Finishing moves can be a defining part of a fighter’s identity. As such, it may come as no surprise that there have been a number of stories revolving around a finisher, whether it be said move being banned, two wrestlers fighting over who executed the move better, a specific finisher making one wrestler believable against another, or other angles.
Sometimes this foundation for a story was very compelling, while at other times the angle felt forced or underwhelming. Here are some of the best and worst fight angles that centered around a finishing move.
10 The best: Seth Rollins vs. logan paul
Heading into WrestleMania 39, there wasn’t much WWE could do to sell that Logan Paul was as good or better at pro wrestling than Seth Rollins. However, his angle came to revolve around the fact that Paul had a wicked knockout punch, rooted in his boxing experience.
The knockout punch, and particularly Paul hitting Rollins several times in the build and knocking out his opponent, became the anchor of the match. Yes, Paul was capable of some high-flying points and power moves. However, the basis of the drama here was that for all the offense Rollins had in his deep arsenal, the YouTuber could still pull off a win if he could catch Rollins by surprise.
9 The worst: Randy Orton vs. shawn michaels
Going into Survivor Series 2007, Randy Orton was set to defend his WWE Championship against Shawn Michaels with the special rule that Shawn Michaels could not use Sweet Chin Music, or he would be immediately disqualified. Within the parameters of those rules, the finish was well executed as HBK nearly hit his finisher, stopped dead in his tracks, and in doing so left himself vulnerable to an RKO that cost him the match.
Given the talent involved, it’s no surprise that the match itself looks good. However, a grand world champion who was banned from a credible challenger’s finisher seemed pretty random and managed to protect Michaels when he came up short and Orton extended his reign.
8 The best: MJF vs. jon moxley
When MJF and Jon Moxley first feuded over the AEW Championship, Mox was an established main eventer and MJF was a rising star, but most fans still didn’t feel like he was on the champion’s level. Given this disparity in credibility, coupled with MJF’s conniving persona, it made perfect sense for that challenger to work diligently to ban the use of his opponent’s signature Paradigm Shift finisher in his match.
The resulting match told the story of Mox greatly outperforming his young challenger. In the end, the clever champion took advantage of the referee being distracted by his Paradigm Shift after all to take the win. It was a nuanced finish that may have felt out of place for a different babyface, but Mox’s edgy presentation combined with how well MJF played heel had fans gulping it up.
7 Worst: Ronnie Garvin vs. greg valentine
Rugged Ronnie Garvin spent much of his WWE tenure feuding with Greg Valentine. As a pair of tough, hard-hitting veterans, the matchup had its draws, but the family-friendly Golden Era made their feud less bloody and brutal, and more comical with Garvin’s focus on countering Valentine’s four-legged blockade.
Garvin began wearing a shin guard billed as The Hammer Jammer which made him immune to the pain a figure four would normally cause. Additionally, the Rugged one used an inverted figure four as his own finisher at the time, a barrage that would become better known as The Sharpshooter in subsequent years.
6 Best: Stone Cold Steve Austin vs. mr mcmahon
The rivalry between Stone Cold Steve Austin and Vince McMahon is remembered for many things, from beer trucks, to zambonis, to urinals. However, the crux of their feud was the Stone Cold Stunner.
Austin surprised McMahon at Madison Square Garden to start physical hostilities between them, and he kept surprising the boss for years as the most enduring symbol that he had succeeded. That narrative carried directly through nostalgic callbacks until WrestleMania 38.
5 The worst: diesel vs. sid
On paper, the idea of building the feud between the giants Diesel and Sid around each man using the powerbomb finisher made quite a bit of sense. In his case though, the focus on this move only underscored each man’s limited move sets beyond a spectacular finisher.
Sid’s powerbomb was used to explain an elbow injury Diesel sustained and the prospect of one of these big men powerbombing the other for victory offered a degree of intrigue, but in the end, they just didn’t have a good fight to put together.
4 Best: Cactus Jack vs. great van vader
When it came to the feud between Cactus Jack and Big Van Vader in WCW, everything focused on the super heavyweight champion’s powerhouse. After a close match on WCW Saturday Night, Vader made the move out of the ring onto the concrete floor, knocking out his opponent.
This violent use of the finisher created a campy amnesia angle, as well as a bloody feud, culminating in an epic Texas Death Match at Halloween Havoc 1993, one of the best matches of Vader’s career. The main complaint fans had about the match was Harley Race’s anticlimactic ending using a taser on Cactus to keep him down; It probably should have been Vader returning the power bomb to the ground to close the loop.
3 Worst: edge vs. Chris Jericho
There were many elements of Edge vs. Chris Jericho in a WrestleMania match that made perfect sense on paper. Here were two huge stars and excellent workers in the ring who had yet to have a world title fight. They were also former teammates, cut short when Edge was injured. Then The Rated R Superstar made a surprise return to win the Royal Rumble and put them on a collision course.
This storyline fell apart when WWE zeroed in on Edge’s spear, with Jericho fearing the move and Edge repeating the word “spear” over and over again in promos. The repetition wasn’t infectious, fun, or chant-worthy the way WWE intended it to be. Instead, it just felt irritating to most fans. The result was such a fight not delivered well, culminating in a match that Jericho won in anticlimactic fashion to retain the title from him.
2 Best: Jade Cargill vs. taya valkyrie
When Taya Valkyrie signed with AEW, she quickly set her sights on Jade Cargill. The matchup made sense for the two popular and talented powerhouses to go up against each other, particularly given their propensity to use essentially the same finisher: Jaded and The Road to Valhalla.
In order for Valkyrie to have a shot at Cargill’s TBS Championship, she had to accept that she would be disqualified if she used her shared finisher, a choice that set Cargill up to win their first meeting and warrant a PPV rematch between the two in the future. While this storyline had some of the gimmicks of other mediocre shows where a finalist was arbitrarily banned, it made sense that Cargill could call this shot the champ, and it also served a narrative purpose, by setting them up for a bigger matchup down the road.
1 The worst: The Undertaker vs. Edge
The Undertaker vs. Edge was one of the best fights of the late 2000s, as The Ultimate Opportunist used his creativity, cunning, and lack of scruples to take on The Dead Man at the top of the card on SmackDown. However, in a less successful subplot to this storyline, Edge and SmackDown General Manager Vickie Guerrero conspired to ban The Undertaker’s Hell’s Gate finisher.
There was some logic to the heel scenario trying to remove the hold he had recently succumbed to, not to mention that the still relatively new finisher had ended up as a legitimately dangerous way to end a match at the time. Banning The Phenom from using this finisher, however, still left The Last Ride, the choke slam, and one of the most effective finishers in wrestling history, The Tombstone, readily available to him. Getting rid of Hell’s Gate barely gave Edge an overwhelming advantage.