Wrestling might be “fake,” but which finishing moves would actually deliver the real pain?
Me being so into wrestling? Believe it.*
Today, we’re talking specifics. Namely, which WWE finishing moves would actually hurt the most in real life?
I ask myself this question multiple times a show whenever I watch the product, so thought I’d go ahead and think it out. Because, while wrestling might be “fake,” I feel like some of these moves would come in real handy if I were dealing with a burglar or trying to beat up some drunk guy at a bar. So, which 10 finishers made the list? First, a few rules and notes.
Current Roster Only
This list is just for the current WWE roster. Otherwise we’d be here forever. Apologies to Shawn Michaels’ Sweet Chin Music, which probably would’ve won.* No apologies to Hulk Hogan’s leg drop, which would’ve finished in 1,000th place.
*Or Yokozuna’s banzai drop. Why Mark Henry hasn’t always just sat on people for a pin is kayfabe beyond me.
Submissions Count Too
We’re in the middle of a submissions dark age in the WWE when it comes to finishing moves, but I considered them anyway. If you’re in a real-life scenario, locking your assailant in a Boston Crab is a pretty good way to incapacitate him in pain until help arrives.
These Need to be “Moves”
Getting hit by Triple H’s sledgehammer, Big Show’s KO punch, Wade Barrett’s Bull Hammer elbow, or Roman Reigns’ Superman punch won’t count here. These aren’t moves, just blunt head trauma.
I’m dedicating this entire section to “body” moves — basically, things that don’t nail you in the head. Because, let’s be honest, the only way to hold a guy down for a 3-count is by making him that woozy, or temporarily knocking him out.
Taking a powerbomb from Diesel back in the day surely would’ve hurt. But I’d still be able to muster enough strength to at least move my shoulder a couple inches. Now, you could argue that any of these moves would be so painful that — even if you could kick out — you wouldn’t want to, simply to avoid getting beat up any more.
But in terms of just throwing up my shoulder in a last-gasp desperation effort to survive in a match, I feel confident I could handle the following:
John Cena’s AA, Brock Lesnar’s F5, Bray Wyatt’s Sister Abigail, Adrian Neville’s Red Arrow, any splash or elbow off the top rope, Kane’s chokeslam, Roman Reigns’ spear.*
*Anyone’s spear is an interesting case — nominally, it just knocks the wind out of you, but if Reigns could hit you hard enough to concuss you or break a rib, it could be a pin. Which is possible.
11. RKO – RANDY ORTON
Ok, I had to sneak this in, even if it’s a Top 10 list. Honestly, the RKO doesn’t strike me as hurting that much (compared to the Stone Cold Stunner, which could concuss you with the chin-on-shoulder contact), but there’s some legal stipulation somewhere that no writer can pen a WWE finishers piece without including one of these.
10. RUNNING KNEE – DANIEL BRYAN
Bryan’s go-to move, which is negated somewhat in wrestling because he wears kneepads. But in real life, taking a knee to the face/temple would coldcock you good. It’s this low only because of the degree of difficulty on the administrator’s part. You lose a lot of the strike’s force if you don’t nail the jump properly to hit the move.
9. SHARPSHOOTER – NATALYA
I used to put my little brothers in this one when we were younger and they didn’t like it. Natalya (and sometimes Tyson Kidd) doles out the backwrenching pain of this one today, but Bret Hart is of course the gold standard. The only drawback to the Sharpshooter (what a name btw) is that it’s easily reversible by anyone with sufficient leg strength or by rolling over position.
8. PEDIGREE – TRIPLE H
I’m still classifying Triple H as current talent, even if he wrestles twice a year. The Pedigree sends face to mat for some head-jarring trauma. But the hold is a little too awkward to allow Trips to get the full velocity needed for the major impact to match moves higher on the list.
7. CESARO SWING AND KICK – CESARO AND TYSON KIDD
Cesaro and Kidd have been a revelation since teaming up, and Tyson’s drop-kick finish to Cesaro’s already impressive Big Swing is the perfect exclamation point to a great move. First, the Swiss big fella gets you disoriented, woozy, dizzy, and vulnerable. Then, bam! That movement comes to a crashing halt, your brain hits the side of your skull, and you’re staring at the lights wondering what town you’re in. In the ring, they protect the wrestler from serious damage in subtle ways. But in real life, this could be a doozy.
6. BROGUE KICK – SHEAMUS
Any kick to the face/head has the potential to knock someone out. And while lots of guys use Shawn Michaels-adjace* superkicks today, this is the only real kick-to-the-mouth finisher we still see. It takes someone with real flexibility and power to pull this off, though, thanks to the legs having to get so high up. So basically, unless you’re Sheamus himself — the degree of difficulty here is pretty high.
*TM Peter Rosenberg
5. THE ACCOLADE – RUSEV
Your standard camel clutch. But, as applied by current 300-pounder Rusev, it’s extra sinister. Can you imagine a human that large legitimately sitting on your lower back while stretching you like a medieval torture rack as hard as he could with no escape in sight?
4. DIRTY DEEDS – DEAN AMBROSE
Let’s use this space to acknowledge the DDT in general. Steve Austin has gone off many times on his podcast about how the effect of the DDT — once one of the most fearsome moves in the game, as invented by Jake “The Snake” Roberts — has been diluted by overuse and lack of consequence in today’s action. He’s totally right. Ambrose’s Dirty Deeds should, like all DDTs, be a pretty effective knockout blow. You’re grabbing your opponent’s head, putting all your bodyweight behind it, and then viciously slamming the guy’s crown into the ground as hard as you can. Seems to be the whole point of hurting someone, doesn’t it?
3. RAM-PAIGE – PAIGE
Paige’s DDT is devastating. I might be biased since she’s my favorite diva wrestler, but man. Having the strength to first get the person up in a cradle position before administering the DDT is so clutch. Not only do you put their own full bodyweight against them now, but you get some blood rushing to the head first for optimal damage. So great. Worth noting: her PTO submission move probably deserves its own spot on this list too.
2. TOMBSTONE PILEDRIVER – THE UNDERTAKER
Nobody uses the original piledriver anymore as a finisher. But we already know that, in real life, it actually does work in causing severe damage. So it stands to reason that Undertaker’s modified version deserves all the fear and respect bestowed upon it. It’s just really tough, you know, picking someone your size up and twisting him entirely into position to drop him on his head. Its real-world applications for normal-sized guys like me are probably limited.
1. CURB STOMP – SETH ROLLINS
Sadly, it appears the top move on our list isn’t even being used anymore. Rumors circulated online that it’s because of WWE’s continued worry about concussions or, at least, the public perception of them. But, there’s been no official outlawing of Rollins’ terrorizing finisher, so we’ll hopefully still see it at PPVs or in big spots. Still, this baby was a thing of beauty. You have to get your opponent nice and primed for it, but then you could strike mercilessly. The momentum you get from running and jumping just furthers the viciousness with which you can drive your opponent’s head into the ground. If anything, they couldn’t sell this move’s damage enough. I mean, any maneuver inspired by a scene in American History X is probably about as badass as you can get.
Stay tuned for my next post: ranking the best hairstyles in WWE history. Just kidding…I think.