The 411 Wrestling Top 5 2.13.13: Week 207 – Top 5 High Flying Finishers
Hello everyone and welcome to 411 Wrestling’s Top 5 List. “Your Kennection to All Things Wrestling” Ken Hill here, taking the reins for this column from our venerable “Wrestling-Nut-In-Chief” Larry Csonka, and I’m certainly looking forward to a fun, bumpy ride!
What we are going to is take a topic each week and all the writers here on 411 wrestling will have the ability to give us their Top 5 on said topic, plus up to three honorable mentions.
So, on to this week’s topic…
5. Superfly Splash – While the move was common in Mexico by that time, thanks Mil Mascaras, Superfly Jimmy Snuka made a name for himself by climbing to the top turnbuckle, and delivering one of the most celebrated finishers in wrestling history. Perhaps the DDT of the high flying finishers, others used it, eventually watering it down, yet when Snuka used it you knew it was special.
4. Dragon Cyclone Press/Lightning Strike – From the simple yet classic, we go to the overly exaggerated, yet amazing. Takuya Sugi is one of the most innovative high flyers in Japan, the man just makes it look easy. He’s also known for the overabundance of names he wrestles under. While using the moniker of Little Dragon, he utilizes an Imploding 450 Splash, better known as the Dragon Cyclone Press. Now, a 450 Splash is complicated enough as it is, Sugi spices it up by jumping back instead of forward. Finishing his opponents of in style and leaving fans amazed.
3. Tumbleweed – 2 Cold Scorpio was ahead of his time! While Jimmy Snuka and Brian Pillman receive boatloads of credit regarding the high flying style in the U.S., 2 Cold Scorpio was utilizing aerial moves ahead of his time. Again, this is a guy that was utilizing the 450 in 1992. While 2 Cold Scorpio’s arsenal consisted of a few high flying moves and finishers, my personal favorite was “The Tumbleweed”. How can you not like a moonsault legdrop? Better yet, one as crisp and fluid as the one delivered by one of the most underrated wrestlers ever.
2. El Tornillo – Man, Hector Garza could have been a huge deal in TNA! Unfortunately legal issues sent him back to Mexico, with him, his finisher, El Tornillo. A Corkscrew Moonsault, a twist on an old favorite, pun intended. What stood out most is that Hector Garza is no Rey Mysterio Jr. He is a big guy, yet he delivered the Tornillo with apparent ease. Garza stood out in TNA, and it was apparent he was headed to good things, and El Tornillo fit him perfectly. Unfortunately, he is currently battling lung cancer, here is hoping he beats it and we see el Tornillo once more.
1. Mach Man Elbow – Regardless of how complex you get, how devastating it looks, how high in the air you get, nothing will top the Macho Man Elbow Drop. Many have some sort of elbow drop in their arsenal, Shawn Michaels, C.M. Punk, and Bret Hart spring to mind. None as effective, or visually stunning as the Macho Man version. Randy Savage is a wrestling god, if there is such a thing. For some reason there was something about that elbow drop that just stood out. One can argue, angles, flight pattern, and delivery all day, or we can just accept that for some reason, nature perhaps, Randy Savage could make something as devastating as an elbow drop from the top rope, so visually pleasing.
5. Diving Elbow – Made truly famous thanks to the Macho Man, this one gets used time and time again thanks to the relative simplicity of its execution and how devastating said execution actually looks. It’s a testament to the move that it still exists today in the arsenal of the top workers in the profession like CM Punk, and has become something of a default weapon to use for the aspiring young wrestler who is attempting to earn his top rope stripes in wrestling school for the first time.
4. 450 Splash – Nothing screams “Wow factor” like seeing this move in full flow, with good height and perfect rotation. High up on the danger scale, which is why we don’t see it very often in the mainstream promotions now (Justin Gabriel being one of the few to buck this trend) but one of the most aesthetically beautiful you could ever hope to lay eyes on. Totally stunning when delivered perfectly.
3. Shooting Star Press – Incredibly dangerous (as Brock Lesnar found out to his cost!), but visually marvelous, this move still gets a huge reaction from the crowd every time they see it. And why wouldn’t it? Jushin “Thunder” Liger is credited as the man responsible for inventing the move and we’ve seen it utilized by the likes of Billy Kidman, AJ Styles and Evan Bourne among others since. If a worker pulls off the move without a hitch, the crowd knows they’re seeing some incredible gymnastics and athletics, thus only reaping positive rewards for the person administering it.
2. Superfly Splash – One of the earliest examples of the top rope move, and Jimmy Snuka’s dive from the cage onto Don Muraco is STILL one of the most celebrated and amazing spots in the history of the profession. Today, workers often get criticized for the timing of their aerial moves and its relevance in terms of the story arch of a match. For the purist, it almost seems far too contrived and sometimes it isn’t even the finish, which baffles and infuriates them even more. But this move, and especially that celebrated moment, were brilliantly crafted and made a lasting impression. To the general public who aren’t in tune with wrestling, this is one of the first moves they’ll actually recognize or associate with it, calling it either a top rope body slam or a splash or something similar. This was also the finisher used for the “Ram Jam” in The Wrestler, further proving the point somewhat.
1. Moonsault Still as visually appealing today as it was when it was first introduced to the United States by “Leaping” Lanny Poffo. The Great Muta further popularized the move when he came over from Japan, but my reason for including it as #1 is because of how the move has formed the basis of several variations since its inception. The actual starting points for the execution of these movements aren’t confined to the top turnbuckle in the corner either, and the landings aren’t necessarily reserved for the canvas itself. Rounding off just a few, you have a range of springboard and corkscrew styles, split-legged, double and triple jumps and the lionsault versions. Some of the greatest workers of our generation have continued to use the move or reinvent it to some degree, from talents such as Shawn Michaels, Kurt Angle and Chris Jericho to past legends like Mil Mascaras and the previously mentioned Great Muta. For sheer innovation and experimentation alone, the move has left a lasting legacy and forms the very basis on which the modern “High-Flying” style of wrestling was built upon.
5. Elbow Drop – Nowadays, this move is often used as a set-up (HBK) for a finishing move or a false-finish (CM Punk, Wade Barrett) but the elbow drop in its heyday, if pulled off right, could be a visual cornucopia of wonder. Watch a human being take flight and drill their opponent with the point of the elbow like it’s a missile dropping straight from the heavens…apropos given no one could pull it off better than the Macho Man himself.
4. Diving Headbutt – I would’ve ranked this higher, but given its infamy behind Benoit’s numerous concussions and supposedly being part of what led him to his darkest moment, you can understand why I’d be hesitant to move it up the list. Outside of Daniel Bryan, you don’t see the big promotions’ wrestlers using it for that same reasoning. The Diving Headbutt exemplified the physical risk and sacrifice one would be willing to take to beat their enemies, often leaving it up to fate as to whether they would connect or not. Regardless of the move’s sordid history, there’s no doubting the visual appeal of a Dynamite Kid or Chris Benoit boosting themselves halfway across the ring to drill an opponent. Sadly, Harley Race, the inventor of the Flying Headbutt, and his public decrying of the move following the aforementioned tragedy has all but assured it won’t see widespread use for some time.
3. Frog Splash – The legacy behind this aerial amazement is paramount; with Art Barr originating the move and being used by his old partner, the venerable Eddie Guerrero, in tribute to Barr’s death. In turn, Eddie’s passing would lead it to be used by Chavo, Christian, and others, even by his wife Vickie at a Wrestlemania, in tribute to “Latino Heat.” Amazing hubbub for a finisher that’s no more effective than a straight-up Superfly Splash. Not to take anything away from the Guerreros, mind you, or Rob Van Dam for that matter.
His Five-Star variation was actually unique in the sense that his flexibility and physical prowess allowed him to alter his body in mid-air, so he could connect no matter how an opponent would be positioned on the mat. The notion of seeing such a feat is what I believe brought a crowd to its feet every time RVD would ascend the turnbuckle in a single bound.
2. Shooting Star Press – This WOULD have been my #1 pick, but even a decade after the fact, Brock Lesnar’s botch and near-broken neck following his ill-fated attempt at the SSP reminds me that not everyone is meant to take to the air, let alone attempt one of the most visually stunning aerial moves in wrestling. I talked about physical sacrifice with the diving headbutt; this ramps it up a notch by literally putting your neck on the line. That’s what makes it all the more stunning when you see high-flying greats like Billy Kidman, Evan Bourne, or AJ Styles pull this off like it’s as simple as a breath of air. Then you do it with a springboard off the ropes or a ladder, and it’s a GUARANTEED crowd-popper.
1. 450 Splash – It’s a move where you leave all sense of equilibrium and gravity and just let your body and momentum dictate your landing. Scott Steiner (No joke!) was one of the first to use it in the late 1980s, and since then, high-flyers such as Paul London, Justin Gabriel, and even veteran aces like AJ Styles continue to pop crowds by peeling off one from the top rope or even using the rope as a springboard for added impact and visual appeal. It’s the ultimate risk and judgment call; it comes down to how confident you are in rotating your entire body just enough to hit your opponent flush without blowing out your knees or seriously crimping your neck.
List your Top Five for this week’s topic in the comment section using the following format:
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1. CHOICE: Explanation