Just when you think your favorite WWE superstar has no chance of winning, he reverses a grapple and performs his most elegant and powerful slam, yielding a crowd led 3 count. The finisher is the most important move in a wrestler’s arsenal and they are a small part of their overall personality. Every WWE fan has their favorite finishers, but what makes one so much better than the other? Does the love of a finishing move stem from a love for the wrestler or vice-versa? By digging deeper into what makes a finisher effective, it will be much easier to assess the overall talent of our favorite wrestlers.
There is a lot of thought and technique that goes into a finishing move. The move has to match the attitude of the wrestler as well as coincide with their skill set. It is also important to mention that a finishing move does not occur without an opponent, making the recipient just as important as the aggressor. The ability to sell someone else’s finisher can make or break the move as a whole.
The least effective finishers are those that rely too much on the opponent. This criticism targets high flyers specifically. In order for a high flying move to be effective the opponent has to be in the right position at exactly the right time. For example, Rey Mysterio is best known for his 619 which entails an opponent to be lodged between the second and third rope and get up dizzy after the initial strike. The move by Rey is very impressive but it gives the audience too much time to imagine one of two scenarios… success or failure. The same can be said for Neville’s highly acrobatic finisher the Red Arrow. The opponent needs to be close enough to the ropes and on his back. Either Neville will deliver a crushing blow or the opponent will roll away. What I am getting at is the pace of the finisher should not give the audience time to think of the outcomes, forcing them to react candidly in the moment.
Finishers can also take the personality of the wrestler, as mentioned before. The Rock’s People’s Elbow is “modestly” referred to as the most electrifying move in sports entertainment. With that being said the move entails the opponent to be unresponsive for quite a bit of time as the showboating and theatrics are a major part of the move. This type of move is certainly a crowd favorite as the power of the move augments with the “Roar of the Crowd” (NXT reference). It also has the same flaw as the high flying finisher as it gives the crowd too much time to think.
The most effective finisher is one that can be done at any point in the match regardless of the state of the opponent and the circumstances. The ultimate examples of this include the Stone Cold Stunner and the RKO. The stunner is a classic favorite which involves a kick to the gut followed by a drop to the ground in the sitting position. It requires little to no setup and gives the opponent ample imagination to sell the shit out of it. With that being said the move is more about the sell than the actual move which is why I put the RKO on a higher pedestal.
The RKO is the ultimate finisher. WWE fans have seen it occur at the most inopportune times when it was least expected. It can be done from the front, behind, running, off a ladder, off the turnbuckle, on a rebound, you name it. This was made evident by the many GIF’s a few years ago showing Randy Orton finishing off the unsuspecting victims (I still laugh when I see Jameis Winston get taken down). The move itself is great but it is also always accompanied by the catchphrase “outa nowhere” which is the best way to describe the move.
The final aspect of an effective finisher is one the WWE warns us about before each performance, that we blatantly ignore. A quality finisher needs to be one that can be imitated by absolute amateurs, kids, and especially drunk college students. Nothing spices up a party better than a choke-slam through a table, I know from experience. The easier fans can imitate a move the more likely they will be able to relate to it. These moves make the wrestlers themselves look lazy but make us look like badasses.
To conclude, the art of the finisher covers many areas of interest. Whether you’re the fan of an efficient quick slam or the drawn out electrifying elbow drop there is something for every fan of every age. The finishers are the backbone of the company and hopefully they will continue to be for years to come.