Finishers are great. Not only do they provide some of the greatest, most exciting moments in wrestling, they can also be used to build suspense, create drama and define a particular wrestler. They also usually mean a match is over, which is good news for anyone watching a bout with Eva Marie in it. Wrestlers often take more than one attempt to find their unique finishing move, so it’s quite common that, when looking back at a modern wrestler’s old matches, you’ll see them end the match with a move you don’t recognise. These moves can either be deemed too dangerous, too elaborate or just too bad to be used and that wrestler simply moves onto another manoeuvre until they find the one that’s just right. Think Goldilocks and the Three Bears, but with more piledrivers.
This means that, for the wrestling nerds amongst us, it can be a rather enjoyable experience to go back, watch some old matches and see just how your favourite wrestlers of today ended matches in the past and that’s exactly what we’re going to be doing today. For this list, I’ve tried to keep things solely based in WWE (either on the main roster of in developmental), so you won’t be seeing any of the moves used by guys like AJ Styles of Samoa Joe outside of WWE, but you might see the odd move from NXT and FCW crop up. All clear? Sweet. So, for your reading pleasure, here are 15 throwback finishers from your favourite current WWE stars.
15 Seth Rollins – Curb Stomp
God, I miss this move.
Seth Rollins has gone through a fair few finishers in his time. He’s currently making use of a modified knee strike (which is apparently called the Kingslayer), but Mr. Rollins has used various moves, including a superkick to a kneeling opponent and a flying springboard knee (both of which are now used as signature moves), to end matches in the past. His most recent high-profile move was, of course, the Pedigree, adopted from his former mentor, Triple H. Rollins put that move to bed at WrestleMania 33, when he defeated Triple H in an excellent match to end their feud. I guess Triple H knows how all those people he buried feel now.
The move we’re focusing on today, however, is the move that won Rollins the WWE Championship for the very first time at WrestleMania 31. The Curb Stomp (also known as the Blackout or Peace of Mind) was a running stomp delivered to an opponent on their hands and knees. It looked vicious, with Rollins using his whole body weight to drive his opponent face first into the mat and put them away for three. It was this vicious nature, however, that eventually saw the move being banned for its dangerousness (although, in essence, it’s the same bump as the Famouser/Fame-Asser, which Dolph Ziggler still uses), hence why Rollins made the switch to the Pedigree in 2015, shortly after his WWE Championship win. A move so cool it got itself banned, the Curb Stomp might be on the black list for the time being, but it will always have a place in WWE history. It’s the move that stopped Roman Reigns from ruining WrestleMania 31, so, for that, we are grateful.
14 Roman Reigns – Checkmate
BOOOOO- oops, sorry, force of habit.
Roman Reigns has, for as long as most people can remember, used one of the most over-used, cliched finishers in wrestling history. The Spear has been used by everyone from Big Show to Charlotte, Goldberg to Stephanie McMahon, but, in all fairness, Roman probably does it better than most others. The speed he gets on the move, the way he can fly through the air and cut an opponent down with such ferocity really puts Reigns over as a powerhouse and his Spear has given us some pretty memorable moments over the years, either for good or for bad.
Before he was known as Roman Reigns and before he was the most hated man in wrestling since Big Boss Man kidnapped Al Snow’s dog, Roman performed in WWE’s developmental system, Florida Championship Wrestling (FCW), as Roman Leakee. If you ever wanted to see what Roman Reigns would look like if he was an extra in a movie set in Hawaii, then google “Roman Leakee.” You won’t be disappointed. During his time in Florida, Roman would put opponents away with a spinning bulldog he called the Checkmate. It might have been effective, but it looked pretty goofy; Roman would spin himself around a bunch of times before jumping up into the air and throwing himself and his opponent to the mat. Not so much “The Big Dog” as “The Confused Dog Chasing Its Own Tail.” Anyway, that move is deader than Reigns’ chances of being cheered now, so luckily we don’t have to worry about seeing it on the main roster.
13 Dean Ambrose – Midnight Special
Can’t leave Dean out when talking about former Shield members. God knows WWE did for about a year and a half.
Dean Ambrose’s current finisher, Dirty Deeds, is another one that has been used by a bunch of people. A double-underhook DDT, the move has been used in various forms by everyone from Mick Foley to Drew McIntyre, Kenta Kobashi to Stevie Richards, but Ambrose has definitely made the move his own, often incorporating it into elaborate counters and comebacks. The move has won him numerous big matches and championships over his WWE career, which is quite funny when you realise that he used to do a completely different move called “Dirty Deeds”, which looked nothing like the version he uses now. But that’s not why we’re here.
The old finisher I’m referring to is a move that might be familiar to WWE fans, but not when being performed by Ambrose. It was called the Midnight Special and, essentially, it was the move Sheamus calls the White Noise – an over-the-shoulder belly-to-back piledriver. Jeez, that’s a mouthful. No wonder they called it something else. The move was used by Ambrose during his time in developmental, where he would clash with stars such as his future Shield-mates, Rollins and Reigns, and even WWE legend, William Regal, whose finishing moves Ambrose would often steal to taunt the British Brawler. I’m just saying, if they wanted to start that feud up again on the main roster, I wouldn’t complain. William Regal is my hero.
12 Naomi – Rear View
So much wrong with this.
Naomi’s lowkey rise to success in WWE has been a joy to watch. Beginning life as a dancer, she soon showed her skills as one of the most athletic performers the WWE have on their books and won her first SmackDown Women’s Championship at Elimination Chamber 2017, finally achieving the recognition she deserved for her hard work and skill. Yeah, she lost it two days later due to injury, but just let her have this, will you? The move Naomi used to win that title was a split-legged moonsault, one of my favourite moves of all time, but the former Funkadactyl has also employed a submission move, which is either called “A Bad Place” or “Slay-o-mission” depending on who you ask, to win the title, so Naomi’s got no shortage of skilled moves she could pull off to put opponents down. Why, then, WWE decided to have her win matches with her butt for so long, I will never know.
Yes, the move that set back the women’s rights movement about 300 years, the Rear View, was employed by Naomi for about two years before she, or, more likely, management, saw sense. The move saw Naomi jump at an oncoming opponent, turn in mid-air and strike them with her backside. That’s why it’s called the Rear View, you see, because, you know... God, this move was just a bad idea through and through. Not only did the move have a degrading and stupid name, but it also looked about as painful as being attacked by a plastic bag caught in the wind. Thank God this move is only a signature nowadays, otherwise you can be damn sure WWE audiences would not have been feeling the glow. They’d have probably just felt a lot of shame.
11 Tye Dillinger – Perfect 10
TEN! TEN! TEN! TE- wait, this isn’t number 10 in the list. Dammit, missed a trick there.
Tye Dillinger has one of the best finishers on the modern day roster and I will fight anybody who disagrees. The Tye Breaker (which might be one of the greatest “punny” names for a finisher of all time) is a fireman’s carry neckbreaker and it looks spectacular. There’s good height, a big impact and it targets one of the most critical areas of the human body, adding an air of legitimacy to the move that can be lacking in some finishers. Also, that name; I mean, it’s just so good.
What surprises me most about this finisher is the fact that Tye’s old finisher, the less-than-spectacularly named “Perfect 10”, was a bit naff. It was a knee to the face, but required the opponent to be on their knees, so Tye could run at them, grab their head and drive it into their knee. It looked messy, there were about a million different ways of avoiding it and took so much set up the audience could have counted to a hundred, let alone ten, by the time Tye hit it. I’m extremely glad Tye changed his finisher, because now I really do have no complaints about him as an act. Please, WWE, don’t ruin him for me. Please?
10 Hideo Itami – Shotgun Kick
Hideo, if you’re reading this, I have just one thing to say to you – PLEASE STOP GETTING INJURED!
Hideo Itami may have only arrived in WWE in 2014, but he was already a megastar by the time he turned up on American shores. Having made a name for himself in Japan for such promotions as All Japan Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Noah, Kenta was already well regarded by more hardcore fans as one of the best performers Japan had produced in a while. He also made numerous appearances for Ring Of Honour in the 2000s, which isn’t as impressive as it once was considering even the commentators in WWE now have had experience in ROH. One of the things that made Kenta a star was his finisher – the Go 2 Sleep (or GTS) – which won the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Award for Best Wrestling Maneuverer two years in a row. When he turned up in WWE, however, there was one pretty obvious reason he wasn’t allowed to use this move straight away. A reason that was the longest-reigning WWE Champion of the Modern Era.
Whilst Itami invented the move, the GTS was popularised in America by a certain CM Punk, who would use the move to win the WWE Championship and hold onto it for over 400 days across 2011-13. However, Punk would leave the company in 2014 after long-standing differences with management finally boiled over. He left in such a dramatic fashion that WWE rarely mention him on TV anymore and do their best to hide any nod to The Straight-Edge Superstar that they can, including the GTS. Whilst he does use the move now, Itami did once put opponents away with a single leg running dropkick he called the Shotgun Kick and, to be honest, it looked pretty good. Sure, most people prefer the GTS, but the suddenness of the kick, combined with the speed Itami could get on a run-up, made the Shotgun Kick a pretty good finisher and saw Hideo through some of his finest moments in NXT. Now that he’s back in action, expect to see plenty of GTSs from the man who created the move, but remember that, once upon a time, this was blasphemy in WWE.
9 Sheamus – High Cross
Razor Ramon is spinning in his grave. Okay, maybe Scott Hall isn’t dead, but after this catastrophe, the Razor Ramon character sure as hell is.
I like Sheamus, don’t get me wrong; I think he’s got a great look, a decent character and some pretty awesome moves. One of these awesome moves is the Brogue Kick, a running bicycle kick and Sheamus’ finisher since 2009. The move looks great, can be sold really well and takes very little set-up, meaning it can come out of... nah, I can’t say that. Randy’s pretty much got a trademark on that word now.
One of his old moves, however, was less impressive, but not for the reasons you might expect. It was called the High Cross and it was, essentially, a Razor’s Edge, the finishing move of wrestling legend and walking advert for DDP Yoga, Scott Hall. Hall, as the character, Razor Ramon, put away countless big names with this move and he did so every time he performed it; yes, fans, The Razor’s Edge is a move that, on TV at least, has never been kicked out of. Hall refused to do the move if he was told it was going to be a false finish, defending the power of the move and preserving it as one of the most effective finishers of all time. Then Sheamus came along and ruined it all. The High Cross was kicked out of a bunch of times, completely ruining the aura the move had built up in the hands of Ramon and it was rightfully discontinued as a Sheamus move after only a few months. For history’s sake, the High Cross was a bad move and, if you disagree with me, prepare to have a toothpick thrown in your face, chico.
8 Zack Ryder – Zack Attack
Poor Zack Ryder. He doesn’t even have Emma anymore.
Zack Ryder, the WWE’s perennial underdog/running joke, has had an interesting career. He began as one half of The Edgeheads, a tag team devoted to Edge, then broke out as a singles guy and spent periods in and out of the wilderness ever since, winning a handful of belts in the process. His current finisher, the Rough Ryder, looks great and has a punny name, which, as we all know, I am a big fan of. The move, a jumping leg lariat, looks awesome and properly wipes people out, especially when combined with Mojo Rawley’s Spinebuster. Oh, sorry, that should be “Andre The Giant Memorial Battle Royal 2017 Winner” Mojo Rawley. Hands up who’d forgotten that already.
One of Ryder’s old moves, the Zack Attack, involved Ryder using his own knee as a bludgeon, driving the back of his opponent’s head into as he fell backwards, all whilst holding onto his opponent’s arm and shoulder. It didn’t look bad, but did take a while to set up and was nowhere near as impactful as the Rough Ryder. I know this has been said many times before, but I really am hoping Zack Ryder gets his proper dues one day; the kid is immensely talented, both in the ring and out, and deserves a lot more than he’s been given over the years. But hey, at least we’ll always have him getting kicked in the balls by Eve at WrestleMania XXVIII to remember him by. Yay?
7 Nikki Bella – Bella Buster
I guess you could say this move had the... X-Factor.
Nikki Bella might be taking time off right now (and, let’s be honest, if you’d just found out you were marrying John Cena, you’d want some damn time off too), but Nikki Bella may well be back in the WWE some time soon. When she does, she’ll have her trusty Rack Attack 2.0 to count on. Just ignore all the connotations of that move’s name. It’s just easier. The move is a fireman’s carry cutter and has been used by numerous people in wrestling before Nikki, including Bobby Roode in TNA. Bella also has the Fearless Lock, which is essentially John Cena’s STF, but with a more profound effect on the male teenage audience. Disgusting, the lot of you.
Before these and even before the first incarnation of the Rack Attack (which she had to stop doing because of her neck injuries), Nikki and her sister, Brie, both employed the Bella Buster to dispatch their opponents. A sit-out facebuster, the move looked great and might have inspired some nostalgia in some of the older fans, because it was the exact same move X-Pac used to win his matches during the Attitude Era. Well, I say the exact same move, there was one notable difference; the Bellas' version of the move had a more profound effect on the male- okay, okay, I’m sorry. I didn’t have a closing joke.
6 The Miz – Reality Check
Skull-Crushing Finale – great name, highly impractical move.
The Miz has been using the SCF (not common shorthand, but I’m not writing out that move’s full name every single time I talk about it) since 2009. The full nelson facebuster might have defeated Randy Orton for the WWE Championship in 2010, but, by all logic, it shouldn’t have. You see, when Miz drives his opponent’s face into the mat with the move, he also leaves his own face, sorry, “moneymaker,” unguarded, which means the move is just as likely to hurt the star of The Marine 5: Battleground, as it is his opponent. But I digress.
One of Miz’s old finishing moves was called the Reality Check, a nod to Miz’s past on the hit reality TV show, The Real World. The move was a combination of a knee strike to the face of a bent-over opponent and a neckbreaker slam. Remnants of the move can be seen today in Miz’s backbreaker-neckbreaker combo move. I have an issue with finishers that are combos (with singles wrestlers, that is), so this was never my cup of tea, but at least it made sense in real terms, unlike the SCF. Bonus fact, Miz used to have a finisher called the “Mizzard of Oz.” “Mizzard of Oz.” Just let that sink in for a moment.
5 Sasha Banks – Bankrupt
More puns! Yay!
Sasha Banks is part of a strange craze in WWE right now; making women use submission finishers. Between her, Charlotte, Natalya, Becky Lynch, Carmella and now Naomi, WWE seem obsessed with making their ladies force each other to tap out. Read into that as much as you please. Banks’ “Bank Statement” submission (puns, puns everywhere) is a particularly vicious looking one; Banks, who usually sets the move up with a Backstabber, traps the opponent’s neck between her arms and wrenches it back, leading to some awesome visuals. My particular favourite is the one where Banks made Charlotte tap to the move by wrapping her up in the guard rail first on an episode of Raw. See, this is how women’s wrestling should be done, everyone. Also, more fighting in the crowd these days, please? Thanks.
Before the Bank Statement, Sasha had an equally pun-derfully named finisher; the Bankrupt. A straightjacket neckbreaker slam, the Bankrupt had some great impact on it and the use of the straightjacket hold (where a wrestler crosses their opponent’s arms over their face and neck) added some amateur wrestling legitimacy to the move. Only used very briefly as a finisher, the move is still busted out on occasion today and looks just as good as it did two or three years ago. This might be controversial, but I think I’d quite like to see Banks return to using this move as a finisher, as it would change up the dynamics of the submission-dominated women’s division and allow Banks to have some more diversity in her matches. But that’s just my opinion, feel free to disagree. I know you’re all dying to.
4 Rusev – Bulplex
Rusev might be a pretty badass wrestler, but the Camel Clutch might be one of the most overused submissions in wrestling history, especially for foreign heels in the WWE.
Rusev’s current finisher, The Accolade, is a Camel Clutch, a submission hold invented by Gory Guerrero, father of WWE Hall of Famer, Eddie Guerrero. The move has since been used by literally everybody, from Scott Steiner to The Sheik, Big Show to Tajiri and is one of the staples of submission wrestling. This, in my opinion, has rather dampened the effect the move has on me as a finisher, but there’s no denying that Rusev can make the move look good, especially when it’s used on a smaller opponent. When he bent Kalisto back at Extreme Rules 2016, I thought I was going to puke, but I think that was more at the state of the US Championship at the point.
Before The Accolade, Rusev would defeat his opponents with the Bulplex (d’ya get it, because he’s from Bulgaria). The move involved Rusev grabbing his opponents head on, rolling them over, before transitioning into sort of front facelock suplex, throwing them across the ring with the brutality and power we’ve come to expect from the Super Athlete. The move looked impressive and showcased Rusev’s strength, but I think it serves best as a transitional move; something for Rusev to show off his abilities and then perform a more definitive move to end the match. As a Rusev fan, however, I can hardly complain about his finishing moves; to be honest, I’d be happy with any move from Rusev, just as long as he’s doing it on TV. Come back to us Ru-Ru, we miss you.
3 Brock Lesnar – Brock Lock
Yeah, it’s weird to think of Brock Lesnar having more than four moves now, isn’t it?
When he burst onto the scene in 2002, there was seemingly nothing Brock Lesnar couldn’t do. He was quick, he was agile, he was strong, he was technically sound, he was athletic, he was powerful, the man had it all. So, in a way, it’s weird that he’s stuck with the same finisher pretty much his entire career; you’d have thought, seeing as how versatile he could be, he’d have tried changing things up a little. But, as the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, pick someone up and spin them round in the air so they land on their face. Okay, maybe I’m paraphrasing, but the F5 is such a badass move.
In more recent years, Brock Lesnar has introduced the Kimura Lock into his arsenal as a nod to his time spent in the UFC. However, before this, Lesnar was making people tap in a very, very different way. The Brock Lock (which is such a cute name for such a terrifying move) involved Lesnar wrapping the leg of his opponent around his neck and standing up, so the unfortunate soul would then be dangling in the air by their leg, all whilst the pressure tore away at their knee. It only really worked on smaller guys, but damn, did it look awesome and only fuelled the image of Brock as an absolute monster. Whilst Brock rarely fights smaller people these days, perhaps the Brock Lock could make a return in the near feature, say against, I dunno, a certain Demon King? Tell me you don’t wanna see that, just try and tell me.
2 John Cena – Protobomb
A long time ago, in an era before the Five Moves of Doom...
John Cena is amazing, there can be no doubt about that. One of the most successful pro wrestlers ever, Cena has won more titles, main evented more big shows and polarised the WWE audience more than most wrestlers could ever dream. He is also a highly-successful actor, television personality, musician and philanthropist, having granted the most wishes in the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s history. However, he does have a pretty dull finisher. The mere fact it takes about three AAs to win a match nowadays says it all.
Before he was 16-time world champion and before he was even John Cena, the future Cenation leader wrestled in WWE’s developmental system, Ohio Valley Wrestling (OVW), as The Prototype, a half-man, half-machine character, who billed himself as “The Perfect Man.” Yeah, alright John, we know you’re dreamy, but do you have to rub it in? During his time as The Prototype, Cena would dispatch opponents with the Protobomb, a spin-out powerbomb most fans would recognise as the move used to set up the Five Knuckle Shuffle. Cena continued using this move on the main roster for a few months, before entering into a feud with Brock Lesnar. To taunt the Next Big Thing, Cena developed a move that parodied the F5, dubbing it the “FU.” A few years later, it was renamed the Attitude Adjustment and the rest, as they say, is history. Really ineffective history. Sorry, it’s just a bad move.
1 Randy Orton – O-Zone
Yep, that’s right – arguably the most popular wrestling finisher outside of wrestling wasn’t always the weapon of choice for The Viper.
The RKO is my favourite finisher ever. I love how it can be used to counter pretty much anything, how it takes out an opponent completely and, yes, how it can come “from outta nowhere.” I like the surprise element of a finisher, the element that means you’re never quite sure when the match is going to end or how the finishing blow will be delivered. The RKO ticks all those boxes and Randy has it down to a fine art. However, as you may have gathered, this wasn’t always the case.
Randy’s first main roster finisher was the O-Zone, also known as the Overdrive or the Playmaker (shoutout to MVP there). The move involved Randy tucking his opponent’s head under his raised knee, before using said knee to drive his opponent’s head into the ground. If that sounds complicated, it’s because it was; the move didn’t look pretty or even effective. The worst part, however, was that Randy had to drive his own knee into the mat to execute the move. Now, I don’t know how much you know about the human knee, but driving it full speed into a wrestling mat too many times is definitely not good for it, that’s for sure. To go from this, one of the stupidest finishers ever to one of the best is one hell of a step-up for the Apex Predator, and one I’m very glad he made. Now, if only his personality could be as entertaining as his finisher, then I’d be a total Randy Orton fanboy. If only.