Hey everyone! It's The Wrestling Classic here with another list for ONE37pm. This month, I got the fun task of ranking some of the best WWE finishers of all time. A finishing move in wrestling is the final move a superstar performs which usually means the match may (or sometimes may not) come to an end. It could be a simple maneuver or something more complex - it's essentially the way a wrestler executes it that determines its overall effectiveness. As wrestling has evolved over the years and superstars have become a lot more athletic, some moves that used to be considered finishing moves have now become signature moves (they could be final blows but not always or moves that lead to a finishing move) or just regular moves performed during matches. However, I am still going to have some of those moves on this list due to their popularity and historical significance. Enjoy!
The 32 Best WWE Finishers of All Time, Ranked
32. Leg Drop
The Leg Drop is a pretty basic and common move nowadays. However in the Golden Era of wrestling during the 80s and 90s, when Hulk Hogan would hit his atomic leg drop after "hulking up," it was the end for all of his opponents. Also, bigger guys such as Yokozuna could easily end a match with a simple leg drop. Over the years, fans have become accustomed to superstars using a leg drop off the top rope as a finisher or doing a front flip into a leg drop off the top rope. Thanks to Hulk Hogan’s success and contributions to the wrestling business, it would be wrong not to include his iconic finishing move on this list of the best WWE finishers I've ever seen.
In the last two decades, the Spinebuster has become more like the move you do to set up your finisher rather than the actual finishing blow. Legends such as Triple H, The Rock, Ahmed Johnson, Batista, Booker T, and Bobby Lashley all use a Spinebuster to set up the next lethal move in their repertoire. There was a time though when a guy like Arn Anderson would hit his “Double A” Spinebuster and everyone knew the match was done. It’s one of those moves that can come out of nowhere and give you some serious whiplash just from watching it. Even if you do see it coming, you’re gonna be dropped hard on your spine and the back of your head in the most painful way possible. Although a ton of people used it, no one's was ever as crisp as Arn’s. Seeing him pull off during his WWF Brainbusters run is enough reason to list it among the best WWE finishers.
When the DDT was introduced and popularized to professional wrestling by Jake "The Snake" Roberts, it was considered one of the most dangerous moves in the business during its heyday. The idea that you could take someone from a front face lock or inverted headlock and just fall to your back to send them head first into the mat doesn’t seem so innovative now, but it was back then. This move was once heavily protected but became very common in recent years with many different variations to boot. It also seems like a lot of wrestlers use a version of the DDT as their first finisher. It lost some of what made it feel special but that doesn’t mean it’s not special. Jake's version deserves to be mentioned among the best WWE finishers of all time.
29. Ankle Lock
As I’m about to talk about the first submission hold finisher on this list, I want to say there is a lot of great submission hold finishers that didn’t make this list. The Bearhug, the Camel Clutch, the Cobra Clutch, the Boston Crab, the Texas Cloverleaf, the Triangle Choke, the Armbar, the Sleeper Hold, and the Kimura arm lock are all honorable mentions. However, the way you think about the Kimura today is the same way fans thought about the Ankle Lock for years. When legitimate badasses who proved themselves outside of pro wrestling (like the Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle and highly acclaimed mixed martial arts Ken Shamrock), it makes the move a lot more dangerous.
28. Clothesline From Hell
Crazy to think there was once upon a time when a Lariat (where the arm is slightly curved) or a Clothesline (which is a straight-arm version) would be considered a high-impact move during a wrestling match. This was of course when wrestling was more grounded and based on Greco-Roman wrestling. Both moves are now very common in matches but some variations serve as finishers. It can come in hard when the likes of Stan "The Lariat" Hansen or JBL would deliver it. It could be followed by a spinning motion like the Discus Lariat Brodie Lee would hit or come in flying like Kane’s version from the top rope.
A competitor can be pulled into one against their own will (a la Okada’s “Rainmaker'' clothesline) or the move could also utilize a springboard motion for extra momentum like Hangman "Adam Page's "Buckshot Lariat." JBL's Clothesline From Hell gets the nod here for one of the best WWE finishers I've ever laid eyes on (Billy Gunn always sold it like it was death, didn't he?). The way JBL would duck underneath a corner attack, take off running, and come back with his signature finishing Lariat is the stuff of legend.
27. Figure Four/Figure Eight Leg Lock
The Figure Four Leg Lock is one of the oldest submission moves in professional wrestling. Although most fans like me recognize it as the move that was popularized for being “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair’s finishing move, a lot of old-school wrestlers also utilized it. The wild thing about Ric Flair using it was that he didn’t always win matches with it, specifically when he was working as a heel. I saw so many guys flip it over to put the pressure on "Slick Ric" that it lost some prestige to me. However, with the innovative Figure Eight Leg Lock introduced by Charlotte Flair, Ric's submission hold has regained some of that old prestige back thanks to Charlotte's ability to pick up W's with it.
A suplex is a pretty common wrestling move these days. But back in the day, it stood out as something impressive that would regularly have the crowd in awe. In its many different forms though, it still does in this day and age. Brock Lesnar has been able to run with the whole "Suplex City'' moniker since destroying John Cena in a one-sided battle with the use of repeated German Suplexes back in 2014. Taz even got dubbed the "Human Suplex Machine" for his use of multiple styles of suplexes. Popular suplex finishers include the now more common off-the-top-rope Superplex used as a finisher by "Cowboy" Bob Orton, the Perfect-Plex used by "Mr. Perfect" Curt Hennig, and most famously the Jackhammer used by Bill Goldberg. Mr. Perfect's flawless version of the Fisherman Suplex is worthy of being on my list of the best WWE finishers - it always looked great, appeared to be difficult to escape, and always showcase just how strong & precise Mr. Perfect truly was. I'll never forget him landing this move on Paul Wight aka The Giant/Big Show!
25. Running Knee Strike
Imagine just standing anywhere in the ring while being slightly dazed and someone just ran up to you with full momentum to hit you with a knee straight to the face. It would hurt like hell and certainly be effective. A person’s knee, especially when exposed from underneath a knee pad, can hit pretty damn hard. Whether someone chooses to knee you in the front of your face or the back of your head, you’ll feel it every time. Now imagine taking two or three in a row. It's a really under-appreciated finisher if you ask me. You can hit it out of nowhere or call your shot with it before you choose to pull it off. The guy can be standing or just getting up off the mat before he/she is clobbered with it. Whether it’s Daniel Bryan's running knee strike, Shinsuke Nakamura's Bomaye/Kinshasa, or Adam Cole's "The Boom" rendition, the running knee strike deserves more respect.
24. Flying Elbow Drop
When I think of the flying elbow drop, I initially think of the "Macho Man" Randy Savage. Just imagine a 200+ pound muscular human crashing down on your chest, face, or abdomen elbow first! When Savage popularized the move, it was during an era when there were fewer wrestlers doing aerial attacks compared to today's wrestling landscape. It stood out before becoming a common signature move for many wrestlers such as Shawn Michaels, Shane McMahon, Test, Bayley, and a handful of others. There are variations of this move where wrestlers come down with an elbow from the second rope, which is a version of this move that was popularized by the likes of Bret Hart and Steve Austin. Even to this day, you’ll find someone who introduces their own twist on the flying elbow drop and turns it into a successful finisher (such as Kairi Sane). Savage's iconic version of the flying elbow drop gets special recognition here for being one of the best WWE finishers of all time.
23. Banzai Drop
The Banzai Drop visually looks like it can crush all your bones. It was popularly used by Yokozuna and Rikishi - back then, most fans knew it for being a move favored by bigger men. The superstar using it would bring their victim towards the corner of the ring while they're flat on their back, then climb up to the second rope only to come down onto their chest (or sometimes accidentally their head!) in a sitting position. During the later part of Yokozuna’s WWF run, he was nearly 600 pounds. Imagine that coming down on your chest ass first! The move was heavily protected when Yokozuna used it and nobody kicked out of it, not even Hulk Hogan! A wrestler's only way of surviving this move was by simply getting out of the way in time. The devastating nature of the Banzai Drop helps it earn a spot on my list of the best WWE finishers.
The Chokeslam is performed when a superstar grabs you by the throat and lifts you up, only to slam you back down on the mat. It’s one of the most popular moves in professional wrestling, no matter the era. Although it is commonly used by big men such as The Undertaker, Kane, Big Show, Vader, The Great Khali, and Braun Strowman, smaller men such as The Hurricane have found it to be effective as a part of their moveset. It’s a move that's pretty easy to execute for wrestling's massive in-ring specimen. Double-Handed Chokeslam Bombs and Sitout Chokeslams become popular variations of the move, of course. But there is nothing like seeing either one of The Brothers of Destruction pick up someone smaller than them with one hand and wipe them out on the mat with a vicious Chokeslam.
21. Razor's Edge
The Powerbomb is one of those moves that require a good measure of strength to pull off. Starting in a standing headscissors, the superstar in question will lift their opponent onto their shoulders and proceed to slam them back first to the mat. The popular Release Powerbomb was made popular by wrestlers such as Sycho Sid, Diesel/Kevin Nash, Vader, and Sable. There are many variations and alternative types of Powerbombs including the Sit- Down Powerbomb like the Batista Bomb, Ahmed Johnson's Pearl River Plunge, or the Sunset Flip Powerbomb which is commonly used as a counter move.
Then there are unique ones such as the Tiger Bomb, The Undertaker’s Last Ride, Kevin Owens' Pop Up Powerbomb, and (one of my favorites!) the Crucifix Powerbomb (eg. Razor Ramon's Razor’s Edge). That last one is where the opponent is lifted over the superstar's shoulders and held in a cross-like stance before being dropped onto their back. Razor's version of the Powerbomb is worth its weight in gold on my list of the best WWE finishers.
The Crossface is a submission hold that neutralizes an opponent and could be considered a cousin to the Camel Clutch submission hold. A superstar will apply shoulder pressure to the face (particularly around the jaw area), which puts the head and neck in a compromising position. It was made popular by Chris Benoit when it was known as Crippler Crossface. An evolved version of that move is the LeBell Lock, which Bryan Danielson is known to use where the only difference is the positioning of his victim's arm. Another popular variation is Sasha Banks' Banks Statement in which the Backstabber is transitioned into a version of the Crossface for an extra dosage of pain.
19. Swanton Bomb
The Swanton Bomb is the move of the wildest wrestling daredevils that are willing to take the risk of hoping their opponent is still laying there for the landing because they’re out of sight mid-move. Popularized by the "Charismatic Enigma" Jeff Hardy, the Swanton Bomb is an aerial attack where the superstar performs a front-forward flip and proceeds to land back first onto his/her opponent. There have been many times when fans have witnessed seeing this move performed off the top of ladders, cages, and even entrance sets. Although it’s not as fancy as the 450 Splash or the Shooting Star Press, most of us wrestling fanatics have been able to perform Swanton Bombs on our friends while growing up as impressionable youngsters. Jeff Hardy's top-rope weapon of choice will always be remembered as one of the best WWE finishers.
18. Death Valley Driver
The Death Valley Driver might be one of the most dangerous moves in wrestling considering some of its variations. The move is performed when you have an opponent placed across your back shoulders in a fireman’s carry and dropped over your head to the side hitting the mat usually back first. There is an inverted version popularized by Kenta Kobashi where the person is dropped face first called the Burning Hammer, which is rarely used. There are other versions that were utilized by Mark Briscoe, Loui Spicolli, and Sean O'Haire. But no version may be as popular as John Cena’s Attitude Adjustment considering Cena’s significance in the business. Special shout out to the Death Valley Driver mastered by The Godfather (Pimp Drop) and Perry Saturn, too!
The Kimura Lock (named after Masahiko Kimura is an Ude Garami arm lock submission popularized in mixed martial arts as a finishing move. The reason this submission hold is so dangerous is that if applied with a certain amount of pressure, it could break someone's arm in both the wrist and forearm area. It’s unknown if the move was created through catch wrestling or judo, but it has been used across both disciplines for years. Although many people in modern times think of Brock Lesnar breaking arms with it, it has been used in variations by others as well such as the chicken wing. Even still, I have to commend Lesnar's masterful implementation of the Kimura Lock and give it a spot here on my list of the best WWE finishers.
16. Five Star Frog Splash
There is something so beautiful about a Frog Splash when executed properly. The move is used a lot these days as a signature or finishing move by a ton of modern-day wrestlers. It’s usually used today to pay tribute to the late great Eddie Guerrero, who popularized the aerial move as his finisher during his legendary tenure. It’s technically a splash from the top rope but with an extra dose of style and grace. Rob Van Dam had his own version called the Five Star Frog Splash, where he usually caught more air time and leaped a lot higher for extra impact. Today superstars, such as Mercedes Mone, Seth Rollins, Kevin Owens, Christian Cage, and Dominik Mysterio still utilize the move. I have to hand it to RVD here, though - the way he seemed to descend down the ring in slow motion and land with an extra dosage of painful impact makes his version of the Frog Splash worthy of making an appearance on my list of the best WWE finishers.
15. Punt Kick
I’ll keep this list entry short and sweet - this finisher is simply a nasty punt to the side of the opponent's head. What's produced here is someone running to gain enough momentum to punt someone on all fours in the head like they’re trying to knock it off their shoulders. In some cases, a wrestler can punt kick their foe in the chest or shoulder area too, which is just as effective. The more popular punt kick would obviously be Randy Orton’s rendition, which would put people on the shelf for months at a time and was used very sporadically. Orton's twisted psyche and penchant for terrorizing the rest of the WWE roster back in 2009 adds so much to those moments where he used the punt kick, which is why I classify it as one of the best WWE finishers of all time.
14. The Pedigree
The Pedigree is a move made popular by Triple H. If the "Cerebral Assassin" caught you with this one, more times than not it meant that it was going to be game over for his opponent. Although it’s a variation of a Facebuster, it stands alone because of its unique setup. It’s a move where Triple H places the opponent’s head between his legs, then he hooks their arms across their back and jumps up to spike the opponent’s head right into the mat. For many years, this move was solely used by "The Game." Nowadays you’ll see superstars who are associated with Triple H use it as a finisher or signature move, such as Seth Rollins and Cody Rhodes.
13. Styles Clash
The Styles Clash is unique in ways that make it not fall under a variation of a single move. What's being delivered here is a combination of a Belly-to-Back mat slam and a Facebuster. It's different from other Facebusters as the opponent's arms aren't blocked in by the superstar's arms, but rather the legs. It doesn’t leave much protection for the person on the receiving end as the whole front of their body feels the full effect of this maneuver. The move was made popular by AJ Styles but has also been used by the likes of Michelle McCool. It’s also insane to see the Styles Clash done off the middle and even the top rope! Styles has stated that he created the move by accident when trying to Powerbomb his brother on a trampoline during his younger days. This magnificent accident resulted in one of the best WWE finishers of all time.
12. Go to Sleep
The Go to Sleep is a finishing move that Kenta aka Hideo Itami has rightfully claimed to have invented. There is footage of Kenta performing the move on Mitsuharu Misawa in Japan before CM Punk ever used it in the WWE. That being said, the move was made famous in North America by the "Straight Edge Savior" himself. It’s led to some playful banter between the two on social media due to Punk taking ownership of Kenta's move to a whole other country. The move starts in a Fireman's Carry position but transitions into a knee to the face as the superstar pushes their opponent over their head and lifts their knee to go face first into their opponent. If you've made it to this point in the article, then you already know how I feel about punts and knees to the head.
11. Curb Stomp
The Curb Stomp is simple yet magnificent. It’s exactly what you would visualize after hearing the name (minus the curb and maybe all the gory aftermath, of course). Instead of stomping someone’s head and forcing it into a street curb, it's actually a stomp to the head that forces a person’s head straight into the mat. The move has become a staple in modern wrestling after being popularized by Seth Rollins, even he didn't invent it. The Curb Stomp was considered pretty dangerous at one point and was actually banned for a bit as Vince McMahon thought it would influence kids to imitate it. Thankfully, it was brought back and added back to Rollins' vast arsenal. The lethality of this move and the quick manner in which it can be delivered definitely makes it one of the best WWE finishers.
10. Rock Bottom
Back in the day, crowds erupted when Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson placed his arm across an opponent's chest and proceed to plant them into the mat with as much force as possible. A Uranage slam, which is a move derived from a Judo throw, got altered by the "Great One" to great effect with this one. Instead of swinging the enemy to the side before slamming them, The Rock would lift his latest foe up straight up in the air and proceed to bring them back down to the mat back-first. Rocky was capable of pulling the Rock Bottom off on smaller opponents with ease, slightly bigger foes with a little bit of a struggle, and much larger guys like Rikishi and still manage to lay them down. The People's Elbow is cute and all, but the Rock Bottom is hands down one of the best WWE finishers brought to the limelight by the "Brahma Bull."
Rey Mysterio hit the scene in the 90s and people quickly discovered that he was simply one of a kind (no shade, Rob Van Dam!). Mysterio’s immense popularity back then allowed him to introduce a lot of common Lucha Libre moves to the North American audience, which all felt new and innovative. The 619 is one of those moves that has almost become synonymous with Mysterio himself. I don’t even know any other names for it! The 619 name actually came from Mysterio's home state San Diego area code. The move occurs when an opponent is draped over the second rope and the superstar on the offense performs a two-footed spinning kick while holding the top and middle rope. It’s usually followed with another move as a combination, such as a Springboard Splash. Other agile superstars, such as Cesaro (Claudio Castagnoli) and Zelina Vega, have implemented the 619 into their moveset as well.
8. Tombstone Piledriver
The Piledriver is another one of those moves that have been around forever and have always been considered risky. There have been a ton of wrestlers who were seriously injured by a Piledriver going wrong, sadly. There were various periods where this move was banned from major companies, with the exception of certain people being allowed to perform them and might still be to this day. There are also different variations of the Piledriver depending if the superstar delivering it decides to drop down to his knees or in a sitting position.
One of the most protected forms of the piledriver has been The Undertaker and Kane’s Tombstone Piledriver. That inverted variation of the move has always looked cool as hell, especially when it's pulled off on someone smaller like Shawn Michaels or someone of the same stature as 'Taker and Kane such as Mark Henry. Whenever The Brothers of Destruction pull off a Tombstone Piledriver to someone to the inside of a casket, it simply looks glorious. Other popular names that are masters of the Piledriver are Jerry "The King" Lawler, Bret Hart, "Mr. Wonderful" Paul Orndorff, Harley Race, Minoru Suzuki, Jerry Lynn, and Kazuchika Okada.
The first time I saw Brock Lesnar hit the F-5, I thought a move like that wasn’t even possible. Granted, I was 11 years old and a little less educated on wrestling outside of WWF/E and WCW. It could be considered another form of a Facebuster but technically IT targets the entire body. Brock gets his opponent in a Fireman’s Carry position and then throws his opponent over his head with their legs out in front of him while falling to his back while the opponent crashes face first to the mat. Others such as Brian Cage, Kevin Owens, and Wardlow have tried to use the F5, but nobody executes it as well as Lesnar. It’s named after the most dangerous level of a Tornado and rightfully so.
6. Shooting Star Press
The Shooting Star Press might be one of the best-looking aerial moves I've ever seen. Although moves such as the Red Arrow and 450 Splash are equally impressive, the Shooting Star Press is just a wee bit more aesthetically pleasing. When Billy Kidman would pull off the Shooting Star Press, it was almost as if time slowed down while he performed his backflip in mid-air and landed on his opponent in the splash position as he returned back to the mat.
There are certainly times when the move has gone wrong. Kidman once landed knees-first onto Chavo Guerrero’s head and Brock Lesnar, who shockingly could nail one at his massive size, missed Kurt Angle and proceeded to break his neck. However, fans have become used to seeing highflyers such as Ricochet, Sammy Guevara, Evan Bourne (Matt Sydal), and John Morrison hit the move with ease and look as safe upon landing it as possible. This dynamic top-rope maneuver will always stick out as one of the best WWE finishers.
5. Sharpshooter/Scorpion Death Lock
The final submission move on this list of the best WWE finishers is none other than the Sharpshooter (or Scorpion Deathlock depending on what you want to call it). The move was influenced by many different other popular submission moves that use the legs to target the legs and back, such as the Boston Crab, the Cloverleaf, and Reverse Standing Figure Four. This leg lock was invented by Japanese legend Riki Chosu but was made mainstream by Bret "Hitman" Hart and Sting.
This move is applied when a superstar locks their opponent's legs around one of their own legs and then turns them over onto their stomach, only to sit back to put a strain on the opponent's legs and back. It’s still highly associated with Canadian wrestlers and the Hart Family. Natalya, Edge, Chris Benoit, The Rock (who had the worst one...SORRY, ROCKY!), Daniel Garcia, Tyson Kidd, FTR, Matt Jackson, Dax Harwood, Claudio Castagnoli, and so many others have incorporated the Sharpshooter/Scorpion Death Lock into this moveset.
The Spear is pretty straightforward. You run at your opponent with full momentum to tackle them down by rushing your shoulder into their abdomen area. Although the move has become very common nowadays, it’s always been a move that could end the match at any time. A Spear can be pre-determined or come out of nowhere, which makes it extra special. A plethora of superstars have used the Spear over the years. Goldberg, Rhyno, Big Show, Batista, Edge, Christian, Roman Reigns, Charlotte Flair, Bobby Lashley, and Ricky Starks are all known to use the Spear to bring any match to a definitive close. It’s ranked this high on my list of the best WWE finishers due to its overall effectiveness and the awesome visual that comes from it being landed on an unsuspecting opponent.
3. Stone Cold Stunner
When the glass would shatter in an arena full of rabid wrestling fans during the Attitude Era, everyone anticipated someone getting hit with the Stone Cold Stunner by none other than "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. It had become must-watch television back in the day to see Austin hit the Stunner on anyone that crossed him and celebrate by drinking a ton of beers soon after. The other thing that made the Stunner great was watching how the person taking it would sell the move itself.
The Rock, Shane McMahon, Austin Theory, Triple H, Scott Hall, and Vince McMahon (infamously, I might add) are all remembered for the wild ways they sold the Stunner. This move is usually preceded by a kick to the gut. It's then followed by the superstar reaching back and grabbing the head of an opponent, thus pulling the opponent's jaw above the wrestler's shoulder and dropping down in a seated position to perform a jawbreaker. There has been a debate on who invented the move between Mikey Whipreck and Michael Hayes. Even still, Austin's Stunner is iconic and is still used to this day by Kevin Owens.
2. Sweet Chin Music
It’s a high-side thrust kick originally known as a Crescent Kick that's known worldwide as the Superkick. It has become one of the most commonly used signature moves now thanks to the likes of The Usos, the Young Bucks, Adam Cole, Carmella, Kevin Owens, Malakai Black, and so many others adding it to their arsenal. It had been widely claimed that "Gentleman" Chris Adams and The Great Kabuki were two of the first to use it in professional wrestling.
It became super popular in the 90s when "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels began using it as a finishing move. He would call it the Sweet Chin Music and usually tap his foot in the corner to build up anticipation for the kick. It was always awesome to see HBK land this move after that crowd-popping taunt. But it was always a treat whenever he landed Sweet Chin Music out of nowhere, especially when it caught someone right on the chin as they came flying through the air (I'm looking at your, Shelton Benjamin!). This flashy Superkick from the "Sexy Boy" will always get top billing for being one of the best WWE finishers.
RKO OUT OF NOWHERE! The number one finishing move on the list is none other than the RKO (Randy Knock Out, for the uninitiated out there). It has been called by many names over the years, such as the Ace Crusher and the Diamond Cutter. The move is pulled off when the superstar jumps toward the opponent and proceeds to grab them in a three-quarter face lock while parallel to the ground, crashing the user of the move onto his/her back while the taker of the move goes face-first into the mat.
Orton's version of the Cutter move actually went viral to everyone outside of the wrestling bubble because of the hilarious "RKO out of nowhere" meme trend. The move literally can be performed at any time, in many different ways. It also has been performed off the top rope or off a springboard from the second rope. The RKO that caught Evan Bourne as he was coming out of the sky to land a Shooting Star Press will always appear in any wrestling highlight reel video you come across!
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