The 25 Most Painful Finishers of All Time
photo from wwe.com
After a match where two wrestlers clothesline and body slam each other, they pull out their most powerful, most vicious moves to bring the action to a climatic end.
Many of these moves are excruciating even with the attacker holding back.
This list factors in pain, both of the kayfabe and legit varieties.
Some of the moves are only tortuous when done incorrectly or with full force. There are some, though, that offer no solace from suffering, regardless of the precautions the performers take.
From the limb-bending to the concussion-inducing, here are pro wrestling's most painful finishing moves.
Pro wrestling is loaded with painful finishers, so much so that a list of 25 was not big enough to contain the most devastating.
As harmful on the human form as the following are, they didn't quite make the cut.
The various versions of the Quackendriver could definitely send someone out on a stretcher.
25. Tower of London
Some versions of the cutter focus more on dramatic flair than actual impact. Randy Orton's opponents often jump to help sell the move.
Nigel McGuinness' Tower of London doesn't need that kind of assistance.
McGuinness instead enlists the help of gravity to have his foe's face smash into the mat. The added force of falling from that height makes the move more likely to induce a concussion.
A wrestler taking the Tower of London has to curl their arms under their body to cushion the blow or else risk doing an in-ring face plant.
24. Avalanche Bloody Sunday
Jake Roberts' creation, the DDT, is hard-hitting enough, a potential blackout every time out.
Prince Devitt's lifting DDT, Bloody Sunday adds force to the impact and the few times he's done it from the top rope just go to show how merciless he is.
A wrestler protects his opponent as much as he can, but a fall from this height has to be mighty painful in spite of any precautions taken. If one doesn't hit face- or head-first, there is still plenty of flesh to pound into the mat.
23. Busaiku Knee Kick
KENTA has made a name for himself in Japan by indiscriminately kicking heads. His most impactful finisher uses his feet to spring forward, but his knee does the dirty work.
The Busaiku Knee Kick is not accurately named (it can't be a kick and a knee at the same time, right?) but is an awful move to receive.
The stiff style wrestlers utilize in Japan relies on real contact as evidenced by the smashing of knee to mouth seen in the video. This is an equally graceful and violent move, simultaneously evoking a fluttering dove and a charging rhino.
22. Muscular Bomb
Dragon Gate speedster Naruki Doi ends many of his matches with his half-nelson wheelbarrow driver.
Larger opponents must be thankful to not have to suffer through this move. Even when executed as carefully as possible, neck injuries are far too likely.
Doi does his best to tuck his opponent's head under at the last moment, but it still must send a shockwave of pain down one's spine.
The muscular bomb is a finisher that offers the recipient several chances to counter it, but little hope during impact.
21. Texas Cloverleaf
Hall of Famer Dory Funk Jr. is credited with creating this sick twisting of the legs.
As demonstrated by Men's Teioh in the video, this submission hold presses leg against leg as the attacker painfully bends their foe’s back.
It works much like the Sharpshooter/Scorpion Deathlock, but allows the wrestlers performing the move to increase the torque on the recipient's spine as well.
20. Canadian Destroyer
The Canadian Destroyer, a front flip piledriver, gets major points for high impact and violence, but far less for realism.
For an opponent to be able to pull this off, flipping forward into a piledriver, is hard to swallow. The move requires a ton of help from the recipient.
Still, it's a powerful move that could be hell on the neck and head.
Thankfully for those taking the move, the rolling element allows for more protection, having much of the impact hit the attacker's rear end and thighs.
A staple of powerhouses, the powerbomb has been a popular finisher over the years. The Undertaker, Vader, Sid Vicious, Scott Hall, Kevin Nash and Batista, among others, have used it to finish off an opponent.
The move comes in a multitude of variants, but is essentially a wrestler lifting another wrestler and slamming their shoulders into the mat.
Heads whiplash off the canvas and nerve endings are put to use.
With as strong a man like Batista or Brock Lesnar, even a half-strength powerbomb must leave its mark on the body and the mind.
The powerbomb has also found its way into UFC, thanks to Rampage Jackson and other fighters.
18. Omega Driver/Awful Waffle
Independent circuit mainstay Chuck Taylor's most painful finisher is known as both the Omega Driver or the Awful Waffle.
While suffering from an "awful waffle" doesn't sound like the most terrible of fates, it can be a horrendous way to end a match. Taylor has likely realigned some spines with this move.
The finisher looks to be a simple suplex at first.
Taylor then rapidly spins his opponent around and has skull meet mat with a car-crash type impact. It's the type of move you won't see in the WWE, with such little chance to protect a foe and with such a high chance for injury.
17. Figure-Four Leg Lock
A classic submission hold with a ton of tradition, the figure-four leg lock works its agonizing magic by using an opponent's legs against him.
Their left leg is bent over their right and pressure is applied to have bone grind on bone.
While a legit application of the move would be painful enough to get someone to tap out, it's not something anyone would be able to apply in an MMA situation. As for pro wrestling, the attacker certainly takes it easy, not clamping down on the leg as forcefully as they could.
Full pressure turns a foe's legs into a tortuous cross of flesh.
Famous users of the figure-four include Greg Valentine, Buddy Rogers, Tito Santana and of course, Ric Flair.
16. Ankle Lock
Pain is often not a complicated equation. For the ankle lock, it's simply pressure plus joints equals agony.
Pro wrestlers, of course, aren't wrenching the ankle as hard as they can, but it doesn't take much pressure to get a foe slapping the mat, begging for escape.
Several wrestlers from Kurt Angle to Jack Swagger have used the move as a finisher.
A quarter-strength ankle lock from either one of those guys is enough to leave you limping. Imagine a full-forced version.
Watch Megumi Fujii break her opponent's ankle with the move, a demonstration of its power.
15. Anaconda Vise
Wrestlers can thank (or curse, depending on the situation) Hiroyoshi Tenzan for bringing this judo and Jiu-Jitsu-inspired move to pro wrestling.
CM Punk has made it famous in WWE.
This submission hold tears at the arm while also choking the opponent. If one does it right, the attacker's elbow drives into the neck as the arm is being bent in that horrendous position.
Even a WWE version of the hold has got to cause some serious hurt.
14. Michinoku Driver II
Cradle Shock, Green Fall, Ki Krusher; the Michinoku Driver II has been known by several names, depending on who has used it.
Low Ki, Jun Akiyama, Chris Sabin, Ayako Hamada and Evan Bourne (in his early days) have all utilized variants of this move.
The plain old piledriver is vicious enough. The Michinoku Driver II (a sitout scoop-slam piledriver) adds velocity and power to an already sick move. This must be hard to pull off without concussing a few folks.
Luckily, the impact is less direct than some of the others higher on this list if the wrestler can emphasize the scoop-slam element of the move and pull back the piledriving part.
13. Barry White Driver
Super Dragon is a mad scientist of pain.
Not only does he use several Psycho Drivers (appearing higher on the list) as finishers, the Pro Wrestling Guerrilla vet also employs this vicious move to cap off matches.
The opponent becomes a battering ram and the canvas becomes the door it attempts to knock down.
The move's name is misleading, having one think of lovemaking in candlelight when it could instead lead one to a night in a hospital.
Each half of this submission hold delivers the kind of tearing, torturous pain one might expect from a Medieval contraption.
The attacker first scissors his/her legs around their opponent's arm which in itself is a painful hold. With full force, one can separate someone's shoulder this way.
Next, the wrestler grabs hold of their foe's head and cranks it backwards.
Gene LeBell is credited with concocting this move.
LeBell was both a professional wrestler and martial artist. Chris Benoit made the move famous for wrestling fans and Daniel Bryan continues the tradition today.
Taken from Judo and Jiu-Jitsu, the gogoplata became known as the Hell's Gate in WWE thanks to The Undertaker.
Not only are you being choked by your opponent's shin pressing into your throat, but your own weight multiplies the strength of the choke. You are trapped inside this mess of limbs like an animal caught in barbed wire.
The attacker yanks on the back of your head to seal you in, to increase the pain on your neck.
Of all the places on an opponent's body to attack, the throat is a wise choice. That soft spot is no match for a well-placed shin.
10. Shattered Dreams
The most painful moves often focus on the head and neck or else twisting a limb into a gruesome position. Not many focus on a man's testicles.
For one, it's an illegal move so as a finisher it can only be used in special situations.
Goldust used this running kick to the onions as one of many ways to put an opponent away. To avoid sending wrestlers to the hospital, he kicked the turnbuckle underneath their precious orbs, not the actual goodies.
In terms of moves men would least like to take in real life, Shattered Dreams has to rank way up there.
They'd take a twist of a leg, or a kick in the face before getting their testicles treated like a football on a tee.
Skip straight to the sadism here.
9. Fujiwara Armbar
This is a move that is as brutal as it is simple. The attacker rests most of his weight on his foe and cranks their arm back in a direction it was not designed to go in.
Yoshiaki Fujiwara, a multi-time champion in various Japanese promotions, brought the move to pro wrestling, but its origins lie in judo, known in that world as waki gatame.
Depending on how real two wrestlers want to make this look, the attacker can pull on the arm with minimal force or do as Kazuo Yamazaki does in the video and turn a foe's arm into its own torture device.
The Brainbuster takes the back-stinging vertical suplex and transforms it into a nasty collision of skull and mat.
The attacker snaps his foe down, impaling their head in the process. Sure, the wrestler giving the move will tuck his arm around their opponent's head to cushion the blow as much as possible, but there still has to be some major impact every time.
Watch Shinya Hashimoto deliver the vertical drop brainbuster and try not to wince.
Dick Murdoch excelled at the move during his heyday in the '70s and '80s. Whether he, Toshiaki Kawada or anyone else delivered the brainbuster, it's always dangerous, always startlingly violent.
7. Psycho Drivers
Super Dragon's array of finishers all end with similar results, with heads meeting ring mats.
They also have the added bonus of the momentum gained by the opponent's swinging body.
Psycho Driver I is a backbreaker rack dropped into a piledriver. The second installment is a pumphandle piledriver.
The Psycho Driver III is a cutthroat backbreaker rack that then goes into the piledriver and the fourth version of the move is very similar to the other three, but ends with a fisherman driver rather than a piledriver.
Whichever version one chooses, it's hard to watch.
Pain and psycho drivers are inseparable.
6. Gringo Killa/Kudome Valentine
Depending on who is demolishing their opponents with this move, it's called the Gringo (also Cop) Killa or the Kudome Valentine.
Credit Megumi Kudo's sick mind for thinking this up.
She must have thought to herself, "How can I drive my opponent's head into the mat blindly so as to limit my ability to protect them?" The answer? This horrific move.
Homicide brought this move to the U.S. and calls it either Da Cop Killa while wrestling on the independent scene or Da Gringo Killa while in TNA.
Homicide tends to deliver it at the most protective angle possible, having the violence be done mostly to his foe's upper back. Kudo was not as merciful.
She has driven opponents large and small into the canvas like a nail into wood.
5. Piledriver, Including the Tombstone Version and Other Variants
Many of these moves below this are piledriver-type moves with the opponent being spun or flipped before hitting head on mat.
What gets the piledriver such a high ranking is its track record.
Without having experienced it firsthand, we can assume few things hurt as terribly as a broken neck. The piledriver, especially the Tombstone variety has a history of snapping necks.
Steve Austin's career was changed forever when Owen Hart delivered a vicious seated reverse piledriver and Stone Cold found that his extremities weren't working afterward.
Years earlier, Austin was on the other end in an eerily similar situation.
He hit the same move and broke Masahiro Chono’s neck.
Ask Al Phillips what move hurts the most.
4. Victory Star Drop
Manami Toyota ended many of her matches with high impact moves like the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex or the Japanese Ocean Queen Bee Bomb. It was only on special occasions that she used the Victory Star Drop as a finisher.
Any wrestler who ever took this move wasn't likely to be willing to take it again.
It's almost like a rotating piledriver from the top rope.
Toyota innovated the brutal move much to the delight of fans and the horror of opponents. Coming down on one's head is bad enough, but the momentum gained here is stunning.
In the video, Aja Kong hits the mat with a stomach-turning thud.
3. Burning Hammer
Kenta Kobashi only pulled his most devastating finisher seven times.
When his lariat wouldn't do the job and when a brainbuster or moonsault didn't earn him a win, he took to this neck-crunching weapon.
The Burning Hammer is an inverted Death Valley Driver, a career-threatening combination of strength, gravity and sadism.
Little can be done to protect oneself here.
Kobashi sometimes executed the move with his foe's head tucked somewhat safely under his arms. Other times, he delivered it to its full terrifying potential.
2. Tiger Driver '91
Credit Jaguar Yokota with this sick move.
Mitsuharu Misawa is the more famous user, having pulled out this torture device for special occasions. The kneeling spike double-underhook ganso bomb has likely compacted a few spines, shortening both wrestlers and their careers.
As dangerous and painful as the piledriver and brainbuster are, those moves at least offer a chance to reduce their impact. There is little a wrestler can do to protect his opponent with the Tiger Driver '91.
It's like a Pedigree from Hell.
The only finisher that hurts more looks a lot like this with a higher drop.
1. Kawada Driver
Take the piledriver, one of wrestling's most dangerous moves and remove all its protective elements. That's essentially the Kawada Driver.
Toshiaki Kawada participated in some of the most critically acclaimed matches of all time, spending much of the '90s delivering five-star matches.
In battles against legends Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi and Jun Akiyama, Kawada sparingly sprinkled in the most horrendously painful move in wrestling.
The Kawada Driver, aka the Ganso Bomb, is a wrestler's own personal plane crash.