wrestling / Columns

The Contentious Ten 12.03.12: The Top 10 Punches

December 3, 2012 | Posted by Gavin Napier

After all of the positive comments on last week’s list of My 10 Favorite Ric Flair Matches, I decided I’d follow it up with another mostly opinion based column. Instead of matches from one wrestler, or from one pay per view, though, it’s the best punches in wrestling history. Not punchers, as in people, but the best actual punches used through the years. Try to follow along. Here’s the criteria forThe 10 Best Punches In Wrestling

-Preference is given to finishers
-“Trademark” punches are also included
-Personal preference always plays a role

To say that preference is given to finisher means this: Jerry Lawler’s fistdrop carries more weight than say Road Warrior Hawk’s leaping fistdrop because it actually finished matches for him. “Trademark” punches such as Michael Hayes’ left jab, Bobby Eaton’s uppercuts, and Ted DiBiase’s over the shoulder fistdrop were also considered as well. I suppose in keeping finishers at the top of the list, I’m somewhat buying into kayfabe rather than rewarding form and all that stuff, but it is what it is. Gotta come up with some way to organize these beyond “I like them” or “Other people think they’re cool.”

Items that just missed the cut: Bobby Eaton’s uppercuts, Big Bossman’s slide under the bottom rope into a punch, Randy Savage’s jab combo, Michael Hayes’ left jab, Road Warrior Hawk’s leaping fistdrop

The Rock’s Spit Punchsize=6>

The king of exaggerated strikes.
-Finale to a series of punches regularly used by The Rock

With apologies to Dusty Rhodes, Road Dogg, and whoever else you can think of, The Rock is the king of exaggerated strikes in the world of professional wrestling sports entertainment. Whether it’s a ridiculous elbow drop, shaking the crap off his shoes before every kick, or this punch, The Rock put a little extra theatrical something in virtually every strike that he performed. This is by far my favorite of the bunch, as The Rock reaches way back and spits into his hand just to give it a little something extra. Why does that make the punch more effective? No idea. There’s no real explanation for it. It’s fun, though.

Ted DiBiase’s over the shoulder fist dropsize=6>

I tried so hard to get this right.
-Trademark setup move for DiBiase

The Million Dollar Man is a study in contrasts. He was large enough that he could have gotten by as a pure brawler, along the lines of “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan, but was so smooth technically that it would have been criminal for him to do so. More than anyone else in the sport that never got the brass ring, Ted DiBiase should have been a world champion. He nearly was on two occasions, but those are stories for other lists. This fist drop is arguably my favorite in wrestling history. When I was kid and executing all out wrestling assaults against My Buddy or various inanimate objects, I tried so hard to get this right. I never really did. Sure was fun to try, though.

Eddie Kingston’s Backfist To The Futuresize=6>

Fun no matter who’s executing it.
-MMA technique
-Hips turn first, upper body whips around to complete the strike
-Also used by Awesome Kong

Eddie Kingston uses this move better than anyone that isn’t Jon Jones. It just looks like it hurts like hell when he lands it. Not to mention that as seen above, it can end a match pretty definitively. Awesome Kong’s version of the move is also something to see, especially when it’s generally landing on Barbie doll types that are about half her size. Kingston’s gets the nod here though, because of the awesome name. There have been several other people to use the spinning backfist, particularly in Japan. It’s fun no matter who’s executing it, but Kingston is the cream of the crop to me.

Johnny B. Badd’s Kiss That Don’t Misssize=6>

Legitimacy helps.
-Left hook playing on Mero’s amateur boxing background
-Established as a finisher in WCW
-Used as finisher while WCW Television Champion

To me, Marc Mero is one of the more underrated guys in wrestling’s long history. For whatever reason, I always liked him. I thought the Little Richard bit was perfect for a heel, and he managed to connect with kids as a babyface. His matches were always high energy, and until he injured his knee he could keep up with any cruiserweight on the planet. Mero was a successful amateur boxer, and when you’re trying to establish a punch or a kick as a finisher, legitimacy helps. He would wind up and deliver a left hook to the jaw of some hapless jobber (usually) and they’d sell like they just got hit with a round of buckshot. The move wasn’t used as much as a finisher in WWE, dropped in favor of the much flashier Marvelosity.

Ronnie Garvin’s Hands of Stonesize=6>

Punches as finishers work so much better for heels.
-Straight overhand punch
-Became the basis for Garvin’s entire character
-Used as a finisher while NWA World Champion (sort of)

Let’s be clear about something: Ronnie Garvin’s time as NWA World Champion is arguably worse than anyone except David Arquette. He got the belt, didn’t defend it, then lost it back to Ric Flair. If there’s a reason for him winning the title, I don’t know what it is. However, as the years went on, Garvin’s punch was established as a lethal finisher. It left everybody laying, including Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes. As evidenced by the video above, punches as finishers work so much better for heels. After all, they’re technically illegal. It also lends an air of danger to what heels are doing, and makes them significantly more menacing. It’s been a long time since a punch from anyone that isn’t Big Show has been established as this devastating. If Garvin had managed a sustained run above the midcard at some point, he’d rank much higher here.

Kerry Von Erich’s Discus Punchsize=6>

I hate overselling.
-Von Erich spun into the punch, as if throwing a discus
-Trademark move during his time in World Class
-Upgraded to finisher status in WWE
-Used to capture the Intercontinental Title

I was a full blown Kerry Von Erich mark when I was a kid. I loved the discus punch most of all. It wasn’t until after his death that I connected the dots. You see, Kerry was a world class discus thrower. It’s like a frisbee, only a lot heavier. And nobody catches it. So it’s not really like a frisbee at all. At any rate, it makes sense that if a guy can throw a discus for about a mile and a half, then the force generated by that movement would make for a devastating punch. Kerry would wind up, spin around, and deliver a solid punch to the jaw of his opponent, which usually resulted in a win once he got to the World Wrestling Federation. If he happened to be wrestling Mr. Perfect, then it resulted in ridiculous overselling. I hate overselling.

William Regal’s Power of the Punchsize=6>

See? Heels!
-A punch
-With Brass Knuckles

The Power of the Punch may be the most ingenious finisher that a heel has ever used in professional wrestling. It was absolutely infuriating to fans that wanted to see the dirty, cheating William Regal get what was coming to him, but he just kept knocking people out. See? Heels! It works! Regal was always at his best a vicious, conniving heel, and this epitomizes the best work he did in WWE. He found ways to hide the brass knuckles and keep using them despite everyone knowing that it was coming. It became fun watching his matches just to see where the knucks would come from. Had Wellness not reared its ugly head, Regal likely would have won a WWE Championship. Even without that accomplishment on his resume, Regal remains one of the all time greats. So does his sometime finisher.

Jerry Lawler’s Flying Fistdropsize=6>

The best backup finisher ever.
-Fistdrop from the second rope
-Used throughout Memphis career
-Also used while AWA/”Unified” World Champion
-Still a trademark move for “The King”

Without question, the flying fistdrop is the best backup finisher ever. See, Jerry Lawler has a piledriver like few others. He’s used it to win many matches, as well as injure Andy Kaufman. For a long time, though, the piledriver was outlawed in various promotions. The only way Lawler could use it was in No Disqualification circumstances, or when the referee was distracted or unconscious. Forced to dip into his back of tricks, Lawler came up with this. A fistdrop from the middle rope that almost always ended matches when it connected. As he got older and moved into the World Wrestling Federation, it was less effective against guys like Bret Hart. It was his go-to move though, during his AWA World title run, and for years the strap coming down meant that the fistdrop wasn’t far behind.

Big Show’s WMDsize=6>

Why didn’t this happen sooner?
-Punch in the face
-From Big Show
-Finisher of choice during multiple WWE Tag Team Championship reigns, an Intercontinental Title reign, and multiple World Heavyweight Championship wins

Sometimes things are so obvious that nobody sees them. Chokeslams are fine, especially for a guy that’s over seven feet tall and well over four hundred pounds. Seriously though, why didn’t this happen sooner? A direct punch to the face from Big Show seems like it should be the end of most arguments, matches, wars, dinner parties, or anything else that he’s involved in. Over the last few years, it’s been used to great effectiveness against a variety of opponents including John Cena, Edge, Chris Jericho, Cody Rhodes, and Mark Henry. As mentioned above, not since Ronnie Garvin has one punch (without a pair of brass knuckles involved) been so automatic in terms of ending a match. I would imagine it’s going to be a long time until we see anything else like it.

Ox Baker’s Heart Punchsize=6>

He likes to hurt people.
-Rumored to have killed at least two wrestlers
-Outlawed in several states
-Incited Riots

If you’ve never heard of Ox Baker, shame on you. He likes to hurt people. A legendary heel through the 70’s, Ox Baker used the Heart Punch to great effectiveness. Not only did he use it to win a slew of matches and establish a reputation as a dangerous man, he also used the strike to become one of the most hated men in the sport’s history. His willingness to punch people in the chest until they (supposedly) died made him an ultraheel for obvious reasons. For what it’s worth, the Heart Punch never actually killed anybody. You would think I wouldn’t have to put that, but sometimes I wonder when I read the comments. As great as the first nine entries on this list were, none of them incited riots or were alleged to be instruments of murder by those that hadn’t been smartened up to the business. The heart punch has been used in the years since by a handful of wrestlers – including The Undertaker before he was The Undertaker – but nobody has duplicated Ox Baker’s success with it.

Agree? Disagree? Think I missed something? Well leave your list and discuss the above list in the comment section below. You can find me on Twitter @GavinNapier411 and check out my new podcast on iTunes by searching for The Casual Heroes, or go to www.thecasualheroes.com and I’ll be back here in 7..6..5..

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