Macho Man's flying elbow, The Undertaker's Tombstone, Bret Hart's Sharpshooter, Shawn Michael's Superkick, Stone Cold's Stunner, Triple H's Pedigree, Randy Orton's RKO. All moves that once they come out in a match, you know the end is near. They are the most iconic moves in wrestling history and for good reason, as the impact that they deliver and the drama that they create have gone unmatched throughout history. Unfortunately not everyone can be so lucky to have such a move in their arsenal.
Looking back at the golden era of wrestling, there were finishers a plenty that have turned out to be normal moves in a match in this day and age. Even Randy Savage's flying elbow drop is used as a set up to the finish rather than the go home move at this point, but that doesn't mean this list will be comprised entirely of those types of examples. Back then, the guys were trying to keep it simple, deliver some high impact move to send the fans home happy but these days it seems to have gone to the other extreme. Wrestlers are trying all sorts of crazy things to put their opponent's away and while in some cases it works rather effectively, like Rollins' Curb Stomp for example, there are also instances where they try to do too much, taking away from what should be the biggest moment in the match.
Whether it's the lack of impact or just the absurd amount of set up and choreography that it takes from the man on the receiving end, all the finishing moves we're about to take a look at just make it all seem so unreal. They're the moves that strip away the illusion that you're watching two warriors doing battle to determine supremacy and instead throw you back into the real world where you're watching two guys in their underwear go through a bunch of pre planned spots. They commit the worst crime possible in the world of wrestling, they make it look fake.
19 Double Foot Stomp - Alberto Del Rio
There's no doubting that Del Rio has been getting better and better at delivering his final blow, but the move is just so contrived and needs far too much help from the other competitor to keep it in the realm of possibility. While adding little variations like having the opponent caught up on the ropes or on the barricade helps the variety, the terrible set up remains the same. Any move that requires the recipient to willfully hold himself in position while his opponent slowly climbs up to the top turnbuckle, then waits there still clinging on while Del Rio stands atop said turnbuckle and taunts, is just simply ridiculous.
18 Helluva Kick - Sami Zayn
For a wrestler with as much talent as Sami Zayn, sticking him with a finisher as appalling as The Helluva Kick is just a disgrace. The big boot to the face has been a move ever since wrestling was a thing and using it as a finisher today makes no sense. While Sami does build up a head of steam before charging into his opponent foot first, every big boot involves one guy running at the other. Just adding a slight variation to the big boot, like Sheamus' Brogue Kick for example, makes the move look infinitely more devastating and unlike any other move you'll see in a match. The Helluva Kick doesn't have anything like that and has the added disadvantage of having your opponent being able to see you coming from all the way across the ring.
17 Big Splash - The Ultimate Warrior
A splash is a move best reserved for guys on the larger side of the scale, people like Mark Henry, Earthquake, or even King Kong Bundy. It looks far less impressive when someone like The Ultimate Warrior does it. Even a guy like Big E, who is bigger than Warrior was and gets an absurd amount of elevation on his splash, wouldn't dare use the move as a finish to a match. When you have a guy with the raw power of The Warrior, yet making the decision to have him put away Hulk Hogan in the main event of WrestleMania VI with a simple splash, a move that big siblings have been using on their unfortunate younger brothers/sisters, is rather mind blowing.
16 Rock Bottom/The People's Elbow - The Rock
The most electrifying man in sports entertainment managed to have not one, but two of the most ridiculous looking finishers of all time. When you're going up against moves like the Stunner, the Pedigree, the Tombstone, and Sweet Chin Music, how is the Rock Bottom supposed to hold up? It essentially has the same impact as a body slam except the extra weight of The Rock's arm is falling on top of you as well, granted nowadays with The Rock's arm weighing around 600 pounds, I could see how it'd be effective. Then there's The People's Elbow which is exactly what the name says, a simple elbow drop. A move used over and over again throughout the majority of matches is all of a sudden a death knell for many top superstars.
15 Spear - Edge
The Spear has been an effective finishing move in the past and even in the present. When used by the likes of Goldberg and Roman Reigns, the Spear can look absolutely vicious. A huge man built with muscles on top of muscles building up a huge head of steam before throwing all of his body weight straight into your abdomen looks like it'd be able to keep people down for three seconds. The problem is when the person delivering the Spear is built like Edge, who was long and lean, it looks like whenever he would go for the Spear against a larger opponent that he would simply bounce right off while his opponent laughs his way to victory.
14 Diving Headbutt - Chris Benoit
Yes, Benoit's main finisher was the brutal looking Crippler Crossface, but he also won quite a few matches with his diving headbutt, so I'm including it. While leaping from the top rope and delivering a blow to your prone opponent can look effective when it's an elbow or even a leg drop, the problem arises when you use your head to hit the chest of your opponent. It's one of those moves that looks like it hits the person giving it far more than the person taking it and judging by Chris' general reaction straight after hitting the move most of the time, it seems as if he'd agree.
13 Flying Cross-body - Ricky Steamboat
While this is another top rope maneuver, the Flying Cross-body doesn't look it hurts either the guy taking it or the guy dishing it out. It's essentially a much weaker version of a top rope splash with the opponent standing to take the impact instead of being sandwiched between the man coming down on top of him and the mat. There's hardly any impact to begin with anyway, considering that the move generally looks like someone jumping from the top rope and getting caught by his opponent before they gracefully fall on their back.
13. X Factor - X-Pac
Grabbing an opponent by the head and slamming them face first into the mat sure sounds like it should be painful, but X-Pac's version of the move looked anything but painful. X-Pac was known for his karate style with quick feet and stunning strikes, so why give him a finisher that has nothing to do with those and instead has the tiny man try to power his opponent down to the ground? The fact that Dolph Ziggler has manipulated the move into being a reversal he uses to bring someone down from the top rope and yet it still isn't considered a finishing move speaks volumes about the impact X-Pac delivered.
12 Unprettier - Christian
The Unprettier, or Killswitch, isn't on this list because of it's lack of impact as hooking your opponents arms and driving them straight down on the top of their head could certainly look like something that could win a match. It's the ridiculous set up that makes it totally unbelievable. Having to go behind your opponent, lock their arms behind them, spin them around face first, then just kind of falling down makes the move look like a joke that everyone should be able to escape from with any sort of effort. Just pull your arms back for goodness sake!
11 Big Ending - Big E
Listen, I love Big E as much as the next guy, but he simply needs to find a new finisher. When you have someone with the freakish athleticism and raw power of Big E, having him simply lift his opponent up on his shoulder then fall to the ground ass first is a crime. That's really as simple as the move is, just lift the man up on your shoulder like it's going to be a slam but instead of using your own force to hit with as much impact as possible, he just lets the greatest force of all take over, gravity.
10 KO Punch - Big Show
If this list was just about the most ludicrous finishing moves in history, the KO punch would certainly find it's way closer to the top, but it's about how believable a move looks and I believe that getting punched in the face by Big Show would hurt quite a lot. The problem with it however is that in every other match on the card, you're going to see every one else get punched in the face and sometimes not even sell the shot at all. It's the story that WWE is telling of Big Show being that much bigger and stronger than every single other wrestler on the roster that for him punching someone is the end all be all that makes the move so unreal.
9 Flying Forearm - Tito Santana
It seems as if the WWE knew how weak this move was, as when they gave it to Lex Luger years after Tito, they had to add in a storyline metal plate that was embedded in the Lex Express' forearm to make the move seem like it could actually finish someone off. It's a move that even back in Santana's hey day could be mistaken for any run of the mill strike that someone would use to set up whatever they had in mind next. The flying forearm was just never delivered with enough impact or showmanship to make it look like something that would realistically knock someone out.
8 Belly to Belly - Bayley
Bayley may be the most over person in all of the WWE, but that doesn't excuse her for having such a lackluster finisher. Watching an episode of RAW, SmackdDown, or NXT you'll see guys and gals getting slammed and suplexed all over the ring, but somehow when Bayley does one of the simplest suplexes of all, it's enough to keep her opponent down for the three. While I understand that it's a play on her being a hugger, which is fine for a fun signature move or something to get the crowd fired up, it's not something that you want to use to end an unbelievably dramatic match like her contest against Sasha Banks in Brooklyn. Seeing that wonderful match come to an end thanks to a belly to belly took away from the magic they had created that night.
7 Eat Defeat - Xavier Woods/Gail Kim
Here's a move we haven't seen used in the WWE in quite a long time and for good reason, as it looks simply ridiculous. Essentially the person executing the move uses the arm of the opponent to force their face against the bottom of the deliverer's boot before falling backwards, kicking the person in the side of the head more or less. It's a difficult move to explain and even harder to watch, I mean you're telling us that the person on the receiving end really gets knocked out from dropping down about two feet into the foot of the opponent? Considering the implied power of their boots, if either Woods or Kim deliver a curb stomp to someone, it seems likely that the recipient's head might just explode.
6 Overdrive - Randy Orton
This is where these moves really start to go against your suspension of belief. Randy Orton's old finisher, the Overdrive, is one of the most unbelievable finishing moves I've ever seen because seriously how is it supposed to hurt anyone?!? In essence, it's a swinging neckbreaker, where instead of using your arms to spin your opponent around, the leg is placed on the top of the opponent's head sending them back first to the canvas while you land face first! The craziest part of it is that the opponent's head doesn't even hit the ground, they instead land safely on the back of Orton's leg.
5 Sleeper Hold - Roddy Piper
Including such an iconic move from one of the most beloved wrestlers of all time is certainly going to draw some heat, but let me remind you that chokes are illegal in the world of professional wrestling. With that in mind, how was this submission hold supposed to actually put anyone to sleep if you can't actually cut the oxygen supply to the brain? Was Hot Rod just squeezing his opponent's chin so hard that he was threatening to break their jawbone forcing a submission? Was he pushing all the air out of his opponent's ears thanks to the vice he had on their cheekbones? This one just never made any sense to me.
4 619 - Rey Mysterio
The cumulative effect of everything that goes into the 619 from Rey Mysterio easily make it one of the fakest looking finishers in wrestling history. First there was the set up for it, which really is Del Rio footstompesque, with Rey hitting his opponent with a drop kick that despite it literally never happening before would send them neck first onto the second rope. Once there, his opponents are nice enough to sit around and hang out while Mysterio runs his way across the ring to swing between the top and middle rope and deliver a kick to his opponent's face. While Cody Rhodes proved the move actually can be dangerous when he suffered a broken nose because of it, all he had to do avoid it was simply move about six inches in the 30 seconds that Mysterio gave him before finally going for the 619.
3 Leg Drop - Hulk Hogan
For the move that killed a thousand careers and is one of the most iconic moves in wrestling history it sure did look like it didn't hurt a lot didn't it? While Hogan was a rather large guy of course it never seemed like him just running up and dropping his leg across your chest would be enough to keep you down for the three count. Especially when you consider that a guy the size of Earthquake had to drop his whole body weight down on his opponent's chests to keep them down it seems very unlikely that Hogan's leg, which probably weighed around 350 pounds less than all of Earthquake, was strong enough to dish out similar damage.
2 STF - John Cena
When applied properly, the STF submission hold can look absolutely killer. With your leg tied up by your opponent's legs and your head getting wrenched backwards towards the sky, it looks like you'd be feeling nothing but pure pain and agony. Then there's Cena's attempt at the hold where he just kind of lays on top of his opponent while just sort of stretching his arms out in front of their face. It almost looks like a couples yoga move where having the pressure of Cena on your back while allow you to achieve maximum chi or whatever yoga is about. There's one thing it certainly doesn't look like though, and that's painful.
1 Vice Grip - Crush / Great Khali
If you've seen the movie Casino, then you're well aware of what a proper vice grip can do to someone's head. If you haven't seen it, don't worry, it's nothing like what happens when Crush or The Great Khali applies its namesake in the wrestling ring. At least Khali was a monster of a man who looked like he could potentially do some damage if he didn't have the motor skills of a drunk toddler, but having Crush use the move during his Hawaii surfer days just made no sense. Crush was a bigger guy but he was by no means a monster, so seeing him try to crack someone's head like a coconut from his beaches back home was only painful for those of us watching.