A wrestler won’t become a superstar unless he has a signature move. Fans of the WWE not only eagerly anticipate attending WrestleMania events and live shows, but they revel at the sight of a wrestler laying a brutal smackdown on an opponent.
When a WWE superstar performs a signature move to get the upper hand or executes a dramatic finisher to win a match or secure a championship title, it’s truly a sight to behold and pure entertainment bliss. Some of the world’s biggest wrestlers have taken years to perfect their signature moves, and some of these moves became synonymous with their characters so that they’re never used by any other wrestlers.
The best finishers are wildly theatrical, horrifically brutal and incredibly effective, and they’re typically performed by the very best wrestlers. The following are the ten definitive, most iconic wrestling moves in the history of pro wrestling. Violent, spectacular, and even shocking, it’s moves like this that pro wrestling is all about.
10. Burning Hammer by Kenta Kobashi
All Japan Pro Wrestling Star Kenta Kobashi is considered one of the best wrestlers to ever perform in that league. He was a force to be reckoned with, even as he neared retirement when he was wrestling in the Pro Wrestling Noah League.
He also went by the name Blaze in the ring, and he perfected and innovated a number of formidable wrestling moves including the Orange crush, moonsault, burning lariat and brainbuster. It was the burning hammer, which he rarely used, that proved to be his most powerful attack. Wrestling Observer Newsletter named it the best wrestling move in 1998.
9. Ankle Lock by Kurt Angle
The ankle lock is a staple move in the world of professional wrestling, and hundreds if not thousands of wrestlers before Kurt Angle have used this hold. However, Kurt Angle perfected the move in a way that was unmatched by wrestlers before or since.
He would use the move as a counter and it was one of the most threatening moves in his repertoire. He often used this finisher while grapevining an opponent’s legs, and he used this signature move on multiple occasions to secure championships. Angle defended his WWE championship title at SummerSlam 2003 against his longtime rival Brock Lesnar by perfectly implementing the ankle lock.
8. Batista Bomb by Batista
Batista is one of the most feared and toughest wrestlers ever to perform in the WWE in recent years, and he rose to prominence with a number of signature moves like the big boot, single leg Boston crab, powerslam, hammer lock and many more.
His finishing move, the Batista bite, has also proved entertaining and destructive. However, it’s his other finisher that has made Batista a true powerhouse. The Batista Bomb allowed Batista to end matches with extreme force and precision. Batista used this finishing move long before he even entered the WWE; the move was called the Demon Bomb when he performed in the Ohio Valley Wrestling League.
7. Knife Edge Chop by Ric Flair
When Ric Flair let out his signature ‘wooo!’ you knew some hurt was about to be laid on his opponent in the ring. Flair became a fan favorite by breaking all the rules. He won many WWF championships through not only his skills as a wrestler, but also through his conniving and rowdy persona.
He is a 16-time world heavyweight champion, and his signature move, the knife edge chop, had a lot to do with that. Fans would scream out Flair’s famous yell when he performed this move. Flair became so closely linked with the move that fans would yell out his cry even when other wrestlers continued to use the knife edge after Flair left the WWE to perform in TNA. This eventually led Vince McMahon to ban the knife edge chop.
6. Diving Elbow Drop by Macho Man Randy Savage
Macho Man Randy Savage sent his opponents cowering at his menacing looks, but those that did stay and fight often fell victim to a serious beat down by the wrestling legend. He had tons of signature moves that were crushing to his foes in the ring, including the atomic drop, hair pull hangman, lariat takedown, snake eyes, snapmare and vertical suplex.
His finishing move, the diving elbow drop, ended matches with pain. Many wrestlers used the move, but Savage popularized it by using it as his finisher. After Savage’s death, CM punk paid tribute to him by using the diving elbow drop.
5. Attitude Adjustment by John Cena
John Cena is the biggest star in the WWE today, and he wouldn’t have become such a franchise player if it weren’t for his large repertoire of moves. With signature moves like the DDT, diving crossbody, diving leg drop bulldog, top rope dropkick, monkey flip and hurricanrana, John Cena has managed is truly a force to be reckoned with.
Finishers like the STFU and killswitch have ended matches promptly. However, the one finishing move that is the most devastating when performed by John Cena is undoubtedly the attitude adjustment, which he has used to take out heavyweights like the Rock and Kane.
4. Bonzai Drop by Yokozuna
Yokozuna was one of the largest wrestlers ever to set foot in a WWF ring. His weight was billed at 680 pounds, and many of his opponents didn’t stand a chance because of his massive size.
Several wrestlers were almost crushed underneath his massive girth. Yokozuna took his name from the highest rank given to sumo wrestlers. Even though he wasn’t, in fact, a real sumo wrestler, he showed fearsome skills. His signature finishing move, the bonzai drop, was completely overwhelming; he jumped from the top rope and planted his hefty backside in the face of his opponents.
3. Running leg drop by Hulk Hogan
Hulk Hogan is considered by many to be the greatest wrestler of all time, and as such he has plenty of famous signature and finishing moves. Hulkamaniacs revelled at the sight of Hulk Hogan taking out his opponents with his crushing maneuvers like the atomic drop, bear hug, big boot, body slam and elbow drop.
All those moves were tremendously effective. However, it was Hulk Hogan’s signature running leg drop that proved to be the most effective in ending matches. He used the finishing move on Vince McMahon in WrestleMania XIX. The running leg drop was Hogan’s standard finishing move in the WWF, but when he competed in New Japan Pro Wrestling Hulk Hogan typically used the Axe Bomber as his finisher.
2. Frog Splash by Eddie Guerrero
When the late Eddie Guerrero executed the frog splash his opponents never stood a chance. It required a combination of skill, finesse and power to pull off. It was quite a spectacle when Guerrero leapt from the top rope and landed on the wrestler he was facing in the ring.
While Guerrero didn’t innovate the move, he did popularize it in the nineties and noughties. He executed the flying feat in a number of wrestling leagues including the WWE, ECW, WCW and New Japan Pro Wrestling. Following his death, a number of wrestlers, including his nephew Chavo and friends Mysterio and Christian, paid tribute to him by using the frog splash finisher.
1. Mandible Claw by Mick Foley
Mick Foley popularized this devastating and humiliating move. The mandible claw is a wrestling maneuver that can cause intense pain, and when Mick Foley used it that was almost always the case.
The move is executed when a wrestler shoves two fingers into an opponent’s mouth and puts pressure on the bottom of the mouth. Mick Foley would make the move even more disgusting when he brought Mr. Socko into the mix. Foley would often shove his sock puppet-covered hand into an opponent’s mouth after finishing his adversary. Mick Foley, who also went by the persona Mankind, defeated the Undertaker while utilizing this incredibly brutal move.