Before I begin, just a little housekeeping is necessary. For anyone who thought that I was taking a slam at professional wrestling with the first installment of this series, that is simply not true!
I am writing with wrestling novices in mind, and I’m not in any way demeaning the intelligence or knowledge of my fellow wrestling fans here on Bleacher Report.
There is a huge difference in what I would call a “good” wrestling finisher and the actual “selling” of such a maneuver by the wrestlers involved.
In part one of this series, I outlined finishers No. 20—11 on my list of "Least Believable" finishers. Many people agreed, and many disagreed. Surprisingly enough (to me, at least), many objections centered around what could be called a “bubble” finisher, the Pedigree at No. 20.
Several excellent arguments were offered as reasons for why Triple H’s closer should not be in the discussion, and I sincerely believe that those arguments have merit. If I were to start the list over, I would likely leave the move out of the top 20.
Keep this in mind, though: I’m not claiming that these are the 20 worst wrestling finishers; I am questioning the believability of them.
For instance, the entire family of cutters/modified bulldogs—such as the Stone Cold Stunner, Diamond Cutter and RKO, for instance—came in at No. 12.
But Randy Orton’s RKO is performed so precisely and is so spectacular with Orton’s leaping, twisting motion that the move is undoubtedly made to look amazing! It is a good finisher, whether I decry its believability or not, especially the way Randy sells it.
Several of the finishers in the top 10 have been put over so well—both by the executor and by his many failed opponents—over the years that they, too, would surely appear on a list of the most recognizable and popular finishers ever.
But that still doesn’t mean that the typical wrestling fan truly believes that the moves have tremendous impact and/or are believable as a finisher.
So to fans of the Pedigree, FU and the cutters, know that I like those moves just as much as many of you do, especially when they are sold and put over properly.
The 619, however, is an entirely different story.
I think the double leg-to-the-face is, in theory, a fantastic finisher. What’s objectionable, though, is the whole setup of the move.
You mean to tell me that Rey Mysterio, who weighs barely more than I do, so incapacitates someone that he can stare at them, listen to the roar of the crowd, run to the far rope, bounce off, and whirl around and perform a kick—all while his opponent is still lying helpless on the middle rope—and you expect us to believe it?
That’s taking “suspension of disbelief” just a little bit too far.
So while the move is incredibly popular, and quite believable (imagine being hit in the forehead with a baseball bat, which would be fairly similar), I don’t personally consider it to be a credible finisher the way it is typically performed.
That would replace the Pedigree if I were to do the top 20 all over.
So now, here are my Top 10 Least Believable Finishers of pro wrestling history:
10) The Heart Punch
Notable practitioner(s): Stan Stasiak, Ox Baker, John Studd, Mean Mark Callus, Crush
Raising a man’s arm and punching him in the chest—allegedly in the heart—just doesn’t do it for me. Baker is alleged to have killed two men with the heart punch, but those were works; neither victim actually died from anything that Baker did.
People get punched in the chest all the time and keep coming back for more; why believe this can garner a three-count? Crush’s version was particularly bad.
9) Forearm smash
Notable practitioner(s): Tito Santana (Flying Jalapeno), Lex Luger
This move is little more than a version of the clothesline. Yes, Tito typically used both arms, and Luger allegedly had a steel plate in his forearm, but as a finisher? It just doesn’t fly.
Notable practitioner(s): Far too many to mention, but Goldberg and Edge
Edge sells his Spear mighty well; Goldberg did at one time, but certainly not by the end of his tenure in WWE. Goldberg also would use the move as a transition to the Jackhammer body slam, which was a suitable combination.
And I imagine that a shoulder tackle to the midsection could knock the wind out of someone. But as a primary finisher? Lacks believability.
7) Scissor Kick
Notable practitioner(s): Booker T
Two problems with this maneuver: 1) It’s just not plausible to think that catching a leg to the back of the neck would put a man down for a three-count; and 2) How long can we really expect a wrestler to stand hunched over in the perfect position for Booker to deliver the blow?
6) Bionic Elbow (Elbow Smash)
Notable practitioner(s): The American Dream Dusty Rhodes, Johnny Valentine
Now, Tracy Smothers used to do a second-rope elbow drop that looked very believable. And the back story behind Rhodes’ “Bionic Elbow” was great: his surgically repaired elbow was “better than ever,” and it was around the time that the Six Million Dollar Man was hugely popular.
But an elbow to the head? For a three-count? Calling it bionic didn’t lend the move enough credibility.
5) Mandible Claw
Notable practitioner(s): Mankind/Dude Love
I separated this one from the other claws for a reason. It is, to me, far less believable as a finisher than the Face or Stomach Claw. It always seemed to me that there were simply too many ways out of the Mandible Claw. A socked hand to the mouth? Seriously?
4) Leg Drop of Doom®
Trademarked by Hulk Hogan
There is no right place to put this finisher. Almost every list like this you will ever see has it No. 1 or 2. But it’s definitely got to be in the top five. Big boot, leg drop. The move probably hurt Hogan more than his opponent. At least in his younger days he used to get some serious air on it; it looked almost believable then. Almost.
3) The People’s Elbow
Notable practitioner(s): The Rock
In time, this became a transitional move to the Rock Bottom modified choke slam. That made for a believable sequence. But how in the world could Rock or anyone else be expected to sell a running elbow drop as a closer?
Did flicking the elbow pad into the crowd endow The Rock with some magical power that imparted this move with finishing ability? Or was it criss-crossing the ring multiple times that did it?
2) One-handed Chop/Karate Chop
Notable practitioner(s): Wahoo McDaniel (Tomahawk Chop), Khali
What will it take to get Khali a decent closer? Whatever happened to the Khali Bomb? Chops simply don’t convince fans that it’s lights out time. The first time Undertaker sold this move for Khali, it was so clearly fake that I could only laugh.
I assumed that it was a transitional move, but ‘Taker just laid there as Khali put a foot on him for the three-count. Was I the only one who couldn’t believe it?
1) The Worm
Notable practitioner(s): Scotty Too Hotty
Clearly, this move is the least believable, and simultaneously just plain worst finishing maneuver the WWE has ever seen.
Watch Scotty hop in place frantically for a few seconds, bounce off the ropes a couple of times (what’s up with these bad moves and running the ropes?), do part of the actual dance called The Worm, hip sway and gesture to the crowd (meanwhile, his opponent is still lying prone on the mat), and then drop down on him with...a chop to the chest and neck area.
A move that would normally only enrage a fellow wrestler now incapacitates him. The opponent would normally quiver his body as if he had been hit by a truck. Of course, after Scotty became a jobber, he rarely even hit the chop; the opponent would frequently get up and give him a lariat. Why didn’t that start happening years ago?
In the final analysis, the believability of a wrestler’s closing sequence lies somewhere in the mind of the fan. The ability of both participants in the match to sell the crowd on the impact and effectiveness of the moves goes a long way in deciding if the move is legitimate.
But there are some finishers that just don’t look right closing out a match. If you have other finishers that I have left out—and believe me, I’m sure there are some stinkers out there that I have forgotten about—please feel free to leave the name of the move and the wrestler in the comments!
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