As important as storytelling and charisma are to professional wrestling, at the end of the day this particular brand of entertainment is a fight sport simulation, and it’s completely natural for certain types of offensive manoeuvre to occupy a special place in our hearts.
There are many reasons any given move can become a favourite. There are also timeframes in the history of the industry that moves were popular and timeframes they were not so much.
So with that in mind, this week’s Roundtable decided to simply flat-out ask the Hooked On team: what is the best wrestling move?
We were very careful not to stipulate anything. Not the best move today, not the best move of all-time, not the most popular, not the most devastating.
This question was absolutely-open ended and ripe for all kinds of interpretation – just the way we love it here at the Roundtable!
So, with that short and sweet question posed, here’s how our team decided to tackle it. Why don’t you give it some thought and have a go yourself? Share this link on social media and add your own answer when you do.
Liam Happe: A wrestling match is a wonderful melting pot of creative offense, counters and exchanges. However in the realm of real fight sport, there are simple attacks that stand the test of the time purely because if they land flush, that’s all she wrote. And there’s a reason why those graps promotions that cherish a degree of realism still use the lariat as a finisher to this day.
Much like an uppercut in boxing or the flying knee to the head in MMA, the lariat (and let’s be clear: a lariat involves throwing your arm full-force at someone; stretching out your arm to catch them coming in is a clothesline) is one of the most simple, aesthetically-viable and vicious ways for a professional wrestler to defeat the opponent, and always will be.
In Japan, a fair amount of matches end when a wrestler adds a lariat after their enemy somehow kicks out of their actual finishing move. Many wrestlers are (kayfabe) assessed on the effectiveness of their lariat, in the same way Football Manager gives players stats on their set piece capabilities. It’s fundamental and end-game at the same time. The lariat IS wrestling.
Matt Arnold: Jake The Snake’s DDT. That’s it. That’s my entire answer.
Dane Nielsen: The LeBell Lock is like actual poetry. It’s such a visually nice move to watch and the systematic weight of how it cripples people is also really special.
Paul Benson: It’s not an imaginative answer but it’s the right one. No move has ever conveyed the personality of its agent than the Stone Cold Stunner. Simply, no nonsense and could be used to take down guys much bigger than Austin. It was the great leveller.
I loved how it could be executed in subtly different ways with the kick in the gut and the snap itself being short, sharp and quick if the element of surprise was needed. If Austin was feeling sadistic and toying with his foe, a long, languid kick to the stomach followed by a Stunner almost in slow motion… you could almost feel the thing have a Texan drawl.
Paul Stone: The RKO has stood the test of time over 17 years. There was a time around 2008/2009 where it was the most over thing on any WWE show. There are more RKO memes than for any other wrestling move I can think of, it can be used on any opponent in any scenario and can come from out of nowhere.
Justin Czerwonka: I love Okada’s Rainmaker. Especially when he maintains wrist control after the first one. You know the opponent is screwed if he does that. Plus, if you listen to the Japanese commentary, despite not knowing what they are saying, they build it up as Okada gets up. Its the perfect build-up after the first one.
Steve Cox: I’m taking Jake The Snake’s move. No, not the DDT. His short-arm clothesline. He properly jammed his shoulder into his victim so it was part hold (the arm twist) and part bulldozer. It was a thing of beauty and you knew what was coming after…
Mike Paul: The Canadian Destroyer is the only move that made me freak out when I first saw a gif of it on the internet about 15 years ago, and now, whenever I see one of the Lucha Bros pull one out, I still find myself shaking my head in disbelief. Just such a beautiful sight.
Andrew Charles: The Pedigree. I was always sold on that move as a devastating finisher when executed correctly: arms hooked behind your back with no where else to go but down. Definitely not a move to try at home kids… just saying!
Rob McNichol: The only requirement of a wrestling move is to evoke the desired reaction and emotion. The single one that does that best, for me, is the RKO. It still means something when it is hit, because it has been protected so well. It has even crossed into culture: non-wrestling fans know what an RKO “out of nowhere” is.
Josh Chapman: Don’t know why, but there’s just something poetic and beautiful to me about watching Adam Cole deliver a Panama Sunrise.
Pradeep Kachhala: RKO. It’s just become so iconic over time and it doesn’t need an intricate set-up to get there (unlike, say, the Styles Clash). He can hit it any time from anywhere, just like the Diamond Cutter that came before it.
Cameron Bennett: It’s the Black Mass. It can be hit on anyone at any time, it looks great, flashy yet simple. It sounds like a gunshot and could believably put any man to sleep. It’s the perfect finisher for the perfect guy.
The most interesting takeaway from this particular sample of answers is how many used “can be used on anyone, anywhere, any time” as part of their rationale. This stood out as the second most key thing a fan looks for when rating a wrestling move as top shelf.
The biggest thing, of course, is its status as a finisher. Only one of our team singled out something that is traditionally a set-up move, and nobody thought of transitional or weardown holds, despite the question being completely open for interpretation.
The RKO stood out with three picks, though Paul’s nomination of the Stone Cold Stunner earned plenty of doffed caps from his colleagues, making it feel like it would have overtaken Randy Orton’s coup de grace had this been a Player Of The Year-esque 1-2-3 vote.
Also, it seems apparent that emotional investment means more to many than sheer visuals – not a mention of a shooting star press or similar to be found!