Seeing as how my "gimmick," if you will, for the time being is approaching this sport from the view of a very interested outsider, I guess it's no surprise that I've decided to rear my head again and discuss a topic that is permanently woven into the fabric of professional wrestling, and is a topic that is subjective in nature and bound to cause debate if I say the wrong thing.
No pressure, right?
One of the first compilations I've discovered on Netflix pertaining to the WWE (outside of the absolutely extraordinarily well-done documentary on my boy Mick Foley For All Mankind) was their countdown video WWE: The 50 Greatest Finishing Moves in WWE History.
To a noob like me, this is precisely the kind of thing you'd wanna watch if you want a surface-scratching, curiosity-piquing look at the mythos of pro wrestling. After all, finishing moves are part of the fun. So I expected to see a well-done compilation of why certain moves were ranked higher than others.
On one hand, I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of moves. On the other, I was kind of disappointed with the set-up. For one thing, there didn't really seem to be any rhyme or reason to the rankings, with the possible exception of the (SPOILER!) Stone Cold Stunner coming in at number one. But then again, who didn't expect that one to top the list? It's like they set aside the Stunner at one, and then proceeded to draw the rest out of a hat and then make things up on the fly to justify the numbering (and that's not getting into the conspiratorial debating over whether personal politicking put certain moves ahead of others. This is pro wrestling, after all).
Well, if they can engage in subjective reasoning, then so too can I (and you too, hopefully, but we'll get to that later). I've seen enough finishing moves to put together a Top-Five list, but instead of ranking them in numerical order, I have divided each move into their own subjective category. Because while Triple H can rant on screen about a uniform performer like Randy Orton being "best for business," I think an eclectic blend of things is essential to make finishing moves stand out. Let's get started, shall we?
Well, that certainly got your attention, I imagine?
The art of wrestling is, to me, exemplified as a sort of choreographed dance of death. Both the attacker and the defender engage in a sort of chaotic ballet, and usually end with a finishing sequence that requires an equal amount of aggression on the part of the attacker and salesmanship on the part of the defender.
The latter is key. There are, as we all know, both right ways to do this and wrong ways to do this. But ultimately there is a level of trust the seller is putting in the attacker to not straight up kill him. Of course, that only works if your attacker's finishing move isn't at its core designed to end your life if connected proper. And to me, there is no better example of that than, well, this.
I think it's an absolute crime that they listed JBL's Clothesline from Hell as only number 50 on the list, and not because I like JBL (I don't particularly, though his commentary is pretty good and he clearly knows his stuff). It's because he's turning an already dangerous move into an art form of schoolyard bully-esque aggression. It's not enough just to knock you down, he wants to legitimately decapitate you.
Maybe because he knows that the clothesline in and of itself isn't the flashiest of finishing moves, and this is some form of payback against the world for it. But look at it from a critical standpoint (in the lens of kayfabe, of course): If he makes contact with the middle of your face, your nose is gonna be a nice fine pile of cartilage powder. If he hits you in the temple area, you're looking at concussion or worse. And if he makes contact with your neck, unless you're this guy, he's crushing your windpipe. It doesn't have any pretenses of impressing the fans. It's all about causing paaaaaain.
Put it this way: I don't think there's a whole lot of "selling" going on in the video I've embedded above.
This one is tricky, because at its core a finishing move is something that is supposed to induce envy on the part of the viewer. If the move makes you go, "Shit, I wish I could do that" then it has done *precisely* what it was supposed to. Still, there is one move that (for me, at least) once executed makes me shake my head and mutter "there but for the grace of God go I." And as much as I hate the man for doing the wrestling equivalent of shooting Old Yeller, it's gotta be his finisher.
Here's the way I see it. There are some moves that are visually impressive in their display of raw strength, but are thankfully helped out by the simple laws of physics. As amazing as, say, Goldberg's Jackhammer is, thankfully he has his victim helping him at the beginning of the move and gravity at the finishing of it. But the F-5 to me is the move that makes my face go green with envy because it's a two-step process that is designed to show off just how unholily strong you are. Step one is picking a guy up on your shoulders. Easy...enough. Step two is, without any help from the guy you're lugging around on your back like a sack of potatoes, tossing them over your head like a human pizza. That's difficult but not impossible, perhaps, if you were doing this to someone with the size of a normal human being. But when you're doing it to THESE guys? That's just stupid strong. I'd better stop now, or my face is gonna be the shade of Cena's hat.
No, I'm not gonna say it. I have standards, you Cagesiders have standards, and there is no way I am stooping to picking from the low-hanging fruit of the Vince Russo tree by leading off this segment with-
WHAT I'D LIKE RIGHT NOW IS FOR ALL THE FAT, SWEATY, OUT-OF-SHAPE LOSERS TO PIPE DOWN WHILE I SHOW YOU ALL WHAT A REAL FINISHER LOOKS LIKE!
Despite the adjective of choice here, I'm not going with the Rude Awakening. As perfectly, hilariously fitting as that would be, it's just too easy. Plus, it isn't quite rude enough, believe it or not. No, I'm looking for a move that tells me, the audience, and of course the unlucky sap on the receiving end of this thing "I am so much better than you, and you aren't worth my time, insect."
...*Sniff*, do you smell gasoline?
Yeah, I can understand you raising an eyebrow at including a man who played a critical role in killing WWE's last remaining competition because of a cataclysmically stupid booking idea on my list, precisely because of those transgressions. But I'm not gonna spend any time rehashing the stupidity of that moment, when other, far more talented writers on this site have covered it. But stepping away from the politics that killed WCW and have dimmed the appeal of Kevin Nash to the IWC, I think that the Jackknife Powerbomb is a perfect example of a "rude" finisher, because it has all of the necessary requirements.
For one, the guy doing it could clearly pick any other BMF (Big Man Finisher), but has instead chosen a powerbomb. Two, the guy doing it established himself on the mic as a smug, sarcastic loudmouth that thrived on needling people. Three, he doesn't even finish the move! That's the final nail in the coffin. If you're looking at this move in the eyes of kayfabe and not in the eyes of Kevin Nash's surgeon, he's basically telling his opponent "I'm bigger than you are, I'm stronger than you are...in fact, why am I wasting my time with you? Forget this, I'm just dropping you." *THUMP*
MOST LIKELY TO COME OUT OF NOWHERE
There are a couple of moves out there that are fast enough to be considered this. Because while most finishing moves have a degree of set-up, this is the kind of move that is essentially a "blink-and-its-gone" move. You turn away from the TV, and the next thing you know someone's getting covered and the crowd is going bananas. The RKO and the Diamond Cutter are close. Daniel Bryan's running knee is up there too (if he's not doing the Yes! Chant beforehand). Rhino's Gore. Edge's Spear. All amazing techniques but none of them quite have the visual effect of a-
God, that's beautiful. Randy Orton is the closest thing we're ever gonna get to ragdoll physics.
Everything is there. Shawn Michaels is staggering, then suddenly he's putting his foot through your chin. The audible *CLAP* as his boot makes an imprint on your lower jaw. And the way his opponent flops to the ground like he's been knocked out COLD. It's impressive in its visuals, its wind-up version as he tunes up the band is appealing, and best of all? It has led itself to perhaps my favorite moment of "Stupid-Awesome" in the history of professional wrestling.
This one should be easy, right? With the word choice like that, there's only one guy and one guy only who I could POSSIBLY write about to top this subjective list.
...And yet, it was a lot harder than I thought it would be. Because as spine-tinglingly chilling as the Tombstone PIledriver is, there is another move that arguably matches it in terms of mythic nature.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you KENTA Kobashi's Burning Hammer. A more-dangerous version of the Tombstone, and a move that no one has ever kicked out of. I'm going to repeat that. KENTA has used this move less than TEN times in his career, and NO ONE has ever kicked out of it. And there's the name, too. Burning Hammer. God dang, that is a great name for a finishing move. Almost as good as the Tombstone, if you ask me.
So who wins? Ultimately, I suppose it's a matter of personal taste. KENTA never wrestled for WWE, but his impact is absolutely felt. Daniel Bryan's finisher, the Busaiku Knee, comes from KENTA. KENTA also invented the Go To Sleep, much like Jake Roberts invented the DDT. And the fact that he only broke out the Burning Hammer in moments of absolute desperation to me makes it a pretty damn mythical move. But then...Undertaker represents something deep and ingrained in wrestling fans' minds, and that isn't something you can just diminish because you say so. At the risk of angering my readers, I give a slight edge to the Undertaker, but KENTA is right behind him.
BONUS: MOST CREATIVE USE OF AN ENVIRONMENT
I'm not even gonna say anything about this other than it takes place in CHIKARA, the recipient of the move is Claudio Castagnoli, and the attacker is Frightmare. Without a doubt, this is something that would make the Innovator of Violence Tommy Dreamer stand up and applaud to.
This is where you guys come in, Cagesiders. I've listed my top finishers based on these subjective and totally malleable criteria, but by no means does that make what you think the best finishers are any less than what I do. If you think there's a better example of a finisher under my own self-imposed criteria that I missed let me know in the comments below, or if you have another category to suggest and a finisher to fit it. I can claim plausible deniability for missing moves due to my experience, but not for much longer!
Happy Easter weekend everyone.