If we are being honest here, just about everything in wrestling is fair game. There is very little that can be considered stolen in this industry. Unless we are talking licensed character names or gimmicks—hence all of the hectic legal drama regarding Impact Wrestling and the Broken Hardys gimmick—it's hard for a wrestler to "steal" anything because there isn't much that the average wrestler owns other than, well, their name and gimmick. And even then, those names and gimmicks belong to the wrestler's respective companies rather than the wrestlers themselves, hence why someone like Cody Rhodes has to be booked under the name "Cody" for the indie scene and why wrestlers have to change their name upon leaving WWE (i.e. Alberto Del Rio to Alberto El Patron). In short, just about everything in wrestling is anyone's ballgame. This is especially the case when it comes to wrestling moves.
That is why we see so many wrestlers using the same moves nowadays. It is close to impossible to put a copyright on a wrestling move or finisher. Sure, we as fans can complain and point a finger at guys and say "Wrestler A stole Wrestler B's finisher," but that probably won't hold up in a court of law. Try suing a wrestler for stealing your finishing move and you won't get much further than a judge laughing hysterically in your face. Still, there are some cases out there where the influence of one wrestler on another wrestler's moveset is so blatant and undeniable that there is not anything else we can call it but thievery. Cases where it is painfully obvious that a wrestler's moveset took some strong inspiration from another's to the point that we can probably label it as some kind of move plagiarism. That is exactly what we're going to do now when analyzing 20 instances of wrestlers who stole their finishers from other wrestlers.
18 Shane McMahon
Early into his ECW career, at Heat Wave 2000, Rob Van Dam debuted his signature Van Terminator spot. Not long afterwards, at WrestleMania X-7, Shane McMahon executed a similar version of the move called the Coast-to-Coast on WWE soil. And by similar, we mean exact replica under a different name. Though the prodigal McMahon seed never confirmed it, the inspiration from RVD is obvious. The Whole F'N Show isn't sour about it though. In fact, in a 2009 interview with Wrestle Talk Radio, he said that he was surprised that more wrestlers weren't stealing moves from him. In the same interview, RVD also said that he would feel more betrayed by Paul Heyman than Shane as The Advocate was the man who brought Shane O' Mac tapes of RVD conducting the move and suggested that Shane do the Van Terminator on the big stage. RVD's only disappointments lie in the fact that he knows more people saw Shane do his Van Terminator than RVD himself because Mania is such a bigger stage with more eyes on it than any ECW event at the time.
17 Jack Swagger
When WWE decided to repackage Jack Swagger in 2013 to give him another shot at the main event scene, WWE looked at former WWE alumni, Kurt Angle, for inspiration. At least as far as Swagger's moveset is concerned. In addition to highlighting his background as a mat-based wrestler (much was the same case with Angle), Swagger started using Angle's Ankle Lock as a finisher. While Angle was never the first in WWE to use the Ankle Lock as a finisher nor does he have the move patented, but the move is so deeply associated with Angle that it's hard not to think WWE made the connection before telling Swagger to start using it.
16 Ric Flair
In addition to the Figure Four Leg Lock, we can say that Ric Flair's entire moveset and gimmick has been stolen from the original Nature Boy, Buddy Rogers. Prior to becoming the stylin' profilin' son of a gun we know today, Flair was a 300-pounder working a powerhouse brawler style. That all changed on October 4th, 1975 when he was involved in a fatal plane accident that nearly killed him. The accident left him with a back that was broken in three places. Because of this, Flair was forced to change the wrestling style that he had been used to beforehand. This led him to adopting Buddy Rogers' classic Nature Boy gimmick and moveset (including the Figure Four which Rogers himself invented), which provided Flair with a less physically-demanding, but more showman-like offense to wrestle. Flair's transformation was complete when Rogers himself put over Flair in a match.
15 Shawn Michaels
Many wrestling fans would argue that the move formerly dubbed Sweet Chin Music is the most overused move on the wrestling market. Whether you're watching more mainstream arenas or the independent scene on any given night, a good handful of wrestlers tend to use the Superkick before the night is over. Fans tend to criticize that wrestlers just couldn't wait to use the move regularly as soon as Shawn Michaels retired, but few realize that Michaels was never the originator of the move; he merely popularized it. The original inventor was '70s WCCW superstar Chris Adams who brought the move to wrestling from his background in judo. As a nod to one of his childhood favorites, Michaels used the move as a precursor to his actual finisher, the teardrop suplex, back when he was fresh into singles competition. However, as Michaels explained on the Sam Roberts Wrestling Podcast, it was Pat Patterson who suggested to Michaels that he should just use the Superkick as a finisher because it looked better.
14 Seth Rollins
For the most recent addition to the list, Seth Rollins recently debuted a new finisher on the April 26th episode of RAW. Rollins teased setting up his usual Pedigree, but then thought otherwise in vain of his former mentor, Triple H. Rollins turned his opponent, Karl Anderson around, spun him around, and connected with a lethal high knee for the victory. As a finisher, it makes sense given Rollins' history with the high knee (that knee broke John Cena's nose a couple years ago) but fans were still quick to point out how similar the move looked to NJPW star Kenny Omega's signature V-Trigger. Shortly after Rollins unveiled the move, Omega actually took to Twitter so that he could tweet out "Well, at least I still have my entrance music." Omega clarified later that he was joking and he didn't mind Rollins' blatant "thievery" of a move he innovated.
13 The Iron Sheik
The Camel Clutch submission has always been deeply associated with The Iron Sheik and his use of the move set the precedent for stereotypical "evil foreigner" wrestlers (i.e. Muhammad Hassan, Rusev, Jinder Mahal, etc.) to use it as a finisher as well. Despite Iron Sheik's fondly remembered history with the move, he did not invent the move. Iron Sheik adopted the move from the original Sheik, Ed Farhat, and Farhat himself adopted it from the originator of the move, Gory Guerrero, who originally called it the la de a caballo (horse mounting choke). Which, speaking of the Guerrero family name, here's a fun fact: back in 2004, Muhammad Hassan gave Eddie Guerrero grief backstage for using the Camel Clutch as a regular move while Hassan was still using it as his finisher, not knowing Eddie's dad invented the move to begin with. To apologize to Eddie and an insulted roster, Hassan personally bought everybody beers throughout the night, costing him a $2,000 bar tab.
12 Tyler Breeze
Sometimes, on name basis alone, a move is perfect for a superstar and if it isn't an original move of theirs, then that just makes it all the more ripe for the taking. This was exactly the case when Tyler Breeze started using Christian's Unprettier for a finisher upon making his main roster debut. The move itself was invented by Tommy Rogers (who called it the Tomikaze) of the old school tag team The Fantastics, but was popularized by Christian decades later. The name itself came about as a backstage joke with The Hardys when Christian said "I'm going to call my move the Unprettier because when I hit you with it, it makes you feel so damn unpretty," all while the TLC song "Unpretty" played in the background. Then an announcer said the move on the air and it stuck from there. Christian was never a fan of the name and was quick to rename it the Killswitch when he returned to WWE in 2009. Then, he quietly retired in 2014. Over a year later, "Prince Pretty" Tyler Breeze thought it would be fitting to bring back the move under its original name when he debuted on the main roster.
When Chris Jericho started doing the Codebreaker as a new finisher upon returning to WWE in 2007, Gregory Helms was the first to claim that Jericho stole it from him, as the maneuver is similar to Helms' own double knee facebreaker finisher. Alternatively, many fans of Pro Wrestling Noah have attributed the move's origins to the company's mainstay star Naomichi Marufiji. It's hard to trace back the move's origins as so many wrestlers have adopted the move as a signature, especially after Jericho popularized it. In any case, this wouldn't be the first time that Jericho has been accused of stealing moves. Before the Codebraker, Jericho was criticized for using the Boston Crab move for a finisher (Walls of Jericho) long after it had been popularized by Rick Martel in the '80s, although the move had been seen used much earlier by the likes of '70s acts like Stan Hansen and Cowboy Bill Watts. If Jericho did steal that move, the Boston Crab is such a basic move that it's hard to trace back who invented it to begin with.
Perhaps turnabout is indeed fair play as Chris Jericho's own move was stolen from him. Granted, it was a move that he rarely used and when he did, he only used it for a year from 2001 until 2002, but it was still a former finisher of his nonetheless. To be fair, Jericho's ex-finisher, The Breakdown, looks a lot like a variation on Jeff Jarrett's Stroke so it can be argued that Jericho stole this too. Regardless, The Breakdown now belongs to The Miz, who has since renamed it the Skull Crushing Finale. The Miz started using the move in 2008 when he started being repackaged into a main event star. Jericho seldom used the Breakdown, but when he did, he won matches. The same has been the case since The Miz adopted the move. Jericho has never responded to outright to The Miz's finisher adoption, but he did refer to it indirectly in an interview with the The Wrestling Voice Radio show from 2011. There, Jericho said that young stars lack a respect for the "forefathers who came in and did it first." He cited The Miz as an example for copying his 4-0 "winning streak" against John Cena, years after Jericho did the same with Goldberg in WCW.
The first wrestler to bring the Spear maneuver into mainstream wrestling was Bill Goldberg. Goldberg brought the standard tackle move over from his former profession of football over to sports entertainment and made the move look like it broke all of his opponents in half. The first wrestler to bring the move to WWE was Edge, but he was hesitant to do so. He was tempted to use the move given how much of a strong reaction it gets from the crowd every time, but he didn't want the stigma that came with stealing another wrestler's move. His mentor and on-screen manager at the time, Gangrel, actually gave Edge the necessary shove to convince the future Rated-R Superstar to use the move. When brought his concerns to Gangrel, the kayfabe vampire assured him that everything in pro wrestling gets stolen at some point or another and he shouldn't overthink it. Needless to say, Edge took Gangrel's advice and managed to win several World Championships with the Spear.
10 Matt Morgan
In 2005, WWE were priming Matt Morgan to be their Next Big Thing. Around the time that he was repackaged under a new stuttering gimmick, this was almost exactly a year removed from the company departure of WWE's last Next Big Thing, Brock Lesnar. Prior to splitting from the company, Lesnar actually had some minor history with Morgan. When Morgan made his WWE debut in late 2003, he was hand-picked by Paul Heyman to join Lesnar's team in the 5-on-5 elimination fight against Team Angle at Survivor Series. Though Lesnar's team lost that night, Morgan and Lesnar continued their alliance in early 2004 by working side-by-side in frequent tag matches and then after WrestleMania XX, Lesnar was gone. In order to make Morgan's new transformation into WWE's next top big man complete, WWE instructed Morgan to use Lesnar's old F-5 as his new finisher. It didn't help Morgan get over with the crowd—perhaps the stuttering gimmick was the big hindrance—and Morgan would be released by the end of 2005. Seven years later, Brock Lesnar returned to WWE and the F-5 was back to being his move.
9 Bret Hart
That have been two ongoing major debates in the wrestling world concerning the Sharpshooter maneuver. One being who between Bret Hart and Sting locks in the Sharpshooter better and the other being which one of these two Hall of Famers did the move first. With the first, it all lies in a matter of opinion, though much of that opinion seems to lie in Hart's favor because of the way he cinches it in every time. Concerning the second, the confusion lies in the fact that both superstars started doing the move at relatively the same in the late-'80s and early-'90s. However, Sting was the one who did the move before Bret Hart. Knowing this has led for many fans to accuse Hart of stealing the move from Sting. Technically, that is true (even if Sting never invented the move to begin with). As Hart explained in his autobiography, it was during his first major singles push that Hart was approached by Pat Patterson who asked if Hart could do the Scorpion Deathlock. The only wrestler in the locker room who knew how to do it at the time was Konnan, who taught the move to Hart. From there, the finisher was patented as the Sharpshooter (based on Hart's Hitman moniker) and the Hart family has been associated with the move ever since.
As previously stated, Sting did not invent the Sharpshooter. He certainly was the first superstar to make it popular to Western audiences on a major stage, but Sting himself did not innovate the move. That honor would be bestowed on legendary Japanese sensation, Riki Choshu. Originally named the Sasori-gatame, Choshu was racking up wins with this unique submission well into the mid-'70s. From there, the move was used sparringly on WWE soil as a signature for the likes of Ron Garvin, Davey Boy Smith, and Ted DiBiase. As far as finishers were concerned, Sting popularized the move when he started ending matches with it in the late-'80s. Then, Patterson saw the Scorpion Deatlock and was so impressed that he thought it would make a perfect finisher for The Hitman, Bret Hart. We all have Riki Choshu to thank for creating this massive domino effect surrounding one move.
7 Eddie Guerrero
Eddie Guerrero has always been so deeply rooted to the history of the Frog Splash that most people think that he invented the finisher. While that isn't true and the move was created by legendary luchador La Fiera, Eddie did dedicate the move in tribute to a former tag team partner from his early days in AAA named Art Barr. The name itself comes from 2 Cold Scorpio, because he always thought Barr looked like a frog whenever he executed the move. When Barr died in 1994, Eddie started using the move as a finisher in honor of his close friend. In that regard, "stealing" is definitely a strong word in this instance. A more proper term would be something along the lines of adopting or paying homage. Nonetheless, if anybody did steal the move, its the countless number of superstars who Eddie inspired to do the Frog Splash. Among these superstars was Rob Van Dam, though even Eddie had to once admit that RVD's Five Star Frog Splash was the "prettiest" version of the move he ever seen.
Upon seeing MVP's name on the list, most readers may think we're going to talk about the Playmaker, a move previously used by a rookie Randy Orton for the Overdrive. Even if we were, it would be hard to trace back the origins of the Overdrive and who invented it. It is, however, a little easier to talk about where MVP's secondary finisher, the Paydirt, originated. Late into his WWE career, Shelton Benjamin was winning matches with a leaping STO which he called the Paydirt. After Benjamin was released in 2010, MVP waited all of one week following his release to start using the move. It is likely a homage to his fired friend, but it is nonetheless blatant thievery at its finest. Interestingly enough, not long after MVP himself was released, R-Truth was using a Paydirt of his own for a finisher he calls the Lie Detector.
5 Triple H
Everyone associates the Pedigree with being Triple H's finisher. While the double underhook facebuster was nothing new to wrestling beforehand, Trips did invent the variation of the double underhook facebuster that we know now as the Pedigree. However, when he was first trying to find his stride in WWE upon making his debut as Hunter Hearst Hemsley, he had a very different finisher. For his debut match, the future 14-time World Champion's finisher was the Pedigree Pandemonium, a cutter. At the time, Diamond Dallas Page was using his Diamond Cutter to dominate the midcard scene of WCW and most fans associated the move with him as a result. As DDP explained in an interview with Sports Illustrated, he called Triple H up right away and politely asked for the future King of Kings to quit doing his move. Which is funny because the Cutter was never DDP's move to begin with given that he didn't invent the maneuver. Nonetheless, Trips respectfully obliged DDP's request and the following week, he started using a move we more commonly recognize as the Pedigree for his finisher.
4 Diamond Dallas Page
As previously stated, though he popularized the move in the early-mid 90s, Diamond Dallas Page did not invent the cutter. To most people's surprise, the actual innovator of the move was none other than the face of People Power, John Laurinaitis. Before he snagged a job with WWE as the former backstage Senior Vice President of Talent Relations and a current road agent, Laurinaitis was a wrestler who brought his talents primarily to NWA, WCW, and AJPW. Under the ring name Johnny Ace, he innovated the Ace Crusher for a finisher, which would later be renowned around the world as a cutter. Laurinaitis was actually good friends with DDP back in the day and the two would practice the move together in training. DDP thought that he had something special on his hands with the move and since Johnny Ace was wrestling mostly outside of the US at the time, DDP asked if he could bring the cutter to WCW as a finisher. He consented to it and within no time, DDP was hitting Diamond Cutters out of nowhere.
3 Michelle McCool
At Royal Rumble 2016, AJ Styles made his shocking, long-awaited debut in WWE and on the January 28th edition of SmackDown, AJ Styles did his first Styles Clash in a WWE ring. However, this was not the first time that a Styles Clash was done in a WWE ring. Years prior, beginning in 2009, Divas division headliner Michelle McCool regularly used the move as her finisher, calling it her Faithbreaker. Only diehard TNA viewers recognized this as Styles' move, but these viewers were vocal enough to create an online outcry against McCool stealing the move. Eventually, word got back to Styles in 2009 and in an interview, he said he had no problem with McCool using the move. He was more flattered than offended. He said he understood that it's hard to come up with a totally unique move nowadays when everything's been done to death, but if everyone knows he invented the move anyway, he said he was cool with it. McCool would retire her career and the move on WWE soil in 2011. Styles wouldn't bring the move back onto WWE soil until five years later.
2 CM Punk
CM Punk actually stole two of his finishers from two vastly different competitors. Prior to making the jump to WWE, Punk finished his matches on the indie scene with move he called the Pepsi Plunge, which was a Pedigree executed from the top rope. Obviously, with a move so similar to resident main eventer Triple H, Punk had to find a new finisher upon getting signed in 2005. When trying to come up with a new finisher, he looked to Japanese sensation Hideo Itami (then known as KENTA) for inspiration. Before he knew it, Punk was putting his opponents to sleep with the Go To Sleep. Although, Itami did not take too lightly to Punk using the move that he himself invented without permission. In one interview with the Daily Star, Itami said that Punk needed to be placed on a wanted list for stealing his move. Itami was probably even more fed up having to hold off on using the GTS on WWE TV for two years after getting signed by the company himself, all because of Punk.
1 Stone Cold Steve Austin
For many, when it comes to finishers, a favorite that tops the lists of many fans is the Stone Cold Stunner. However, how would you feel if I told you that the Stunner was never Stone Cold's? You probably wouldn't care because no matter what, the Stunner will always be associated with Stone Cold, but the originator of the move still deserves his credit. You see, when Steve Austin got sacked unceremoniously from WCW via voicemail, he had a brief stint in ECW. This is when he first started developing his brawler fighting style and vented his frustrations against Bischoff and "Monday Nyquil"in scathing promos on the mic. In short, ECW is where Austin found the attitude that would make him a big star in WWE. ECW is also where he found inspiration for his finisher. In ECW, the Stunner was originally called the Whippersnapper and done by former ECW Champion Mikey Whipwreck, who actually defeated Austin at one point in a title defense. Austin must've been so impressed by the move that he decided to bring it with him when he packed his bags for WWE.
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