Moves from the top of the rope are the apex of excitement in a wrestling match. No other moves allow for such an impressive combination of aerial finesse and jaw dropping acrobatics as jumps off the highest point in the ring. For many fans, when they see a WWE superstar begin to climb the ropes it only means one thing: time to pull out their cameras.
Impressive athleticism aside, the amount of sheer punishing force they inflict upon their victims makes these moves a wonder to behold. At its heart the WWE is a fighting sport, and top rope moves are essentially the knockout punch. When a hard-hitting flip from the top rope lands, it’s hard to imagine any wrestler standing back up.
Many superstars have an arsenal of top rope moves to unleash upon their opponents. Certain wrestlers have come to be defined by certain top rope moves, using them as signatures in order to deal one last crushing blow to win them a match. These iconic moves have made their marks on WWE history, and we’ve scoured through them all to bring you the very best of the bunch. Veteran wrestling fans and newcomers alike will want to see these. Read on for the top ten greatest top rope moves in WWE history.
10 Old School
The Undertaker has presided over the WWE universe for more than two decades. His deadly aura and reputation extends beyond the wrestling world, and many who know nothing about professional wrestling still recognize his name. He’s one of the most famous of all the WWE superstars, and his winning streak on WrestleMania is only one aspect of his character. With moves like Old School and the Tombstone Piledriver, Undertaker has become a fan favorite since the 1990s.
His top rope move, Old School, isn’t the most devastating on this list, but it may be the move with the most name recognition. The Undertaker will put his opponent in a twisted arm hold while he ascends the ropes. He then walks away from the ring corner, balancing on the top rope until finally jumping down and unleashing a heavy punch onto his victim. It’s a large facet of his character, and whenever the fans and announcers see the Undertaker setting it up the stadium erupts in cheers.
Lita is, without a doubt, the diva who has caused the most turmoil within the WWE. Whether through her wrestling moves or her on-screen antics, she has always kept the audience’s attention one way or another. After all, this is the diva who had an on-screen romp with Edge in the middle of the ring. Her top rope move, the Litasault, has proven to be every bit as eye-catching though.
The Litasault is a high arcing backflip from the top rope. When her opponent has been dazed and laid out, Lita will often defer to this in order to finish them off. Her backflip is graceful, and she hangs in the air longer than one would expect, only to come crashing down on the torso of her opponent. It’s one of the many reasons this diva superstar has gained such widespread notoriety.
Sin Cara is a luchador wrestler from Mexico. When he debuted in the WWE he already had a large international following, and sought to make waves in the U.S. professional wrestling scene. What he showed off was an incredible level of athleticism. His high intensity translated into his acrobatics mid-match, and his top rope finisher is one great example.
The C4 is a backflip from the top rope as the opponent is locked into a headlock. As Cara flies through the air, so does his opponent. The resulting face slam is one of the more impressive moves wrestling fans will see, and often leaves the announcers baffled. It simply leaves them with no words. With incredible moves like the C4, it’s easy to see why this luchador is experiencing global success.
7 The Coast to Coast
As its name implies, this move is predicated on distance rather than height. Originally invented by Rob Van Dam, this move required that the opponent be downed in the corner of the ring. It was later further popularized by Vince McMahon’s very son, Shane McMahon.
McMahon pulled out all the stops whenever he wrestled, and wasn’t averse to throwing his body in harm’s way. He would leap the length of the ring from the top ropes with his legs extended frontwards. He’d then slam into a prop placed in front of his victim, usually a trash can, knocking them out cold. After pulling the move, McMahon often lay writhing on the ground in pain. This is one top rope move we’re not sure either wrestler in the ring particularly enjoyed.
6 The Doomsday Device
This move is rather unique in that it involves a tag team. This inherently requires a larger amount of coordination, as it takes two wrestlers being on the exact same page in order to pull it off. The Legion of Doom tag team annihilated their opponents, winning titles in the WWF, NWA, AWA and more. This move was their weapon of choice.
Wrestlers Hawk and Animal would battle opponents inside the ring just waiting for a chance to utilize their famous top rope move. When one of their opponents was staggered, a member of the tag team would hoist them on their shoulders while the other climbed the ropes in the corner. The perched member would then be presented with the perfect opportunity to perform a leaping clothesline, slamming the victim into the ground in an enormous crash. It was a move that sent ripples throughout the league, and the Legion of Doom used it to become one of the most dominant tag teams in history.
Vader was a mammoth of a wrestler. Coming from the Rocky Mountains, he even earned the nickname “The Rocky Mountain Mastadon.” Imagine laying with your back on the ground, watching as Vader’s 450 pound frame slowly climbed up the ropes across from you. It’s an unfortunate sight that many WWE superstars were forced to witness right before Vader unleashed his vadersault.
As the name suggests, Vader’s patented vadersault was a midair sommersault that wreaked havoc whenever it landed. It’s not an entirely unique move, as the midair “moonsault” has been around since before Vader’s time. Yet, to witness a 450 pound man pulling off such a move was unheard of until Vader entered the ring. The devastation he caused put a whole new level of fear behind the maneuver. It’s for this reason that he’s found a place at number 5 on our list.
4 Pepsi Plunge
The Pepsi Plunge is an old school maneuver that CM Punk utilized in his early days in wrestling. It’s a brutal top rope move that bears the distinction of being performed on an opponent who is not actually laying on the mat floor.
The move occurs when Punk has lured his beleaguered opponent near the ring corner. With his soon-to-be victim on the second ropes, Punk then climbs the ropes from the outside while facing the opponent and grabbing his head with his legs. The opponent’s arms are wrenched up behind their back and CM Punk then launches into the air in order to slam their face into the ground. It all sounds rather convoluted, but when witnessed firsthand it leaves you wondering how anyone could pull it off.
3 Shooting Star Press
Evan Bourne is a high-flying babyface who frequently throws caution, and his body, to the wind. Inside the ring he’s quickly become a fan favorite. The young wrestler has earned the moniker “Air Bourne” due to his efforts. Opponents will frequently underestimate him, only to later be staring up as Bourne climbs a ladder in preparation for a Shooting Star Press.
Bourne certainly didn’t invent the move, but he did take it to new heights. He was one of the first to do the move off of a ladder, and incredible feat considering the dangerous height. The move is a high arcing backflip in which the wrestler performing the move must time the flip so that the rotation is just right before final impact. It’s a very technical maneuver, and one “Air Bourne” certainly has utilized to great effect.
2 Flying Elbow Drop
Randy Savage was an outstanding performer inside the ring, winning two WWE Championships and four WCW World Championships. Many don’t know that “Macho Man” was actually interested in a completely different sport. He spent several years in the MLB minor leagues in affiliation with the St. Louis Cardinals before injuring his arm and ending his baseball career. Luckily for us, his arm injury did not prevent him from making one of the most brutal top rope moves in WWE history.
The flying elbow drop is as vicious as it sounds. When Macho Man had an opponent winded and on the mat, he’d climb the ropes and the crowd would go wild with anticipation. Savage was not against playing to the crowd and pointing to the sky before eventually turning toward his victim and leaping as high as he could with his elbow ready for impact. The result was extremely popular with fans, and superstars like CM Punk and Shawn Michaels even later adopted the move.
1 5 Star Frog Splash
Rob Van Dam first broke into the wrestling scene in the ECW in 1996. He has since launched himself into stardom using his wrestling skills and cocky demeanor. Along the way, Van Dam has had many memorable matches, and his partnership with Sabu is considered revolutionary in the sport. When he developed his own 5 Star Frog Splash, his fans went absolutely crazy.
Like other top rope moves on this list, the move predates the wrestler. Superstars like Art Barr and Eddie Guerrero are well known for using this move as well, yet Van Dam’s athleticism was so out of this world that it is his image that is most closely aligned to the move. Using incredible leaping ability and awe inspiring rotation, Van Dam would soar high and tuck in his arms and legs only to extend them right before impact. The result was a frog-like motion in midair that was simply a joy to watch, unless of course you were on the receiving end.