For decades professional wrestling, especially in the American style, has been perceived as a big man's sport. A physical spectacle where the size of the competitors was directly linked to the size of the crowd. These giants would pummel their competition with hard hitting blows, power slams, and a few choice submission moves.
The 1980s brought Americans the first nationally syndicated look at a different style of wrestling. One that relied more on speed, agility, and quickness, than the raw power of a muscle bound giant. Wrestlers like Jimmy Snuka, Ricky Steamboat, and Randy Savage were the new faces of what wrestling could be. This group of stars would not only use the turnbuckle to trap their opponent, but also as a springboard to launch themselves into superstardom.
Most fans now wouldn’t consider an elbow drop, or a cross body to be an insane, but in the context of the 1980s...it was. A group of nationally televised high flyers, inspired the Cruiserweight division of the 1990s, which has in turn inspired a new breed of daredevils.
The following article will take a look at what elbow drops have evolved into, and rank the top 20 craziest high flying moves.
20 Cross Body
The Cross Body is perhaps the most commonly used entries on this list, with a wrestler jumping off of the top rope and rotating sideways into a standing splash of sorts. The move positions the wrestlers perfectly for either the jumper to get the pin via leverage, or the receiver to reverse the move into a slam. The Cross Body is usually used today as a transition move for bigger wrestlers like Brock Lesnar, to hoist up smaller guys. The Cross Body can be dangerous if the receiver misses the catch, leaving the jumper with their entire midsection exposed and extended.
19 Elbow Drop
The Elbow Drop was made famous in the 1980s by The Macho Man Randy Savage, and is still one of the most popular moves in wrestling today. Although it’s not the most athletic move off of the top rope, it is highly effective with the jumper thrusting their elbow into the heart of their opponent. The Elbow Drop isn’t only performed off of the top rope, with Mick Foley using the move for nearly a decade off of the ring apron. We've seen several versions/variations of the move, between Savage, Foley, HBK and even Shane McMahon, but none look as pretty as Savage's.
The Springboard is usually used by smaller wrestlers, and is executed by a performer slingshotting themselves off of the second or top rope onto their opponent. If the opponent is standing, the springboarder can jump backwards and throw a back elbow, and even a sit down neckbreaker with John Cena adding the move to his repertoire in recent weeks. When the opponent is laying on the ground, the springboarder can launch backwards into a splash, and sometimes into a double foot stomp. Or, if you're Rey Mysterio, you could REALLY pull off some crazy stuff.
17 Suicide Dives
No the Suicide Dive doesn’t kill the user, but depending on how a wrestler lands on his opponent, it can be dangerous. The idea of running head first towards the ropes and then jumping through, or over them is pretty crazy. The only reason that this dive is even allowed, is that most times the diver's opponent catches them, and essentially saves them from getting hurt. Some performers take it to the next level by adding in flips and twists, or by missing altogether, landing on the ground.
Perhaps the most spectacular one to watch is that of The Undertaker, as the sight of a near seven-foot, 300 pound man launching himself over the ropes to the floor is a sight to behold.
16 Flying Headbutt
Flying headbutts are pretty straight forward. While an opponent is laying on the mat, you drop your skull into theirs. As the fable goes, legendary wrestler Harley Race invented the move by accident, according to Ric Flair. Race has gone on to say that he regrets adopting the move as a signature maneuver, citing that it has taken a physical toll on those who have borrowed it from him. He may have been alluding to Chris Benoit with this claim, who contracted brain damage from using the headbutt as his finisher for years. We've seen Daniel Bryan use the move as well, although he may have to drop it from his arsenal if he wants to continue his wrestling career.
15 Leaps of Faith
This is a broad category, and doesn’t have a specific move associated with it. It does however usually have the phrase “Oh my God!” attached to it. The Leap of Faith is any high flying move across a distance that hasn’t been seen before, or in a long time. This started with Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka jumping off of the cage in Madison Square Garden in 1983, which Mick Foley (a daredevil in his own right) has stated inspired him to get into the business.
The thing about the Leap of Faith, is that it doesn’t take much skill. Sure if you want to throw a Moonsault or a corkscrew in there, then it becomes more difficult, but for the most part it just takes someone who has no fear. Jumping off of a balcony, cages, or rafters all apply here.
14 Big Man Moonsault
This could be considered to be a bit bias, but it takes a lot more skill for a 250 plus pounder to do a flip off of the top rope than it does for a cruiserweight. With that being said, when a big man climbs to the top turnbuckle, it gets the whole building's attention. When that same big man doesn’t turn around and proceeds to do a back flip into a splash onto his opponent, everyone is standing.
You can count on one hand how many big guys have perfected the Moonsault, making it a viable addition to this list. Vader gets credit for his Moonsault, even though he cocks his head over his left shoulder to make sure that his aim is correct. Bam Bam Bigelow, and more recently Kevin Owens (formerly Steen) have the prettiest looking Moonsaults for big guys.
13 Five Star Frog Splash
This move makes the list only because of Rob Van Dam. No one in the professional wrestling scene has been able to get as much distance and height while delivering this front splash as RVD. He has enough time to perform the required mid-air crunch before even falling underneath the ropes in the view of the camera. Art Barr's version truly did look like a frog leaping out of midair, and Eddie Guerrero brought further fame to the move, but RVD's is the most fun to watch.
12 Corner-to-Corner Missile Dropkick
This is a pretty straight forward move, as it only requires an insane jumping ability. The Corner-to-Corner Missile Dropkick consists of a wrestler jumping from one turnbuckle into one of the other corners. In some cases, such as the WWE, a performer may use a trash can to remove some of the distance between them and their opponent. If you were thinking Shane McMahon when you read that, you'd be right, as moves like this made Shane McMahon matches must-see.
This move could be described as a Hurricanrana off of the top ropes, but that description wouldn’t do it justice. The Dragonrana is unique in its ability to look like a power move, and a finesse one at the same time. The strength needed to flip your opponent on his head, is juxtaposed by the agility it takes to not smash their head against the mat. Watching Rey Mysterio pull this move off on a weekly basis back in Smackdown's glory years was always a treat to watch, as well as in WCW's Cruiserweight division.
10 720 DDT
The DDT itself can be dangerous if the neck is torqued at the wrong angle during the maneuver. Take the normal DDT and imagine the degree of difficulty it takes to springboard off of the ropes backwards, while grabbing your opponents neck and then spinning an extra rotation.
The move is called a 720, but it is actually a 540 degree rotation by the person performing the DDT, either way it is an insane move that is delivered with force.
9 Suicide Bomb
The Suicide Bomb is a Moonsault that is rotated into a seated Senton that is used by MIKAMI. This move is dangerous for two separate reasons, the first being that you are backwards on the turnbuckle before the flip.
The second danger in this move is the possible over or under rotation that can come while landing on your opponent. If MIKAMI over rotates when he hits the Senton, his head would slam against the mat usually at full speed.
8 Shooting Star Press
Invented by Jushin Liger, the Shooting Star Press is a mid air forward moving back flip. The move has been used by dozens of wrestlers in large promotions, but is considered to be dangerous enough to have been banned in the WWE. If under rotated, the press can cause the person performing the move to land directly on their head. This can be seen in Brock Lesnar’s Wrestlemania XIX botch against Kurt Angle, where he injured himself as well as his opponent.
7 450 Splash
This high risk stunt is performed by having a wrestler standing on the top turnbuckle, facing the opponent on the mat. The splash is done by performing a front flip with extra forward rotation, so that the performers chest lands on his opponents.
Again anytime that over rotation could be involved, the more dangerous it is for both performers. If the wrestler isn’t able to make the splash then both feet will crack into the opponent's ribs, without them bracing for it.
6 Avalanche Moonsault Side Slam
This move has most recently been used by Sin Cara in the WWE, and when done correctly is considered to be one of his best moves. Think of the Rock Bottom set up, now imagine that pose on the top rope.
Balancing on the top rope is hard enough in that position, but what comes next is the real challenge. Continuing with the Rock Bottom analogy, imagine the person giving the Rock Bottom doing a Moonsault, and the person receiving it doing a front flip. Throughout the entire move, both wrestlers are still in the rock bottom position, and land flat on the mat without releasing each other.
5 630 Splash
This move has a rotation of one and three quarter front flips off of the top rope facing the opponent. When the performer lands, their back will slam into their opponent's body. Jack Evans, of ROH and TNA fame, seems to have had the most success with the move, frequently using it as his finisher.
If done from the turnbuckle, this move may have the highest degree of difficulty on this list. This splash can go horribly wrong if the performer doesn’t have enough speed or height to make all rotations involved.
4 Double Rotation Moonsault
So imagine the 630 splash...but backwards. Right now Ricochet of Lucha Underground and Chiva Kid are the only two wrestlers who utilize this ridiculous aerial maneuver. There really isn’t much to say about the Double Moonsault, except that some wrestlers can’t do one flip, let alone a double rotation. Just watch the move, it is beautiful and speaks for itself. You wonder if we'll ever see this move in the WWE, or if it would be deemed too dangerous by officials.
3 540 Corkscrew Senton
This Senton is just going to be referred to as Infrared, because Amazing Red does this move as a finisher nearly perfect every time. The Infrared starts with Red facing away from his opponent, then jumping off as if he were going to do a Moonsault. while in mid air Red corkscrews 540 degrees landing on his opponent with his back. Simply amazing. Moves like this made TNA's X-Division incredible to watch in its heyday.
2 Corkscrew Shooting Star Press
Popularized by Neville, the Corkscrew Shooting Star Press is beautiful to watch. It is a surprise that WWE allows Neville to use this move, when you consider that WWE has banned the normal Shooting Star Press. It must be a testament to their faith in his ability to get the necessary height to do a full body spin, while flipping backwards, while still moving forward. Fans in NXT got to enjoy it for a while and now every WWE fan has seen it and remains blown away by it.
1 Phoenix 630
It would make sense for the Phoenix 630 to be on this list, if the normal 630 is too. The variation of this flipping aerial maneuver is that a corkscrew is added in the first rotation. It would seem that Jack Evans is the only person who can actually land this splash, as it requires an extra three quarters of a rotation after the initial corkscrew.
Don’t agree with the list? That’s okay, sound off in the comments and let us know your opinion of what number one should be.