The 10 Sickest Moves from Japanese Wrestling
Japanese wrestling is a totally different beast.
It's generally less character-driven, the women's division is taken more seriously and the bumps are often more violent. The following moves are like car wrecks, begging us to watch, but repulsing us with their brutality.
Japanese legends Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi join forces with lesser known wrestlers like Megumi Kodo to bring you example after example of cringe-inducing moves.
Enjoy the carnage, and don’t try these at home.
Honorable Mention: Kicks to the Head
WWE, of course has its share of head kicking, from Sheamus' Brogue Kick to Kofi Kingston's Trouble in Paradise, but the Japanese take it to another level.
Last month, I compiled a list of the best kickers in wrestling and the Japanese found themselves all over the rankings.
Many of their wrestlers employ a more realistic, hard-hitting style. Teeth can be broken and concussions are waiting to happen.
There is something both painful and beautiful about watching a KENTA kick, the swift hammer of his foot connecting to an opponent's head with a loud crack.
10. Emerald Flowsion
Mitsuharu Misawa has the distinction of creating two of the moves on this list. First up is the Emerald Flowsion.
A much harsher version of the powerslam, the Flowsion’s level of safety depends on the performer's ability to protectively tuck his opponent’s neck with his dominant arm.
Otherwise, you have a guy getting directly speared into the mat like a nail.
John Cena has performed a watered down version of the move.
9. Wrist Clutch Exploder (Exploder ’98)
With his hand held between his own legs, the victim of this move can't break his fall. Often he lands right on his head.
There are times when it doesn't look all that bad, no worse than a belly to back suplex, but there are others when the guy's head bounces off the mat.
Jun Akiyama is credited with innovating both the standard Exploder Suplex and the wrist-clutch version of this thud-inducing move.
Akiyama has used it to win countless matches and performed it on Japanese legends Mitsuhara Misawa and Kenta Kobashi.
Shelton Benjamin's T-Bone Suplex is a much safer variant on the Exploder.
8. Muscular Bomb
There are countless versions out there of wheelbarrow drivers and facebusters. For me, though none are more stomach-turningly violent than Naruki Doi's Muscular Bomb.
The power in which he crashes his opponent’s head down is startling. Of course to protect him, Doi tucks his head with a half nelson.
But at that speed and that angle, one slip could have someone sent out on a stretcher.
Mr. McMahon would undoubtedly not want this move anywhere near his guys.
7. Shiranui Kai
Invented by Naomichi Marufuji, the Shiranui Kai is a springboard backflip reverse DDT. When performed inside the ring, it is an exciting, but relatively safe move.
Unfortunately for the vertebrae of his opponents, Marufuji has been known to do the Shiranui Kai from the top tope or the apron, amplifying the danger significantly.
It has since been adopted by Brian Kendrick and other American wrestlers and renamed, Sliced Bread Number Two.
6. Michinoku Driver II
Low Ki, Jun Akiyama, Chris Sabin, Ayako Hamada and Evan Bourne (in his early days) all use variants of this move.
The plain old piledriver is vicious enough. The Michinoku Driver II (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.
5. Kudome Valentine
Megumi Kudo innovated the Kudome Valentine.
Kudo went from teaching kindergarten to wrestling in matches with insane names like "No ropes 200V double hell double barbed wire barricade double landmine glass crush death match."
So not only did opponents have to suffer the effects of this back to back double underhook piledriver, but they were often near or on broken glass or barb wire.
Like many of these moves here, most of the danger lies in the head crashing to the mat. Making it more difficult to perform is that Kudo (or whoever delivers it) is basically doing the move blind, unlike a move you do in front of you.
4. Victory Star Drop
This rarely used move is both gloriously brutal and acrobatic.
Victory Star Drop creator, Manami Toyota was trained by Jaguar Yokata who invented the number two move on this list.
Toyota is one of the best high-flying wrestlers in the world. She has an array of incredibly athletic and dangerous moves including her own creation, the Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex.
The Victory Star Drop is her opus, and though it probably won't be performed many times, certainly begs to be watched over and over.
3. Burning Hammer
Kenta Kobashi brought us this beast of a move, the Burning Hammer.
What starts out as an Argentine Backbreaker Rack quickly has the opponent's head being hurled toward the canvas.
WWE’s Tyler Reks does a version of it where the opponent lands more on his face and body.
Kobashi (and his opponents) felt that this inverted Death Valley Driver was so dangerous that he only performed it seven times. The margin of error is so slim for executing the move that though it thrilled fans, must have had both the giver and the taker of it terrified.
2. Tiger Driver '91
One of the greatest female wrestlers of all time, Jaguar Yokota invented the Tiger Bomb. Mitsuharu Misawa made this version famous.
What looks at first like a Pedigree, quickly becomes far more career-threatening.
In the original version which is performed by guys like Zack Ryder, the Tiger Bomb is a double underhook sitout powerbomb. This is dangerous, but not more than most high-impact moves.
The '91 version (named after when Misawa first performed it) uses the victim's weight and momentum to help drive them headfirst into the canvas.
1. Kawada Driver
Toshiaki Kawada is a sadist.
There's no other explanation for a man who not only conceived of the Kawada Driver, but actually executed it on other human beings.
Kawada starts with the oft-banned piledriver and takes away the only safety net of the move, the attacker being able to protect the opponent’s neck with his legs. Victims of the Kawada Driver are thrown into a dangerous freefall.
It's a move where you legitimately worry that the guy taking the victim of the move may not walk again.