Finishing Wrestling Moves
21 Finishing Moves You Need To Know
Once upon a time, Professional Wrestling was a “Real” Combat Sport. The problem with this is that from the perspective of an audience, watching two men in a clinch can get pretty boring, especially in an arena where most members of the audience are far from the action. In a competitive wrestling match, most of the spectacle happens when one wrestlers shoots a takedown on another. Once the wrestlers hit the mat, the action turns subtle. Boxing’s emphasis on strikes and punches thrown per round is more audience friendly. UFC adopted the Round & Scorecard System from Boxing in order to prevent every match from ending in the manner of Old-Style Wrestling Matches.
Professional Wrestling evolved another solution, which was to dispense with actual combat in favor of theatricality and storytelling. As in Opera or Kabuki, the physical style of the performers is readable from the rafters. Performers develop signature moves that are recognizable to regular audience members.
In professional wrestling, most wrestlers execute a finishing move, which leads to a pin fall. These moves often signify that the attacking wrestler is going for the pin fall and the opponent may now lose the match. Some of the greatest wrestlers around the world have their own signature finishing moves. Below is a list of some of the most popular finishing moves in wrestling.
Here is the master list of 21 finishers you need to know;
#1 Jerry “The King” Lawler: The Pile Driver
Most associated with Jerry Lawler, the King of Memphis Wrestling & Terry Funk, The Brawling Cowboy who would as soon hit you with a branding iron as he would spit in your eye, the Pile Driver has a particularly dangerous reputation. As the name implies, the victim has his head driven straight into the mat, at a near 90-Degree Angle. As the move can believably break somebody’s neck, it has often been banned by promotions. As it is dangerous if not properly executed, you will not see it in the modern WWE ring. As the move actually has injured prominent performers in real life (including Steve Austin), audiences still buy the danger associated with it. The classic Pile Driver has largely been replaced by variations like the Tombstone Pile Driver that better protects the victim’s head and neck.
#2 Dave Batista: The Power Bomb
This is generally, but not exclusively, a move for wrestlers with monstrous size. It starts out like a Pile Driver but here the victim is hoisted into the air, above shoulder level and then hurled to the mat, to land on the head, back and shoulders. It may be a safer move than the Pile Driver because the victim can land on a larger surface area, but it can really shock the audience to see somebody hurled in such a manner. It tends to be associated with giants like Batista, Sid Vicious, Kevin Nash, the Undertaker (who has a variation called “The Last Ride”) & Big Van Vader.
#3 “The Rated R Superstar” Edge: The Spear
Such a simple seeming idea, The Spear is a running tackle to the opponent’s midsection. If the performer is lanky and has great explosive power, this can look like a cannon shot and is extremely impressive. The wrestler Edge probably has the best Spear in the business as he can break instantly into a sprint, duck into the tackle and then uncoil like snake. The great thing about a move like this is that it can come out of nowhere, creating surprising endings for a match. Other finishers demand more set up.
#4 “Super Fly” Jimmy Snuka: The Top Rope Splash
Jimmy “Super fly” Snuka popularized this finisher that was later adopted by Rob Van Dam & Eddie Guerrero, among others. The idea here is that you beat your opponent prone and when he can’t move you climb to the top of the turnbuckles, leap into the air and land on him, chest to chest. The great thing about this is that the audience is left wondering if the splashee is going to roll out of the way. Before the splash either hits or misses, it’s still anyone’s match. In 1983, Snuka made history by delivering his splash to Don Muraco from the top of a steel cage at Madison Square Garden. Since then, leaps have come from ever-higher heights and agile performers have turned them into moonsaults, 360 Degree Twists & 450 Degree Aerial Tumbles.
#5 “The Million Dollar Man” Ted DiBiase: The Sleeper
Not a common finisher anymore, the sleeper and related holds like the Cobra Clutch are neck vices that one wrestler can use to render another unconscious by “cutting off the flow of blood to the brain,” which is considered legal while “cutting off the air flow” with a chokehold, is not. Wrestling has a strange morality to it. The sleeper is not exciting but the audience knows just how it works, so it reads well. It also creates some suspense when the bad guy puts the good guy in a sleeper the audience is left to wonder if their hero has enough will power to keep from passing out and to fight out of the hold. Of course, will power alone shouldn’t let your brain function without blood and oxygen but we are in a world of magical thinking. Bad guys like Roddy Piper & Ted DiBiase have used this hold, or its variants. Brutus The Barber Beefcake, a good guy, used to knock people out and then cut their hair off. These days, the sleeper is used most often in the middle of a match, to give performers a chance to catch their breath and possibly to discuss the next sequence of the events.
#6 Jake “The Snake” Roberts: The DDT
The DDT is a simple but devastating move that used to be a common finisher. To perform a DDT you lock your opponent in a front headlock and then fall backwards, driving their forehead into the mat, floor, stairs or whatever happens to be underneath. Jake “The Snake” Roberts used it to knock people out so that he would let his boa constrictor Damian crawl all over them. With Roberts, the DDT was an involved affair. Others like Free Bird Michael P.S. Hayes & Arn Anderson used it as a move they could perform in virtually any circumstance, stealing victory from defeat or turning the tide of the match in an instant. It’s now less common as a finisher as audiences have seen it so many times.
#7 “Mr. Perfect” Curt Henning: The Cradle Suplex
The point of a wrestling match is generally to score a pin fall or submission, but very few finishing moves attempt to achieve this except by inflicting a great deal of pain and then lying on top of an opponent who has been battered into immobility. The Cradle Suplex, popularized by “Mr. Perfect” Curt Henning, exists specifically for the purpose of scoring a pin. When the move is completed, the opponent’s leg his hooked and his shoulders are on the mat. Whether or not he has been beaten up, he is in serious danger of losing the match. Mr. Perfect’s gimmick was that he was, well, perfect, and that meant that he had to win every match for a long period of time. Winning the match took precedence over dealing pain. The cradle Suplex, what he called “Then Perfect Plex” was an elegant finisher, for a more civilized time.
#8 DDP “Diamond” Dallas Page: The Diamond Cutter
The stunner is closely related to the Diamond Cutter or RKO. All are variations on moves called “Cutters.” To apply, kick your opponent in the stomach, grab their head while turning your back and fall down to the mat. The object is either to slam their jaw into your shoulder or their face into the mat. The move can be hit from almost any position and is as versatile as the DDT. Also, it looks like it hurts. The audience can easily imagine losing teeth to the move. Stone Cold Steve Austin popularized the move and was able to convincingly stun 4 or 5 people in rapid succession.
#9 Rick Flair: The Figure Four Leg Lock
The ultimate “submission by pain” move, it has been claimed that the Figure Four hurts the ankle, calf, femur, knee, hamstring and quadriceps. Because of this, announcers can claim that the hold will deliver lasting injuries. The Figure Four is most associated with the legendary Ric Flair but it was also used by Greg “the Hammer” Valentine, who had a gimmick where he made the move more deadly by wearing a shin guard that he would turn around to his calf before applying the hold. The best thing about the Figure Four is not just that the audience buys into it as a painful and debilitating hold but that it is easily countered, enhancing the drama. While putting the hold on, the attacking wrestler is vulnerable to being suddenly pinned in what’s called a “Small Package.” Also, if the wrestler in the hold can endure the pain they can “Reverse the Pressure” by rolling over onto their stomachs. That counter became the basis of Sting’s “Scorpion Death lock” also known as the Sharpshooter made famous by Bret “The Hit Man” Hart.
#10 “The Heart Break Kid” Shawn Michaels: The Super kick
The super kick is most closely associated with Shawn Michaels who used it to kick his old tag team partner, Marty Jannetty, through a plate glass window, which is pro wrestling for, “I think we should dissolve our business relationship.” The great thing about the way Michaels uses the move is that he can either set it up as the last in his “ Moves of Doom” sequence or he can just throw the kick out of nowhere. Typically, he will taunt a battered opponent by stomping on the mat, tuning up the band before delivering “Sweet Chin Music.” But he might also just kick you out of nowhere.
The Super Kick is frequently used by wrestlers who claimed martial arts backgrounds (like “Sweet” Stan Lane of the Midnight Express) or by no-nonsense technicians like Lance Storm. It also frequently shows up with wrestlers claiming Polynesian descent like Haku, Rikishi & The Samoan Swat Team. Now, in wrestling for some reason, Samoans & Tongans are known as being supernaturally hard-headed. Head-Butt them or ram their heads into the turnbuckle at your peril. The Samoan Swat Team had a bit where their opponents would slam their heads into something and they would bounce back, unaffected, and Super Kick their opponents in the face.
#11 The Undertaker: The Tombstone Pile Driver
One of the most stunning moves in professional wrestling, this move is performed by The Undertaker. In this move, The Undertaker lifts his opponent on one shoulder and positions him in such a way that the opponent’s legs are vertically upside and the head is near his thighs. The arms of the opponent are wrapped around Undertaker’s waist. The Undertaker then bends his knees to the ground, while keeping his opponent in the same locked position, hitting the opponent’s head to the ground. The Undertaker makes the pin by folding the opponent’s arms onto his chest, pressing the arms so that the shoulders are in contact with the ground.
#12 “The Immortal” Hulk Hogan: The Leg Drop
Hulk Hogan was one of the most popular wrestlers of his era and his finishing move was very popular among wrestling fans. In this move, known as the ‘The Leg Drop’, or ‘The Big Leg’, Hogan first made the opponent supine by landing a few kicks and blows on him. He would then run across the ropes and jump onto the opponent’s throat with his leg, leading to a pin fall.
#13 Bret “The Hit Man” Hart: The Sharp Shooter
Bret “Hit Man” Hart’s finishing move was elegant and simple. He would twist both the legs of the opponent and hook them against his own. He would then flip the opponent into a prone position and lean back to compress his lower back. Hit Man didn’t use this move for pin fall, but for gaining submission from the opponent.
#14 Triple H: The Pedigree
Triple H’s Pedigree is one of the most stunning moves in professional wrestling and gets the crowd into the game. Triple H grabs the head of the hunched opponent between his legs and locks the opponent’s hands behind his back. He then jumps and lands onto his knees hitting the opponent’s head to the ground with full force.
#15 The Big Show: The Choke Slam
The Big Show grabs the opponent’s throat with his hand and lifts him up in the air. He then throws the opponent down with full ferocity and proceeds to do the pin fall.
#16 John Cena: The Attitude Adjustment
John Cena lifts the opponent using his shoulders and upper back. Cena then throws the opponent onto the ground in a sideways position and proceeds to do a pin fall.
#17 Rey Mysterio Jr.: The 619
This finishing move is named after the local area code in Mysterio’s hometown. In this move, the opponent is set against the ropes and is facing out of the ring. Rey Mysterio comes running in after gaining momentum off the opposite ropes and slides through the second and the third rope to kick the opponent in the face. He follows it up by climbing onto of the rope and jumping chest-first onto his opponent.
#18 Brock Lesner: The F5
Brock Lesner was known for his brute power and his finishing move was a proof of that. In this move, Brock Lesner lifts the opponent onto his shoulders using his right arm. With the opponent firmly gripped on his shoulders, Lesner grabs the opponent’s farthest leg and slams him, landing him face-first on the ground.
#19 “Stone Cold” Steve Austin : The Stunner
Stone Cold’s finishing move is indeed a Stunner of some sorts. Stone Cold sets up this move by bringing the opponent in a hunched position. He then grabs the head of the opponent in such a way that it is locked between his biceps and his shoulder. Once he knows that the prey is firmly gripped, he turns away and jumps hitting the opponent on his face. All this happens in a matter of a few seconds and then Stone Cold goes for the pin.
#20 Goldberg: The Jackhammer
Goldberg was a wrestler that the audience loved to watch. His finishing move, the Jackhammer was one of the most lethal moves in pro wrestling. In this move, Goldberg grips the opponent and lifts him up in such a way that the opponent’s legs are vertically upwards. Goldberg then drops the wrestler onto the ground, without losing the grip on the opponent and goes for the pin.
#21 Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson: The People's Elbow
The Rock is one of those pro wrestlers who have made a name for themselves in Hollywood. His finishing move, ‘The People’s Elbow’ is considered one of the weakest finishing moves in pro wrestling history, but it was The Rock’s sheer charisma that the crowd erupted every time he started sniffing and removing his elbow pad – a symbolic gesture that signified that The People’s Elbow was to follow. The move is pretty straightforward. The Rock crisscrosses the ring, gaining momentum from the ropes, and finally stops by the supine opponent to deliver a lethal Elbow onto the opponent’s ribs. The move usually leads to a pin fall.