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WWE: Are Finishing Moves Losing Their Impact? by Mike Sanchez

As a young teen, I watched in awe at the spectacle before me. My Sega Mega Drive whirred and hummed as my eyes were glued to the flickering screen of the portable TV in my bedroom. An uppercut, a sliding kick then after a brief, but fruitless retaliation, I’d worn my opponent down and stood before him as he rocked back and forth in a daze. “Finish Him”, the game commanded. My dexterous digits pressed a combination of buttons and Sub Zero encased my opponent in ice before smashing him into a thousand shards. “Sub Zero Wins”, my console boomed. I grinned like the proverbial Cheshire cat, lost in my own Mortal Kombat Wonderland.

One of the main selling points, to young kids like me back in the day with this classic computer game, was once the fight was done, when your opponent could take no more, you would use the patented, tailor-made move to kill the fight. Those who have read this far will see the obvious angle I’m going for here; the infamous finishing moves of WWE wrestlers.

I’ve always been a fan of two types of finisher; the submission and the quick, impact move that ‘KO’s’ an opponent. Think the RKO, the Stunner or the Codebreaker. Quick flashes that change the game and sometimes haul victory from the jaws of defeat. The devastating blow you’d see in a big boxing match. The submission moves give a sense of drama, drawing out reactions from the crowd, wringing every last drop from the paying masses who urge the victim to tap or scream for them to escape. My personal favourites being Kurt Angle’s ankle (Angle) lock, the Lion Tamer and more recently the Bank Statement into a submission hold.

Fishing moves, to me at least, should mean just that; they finish the match. With the exception of big (and I do mean BIG) PPVs, where escaping or kicking out of a finisher only brings more tension and excitement to any main event (think Undertaker v Michaels at Wrestlemania – a deserving special stage for finishers to be kicked out of). An overuse of this tactic – kicking out of the move – can add some excitement and shock to what would otherwise be just another match, but the continuous use outside of big matches only damages both the product and the move itself.

Case in point, I can probably count on one hand how many opponents have kicked out of the Undertaker’s Tombstone Piledriver. It was a devastating move that instantly ended the contest. It got over both the move and the performer. His power and dominance would be unquestionable when utilised. Similar to the Stunner, though that was sometimes used as an assault tactic to clear the ring, it too also sold us the performer and move as credible and tough.

seth rollins curb stomp

I feel today’s current product is lacking in this department. Taking Seth Rollins as an example, he had his finisher (the Curb Stomp) taken from him and was saddled with the Pedigree, a good finisher, but not the same in his hands. It’s not his, so doesn’t relate to Seth. When performed, we imagine Triple H, not Seth Rollins. The overall look of many current finishers also doesn’t appeal to me. They don’t look like they’d instantly end a match in the blink of an eye. I mean we see guys being superplexed from the top rope, land with a heavy crash and kick out when pinned. The next moment they receive the AA from John Cena and stay down for the count of three. It doesn’t make sense.

I don’t blame anyone specifically for this, but some thought must be put in behind the scenes as to what goes into a finisher and how that move relates to the character. Generic tried and tested moves may work well, but overuse – especially when others do the same thing – leave them stale and us bored. Although the exception to the rule, in my eyes, is the Diamond Cutter/RKO. Orton added subtle changes such as more speed and the ‘out of nowhere’ element that took the move to a different level.

A tremendous gimmick, excellent promos and innovative style add up to creating a great star, but the cherry on that cake is the finishing move. It cements the persona of the performer and is like their signature – unique and attributable to them, hence the expression ‘signature move’. John Cena has the look, voice and talent that many aspire to, but the lack of a powerful finisher hurt him. The AA isn’t a game changer. The addition of the STF brought more to his persona. It showcased his strength and aggression, giving the move and himself more of an impact.

Finishing moves don’t have to be dangerous. Nobody wants to see a risk of injury just for one move that would likely be used week after week. I would just like to see more thought put into them, especially when the work on character has been so in depth. There are many moves out there to pick from – ask Chris Jericho, he knows just over a thousand. I’d just like to see more unique moves that create that illusion of a knockout blow or a hold locked in tighter than an anaconda on its prey. Real game changers that lurk in the undercurrent of every match, just waiting for their opportunity to strike and end it all in one breath-taking moment. Their impact is not only felt on the mat, but in the thousands of fans watching live and the millions at home.

What do you think? Are finishing moves that important to the wrestlers? Are they kicked out of too much? Do you prefer submission holds or the impact finishers? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for reading.