The 7 Best Finishers in Wrestling History

Post image for The 7 Best Finishers in Wrestling History

by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck

in WWE

The finisher. No explanation necessary. Even non-wrestling fans can surmise by its very name what a finisher is – the move or hold that ends the match, finishing the opponent once and for all.

These are the 7 best finishers in professional wrestling history.

7. Figure Four Leg Lock

By today’s standards the Figure Four is not an exciting finishing move, but this is a case where “The Man” made “The Move”. Popularized by “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, this moved bruised the shins of 80s era adolescent little brothers everywhere. My guess is 60%+ of the people reading this have attempted or been on the receiving end of a Figure Four, or some modification thereof.

6. Choke Slam

Used by many wrestlers (typically “bigs”), this move insinuated superhuman strength on the part of the administrator. Imagine trying to lift a 200+ lb. human with one hand. Now do it by their sweaty neck. Like all of the finishers on this list, the victim had to sell the move, meaning they had to do their fair share to make the maneuver work. In this particular example, the “choke slam-ee” had to jump off the mat to give the effect of being lifted off their feet and slammed to the ground by their throat. Kane had an excellent way of building anticipation for the move with an impressively audible open-hand “neck slap” to begin the festivities.

5. Diamond Cutter

Whereas the Ric Flair made the Figure Four cool, this is a case of “The Move making The Man”. Diamond Dallas Paige was somewhat of a toiling mid-card talent with WCW in the mid 90s. Never overly impressive as a grappler, Paige’s finisher was truly his trademark, and his double open-hand diamond signal is still used by pro athletes today. There was even a mini-beef with Jay-Z over who used the hand signal first. Noted for his ability to initiate the move from any position, at any time- the Diamond Cutter opened the door for the “quick finisher” to rise to popularity around the turn of the century, undoubtedly inspiring future finishers such as Randy Orton’s RKO.

4. Rock Bottom

The Rock was (and is) The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment. The electrifying man had a host of electrifying signature moves such as The People’s Elbow, but the Rock Bottom was his most effective finisher. Standing face to face with a dazed opponent, The Rock would drape their lifeless arm behind his head, cradle their chin in the crook of his right arm, lift them off the mat and slam them backwards, while driving himself face first into the mat as well. Like the choke slam, this move required a fair amount of cooperation from the victim (jumping at the right time), but it also provided us with the facial expressions and theatrics that only The Rock could convey.

3. Sweet Chin Music

Tune up the band. Dubbed Mr. WrestleMania, Shawn Michaels undoubtedly took part in some of the most epic matches of all time. After a long, intense build up, the Heartbreak Kid would back into a corner, stomping his foot on the mat until his opponent came to long enough to stagger into an energetic boot to the chin. Anyone who has attempted to mimic Sweet Chin Music has respect for how limber and flexible The Showstopper had to be to land this finisher, especially on his taller opponents.

2. Power Bomb

image courtesy rawisreal.blogspot.com

Many wrestlers have employed this finisher since its inception, but for me the one who comes to mind instantly is Kevin Nash. The many variations of this move over the years (Batista Bomb, Last Ride, Crucifix Power Bomb/Razor’s Edge) signify its lasting impact on the business.

Kevin Nash Power Bombing Rey Mysterio on WCW Nitro was one of the hardest non-object bumps I’ve ever seen.

 

1. Stone Cold Stunner

No surprise here, although the surprising nature by which this finisher routinely came about is the reason it sits atop the list. In most cases, fans could clearly see when a wrestler’s finisher was being set up. From Jake “The Snake” Roberts trademark finger spin (based on an MLB umpire’s home run call), Shawn Michaels’ “tuning up the band”, to Randy Orton pounding the mat with his fists, many superstars over the years gave theatrical indications that their signature move was imminent. Not so with Stone Cold.

The fact that the relatively gentle gut kick always came from nowhere and was followed quickly with a stunner was perhaps this finisher’s most charming quality. While the tempo of the match often dictated the timing of the stunner, there were plenty of instances in which it came completely unexpected, and that shock factor is the lasting legacy this move has left on many fans.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian Morin March 27, 2012 at 12:48 am

Great article, except I would have added an 8th with The Hulkster’s Atomic Leg Drop. Truthfully, it wasn’t the best move, but it dominated WWF wrestling in the 80s. I can’t wait to see what wrestling material the rest of the week holds.

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Jason G March 27, 2012 at 1:32 am

So hard to narrow to 7. I would definitely left out DDP for the Hulk leg drop or the Macho Man elbow…maybe even the Goldberg jackhammer.
Good list though!!

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Justin March 27, 2012 at 9:54 am

Ohhhh, the Jackhammer. During Goldberg’s heyday the whole Spear/Jackhammer finish absolutely rocked. Can’t argue with that choice at all.

Gotta appreciate the leg drop for it’s historical significance, but as an actual viable “finisher”, not a big fan.

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Howie Decker March 28, 2012 at 2:41 pm

I’ll never forget Goldberg getting The Giant (now Big Show) up in that Jack Hammer AND holding it for a few counts. Ridiculous strength. And there’s no way that doesn’t hurt like hell when you come down.

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eclectik March 27, 2012 at 5:09 am

Nice list … I’d say this is more the most popular list
Best might be (no order)

Figure Four
Camel Clutch
Boston Crab
Canadian Destroyer
Death Valley Driver
Diamond Cutter
DDT

I miss the days where the finisher was dangerous … unique and no one else did … people were called the “Master of ____” and if it happened everyone went crazy!

These days finishers are wack and regular … they dont seem like they’d hurt … they arent even flashy anymore

Rock Bottom, Anything John Cena does, The Angle Slam … feh.

All that to say, love the most and it brings back memories

My Finisher is the jackknife inverted Number 3

e.

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Howie Decker March 27, 2012 at 9:26 am

I do miss how Jake Roberts was (like you said) “The Master of the DDT”, so no one else did it, or if they did, it was “not as effective”. Now, for one, the DDT means nothing more than a clothesline, and second – everyone does it.

Thanks for the comments – and remind me to steer clear of your finisher.

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Clarence from RHM March 27, 2012 at 8:16 pm

Definitely agree. The DDT should be rarer, not as rare as a pile driver but as a threatening finisher.

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Howie Decker March 27, 2012 at 9:24 am

Surprised at the love for the Leg Drop, reminds me of the G1 Megatron backlash from the Action Figure 100 – something that wasn’t that great at the time but seems to have nostalgia on its side. We (Tank, Googs, and I) considered doing a “10 Worst Finishers of All Time” list for this week, and the Leg Drop was our consensus #1!

This is the best part of any list though, it generates conversation and debate – thanks for reading & sharing guys! Let’s take the debate to Twitter!

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SharePointJoe March 27, 2012 at 9:52 am

Says a lot about the Stone Cold Stunner. I still attempt the move on my wife and my dogs. Yeah that’s right. Don’t mess with Hollywood Zicari

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Howie Decker March 28, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Well, and we all know if Hollywood doesn’t get ya with a Stunner he’s got a sharp wooden stake with your name on it somewhere.

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Justin March 27, 2012 at 9:52 am

Can’t argue with any of these, though I’ll admit the choke slam always left me cold. Big fan of the Van-Daminator personally. 😀

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Clarence from RHM March 27, 2012 at 8:10 pm

One of my personal favourites: the Vertebreaker. The Muscle Buster also reminds me how important the spine is when the neck’s exposed.

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Howie Decker March 28, 2012 at 2:40 pm

It’s amazing that over the years there haven’t been more serious injuries when moves like that are executed – all it takes is the slighest miscalculation or slip. Stone Cold was never the same after the Owen Hart piledriver.. the list goes on.

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Will March 28, 2012 at 2:04 pm

What?!! No Last Ride? You omitted the outlawed Tombstone”! And not even an honorable mention for the Razor’s Edge?! If this website were a folding table, I’d be flipping it over right now!

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Howie Decker March 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm

I know.. I KNOW! So many great ones left off, I did at least mention the Razor’s Edge in the Power Bomb entry.. but another glaring omission is ANY top rope finisher.. so yes, much like the Action Figure 100 this list has drawn the ire of many a fan. Mission accomplished!

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zedhatch March 28, 2012 at 8:02 pm

Gotta agree on Diamond cutter, it was cool and what made DDP shine I think. A few omissions that I felt need some kind of honorable metion though (and a few that I feel knock some of these off the list): Sharpshooter/Scorpion Death lock (take your pick there), DDT, Pedagree, Flying Elbow (Macho Man version of course, a bit on that later), ect.

Also I noticed the lack of High flyer moves is kind of disturbing, Elbow Drop, High cross body (Ricky steamboat), ect are some of the biggest movies as well IMO.

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Classick Material March 29, 2012 at 3:29 am

I like submission finishers.

I was a huge fan of the Crippler Crossface, but alas the “Family Killer” ruined that for all of us forever.
Daniel Bryan’s Labell Lock is pretty similar to the crossface.

The Sharpshooter >>>>> but only when Bret or Owen (RIP) do it.

Of all of today’s wrestlers, I’d say C.M. Punk’s finishers are pretty sweet, the GTS (Go to sleep) and the Anaconda Vice

More devastating than the Boston Crab was Chris Jericho’s Walls of Jericho, where he had his opponent stretched at an angle and dug the knee into the back of his opponent for more pressure. I’d imagine you’d need to take the opponent out on a stretcher if that was done for real.

Worst finisher? Gotta be Scotty Too Hottie’s The Worm.

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Howie Decker March 29, 2012 at 10:48 am

Classick – I do regret the lack of a top rope finisher on the list, in retrospect, I’d bump the Choke Slam, or make it a Top 10 list. Submission finishers are great when delivered the right way, and when it is slapped on the victim unexpectedly – I’ve never been a fan of the big slow buildup to the hold, and the anti-climactic tap out after a long hold. The quick ones are the best in my eyes.

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Jesse June 8, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Nice selections! It must have been hard to narrow it down to just seven. Heck, I don’t think I could have done it in less than 10. Another similar list (over at http://www.ranker.com/list/best-finishers-in-wrestling/the-round-mound) needed 25 before calling it a day. Anyway, good stuff!

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Howie Decker June 9, 2012 at 9:17 pm

Thanks for the comment! That link is great- I like that list. I do regret the lack of “top rope” moves on my version.

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