Best Finishing Moves in Wrestling History
A few components separate your garden-variety, mean-face-making wrestler from the all-time greats. Charisma, athleticism, look, voice, or even entrance music can have a fantastic or catastrophic effect on a wrestler’s career. But one of the main common components of the greats is a devastating finishing move.
These moves come in numerous varieties, setups and situations. What they have in common is the response they get from the crowd. Wrestling crowds know when the match is winding down, and when one of their favorites is in position to lock in the finisher, a palpable energy and buzz runs through the building.
These 28 wrestlers have separated themselves — both in career success and, more importantly for this list, crowd reaction.
Enjoy the moves that brought fans to their feet time and time again. Feel free to cheer.
Steve Austin — Stone Cold Stunner
We start off with the hands-down GOAT of professional wrestling finishing moves. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin took the then-WWF by storm by chugging beer, tossing one-liners and dropping dudes with the Stone Cold Stunner.
Almost overnight, Stone Cold became the WWF’s No. 1 attraction. The glass breaking, the beer chugging, the attitude and ultimate DGAF walk made the Stone Cold image perfect for the anarchist vibe of society at the time, and something about the execution of the Stunner made it fit in seamlessly with the persona. Everyone caught a taste, including the current POTUS.
Stone Cold introduced himself with a King of the Ring win and famous promo following his match against Jake the Snake Roberts. Thousands of stunners later, and it has never gotten old.
Hulk Hogan — Big Boot and Leg Drop
The greatest career in the history of pro wrestling. Rivaled only in pop culture by contemporary Ric Flair, Hogan’s fingerprint on the industry spans over four decades and two distinct characters, which means that big boot and leg drop combo has been pinning shoulders to the mat for close to 40 years.
From "Hulkamania runnin' wild" to the "NWO 4 Life," every big name fell victim to the boot and leg drop for the better part of 20 years.
Hogan put down the likes of Andre the Giant, "Macho Man" Randy Savage and the Ultimate Warrior. Hogan’s longevity and ability to recreate himself for a new generation cements the combo as one of the most devastating finishing sequences ever.
Goldberg — Spear and Jackhammer
The most physically dominant professional wrestler in history, Goldberg built his mystique on running over and through much of the roster on his way to an alleged winning streak of 173-0 before being taken down by Scott Hall and a taser.
Regardless, nobody kicked out of this. A former NFL and SEC lineman, Goldberg brought before unseen power and intensity. It’s like if the Ultimate Warrior also was a pro-level athlete.
Intense, terrifying, awe-inspiring and simply fantastic. Goldberg’s ability to perform this combo on everyone — from cruiserweights to the 7-foot-2-inch Big Show — makes it a top pick for the most destructive combo in history.
Jake The Snake Roberts — DDT
This is a move that has since become commonplace in a wrestler’s arsenal, but Jake "The Snake" Roberts patented the DDT, viciously snapping his foe’s heads straight into the mat. What made this move even more intimidating was what immediately followed.
Not only did the DDT mean your shoulders were pinned to the mat for the three count, but it also assured you a meeting with Damien, Roberts’ pet python. After the loss, opponents of Roberts were greeted by Damien being dropped into their laps.
Imagine waking up from a brutal blow to the head with a python in you lap. That was the reality for victims of the DDT, and fans ate it up.
Brock Lesnar — F5
Brock Lesnar’s resume is well known by now. Former national champion wrestler, NFL defensive lineman, UFC heavyweight champion and oodles of big-match success in WWE. Lesnar is truly “The Beast” as he’s often called on WWE television.
The beast-iest of his moves is the F5, a move in which Lesnar hoists his opponent on his shoulders and helicopters him over and around Lesnar’s body only to be slammed to the mat below.
Force, power, speed, explosion. All of this is on display when Lesnar is in the ring, and the F5 is a fitting exclamation point.
The Undertaker — Tombstone Piledriver
Dead. Man. Walking. The Undertaker has claimed countless victims on his way to one of the most impressive careers in terms of longevity and relevance. An all-time record Wrestlemania streak of 21 straight wins is all someone needs to know to understand his impact on the industry, and the Tombstone allows him to put his victims down so they can indeed rest in peace.
This move — given its vivid, dark imagery — is the perfect complement to the Undertaker's persona as the Dead Man, and his ability to perform it on every man he went up against is what made the Tombstone so devastating.
The strength to hold a man the size of Vader or Kane upside down and pause as he slams them headfirst into the mat showcased perfectly why so many feared the Undertaker across his 24 years and counting.
Randy Orton — RKO
A third-generation talent and son of famous heel "Cowboy" Bob Orton, Randy Orton carved out a reputation for being almost serpent like, both in his physical movements and his sadistic tendencies as a character. Both of those qualities are encapsulated in the RKO.
Out of nowhere, as the saying goes. Orton truly can strike with this move and put an opponent down with one blow, similar to a lightning-fast snake bite. This has led to some incredible moments, not the least of which was his counter of Seth Rollins’ Curb Stomp at Wrestlemania.
The RKO transcended wrestling a few years ago, when it seemed his image was pasted over sports highlights and pop culture fails all across social media. Since then, Orton has continued to strike down other wrestlers with no remorse.
Triple H — Pedigree
The Cerebral Assassin. The Game. Hunter Hearst Helmsley. Triple H is one of those stars that has transcended the wrestling audience into the pop culture sphere. His famed ruthlessness and cunning have pushed this character from his start as a blue-blooded Connecticut socialite into a multiple-time world champion and on-screen COO of WWE.
The catalyst for all those world titles, the move that put down nearly every former fan favorite of WCW is the Pedigree. As a heel, Triple H’s Pedigree earns a unanimous groan from the crowd, and as a babyface, it’s drawn wild cheers.
Triple H’s lack of respect for any and all opponents shines through in this move, where he slams his nemesis’ face into the mat from a bent over position, giving him the perfect chance to trash talk the man lying prone on the mat. Everything here fits the character, and it’s led to one of the most interesting story arcs in wrestling history.
Lita — Moonsault
This move sticks out for many wrestling fans as the first taste they got of high-flying action. Lita’s personality fit perfectly when she broke out with the Hardy Boyz in the early 2000s. Her Mexican wrestling roots brought a whole new style to the women’s division, which was previously mostly just hair-pulling and open-hand slaps.
Lita was the first of many who could really go, and this move was the epitome of that. Her fluid style brought more attitude to the move than, for example, Kurt Angle’s, which was picture perfect but lacked the personality and flow of Lita’s.
It’s ironic that she never once injured herself doing this in a match, but doing so for a TV show caused a neck injury that ended her in-ring career.
Lita sowed the seeds for what would later be known as the women’s revolution with her ability to show her skills in the ring. This move is the inspiration for the high-flying Superstars we are blessed to watch in today’s women’s division.
Kurt Angle — Ankle Lock
Kurt Angle brings with him the most bona fide, all-everything athletic resume of anyone to ever step between the ropes. The only Olympic gold medalist in WWE history, Angle’s aggression and ability to adapt on the fly quickly separated him from the rest of the roster, and it propelled him to the top at a meteoric pace.
The Ankle Lock was everything great about peak Kurt Angle. The facial expressions, the popping veins in his arms and his face. Everything Angle did while locking in this move told the fans he wanted to inflict pure pain on his opponent.
He also could lock this move in on someone in any given situation and turn around a match that seemed well in hand. Angle made you feel that pain he was inflicting, and it made every second seem like an eternity until the downed man inevitably tapped out.
CM Punk — GTS
One of a kind. Chicago Made Punk gave the fans something different to watch when it was desperately needed. WWE had gone through a cycle of pushing muscular, oiled-up stereotypes, when Punk forced himself to the top of the card defiantly, and this story was expertly personified in his finishing move, the GTS (Go To Sleep).
With his opponent draped over his shoulders, Punk gives one last rebellious look into the camera before a precise knee strike ends the match in an instant.
His career wasn’t what it should have been, or even what it could still be someday should he make a return, but the fast and furious rise of Punk and his devastating GTS own a period of wrestling that brought many fans back into the fold.
Sasha Banks — Bank Statement
Sasha Banks, aka "The Boss," brings an attitude and swagger to the ring matched by few. Her confidence transcends the screen, as she frequently taunts downed opponents. This is all on display in her Bank Statement.
Drawing inspiration from Hispanic wrestling icon Eddie Guerrero, Banks kicks off this move with a backstabber and rolls into a modified crossface, allowing her to increase the torque on her opponent’s shoulder while simultaneously taunting them.
A multi-time women’s champion, Banks has used this move to take the title from Charlotte Flair more often than anyone else, and given their respective ages and positions in the company, Banks will have plenty more opportunities to do it again in the near future.
Bret Hart — Sharpshooter
Another excellent in-ring worker, Bret “The Hitman” Hart used an impressive skill set of moves and holds to propel him to the top of the WWF. In a time when steroid speculation was rampant, Hart exemplified what a performer could do with hard work and determination.
Undersized for the time, Hart’s arsenal of submission moves dragged the audience in to invest emotionally, and no move more exemplified this than the Sharpshooter. Hart’s matches frequently built up to this move, with him working on one or both of his opponent’s legs until Hart finally cinched it in and forced the submission.
This move also lives in infamy among wrestling fans, as it was the Sharpshooter locked in on Hart by Shawn Michaels that set off the Montreal Screwjob, changing wrestling forever.
Shawn Michaels — Sweet Chin Music
Tune up the band. Perhaps the most influential move on this list, rivaled only by Jake the Snake’s DDT, Shawn Michaels’ finishing superkick won him wrestling matches in three different decades.
Michaels burst onto the scene as an overly cocky pretty boy and tag-team wrestler, but his substance soon surpassed his flashiness, as he became a main eventer by the mid-1990s. His cross-ring superkick provided some of the most suspenseful moments in wrestling history.
From the time he fulfilled his boyhood dream and won his first WWF championship to ending Ric Flair’s career and countless moments in between, the buildup of Michaels stomping his foot to signify the end was near continually brought crowds to their feet, and left other wrestlers laying.
Chris Jericho — Walls of Jericho
Break the walls down. The man of 1,004 holds saves his best for last with the Walls of Jericho. Chris Jericho’s career has seen many turns and character changes, but he’s continued to reinvent himself in a changing wrestling landscape.
However, the Walls of Jericho represents peak Chris Jericho. The suspenseful moments of him trying to flip over his downed opponent to inflict the Walls provided excellent theatre for the fans, and got them emotionally invested in his matches.
Jericho hints at this move from time to time, but it is now a mostly deprecated part of his skill set. The fact that he still gives the audience a little wink and a nod after trying it shows the move still has a place in today’s wrestling landscape.
Razor Ramon/Scott Hall — Razor’s Edge
The Bad Guy of the WWF in the early '90s, Razor Ramon made his first appearances in a series of vignettes as the company’s answer to Pacino’s Scarface. Smooth talking, hairy-chested and dripping swagger, Ramon came in and totally dominated his opponents off the bat.
His Razor’s Edge was the ultimate finishing move, packed with strength, power and a massive thud of an impact. Running from corner to corner with his man hoisted up over his head, and slamming his shoulders down on the sprint, Ramon racked up big wins.
With his four reigns as an intercontinental champion, ladder match with Shawn Michaels, the curtain call with the clique, the NWO and the Razor’s Edge, Scott Hall left a lasting impact on the wrestling business.
Ric Flair — Figure-Four Leglock
By many accounts, Ric Flair is the greatest to ever lace up a pair of wrestling boots. His persona still to this day, maybe more than ever, influences pop culture on a scale few other wrestlers can claim. The 16-time world champion’s signature move was the Figure Four Leglock.
A move that Flair jokes never actually won him a match, it’s the theatre and the drama of the move that created such audience reaction and emotion. The agonizing faces of Flair’s opponents as he tightened his vice-like grip on their legs told the story of struggle and then either triumph or failure.
To be the man, you’ve got to beat the man, and stay out of the Figure Four.
Diamond Dallas Page — Diamond Cutter
Along with Sting, one of the two men who loyally defended WCW and the early invasion of the NWO was Diamond Dallas Page, and his Diamond Cutter propelled Page, who did not become a star until his late 30s, to unprecedented late-career success.
Page toiled around as a manager for many years, even showing up at Wrestlemania 6 driving a pink Cadillac, but after adopting the DDP persona and incorporating the Diamond Cutter, he rose to become one of the industry’s top stars.
The first man to kick out of the Diamond Cutter was Goldberg in one of his best matches, at Halloween Havoc 1998.
Ronda Rousey — Arm Bar
When fans talk wrestling nowadays, it’s usually in a more meta way. They talk about storylines, what the company is doing right or wrong, and how they should push certain people. Whether or not WWE is using Ronda Rousey correctly is up for those fans to debate. What cannot be debated is Rousey as a legit badass with a legit resume.
With that resume, Rousey uses a variety of judo and MMA-inspired moves, the most devastating of which is the arm bar. She’s taken down each of her opponents with this excruciating submission move, even including on-screen CEO Stephanie McMahon.
Rousey’s background and her intensity make this a move that will go down as one of the most feared in WWE history.
Eddie Guerrero — Frog Splash
Lie, cheat and steal was the motto of the late, great Eddie Guerrero. Universally recognized as one of the most impressive combinations of charisma and in-ring ability, Guerrero blazed a trail of success for Latino wrestlers.
The Frog Splash fit in perfectly with his attitude and personality, with a mid-air movement to put some of that patented Guerrero zest onto it. Whether a babyface or as a heel, this move regularly signified the end was in sight, and Guerrero’s success in what ended up being late in his career can largely be attributed to this finisher.
Becky Lynch — Disarm-Her
Ignore the cheesy and somewhat predictable name of this move. Becky Lynch has used it to catapult herself back into the spotlight in 2018, and is on a trajectory to earn herself the Superstar of the Year.
This move has always packed a punch, with Lynch taking a different approach than Ronda Rousey, attacking the arm from the shoulder by pulling upward mercilessly on her opponent’s straight arm, threatening to dislocate it from the shoulder.
What changed recently is Lynch’s overall attitude and focus, and it has made her into a sadistic competitor, who only has eyes for the title. In other words, she’s the female Triple H at this point, and it’s working whether WWE likes it or not. She’s connecting with the fans, and this move gets a big roar every time she locks it in.
Randy Savage — Elbow Drop
Oozing personality, style, flash and showmanship, Randy "Macho Man" Savage was all about giving the fans a show. Wrestling has evolved plenty since, but at the time, the flying elbow off the top rope was one of the most daring moves a wrestler could deploy.
A former minor league baseball player in the St. Louis Cardinals system, Savage’s athleticism shined through in the height he was able to gather on this leap across the ring. Looking at his old matches, it is incredible how far he would leap to perfection each time.
One of the greatest in history, the Elbow Drop embodies Savage’s consistency in forcing himself into the main-event spotlight despite being undersized .
JBL — Clothesline from Hell
John "Bradshaw" Layfield completed one of the best transformations in wrestling history when he rebranded himself from a beer-swilling hired hand in the Acolytes Protection Agency (APA) to a Wall Street financial mogul. The one mainstay from his Bradshaw days was the Clothesline from Hell, a vicious lariat-style, one-armed bulldozer of a clothesline that dropped opponents in their tracks.
This massive human being unleashing a battering ram of a clothesline looked phenomenal. The impact was brutal and embodied his hidden mean streak that still lived inside him from his days in the APA.
Carrying this with him meant he held on to a smidgen of what made him a fan favorite while teaming with Faarooq, but it also reminded the fans of the egotistical, sociopath of a businessman he became. Peak storytelling here and the perfect guy with the perfect move.
Rob Van Dam — Five Star Frog Splash
One of the most unique athletes to step into the squared circle, Rob Van Dam brought with him a dynamic offensive attack, martial-arts quality kicks and uber athleticism. This was all on display with his Five Star Frog Splash.
Van Dam’s flexibility and strength allowed him to travel, at times, more than two-thirds of the way across the ring and come crashing down square on his opponent’s ribcage. He always sold this move like it ate up his midsection, and made you wonder if that hurt him more than the other guy.
RVD exceeded any expectations in WWE after coming from ECW and showed his adaptability to shine in both environments.
Edge — Spear
One of the biggest “What could have been” superstars in history, Edge still showed off his charisma and energy in a dynamic and ever-evolving career. He never really settled into his own in the ring, until he added the Spear.
Plenty of wrestlers have used a version of the Spear over the years. Goldberg, Roman Reigns, Charlotte Flair, Rhyno and many others utilized this move, each putting his or her own personality into the move. Where Edge differed more than most was his versatility and being able to hit the move in many situations, not just when he had time to stalk his prey in the opposing corner.
This is worth your time on YouTube: Arguably the best Edge Spear ever happened against Mick Foley at WrestleMania 22 through a flaming table. That’s right. Flames.
The Iron Sheik — Camel Clutch
A former legit Olympian for the 1968 Iranian Greco-Roman wrestling squad, The Iron Sheik brought with him the resume of a man not to be trifled with. His imposing brute strength and array of submission moves made him an intimidating force in 1980s WWF, and eventually led him to taking the WWF title from Bob Backlund.
The Sheik’s size and intensity seemed to enhance the torque he put on his opponents’ torsos. The Camel Clutch is the inspiration for some of the most inescapable moves of the past few generations such as Rusev’s The Accolade and the Steiner Recliner.
It also, and most notably, is credited for its role in the birth of Hulkamania. Hogan’s escape of the Camel Clutch and subsequent win at Madison Square Garden marked his first championship victory. Hogan being the first man to escape the move ended up working out perfectly for the WWF and the future of the entire wrestling industry.
The Dudley Boyz — 3D
The only tag team move on this list, the 3D is responsible for more broken tables than the Bills Mafia. Bubba Ray and D-Von make up the most decorated tag team in wrestling history, amassing 18 world tag-team title reigns in WWE and ECW. Together, they crafted a legacy of breaking tables with what was originally dubbed as the Dudley Death Drop, but 3D is a lot easier for a crowd to chant.
Chants of 3D reigned down when the Dudleys were in position, and more often than not, their opponent came down crashing through some furniture. A remarkably simple move with devastating results, the 3D will always get fans off their feet, even if the Dudleys only come around every so often now.
Ember Moon — The Eclipse
A fitting name for the finisher of newcomer Ember Moon, because nothing eclipses it in terms of impressiveness. An upside-down tumble off the top rope that turns into a variation of the Stone Cold Stunner, this move incorporates the best of both worlds with high-flying acrobatics and a nostalgia pop with the finish.
An impossible move to overlook, this exemplifies the kind of potential Moon possesses in the ring, and should she connect with the fans on the microphone, she has the potential to become a big-time player in the women’s division.
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