The outcomes of World Wrestling Entertainment matches are pre-determined, and the in-ring action is more of a staged performance than it is two guys actually beating the heck out of each other during matches. Both of those facts have been public knowledge for decades. Professional wrestling is often referred to as being a “soap opera for males,” and part of that soap opera is the back-and-forth fake battles that are featured on television and during live WWE events. Certain moves pulled off by wrestlers during matches cause fans to leave their feet in anticipation and excitement, either because they are “finishers” that end contests or because they require top-tier athleticism to be properly executed.
The WWE has, over the years, taken steps to protect wrestlers and prevent serious injuries from occurring during matches. Part of this initiative has been to ban certain moves that have, in the past, hurt performers. Some of those knocks have been temporary, such as a sprained neck or a twisted knee. Others, however, have been long-term problems that have plagued wrestlers long after they called time on their active careers. Serious brain injuries have landed WWE in the headlines many times for reasons that have tarnished the reputations of those running the company, so much so that there are critics out there who believe that pro wrestling should be banned in general.
Not all of the moves spotlighted in this piece are completely banned by the WWE as of the posting of this piece. Some wrestlers are given special privileges because of their physical abilities, their size or because of having a veteran status with the organization. While you may see these moves from time to time on WWE television, odds are that each of them will be banned for good sooner rather than later. Not all fans may like that the company is taking such a safe approach, but that is the lay of the land considering all that has occurred in North American pro wrestling over the past few decades.
Many fans who tune into WWE television on a weekly basis likely had no idea that basic chokes that have been part of pro wrestling for years were no longer allowed when the famous Nexus beat-down on John Cena happened. Daniel Bryan grabbed a portion of the ring rope and choked Cena for only a couple of seconds during that memorable segment, a moment that ultimately cost Bryan his job with the company before the end of that week. Bryan, as was expected, eventually returned to the company, and he became one of the most popular wrestlers in WWE during his second run in the organization.
9 Original Pedigree
The original Pedigree utilized by Triple H involved the wrestler locking the arms of his opponent, keeping hold of the arms throughout the execution of the move, and then spiking the head of the opponent into the mat. This led to the heads and necks of wrestlers being unprotected, which is why the move was quickly changed into a format that has Triple H releasing at least one arm and the opponent taking a front-face bump rather than a spike. “The Game” has been using the safe version of the move for so long that its original form has largely been forgotten by casual WWE fans.
8 Crippler Crossface
While you may see the likes of Triple H and the now-retired Shawn Michaels break out the crossface during pay-per-view matches, it will likely be a long time, if ever, before this move is once again a finisher that is seen on weekly WWE television. This version of the crossface continues to be associated with Chris Benoit, and the WWE wisely does not want any references to that wrestler or to the abhorrent crimes that Mr. Benoit allegedly committed. The harsh truth of the matter is that nobody needs to see anything related to Benoit on cable television, pay-per-view programming or WWE Network.
Also known as a Double Underhook Back-to-Back Piledriver, the Vetebreaker is a move that leaves an opponent unable to protect his neck or head as he is plummeting down toward the mat. It is viewed to be so dangerous a move that even the official WWE website pointed out how dangerous the Vertebreaker is in a piece that was published in 2012:
“After (Shane) Helms invaded WWE with his WCW compatriots and morphed into sports-entertainment’s resident superhero, the Vertebreaker disappeared. The Hurricane brought it out of storage every now and again, but it hasn’t been seen in WWE in a very long time.”
6 Throat Slash
While not a move, this gesture will likely not be seen again once The Undertaker officially retires as an in-ring performer. The Deadman dramatically raking his thumb across his neck before hitting his finishing move (more on that maneuver later) is something the Phenom has done for decades, but any other wrestler performing a similar gesture that is not mocking Undertaker brings back memories of the previously mentioned Chris Benoit, who would perform his version of a throat slash before leaping off of the top rope and delivering a diving headbutt. That, along with beheadings that have become a part of the war on terror, have made the throat slash a no-go in the PG era of WWE.
5 Death Valley Driver
Long before the days of the ultra-safe Attitude Adjustment that belongs to John Cena was the Death Valley Driver. Unlike the AA which has opponents take relatively safe back bumps after being hoisted over Cena's head, the DVD involved wrestlers being dropped downward and spiked, putting them in danger of having their necks compressed. Yes, the AA looks downright ridiculous when compared with the DVD, but being a fan of pro wrestling means having to suspend your disbelief from time to time. The DVD is a move that is unnecessarily risky, regardless of the strength or talent possessed by the wrestler delivering the finisher.
4 Reverse Piledriver
It was at the 1997 edition of SummerSlam when this move began to be frowned upon by the WWE. Owen Hart scooped “Stone Cold” Steve Austin for the piledriver, but Hart did not do well enough to protect Austin's head as Hart sat down onto the mat. Austin suffered a legitimate broken neck, one that played a role in the all-time great being forced to retire in 2003. Things certainly could have gone worse on that night, as Austin was lucky to not have suffered paralysis as that pay-per-view event. It is easy to understand why the WWE does not want performers using this move any longer.
There are times when WWE performers are given special permission to use a piledriver, but those instances are few and far between these days. While pro wrestlers are trained to protect themselves and their opponents, a piledriver simply leaves too much to chance regarding the safety of the performers. The writing on the wall suggests that all variations of the piledriver will be banned for good once The Undertaker retires. Any move that could, with a simple slip, put a wrestler in a wheelchair for the rest of his life is not worth it in any instance. No further discussion needed.
2 Randy Orton Punt
The Randy Orton Punt is a double-edged sword. Orton or anybody else delivering it has to make contact with the victim for the move to look believable, but that contact puts the individual taking the punt in risk of suffering a serious head injury such as a concussion. This is another time when the risk outweighs the reward, especially when Orton already has a finisher that is over among WWE crowds (the RKO). Preventing head injuries is a top agenda for the WWE these days, and that is why you will hopefully never see the move that sits atop this list occur in any wrestling ring.
1 Unprotected Chair Shot to the Head
Learning from past mistakes is a part of any walk of life, and the WWE is no different. Wrestlers, promoters and fans alike always should have known all along that there is no safe way for a performer to take a steal chair swing to any part of his head, but all involved lied to themselves about the matter for decades. WWE wrestlers who go against this rule and deliver/take pre-planned chair strikes to the head are fined and rightfully so with all we know about brain trauma. This is a case of “better late than never,” as WWE cannot go back in time and ban these shots years before the company finally did so.