The rules for inflicting pain in wrestling are quite different than the rules for hurting others in real life. Take the DDT, for instance. Although it used to be considered a bonafide instant opponent killer, these days, it’s generally used as a buildup move, deployed sometime around a match's midpoint. The DDT does significant damage, for sure, but it's nothing any of our favorite pretend fighters can’t bounce back from in a minute or two.
In real life, a DDT could easily crack your head open and/or break your neck and kill you.
Then we have the other side of the spectrum. In real life, if you punch a person in the face, it doesn’t matter if you do a little dance beforehand. Your punch will cause the same amount of harm to its target, regardless of how much style and pizzazz you add to its delivery. But as anyone who remembers the WWE's Attitude Era well will tell you, a normal Road Dogg punch might only fluster his opponent, while a haymaker that connected following Road Dogg's patented line dancing routine would knock a D-X adversary straight to the ground in a semi-conscious heap.
In wrestling, offensive moves become more powerful if showboating or prancing commences before or during their execution. Unfortunately, this phenomenon does not extend beyond the realm of sports entertainment, which means plenty of moves that annihilate pro wrestlers don't do as much, if any, damage here in stupid, boring reality.
Here, we’ve compiled “15 Wrestling Finishing Moves That (Probably) Wouldn’t Hurt In Real Life” - but we’re not implying that anyone should put our theories to the test themselves. In fact, we'd strongly discourage that. Imitating pro wrestlers is notoriously dangerous.
Let’s just say we’re not convinced these maneuvers - devastating though they may be in wrestling - would be as useful if applied in, let’s say, a bar fight.
13 Atomic Leg Drop
Let’s get one of the obvious less-than-convincing finishers out of the way first. Hulk Hogan has dropped the big leg to KO some of the most recognizable grapplers ever, in several of wrestling's most historic moments. However, while executing his dreaded Atomic Leg Drop, Hogan merely jumps up and lands butt first on the ground, thereby slamming the underside of his thigh and knee - the softest parts of his entire leg - into his opponent’s face. Not that we can say from experience, but odds are that in a real fight, anyone on the receiving end of an Atomic Leg Drop would spend a moment confused, then stand up, and continue pummeling whatever poor sucker had the misfortune of believing the power of Hulkamania could get them out of this jam.
12 The Iron Claw
The believably of a lot of these moves hinge entirely on the personality of the individual associated with them. For example, don’t try to tell us Fritz Von Erich couldn’t rip another man’s brain clean out of his skull with The Iron Claw, were he still walking among us today. But if an everyday individual such as you or I attempt to put another person to sleep by squeezing their forehead as hard as we can, odds are that we would fail miserably and look very silly in the process. See also: The Mandible Claw when assisted by Mr. Socko, and almost every other wrestling move called "The (Whatever) Claw."
11 The Worm
Once again, here we have an impressive feat of break dancing indelibly linked to Scotty 2 Hotty that adds force to its ensuing throat chop, only because that’s how wrestling rules work. In real life combat, expending the energy needed to propel one’s self forward whilst bouncing up and down on one’s stomach could quite possibly leave a person too winded to chop another individual with as much force as they could have, had they just forgone the preamble altogether. In fairness, Scotty and his 2 Cool brethren - who wielded magic, trance-and-dance-inducing sunglasses - never expressed much interest in plausibility and were all the better off for it.
10 The Tarantula
Technically not a finishing move, the singular Tarantula submission was introduced to mass audiences in the United States by the forever underrated Yoshihiro Tajiri in ECW and later WWE. Its uniqueness made it a special treat for onlookers and as long as Tajiri opponents remembered to sell it like the black plague, we knew it was working.
However, if Tajiri is hanging himself upside down on the ropes while locking in what's pretty much a modified Boston Crab, then where is his leverage coming from? Wouldn’t it be more effective to apply an ordinary Boston Crab, so he'd have the force of gravity working for him, instead of against him? Even with his opponent's legs suspended off the mat, wouldn’t it be easy for them, especially if they outmatched Tajiri’s physical strength, to power out of the hold and send Tajiri falling headfirst to the concrete floor? The Tarantula sure looks cool, but it isn't very practical.
9 The Masterlock
Chris Masters was pushed too hard, too fast during his early stints with the WWE, only to become a legitimately excellent worker just in time to get fired so he could go work the indies where everyone appreciates him. We’re pretty sure Masters goes to the gym quite a bit, so we won’t fool ourselves into thinking that we wouldn't squeal like little piggies if he bent our arms backward as hard as he could. But he had to have known he'd frequently find himself up against opponents who were just as strong, if not stronger, than he was in the WWE. What harm could a plain ol' full nelson do to someone like Big Show, unless Big Show was willing to pretend that the fairly basic submission put him in a new universe of pain (which he was, and likely did)? The Masterlock isn't harmless - but very poorly thought out.
10. Braun Strowman’s Death Hug
Bray Wyatt’s lieutenants make a habit of simple, yet indubitably brutal finishers. Luke Harper floors his opposition with a good ol’ fashioned discus clothesline, which suits his character. Same goes for Erick Rowan and the Warrior splash.
Meanwhile, Braun Strowman - Wyatt’s new haus - has repeatedly choked out Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns with a bear hug around their upper torsos and necks. On the one hand, when Strowman dispatches 2/3rds of the erstwhile Shield without looking like he’s trying very hard, he appears un-frickin’-stoppable, which is good.
On the other hand, the Death Hug stretches the fictional integrity of the Wyatt Family’s bi-weekly beatdowns. I mean, Reigns challenged Brock Lesnar and put up a respectable fight not long ago and now a dude who hasn’t even had a match yet can wreck him instantly with what’s essentially a headlock? Fortunately, Strowman’s still got that funky over-the-shoulder front slam to fall back on if the Death Hug starts to raise too many dubious eyebrows.
8 The Rear View
Picture this - you’re at a party and you overhear an obnoxious fellow party guest make disparaging, disturbingly specific comments regarding an elder female member of your immediate family. In the interest of defending your dear relative's honor, you request that said stranger join you outside, as you intend to teach this ruffian the consequences of spreading such slander in your presence. Upon engaging in unarmed, at least partially, drunken combat, you spin around, jump up, and bludgeon the bastard with your butt - one of the cushiest parts of your entire anatomy. How do you envision that going over?
7 Diving Headbutt
Among the all-time classic finishers - utilized by the mythic Bam Bam Bigelow and the tainted He Who Shall Not Be Named - the diving headbutt consists of belly flopping off the top rope and landing stomach-first on the mat while your forehead strikes your opposition’s shoulder. Basic common sense informs us that the wrestler executing the diving headbutt would harm themselves more significantly than their felled attacker. Unless, of course, they have totally badass tattoos all over their skull, as was the case with Bam Bam. Just like dancing and posturing, tattoos makes things hurt more in wrestling.
6 The Stump Puller
Here he have the match ender of choice of Doink the Clown during his pre-friendly clown days and we're pretty sure it was deployed by Goldust for a short while, although the elder Rhodes brother likely renamed it “The Director’s Chair” or some such pun involving sitting and movies.
The Stump Puller involves sitting on an opponent's shoulders, grabbing their leg, and pulling it up. Granted, that’s a difficult position to free oneself from - but it wouldn’t even annoy anyone with a background in martial arts or gymnastics. Did Rob Van Dam ever submit to a stump puller? Of course not. RVD touches his forehead to his knee for fun.
6. The Torture Rack
Y’know, in theory, maybe it would hurt like crazy if someone lifted you up and bent your entire back at an unnatural angle. And with nothing to kick or punch at except thin air, most mortals would have no choice but to tap out upon finding themselves suspended in the Argentine back breaker...assuming whoever put them in that position wielded supernatural strength. In practice, people with supernatural strength don't exist. Lex Luger certainly never made the torture rack look convincing - it mostly played out like an opportunity to show off his abs. Then again, you could say something similar about Luger's entire repertoire.
5 Airplane Spin
Even by old school standards, the Airplane Spin - utilized as a finisher by the highly reputable likes of Madusa and Dominic DeNucci - emphasizes style over substance. Rendering your opponent too dizzy to remember what state they’re in could surely leave them inert enough to pin, of course. But wouldn’t spinning around in a circle long enough to clutter their cerebellum leave you even dizzier? For that matter, isn’t your opponent pretty much taking a break while trapped on your shoulders, while you expend as much energy as possible to keep the spin going perpetually? The Airplane Spin is a bad idea.
4 The People’s Elbow
Of course, if a person is lying on the ground and someone else drives their elbow as hard as possible into that person’s chest, then that individual could well find themselves in immediate need of medical attention. But The People's Elbow is no ordinary elbow drop. In order to execute The People's Elbow, The Rock must complete a ritual of grandstanding that includes tossing his elbow pad into the crowd, raising his eyebrow, waving his arms about, and getting a completely superfluous running start. Then, he has to stop abruptly, thereby nullifying whatever momentum bouncing off the ropes might’ve added to the final impact, before finally nailing the elbow and invariably chalking up another victory. As we've established, outside of a pro wrestling ring, you cannot harm another human being by making funny faces or waving your arms around. That’s why there aren’t any laws against those things.
3 Bushwacker Battering Ram
Where to start with this guy? Hm. Well, in theory, either Luke or Butch grabs the other one in a headlock, then rushes straight into their opposition, so as to strike with an accelerated headbutt. In practice, it’s just a shoulder block with a lot more grunting and outdated Australian stereotyping involved.
Fun fact about the Bushwackers - In a classic episode of Family Matters, Steve Urkel and Carl Winslow assumed the masked identities of “The Psycho Twins” to take on The Bushwackers. Steve and Carl were rolled to the ring in straightjackets while tied to upright stretchers and the crowd broke into a riot before the match could reach a formal conclusion. The similarities to Sabu's original gimmick, and the riots that often brought ECW cards to a close, are downright suspicious. Did Paul Heyman steal the idea for ECW from Family Matters? Maybe! Who knows?!
2 Corkscrew Noogie
Yeah, we know. “Corkscrew Noogie” sounds an awful lot like a parody wrestling move that Jimmy Fallon’s writing staff tossed together for a skit to run during a Rock guest appearance, or some such silliness. But it was real. There’s a YouTube video of it and everything. And in its day, it was considered a deadly coup de grace from one of the most recognizable crossover stars of the era.
Sgt. Slaughter would later become better known for dispatching opponents with the Cobra Clutch, a modified sleeper that looked convincing enough to suffice for the ‘80s. The Corkscrew Noogie would be forgotten in the annuals of wrestling history, were it not one of the few maneuvers that we’re completely certain is safe to try at home.
1 The Finger Poke Of Doom
It was only used once, but in an important enough match to warrant inclusion on this list. Furthermore, we’re absolutely, 100 percent, no doubts whatsoever, certain that The Finger Poke of Doom does not hurt at all when attempted in the real world.
Hulk Hogan’s a pretty big dude and, therefore, it goes without saying that he brandishes a comparatively mighty finger poke. But shortly before I wrote this, I executed the Finger Poke of Doom on my cat, just to confirm its uselessness. I outweigh my cat by at least 100 pounds, but despite my obvious strength advantage, my feline companion reacted by sniffing my hand and scampering off as if entirely unharmed and unfazed. Could a mere finger poke - even from the mighty Hulkster - topple the 7-foot-tall Kevin Nash? No, sir, we think not.
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