received a suspension due to allegedly violating the WWE Wellness Policy.
When, or if, Paige returns to WWE programming, we don’t expect to see her use the “Paige-Turner.” Not only is this a horrible and goofy name for a finishing move. The move looks weird and, for lack of a better description, fake. Paige has used multiple different submission holds while wrestling in both NXT and WWE and each of those were better than the “Paige-Turner.”
Assuming that Paige's days with the company are not up and that she will remain with the WWE up through the end of 2016, we’d like to see her go back to those finishing maneuvers.
8 Sami Zayn - Super Brainbuster
We aren’t sure how one would accurately spell “Brainbustaaaaahhhhh!!!” so we, instead, will refer to the finishing move once used by the wrestler now known as Sami Zyan as a super brainbuster. There are multiple reasons why you probably won’t see Sami Zayn routinely use this as his finishing move while working underneath the WWE umbrella.
The former El Generico lacks size when compared with many competitors currently on the WWE roster. Certain individuals running the WWE probably would not want to see any wrestler perform a brainbuster from the top rope onto any opponent. The “Helluva Kick” is a perfectly acceptable finishing move for Zayn, and it is one that is safe for both Zayn and any opponent.
Zayn has shown over the past several years that he does not need a different finishing move to take part in match of the year candidates in NXT and in WWE.
7 Kevin Owens - Package Piledriver
An argument could be made that Kevin Owens is the best overall worker on the Raw brand as of the fall of 2016. Owens has had memorable matches with performers such as Sami Zayn, Finn Balor and John Cena since he first arrived in NXT.
The WWE has teased Owens using several different finishing moves other than the pop-up powerbomb. One of those moves, the package piledriver, is a finisher Owens used when wrestling as Kevin Steen. The package piledriver looks impressive when it is performed inside of a ring or off a turnbuckle. For the purposes of the WWE and WWE television production, though, the pop-up powerbomb is a better overall finisher for a wrestler such as Owens.
The WWE seemingly appreciates what the company has in Owens, as he became the second WWE Universal Champion in September 2016. We look forward to Owens continuing to produce memorable matches on shows such as Raw and at pay-per-view events.
6 Brock Lesnar - Shooting Star Press
Be thankful Brock Lesnar no longer uses the shooting star press at WWE shows. Lesnar, who flew off of top ropes during matches while making his way through Ohio Valley Wrestling, injured himself while attempting to land the shooting star press on Kurt Angle during the main event of WrestleMania XIX. Angle was positioned closer to the center of the ring than near the turnbuckle and the two wrestlers did not change things on the fly for whatever reason. Lesnar, thus, accidentally spiked himself when he landed in the ring and he is, to this day, lucky that he did not suffer a serious neck injury.
That moment could have ended his career, or done even worse damage, had he landed directly on the top of his head. The “F-5“ is a great finishing move that draws pops from fans and it is one Lesnar can perform on just about every opponent.
Lesnar, a former Heavyweight Champion in the UFC, stays grounded during matches these days.
5 Edge - Several
One wonders if Edge’s career, and his life, would be different today had he stuck with one of his other finishing moves rather than the spear. Maybe Edge’s neck would have been better off in the end.
Edge was one of several wrestlers in the WWE to use the reverse STO. The “Buzzkiller,” “Edgecution” and “Impaler DDT” were names all given to Edge’s lifting DDT. Edge had a submission, the “Edgecator,” as a finishing move that got over with fans. We’ll even throw his one-man “Con-Chair-To” onto the list.
Edge was an innovative performer as a tag team wrestler and also as a singles act who won multiple championship titles. It’s a shame Edge was forced to retire because of problems stemming from neck injuries, as he could have had memorable matches with multiple talented performers who signed with the WWE over the past four years.
4 CM Punk - Pepsi Plunge
For all we know, we may see CM Punk use this finishing move in a wrestling company that isn’t the WWE at some point in the future. There is one obvious reason why Punk never utilized the “Pepsi Plunge” during his days in the WWE and it has nothing to do with sponsorship deals or trademark concerns.
This facebuster is, essentially, a diving version of the “Pedigree” Punk would hit off of a turnbuckle to win a match while wrestling in organizations such as Ring of Honor. Knowing all we know now about why Punk left the WWE before signing with UFC, there is a little humor in knowing Punk and Triple H shared versions of the same finishing move. Maybe, one day, those two will learn they have more in common than they think. Then again, we don’t expect to ever again see Punk wrestle in a WWE ring unless we’re doing so watching older events via the WWE Network.
3 Steve Austin - Stun Gun
Steve Austin was not always so “Stone Cold” of a character. Austin was “Stunning” while wrestling in WCW, which made it only fitting he used a finishing move known as the “Stun Gun” during that portion of his career.
Austin, forcing the throat of an opponent downward onto the top rope via a hangman made for a solid finisher at the time, even if it was one suited for a midcard act and not a wrestler pushed in main events. You may also remember Austin used the “Million Dollar Dream” during the first stage of his WWE career when he had “Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase as a manager.
Things in wrestling often come full circle and Austin eventually settled on the “Stunner” as his finishing move. That became arguably the most iconic finishing move of all the “Attitude Era” and it is one fans want to see to this day whenever Austin appears on a WWE show.
2 John Cena - Protobomb
Something about the “Protobomb,” a spin-out powerbomb, just looks unimpressive as a finishing move. That probably had something to do with John Cena turning this version of a powerbomb into one of his signature moves after he was called up to the main roster. Granted, the “Attitude Adjustment” is hardly a terrorizing wrestling move when compared with other finishers. It is, however, over among fans and it is also safe to perform. Cena’s version of the “STF” is also seen as legitimate. He used it to defeat Triple H and retain his championship at a WrestleMania.
Cena’s spin-out powerbomb now precedes his “Five-Knuckle Shuffle,” a somewhat-dated move that still attracts pops from fans inside of arenas. Cynics can say whatever they want about Cena’s move-sets. He is unquestionably one of the biggest stars in WWE history and the face of pro wrestling for fans who grew up watching Cena.
1 Shawn Michaels - Teardrop Suplex
It’s interesting to think of how things could have gone differently in certain situations. After the WWE broke The Rockers team up, Shawn Michaels used a superkick as a lead-up to his “Teardrop Suplex” finishing move. That suplex was hardly anything special and it really didn’t stand out all that much. Can you imagine Michaels hitting a suplex to defeat Bret “Hitman” Hart in the middle of the ring at a WrestleMania? It doesn’t even look right in your mind. The move basically looked like a lazy version of the Angle Slam.
Everything about the superkick that became “Sweet Chin Music,” however, makes it a great finishing move. Michaels hesitated in order to build anticipation among fans. The kick helped Michales win championships, which made it get over with fans. It was simple, easy to do and it downed opponents of varying sizes and talents. One could suggest Michaels wouldn’t be a legend of the industry had he never moved on from a suplex as a finisher.
Pat Patterson was ultimately the driving force as to why Shawn eventually finished with his breathtaking superkick, just another brilliant decision by the Quebecer.