There have been an infinite amount of finishers used throughout the history of the WWE, but there have only been a select few that look like they could actually end a match. These are the moves that don't require some intricate set up with help from the other wrestlers or moves that look like any other move you'd see throughout the course of a normal match. These are the moves that have stood the test of time and have seen countless other wrestlers try to replicate them because they look great and real. These are the moves we're here to talk about today.
It doesn't take something flashy to keep someone down for the count, no matter how many flips you incorporate or how brutal the end result can look, as it still has to look real. The whole point of wrestling is taking you into their world by keeping things close enough to reality that you can believe that what you're watching is real. When you use a move that requires someone to hold onto the top rope while you get in position or your finish is something that happens in literally every other match like a regular punch to the face, a lot of the illusion that the WWE tries their hardest to maintain is gone in an instant.
These are the moves that keep you invested and keep your head in the match while thinking "Yeah, that would hurt." These are the most realistic finishers of all time.
20 Tombstone - The Undertaker
So much about The Undertaker is incredibly over the top and hard to take seriously, that it's easy to imagine him having a finisher that is equally ridiculous, but that isn't the case.
The Tombstone Piledriver is one of the most iconic, and legitimately dangerous, finishers in wrestling history, as it's been used to put away every Superstar you can imagine over the past 25 plus years. It isn't difficult to imagine someone with the size and strength of The Undertaker being able to lift mere mortals right off their feet and into the proper position before dropping them straight down on the top of their heads.
It's a move so dangerous that only a select few Superstars are given the honor of even attempting the move, which considering the horrific consequences of it not being pulled off correctly is most certainly a good thing.
19 19. 3D - The Dudley Boyz
The Dudley Boyz have really done everything that there is to do in the wrestling world and a lot of that is thanks to their finishing move, the Deadly Death Drop.
As if it isn't enough to take a flapjack from someone the size of D-Von, which would be enough of an impact on it's own, you have Bubba Ray waiting in the wings to catch you by the head and help accelerate you down to the canvas.
It's the most iconic tag team finishing move of all time and for good reason. Not only have countless superstars fallen to the 3D, but it looks like it could actually mess you up as getting thrown eight feet into the air then getting spiked down by your head tends to do.
18 RKO - Randy Orton
The majority of wrestlers, no matter how effective or iconic, would have the same career path no matter what move they decided to use to put their opponents away, but that simply isn't the case for Randy Orton.
Before he introduced the RKO, he was just another generic mid carder floating through the process with no direction, but when he first landed the move out of nowhere, everything changed for The Viper. The main reason his finish has gotten so incredibly over through the years is that it just looks incredibly vicious sometimes. The fact that he can pop out of seemingly nowhere to deliver the decisive strike certainly helps the cause as well, but like most of the moves on this list, the beauty lies in it's simplicity. It doesn't take a big convoluted set up to get his opponent in position. In fact, it's the complete opposite, as it's something that, as the WWE loves to remind us constantly, can be struck from out of nowhere.
17 Cross Armbreaker - Alberto Del Rio
It's incredibly rare for a wrestler to have one fake looking finisher, as well as one that looks like it could send his opponent to the emergency room, yet here we are with Alberto Del Rio.
While his double foot stomp in the corner takes way too much set up and cooperation from his opponent, the cross armbreaker is a classic example of a vicious and realistic looking finisher. Drawing from his experience as an MMA fighter, Del Rio is able to perform the submission with ease and a certain amount of realism that jumps out of the screen. Using a move that has legitimately broken peoples bones before certainly helps out the realism factor as well. With the WWE putting a new emphasis on submissions and an MMA style in the ring, Del Rio thrived with this move long before it was regarded as "cool." For that, we applaud him.
16 Coup De Gras - Finn Balor
Finn Balor isn't the biggest man in wrestling, so how does someone with his size find a finisher that can realistically put away wrestlers that are twice his size? Well by jumping off the top rope and driving both feet straight into his opponent's chest, that's how.
The big difference between Balor and Del Rio's double foot stomp is that for Del Rio to pull off his move, he needs his opponent to stupidly hold on to the top rope while he gets in position, while Balor needs a few seconds to quickly scatter to the top turnbuckle. The separating factor between the Coup De Gras and any of the other top rope moves, like The Red Arrow, is that all the force of Balor crashing down onto his opponent is directed only through his feet, instead of spreading the impact throughout the entire body. That's a lot of force to come down on one specific part of your body, making it look like more than enough to keep someone down and out.
15 Bullhammer - Wade Barrett
These days, quick strike finishers seem to be all the rage with Daniel Bryan's flying knee, Hideo Itami's knee strike, Shinsuke Nakamura's Kinsasha, and Dolph Ziggler's superkick, but there have been no better examples in recent history than Wade Barrett's Bullhammer elbow.
Much like a few other entries on this list, Barrett drew from his previous life before wrestling to help make his finisher look extra brutal, as his background as a bare knuckle boxer surely lends credence to him being able to pull out a lightning quick strike that can knock someone out for good.
The move is at its best when it comes out of nowhere, without the build up of him taking off his elbow pad and reversing it for reasons we still haven't figured out. It's a shame Barrett never got the push he really deserved, as his only real chance at breaking through came when he used the terrible Wasteland finisher. If he had the Bullhammer from the beginning, who knows what could've happened.
14 Power Of The Punch - William Regal
Leave it to a master craftsman like William Regal to take something as simple as a punch and make it real enough to win matches with. The secret, of course, was that it wasn't just a simple punch, but a punch enhanced by a pair of brass knuckles that the Englishmen pulled out of his trunks while the ref was distracted.
It's kind of amazing that more wrestlers haven't gone for such a basic move before, as, speaking realistically, it's the simplest and most effective way to win a match. While wrestlers take punches to the face every day they go to work, adding some brass knucks to the equation gives off the vibe of this being a real fight between two guys doing whatever they have to in order to come out victorious, including using an absurdly brutal, yet effective, foreign object.
13 F5 - Brock Lesnar
If anyone else used the F5, it would look rather pedestrian, but in Brock Lesnar's monstrous mitts, it looks absolutely devastating. Considering the size and strength of The Beast Incarnate, seeing him lift up his opponent like they're a toddler, then proceeding to toss them threw the air with reckless abandon is truly a sight to behold.
The best thing about the F5 is that it doesn't matter who is on the unfortunate end of the move, as Lesnar can always make it look like the most powerful move in the world. A smaller guy just flies off of his shoulders and big guys get heaved off of Lesnar's shoulders, with both resulting in a thunderous slam down to the canvas.
12 Pedigree - Triple H
The pedigree may have a slightly cumbersome set up that requires a little help from the guy about to take the move, but that doesn't take away from the sheer impact that the move delivers.
There's no denying that getting put in that position, then having your head driven straight down to the mat, with the weight of Triple H on top of it mind you, can easily be considered enough to leave a wrestler staring at the lights. While the Seth Rollins version loses a lot of the luster from the original, it still looks devastating just because of the mechanics of the move. Not only is the head being driven face first into the canvas, it's the hooking of your opponent's arms behind his back beforehand that adds to it, as you're leaving him no choice but to smile and eat the floor.
11 Figure Four - Ric Flair
When a move has been around for as long as the figure four has been, with no real changes, there's a reason. The figure four has stood the test of time because it can really hurt you and leave you limping for a long, long time. It's as simple as using the opponents body against them, twisting their legs in such a way that ample pressure is applied to the knee, resulting in either a tap out or long term damage.
It's a fantastic hold for guys like Ric Flair, smaller guys living in a world full of mountain men, in that it not only gives them a story to tell throughout the match with Flair constantly trying to wear down the knee, but it's an actual painful move that will have you writhing around on the ground in pain, regardless of how big you are. With the proper selling, it looks like the most pain anyone has ever endured and if whomever is applying the hold wants it to be more than plain selling, they can make it a reality.
10 Go To Sleep - C.M. Punk
While CM Punk might not have the most destructive looking version of the move, that honor goes to Hideo Itami (formerly known as KENTA), he is the one that brought it to mainstream prominence and until Itami breaks the move out in a WWE ring, it doesn't count for this list.
While the set up is a bit more complicated than others on the list, the end result is just as devastating as any other finisher in history. It can be a little tough to buy into the fact that a guy Punk's size can lift his fellow Superstars into position for the move, but it's not hard to believe that when someone comes back down to Earth after being on his opponent's shoulders only to catch a knee straight to the face, it would be enough to keep any regular person down for the count. Not to mention the facial surgery you'd probably need afterwards.
9 Spear - Goldberg
Much like a few of the other moves on this list, the spear has been used by a lot of different Superstars in recent times, to varying degrees of success. While guys like Edge and Roman Reigns have won multiple World Titles using the move, there's no beating Goldberg when it comes to the realism factor.
Using his professional football background allowed Goldberg to treat his fellow wrestlers like tackling dummies, as he was not afraid to throw his entire weight behind the move, making it look like whoever was on the end of it was about to get snapped in half. The force Goldberg could generate in such a small amount of lead up was simply phenomenal as it took him just a few steps across the ring to build up a full head of steam and dive straight into his opponent's mid section.
If you haven't seen Goldberg spearing Nunzio out of his boots in a Royal Rumble match, I suggest you YouTube it ASAP, as that clip says more about this move than words ever could.
8 DDT - Jake Roberts
Jake Roberts is one of the true pioneers of pro wrestling, as everything from his in ring style to his work on the microphone has had a trickle down effect that we feel to this day. His most obvious introduction to the wrestling world was the use of his finisher, the DDT.
While these days it's considered nothing more than a move to use for a near fall, back when Roberts was in his prime, it was the single most devastating move in all of wrestling and for good reason. It's one of the simplest finishers in history, which makes it all the more believable, as you just grab your opponent by the head and drive them straight down to the floor. Everything from the set up to the sudden drop to the canvas was horrifyingly beautiful to watch, as while Roberts theatrics made it look great, there was always the chance that his opponent wasn't getting up.
Due to it's deceptive simplicity, this is definitely not one for the kids to try at home.
7 Alabama Slam - Hardcore Holly
The Alabama Slam may be the most unheralded move on this list, but that doesn't take away from the sickening impact that it can be hit with. The force with which the unlucky Superstar gets thrown down to the mat with is pretty much entirely up to the person delivering the move and there was no one more vicious using the slam than Hardcore Holly.
Holly was never one to back down from getting a little stiff in the ring with his opponent, especially with his chops and kicks, but when he wanted to, he could really end the match with an exclamation point using the Alabama Slam. The momentum that Holly could generate with the move looks like more than enough to completely knock the wind out of his opponent's lungs, leaving them gasping for air while they get pinned.
6 The Accolade - Rusev
While the camel clutch is a rather commonly used finisher going back to the 70s, at least it's always been a very painful looking maneuver. A lot of the effectiveness of the move depends on who is on the receiving end of the torturous hold, Mark Henry looks like he's just relaxing on his knees whereas Kalisto looks like he's about to get snapped in half.
What makes Rusev's version stand out from all the previous experts of the hold is the little twist he can use against smaller competitors. Not that the move needed to look any more painful, but when Rusev rolls onto his own back while holding onto his opponent's chin with their legs trapped under his body, it makes it look one of the most vicious looking submission moves in WWE history.
5 Bonzai Drop - Yokozuna
It doesn't get much more simple, or effective, than the move the late Yokozuna would use to put away his opponents for good. With the size that Yoko had, just sitting on his opponent's chest would realistically be enough to keep their shoulders to the mat for the three count, but adding on a jump from the second rope where he'd crash down onto his unfortunate foe's chest made it truly devastating.
It didn't help that as time went on, Yokozuna just got bigger and bigger and bigger, topping the scales at well over 600 pounds at one point. That's a lot of mass to come crashing down on top of your chest, pushing all the life out of your lungs through any orifice it can find. Yokozuna couldn't rely on his speed, quickness or his technical ability to try and put his opponents away for the count, so he did the only thing that someone his size could do; use his massive frame to crush his competitors.
4 Sweet Chin Music - Shawn Michaels
It's not the moving at a quick speed that hurts you, it's the sudden stop. When the thing coming to a sudden stop is Shawn Michaels' boot against your face, that's when you're really in trouble. There are few more believable things in wrestling than a sudden strike that can knock someone out cold and there's no better example of that than the Sweet Chin Music.
Shawn needed something to be able to keep up with the big boys that Vince loved so much back in the early to mid 90s and he found just the ticket in a move that could be struck at any time against any opponent. It was the ultimate equalizer for someone like The Heartbreak Kid, as it could be a last ditch desperate attempt to win the match or the overwhelming exclamation point capped onto a contest. Regardless of how it was used, there's one thing every superkick from Shawn Michaels had in common; it always looked like someone's head was about to get knocked off.
3 Liontamer - Chris Jericho
Before we really jump into this one, there's one important distinction that has to be made, as there's a big big big difference between The Walls of Jericho and The Liontamer. The Walls is nothing more than a simple boston crab which looks lazy and comes across as nothing, but a time killer until the wrestler reaches the ropes.
The Liontamer, on the other hand, looks absolutely brutal. While Jericho mostly used the move in WCW, that was mainly because he was going up against flexible Cruiserweights who could take the move properly versus the behemoths of the WWE world who could barely sell the regular Walls of Jericho sometimes.
The big difference between the moves is Jericho's position, as with the Liontamer he doesn't simply step over and sit down, he places his knee on the back of his opponent's head, cranking the legs back as far as possible.
2 Curb Stomp - Seth Rollins
When WWE management has to take your finisher away because they're afraid kids will be able to replicate it at home, you know you've found an incredibly realistic finisher.
As is the theme with the majority of this list, it's a very simple move that requires very little set up on the participant's part, but ends with a bang. All it takes is for Seth's opponent to find himself bent over at the waist, which is the opening that Rollins needs to deliver the killer blow. Running up to his opponent, leaping into the air, then using his foot to drive them face first into the canvas is as brutal as it gets. That gets exponentially magnified when there are cinder blocks added in for a little extra flair.
1 Ankle Lock - Kurt Angle
There are few things in the wrestling world that look more painful than legitimate submission holds brought in from the world of MMA and none were better than the Ankle Lock. While it was popularized by Ken Shamrock, whose wild eyes and crazed facial expressions made it look like he was giving everything he got, there hasn't been a better performer of the hold than Kurt Angle.
The former Olympian was no stranger to technical holds and nothing clicked for him quite like the Ankle Lock did, as he tapped into his pure wrestling style. The big difference between Angle and guys like Shamrock and Jack Swagger is more than just his background though, as when Angle applied the hold and was really determined to end the contest, he would grapevine his opponent's legs, sending them into a blinding pain that almost always signaled the end of the contest.