It’s almost impossible to count the number of wrestling moves fans will see in a given WWE event or one put on by any other sports entertainment promotion. There are a few moves in particular fans will almost definitely get to witness—Irish whips, headlocks, and a body slam or two happen pretty much every single time a wrestling ring is constructed. Beyond that, however, one can’t go into a WWE program expecting to see any holds in particular, with the exception of the winning performer’s finishing moves, which are about as likely as a headlock or those other transitional maneuvers.
When all goes well, a wrestler’s finishing move is all they need to become a star. Many of WWE’s greatest superstars could be defined through one distinct action, be it “Stone Cold” Steve Austin planting a Stunner, Bret “Hitman” Hart locking in a Sharpshooter, or Shawn Michaels connecting with his trademark Sweet Chin Music. On the other hand, a bad finishing move can make a wrestler completely forgettable, and two of those three performers we just mentioned happen to know this first hand.
If Vince McMahon believes in a wrestler but thinks their finisher isn’t working, or maybe the wrestler figures it out themselves, they’ll change to something better and stop using the old one. Hopefully, fans will forget about the embarrassing past and move on. While this poses a minor problem in video retrospectives, once something new starts working, fans will easily forget about the past. Unless, of course, some site like ours came along and told you all about it. Keep reading to learn about 15 finishing moves Vince McMahon wants you to forget.
15 Chris Benoit – Diving Headbutt
While most of the moves on this list are merely forgettable, a small handful has gone by the wayside because they were far too dangerous. At this point, Vince McMahon and the entire world knows all too well just how damaging the Diving Headbutt can be to a wrestler’s long-term mental health. Of course, the athlete who best exemplifies this would have to be Chris Benoit, who used the move repeatedly throughout his career and later suffered severe neurological damage, which many believe is what inspired him to murder his family. Another wrestler to use the Diving Headbutt extensively was Bam Bam Bigelow, and his drug problems later in life could also have been a result of repeated head injuries. The Dynamite Kid is still alive, but he, too, has suffered some horrible health and substance abuse issues, with his many Diving Headbutts possibly a contributing factor. Harley Race, who originated the move sometime in the 1970s, has reportedly claimed he regrets inventing it, knowing what it has done to the brains of his successors, and McMahon probably feels the same about ever letting workers use it.
14 Dolph Ziggler – Zig Zag
Earning comparisons to diverse Hall of Fame worthy superstars like Mr. Perfect, Brian Pillman, and Shawn Michaels, across the board, Dolph Ziggler is one of the most uniquely talented athletes in WWE today. Just about every move in Ziggler’s repertoire has some sort of flash to it, at least in the way he performs them, with the sole exception being his finishing maneuver, the Zig Zag. Unfortunately for The Showoff and his fans, Vince McMahon seems to be one of the few people who hasn’t got the memo, as he still scripts Ziggler to use it as his trademark offense. Granted, Ziggler, too, is equally complicit in this one, as the problem could be his own inability to come up with anything better. Regardless of whose fault it is, grabbing an opponent from behind and falling down with them simply doesn’t seem nearly as devastating as many of Ziggler’s other, flashier holds. The fact Ziggler still uses the move probably means he doesn’t belong on this list yet, but trust us. As soon as McMahon comes to his senses and tells Ziggler to use something else, they’ll both want everyone to forget about the Zig Zag.
13 Brock Lesnar – Shooting Star Press
In a different world, Vince McMahon wouldn’t want fans to forget about Brock Lesnar using the Shooting Star Press. As a matter of fact, were things perfect, McMahon would have Paul Heyman shout from the rooftops that his Beast Incarnate can fly through the sky like a glorious eagle. Unfortunately for Lesnar and the WWE Universe at large, what was supposed to big the grand debut of his most incredible move was instead a near tragedy. Lesnar leaped from the top turnbuckle at WrestleMania XIX, flipped backward, and landed face first on the mat, almost a foot away from his intended victim, Kurt Angle. Not only did the move fail, but Lesnar nearly broke his neck in the process, and WWE almost lost their biggest star in the main event of their trademark event. It doesn’t matter that Lesnar pulled off the move countless times before, nor that other wrestlers have done it since. Having seen the worse case scenario once, there’s no way McMahon wants Lesnar trying it again, and he probably wants fans to forget the one time he tried ever happened.
12 Rocky Maivia – Running Shoulderbreaker
Anyone who has viewed professional wrestling in the past two decades is probably familiar with the People’s Champion, The Rock. Even those who never watch sports entertainment know his name, considering he’s since become the biggest star in Hollywood, as well. As these millions and millions of fans know, The Rock’s finishing move, The People’s Elbow, is the most electrifying move in the history of sports entertainment. In the beginning, however, back when The Great One apparently wasn’t so great, he was using a different move. Appropriately, he also competed under a different name, that being Rocky Maivia. While still a blue chipper, Maivia lacked the charisma he would soon find, and thus relied on a more traditional move than a flashy elbow drop to get things done. Instead of playing to the crowd, Rocky simply hoisted up his foes and dropped them to the mat with a run-of-the-mill Shoulderbreaker. Unsurprisingly, this was the same era fans chanted “Die, Rocky, Die,” bored to tears at his basic move set. With how big The Rock has become, McMahon definitely wants fans to ignore the fact he nearly messed things up at the start with such a bad finisher.
11 “Stone Cold” Steve Austin – The Million Dollar Dream
Although it would be next to impossible for anyone to truly quantify things, there’s a good chance the “Stone Cold” Stunner has felled more victims than any other finishing move in wrestling. Steve Austin may not have been on top for as long as John Cena or Hulk Hogan, but in the time he was, he Stunned just about every single member on the roster, whether they were a viable foe or not. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the Stunner was enough to keep other wrestlers down for the count and then some, making it one of the most feared moves in the game. Back before Austin came up with his simple formula for success, though, he was using a much different, slower maneuver—Ted DiBiase’s Million Dollar Dream. Naturally, DiBiase was also Austin’s manager at this time, explaining why he would use the hold. Obviously, it made sense at the time, and yet the superstar Austin became after dropping DiBiase was such a juggernaut it might be better fans forget about the stuff he did beforehand.
10 Sgt. Slaughter – Atomic Noogie
Once upon a time, Sgt. Slaughter was a legendary WWE superstar worthy of his current place in the Hall of Fame. Sarge wrestled several great matches throughout the 1980s, specifically a few with Pat Patterson that helped influence what hardcore wrestling would become in the next decade. Unfortunately, by the time that decade came, Slaughter was a lot older and in worse shape, unable to perform the classics he used to in the past. For whatever reason, Vince McMahon felt this made Sarge the perfect choice for an anti-American, pro-Iraqi WWE Championship role. As if that wasn’t bizarre enough, McMahon also felt Slaughter should stop using the Cobra Clutch as his finishing move and start resorting to a more villainous Atomic Noogie. Of course, everyone else views the Noogie as something a schoolyard bully does, and not something that could ever end a match. Granted, this was one of the smaller failings of Slaughter’s main event run, yet it still goes to show how much of a disaster it was from start to finish.
9 Shawn Michaels – Tear Drop Suplex
A show stopping, headlining, main event superstar like Shawn Michaels needs a pretty special move to serve as the encore for his incredible performances. Fans have long described his pre-kick taunt as “tuning up the band,” yet it would be more accurate to call Michaels’ entire 20-minute matches the slow build for his big finish, that being Sweet Chin Music. Though Michaels didn’t invent the Superkick, the move has been associated with him since he sent ex-Rocker partner Marty Jannetty through the Barber Shop window. Prior to that landmark moment, however, and even a little bit after it, HBK was playing a different tune called the Tear Drop Suplex. Truth be told, there was nothing at all special about this particular Suplex variety, making it all the more puzzling why such a flashy performer would rely on the move. Michaels typically only applied his Tear Drop Suplex after he had already kicked his opponents in the face anyway, and it wasn’t long before HBK and his fans all realized which part of the process was the true show stopper.
8 Seth Rollins – Curb Stomp
Considering how recently it was that Seth Rollins used the Curb Stomp to win his first WWE Championship, it could be said the move has had the fastest fall from grace of any on this list. Typically, it takes months of revisionism before Vince McMahon instructs his announcers to start ignoring a finishing maneuver altogether, and yet, it felt like the Curb Stomp disappeared almost overnight, with Rollins quietly transitioning to the Pedigree in honor of his onscreen mentor turned rival Triple H. While some fans still complained when it was gone, the Curb Stomp getting phased out probably shouldn’t have been a big surprise, as the name alone was one of the more violent things one could hear on WWE television when Rollins was using it. Most wrestling moves are supposed to look flashy without actually hurting people, and there’s almost no way to protect against getting kicked in the back of the head so hard one’s face smashes against the ground. Obviously, quite a few wrestlers did pull it off safely, but fans imitating things definitely couldn’t, and once McMahon realized he might be giving them the idea to try, the Curb Stomp was gone for good.
7 The Great Khali – Brain Chop
From the moment The Great Khali arrived in the WWE Universe, traditionalist wrestling fans were complaining about how slow and borderline immobile the Punjabi Giant always appeared in the ring. Things only got worse when Khali won the World Heavyweight Championship pretty much out of nowhere, as his skills had most certainly not been improving up to that point. There were a large number of things wrong with Khali’s rise to the top, and as is often the case, his finishing maneuver worked as a microcosm of all these issues. Khali felt out of time and out of place, without the necessary talents to succeed in the modern era of wrestling. Likewise, an overhand chop is slow, hasn’t been a viable finisher for decades, and won’t likely be coming back in a major way anytime soon. None of this made Vince McMahon give up on Khali at the time, blinded by either his size or the potential at breaking through with eastern culture. In hindsight, though, even McMahon would have to admit his mistake, and forget about the Brain Chop along with everything else related to Khali’s time on top.
6 Randy Orton – The Punt
Having awarded the man no less than 13 World Championships at this point, it would be fair to assume Vince McMahon sees something special in Randy Orton, and has from day one. Whether or not McMahon is alone in seeing this tends to sway with how well Orton is performing in the ring, and if his move set feels exciting and surprising or boring and lazy. Far too many of Orton’s transitional moves fall into the second category, with the trademark RKO out of nowhere serving as one of his perks. Not too long ago, The Punt stood right beside the RKO as one of these amazing maneuvers that justified all of Orton’s success, and yet McMahon knew his star player couldn’t keep on kicking his victims in the head forever. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that kicking someone in the head is ridiculously dangerous, far too easy for young fans to imitate, and almost impossible for wrestlers to protect themselves against properly. All of those considerations in mind, there’s no wonder McMahon told Orton to stop using the move outright, having him return to the safer RKO.
5 Bastion Booger – Trip To The Batcave
Truth be told, there's nothing about the plus-sized Bastion Booger that fans actually want to remember. This statement is made with all due respect to Mike Shaw, the man behind the gimmick, and it certainly doesn’t apply to his earlier work as Makhan Singh in Stampede Wrestling. Things started to go south extremely fast once Shaw signed with WWE, however, as Vince McMahon decided the impressive superheavyweight should dress in the most revealing outfit possible and become subject to non-stop fat jokes by the commentary team. Not that things would have been better if the fat jokes made sense, but the fact they were completely ridiculous really didn’t help. Case in point: A Trip to the Batcave, the Booger’s finishing move and clearly a pun of some variety, albeit not one we understand at all. After doing a little dance, Booger would sit down on his opponent and attempt a pinfall to varying success. What does Batman have to do with anything, you ask? Good question. Maybe it would be easier to forget about the whole thing than trying to answer.
4 The Ultimate Warrior – Ultimate Splash
Few pro wrestlers have had their reputations go through a roller coaster quite like the one experienced by The Ultimate Warrior. In the late 1980s to the early ‘90s, the Warrior was like a force of nature, dominating the WWE Universe like no other. Barely ten years later, WWE released a DVD about Warrior’s alleged “self-destruction,” making statements that weren’t too far from libel about how insane and difficult to work with he used to be. Another ten years later, and the WWE Hall of Fame named a special award after Warrior in honor of his greatness. With all this confusing revisionist history warping Warrior’s standing in the industry, Vince McMahon probably feels like he can say whatever the heck he wants about the former WWE Champion. If so, he might as well fuss the details about Warrior’s finishing move, the Ultimate Splash. Jumping into the air and falling on one’s opponent works wonders for a super heavyweight, but someone with Warrior’s physique wouldn’t cause much of an impact. Quite frankly, it’s hard to understand how it won him any matches, let alone the WWE Championship.
3 The Big Show – WMD
On paper, giving the largest WWE superstar a knockout punch as his finishing move makes absolutely perfect sense. Throw in Michael Cole and company constantly reminding fans The Big Show’s hands are the size of dinner plates, and it would almost feel wrong for his punches not to pack a pretty hefty impact. The problem starts to arise when one considers the fact almost every single wrestler throws at least one punch in any given match, meaning if The Big Show can knock people out with a single blow, he should be WWE Champion for life. Pretty much instantly, the double-edged sword of his WMD, the Weapon of Mass Destruction, becomes painfully apparent. The sole explanation for why some of his punches win matches and others are mere transitions is that wrestling is a work, scripted, entirely unreal, and impossible to believe. Obviously, these are the last thoughts Vince McMahon wants going through the audience’s mind during his show, and thus, The Big Show no longer lobs out his bombs at the rate he once did.
2 Gorilla Monsoon – Airplane Spin
One of the most legendary and respected WWE superstars of all time, Gorilla Monsoon was also one of the industry’s most memorable. A close friend of the McMahon family his whole life, Vince wouldn’t want fans to forget about Monsoon in the slightest. That said, certain details of Gorilla’s career are less commendable than others. Almost everything the man accomplished was historic in one way or another, be it in the ring or in the announce booth, with the sole exception of something pretty important: his finishing move, the Airplane Spin. Back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, it made sense that a particularly large bad guy might resort to such a childish bullying tactic, but it doesn’t work at all in today’s wrestling climate. Quite frankly, it isn’t entirely fair of us to single out Monsoon in this regard, as plenty of wrestlers in his era used equally silly and forgettable moves as their big finish, and none of them would work today. The Airplane Spin, in particular, was one of the worst, though, and Monsoon’s legendary status might be marred a little with the knowledge it was his main trademark.
1 MVP – Playmaker
Plenty of moves in wrestling don’t look like they would hurt that much if a fan were to really think about it, but the very nature of the business means they mostly look the other way when this happens. It gets a little harder to pretend something painless is devastating when it’s supposed to win matches, though, and this is what caused many viewers to have trouble taking MVP’s Playmaker as a match-ending affair. Ultimately, the Playmaker was no more than a simple neckbreaker, which simply swings a person around and lands them on their back, minimally hurting the neck along the way. The Playmaker adds convoluted foot and arm placements into the mix, putting MVP in a seriously vulnerable spot and forcing him to do a flip, far more exertion than the effort it was worth. Believe it or not, Randy Orton used almost the exact same move early in his career and called it the O-Zone. Although MVP didn’t become the same level of a star that Orton has, Vince McMahon probably doesn’t want fans putting much thought into either version of the move, as it exposes his business just a little too much.
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