The Top 20 Finishing Moves in Wrestling
What is a wrestling match without moves? While most are used to simply move the action along, some are absolute match enders. Those moves, or finishers, are highlighted in this list. These are some of the most dangerous and in some cases, career threatening moves in all of professional wrestling.
Before we get started, this list uses blanket terms instead of picking out very specific moves. So when I say "Powerbomb" or "Piledriver," that includes every variation of the move.
No. 20: The Brainbuster
Our first move is one that has about 9,000 variations, the Brainbuster. It's one of the most simple and perfect moves in all of wrestling, but when done right, it looks so brutal. The masters of this move in my opinion are Chavo Guerrero Jr., Jushin Thunder Liger, and El Generico.
Generico even has a version where he does it from the turnbuckles causing the opponents head to be dropped violently on to the top turnbuckle. Perhaps the most well known variation on the move is the scoop brainbuster or Northern Lights Bomb.
That move has been done by everyone from Kensuke Sasaki, Steve Corino, and Al Snow.
Made Famous By: Jushin Thunder Liger (Sheer Drop Brainbuster), Kensuke Sasaki (Northern Lights Bomb)
No. 19: The Ankle Lock
If the 1990s had the Sharpshooter, then the 2000s had the Ankle Lock. Most know this as the signature move of Kurt Angle but perhaps the true master of the hold is Koji Kanemoto from New Japan Pro Wrestling. The first time I saw the move was when Ken Shamrock used it during the '90s in the WWF.
It's a highly effective move especially when the modified grapevine version is used. Angle started using this variant to stop his opponents from reach the ropes. However if you want to see an absolute insane version, look up Kanemoto's double ankle lock.
Made Famous By: Kurt Angle, Koji Kanemoto
No. 18: The Shining Wizard
18. Shining Wizard
Much like the move coming at spot 16 on our list, the Shining Wizard is one hell of a hard hitter. Created by Keiji Mutoh nine years ago it's been used by wrestling all over the planet.
The enzuigiri style knee strike to an opponents head is a very impressive and effective move. It's no doubt inspired moves like Shinsuke Nakamura's Boma-Ye. We've also seen a lot of different "Shining" moves like Shining Triangle Chokes and Shining Enzuigiri's.
Made Famous By: Keiji Mutoh
No. 17: The Spear
A much newer move as it really rose to fame when Bill Goldberg adopted it in the late 1990s. These days it's pretty commonplace as big names like Edge and The Big Show have used it. A very straight forward move but a very deadly one.
It's won championships for it's users showing how effective it really is. The only real variation I've seen on the spear was Monty Brown's pounce which saw Brown hit his opponent from the side after coming off the ropes.
Made Famous By: Rhino (Gore), Goldberg
No. 16: The Elbow Strike
The elbow strike has been around in many forms over the years. From Randy Savage's top rope elbow drop to Masato Tanaka's rolling elbow and Sliding D. It's been used all over the world by many types of wrestlers. Not only has it won matches, it's also legitimately knocked out those who have taken it.
These days the most prominent users are Chris Hero, Masato Tanaka, and Shawn Michaels. It's easily one of the most recognizable moves in wrestling.
Made Famous By: Randy Savage (Top Rope Elbow Drop), Masato Tanaka (Rolling Elbow, Sliding D)
No. 15: The Backdrop Driver
Everyone has seen a standard belly to back suplex, it's pretty common in any given wrestling match. However it's disturbingly violent cousin the backdrop driver earns a spot on this list. Used by everyone from Masa Saito who has a varient named for him to "Dr. Death" Steve Williams to Takeshi Morishima.
Some wrestling can pull off versions that leave you sick to your stomach as the recipient lands directly on their skull and neck. Sadly, the move garnered a lot of press when it took the life of the legend Mitsuaharu Misawa in 2009.
Made Famous By: Steve Williams, Takeshi Morishima
No. 14: The Figure Four Leg Lock
The move used by one of wrestling's all time greats, Ric Flair, is also one of the most well known and effective finishers throughout history. Flair made the hold popular but it's been taken by others and used quite effectively. Everyone from Ted DiBiase to Steve Corino to Greg Valentine have used the hold. It also has quite a few variations, the most extreme of which is Charlie Hass' Hass of pain.
Made Famous By: Ric Flair, Greg Valentine
No. 13: The German Suplex
Going old school on this one. One of the most sickening moves in wrestling is the German suplex. Whether it's a bridging or release version, it most certainly wrecks whoever received it. The move is named after legend Karl Gotch, as he was the first to popularize it back in the '50s and '60s.
However, over the years, it became more associated with Chris Benoit. Benoit was famous for stringing multiple German's together, once pulling out 10 in a row. These days, it's Kurt Angle carrying on the German Suplex legacy as he frequently does three in a row during his matches. The German does have some loose cousins in the Tiger, Dragon, and Australian suplexes.
Made Famous By: Karl Gotch, Chris Benoit, Yoshihiro Takayama
No. 12: The Pedigree
12. The Pedigree
Now before you jump down my throat, hear me out. The reason why the Pedigree cracks the top 15 is because it's really only used by one man, Triple H. He took a relatively simple move and turned it into a signature and staple of his arsenal.
I've only seen it down by two other men before, CM Punk's insane top rope variation, and Jimmy Rave's "Greetings From Ghana." It's so closely associated with Triple H that it's become a very historic and iconic move like Hogan's leg drop but it's much more lethal looking.
If the stunner was the impact move of the '90s in America than the Pedigree was the impact move of the '00s.
Made Famous By: Triple H
No. 11: The Sharpshooter
One of the best known moves to fans of wrestling during the 1990s. You had two of the biggest stars in American wrestling using it in Bret Hart and Sting. Over in Japan, where it originated, you have men like Hiroshi Hase using it. It's certainly become one of the best known moves in all of wrestling.
These days you don't see it all that often but every once in a while it's pulled out and the fan reaction is always strong. It's closest relative is the Texas Cloverleaf used by Dean Malenko and Davey Richards.
Made Famous By: Bret Hart, Sting (Scorpion Death Lock)
No. 10: The Chokeslam
This is a more modern move and one that's used a lot by any tall wrestler. That doesn't mean it isn't a hell of a move though. Most fans around my age will know it as the signature move of The Undertaker and the finisher of The Big Show and Kane.
Sometimes it looks bad but other times it looks like the receiver is about to be forced through the ring all the way into an early grave. My personal favorite user of the Chokeslam is Kane, as he for some reason makes it look particularly vicious.
Made Famous By: Kane, The Big Show
No. 9: The DDT
While no longer a legit finish except by those who've used it for a long period of time, the DDT is still one nasty move. Most remember it being used by it's inventor, Jake "The Snake" Roberts. It's been turned into many things like its Tornado version and Implant version.
If I had to pick a favorite variant on the DDT it would be El Samurai's lifting reverse DDT, so nasty. The DDT is a move that you'll see on any given wrestling event. Pretty much every wrestler has used it at some point in there career. Just a testament to how effective it is.
Made Famous By: Jake Roberts, Raven, Lacey (Implant DDT)
No. 8: The Boston Crab
Our second highest ranking submission move is one of the most popular and well known moves in wrestling. It dates back so far I can't actually find who first started using it.
These days it has some different variations like the Liontamer, Single Leg Crab, and the Billy Goat's Curse used by Colt Cabana. Some of the moves on this list are no longer used or bought by the fans as a finishing move but the Boston Crab is still as effective as ever. That's some serious staying power folks.
Made Famous By: Chris Jericho (Liontamer), Roderick Strong
No. 7: The Lariat
One of the basic of moves but when done by certain wrestlers it's absolutely horrifying. Kenta Kobashi can throw one that makes it looks like his opponent was just ejected from a car accident. Stan Hansen literally broke necks with his variation.
In fact, Hansen coined the term "Lariat." Some wonder if there is a difference between the lariat and the clothesline. A lariat is when the wrestler actually strikes with his arm.
In many cases this makes it look so much more deadly. We've even seen some variation on the move by Nigel McGuinness who used a rope rebound in his signature Jaw Breaker Lariat, a move that actually broke a jaw at one point.
Made Famous By: Stan Hansen, Kenta Kobashi, Steve Corino
No. 6: The Moonsault
Easily the most famous and recognizable high risk high altitude move in wrestling. Used by everyone from Terry Funk to Vader to Keiji Mutoh. It's a simple move but it's still impressive to this day even though an average wrestling fan has seen it a thousand times.
The bigger a wrestler is the more dangerous it looks. It's injured quite a few wrestlers over the years and probably shortened the careers of it's users but it's a move that stands out above everything else done from the top rope.
The most common variation on the move is Ultimo Dragon's Asai Moonsault which is a springboard version from the second rope to the floor.
Made Famous By: Keiji Mutoh, Bam Bam Bigelow, Ultimo Dragon (Asai Moonsault)
No. 5: The Choke
The choke encompasses a huge amount of wrestling moves from the Sleeper hold to Rear Naked Choke to even a Koji Clutch is a very innovated choke like move. Most fans will instantly recognize the sleeper hold as it's been using for well over 60 years in the world of wrestling.
In the past 20 years, we've seen more influence from MMA with your Rear Naked chokes and things like the Gogoplata which is used by The Undertaker.
Made Famous By: Roddy Piper (Sleeper Hold), Samoa Joe (Rear Naked Choke)
No. 4: The Piledriver
One of the legit scary and dangerous moves on this list. The piledriver has ended careers and broken bones. Just ask Steve Austin. Like the powerbomb, it has a hundred different versions. You have everything from your standard Piledriver done by Jerry Lawler to Jerry Lynn's Frank Gotch style cradle Pildriver.
Don't forget The Undertaker's Tombstone, Kevin Steen's Package variation, and Ultra Mantis Black's Double Underhook Piledriver. It's been around for decades and these days some companies actually outlaw it's use.
Made Famous By: Karl Gotch (Cradle Piledriver), Jerry Lawler, The Undertaker (Tombstone)
No. 3: The Superkick
Superkick or thrust kick it doesn't matter it all means the same. It means someones head just landed in the third row. From Chris Adams to Shawn Michaels to Lance Storm, the Superkick is one hell of a move.
It pops a crowd huge especially when it looks like someone was just murdered with it. My personal favorite is Shawn Michaels' Sweet Chin Music, as he's been known to make it look fabulous. It's a move that is timeless as wrestlers from around the world famous and just starting have used it.
Made Famous By: Shawn Michaels (Sweet Chin Music)
No. 2: The Ace Crusher
No matter if you want to call it the Diamond Cutter, Stone Cold Stunner, or the RKO, one fact remains: the Ace Crusher is a deadly move. It's one that can be pulled from thin air and end a match in the blink of an eye.
I remember growing up seeing Diamond Dallas Page come up with hundreds of ways to connect with it. Many have used it but to me DDP will always be the best with it.
It's one of the iconic moves in wrestling and one of the most effective. It's had a lot of modified versions which is certainly a sign of how great of a move it is.
Made Famous By: DDP (Diamond Cutter), Randy Orton (RKO)
No. 1: The Powerbomb
The amount of championships this move has won is astounding. The powerbomb and all of it's variations have been used by such legends as Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada, Vader, Kevin Nash, and countless others.
It also might be the move which has the most variations. You have you standard powerbomb, sit out powerbomb, gutwrench, tiger driver, and way too many others. It's a move used by wrestlers both tall and short and always looks incredibly impactful.
It's legitimately broken peoples backs (Vader says hi) and made others look like they wouldn't walk straight again. So here's to the powerbomb, the best finisher of all time!
Made Famous By: Kevin Nash (Jacknife), Mitsuharu Misawa (Tiger Driver), Batista (Sit Out)