Nothing in wrestling is original. Most gimmicks, moves, and storylines are recycled from a previous generation of the sport. It terms of gimmicks and moves, wrestlers usually have a code of respect, that keeps them from blatantly ripping off another performer.
If someone is going to borrow character traits of another wrestler, it usually comes with them asking permission; most notably Ric Flair’s use of Buddy Rogers’ entire gimmick and move set. In the case of The Nature Boy Ric Flair, borrowing The Nature Boy, from The Nature Boy Buddy Rogers, it was acceptable, because both men were of different eras in wrestling. Rogers even put Flair over in 1979, fully passing the torch of the gimmick/moves to the future Hall of Famer.
In the days of territories multiple performers could use the same exact act, and without cable television no one would ever know. As wrestling jobs have become more monopolized, wrestlers finishers and their gimmicks have become somewhat exclusive. Currently the two biggest American wrestling companies are TNA and WWE, and over the past few years only one gimmick has been shared between two performers at the same time; Robbie E and Zack Ryder’s guido gimmicks.
While sharing character traits is somewhat acceptable, stealing another active wrestlers finisher is frowned upon by both the locker room and fans. This list will look at performers who blatantly stole a finishing maneuver from another active wrestler. To be on this list, you must have used the finisher while both wrestlers were still full time workers. Additionally if a wrestler added a drastic variation to their version of the move, they will not be included on this list. Finally, for the purposes of this list, we are only looking at North American wrestling, so moves stolen from Japan will not count.
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11 CM Punk
So I know that I said we wouldn’t bring up moves stolen from Japanese wrestlers, but Hideo Itami (formerly KENTA) is now a NXT Superstar, which means he is fair game. CM Punk started using the GTS while on the ECW brand of WWE in 2006, which he used as a tribute to the Japanese star. Itami even called out the former Heavyweight Champion in 2011, telling The Daily Star “Please list him on the wanted list as he stole my move”.
Although he has done it only once since being signed to NXT, it is unknown if Itami will incorporate the GTS into his regular arsenal. NXT fans seem to respect Itami’s origination of the move, but mass audiences will probably associate the move with Punk. WWE officials have almost completely gotten rid of the CM Punk chants that plague their live shows, and seeing a GTS could start them up again.
10 Triple H
Back when Hunter Hearst Helmsley debuted in the WWE in 1995, he used a finisher that went by the name of The Pedigree...Pedigree Perfection. The move was almost perfect, except that it was actually called the Diamond Cutter, and had been used by DDP years prior to Helmsley’s debut.
Cutters are very popular in wrestling, but they were popularized by WCW star Diamond Dallas Page in the early 90s. Page, who didn’t start wrestling until he was in his late 30s, needed to use a finisher that was low impact on his body. So when DDP saw that Triple H was using the cutter in WWE, he called him and asked him to stop using it. Triple H more than obliged, never using the move again.
To those who say that DDP stole his finisher from Johnny Ace, you are wrong; Page asked permission and learned the Ace Crusher from John Laurinaitis himself.
9 Shelton Benjamin
Nothing spectacular here, just a case of a really athletic guy stealing a really generic move. In truth lots of people have used the Superkick since Shawn Michaels started using it in the mid 90s; Dolph Ziggler, John Morrison, and Lance Storm all come to mind.
Shelton is up for this infraction, because his usage of the move in WWE ran concurrent to Shawn Michaels' second run at the company. The two men were using the same move the same time against some of the same opponents. Shelton’s kick isn’t as pretty as HBK's version, and often he would come from the side, which made it look somewhat different than Shawn's.
8 Kevin Nash
Do you know that big guy that does the Powerbomb where he lets go before his opponent before he hits the mat? Of course you do, I’m talking about Sycho Sid, who started using the Release Powerbomb in the 1980s. Fast forward to 1993 and Diesel (real name Kevin Nash) debuts in the WWE using a Jackknife Powerbomb, which is also a Release Powerbomb.
Right at the beginning of Nash’s run in WWE, Sid would depart the company, returning with WCW. Sid would eventually re-sign with WWE, and the two would meet in the ring at the first ever WWE In Your House event, which saw each man use the Powerbomb on the other. Nash would go on to have a longer career, bringing the Jackknife more fame than Sid ever did.
7 Booker T or The Rock?
In a case of what came first the chicken or the egg, both The Rock and Booker T started using a Lifting Side Slam around the same time in different companies. Booker has said that it was in fact The Rock who stole the Book End from him; making it more famous as The Rock Bottom, thus gaining the credit for it.
This is a hard one to call either way, as both men started using the Side Slam in 1997 during their pushes. Ironically the two men feuded after WCW was purchased by WWE in 2001, the driving force behind their rivalry being their finishers. No matter who stole whose move, both men showed respect for each other by selling for the other’s finisher while in WWE.
5 Jack Swagger
In what could be a case of full on gimmick infringement, Jack Swagger ripped off part of the character, as well as the finisher of Kurt Angle. The theft of the Ankle Lock wouldn’t be as blatant if the two performers didn’t have so many similarities such as wearing a singlet, having a successful amateur wrestling background, and winning a major title within their first two years in the WWE.
In terms of variation Swagger does more of a stand up power lock, lifting his opponent vertically more than horizontally. Despite the slight change in position, it doesn’t excuse the fact that he stole the finisher of a top talent in another company.
4 Bret Hart
While the Sharpshooter may always be synonymous with Bret Hart, it was actually Sting who brought fame to the move in the United States. Sting learned the move in Japan in 1987, and quickly added it to his arsenal. Riki Choshu invented the move in Japan.
There are still people who debate whether or not the two moves are actually the same, and to them I have one piece of evidence to end it all. During an interview with Jim Ross on The Ross Report, when asked what was the difference between the two moves, Sting answered “It’s the same exact move”.
Now I will admit that I am a sucker for the Hart version of the submission, as he always seemed to lock it in tighter, but still Sting gets credit as the originator (at least in North America).
Not only did Edge steal the spear from Goldberg, but he didn’t even change the name of the move. When Bill Goldberg debuted in WCW in 1997, he brought along a move from his Atlanta Falcon days; Spearing countless opponents to set up the Jackhammer. The crowds ate it up, and the Spear became very popular with the fans.
Over in WWE, an up and comer named Edge recognized how over the move was and wanted to use it. Knowing the stigma that goes along with stealing another wrestler's moves, Edge hesitated to add the finisher to his arsenal, until he spoke to his stablemate Gangrel. Gangrel encouraged him to use the Spear because everything in pro wrestling was stolen.
In the long run, Edge used the Spear longer, and actually forced Goldberg to use the move less during his tenure in WWE.
2 Michelle McCool
The internet nearly exploded in 2009 when a WWE Diva stole a top TNA star’s finisher. Fans were irate that Michelle McCool, who is most famous for being married to The Undertaker, added A.J. Syles’ Styles Clash into her own repertoire; branding the move as the Faith Breaker.
Many speculated whether or not the move was a direct shot at TNA by WWE, but luckily it didn’t last too long with McCool retiring in 2011. Styles handled the entire situation classy, stating that it didn’t bother him at all that she was using it.
Very few people can hang with Shelton Benjamin in a wrestling ring, with the current GFW star executing moves with near perfection. The former WWE Intercontinental Champion’s Leaping Reverse STO named the Paydirt was a thing of beauty. Fans could see Benjamin perform the move in WWE until his release in April of 2010; MVP would use the move shortly after, renaming it the 305.
There are two reasons that MVP is the number one thief on this list. First, he stole the move only one week after Shelton Benjamin was released. Secondly, his version is nowhere as good as Benjamin’s version. When Shelton performs the STO it looks as if he is snapping the neck of his opponent to the ground with extreme force. MVP’s version is just weak, and it’s even weaker that he didn't’ give the finisher any time to leave the mind of the Benjamin’s fans.
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