Mount Rushmores of Wrestling is a series that breaks down the cream of the crop of professional wrestling in our quest to come to a consensus on the top 4 of any given category. In today’s edition we’re looking at the best finishing moves of all time.
Vishal: Wrestling, at its core, is about the story. Each match tells a story from beginning to end, and finishers are the equivalent of the big bombastic climax. And in 2021, nearly 9 years after the Rainmaker Shock, it’s hard to argue that any finisher has been used as well as that bombastic explosion as Kazuchika Okada’s Rainmaker.
Sure, it’s essentially just a lariat. But everything about the Rainmaker, from the setup to how it’s sold, makes it feel incredible. Every time Okada hits it, you think it could end the match. There’s often more drama in Okada’s attempts to hit this finisher than the rest of a match – the setup of starting from behind and rotating into a ripcord move leaves a ton of room for his opponents to counter the move before it lands, because when it lands the match is almost always over.
The Rainmaker is such a strong storytelling device and such a great finisher that Okada not using it for a year was one of the most interesting and compelling choices for his character. Its return felt both like a triumph and a defeat, as if Okada was ultimately unable to prove that he was more than just his finisher. One can only wonder where it’ll go from here.
Shane: In my humble opinion, the best finishing moves are those that can seemingly be hit out of nowhere, and Randy Orton’s RKO is the definition of “out of nowhere.”
The RKO has arguably become one of the most popular finishing moves in all of wrestling due to the unpredictability of it, however, the move goes much deeper than that. Randy Orton has been known as The Viper for the majority of his career and this can be attributed to his serpent-like attributes in both his physical movements as well as the sadistic tendencies as a psychological character.
Much like a lightning-fast snake bite, Randy Orton can strike with the RKO in a similar fashion. This has led to some incredible moments in Randy’s career including the infamous WrestleMania moment with Seth Rollins, RKOing WWE Hall of Famer Beth Phoenix, and my personal favorite RKO deliver to Evan Bourne on a random episode of Raw.
The RKO is one of those rare wrestling moves that has transcended the wrestling scene and has since entered into pop culture. With no signs of slowing down, Randy Orton and the RKO will continue to strike down many a wrestler with little to no remorse.
Vishal: When I was a kid, before I started watching wrestling, I knew who the Undertaker was. And it wasn’t because of any of his accolades in the WWE, it wasn’t because of his Hell in a Cell matches, or anything else. It was because of his finisher. The Tombstone Piledriver, even to a child, was the most brutal and impressive move in the world.
There’s a reason piledrivers are banned in the WWE now (with a few exceptions). It’s because a botch will make the move just as dangerous as it looks. And the Tombstone is one of the worst – the victim is held upside down so that their blood rushes into their head, before being driven straight down onto the ground. All of their weight lands directly on their head. I cannot emphasize enough how cool this was as a child – it made the Undertaker look unstoppable. After all, how could anyone kick out of that?
What made the move even better was the pinning combination afterwards – Undertaker would just rest your hands on your chest as if you were in a coffin and wait for the three count. It was a sign of ultimate confidence, of knowing that nobody would be able to kick out. And once again, this worked wonders to make anyone who used it look unbeatable.
While others have used the Tombstone to varying degrees of success, and the move has generally lost its status as the unbeatable destroyer, it still looks fantastic. Show that move to anyone, and they will be convinced that whoever took it was down for the count. I don’t know that there’s any finisher that evokes that sense of finality quite like this.
Sweet Chin Music
Shane: Modern day wrestling fans will probably see a superkick on this list and think “what, really?”. But before the days where everyone and their sister used the superkick, there was one man who popularized the move, and that man was the Heartbreak Kid, Shawn Michaels.
As mentioned earlier, some of the best finishing moves are those that can be hit out nowhere and Sweet Chin Music is one of those moves. Whether it was HBK tuning up the band for a grand finale at the end of a match, or a last ditch effort to fall into a pin cover, Shawn Michaels has ended many classic matches with this move. From the time Shawn Michaels fulfilled his boyhood dream against Bret Hart, to ending Ric Flair’s legendary in-ring WWE career, the Sweet Chin Music has been etched into wrestling history books.
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