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Finishing moves are not all equally awesome, but all awesome wrestlers must have a finishing move. Without a finishing move, a wrestler is just the jobber in the blue trunks that gets smacked around by the Honky Tonk Man while Honky waits around for the Ultimate Warrior to take the Intercontinental Belt from him in an embarrassingly short match (32 seconds). The best finishing moves embody a defining characteristic of the wrestler who invented them, and are thereby indelibly linked to them: The DDT’s stunning speed mirrored Jake the Snake’s viper like quickness and cunning; the Perfect-Plex showcased Mr. Perfect’s technical prowess; and Junkyard Dog’s DogButt—where he would crawl on all fours, repeatedly headbutt his opponent, and then pantomime urinating on them—vividly illustrated his belief that he was a dog(1).
This chart isn’t a comprehensive list of every WWF finishing move. I limited its scope to important or influential wrestlers who were active between Wrestlemania I and XIII, a golden age of wrestling bookended by the wrestling boom of the 1980’s and the Attitude Era of the late 90’s. The Attitude Era officially began at the 1996 King of the Ring, when America embraced redneck heel “Stone Cold” Steve Austin’s victory over Jake “the Snake” Roberts, a willful act of stupidity with strong parallels to the 2000 presidential election(2).
You may notice that Crush’s Heart Punch is missing from the chart, as is the British Bulldog’s Running Power Slam, Dusty Rhode’s bionic elbow, and Doink’s the Clown’s Whoopie Cushion. If you did notice any of these omissions, congratulations! You’re a bigger wrestling nerd than I am. Also, the Heart Punch is a lame finishing move, Doink is literally a clown, the Running Power Slam is just a standard power slam with a running start, and while I liked Dusty Rhodes, he had big yellow polka dots on his singlet, and a doughy physique like one of those Hollywood character actors that always plays a hot dog vendor. So, although I tried to make this chart as comprehensive as space allows, it’s also skewed towards my personal preferences. (See Figure 2: Why Isn’t my Favorite Wrestler on This Chart?).
You might have noticed that this essay is more serious than the other essays in this book(3). That’s because there is nothing funny about professional wrestling—unless you think muscle-men playing dress up, smacking each other, and rolling around on the ground together is funny.
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(1) Incidentally, my favorite WWF entrance music is Junkyard Dog’s song, Grab Them Cakes.
(2) This is one of two instances in the book where I compare Al Gore to Jake “the Snake” Roberts. See if you can find the other one!
(3) You might have also noticed that none of the essays have a clear thesis statement, that the charts are riddled with curse words, and that this is the worst silver-anniversary present you could have possibly received.