It is said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. One would assume Bret Hart worked and reworked an emotional and lengthy diary entry after losing his WWE championship while thrust in his own sharpshooter at the hands of Shawn Michaels that faithful night in November of 1997. We all know how that turned out. One month earlier, The Undertaker’s staple pasty complexion surely succumbed to some reddening after being thumped skull first with his own patented Tombstone piledriver during his “little” brother Kane’s debut at the first ever “Hell in the Cell” match, right? Surely, a true testament to both superstar’s legacies it must have been to have their signature finishers emulated. Such irony indeed.
Over the course of time, wrestler’s fatalities have undergone unceremonious makeovers in some cases. In others, blatant, villainous larceny. And as briefly aforementioned, some have been ironically yet purposely plagiarized from their creators. The debate rages on over which moves have not only been infamous victims of identity theft, but which culprits succeeded in outshining their originators, if even. Scott Steiner’s “Frankensteiner” or Rey Mysterio’s spring board “Huricanrana”? Kevin Owens calls Diesel’s “Jacknife” and raises him a “Pop-up Powerbomb”. Jack Swagger “Vader Bomb’s” them both through the poker table. See what I did there.
So what moves were most widely imitated? By whom? And why does one version resonate with the WWE universe more than others? The report cards on these match-ending blows are out. Jake “The Snake” Roberts will be less than amused by the grading scheme. Neville will probably be polishing his red arrows with a smirk as awkward as his goatee. But that is alright, as the 2015 Slammy Award winner for breakout Superstar of the year will not need to pay any substantial insurance premium to protect his “pièce de résistence”. Good luck trying to replicate that exercise science enigma. We had initially reached a verbal agreement with Diamond Dallas Page for a comment, but OUT OF NOWHERE he-, … could not be disturbed during his yoga teachings. Damn you Randall Kevin Orton.
10 Frog Splash
8 Choke Slam
Wrestling enthusiasts will always appreciate a good old submission as a finisher. These moves are the foundation of the sport. They are also commonly used by “real” fighting brands like UFC, which work twofold in WWE’s aim for staging the most realistic fight sequences possible. The casual fan may not hold submissions as close to their heart, as they naturally slow the pace of action. Some of the greatest tap-out grapples include the Ric Flair’s Figure 4, Chris Jericho’s Walls of Jericho, Chris Benoit’s The Crippler Cross Face and more recently, Brock Lesnar’s Kimora and Undertaker’s Gates of Hell, to name a few. Quite the impressive list of legends, you might say. The most skilled in-ring performers have always been able to incorporate the realism of submission manoeuvres as tactful changes of pace to their matches. Arguably, the Sharpshooter, in all of its surrounding controversy, will go down as the most memorable.
Growing up a wrestling fan in North America, my first exposure to this move was the “Frankensteiner” administered by none other than Big Papa Pump himself, Scott Steiner. If not for YouTube, one might not be able to envision the top Google image search results of the superstar performing such an act of acrobatic proportions. Then came WCW’s revolutionary wave of cruiserweights in the late 90s. The finisher would never be the same again. Nor would its title. The Mexican Lucha Libre moniker “Hurricanrana” followed the influx, the move commonly referred to as such in most wrestling dialogue since then. Using the ropes, turnbuckles and apron as catapults, legends like Rey Mysterio Jr, the Ultimo Dragon, Eddie Guerrero to name a few captivated audiences with their versions, seamlessly executed from virtually any and all conceivable angles. Modern day practitioner’s include Neville and Kalisto, both of whom succeed in doing so marvelously.
4 Diamond Cutter/RKO
The expansion of social media has made this perhaps the most recognizable finisher, even to non-wrestling aficionados. Fan-made videos of Randy Orton’s RKO have littered the internet. Video editing geniuses have the Apex Predator RKO-ing helpless victims. To be quite honest, the best loops and reels are absolutely hysterical, even to viewers with no particular attachment to the WWE brand. Years before the Viper burst onto the scene, Diamond Dallas Page had been driving his adversary’s heads to the canvas with an underhanded shoulder clutch of their necks with his impactful Diamond Cutter. Much to his dismay, I am sure, DDP did not endure the same viral success of his finisher, fault to non-existence of the social media platforms of his era. When observing both versions, there is no noticeable difference in terms of execution. Both superstars managed to turn bleak predicaments into lightning-quick reversals leading to their famous finishing moves.
During a video interview for the Monday Night War Series, Dallas Page narrates how he had once asked Triple H, then wrestling under the gimmick title Jean-Paul Levesque (his real name) to refrain from using a carbon copy of the move, which he had done in one of his matches. DDP expressed his desire to be sole administrator of the signature in order to make it his own, enabling his character and persona to reach new heights. This request was met with little resistance from the current WWE world champion. Randy Orton must not have gotten the memo. All this considered, which version can we crown champion? It is a tough call. When probing opinions from fellow fans, I tend to notice voting patterns in favor of the character more adorned by those questioned.
Winner: Double count out on this one.
1 Super Kick
Perhaps the most watered down of them all. Such a shame when considering the legend who made it famous. Spoiler alert: no one ever did it better than Shawn Michaels, and no one ever will. So where do the Usos, Dolph Ziggler, Rusev and/or Luke Harper (really?) harvest such intestinal fortitude as to make Mr. WrestleMania’s long time match ender part of their regular weaponry? While there is no way to confirm the following hypothesis, I believe as rival sports/entertainment factions like UFC gained in mainstream popularity, creative authorities and performers alike felt the need to infuse an element of realism into their matches. I have yet to see a moonsault during a street fight on WorldStar fight reels or in the octagon, but have seen affair number of punches and kicks. If the WWE is to compete on any level with the UFC, a certain element of believability is required in their combat sequences. I would guesstimate that somewhere in the creative focus shift, it became widely more acceptable and commonplace to include such a move such as HBK’s signature Sweet Chin Music.
Sources: complex.com, wwe.com, bleacherreport.com
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