No moment in professional wrestling is quite as sweet for fans as when their favorite grappler hits their patented finisher, putting a win in contention, pinning their opponents shoulders to the mat in preparation for the three count. Some finishing moves require an ostentatious set-up, notably The Rock’s People’s Elbow, Shinsuke Nakamura’s Kinshasha kick, or the Hulkster’s famous Leg Drop – while others seem to emerge seemingly out of nowhere such as Shawn Michaels’ Superkick, or Kurt Angle’s Olympic Slam. Finishers are a hotly contested topic of discussion amongst wrestling fans, at least according to Ranker, and we’re more than happy to provide an alternative view to the general fan consensus.
Sadly, fan-favourite John Cena’s Attitude Adjustment did not quite make the cut.
#5. The Walls of Jericho as delivered by Chris Jericho: The only submission to make the cut, Jericho’s modified Lion Tamer became the most feared tap-out maneuver during WWE’s Attitude Era. Cameras would flash as the long-maned Y2J racked his opponent, twisting their spine beneath him as he kneeled to increase the great pressure, pushing forward for the win. The Canadian superstar continues to use the move in combination with his Codebreaker to mix up the repertoire a bit, competing both in WWE and in New Japan Pro Wrestling.
#4. The Tombstone as delivered by The Undertaker: A move that was banned from playgrounds and the professional wrestling ring alike given the propensity for life-altering spinal injury, the Undertaker is the only man living (or undead) allowed to utilize the move in the WWE. Driving the entire weight of both wrestlers in a straight line from skull to tailbone into the mat, there is rarely a time that any normal opponent can withstand the punishment meted out by a perfect Tombstone piledriver. Those that have taken a solid one from the Undertaker almost always rest in peace, with a few notable exceptions – namely the Beast, Brock Lesnar.
#3. The Styles Clash as delivered by AJ Styles: One of the few moves on the list that had to be unbanned due to the danger of permanent injury if delivered improperly, Chris Jericho is reportedly responsible for getting Vince McMahon to reverse the decision and allow the Phenomenal One to use his famous finisher. Inverting and intertwining himself with his opponent before driving them flat into the mat, the Styles Clash is a complex and unique way to end a match.
#2. The RKO as delivered by Randy Orton: The Legend Killer at one time, and now a legend in his own right, third-generation superstar Randy Orton has one of the most popular finishers in sports entertainment history in the RKO. A jumping cutter that famously can “come out of nowhere”, fans across the world jump to their feet when they see the Viper sink his teeth into his famous finisher.
#1. The Stone Cold Stunner as delivered by Steve Austin: The glass breaks, the guttural guitar strings thrum, and Stone Cold Steve Austin struts his way down the ramp towards the ring. A few moments later, middle fingers in the air, taunting his opponent, the Rattlesnake delivers a quick kick to the gut before crooking his opponents head against his shoulder. Then, sitting out, Austin delivers the most recognizable wrestling move worldwide, spitting and rolling above his opponent’s prone body before taking the victory. Even Scott Adams’ famous comic-creation Dilbert was not immune to the move, his attorney taking one for the team in an animated dream sequence during the eponymous show’s run, as seen in this YouTube video. The most well-known victim of the move, Chairman and CEO himself Mr. McMahon, hasn’t been the same since being bitten by the stylish finisher.
Don’t Forget About Signature and Submission Moves!
Signature moves are moves the wrestling superstars may be known for, and are credible finishers against enhancement talent or low-card jobbers, but rarely get the job done against an opponent on equal footing. Examples of signature moves include Randy Orton’s draping DDT, Bobby Roode’s blockbuster, Kevin Owen’s pop up powerbomb, and The Ultimate Warrior’s flying shoulder block.
Submission moves may not be as flashy, but they often get the job done whenever incorporated into a particular character’s repertoire as a finisher. Notable match breakers under this umbrella include Asuka’s Asuka Lock, Sasha Banks and her Bank Statement, Charlotte Flair’s Bridging Figure Four — borrowed from her father and modified — and Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Dream.
It may seem like signature and submission moves get short shrift in the world of pro wrestling finishers, being less visually arresting and more reliant on match build-up and the in-ring narrative created between the two superstars telling the story, but they are as integral to the history of each promotion and each iconic character as their flashier counterparts.