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 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.
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.
18 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.
17 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.
16 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.
15 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.
14 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.
13 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.
12 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.
11 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.
10 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.
9 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.
8 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.
7 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.
6 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.
5 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.
4 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.
3 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.
2 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.
1 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.
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