100 Moves and the Pro Wrestlers Who Did Them Best
photo from wwe.com
The innovators and the masters, these are the wrestlers who have turned ordinary moves into great spectacle. A clothesline in one man's hands is just another ho-hum part of the repertoire.
For those who have perfected it though, it becomes stunning and artful.
After all the hype, trash-talking and stare downs that usually precede a match, wrestlers do their storytelling through wrestling moves. From dropkicks to moonsaults, the crossface to the Texas Cloverleaf, this list seeks out the performers who deliver the absolute best version of 100 moves.
To find them, we have to travel through several decades, from WWE to Japan and beyond.
Future wrestlers, take notes. Fans, get your debate muscles warmed up.
Arm Drag—Ricky Steamboat
No one turns the simple arm drag into a work of art like Ricky Steamboat.
For most guys, it's a filler move, the jab before the big right cross. For Steamboat, it was worth the price of admission just to see a handful of perfectly crisp arm drags.
He got so deep with them and snapped the move so quickly that anyone performing the move now will ultimately be compared to him and no one will measure up to him.
Get right to the sweet Steamboat arm drag here.
The Ranhei is one of many moves that demonstrate just how athletic the sport has become.
Were Buddy Rogers or Lou Thesz to have performed the move, the crowds' heads would have cracked open and their brains oozed out.
Calling it the SOS, Kofi Kingston does the best version in America. It's no surprise, given his wealth of agility.
Just edging him out for the best Ranhei in the world is a lesser known wrestler known as Madoka or at one time, Super X.
Madoka is a speedy guy who also delivers an excellent Shooting Star Press.
Texas Cloverleaf—Dean Malenko
The Texas in the Texas Cloverleaf is a reference to its innovator, Dory Funk Jr.
Bringing the submission hold into fruition is one of Funk's many contributions to wrestling.
Years after he retired, a superb technician made the move his own. Dean Malenko applied the hold quicker and more precisely.
More than anyone else, Malenko looks like he's going to tear his opponent's legs off.
A wrestler named Men's Teioh performs a snappy version as well, but it's hard to top "The Man of a 1,000 Holds" on this particular hold.
The Surfboard is one of the trickiest submission holds to apply and often results in the attacker stumbling through the process awkwardly.
It's no surprise then that it's not often used anymore.
Can you imagine Mason Ryan trying to clamp that thing on?
Currently, two of the more proficient wrestling technicians are among the few to even try the move. Natalya and Daniel Bryan pull off the move quite well.
Jushin Liger's version, though, is the most believable.
He punches at his opponents' torso in order to have them give him their arms. Liger looks the most natural pulling off the move.
450 Splash—Taiji Ishimori
Firstly, props to anyone willing and able to pull this move off.
A simple splash is impressive enough, but for a wrestler to rotate so much, so quickly, is awe-inspiring every time.
Justin Gabriel quickly made a name for himself with the move. It was the 450 that helped him stand out from the Nexus crowd.
Juventud Guerrera has done the move for many years, his mask and elaborate outfits adding to the spectacle of it.
Austin Aries' version should be mentioned as well. His is marked by great grace.
All of these are excellent, but Taiji Ishimori's version reigns.
The speed he gets is fantastic. And his form is so perfect, that it makes it seem like an easier move that it is.
Phoenix Splash—Kota Ibushi
Not many wrestlers perform the Phoenix Splash. Its degree of difficulty is tremendously high.
A 450-degree splash is challenging enough, but in a Phoenix Splash, the attacker must first rotate 180 degrees one way before turning forward for a 450-degree splash.
Hayabusa innovated the move. Before injuries forced him into early retirement, he dazzled crowds with it, time and time again.
Ai Fujita, Sonjay Dutt and Low Ki/Kaval utilize the move.
Ignore the fact that Ibushi is smashing an inanimate opponent in the video. His is still the most beautiful and stunning version.
He looks like an Olympic diver twirling just before he hits the water.
Belly to Belly Suplex—Kurt Angle
There's something visceral about this move. Arms clenched around the torso, the attacker simply tosses his opponent aside.
Its simplicity allows it to be performed in an instant.
Many men have utilized it well: Shane Douglas, Magnum TA, Ken Shamrock, Chris Benoit, Doug Furnas, Scott Putski and Taz, among others.
Kurt Angle, though, has carved his signature on the move.
He delivers it so quickly and naturally, it's easy to take the perfection of it for granted. Angle's Belly to Belly is a move that could be repeated a dozen times in a match and still excite a crowd.
Lou Thesz Press—Stone Cold
Shawn Michaels and the man who the move is named after, Lou Thesz, both executed the move beautifully. It has morphed, thanks in large part to Steve Austin, into a setup for a series of rapid fire punches.
That's how Randy Orton uses it today.
Austin's version fit his character perfectly.
A take-no-prisoners type of fighter, Austin took down many opponents and delivered a flurry of right hands. He did it with such a palpable anger that it was one of the most thrilling parts of his move set.
Shooting Star Press—Evan Bourne
With all due respect to Madoka and Jushin Liger, Evan Bourne's Shooting Star Press is perfection.
It's a move you can watch over and over again.
Bourne's version is teeming with grace and calls to mind an acrobat. Take away Bourne's Air Bourne and you take away his greatest contribution to wrestling.
Will he ever get his act together and avoid more suspensions so we can watch him glide again? Here's hoping he does.
Indian Deathlock—Harley Race
This leg-focused submission hold involves a painful, twisted mass of limbs.
When a figure four is reversed, with both men on their bellies, this counter is often called an Indian Deathlock. The standard Indian Deathlock looks more like a modified figure four, the attacker leaning over to one side.
Some have done it crisper than Harley Race—Chris Benoit, for example—but no one did with more powerfully.
Race's version had an added dramatic flair, falling on the mat like he was diving backwards into a pool.
The huracanrana is, understandably, often confused with the Frankensteiner and is incorrectly used as interchangeable terms.
Both are head-scissors take downs, but the "rana" in hurricanrana refers to the pin component of the move. The Frankensteiner does not result in a pin.
Scott Steiner popularized the Frankensteiner. Amazing Red does both moves fantastically.
The best executor of both moves, Rey Mysterio, does it more crisply and gracefully than anyone else. Watching him fly around the ring has always been enthralling, especially with the huracanrana and Frankensteiner.
Monkey Flip—Rob Van Dam
Kofi Kingston and Brian Kendrick come second and third, respectively, but the king of the monkey flip is clearly Rob Van Dam.
It's a move that requires a good amount of selling. The opponent has to jump in order to complete the move.
When done right by both giver and taker, it's a spectacular move that sees a wrestler fly in the air before crashing to the mat.
Van Dam has made a living off of rolling around in the ring. His monkey flip is the smoothest and he launches his victim further than anyone else.
Shining Wizard—Keiji Mutoh
Many men have gone on to use the Shining Wizard, but I have to give the innovator credit for still having the best version.
Jun Akijyama, Homicide, Michiko Ohmukai and Yoshi Tatsu have all paid homage to Keiji Mutoh by adding this to their move set.
Mutoh's is not as graceful as other wrestlers', but is the best on the strength of the impact. He turns his knee into a baseball bat and swings for the fences.
It's a thrilling move fans would like to see in the U.S. more. Tyson Kidd, Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler would certainly do great versions of it.
Enzuigiri—Alberto Del Rio
In one version, the opponent holds the attacker’s leg after perhaps a missed kick. The attacker spins in the air and kicks his way free.
Alberto Del Rio has perfected the move.
He flies at his opponent smoothly and gets great height. Often he kicks his opponent so loudly, it echoes.
WWE clearly believes in him and will likely continue to push him.
We could see Del Rio kick folks in the back of the head for the next decade or longer.
A staple in many a wrestler's repertoire, the dropkick isn't the novelty it was once, but done right, it can still excite a crowd.
Many men have given us great versions of the move. AJ Styles, Mr. Perfect, Chris Jericho and Randy Orton immediately come to mind.
Hennig's was graceful, but Ziggler matches him in that department while getting higher than anyone else and delivering more impact. With how powerful Ziggler's dropkick is, many guys' versions look like a love tap.
Missile Dropkick—Daniel Bryan
The missile dropkick is a dropkick aided by the force of the attacker flying through the air. It often barrels an opponent over.
No one delivers it more powerfully than Daniel Bryan.
He looks as if he’s attempted to behead his opponent. Bryan is also a graceful flyer, soaring through the air before he crashes his boots into whoever is in the way.
With the opponent's head tucked between their arm, the deliverer of this move then runs to the corner where they do a backflip and slam their opponent's head to the mat.
Brian Kendrick used this move with WWE, renaming it "Sliced Bread No. 2."
This is a case, though, where the innovator is still the master.
Naomichi Marufuji is one of the brightest stars with Pro Wrestling Noah in Japan. The Shiranui is an exciting part of his rapid-fire style.
You can head straight to the Shiranui here. An apron variation follows.
Diving Elbow Drop—Randy Savage
The diving elbow drop showcases the grace and beauty of a man gliding through the air combined with the violence of a pointed elbow crashing into someone’s chest.
Shawn Michaels and CM Punk both adopted the move, no doubt as a tribute to the Macho Man.
Whenever Savage climbed to the top rope, the entire audience rose to their feet. As he then snapped off, elbow cocked, flashbulbs glittered and jaws dropped.
As many times as we've seen Savage’s elbow drop, it still impresses.
Chris Adams popularized the move. Shelton Benjamin and many others use it now, often quite beautifully.
Even so, this is no contest.
Shawn Michaels' superkick may be the best wrestling move of all time. He turned his leg into a lightning rod and no one gets the echoing whack of boot to flesh like Michaels.
Anyone wishing to add the superkick to their repertoire needs to watch and re-watch clips of the master in action.
Suicide Dive—CM Punk
Run, jump and collide. Not much to the move, but it always excites the crowd.
It can be a beautiful and thrilling move.
A lot of great wrestlers use the Suicide Dive. Bret Hart peppered his matches with it. Shawn Michaels and Rey Mysterio did superb versions of it as well.
Undertaker gets great height with his and looks great doing it, being such a large man, but his dives are often out of control. He looks like he's going to break his neck every time out.
CM Punk doesn't fly as high as others, but his precision more than makes up for that.
Punk's Suicide Dives are not wild, they are well-executed and turn him into a pinpoint human missile.
Camel Clutch—Iron Sheik
The painful Camel Clutch is a simple and effective move. The attacker climbs onto their opponent's back and wrenches their head backward.
When Iron Sheik clamped it on, he attempted to break your back and make you humble.
He used it as his finisher for so long that it has become synonymous with him.
Gory Guerrero created this submission hold which was originally called "La De A Caballo." Whether is named after a horse or a camel, many wrestlers have used this move to wear down or defeat their opponent.
The Iron Sheik's version is still the most convincing.
A staple for any big man's repertoire, the chokeslam can happen suddenly, its impact rattling the ring.
Big Show and the Undertaker have lifted countless men by their necks and driven them into the mat. Both perform the move superbly.
I give Kane a slight edge because of the impressive height he lifts his opponents and the ferocity in which he delivers the move.
European Uppercut—Kurt Angle
A swift swing of the forearm right under the opponent's chin can knock them on their back.
A well-executed punch or knife-edge chop should definitely be in one's repertoire, but adding the European Uppercut certainly enhances a wrestler's move set.
Claudio Castagnoli (now known as Antonio Cesaro) has recently been making a name for himself, in large part due to his on-target, stiff European Uppercuts.
Eddie Guerrero, William Regal, Randy Orton and Daniel Bryan have implemented this strike with great success.
Kurt Angle has everyone beat in terms of sheer power.
His uppercuts crash into his opponent, spit and sweat flying. Those measured blows are the best in the business.
Exploder Suplex—Jun Akiyama
Very similar to a belly-to-belly suplex, the Exploder sees the attacker grab their opponent by the head and neck rather than the torso.
Shelton Benjamin uses a slight variation of the Exploder. The T-Bone Suplex has the advantage of transitioning into a pinning position.
Brodus Clay shows off a lot of power when he performs the move, but isn't quite as smooth as Akiyama is with it.
Akiyama also employs a wrist-clutch version, which he dubbed, Exploder '98. With either variation, Akiyama displays his agility and power with the impactful move.
Kip Up—Shawn Michaels
After being knocked on your back, you could just stand up, but where's the showmanship in that?
The kip up is a much flashier way to get to your feet.
Booker T, Dolph Ziggler, Bret Hart, Rob Van Dam and The Rock have all added excitement to their matches with a version of the kip up.
No one has made a full arena swoon with the move like Shawn Michaels.
He turned it into one of his signature moves, a key component to his spectacular matches.
Back Body Drop—Undertaker
The back body drop is a move that often goes unnoticed, tucked into a longer sequence.
With most guys, unless there's a table involved, it's unimpressive. The Undertaker's size and strength help elevate the move.
Instead of just tossing a guy on his back, Undertaker flings his opponent high in the air. The resulting impact is usually loud and reverberating.
Add "Best Body Dropper in the Game" to his list of accolades.
Russian Leg Sweep—Bret Hart
Not taking anything away from CM Punk, Justin Gabriel or Edge, but there are few things that Bret Hart didn't execute perfectly.
The Hitman made the Russian leg sweep a regular part of his move set, often setting up his opponent for an elbow from the second turnbuckle.
Bret slid into position effortlessly and snapped his opponent’s head back viciously.
The Russian leg sweep was a blasé move in most wrestlers' hands, but artistry in his.
Not a lot to this move, as it is basically someone throwing his opponent on their face. The move can be done by two wrestlers simultaneously to make for an excellent double-team move.
Former NXT standout and current Prime Time Player Darren Young created a finisher that is part flapjack.
With Edge retiring, we’ll never see the best version of the move again live.
Edge integrated this move into many of his great matches. His body language helps amp up the drama of it.
A basic move became a crowd electrifier.
The body slam's better looking brother can mimic lightning when done quickly and a sledgehammer when done more methodically and powerfully.
JYD and the Steiners have also utilized the powerslam quite well.
Orton’s though, is the most exciting version.
He rotates his opponent rapidly and ferociously, shifting the momentum of a match instantly.
His ability to perform it so seamlessly allows for it to be used as a surprising and thrilling counter.
Abdominal Stretch—Jaguar Yokota
Otherwise known as the Cobra Twist, the abdominal stretch wrenches a wrestler's body, forcing them to wear an expression of pure suffering.
Applied lazily, it's a nondescript rest hold.
When done well, it turns the attacker into a torturer.
Jaguar Yokota is one of the greatest, well-rounded wrestlers of any era. Her kicks and piledrivers are just as superb as her submission.
When she slaps on the abdominal stretch, she pulls back further and more forcefully than anyone else. She locks it in tightly and leaves little room and little hope for escape.
From Barbarian to Kane, Hulk Hogan to Kevin Nash, the big men of wrestling have used the simple and jaw-cracking big boot for a long time.
Hogan and Nash’s big boots were often inconsistent, holding their foot up rather than driving it into their attacker’s face.
The Undertaker partially earned his "Best Striker in the Game" moniker because of his stiff punches, but his hammer-like boot played a part as well.
Often set up by the Snake Eyes maneuver, Undertaker charges at his foe, a devastating black boot awaiting them.
In this case, the original is still the best.
Jake Roberts is said to have invented the DDT by accident, falling down while holding his opponent's head.
Tons of high flyers have dazzled us with the tornado version of the move where the attacker spins in the air before slamming the victim’s head on the canvas.
But no one gets the snap and momentum that Roberts gets with the move. For now, he remains the best at his own invention.
Sharpshooter/Scorpion Deathlock—Bret Hart
The fact that everyone calls this move the Sharpshooter says a lot about how well Bret Hart executed it.
Sting used the move as a finisher, but when the Rock or Chris Benoit applied it, they weren’t paying homage to the Stinger. They were honoring the Hitman.
Hart slapped it on quickly and crisply, making it look more painful than anyone else.
He didn't live up to his Excellence of Execution nickname more than when he locked someone in the Sharpshooter.
Somersault Leg Drop—Kevin Steen
A leg drop in its most basic form can be underwhelming. Hulk Hogan made the move famous by finishing off countless opponents with it.
Variations of the leg drop have revitalized and infused it with excitement.
In the somersault version, the attacker flips forward in the air before crashing their leg down on their opponent. It's far more exciting than the standard one and is done to perfection by Kevin Steen.
A man his size doesn't seem like he could so effortlessly pull off a standing flip. He has surprising grace with the move.
Dragon Sleeper—Daniel Bryan
One of the better submission wrestlers in the world today, Daniel Bryan cranks his opponents' neck like no one else with the Dragon Sleeper.
Jushin Liger does the move impressively as well.
But Bryan seems to be more desperate, intense and so much more dramatic than Liger. Bryan has fans worried that he'll snap somebody’s neck with the move.
In the video, he further impresses by slipping into the Dragon Sleeper from a Romero Special.
Done right, the moonsault is physical poetry.
A graceful turn in the air as the flashbulbs go off is one of the most beautiful parts of wrestling.
Countless wrestlers have done the moonsault with great artistry.
It's impressive that Vader did one, but his is not as graceful as others.
2 Cold Scorpio, Manami Toyota, Kenta Kobashi, Great Muta, Kurt Angle, Christopher Daniels and Shawn Michaels have all but perfected the move.
Awarding this to Go Shiozaki is difficult. His is only a fraction better than any of those versions.
He seems to stay in the air a touch longer, gliding, almost floating before crashing down on his opponent.
Octopus Hold/Manji-Gatame—Gail Kim
One version of this submission hold looks like an abdominal stretch with a little more leg action. The attacker keeps the opponent’s head clamped under their leg.
Jaguar Yokota and Antonio Inoki both did excellent and painful looking examples of this.
The more amazing variation is often seen in Mexico.
Often a wrestler will begin with a tilt-a-whirl headscissors and somehow transition into the Octopus Hold while still hanging onto their opponent.
Gail Kim is smooth with hers.
She channels a boa constrictor as she chokes her opponent out with her legs.
Figure Four Leg Lock—Ric Flair
No other move is now more associated with a single wrestler than Flair and the figure four.
Older fans may disagree, citing the original Nature Boy Buddy Rogers’ usage or perhaps Greg Valentine's well-executed version.
But Flair used it for so long and did it so perfectly that he eventually owned the move to the point where it should be named after him.
Perhaps, someone has done the technical part of the hold more crisply, but Flair’s ability to turn it into a flashpoint of drama is unparalleled.
Two guys sitting on a mat shouldn’t be as exciting as Flair made it. His over-the-top facial expressions and flopping around amped up the excitement of the moment.
Who would have thought just running into your opponent would make for such great wrestling moments over the years?
In what’s essentially a football tackle, the attacker dives toward their victim and drives their shoulder into their torso.
Edge has the edge on theatrics before his, but Goldberg’s is just jaw-droppingly powerful.
When he speared a man, Goldberg looked like a human sledgehammer breaking through concrete. Say what you will about his overall ability, but he most definitely got that part of the sport down pat.
Death Valley Driver—Tatsuhito Takaiwa
One part Attitude Adjustment, one part Tombstone piledriver, the Death Valley Driver is a dangerous, high-impact move.
The Death Valley Driver is sometimes confused with the Death Valley Bomb, which is more of a slam than a piledriver. Fans also call the Fireman’s Carry Brainbuster a Death Valley Driver and dispute which one is a true DVD.
Forgetting the name confusion, it's easy to enjoy the violent beauty of this move.
Louie Spicolli, Etsuko Mita and Perry Saturn have all wowed with their versions of it.
Tatsuhito Takaiwa infuses an impressive amount of power into the Driver and makes it convincingly painful enough to make you cringe.
Being such a great power-move specialist, it's no surprise that Takaiwa delivers the DVD like no one else.
Double Knee Facebreaker—Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho has owned this move since he began using it in 2007.
Regardless of its real name, most fans will call it the Codebreaker. It may even seem like no one else uses it, but they just haven't put the stamp on it that Jericho has.
D’Angelo Dinero calls his version the DDE.
Jericho has made it famous with his flair for the dramatic. He has thrown it in at opportune times.
Though Jericho's Codebreaker is at times sloppy, at its best it is the best. It becomes an exclamation point on an already exciting match.
Inverted Atomic Drop—Bret Hart
The standard Atomic Drop and the inverted version are only separated by which way the opponent is facing. If they are facing away from the attacker, it's a regular Atomic Drop.
As for the standard version, Hulk Hogan brought plenty of power to it.
Shawn Michaels did the inverted kind extremely well.
But like with many moves, it's hard to touch the Hitman. Bret Hart hit his precisely and with an extra snap.
A move that could easily be turned goofy looked convincingly hard-hitting in Hart’s hands.
Tiger Suplex—Mitsuharu Misawa
This suplex begins with the attacker hooking their arms underneath the opponent's from behind. It is often followed by a bridging pin.
Its brother, the Dragon Suplex, just reverses the position of the arms. The suplex is held first with a full nelson instead.
Brian Kendrick, Chris Jericho and the original Tiger Mask all have Tiger Suplexes to be proud of.
Mitsuharu Misawa did it perfectly.
His smooth, crisp execution of the move elevated it. It helped him finish off a number of opponents and cement his legacy.
German Suplex—Chris Benoit
This basic suplex has the attacker wrap their arms around their opponent’s waist before hoisting them up in the air.
It is often done as a bridging pin.
Lou Thesz invented the move and it became the German Suplex because of Karl Gotch, who was actually Belgian. Gotch popularized the now-common move.
Kurt Angle is a master of the move. Go Shiozaki does a fine one as well.
No one soaked the move in power, drama and grace like Chris Benoit.
He often did them in succession, three or more in a row. Like many of his moves, they were precisely executed and full of passion.
Bear Hug—Bruno Sammartino
You can't get much more basic than a bear hug. A wrestler's pure strength is shown off as they wrap their arms around their opponent’s torso.
A staple for big men, this is either a wear-down hold or submission.
Mark Henry, Big Show and Ted Arcidi all clamped on their share of bear hugs.
Bruno Sammartino looked like an alligator chomping on its prey when he used the move. His powerful arms seemed impossible to break free from.
Skip to here to see Sammartino's bear hug.
Knee Drop—Ric Flair
With an opponent prone on the mat, the attacker sees an opportunity to inflict some pain. Lifting himself in the air, the wrestler then comes crashing down with his knee aimed at his foe's head.
Triple H, Harley Race, Randy Savage and Cody Rhodes have all regularly used this move, and all have done it well.
With Ric Flair, though, there seems to be an extra amount of, for a lack of a better word, flair to it.
He glides, smashes and then rolls all in one smooth, perfected motion.
As painful and impressive looking as this innovative submission hold is, there's one major flaw to it. Being in the ropes, it is inherently illegal.
Tajiri or anyone else using it can't keep it locked onto their opponent.
Their victims only have to survive the ref’s five-count.
Tajiri still gets props for coming up the move and he currently does it better than anyone. He slips into the hold as naturally as possible.
He makes what could be an awkward move graceful.
See it here or check out his other moves as well.
A move that has been phased out because of the danger it presents to the recipient's neck was once seemingly everyone's finisher.
The powerful move served as the ultimate weapon for wrestlers like Terry Funk and Jerry Lawler, and later for guys like Bret Hart (pre-Sharpshooter) and Tommy Dreamer.
A perfect piledriver requires driving the opponent down with enough force that it looks real but having enough restraint not to break their neck.
Paul Orndorff's version does just that.
It is the smoothest and most natural-looking piledriver while still managing to look like he's spiking his opponent's head into the mat.
See him deliver the piledriver right here.
Ankle Lock—Kurt Angle
Ken Shamrock brought this move from the world of MMA and popularized it.
The ankle lock is a simple submission hold that could be applied to anyone at nearly anytime.
One can add a grapevine, but at its most basic, it's a wrestler viciously turning their opponent's ankle as if they were attempting to unscrew it.
Jack Swagger's version is fine, as was the Repo Man's.
With one of the most intense faces in wrestling and superior mat skills, Kurt Angle elevates the move. He clamps on like a boa constrictor.
It's easy to feel his opponent's pain, to cringe at Angle tweaking the ankle, escape not allowed.
The opponent's arm is locked in between his attacker's legs as his neck gets wrenched and pulled with a pair of locked hands grinding against his face.
It's no wonder so many wrestlers have tapped out to this move; it sounds excruciating.
Kaz Hayashi can snap it on quickly. Daniel Bryan's is fantastic. Bobby Roode has begun to use it as well.
This isn't much of a competition, though.
Chris Benoit's version is king.
He puts it on faster than anyone and helped amp up the intensity with his dramatic expressions. His bulging arms seemed to tear at this opponent's flesh.
The clothesline transforms one's arm into a weapon. While running into an actual clothes-bearing clothesline would hurt some, wrestling's version is far more intense.
It is a common move that can go unnoticed, often a part of a string of strikes and power moves.
The best at it can have an audience's jaw drop.
JBL used the clothesline as a finisher, knocking over opponent after opponent. Dynamite Kid was said to have given incredibly stiff ones.
His is a close second to Nikita Koloff's version.
The big Russian would charge at his opponents like a train and deliver a wrecking ball of a clothesline he dubbed "The Russian Sickle."
You can skip right to the move here.
Often confused with the clothesline, the lariat also uses an outstretched arm to inflict damage. The difference is that the clothesline has the attacker stick out his arm and wait for it to collide with the oncoming opponent.
The lariat uses the arm more like a baseball bat, swinging forward at the opponent’s chest and neck.
Daisuke Sekimoto delivers them with tremendous force. Kenta Kobashi has used the move to bring drama and excitement to his multitude of five-star matches.
The master of the lariat may always be Stan Hansen.
Hansen brought so much power behind his that opponents’ heads rocketed backwards and their bodies crumpled. It’s no coincidence that Hansen's nickname is derived from the move.
Lariats by both Hansen and Kobashi are featured in this video, as is some infectious Japanese commentary.
A brawler may prefer an old-fashioned punch, but in order to bash away at an opponent and not get disqualified, a wrestler may have to turn to a different type of strike.
Sheamus has garnered attention with his chest-reddening version.
As powerful as those forearms blows are, opponents should be most afraid of Vader's.
Though he could no doubt produce powerful punches, Vader did a lot of his damage with his clubbing forearms.
He clearly did not hold back, banging flesh on flesh with no remorse.
Perhaps the coolest-named wrestling move, the Brainbuster hopefully didn't actually do to anyone what the name suggests.
The vertical suplex is turned far more dangerous when the attacker drives their opponent's head straight down.
Aja Kong, Jushin Liger and Toshiaki Kawada won fans over with their resounding versions.
Dick Murdoch, though, rocked the Brainbuster like no one else. His has surprising grace and more than enough power.
Murdoch's version is here.
Corkscrew Plancha—John Morrison
Simply leaping over the ropes out on an opponent is thrilling enough. The corkscrew plancha has the attacker rapidly turning in the air.
They flutter in the air like a passing bird.
In comparison to John Morrison, most men seem to be going in slow-motion.
Morrison gets higher and rotates more than anyone on the move.
One of the most exciting moves in wrestling seemed to be everybody's finisher at one point.
Vader, Kevin Nash and Sid Vicious were all using it about the same time.
Sid and Vader's version is impressive while Nash often seemed to be letting his opponent fall more than throwing them down forcefully.
Years later, Batista and Brock Lesnar showed off powerful versions. Chris Jericho sometimes uses a double version on smaller opponents.
The Undertaker's Last Ride has the advantage of Taker's towering height. Opponents fall from what must seem like several floors.
He snaps his foes down with more force than anyone, looking as if he's injured them almost every time.
The hand forged temporarily into a blade, the attacker drills his opponent's chest. Flesh smashes into flesh and makes an explosive sound.
The chest reddens as the cries of "Woo!" die down.
Ric Flair is the man who first comes to mind at the mention of the chop.
Long after his retirement, fans still think of him when any wrestler pulls out the move. His is the most famous, but is his the best?
Big Show does the loudest. Shawn Michaels is more than proficient at them.
No one did them with more veracity and intensity than Chris Benoit. Sometimes, it sounds like a bat cracking against a baseball.
A fireman's carry is turned devastating when the attacker falls backward, having their opponent crash into the mat behind them.
Afa and Sika were among the first to utilize the Samoan Drop and many Samoan wrestlers after them have adopted this move as a tribute.
The Rock does it well. Viscera used it as well, his size adding momentum and damage to it.
The late Umaga drove his opponents harder into the mat than anyone else. He leaped into his and had a snap that made the move more astonishing.
Gory Special—Eddie Guerrero
The bizarre-looking submission hold has the opponent draped on the attacker's back, twisted and writhing in pain.
It's name comes from its inventor, Gory Guerrero, patriarch of the legendary Guerrero family.
His most famous son took the move to its highest level, integrating it smoothly into his matches. In the video, Eddie is shown during his days as Black Tiger II.
Whether in Japan, WCW or WWE, Latino Heat wowed crowds with his magnificent Gory Special.
Handspring Back Elbow—Keiji Mutoh
In a flash, the attacker goes from cartwheeling to smashing an elbow into their opponent's face.
It can be one of the most exciting moves in wrestling, combining speed, agility and a big-time strike.
Tajiri's interpretation of the move can come seemingly out of nowhere. He bounces off the ropes in a blink.
Kelly Kelly does a tepid, boring version.
Keiji Mutoh most often did the move when he wrestled as the Great Muta. His opponent dazed in a corner, Mutoh would tumble at him, attacking like a ninja.
Skip right to the move here.
A vertical suplex turns "super" when hit from off the top rope.
This is a impactful move that takes a lot of out of both the giver and the taker.
No one has done it quite like Bret Hart.
He got into position more efficiently than anyone else. And when he and his opponent crashed onto the mat, few guys made the moment more dramatic.
This is one of many moves that the Excellence of Execution mastered during his career.
A simple headlock quickly turns into a high-impact move with the bulldog.
It requires a good bit of selling from the wrestler taking the move. Otherwise, it looks silly. Just ask Mabel aka Viscera.
John Cena's bulldog is normally feeble looking. The best versions have the attacker driving the opponent’s head into the canvas.
Cena's doesn't seem real at all.
CM Punk usually sets up the bulldog with a flying knee and a dramatic pause in the corner. His bulldog is smooth and well executed, and is elevated by being a part of Punk's knee, pause, bulldog sequence.
Skin the Cat—Ricky Steamboat
In a display of great agility, the wrestler pulls themselves up and over the ropes after dangling on the apron. One has to be both strong and dexterous to pull of the gymnastic-like move.
Shawn Michaels did it amazingly for years.
Skin the cat was often a part of his great performances. Only one man is skilled enough in the ring to outdo Michaels with the move.
Ricky Steamboat was a master of everything he did in the ring.
Even in his 50s, he still manages to amaze with this move and so many others.
Skip right to it here, if you like.
Leg Drop—Kofi Kingston
Jeff Hardy has done some spectacular ones from the tops of ladders or balconies. Hulk Hogan's less-impressive version is probably the most famous one.
The Undertaker delivers a brutal one on the ring apron.
Kofi Kingston's is just a sliver better.
Kingston creates excitement with his leg drop with his uncanny leaping ability. The Boom Drop sees Kingston soar gracefully before crashing down on his foe.
He's turned a somewhat routine move into a stunning sight.
Headbutt—Andre the Giant
In the heat of battle, one has to use every weapon available. Often, especially for the behemoths of wrestling, this includes using their own head.
With some wrestlers, the headbutt is slow and awkward.
Bret Hart did it well, but his size made it less convincing. Big Show misses too often with his.
Andre's club of a head came crashing down on many an opponent. He made it theatrical and momentous. The pain of his victims was convincing.
Lanny Poffo gets it about 20 seconds in.
Diving Headbutt—Chris Benoit
A move Harley Race says he regrets creating, is extremely hard on the attacker's head and neck.
Two of the most prolific users, Chris Benoit and Dynamite Kid, ended up suffering from brain damage. It's hard to argue that as simple coincidence.
One has to wonder if Daniel Bryan, who uses it in his matches now, can avoid that fate.
Race, Dynamite and Bryan all performed the move beautifully.
Benoit though, made it more majestic than anyone. As he leaped from the turnbuckle, our eyes locked onto him.
Muscle Buster—Samoa Joe
This move boasts one of the greatest names. Getting body slammed or suplexed doesn't sound that bad, but getting your muscles busted sound horrifying.
The attacker sets their opponent on their shoulder in a compact, cradled position before slamming their head and neck to the canvas.
Samoa Joe is one of the most prolific users of the muscle buster and with good reason.
He's strong enough to lift just about anyone up on his shoulders and falls to the mat suddenly and powerfully.
Stunner—Stone Cold Steve Austin
No one calls it a seated three-quarter facelock jawbreaker.
With all apologies to Mikey Whipwreck, no one does the stunner like Steve Austin.
It became an essential ingredient in the formula that created one of the most popular superstars of all time. Few things have ignited a crowd like Stone Cold stunning McMahon or whoever else got in the way.
Austin does the move with such an attitude, such anger and joy that it makes it look far more devastating than it actually is.
The cutter is the stunner's cousin.
It can strike in an instant, out of seemingly nowhere, the cutter is one of the better finishing moves a wrestler can adopt.
Diamond Dallas Page made the move famous, aided by a memorable hand gesture to go with it.
Others wrestlers, like Homicide, have done it quite well. Orton's version, though, is near perfect.
His is incredibly quick and smooth, a perfect move for a man nicknamed "The Viper."
Fisherman’s Suplex—Curt Hennig
Called the Fisherman's Suplex because the attacker hooks the opponent's leg, this is an underappreciated move turned into athletic poetry when in the right hands.
Holding the bridging position afterwards takes some impressive body control.
Bobby Roode has made it a big part of his move set and does it quite well. Many others have as well, but Curt Hennig did it like no one else.
There's a reason he chose it as his finisher, his flawless execution of the suplex is the perfect demonstration of why he earned the nickname, "Mr. Perfect."
Roddy Piper threw wild-eyed theatrics into his. Verne Gagne applied his tightly and held on dramatically.
Hiro Matsuda used the Cobra Clutch as his finisher, calling it a "Japanese Sleeper."
His regular sleeper hold was clamped on so tightly that it once drew blood.
The strain on Matsuda's face as he applied the hold made it seem as if he was using every bit of strength he had to choke his opponent out.
Side Slam—Dino Bravo
Not a complex move, the side slam sees the attacker lift his opponent to his side and drop him down to the mat.
Doing the move lackadaisically, it can be underwhelming. Done with gusto, though, it can be a powerful move.
Kurrgan and Kevin Nash have looked stronger for having used it.
Dino Bravo did it so well that he managed to turn it into a legitimate finisher. He seemed to drive his opponent down with more force than anyone else.
Leap Frog—Kofi Kingston
The leap frog is one of those moves that's easy to take for granted. When two wrestlers began a back-and-forth running attack-and-defense routine between the ropes, a few leap frogs are almost always thrown in.
When most guys perform the move, it doesn't stand out. When Kofi does it, fans' eyes get bigger.
Kofi may be the best leaper to ever step in a ring. And the leap frog is essentially just a well-timed leap. He gets insanely high every time, clearing his opponent's head by way more than he needs to.
Skip directly to it here.
Claw—Fritz Von Erich
Killer Kowalski fans may argue otherwise, but Fritz Von Erich was the master of the claw.
Kowalski certainly looked vicious applying the hold, but Von Erich added a touch more flair. He looked like a snake striking from the grass as he grabbed at his opponents.
As he twisted and pulled at another man's flesh, it seemed quite possible that he could rip bits of the man from his body.
Watch the match or get right to the claw here.
Lifting Knee Strike—CM Punk
CM Punk has made a name for himself, largely on the strength and artistry of his kicks. And while his roundhouse kicks are a great part of his repertoire, his most impressive is the running knee strike.
Harley Race and Triple H have made the move look equal parts fluid and brutal.
Punk though, gets a cracking sound from the impact that sends a jolt of energy to the crowd.
His five-star match with John Cena at Money in the Bank had a number of great moments, but none as great as when he kneed Cena in the head. Hard to believe that Cena hadn't been knocked out cold.
In soccer, the bicycle kick refers to the player throwing their body in the air and while flipping or turning to kick the ball.
Wrestling has its own vernacular and calls that kind of kick a Pelé kick, after the Brazilian soccer legend.
A wrestling bicycle kick is when the attacker lifts both feet off the ground and then kicks forward with one of them.
Steve Blackman, Matt Morgan and R-Truth have all utilized it well.
Sheamus' Brogue Kick though, is the clear winner.
His movement is fluid and the power he generates is stunning.
Pelé Kick—AJ Styles
Its name is a reference to Brazil soccer legend Pelé. This move mimics an exciting kick from soccer.
John Morrison has used the move over the years, showing off his great agility every time he uses it.
And though Morrison is tough to be beat in the world of acrobatic maneuvers, AJ Styles does in this particular case.
Styles does a spectacular backflip that looks effortless. Unfortunately for his opponents, he then consistently makes good contact with his boot.
Diving Crossbody—Ricky Steamboat
A simple but elegant looking move, the wrestler glides through the air and uses his torso as a weapon.
Shawn Michaels, Kofi Kingston, Jimmy Snuka, John Morrison and countless others have made this move a beautiful sight to behold. These men conjure up images of an eagle spreading his wings.
Ricky Steamboat's version though, was magnificent.
Like many things he did in the ring, Steamboat elevated the diving crossbody to a majestic level.
Stepover Toehold Facelock—Samoa Joe
STF for short, this submission hold stretches the opponent's neck, back and legs.
John Cena has made the STF his own, using it as a finishing move. His version is not nearly as smooth as say, Dean Malenko's however.
Combining the power that Cena delivers with the STF and the precision that Malenko brings, Samoa Joe does the STF the best. When he clamps it on, his opponent looks like he’s being tortured.
Sunset Flip—El Hijo Del Santo
The Sunset Flip is a common move that is often taken for granted. It can be done with artful fluidity to great effect. Low Ki and Ricky Steamboat do just that.
It can be an exciting part of a fast-paced exchange.
A lot of wrestlers, especially the more agile ones, have done this move well.
El Hijo Del Santo, though, adds a few degrees of difficulty and nails the rolling version beautifully. When's the last time you heard a pop like that for a Sunset Flip?
Rolling Neck Snap—Mr. Perfect
Usually following a snap mare, the attacker rolls over the opponent, yanking down on their neck.
Done poorly, the move can become a sloppy mess in the wrong hands. Just ask Nikki Bella.
On the other hand, executed by someone as adept as Curt Hennig, the move can be a gorgeous part of a match.
Hennig flipped smoothly over his opponent's head. His opponent's neck bent forward painfully.
The move became a staple for Mr. Perfect, one of many moves he did superbly.
You can skip ahead to the neck snap here.
Often, you can tell who has mastered a move simply by what it's called. No one calls it a kneeling reverse piledriver.
They call it a Tombstone because of the Undertaker's excellence.
Andre the Giant, Owen Hart and Kane have all shown us some good examples of the move.
Undertaker's is often the most vicious version, and almost always the most seamless. The way he crosses his opponent's arms and demonically flashes his tongue cements the move as his.
Boston Crab—Chris Jericho
The Boston Crab is a simple but effective submission hold that bends back the opponent's legs and strains the back.
Rick Martel used the move as a finisher for years. Martel's version boasts preciseness and torque, but Chris Jericho just beats him out.
When Jericho uses the move, his face always tells a story of intensity. In addition, he sometimes twists the move into a more painful version (The Lion Tamer) where his knee grinds into his foe's head.
Tilt-a-Whirl Head Scissors—Rey Mysterio
A Lucha Libre favorite, the tilt-a-whirl headscissors features the attacker spinning around his opponent's body before clamping his legs around their head. Spinning momentum and gravity aid him in then taking the foe down.
Several WWE Divas use the move, making a mockery of it with sloppy execution.
Sin Cara uses it today. His version is a touch speedier and flashier, but Rey Mysterio's is crisper. Mysterio is so adept at flinging his body around that he makes it look far easier than it is.
Gutwrench Powerbomb—Gran Naniwa
Clamping their arms around their opponents waist, users of this move then yank their foe in the air before sending them crashing to the mat. Spin, yell, power.
Jack Swagger uses it as his finisher.
None of these deliver the gutwrench powerbomb with more intensity than Gran Naniwa. Naniwa adds a spinning element, as well as a primal scream.
Crucifix Powerbomb—Scott Hall
It takes immense strength to lift a wrestler the way that the crucifix powerbomb requires. The attacker lifts his opponent by their arms above their head before driving them to the canvas.
Sheamus calls his version "The Celtic Cross." Konnan, Black Tiger, Kyoko Inoue and Dynamite Kansai should all be proud of theirs.
But no one did it more viciously and with greater impact than Scott Hall.
While wrestling as Razor Ramon, he dubbed it, "The Razor's Edge." His opponents' head rattled on the mat; their bodies folded. Hall's height and power allowed him to master this move.
Snap Suplex—Dynamite Kid
Essentially a vertical suplex with hyperdrive, the snap suplex is when the attacker snaps their opponent onto their back without any hesitation.
Ken Shamrock did the move extremely well.
Chris Benoit, who idolized Dynamite Kid, borrowed liberally from his moveset. The snap suplex is one of the moves he took, but Benoit's version didn't quite have the speed that Dynamite's had.
Dynamite's snap suplex was perfection.
He delivered the move with precision and shudder-inducing force.
Rolling Elbow—Chris Hero
With the wrestler's body spinning, the incoming elbow becomes a devastating weapon.
Japanese ring legend Mitsuharu Misawa gave the elbow new life when he included it in so many of his five-star matches.
His elbows weren't powered by great strength, but more a result of precision. He is most associated with the move. Then how is he not the winner here?
Chris Hero, that's why.
Like Shawn Michaels did with the superkick, Hero times his strike perfectly. Vicious, dramatic, beautiful, Hero's rolling elbow has taken Misawa's lead and gone further with it.
The backbreaker is one of those moves where the name gets a little carried away with itself. Nobody's back is breaking, even as violently as these wrestlers are being hit.
The first of several backbreakers on this list is the most vanilla one, sometimes called the Schmidt backbreaker. It's named after Hans Schmidt, who wrestled in the '50s and '60s and finished off many an opponent with the move.
Kurt Angle's version is superior to everyone's due to how quickly and perfectly he executes it. Everything is done in a fluid motion. The move's impact is thunderous as well.
Pendulum Backbreaker—Owen Hart
The pendulum backbreaker varies from the Schmidt variety in that the attacker's knee is driven into the small of their back rather than the side of their body.
The recipient is bent over the knee for a brief moment before being tossed to the mat.
Countless wrestlers have used the move, but Owen Hart brought the most intensity to it. He and his brother Bret perfected a long list of moves. This is a case where Owen wins.
Just watching him deliver the move can make your back hurt.
Double-Knee Backbreaker—James Storm
An increasingly popular move, the double-knee backbreaker is basically a reverse codebreaker with the opponent facing the opposite direction.
It's an exciting move that could have the attacker strike at nearly any moment.
Primo and Epico, as well as Alberto Del Rio, have used the move in their matches. While those men's versions are all impressive, the prize for the most brutal double-knee backbreaker goes to James Storm.
Storm's version has him hold still for a moment after impact, making it look like his knees have dug into his foe's vertebrae. There is a cringe-worthy thud as he hits it.
Running Powerslam—British Bulldog
Once one has their opponent slung over their shoulders, they could just throw them down, but running at full speed before doing so adds momentum and excitement. Done right, it can make the ring shake and serve as a convincing finisher.
Though several powerhouses have incorporated it, Davey Boy Smith simply owns the move.
He ran the fastest, tucked his opponent swiftly and smashed their body into the mat with the ferocious power.
Tilt-a-Whirl Backbreaker—Eddie Guerrero
Adding flair to the brutal backbreaker, the tilt-a-whirl version has the attacker spin his opponent around before connecting knee to spine. Being able to pull this move off without a hitch is an impressive feat.
Eddie Guerrero is the very best at it.
His version is fluid, exciting and powerful. His opponent's legs are a blur. His execution is flawless.
Skip straight to it here.
The neckbreaker has countless variations, but the standard one is where a wrestler drops to the ground while holding their opponent's head. Their neck feels the impact as both wrestlers hit the mat.
Today, Randy Orton and Dolph Ziggler do the best versions. They still can't top Rick Rude's "Rude Awakening."
Rude cranked down on the neck with precision, timing and merciless force. He dragged out the move as well, making us anticipate it first.
If you don't want to watch the whole match, the jobber gets awakened here.
Half Nelson Driver—Ricky Marvin
For this move, the attacker stands behind the opponent and applies a half nelson hold on. In an instant, the wrestler then grabs their foe's legs, flips them over and then whips them hard onto the mat.
The innovative move is seen more often in Japan than in the U.S. but if American wrestlers are willing to learn and to take the move, fans would no doubt react loudly to it.
Ricky Marvin of Pro Wrestling Noah fame uses the move as his finisher, calling it "Santa Maria."
His motion appears very natural and smooth. He does it safely, avoiding driving his opponent's head directly into the ring. The impact is dramatic and the move is beautiful.
Torture Rack—Awesome Kong
The Torture Rack aka the Argentine backbreaker rack is a strongman's submission hold. The attacker holds his foe up and attempts to snap him in half.
The Argentine part of the name comes from Antonino Rocca, who innovated the move.
Ezekiel Jackson, Hercules and Lex Luger went on to use the move as their finisher. Awesome Kong aka Kharma has made the move her own, turning up the intensity and making it doubly painful.
It's especially impressive to see her bend her often smaller opponents.
Skip right to it here.
Seated Senton—Rey Mysterio
Usually moves involving someone sitting on someone else are done by mammoth wrestlers whose lower halves resemble redwood tree trunks. The seated senton on the other hand is a tool for the flyers of the game.
Rey Mysterio uses it tucked among his array of dazzling aerial moves. He glides through the air like no other wrestler has and lands his tailbone square on his opponent's chest.
Forget that his small frame shouldn't knock over such big men. It's a gorgeous sight to behold regardless.
Cobra Clutch—Sgt. Slaughter
The cobra clutch turns one's opponent’s own arm into a snakelike mess of flesh that wraps around their neck. The move resembles the sleeper hold somewhat and has the same bad intentions.
The move has the attacker put their foe in a half nelson and then grab their wrist and use their arm as a weapon against themselves.
The move will always be associated with Sgt. Slaughter with good reason. Slaughter made the move an integral part of his villainous persona. It was a vicious move for a vicious man.
His application of the move is the most convincing and most memorable.
You can skip to the sarge's demo of it here.
Tiger Wall Flip—Tiger Mask
This isn't a move you’ll see in UFC or a bar fight. It's strictly for show.
Putting a circus feel into matches, the wrestler who performs this move runs at their opponent and then uses them as a launchpad as they do a backflip.
Daniel Bryan has included the move in his varied repertoire. He does it well, but it's nearly impossible to best the master of the move.
Tiger Mask's athleticism and tiny frame helped him bound about the ring like Spiderman. His wall flip, like many of his moves, was simply magnificent.
He landed as perfectly as a gymnast nearly every time, making the impressive move look easy.
See the move here.
Springboard Double Rotation Tornillo Suicida—Laredo Kid
With an opponent standing just outside of the ring, a wrestler has a myriad of options on how to attack. There is none more spectacular than the breathtaking tornillo suicida.
The attacking wrestler turns themselves into a human tornado.
There isn't much competition for who does this move best because there aren't a ton of wrestlers who do it. Mexico's own Laredo Kid has made a name for himself with his array of stunning aerial moves and this one is one of his best.
He gets impressively high and spins impossibly fast.