There are several factors that help define the Superstars of WWE, enabling them to set themselves apart from the pack and giving fans reason to care about them, whether that means cheering them or booing them. There's the persona they inject into their characters, their mic skills and even their entrance music. One often overlooked factor in what truly represents a superstar is their move set, and most specifically their finisher.
Contrary to what some may think, the key to developing a great finisher isn't merely finding a cool, flashy move that no one else does. A wrestler's finishing move should be unique, but it also must be suited to their character, be executable in an organic way and - and this is important - look like it can believably keep an opponent down for the three count. Meeting these parameters have helped shape some of the most iconic finishing moves in WWE history, from the Undertaker's Tombstone Piledriver to Triple H's Pedigree to Steve Austin's Stone Cold Stunner. It's also probably why Scotty Too Hotty and Santino Marella could never advance past mid-card purgatory with their respective Worm and Cobra finishers.
Strangely, however, there is no perfect correlation between the quality of a WWE superstar and the effectiveness of their finisher. Stars like Hulk Hogan and The Rock reached the pinnacle of WWE despite closing out matches with moves that appeared less than threatening (the boot and leg drop combo and the Rock Bottom, respectively), while some of the company's best current finishers - such as Bray Wyatt's Sister Abigail and The Miz's Skull-Crushing Finale - come from talent outside the main event scene. Still, it takes a special kind of superstar to overcome a bad finishing move. Right now, in their watered down PG era, WWE has a litany of Superstars who are trying their best to forge on despite some pretty lame finishers.
15 Finn Balor
Few wrestlers have arrived in WWE with the "it" factor held so firmly within their grasp as did Finn Balor - first in NXT and as a member of the Raw roster since then. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he became the company's first ever Universal Champion mere weeks into his main roster arrival. Nevertheless, from his rugged good looks to his cool entrance to his leather jacket collar pops, Balor carries the type of dynamic charisma that you only see from the top tier of Superstars. To further cement his status as a future franchise player for WWE, he's also an excellent worker who can tell a compelling story in the ring - and that's even without his 'Demon King' alter ego.
Where Balor doesn't quite yet have the makings of a future multiple time World Champion is in his move set. While "Slingblade" showcases his athleticism, it appears to boast the impact of a basic clothesline. Furthermore, his "Coup de Grace" finisher doesn't quite live up to its name. Despite bearing "grace" in the title, Balor's top rope double foot stomp carries little of it. More often than not, the move causes the leader of the Balor Club to stumble backwards onto his rear end before going in for the pin. Though it does showcase the Irishman's aerial ability, the move stands in direct contrast to Balor's cool demeanor and doesn't look all that painful, either.
14 Luke Harper
We haven't seen much of Luke Harper on WWE TV lately, let alone his discus clothesline finisher. Maybe with a better move to finish off opponents, the former Wyatt Family member might be getting a little more TV time these days. You can't blame Harper for lacking originality, what with his standout look and a creative, true-to-character move set that includes the gator roll. Few wrestlers remain as consistent with their character as does Harper with his backwoods wildman persona, complete with an unkempt beard and greasy white tank top.
Why, then, is he finishing off opponents with a cute little Spinning CCothesline? The maneuver hardly seems like something out of the playbook of a guy like Harper, projecting neither the high level of violence that he is reputed to dish out nor his spontaneous, offensive style. The decision to have Harper use a Discus clothesline seems even more dubious when you consider his immense level of athletic ability for a big man. Surely there's a bigger impact finisher to better suit his character than a spinning clothesline, no matter how well his opponent sells it. A better finisher might be the difference between a meaningful singles run for Harper and continuing to team with the likes of Sin Cara in dark matches.
13 Akira Tozawa
WWE clearly sees something in Akira Tozawa that goes beyond the vast majority of the rather underwhelming 205 Live roster. He has earned TV time on both the cruiserweight-exclusive program and on Raw and has been paired with Titus O'Neill as part of his Titus Worldwide stable. While these are hardly harbingers of a main event run, they represent far more creative direction than, say, Cedric Alexander is currently getting. Sure enough, WWE fans seem to be catching on too. Live crowds have been serenading Tozawa with his signature "hah!" chant.
Now, about that finisher... Tozawa's diving senton seems - on the surface - to be an exciting aerial maneuver befitting a high-flying cruiserweight. Put into practice, however, it seems to be severely lacking. For one thing, his leaping back bump simply doesn't match the visual spectacle of some of the more death-defying moves of his cruiserweight cohorts, most notably Neville's Red Arrow. On top of that, there are far worse fates to suffer as a wrestler than having a 175-pound opponent fall on you from the top rope. It hardly seems impactful enough to put an end to Neville's long championship reign at SummerSlam.
12 Dolph Ziggler
WWE fans are never shy about openly griping when their favorite superstar isn't getting the type of lofty billing befitting their talent. Few wrestlers have been chosen as regularly as a cause celebre among fans for a deserved push as Dolph Ziggler, who has yet to gain any kind of traction on the Smackdown brand following a heel turn earlier this year and might be in line for a re-packaging soon. While Ziggler has always thrived when selling an opponent's offensive attack, it is his own move set that has seemingly played a role in holding him back.
Despite being an elite in-ring talent, the "Showoff" has surprisingly little to show of his own. He has borrowed moves made more famous by others like the superkick and Fame-asser, and then there's the finisher. The "Zig-Zag", essentially a leaping neck breaker, carries neither the flashy visual presence nor evident impact that you really want from your finishing move. Looks-wise, it appears sloppy and awkward while not really offering a clear sense of whether Ziggler or his opponent takes the brunt of the impact. Plus, as finishers go, a neck breaker - even a leaping one - doesn't quite cut it as a believable way to put your foe down for good in 2017.
11 Alexa Bliss
On a recent edition of WWE Network show "Bring it to the Table", Sasha Banks was asked her opinion on who has the worst finisher in the company. After some hesitation, she went with Alexa Bliss, ostensibly to remain in character in putting down an on-air foe while also avoiding getting on the wrong side of one of her colleagues. Whether kayfabe or not on a show known to blur the lines, Banks happened to be quite accurate in her response. Though maybe not the worst finisher in WWE (this list still has 10 to go), Bliss' Twisted Bliss seems hardly befitting the Raw Women's Champion.
The move, also referred to as the Sparkle Splash, is simply a top rope splash, albeit with a literal twist in that Bliss contorts her body mid-air so that her head winds up between her opponent and the turnbuckle. If done right, it can at least look like a semi-impressive bit of aerial acrobatics. As an offensive fighting move, however, it looks pretty benign and not terribly threatening. Bliss plays the role of a cowardly heel, so maybe a lethal finisher isn't entirely necessary for her. Still, it is telling that since coming to Raw in the post-'Mania Superstar Shakeup, she has been mostly booked to win matches through cheap roll-ups and other nefarious means rather than using her finisher.
10 Jeff Hardy
The Charismatic Enigma may not be the main event singles star that he was during his previous WWE run many years ago, but he and brother Matt have gone back to electrifying crowds as a thrilling tag team ever since their surprise return at WrestleMania. The returning Hardys are a little older and have tweaked their persona to subtly hint at the popular 'Broken' gimmick from TNA that they don't have the rights to. But they certainly haven't been forgotten by the fans, some of whom have carried over from their previous run with the company and others who have come to follow the brothers in the years since.
One thing that, unfortunately, hasn't changed is their finishers. While Matt's Twist of Fate carries at least some level of flash even if it doesn't look overly painful, Jeff's Whisper in the Wind swanton doesn't have too many redeeming qualities. The excitement value in the move comes almost exclusively in the potential damage it could do to Hardy, himself - he ducks his head at the very last second to narrowly avoid a scary neck injury. His opponent, meanwhile, is gently grazed by the back of Jeff's neck, with barely any force behind it. One look at the move makes one wonder how Jeff can be a part of a tandem that goes by the moniker of 'Team Extreme.'
9 Big Show
In the case of most entries on this list, the lameness of the finisher is owed, at least in part, to the fact that it doesn't appear to carry the type of potent impact that could plausibly put its recipient down for the count. That isn't a problem with Big Show's WMD punch. Getting cracked in the skull by the massive fist of the man known as the "World's Largest Athlete" makes for a pretty convincing knockout blow. More often than not, it is successful in at least appearing to connect flush on his opponent's cranium, having been most recently used at the expense of Big Cass. But although the punch, itself, looks pretty legit, it is the circumstances around the WMD that strain credibility.
Basically, if you start giving any level of thought to Big Show's finisher, it stops making sense. The big man, after all, will typically use a litany of punches over the course of a match, and yet this one specific blow is the put away shot? If its just like any other punch he throws, then why is this the one that ends his opponent's night? If it carries a special dose of additional oomph, then why doesn't Big Show bring it out at the earlier opportunity in the contest? Even if you are able to turn your brain off and not raise any of these questions, its hard to deny that there's something inherently lazy about using a standing punch as a finishing move in 2017, particularly after spending so much of your career using a pretty formidable chokeslam.
8 Sami Zayn
Like Dolph Ziggler before him, Sami Zayn has been tagged with the lovable loser role on Smackdown - an underdog who shows great fire and endears himself to fans, but is ultimately booked to lose more often than not. This also means that he is better defined as the guy who winds up on the receiving end of most of the offense rather than the aggressor. It's probably for the best, given some of his move set. While no one can question the in-ring excellence of Zayn or the level of excitement he brings through his brand of manic energy, he simply doesn't have a believable way to put away an opponent.
Zayn would likely be best off using his Blue Thunder Bomb spinning sitout powerbomb, but that hasn't been used frequently to finish off opponents since he hit the main roster. On the rare occasion that Zsyn does get a clean win, he most often uses the Helluva Kick, a move better in name than execution. Essentially, he runs across the ring and levels his opponent with a running boot to the face as the victim stands prone by the turnbuckle. Aside from needing a credulity-straining level of cooperation from said opponent, the kick comes off looking like more of a transition move than a finisher.
7 Zack Ryder
It seems like forever ago that Zack Ryder rode a surge of momentum stemming from his YouTube web series "Z! The True Long Island Story" to a significant role in WWE storylines that saw him align with John Cena and even get a US title run back in 2011. Though playing the role of glorified jobber throughout much of the years since, 2017 has actually represented a considerable uptick in the fortunes of Ryder, with an Intercontinental title win at WrestleMania (albeit for a title run that lasted 24 hours) and a decently fruitful tag partnership with Mojo Rawley as the Hype Bros.
But even as Ryder has enjoyed WWE success in fits and starts, there remains a prevailing sense that the company has never fully gotten behind the self-proclaimed Internet Champion. While a less grating personality might help his case, so too could a more effective finisher. While his Rough Ryder, a leaping leg drop applied onto a standing opponent is showcases a nice dose of athleticism from its practitioner, it carries an awkwardness and lack of evident impact that is hard to make up for. Ryder pretty much jumps at his opponent with his own crotch connecting with the foe's face. Even if it lands smoothly, it still represents little more than a fancy leg drop.
It probably wouldn't make much sense for Bayley to have a lethal finisher that decimates her opponent. After all, Bayley's gimmick more closely reflects a character pulled from an after-school special than a pro wrestler. She is sweet and wholesome, defined by her heart in the ring moreso than any move than she uses. She recently engaged in a feud with Alexa Bliss centered around whether she had the killer instinct to resort to extreme violence to take the title off of a rival (she did not). Her nickname is 'the Hugger', for goodness sake! A major fan favorite with young girls, it would seem almost antagonistic to young viewers to give her an aggressive move set.
But finishing opponents off with a belly-to-belly suplex? To even further demean it, the move has been adorned with a pair of cutesy names - the Belly-to-Bayley and the Hugplex. If a Barney episode ever opted for a pro wrestling theme, the Hugplex would probably be front and center. This might be acceptable if Bayley were a low tier superstar who was only around for the odd kids-oriented segment and to help WWE appear wholesome. However, up until recently being sidelined with a shoulder injury, she was a fixture in the main event scene in the Women's division, having already enjoyed a championship run on Raw. Sorry, but someone like Nia Jax should not ever be losing matches on account of a Hugplex.
5 Seth Rollins
There are few bigger assets to WWE right now than Seth 'Freakin' Rollins. A master in-ring technician quite adept at eating up TV time with compelling 15-minutes matches, Rollins also occupies a place in the rarefied air of WWE mega-star, one that can draw deafening ovations out of any live crowd. Given his value, you'd think that WWE would ensure that 'the Architect' had a finisher of his own. As a matter of fact, it's hard to know exactly what Rollins' finisher is right now.
WWE fans certainly know what it's not. Rollins had initially used the Curb Stomp, literally stepping onto the back of an opponent's head as he was face down on the mat. It is the move that he memorably hit on Brock Lesnar to win the WWE Title at WrestleMania 31 and the move that Randy Orton countered into an airborne RKO earlier in the same night. Due to safety concerns, the company legitimately banned the move, leaving Rollins without a finishing move. He used the Pedigree for a brief time, mostly to fuel his feud with Triple H. Now, it appears he's employed a face-busting move that some say rips off NJPW star Kenny Omega. Any move Rollins tries to develop now will be unfairly compared to the Curb Stomp, a move that - for very good reasons - isn't coming back.
4 Big Cass
Colin Cassidy has just about everything that Vince McMahon looks for in a major star, so its of little surprise to most knowledgeable WWE fans that the creative department appears poised to launch him on a mega-push. Better known as Big Cass on the main roster, the seven footer recently turned heel by betraying long-time partner Enzo Amore, a move that seems to be the jumping off point for his main event ascendance. When the WWE Chairman looks at Cass, he sees a larger than life superstar with a good look who also possesses that hard-to-define 'It' factor.
What he doesn't possess - at least not yet, anyway - is a standout finisher. Since arriving on Raw, Cassidy has alternately used three separate finishing moves, with none really catching fire with crowds. There's the Big Boot, which just seems like such a generic and obvious big man option that they might as well just refer to him as Test 2 (RIP). There's the Empire Elbow, which is literally just Cass dropping an below (not even off the ropes!). Finally, he has toyed with the East River Crossing, which is basically just a swinging side slam. The East River Crossing is the best of a bad bunch, but the New York native would do well to add a move that makes him a tad more threatening.
3 AJ Styles
You have to be pretty good to make it in WWE despite being perceived as small and weak on the mic, not to mention boasting soccer mom hair. Good thing that AJ Styles is Phenomenal, then! It still took Styles an awful long time to reach WWE during his decorated career, but he has spent the past year or so making up for lost time. He has had five-star matches while engaging in red hot feuds and demonstrating equal levels of comfort in a babyface or heel role. By more than holding his own in feuds with the likes of John Cena, Roman Reigns, Chris Jericho and Kevin Owens, Styles has both validated long-time fans who knew what WWE was missing by overlooking him while also gaining new fans.
When it comes to Styles' varied, versatile move set, however, there seems to be a notable ingredient missing. His famous Styles Clash has been a rare sight in a WWE ring since Styles debuted, with the Georgia native closing out most of his matches with either the Phenomenal Forearm or his Calf Crusher submission hold. Unfortunately, the forearm looks like little more than a flying clothesline and his submission maneuver seems more rest hold than finisher. More significantly, his fans haven't forgotten his pre-WWE days in TNA and NJPW and are keenly aware of the signature move that is so mysteriously sparse. He's used it a few times and while the move is not banned entirely in WWE, there is strong suspicion that he's been asked to limit its use in light of injuries it has caused.
2 Dean Ambrose
There are some who believe that Dean Ambrose and his "Lunatic Fringe" character stand as a vestige from another wrestling era, more "Rowdy" Roddy Piper in nature than, say, the New Day. Still, Ambrose has found a considerable demand for his violent and deranged character, even if it isn't quite being portrayed in an ideally authentic way. Too often, he is asked to infuse his character with a silly, comedic dimension. For example, he has spent a good deal of time dousing a recent hot feud with The Miz by yucking it up on the mic and taking more of a humorous tone than an antagonistic one. This lighter side of Ambrose has also been reflected in his arsenal of moves.
Now, to be fair, Ambrose boasts a perfectly adequate finisher in his Dirty Deeds inverted DDT. It seems like a plausible way to knock an opponent out and leave them prone to a three count. The problem, however, lies in the rest of his signature moves. His Dirty Deeds is bolstered by two supporting moves that leave most savvy fans rolling their eyes and recognizing that Ambrose deserves better. Nearly every match he competes in seems to feature what has been disparagingly referred to as a flying push, an aerial move that begins impressively enough but ends with Ambrose simply shoving his opponent to the ground - usually outside the ring - instead of something more impactful. He also over-uses a running the ropes counter in which he stabilizes himself between the top and middle rope before rallying back to clothesline his opponent, who has often been standing prone for an implausibly long stretch of time.
1 John Cena
The smart fans' rejection of John Cena is as old a narrative as the arguments for why he should or should not turn heel. The arguments from the anti-Cena crowd range from the legitimate (his position has been dictated by Vince McMahon and WWE power brokers as opposed to fan demand) to the inane (he wears jorts). Though popular among young fans, Cena has raised the ire of some longer-standing wrestling fans who associate his rise with the PG-ification of WWE programming. One thing that strangely isn't discussed much - even among his most ardent critics - is the implausibly tame nature of his finishing move.
A maneuver hardly befitting a mid-carder, let alone a 16-time World Champion, the Attitude Adjustment (originally known as the decidedly less kid-friendly FU) sees Cena flip his opponent onto his back from a fireman's carry position. With no additional force driving the opponent to the ground beyond gravity, the move carries all the impact of a hip toss. Sometimes it is accompanied by the equally threatening Five-Knuckle Shuffle. Cena deserves some credit for acknowledging the need to enhance his move set, adding his STFU submission hold in more recent years. Still, the AA has gotten him too far while making too many formidable opponents look silly for not managing to kick out.