If wrestling history has taught us anything it’s that a wrestler rarely gets credit for the moves they invent. Occasionally, you get someone who is smart enough to apply their own name to the move’s branding (such as Taka Michinoku’s Michinoku Driver), but for the most part, many wrestling moves are assigned a non-specific name that doesn’t give us a real indication as to who invented it. As a result, it’s incredibly easy to simply give the first wrestler you ever saw perform a particular move credit for being its inventor.
But while it can often be difficult to identify a move’s creator given the long history of professional wrestling and the speed at which word of some new incredible move travels around the industry, that’s not always the case. Actually, various fans and wrestlers over the years have done an incredible job of keeping up with who, exactly, is responsible for the creation of some of wrestling’s greatest moves. If there’s one thing that these records are good for, it is making you realize that the people you used to give credit to for coming up with your favorite moves are not actually the true innovator. Instead, these are the 15 wrestlers who shockingly created wrestling’s most famous moves.
15 Paul Heyman/911 - Chokeslam
If you’re a professional wrestler that’s around seven feet tall, then there is a good chance that you’ve got a chokeslam in your arsenal. The sight of watching a towering performer grab their opponent by the throat and slam them down to the mat is such a simple, but devastating, move that you probably assume that it’s been around ever since a really big wrestler realized that he could manhandle any weakling that stepped-up to him. Surprisingly, that is not the case. In fact, this move was actually created by the 5-foot-11, stocky Paul Heyman.
In ECW’s early days, Paul Heyman played up his authoritative role a bit more on-screen via an ECW revival of his Dangerous Alliance faction. Looking to give his enforcer (the 6-foot-8 in monster known as 911) a devastating new finisher, Heyman crafted the brutal chokeslam. It’s been a professional wrestling staple ever since.
14 Scott Steiner - 450 Splash
You really do have to stop and remind yourself just how gifted of an athlete Scott Steiner was before he (allegedly) started to consume steroids like they were multivitamins. Back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, Scott and Rick Steiner were revolutionizing the tag-team scene with their own unique brand of innovative matches and double-team maneuvers. However, Scott’s innovations are not limited to tandem moves performed with his brother. If you go back to 1987 and watch some of Scott Steiner’s singles matches, you’ll actually find a couple instances of him taking to the top rope and performing the incredibly dangerous 450 splash.
Announcers didn’t know what to call it at the time, and Steiner had trouble hitting it cleanly, but the move itself is unmistakably a 450. Of course, if you want to give credit to where credit is due, you do need to recognize Too Cold Scorpio as the first person to consistently use this move and help it achieve its current popularity.
13 Chris Adams - Superkick
At first, the superkick doesn’t really seem like a move that someone needs to “invent.” After all, it’s really just a straight kick to the face, isn’t it? Haven’t wrestlers been doing that for years? While that’s technically true, if you analyze the common Superkick, you’ll find that the move typically includes little inflections and stylish techniques that separate it from a basic kick to the face. While many wrestling fans are quick to point to Shawn Michaels’ Sweet Chin Music as the most popular early appearance of this maneuver, the real innovator is “Gentleman” Chris Adams. Adams was a classically trained Judo master with a reputation for applying heel mannerisms to traditional martial arts moves, which helps explains how he came up with the devastating Superkick. The only real difference between Adams’ Superkick and the modern version is that Adams typically was able to use it to put away his opponents, whereas now it’s usually a set-up move.
12 Dynamite Kid - Superplex
There’s a popular theory among wrestling fans that high-flying wrestling wasn’t even really a thing until maybe the ‘70s. That’s not exactly true. You can go back to the ‘20s and ’30s and find plenty of instances of fast-paced matches that may not exactly match the sensational speed you get out of modern cruiserweight encounters, but they aren’t that far off from our modern expectations of that kind of match. The biggest difference between that era and now is that people back then didn’t really expect to see more traditional, hard-hitting wrestling mixed into these fast-paced matches. The one wrestler who did more to change those perceptions than any other is Dynamite Kid. There’s perhaps no greater example of how much he contributed to the world of professional wrestling than his creation of the Superplex. It’s a high-risk twist on a classic wrestling maneuver that best summarizes the kind of “why did nobody else think of that?” matches that Dynamite Kid regularly put on.
11 Sam Sheppard - Mandible Claw
You really wouldn’t have any reason to suspect that anyone but Mick Foley as the character Mankind was the one to invent the Mandible Claw. It’s not only a bizarre maneuver that only seems fit for the equally strange Mankind, but it's the kind of move that you'll never see pop up even if you go back quite a ways in wrestling history. What we didn’t know growing up, though, was that Mick Foley was simply paying tribute to another wrestling innovator every time he slapped the Mandible Claw on a helpless opponent. See, in the late '60s, a man by the name of Sam Sheppard decided to use his family ties to wrestler George Strickland in order to enter the professional wrestling business. His tenure was short, and may have been entirely forgettable, were it not for the fact that Sheppard used his previous experience as a doctor to come up with a torturous new maneuver named the Mandible Claw. It would be quite some time before Foley introduced this move to a wider audience.
10 Diamond Dallas Page - Styles Clash
Make no mistake that AJ Style is a high-flying innovator. In fact, he may just well be the most important high-flyer of the modern era in terms of both the moves he has created and the standard he set for what it takes to be a modern main-eventer that works that style. However, AJ Styles' famous Styles Clash is not his own. Though there is some debate on the matter, which is not uncommon when you’re tracking down move originators, the one thing we do know for sure is that Diamond Dallas Page was performing a move called A Trip To The Diamond Mine (later a “Diamond Clash”) that is indisputably the precursor to the Styles Clash. The reason that you likely don’t remember this is because he used it as a finisher during his forgettable initial heel run and only busted it out on occasion after he embraced the Diamond Cutter.
9 John Laurinaitis - Diamond Cutter/RKO
Speaking of the Diamond Cutter….
Diamond Dallas Page’s Diamond Cutter and Randy Orton’s RKO are both considered to be two of the greatest finishers in pro wrestling history. They are essentially just a quick-snap variation on the classic neck breaker (though the RKO does add a stylish jump to the technique) and both are unquestionably variants of John Laurinaitis’ Ace Crusher. Yes, the man who once had that terrible feud with CM Punk is the de facto innovator of one of the greatest moves in wrestling history. Laurinaitis came up with this move during his time in Japan as Johnny Ace, and it quickly caught on among his fellow Japanese wrestlers. The only real difference between the Ace Crusher and its modern versions is the element of surprise that the Diamond Cutter and RKO added. Johnny’s Ace Crusher was certainly more choreographed, though the devastating way that he hit it remains the gold standard in many ways.
8 Etsuko Mita - Death Valley Driver/Attitude Adjustment
It’s interesting to think that John Cena became the face of the WWE while using a finishing maneuver called the F-U. Besides the obvious problems that come with using this abbreviation in a PG wrestling world, the move itself is also really just a parody of Brock Lesnar's F-5. What’s really amazing is that both of those finishers are, essentially, variants of a maneuver innovated by a Japanese female wrestler in the ‘90s. Yes, two of the WWE’s toughest men have one particularly tough Japanese female competitor to thank for their infamous finishing maneuvers. Though Etsuko Mita’s Death Valley Driver is not an exact duplicate of the current Attitude Adjustment and F-5, it did innovate the basic idea of hoisting a wrestler on your shoulders and violently sending them to the mat below. Actually, if anything, Mita’s driver-inspired variant of this move is far more brutal than the one Cena uses today.
7 Mando Guerrero - Moonsault
The moonsault is like the sleeper hold of the high-flying world. Not to discredit those individuals who can perform the move, but high-flying wrestling has reached a point where the moonsault is considered to be the most basic weapon in the athletic arsenal of high-risk wrestlers. It wasn’t always like that, however. After all, who can ever forget the sight of wrestlers like Shawn Michaels risking it all just to hit their opponents with this jaw dropping top rope backflip? If you want to find the true origins of this move, though, you actually need to go way back to ‘70s and study your tapes of Mando Guerrero. Though Mando may be the least famous of Gory Guerrero’s sons, he is definitively recognized as the creator of the moonsault. Sadly, Mando’s career would never quite reach the heights of his brothers and the move wouldn’t really achieve the notoriety it deserved until it hit America in the ‘80s.
6 Jaguar Yokota - Jackhammer
Though the man typically only used three moves on a good day, many wrestling fans of his era tend to credit Bill Goldberg with the invention of the Spear and the Jackhammer Powerslam. The former is a matter of great debate. Although Bill Goldberg is possibly the first person to name the Spear and turn it into the wrestling move we know today, he was hardly the first person to tackle his opponent in such a manner. As for the Jackhammer, Goldberg has Jaguar Yokota to thank for that one. Yokota was not only a force of nature on the women’s Japanese wrestling scene, but she so happens to be one of the greatest overall wrestlers in wrestling history. She’s also the first person to lift someone up into a suplex position and then slam them back down to the mat. It’s sad that nobody thought to come up with a cool name for the move at the time, otherwise Yokota may routinely get the credit she deserves.
5 Abe Coleman - Dropkick
When is the last time you really stopped to appreciate a dropkick? Unless you so happen to be a Kazuchika Okada fan that regularly gets to bear witness to the finest dropkick that the world has ever known, then you likely stopped making a big deal out of this relatively common move. Still, considering that it’s not like people go around dropkicking each other on the streets every day, someone had to be the first person to actually use this move in a wrestling match. That someone is a man by the name of Abe Coleman.
Allegedly inspired by the fighting style of kangaroos, Coleman became the first man to perform to jump up and hit his, probably confused, opponent with a dropkick. However, it must be noted that if you’re looking for the innovator of the dropkick as we know it today, then that honor goes to Joe Savoldi. Though not the first man to perform this move, his “flying dropkick” version is much more recognizable.
4 Black Gordman - DDT
In terms of naming an innovator, there are few moves more controversial than the DDT. Popular pro wrestling legend states that Jake Roberts invented the maneuver after botching a routine front facelock. So far as the naming and popularization of the move goes, Jake certainly deserves a great deal of credit. Where things get complicated is when the name of Black Gordman enters the conversation. Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of Black Gordman before, as his work in the Los Angeles territory of the NWA during the ‘70s is fairly easy to forget even by those who watched him live. However, Gordman is considered by many to be the true innovator of the DDT. He called it the Diamond Twist and, to be honest, it was pretty ugly to watch him pull it off. In fact, the reason that some people dispute the claim that he is the DDT's inventor is because it often looks like he is hitting the move on accident. Still, he did perform the DDT consistently enough during the ‘70s to justify being recognized as its creator.
3 Lou Thesz - Powerbomb
Lou Thesz may be an innovative performer who is usually recognized as one of the first major stars of the professional wrestling world, but people would never typically associate him with a move as flashy as the Powerbomb. Thesz was much more of a traditional mat wrestler whose mov eset typically revolved around getting his opponent to the ground via a variety of suplexes and takedowns. He rarely did anything as brutish as the Powerbomb, which is why it’s usually so surprising to learn that he actually created the move.
Actually, considering that he invented it by accident, it’s likely that Thesz surprised himself at the time of its creation. See, in the middle of trying to perform one of his trademark suplexes, Thesz accidentally dropped his opponent Antonino Rocca right on his head. Though the first time was just a very painful botch, Thesz would eventually refine the move and add it to the rotation.
2 Riki Choshu - Sharpshooter/Scorpion Deathlock
There are few moves with a more confusing history than the Sharpshooter. When naming its innovator, some wrestling fans want to give credit to the creator of the Boston Crab (even though we don’t know who that is with any real certainty) and others say that Dory Funk Jr. and his Cloverleaf really deserves most of the credit for putting a literal twist on that classic leg submission. Even when you start to break down the origins of the sharpshooter as we know it, it seems that no two fans can agree if it was Bret Hart or Sting that first performed the variation. What’s interesting about that debate is that both sides are wrong. If you’re looking for the true creator of the modern sharpshooter, that honor goes to Riki Choshu whose use of the Sasori-gatame (Scropion Hold) on the Japanese wrestling scene predates both men by several years.
1 Andre The Giant - Tombstone Piledriver
Whenever you hear people talk about Andre The Giant during his prime, they tend to focus on the monstrous size of the man or maybe his larger-than-life personality. What tends to get lost in the conversation is that Andre The Giant was actually a pretty capable in-ring performer in his heyday. Though he was obviously extremely limited due to the dangers associated with his size, back when Andre was still able to move around with relative ease, he could deliver some truly punishing maneuvers. Actually, back in the ‘70s, Andre performed the first confirmed instance of the Tombstone Piledriver.
Piledriver innovator Karl Gotch reportedly pulled off a tombstone variant of his famous cradle piledriver from time to time, but there’s no footage or verifiable reports of these instances. That’s not the case with Andre who performed the move regularly in front of cameras during the ‘70s. If you’ve ever wondered why Gorilla Monsoon had the name “Tombstone Piledriver” ready to go when The Undertaker hit his for the first time, you’ve got Andre to thank.
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