Over the past several decades, the in-ring style of professional wrestling has changed drastically. Contrast a match from 1987 with a match from 2006, and in general you'll notice a much quicker style, containing more high-impact maneuvers. As such, the finishing moves used back in the earlier days of the business were significantly less flashy than many of the ones used today. Some would use the term "less exciting," but it probably speaks more to the emphasis on psychology in the older days than anything else. Certainly, there were no Canadian Destroyer-type finishers around back then, but some would argue that the product had a better sense of storytelling.
Either way, it's safe to say that there are a number of moves that we just won't see as a finisher in this day and age. In fact, many of the moves showcased on this list probably aren't used in many present-day repertoires in general. Arguments can be made for and against expanded move-sets, but it definitely speaks to a change to the in-ring product. While many of these moves are iconic because of the wrestlers who utilized them, they just wouldn't make it in today's version of the business.
Ranked below are 15 finishing moves that just don't work anymore.
Though it's been utilized in many classic matches involving Bret Hart and Sting, the move itself just doesn't carry the clout it once did in the wrestling world. Part of this is because of the star-power of the wrestlers who used it, but in general, submission holds have largely been replaced for more high-impact moves as finishers. While the Sharpshooter is still a classic move in its own right, it's hard to see an up-and-coming star use this as their signature in today's in-ring style. It was a great move for it's time, and was the featured move for a couple of the best wrestlers ever, but it's also very much a product of its time, and won't see heavy use ever again.
20 Perfect Plex
Curt Hennig was one of WWEs top stars of the early-90s, as his arrogant Mr. Perfecvt character, and had a great technical, stiff style that was in vogue at the time. His finisher, a single-leg suplex that he dubbed the Perfect Plex, was also suitable for the time, but wouldn't work as well today. Despite the move being a good one for the middle of a match, it wasn't very high-impact, and it's success relied more on the Mr. Perfect character itself, rather than the actual merits of the move. It worked for the time period, and it doubled as a pinning combination, but it's hard to see anyone today making it their finisher. Not a "boring" move necessarily, but one that doesn't have the high-impact style, or top notch athleticism to make it very interesting to the modern fan.
Now, the DDT is one of the most influential and groundbreaking moves of all time, and back in the day, Jake "The Snake" Roberts was able to use it with shocking and devastating results. Today, however, a regular DDT with no variation isn't going to pass the test as a finishing maneuver. Part of the reason is that it's so synonymous with legends such as Jake Roberts and Raven, but also that it's been worked into most move sets as a move that's completed in the middle of a match, lessening the impact it would have as a finisher. It's wildly influential, and was a real step-up from most moves of its day, but it's best used as a set up move today, rather than the featured one in any given wrestlers arsenal. Still, when it was invented, it was a shocking and devastating move in the landscape of WWE.
18 Big Splash
A favorite of the super-heavyweights of the squared circle, the Big Splash is simple, yet awe-inspiring when you see a wrestling with massive bulk use it to finish off a match. It's been utilized by the likes of Earthquake, Vader, and the One Man Gang over the years, and really helped each of them get over with the crowd, as the move accentuated their massive size. It's also an easy move for the opponent to sell, making it look completely devastating and crushing every time it's delivered. Still, today it's almost reached the status of cliche, and feel like it belongs in the ranks of the move sets of the 80s and 90s. It's unlikely to disappear completely, but it was a move better suited to previous eras of wrestling, and today wouldn't have as much of an impact.
Much like the DDT, in it's heyday, this move was a brutal, high-impact maneuver that would bring any crowd to its feet. Jerry "The King" Lawler would use this as his finisher for most of his career, and it was always a showstopper. As the years wore on however, more wrestlers began using it, and the ubiquity of the move pretty much prevented it from anyone using it as their finisher today. It's also used less today because of the potential damage that can be done to the head and neck area of the wrestling selling the move. Moreso however, it's just fallen out of favor because of its usage rate, and it wouldn't really impress an audience today, as they've likely seen it hundreds of times at this point. Definitely a classic, but the move is definitely past its prime as a go-to finisher.
16 Sleeper Hold
This move just screams "1980s," and it was used all over the place by a majority of wrestlers in that era. Specifically it was the finishing move of "Rowdy" Roddy Piper, and he put many opponents down with it during his career. Again, this is a move that worked within the landscape of the business at the time, when matches didn't need to conclude with a massive high-spot, or devastating impact to catch an audiences attention. For Piper, the Sleeper provided enough suspense at the end of a match, and usually it was a fitting ending. Today, it would be more difficult to pull off, because of the way move sets have expanded over the years. To end with it in a match today would be relatively anti-climactic, and wouldn't really fit with the other moves that were likely used during the match.
A good Lariat can still be a significant part of a move set, but it's days as the featured move of a wrestler are pretty much over. It worked for some wrestlers as a finisher, such as Stan Hansen and Bradshaw, but it's difficult to pull off to close a match. The key for them is that they were able to deliver it with such force that it was a high-impact maneuver. If it isn't sold correct however, it just looks like a regular Clothesline, so it's a thin line that the move treads to begin with. Ultimately, it probably just isn't worth it for most wrestlers to use it as a finisher, even though a few have made it work in the past. This one was great for it's heyday, but it's unlikely that you'll see many modern wrestlers use it as the high-point for any match.
9 Figure-Four Leg Lock
One of the best submission holds of all time, but one that is also synonymous with Ric Flair, meaning that any new wrestler who uses it at all (much less as a finisher), isn't going to gain the respect of the audience. Seriously, whenever this move is used in front of just about any crowd today, the audience will unleash a plethora of Nature Boy-inspired "WOOOs" that echo throughout the venue. This move is forever cemented as one of Flair's staples, and isn't going to gain any traction with any wrestler who tries it today. So it's a great move, but given that such a legendary wrestler used it for nearly their entire career all over the biggest cards in the world, it's pretty much rendered useless today, unless a wrestler just wants to be ironic. Flair owns this one, so it's best just left in the past.
8 Swinging Neckbreaker
This move was certified as a lame finisher once The Honky Tonk Man started using it, and it hasn't really recovered since. It was always better suited as a move used in the middle of a match, and today it's no exception. There's really not much to say about it except that it's a product of its time as a finisher, and you're unlikely to see it used that way today, at least in its original form. It's not a bad move necessarily, just not one that will resonate with the modern audience, and should pretty much be relegated to old Coliseum Video tapes from the 80s. Again, given that The Honky Tonk Man used it as his go-to, it's automatically lame by association, and definitely doesn't have a place with any wrestler trying to make a name for themselves today.
6 Diving Elbow Drop
The move popularized by the "Macho Man" Randy Savage -and butchered by CM Punk- the Diving Elbow Drop won't be winning any matches for anyone anytime soon. The move has been used by many wrestlers throughout history, including Shawn Michaels, which was usually a set up to his Sweet Chin Music. That's the point we're trying to make: it's a great maneuver (Vince Mcmahon would agree) that looks impressive, but ultimately it hasn't put anyone away in a long, long time. Zack Ryder may still use his El-BRO Drop, but unless he becomes a little more relevant, he's not going to be winning matches with it - and neither is anyone else for that matter.
The Spear was never a good finisher, even though Rhyno has done his best with it over the years in WWE and ECW, and still uses it on the Indy scene today. It was better utilized as a set up to a finisher, the way Goldberg typically used it in WCW. Either way, today it won't carry as much clout, and it's been used so much these two aforementioned stars, that a new talent using it would be far too derivative. Ultimately, the only two who can really pull it off are Goldberg and Rhyno, and over a decade ago at that. It doesn't really have a place as a finisher in the current wrestling landscape, and should best be left alone as a product of the Y2K era of wrestling.
4 Leg Drop
This one is one of the most obvious, but Hogan's Leg Drop is one of the worst finishers ever, and ironically became thew signature maneuver for the most popular wrestler in history. It's just a bad move that has no place closing a match, no matter what era it was used in. The only reason Hogan continued to use it was most likely that he had been consistently using it as Hulkamania became a phenomenon in the mid-80s, and wanted to establish continuity with the move. There's really no other logic, as by nature it is nothing more than a stale finisher that would be a simple transition move in a match for anybody else. No, it wouldn't work today as a finisher, but the better question is: would any wrestler really want to use it in the first place?
3 Full Nelson
Now here's a submission maneuver that definitely won't be anyone's signature move again any time soon. The Full Nelson, even back in the 80s, always reeked of an amateur wrestling-specific move. Nothing wrong with that, but it always seemed out of place as a finisher in professional wrestling, despite being used as such by 80s WWE talent like Billy Jack Haynes and Hercules, and then later on, Chris Masters. To use it as a finisher today would just be ridiculous however, and it simply wouldn't get the job done. It barely worked back in the 80s, so audiences today wouldn't be satisfied with such a basic maneuver that can be so easily performed by just about anyone, even people without a wrestling background. Definitely a move that should be retired.
A great move that's pretty much become a parody of itself. As many times as the Undertaker and Kane have used this over the years, the thought of anyone else using it is pretty laughable. It's been used in just about every situation, with varying degrees of theatrics behind it, and there's nothing new or exciting about it anymore. Much like many other moves on this list, it's become an established part of a particular wrestlers move set, and would be pointless for anybody else to try and appropriate. When the Undertake began using it in the 90s, the move was fresh, and left audiences in awe. Today, it's been seen thousands of times, and has lost most of its original edge. It won't help a new wrestler get over, and instead be viewed as a cheap imitation of a move that belongs to several WWE legends.
Pound for pound, the Powerbomb may be the most renowned move in wrestling history, and has mostly crossed over to mainstream culture. Seriously; everyone knows this move. How it happened exactly is difficult to say, but the fact that it came along in the 90s, just as wrestling was hitting it's peak in television ratings may have had something to do with it. We've seen numerous wrestlers use it over the years, from Kevin Nash to Sid Vicious, and the replay value on the move has pretty much been worn out at this point. Simply, no one can use it as a finisher today without ripping off a ton of wrestlers from the past. It still has a place, but using it to end a match today just isn't going to cut it, and won't satisfy an audience. To see the move get a top-notch reaction from the crowd, just watch a rerun of Monday Nitro in 1998, and you'll see all the Powerbombs you can imagine.
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