By CLIFF BRUNT
Ok, wrestling fans. Have you ever been in a packed arena when THE wrestler is about to hit THE move and everybody’s on their feet? There are few thrills like it in sports or entertainment. That’s one of the reasons wrestling has remained popular through the generations “ the anticipation of, and the delivery of, that unique final move every wrestler has that signals the end.
I’ve been a fan of pro wrestling for most of my life. During my journalism career, I’ve interviewed Ted DiBiase, Randy Orton, Cowboy Bob Orton and even Vince McMahon and Donald Trump before their Hair vs. Hair match at Wrestlemania 23 (My AP story here – http://usat.ly/LgsmLi). I’m going to use my new site as an excuse to write about it. This is a compilation of what I think are the top pro wrestling finishing moves of the past 30 years.
Let me start by saying I know wrestling isn’t real. It’s entertainment executed by dynamic athletes. But I’ve been watching since my dad used to turn the dial to the AWA on our little black-and-white TV back in the early 1980s. The first event I attended live was an In Your House pay-per-view in 1996 in Omaha called œGood Friends, Better Enemies. Shawn Michaels defeated Diesel for the WWE title. It was Diesel’s last match in the WWE before leaving for WCW. Others on the card? The Godwinns, the BodyDonnas, The Ultimate Warrior and Goldust.
Moves that didn’t make it but were considered? Hulk Hogan’s Legdrop, Bret Hart’s Sharpshooter, Ric Flair’s Figure Four, Chris Benoit’s Crippler Crossface, Scott Hall’s Razor’s Edge, Sid Justice’s Chokeslam, Kevin Nash’s Jackknife Power Bomb; Batista’s Batista Bomb, The Rock’s Rock Bottom, The Undertaker’s Tombstone, Curt Hennig’s Perfectplex; Rick Rude’s Rude Awakening, Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Dream, Goldust’s Curtain Call, Rey Mysterio’s 619, Ken Shamrock’s Ankle Lock, Victoria’s Widow’s Peak, Arn Anderson’s Spinebuster, Triple H’s Pedigree, Brock Lesnar’s F5, Sting’s Scorpion Death Lock and others.
Here’s my top 10.
10. Randy Savage’s Flying Elbow
Savage popularized an aerial move back when fewer wrestlers were going to the top rope. He made a quick, athetic style seem manly, and this move was the crown jewel for a man who, in my opinion, is the best pure athlete in professional wrestling history. What separated Savage’s execution of this relatively simple move was his hang time. He made it look pretty and deadly all at the same time. Here’s the one that beat Ted DiBiase for the WWF title at WrestleMania IV. http://bit.ly/M2jEky
9. Yokozuna’s Banzai Drop
You have to make the list when you are 500-plus pounds and can even get to the second rope to come crashing down on someone’s chest. You knew wrestling wasn’t real, but you always wondered if the next victim would ever get up. For my money, this was most convincing and powerful big-man move ever, even more so than the Undertaker’s tombstone or the One Man Gang’s Splash. Jeff Hardy is the victim in this video. http://bit.ly/dUpsSc
8. Randy Orton’s RKO
What makes this move is the setup, and the fact that he executes it so well, even though he has to time it perfectly to pull it off. His RKO against the Undertaker at WrestleMania 21 (http://bit.ly/M2lPED) is one of the best executed finishers I’ve ever seen.
7. Steve Austin’s Stunner
Austin’s kick to the gut followed by a neckbreaker and unlimited beers highlighted an era. Austin was relatively small, so his finisher had to have some sting to it. Boy, did it ever. Here’s a few stunners for ˜ya. http://bit.ly/irLmr
6. Jeff Hardy’s Swanton Bomb
Rob Van Dam and Eddy Guerrero both had great top-rope dives, but Hardy’s was more explosive and risky. It was a great equalizer for a guy who spent a lot of his career getting the daylights beaten out of him. Here is a compilation of some of his best: http://bit.ly/XCYjF
5. Diamond Dallas Page’s Diamond Cutter
Page would hit this standing neckbreaker out of nowhere. Orton’s finisher is a variation of Page’s move. Orton’s is more athletic, but Page’s was more sudden and could seemingly be executed a million different ways. Here is one tribute video: http://bit.ly/5fgNm
4. Shawn Michaels’ Superkick
Sweet chin music. Michaels hits this move so perfectly and suddenly. What sold it was the setup “ the stomping to get the crowd into it – then his flexibility on the delivery because he could hit it against much taller opponents. It was a giant killer, indeed. Video: http://bit.ly/asiJo3
3. Jimmy Snuka’s Superfly Splash
By perfecting the mother of all aerial moves, Snuka spawned a generation of wannabes. He would climb to the top rope, or the top of the cage, then spread his arms and legs and seemingly fly, landing on a helpless opponent with force and grace. Mankind would use this move, but he always gave credit to Snuka. What made it special was that Snuka could almost leap across the entire ring. He landed his most famous one against Magnificent Muraco after an Intercontinental title match on Oct. 17, 1983. Muraco retained his title; Snuka became immortal by dragging him back into the cage and doing this: http://bit.ly/9Sl2GN
2. Goldberg’s Spear/Jackhammer combo
I don’t know how numerous wrestlers didn’t have concussions after getting hit with the spear. Goldberg hit this thing with amazing force, then followed with the jackhammer, a modified powerslam that was equally devastating. Either one of those moves on its own could have made this list. Here is the combo that resulted in one of Hulk Hogan’s few clean losses. It was from a Monday Nitro and was one of the most amazing matches ever. WCW must have kicked itself for wasting this classic on a Nitro instead of saving for a Pay-Per-View. The finish from July 6, 1998: http://bit.ly/LeEXCN
1. Jake Roberts’ DDT
The setup was devastating “ that short clothesline. Then, he followed with the circular motion with his arm, one finger in the air, signaling the end. Don’t blink. If you did, you missed the most devastating finishing move in wrestling the past 30 years. This move made it seem like he actually had a chance in his feuds with Andre the Giant, the Undertaker and Randy Savage. This, along with Jake’s amazing ability to make his character come to life, made a non-muscular, beer-bellied guy with a mullet a main-event performer. Oh, and that snake, too. Here are some samples: http://bit.ly/tNpq9e
This list is just food for thought. Argue away.