Everyone always copies from everyone else. Even if one is convinced that their idea is truly original, one can not escape the influences in their originality. Borrowing from one person, and borrowing from another, taking a little bit from someone here, a little bit from someone else there, one reaches out to their past experiences in order to create something to call their own. In music for instance, there are only so many chords one can string together and only so many premises that exist for a story that it is near impossible to create something truly unique. For instance, Randy Bachman admits he would have never written “Takin’ Care of Business” if he had never heard “Paperback Writer” by The Beatles.
Well, in the much less subtle and much more over-the-top world of professional wrestling, everyone certainly copies from everyone else. There are only so many ways to devastate your opponent, and only a handful of those ways have been proven effective and have stood the test of time. In wrestling, wrestlers do their best to pick a few moves and call them their own. Sure, someone else may do your move, but you do that extra little hand gesture to the crowd before you execute it, putting your little touch on the move and making it yours. Any wrestler can drop an elbow from the top rope, but to point your index fingers to the sky before hand makes you Randy Savage.
Thus, in an attempt to explore some of the most influential wrestling holds, the following is a list of the 15 most copied signature moves in professional wrestling. Now, before we continue with this list, we must preface this list by mentioning that wrestling moves are not the most important part of being a wrestler. Ric Flair himself has noted that he is the greatest wrestler of all time, but he only had two moves. This is also not also meant to be a history lesson on the origin of all these moves. Abraham Lincoln may have used the stepover-toehold-facelock as his finish during his reign as NWA Heavyweight Champion, but we are not going to call out John Cena for biting Lincoln’s style. This list is simply meant to be an observation of modern grappling, and which moves wrestlers in the modern era have adopted from others to call their own.
15. Camel Clutch
The Iron Sheik made the Camel Clutch famous, using this submission to win the WWF Title from Bob Backlund. He was then super excited to use this move on Hulk Hogan before dropping the title to him four months later. This move will break your back and make you humble, and has been adopted by others as their finish throughout the years. Scott Steiner, reinventing himself after splitting from his brother Rick and becoming the Big Poppa Pump character, used the Camel Clutch and renamed it the Steiner Recliner. Today, the move is used by another big, bad, foreign heel, “The Bulgarian Brute” Rusev. Rusev too uses the move as his finish, calling it The Accolade.
The Moonsault, essentially a backflip-splash from the top rope, has been adopted by many wrestlers throughout the modern era. Innovated by Mando Guerrero, the move has been a cornerstone in the movesets of many lighter, high-flying wrestlers such as Rey Mysterio and Shawn Michaels, and has even been done by a few very heavy, big-man wrestlers such as Kevin Owens, Bam Bam Bigelow, the Blue Meanie and Vader. Also, about once a year, it seems that Kurt Angle once again attempts risk paralysis by moonsaulting off the top of a steel cage. WWE Women’s Champion Charlotte, did one hell of a moonsault to the outside of the ring at this year’s WrestleMania. Claiming the best rendition of this move is “The Fallen Angel” Christopher Daniels, as he names his rendition of the move the BME, Best Moonsault Ever.
13. Double Foot Stomp
Kevin Sullivan, the devil himself, did the double foot stomp has his finish back in his day. Sullivan was a heavy but solid, stout wrestler, and his double foot stomp looked like it legitimately hurt. Today, WWE superstar Finn Balor does his version of the move calling in the Coup de Grace, leaping from the top rope and jamming his feet into his opponent. This move is also commonly done from the tree-of-woe position. Low Ki does this, calling it the Warriors Way, and Alberto Del Rio also performs this move this way. One must say the way Del Rio does the foot stomp looks horrible. Not only does the opponent have to be in a tree-of-woe position, the opponent has to sit up from the position and prepare to take the move from such a convoluted position. It is also worth mentioning that it must be hard to protect yourself doing this move, as Finn Balor has already suffered an ankle injury while in NXT.
Sting first did this move as the Scorpion Deathlock in WCW. Then, after it was suggested by Pat Patterson to Bret Hart to adopt a submission as his finish, Konnan showed Bret how to apply the move backstage and Bret then made hold popular in the WWF calling it the Sharpshooter. The move was made even more famous at the 1997 Survivor Series after Shawn Michaels used it to screw Bret out of the WWF Title in the infamous Montreal Screwjob. The move is now performed by more or less every Canadian wrestler at some point in their career, and is regularly performed on television. The Rock also does the move with much theatrics, as he cranks his body back as far as possible and shouts in pain.
The piledriver is a classic wrestling hold and widely known as perhaps the most devastating move in wrestling that Koko B. Ware also sang about. It is the finishing move that Jerry Lawler used to cripple Andy Kaufman during their legendary feud in Memphis. Years later, after Owen Hart cut “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s career short by botching the piledriver at SummerSlam 1997, the move has since been banned from WWE. In fact, Vince McMahon nearly lost his mind backstage and threw a fit after CM Punk (UFC 0-0, MMA 0-0) hit John Cena on a Raw match in 2013. While banned from WWE, the move and variations of the move live on, as many wrestlers such as Kevin Owens, Jerry Lynn, Taka Michinoku, Rikishi, Juventud Guerrera, Tommy Dreamer and Adam Pearce have all adopted variations of this move and called it their own, each variation looking quite devastating.
The Frankensteiner is named after the innovator and popularizer of the move, “The Big Bad Booty Daddy” Scott Steiner. Scott Steiner, the muscle-bound, genetic freak looked quite impressive in his day when he managed to jump on his opponent’s shoulders to deliver a Frankensteiner. The move was also done in Lucha circles as the Hurricanrana, and is done today by nearly every Cruiserweight wrestler and also John Cena. A variation of the Frankensteiner has come to prominence today, especially on the independents, the Reverse-Frankensteiner or Reverse-Hurricanrana, which looks absolutely painful to take and looks like it should break someone’s neck every time it is executed. Check out “Speedball” Mike Bailey vs Trevor Lee from PWG’s Don’t Sweat the Technique to see a Reverse-Frankensteiner on the ring apron that should have resulted in certain death.
The chokeslam is now a staple in the big-man wrestling moveset. Wrapping your hand around your opponent’s throat, squeezing the life out if him, then hoisting him above the air only to slam him through the mat, the chokeslam has become an expected part of every big man wrestler’s repertoire. First innovated in ECW by Paul Heyman’s bodyguard 911, the move was later adopted by The Undertaker, Kane and Big Show. Today, Braun Stroman is using a Reverse-Chokeslam as his finish against jobbers, slamming opponents face first into the mat. Other noteworthy individuals to do this move are Scott Hall, who actually did a “too sweet” looking chokeslam in WCW, and Shane Helms, a smaller man who still did a convincing looking chokeslam.
“Double A”, “The Enforcer” of the Four Horsemen, Arn Anderson made the Spinebuster famous using it as his finish. Arn Anderson, the wrestler who looked most like your uncle who worked out a bit, kept his opponents in check with this move and later influenced a whole generation of wrestlers. Farooq, Booker T, Triple H, the Rock and Batista all threw a spinebuster, but none made it famous like Arn Anderson. “Double A” years after his retirement even did a run-in during Ric Flair’s match against The Undertaker at WrestleMania X8 just to deliver a spinebuster to the Deadman, and fans genuinely thought Flair then had Taker beat.
The powerbomb was actually invented by wrestling legend Lou Thesz, who held the NWA title for decades. The move was later made famous by “Master and Ruler of the Universe” Sycho Sid Vicious. Sid and Vader even formed a Tag Team named “Masters of the Powerbomb.” Many since have adopted the powerbomb, or a variation of the powerbomb as a signature move or a finish, including but not limited to Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Batista, Kevin Nash, The Undertaker and Mike Awesome.
6. Figure Four Leglock
The figure-four is of course the finishing hold of all-time great Ric Flair. However, the move was already an established hold in wrestling, and if done as a shoot could literally break your leg. This was the move that Greg “the Hammer” Valentine used to break Wahoo McDaniel’s leg. Jeff Jarrett later stole this move (and his gimmick) from Ric Flair, using it as his finish. The figure-four has also been done in competition by several others, including Shawn Michaels. Ric Flair in WWE storyline gave this move to The Miz to use as his finish, as Miz went on to deliver the worst looking figure-four ever seen to a handful of midcard opponents.
5. Frog Splash
Eddie Guerrero was Tag Team partners with “Love Machine” Art Barr in Mexico as Los Gringos Locos. After Art passed away, Eddie adopted Art’s move, the Frog Splash, using it as his own. Later, Rob Van Dam innovated the supposedly even better “Five Star Frog Splash,” where he always looked to hurt himself, holding onto his stomach in pain before pinning his opponent. Today, the move is done often in tribute to the memory Eddie Guerrero, as it is done on television by superstars such as Kevin Owens and Sasha Banks. Plus, before his release, Hornswoggle did his own rendition of the move calling it the Tadpole Splash.
Jake Roberts innovated this move in the 1980’s WWF. The DDT was a deadly finishing maneuver that his opponents never kicked out of. The crowd was always behind this move. As Jake would wave his finger in the air to signal the DDT, fans would chant, “D-D-T! D-D-T!” Since then, many, many wrestlers have used this move as simply a spot in the match. Notable wrestlers such as The Rock and The Undertaker have used their variations of the DDT as a spot in matches, but other wrestlers such as Raven and Mick Foley have used the DDT as their finisher. Today, WWE Champion Dean Ambrose uses the double-arm DDT, calling it Dirty Deeds to finish his opponents.
Back in the day, The Rockers Marty Jannetty and Shawn Michaels threw superkicks in their tag matches, and Shawn later adopted the move as his finish calling it the Sweet Chin Music. Grabbing the ropes in the corner, stomping his foot on the mat, Shawn would ‘tune up the band’ before finishing his opponent by kicking him square in the jaw. Today, almost every wrestler will just throw a superkick in their match, and hardly anyone even leaves their feet for it. The Young Bucks, Matt and Nick Jackson, hold onto this move as one of their signature moves, making it part of their gimmick, throwing tons of superkicks in their matches, providing their opponents with a “Superkick Party.” In fact, the Young Bucks with the Bullet Club delivered a total of over 50 superkicks to close out this year’s Ring of Honor: Global Wars event, even delivering a superkick to their own father.
2. Ace Crusher
The Ace Crusher was innovated in Japan by Johnny Ace, brother of Road Warrior Animal, known to today’s WWE Universe as John Laurinaitis. The move was more famously done in the United States by one Diamond Dallas Page, dubbing it the Diamond Cutter. The Diamond Cutter was arguably the most over finish in WCW at one point, as the DDP would hit the move on his foes from a variety of different predicaments. DDP would later give the finish to a young Randy Orton, who dubbed it the RKO. The RKO is now perhaps the most over finish in WWE, for everybody knows that Randy can hit the RKO #OutOfNowhere. The RKO has become a popular internet meme. While these three men have used the move as their finish, lots of other wrestlers have done variations of the move such as Karl Anderson and the Dudley Boys, to make the move their own.
Goldberg became the number one star in WCW by running through his opponents. He had his finish, the Jackhammer, but to set up for the finish, he used the spear. All WCW fans remember vividly Tony Schiavone shouting “Spear! Spear!” as Goldberg would then rise to his feet, stick out his tongue and snarl into the camera. Goldberg running across the ring with unrivalled intensity to tackle his opponent, would lift the audience to their feet as they knew this meant Jackhammer, 1-2-3. The spear, as done by Goldberg, has since become the blatant copycat move in wrestling. Rhyno did the Gore, which is unique to Rhyno, and somehow different than the spear. Somehow. However, Edge, Big Show, Batista and Roman Reigns, have all blatantly copied the spear as a signature move. While Roman Reigns looks cool enough with his greasy black hair flying through the air as he spears his opponents, nobody has ever matched the intensity of Goldberg and his spear, and perhaps nobody ever will.