Flair, Hogan, Hart, Nash, Hall and many others stuck with one finisher for their entire careers. Maybe that's a little boring, but wrestling has always thrived on nostalgia. There's a certain rush of excitement any time those old moves are dusted off and used.
It seems the new breed of wrestlers is much more open to experimenting with new moves for the announcers to eagerly call out as if it's common knowledge. Modern wrestlers and fans have decades of preconceived knowledge of what a wrestler should do in the ring, and expectations for a great finisher are high. It should be unique, flashy, and look devastating enough that it would legitimately end a match.
I always make the case for the Stone Cold Stunner as the ultimate finishing move. It's lightning quick, exciting, can be performed on anyone, and looks like it would knock someone out. It had to be refined however, as it was much slower in the beginning, but once it got going there was nothing like it. The kick to stun combo was so fluid it was like music.
I'm sure coming up with an original move in 2015 is as impossible as picking a great band name. It must seem like everything's been done. Over the past few years we've seen a whole lot of fireman carry hybrids that have more moving parts than actual impact. CM Punk, Cena, Ryback, and Lesnar all share similarities, but I have to say Lesnar's looks the most powerful. The way he elevates the opponent off of his shoulders is quite impressive.
The wrestlers on this list have all changed their finisher or added new ones along the way. Either to replace a weaker original or even just to stay fresh and keep the crowds engaged with something new. Most were changed for the better, but a few should go back to what worked for them initially.
So without further ado, let's check out the top 15 wrestlers who changed their finisher.
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16 Dean Ambrose
The original 'Dirty Deeds' was much better in my opinion. A headlock that then slams the opponents head into the mat at a vicious looking angle. But somewhere along the way that was changed into what we see now. A double-arm DDT that seems much weaker.
Jake Roberts' DDT was popular because he kept the opponent low and struck like lightning. It looked like the opponent was face first and lights out.
Hooking both arms takes too much time and detracts rather than adds. I do however, like the windup. I'd be in favor of keeping the double-arm as a signature, but bringing back the original Dirty Deeds for good.
15 John Cena
Jeez just when Cena couldn't piss hardcore fans off enough he goes and ruins the Stunner. The balls on this guy!
Now I'll give him credit as the idea for the pop-up Stunner is a good one. It's just that the execution is sloppy. That seems to be perpetual case with the Golden Boy. He has a lot of heart and it's great to see that he still evolves his moveset so late in his career, but longtime fans can't forgive the slop.
Cena also marked the PG Era when he changed the FU to an AA.
P.S. The 5 knuckle shuffle is a sad imitation of the People's Elbow.
P.P.S How could I forget the worst STF in the history of wrestling? It's so bad even Austin had to tell him to cinch it up tighter on a podcast.
14 Wade Barrett
As an NXT star, Barrett started out with the 'Wasteland' as his go-to. It was pretty lame. A fireman's carry setup with the simple finish of just throwing the opponent down. A nice signature move, but not a real finisher. If Barrett wanted to take the next step he needed something with more flair.
He introduced The Winds of Change but that too was lacking. He would basically Irish whips the opponent into his waiting arms for a slightly higher Rock Bottom.
The Souvenir/Bull Hammer might be the best of the bunch. Whipping the opponent out and then jerking them back into a hard elbow/forearm looks devastating enough for the fans seem to believe it's the end of the match. And that's all you can really ask for.
13 Jack Swagger
Vince really loved this guy. Amateur wrestling, big physique, loves smoking pot...oh wait not that last one. Anyway, it's hard to believe that at one point this guy was the World Heavyweight Champion considering where he sits on the roster now.
Swagger's initial finisher called upon his wrestling roots. The gut wrench power bomb showed off his strength and looked slightly more technical than a vanilla one.
Perhaps trying to get some of that Kurt Angle success, he started using an ankle-lock finisher. Always a believable submission, but with the tights, similar background, and even calling it a 'Patriot Lock', it reeks of desperation and imitation.
Jesus this guy has a lot of finishers.
The Brogue Kick is decent. It tries to go for the impact of Sweet Chin Music but the way he bicycles his feet ruins it for me.
The High Cross is 100% identical to Scott Hall's Razors/Outsiders Edge. Even the way he puts his arms out to signal for it. Could he not have added one shred of originality? I hope he's buying Hall a beer every time he uses it... On second thought, maybe not.
Then there's White Noise, which is one of his better moves. It makes use of his size and looks great as he crashes down on top of the opponent.
But my favorite has to be the Irish Curse. When it's done right, it's a fantastic Rock Bottom into a backbreaker.
11 Daniel Bryan
Although the YES Lock has done him well throughout most of his career, it was the 'knee heard round the world' that beat Cena at SummerSlam 2013.
Since the WWE sells Cena shirts that say 'Never Give Up' it was pretty unlikely that a submission was going to work on their golden goose. And since necessity is the mother of invention we were treated to a Bryan's Tiger Knee (StreetFighter).
Although Bryan sounds confident that he can return from injury, the WWE seems to be against it. Their troubles with ex-wrestlers' health and lawsuits might have a lot to do with it.
Hopefully we get to see one more Running Knee before it's all said and done
The blonde and beauty Sting of old rocked the Stinger Splash and Scorpion Death Lock for years. Even Bret Hart himself admitted that Sting had the move first.
But as he evolved into the Crow-Ripoff we all know and love, he added my favorite Sting finish: The Scorpion Death Drop.
This move is just about perfect. It matches his gimmick well in the way he stalks up behind his opponent, grabbing them by the hair as they helplessly flail like a fly in the spider's web. He locks them in under the arm and pauses for a second before driving them straight down, DDT style. It has a huge impact and it's a wonderful move.
Perhaps the most iconic use was against a legitimately wasted Jeff Hardy when Sting had to forcefully end the match in under a minute.
9 The Miz
The worst WrestleMania main event competitor (and I'm counting Lawrence Taylor) has had several finishers.
He started off with the Mizard of OZ - a swinging neckbreaker that was pretty weak. He then added the Reality Check - which was a knee strike into another neckbreaker. Not a bad idea, but it always looked pretty clunky and failed to evoke a big impact.
The Skull Crushing Finale is the best of the bunch but is also a ripoff of Jeff Jarrett, and who copies JJ?
The best version is actually Kanyon's Flatliner.
Edge accomplished a lot in his relatively short, yet Hall of Fame career but he never did it for me. His finishers might have had something to do with it.
The Edge-O-Matic seems like a Diva move, like he should be grabbing their hair on the way down.
The Edgeocution looks like a botched suplex.
The Edgecator is a lazy Scorpion Deathlock.
The Spear from someone like Edge isn't scaring anyone after the likes of Goldberg and Rhyno used it.
7 The Rock
The Rock did a lot with relatively weak finishers.
When he was Rocky Maivia, he used a simple running Shoulderbreaker, which looked fine as a signature move, but it didn't scream finisher. When he changed his persona to The Rock, do did his moveset.
The Rock Bottom doesn't even lift as high as a powerslam, yet The Rock sells the setup like the champ he is. The way he would anticipate the opponent turning around, legs primed like a predator waiting to strike had the fans on their feet. The pause after he had them cinched up and his body flying parallel to the opponent also made for great still shots.
But who would have thought a simple elbow drop would have surpassed it?
Not since Hulk Hogan's leg drop has such a pedestrian move been so impactful, but The People's Elbow really was the most electrifying move in show business. A true testament to The Rock's showmanship that he elevated the most basic move into such an iconic finisher.
6 Steve Austin
When Austin first hit the WWE he had already sent shockwaves through the industry with his raw, passionate promos in ECW. I guess Vince didn't bother to watch those because he immediately gave him a silent gimmick and saddled him with a mouthpiece in Ted DiBiase. As The Ringmaster, Austin even used DiBiase's Million Dollar Sleeper Hold. Although his version seemed more like a brutal choke-out instead of just 'going to sleep'.
Austin soon came up with one of the greatest finishers of all time, the Stone Cold Stunner. It took a little while to refine however. In the beginning it was set up much slower, like loading a cannon. But it soon evolved to the lightning quick fluid motion of kick and stun that always blows the roof off. There was nothing better than Austin storming into the ring and stunning the hell out of every SOB that got in the way.
5 Big Show
Paul Wight was actually incredibly athletic in his younger years. So much so that he could deliver a flying dropkick off the top rope. He was advised however that "giants don't do that', act like a giant. So for years his finisher was an elevated choke slam. Very fitting for a big man and it looked great.
In later years he simplified even further with his knockout punch. Yep, just a regular old punch that you see thrown in every other match. But when you put 500 pounds behind it, you can call it a finisher.
Looks believable and can be whipped out anytime.
4 Chris Jericho
Jericho is another wrestler that has continually evolved throughout his long illustrious career. Those who watched him in WCW always knew he was far better than the weak booking they gave him but not many would have predicted the insane success he would have. That's why Vince is the man.
Jericho's original finisher The Lion Tamer is a take on the Boston Crab. It switches it up by keeping the opponent's body more vertical, almost applying the pressure to the neck and shoulders rather than the back. It was a great move that looked extremely painful.
Any real Jericho fan must have guessed that the man of 1,004 moves could never settle on just one finisher. His Lionsault off the middle rope and Code Breaker were explosive additions he added later in his WWE career.
His success in Mexico, Japan, Canada, WCW and WWE have cemented Jericho as a sure-fire future Hall of Famer. I can't wait for his speech.
3 Seth Rollins
Could you imagine finally reaching the top of the industry only to have your signature move banned? Thats exactly what happened to Rollins when the WWE banned his Curb Stomp right as his first Championship reign was taking off.
The reasoning behind the ban is a little murky. Recent legal issues involving ex-WWE wrestlers and their concussions could have a lot to do with it. Others say that it's not a move they want kids to imitate. Rumors have even come out that Vince simply hated the move. It's really too bad as Randy Orton's RKO sprung from the Curb Stomp at WrestleMania 31 was breathtaking.
When Rollins first debuted his version of the Pedigree it brought a huge pop for the audacity of using such an iconic finisher. But after repeated use, its lost the novelty factor. The Pedigree was always a very boring move anyways.
With the incredible athletic offense Rollins has already displayed, I know he has the potential to come up with his own replacement finisher that blows the Pedigree out of the water.
2 The Undertaker
The Tombstone piledriver has served 'Taker well ever since his debut and he still uses it today. But when he decided to finally freshen up his gimmick as the 'American Badass' a few changes had to be made. Not only did he change the wardrobe, mannerisms, and speech, but he brought in The Last Ride as well. A devastating power bomb that lifts the opponent as high as possible before lowering the boom. It also makes for awkward photos of his face in the opponent's crotch.
Not stopping there, Calaway later added Hell's Gate, a brutal looking submission that took inspiration from the rising popularity of MMA.
1 Shawn Michaels
Sweet Chin Music is in my top five for best finishers of all time. It has a dramatic setup, explosive impact, and looks damn cool. Eric Bischoff may have made fun of it on WCW Nitro but perhaps if Bischoff spent less time obsessing over WWE and more on his own promotion we would still have a Nitro today.
Although Michaels debuted his super kick on a very surprised Marty Janetty at the Barber Shop, he spent the first few years of his singles career using a very boring side-suplex. The kind of move that an announcer has to tell you is the finisher.
A superstar has to have a great finish, and Michaels had one of the best.
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