Ranking the Most Devastating WWE Finishing Moves Since 2000
Nothing brings a live wrestling audience to its feet like a finishing maneuver.
Entire matches build to the idea of one wrestler putting another away with their trademark hold or move, earning a hard-fought victory and moving onto his or her next challenge.
Whether executed quickly, like a superkick or RKO, or teased through showmanship, such as the Attitude Adjustment or Pedigree, the finisher has always been the exclamation point on any great match.
As we enter an era when those moves mean less in favor of dramatic near-falls, it is important to look to the past to gain a greater appreciation and understanding of just how important one particular move was to the overall presentation of a star and their matches.
Journey back to 2000 and enjoy these finishing moves that have captivated audiences for the last 20 years, ranked according to their effectiveness, longevity and successful utilization.
Before we get to the 10 most devastating finishers since 2000, here are a few that just missed the cut.
Clothesline From Hell
Whether he was kicking ass for cash as one-half of the APA or winning the WWE Championship as the egomaniacal New York transplant, John “Bradshaw” Layfield obliterated many an opponent with his trademark lariat.
A twist on the classic clothesline, he launched himself with fury, often turning his opponent inside out en route to a victory. Rarely was it kicked out of, nor doubted for its legitimacy. The impact was obvious and the aftermath undeniable.
A European, hardcore, tag team, United States, intercontinental and WWE champion since 2000 and Hall of Fame inductee, Layfield rode his Clothesline From Hell to every feat there was to accomplish and exceeded all expectations while doing so.
CM Punk arrived in WWE in 2006 as part of the failed ECW relaunch with the Anaconda Vise, a submission move that he used to put many a competitor away early. While it would remain part of his arsenal throughout his run with the company, he later added Go-To-Sleep, which would earn him more than his fair share of victories.
Popularized by KENTA in Japan, Punk brought it to a new fanbase. Hoisting his opponent on his shoulders in a fireman’s carry, he dropped them face-first onto his knee, putting their lights out and making the three-count nearly academic.
At Money in the Bank in 2011, he earned the biggest victory of his career, defeating John Cena for the WWE Championship in front of his hometown fans in Chicago using the move.
A 12-time women’s champion, Charlotte Flair is (arguably) the most dominant female performer in WWE history.
As she collected titles in NXT, Raw and SmackDown, she routinely did so by tapping the opposition out to the Figure Eight, a modified version of the Figure Four that her father, Ric Flair, made popular.
Charlotte defeated the most celebrated competitors of her era in Sasha Banks, Becky Lynch, Bayley and Natalya, then retired Trish Stratus by way of her vaunted submission move at SummerSlam 2019 in Toronto. Every one of them attempted to fight through the pain until she bridged up, adding more pressure to the hold. The tapout was inevitable.
Big Show. Kane. Undertaker.
Three of the greatest big men to lace a pair of boots have utilized the chokeslam to great success, winning world titles and cementing their legacies as some of WWE’s greatest.
Simple in its execution, yet effective in laying the opposition out, it has been a staple of WWE programming since the inception of The Deadman three decades ago. Undertaker popularized it, but it was his peers who used it more consistently as a finisher.
Kane picked it up and used it to successfully retain the ECW and World Heavyweight Championships more than once in his 2008 and 2010 reigns, respectively. Big Show utilized it to capture the same titles and against industry icons like "Stone Cold" Steve Austin, Triple H and The Rock.
10. Batista Bomb
Batista rose to prominence as a member of Evolution, learning from the likes of Ric Flair and Triple H while developing his own skills and laying the foundation for a Hall of Fame career.
Along the way, he put foe after foe away with a punishing sit-out powerbomb he called the Batista Bomb.
That finisher would help him build momentum late in 2004, and he would use it to obliterate Triple H and capture his first World Heavyweight Championship at WrestleMania 21, powering him up and bringing him crashing to the mat for the dramatic win.
He would lean on that finisher throughout his rivalries with Undertaker, Edge and John Cena, defeating them all en route to more championship victories as one of the biggest stars of the 2000s.
When he returned to WWE years later, everyone from Daniel Bryan to Dolph Ziggler to The Shield felt the wrath of the spine-crushing finisher.
9. Stone Cold Stunner
It’s a shame Steve Austin only enjoyed one real, full year of competition in the 2000s. Injures and creative frustration prevented him from dominating the decade in the same way he did the late 1990s, but he still made his presence felt throughout 2001.
Reigning as WWE champion for the majority of that year, teetering back and forth between the badass rebel and the paranoid leader of The Alliance, he accomplished his success courtesy of the Stone Cold Stunner.
Whether he was turning The Rock inside out with it or bringing the owner of the evil Mr. McMahon to his knees, Austin gleefully whooped ass with his finisher.
One of the most popular finishing maneuvers of all time, it has enjoyed a renaissance of late, thanks to Kevin Owens, who recently felled Seth Rollins with it as an ode to The Texas Rattlesnake.
8. Rock Bottom
Before he dominated Hollywood, The Rock dropped his opponents with his Rock Bottom finisher, driving them back-first into the mat with all his force and fury. A modified uranage, it became his most effective finisher, even though the People’s Elbow was flashier.
The face of WWE early in the new millennium, he downed Triple H and the rest of the McMahon-Helmsley regime night after night throughout 2000, then turned his attention to the likes of Booker T, Shane McMahon, Test and Chris Jericho in 2001.
Returns to the squared circle brought him victories over Hulk Hogan, CM Punk and John Cena, all on the strength of his trademark finishing maneuver.
7. Tombstone Piledriver
There are few finishers more storied and effective than The Undertaker’s Tombstone piledriver.
For three decades, he has utilized it to put away the top stars of the industry. In 2000, after a two-year stint utilizing the Last Ride powerbomb, he reverted back to the move that had netted him the most success. Returning to The Deadman persona from his American Badass character, he reintroduced the Tombstone to the WWE Universe.
He defeated Shawn Michaels, Triple H, CM Punk, John Cena, Randy Orton, Batista and Edge with the move, all while firmly establishing himself as one of the industry giants.
The Deadman was not the only one to utilize that particular move to success as his brother, Kane, defeated Rey Mysterio to capture the World Heavyweight Championship with it as an ode to his sibling. Of course, it was later revealed he used it out of mockery after assaulting The Phenom, but it was effective nonetheless.
Now, as The Undertaker continues to mull retirement, who knows when we will see the Tombstone on WWE again.
6. Sweet Chin Music
Before “superkick parties” watered the move down and everyone used it as an indie-match setup, Shawn Michaels’ Sweet Chin Music was a lights-out finisher he could execute from nearly anywhere in the ring.
Sudden, quick and devastating, it earned HBK many a victory upon his return to the ring in 2002.
Michaels' ability to catch anyone with the kick, from any position, made it such a valuable piece of his arsenal. Whether he was setting it up and playing to the crowd before shattering his opponent’s jaw or catching Shelton Benjamin mid-flight with a kick that bent him back, he could pop the crowd while adding drama to every one of his bouts.
By the time he retired as a full-time wrestler in 2010, he had made the superkick such a staple of the industry that it became more and more a part of matches, essentially diminishing its effectiveness as a finishing maneuver.
Today, it is so prevalent that it is almost unfathomable that the greatest wrestler of all time used it as a finishing move for the majority of his career.
There are just some moves that instantly spelled defeat. Triple H’s Pedigree was one of them.
Over the last 20 years, The Game has won a lot of matches. He has been at the forefront of the industry, one of its few constants in the two decades of transition since the Attitude Era.
He has been a heel, a babyface, a King of Kings and a degenerate. No matter the persona, he always put his opponents away with his trusty Pedigree.
A double underhook facebuster that drove opponents face-first into the mat, it was such a devastating finisher that Booker T and lay unconscious for nearly two minutes at WrestleMania 19 before Triple H draped his arm over him and successfully retained the world title.
Though he sees in-ring action less and less today, he still relies on the finisher as a means to victory. That is, when he isn’t ripping opponents’ nose rings out and blasting them with sledgehammers.
4. Attitude Adjustment
John Cena is the face of the Ruthless Aggression Era, the top star for WWE over the last two decades.
Without his rise to the top of the industry in 2005, there is no telling what the company would look like today. Whether as the Doctor of Thuganomics or The Leader of the Cenation, he earned 16 world titles and countless other accolades with the Attitude Adjustment.
The finisher, a modified Death Valley Driver that laid opponents flat rather than driving them head-first into the mat, showed off Cena’s considerable strength while allowing him a quicker transition into a pin.
He won his first WWE Championship with the move, driving John "Bradshaw" Layfield into the mat at WrestleMania 21. He defeated Edge, Randy Orton, Umaga, Chris Jericho, CM Punk, Batista and The Rock with the move, all while enhancing his own legacy.
While others would utilize finishers based in the fireman’s carry, Cena’s AA is one that has remained uncopied. Though he is no longer a full-time performer, he is still likely to pop up from time to time and deliver an Attitude Adjustment to any Superstar in need of one.
Like the Diamond Cutter an era earlier, Randy Orton’s RKO is one of the best finishers in all of professional wrestling for one very good reason: its spontaneity.
With the RKO at his disposal, The Viper can strike from out of nowhere, lending a sense of drama to his matches that others with move convoluted finishers cannot. He can armbar his way out of a Pedigree and right into an RKO. He can escape a Killswitch, leapfrog Christian and deliver it from there.
He can even time it just right to catch a flying Evan Bourne in midair with the RKO and drive him head-and-neck-first into the mat.
Heel or babyface, the move always ensures a pop from the crowd, which appreciates the creativity Orton puts into the execution of the move. Just as Diamond Dallas Page did before him.
As performers in other promotions utilize it more liberally as a setup in their matches, no one can quite deliver the version of the cutter with quite the showmanship Orton does, making his RKO one of the undisputed best finishers of the last 20 years.
With the fury of a destructive twister, Brock Lesnar hoists his opponents upon his shoulders, twists his hips and drives them to the mat with his vaunted F-5.
A finisher unlike any fans had seen before when he first unleashed it in 2002, the move quickly earned him an unbeaten streak that he rode right into that year’s SummerSlam.
With momentum on his side and a hunger to capture gold fueling him, Lesnar defeated The Rock to capture the WWE title by utilizing his finisher and become what was then the youngest WWE champion ever.
From there, The Beast Incarnate would introduce Kurt Angle, Hulk Hogan, Edge, Big Show and The Undertaker to similar fates as he built his star before leaving the company for the other pastures.
His return to McMahonland in 2012 reintroduced the WWE Universe to his particular brand of carnage, courtesy of his F-5 finisher. A whole new era of stars felt the pain associated with the move and at WrestleMania 30, he defeated Undertaker to end his storied undefeated streak in one of the most shocking and unforgettable moments in modern wrestling.
Roman Reigns, Seth Rollins, Dean Ambrose, AJ Styles, Daniel Bryan, Kofi Kingston, Ricochet and Finn Balor have all tasted the F-5, falling at the feet of Lesnar and proving that, no matter the generation, his finisher remains as destructive as ever.
1. The Spear
The most devastating finisher of the last 20 years is...drumroll, please...the Spear.
While one wouldn't necessarily point to that particular offensive explosion as the best move—not when there are flashier ones to choose from—the evidence suggests it is exactly that.
Edge utilized it as a finisher throughout his career, introducing it to his arsenal in 2001 and employing it five years later as he cashed in Money in the Bank and took the WWE Championship from John Cena. It would be his greatest weapon against the babyfaces he pissed off during his time as the heel Rated-R Superstar and those who chased him late in his career.
The 2012 Hall of Famer wasn't the only one to popularize the move, though.
Bobby Lashley rode it to the ECW Championship in 2006 and continues to turn opponents inside out with it on a weekly basis in 2020. Batista added it to his arsenal, and Goldberg relied heavily on it during his return to the ring in 2017.
However, no Superstar has found as much success with it as their primary finisher since Edge than Roman Reigns.
The Big Dog rose to the top of the industry, winning the WWE and Universal Championships, by using the Spear to drive the air out of his opponents. Loading up, he launches himself at his opponents, forcing them down and picking up win after win in search of his next title.
With Edge back in the squared circle and Reigns still in his athletic prime, expect the Spear to remain a major part of WWE television for the foreseeable future, further etching itself in the annals of all-time great finishers.