Piledriving Pioneers: Celebrating The Creators Of Pro Wrestling’s Most Popular Moves

The creators of some wrestling maneuvers are fairly well known, particularly if said moves are fairly recent and/or wacky. We know Hideo Itami created the Go 2 Sleep, Petey Williams is the man behind and The Canadian Destroyer and Naomi innovated that thing where she rubs her butt on your head in the corner, but what about those basic maneuvers that everybody uses? Somebody had to create those, too! Who are the folks behind foundational stuff like the powerbomb, piledriver and moonsault, and did they end up receiving their just due for their contributions to the art of pro wrestling?

Here are 10 people whose innovative spirit provided the foundation for pretty much every pro wrestling match you see today…

Wild Bill Longson (Piledriver)

Born in 1906 in Salt Lake City, Wild Bill Longson was basically the original arrogant heel, and was the hated rival of everybody from Gorgeous George to Lou Thesz during the 1930s and ’40s. During the height of Longson’s career in the mid-’40s, he was making more than $100,000 a year, which was more than even Babe Ruth was pulling in. He could have kicked Babe Ruth’s chubby ass, too. Using his patented piledriver, Longson won the National Wrestling Association World Championship (not to be confused with the later National Wrestling Alliance Championship that guys like Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes would win) three times, holding the title for more combined days than any other champion.

He Did It First, But Did He Do It The Best?

Other guys like Jerry Lawler made the piledriver even more central to their act, but Lawler didn’t have anywhere near the worldwide success Longson had. The only real challenger for Longson’s piledriver supremacy would be The Undertaker, but it’s still a very close race. Longson used the move to dominate almost an entire decade as heel champion, while Taker used it as the foundation of a longer, but slightly more uneven run on top. Ultimately, though, Longson didn’t beat 21-consecutive guys in front of stadium-sized WrestleMania crowds, so Taker gets the nod. Of course, technically, Taker uses a reverse Tombstone Piledriver instead of the classic version, so you could be picky and say Longson is still the piledriving king.

Lou Thesz (Powerbomb)

The legendary Lou Thesz is generally remembered as an old-school grappler and technician, but he also wasn’t afraid to straight-up powerbomb a dude on his head from time-to-time. Thesz likely innovated the move in the early 1950s, when he unexpectedly grabbed Antonino Rocca around the waist, herked him up, and dumped him on his head. From that point on, Thesz would occasionally break out the powerbomb to deal with a particularly physical opponents. Oh, and while we’re on the subject, Thesz also invented the STF, German suplex and, of course, the Lou Thesz press. Basically, all wrestling fans should have a little Lou Thesz shrine somewhere in their house.

He Did It First, But Did He Do It The Best?

It’s hard to argue against Lou Thesz being the best, no matter what you’re talking about. This is the dude who created the template for every “technical” pro wrestler to come, unified all the disparate world title belts to create the modern NWA World Championship in the late ’40s, and then went on to hold that title for more than 10 years. Guys like Kevin Nash and Batista made the powerbomb more central to their success, but again, this is Lou Thesz we’re talking about.

Chris Adams (Superkick)

He invented the superkick and hung out with Norman Smiley? Chris Adams, renaissance man.

Chris Adams was a member of the British Olympic Judo Team, before breaking into the world of pro wrestling in the late 1970s. Appropriately, Adams originally played an agile martial arts master, and one of his signature moves was the deadly judo kick, which today’s wrestling fans would recognize as the superkick. Eventually, Adams would jump to WCCW in Texas, where he’d become the evil “Gentleman” Chris Adams and trained and/or helped mentor guys like Steve Austin, Scott Hall and fellow superkicker Shawn Michaels.

He Did It First, But Did He Do It The Best?

Chris Adams was one of those talented guys whose glories would mostly come second-hand through the wrestlers he helped or inspired. He may have created the superkick, but, obviously, guys like Shawn Michaels put it to much more successful use.

Jaguar Yokota (Jackhammer)

Jaguar Yokota in her natural element, destroying a victim.

Jaguar Yokota was one of the cornerstones of early ’80s All Japan Women’s Pro Wrestling (AJW) and held the WWWA World Heavyweight Championship (Japan’s top women’s belt, and probably the most prestigious women’s title ever) twice. During this period, AJW talents like Yokota, Bull Nakano and the legendary Crush Gals were putting on the best matches in the world and innovating like crazy every time they stepped in the ring. Yokota herself is credited with creating the the Jackhammer and the double-underhook powerbomb.

She Did It First, But Did She Do It The Best?

Obviously, Jaguar Yokota’s main competitor is one Mr. William Goldberg. Yakota is hands-down the better wrestler, but Goldberg’s run in WCW generated far more money than Yokota ever did. They’re both two-time world champions, so that doesn’t solve anything. In the end, I’m giving the win to Goldberg, but trust me, it was a close decision.

Black Gordman (DDT)

Above: A masked Black Gordman unmistakably hitting a DDT in a Japanese match from 1977.

Bet this wasn’t the name you thought you’d see attached to the DDT. Black Gordman is largely forgotten today, but as brother-in-law to the legendary Dos Caras (and thus uncle to Alberto El Patron), Gordman was part of Mexican wrestling royalty. Gordman would see his greatest success in the NWA’s Los Angeles territory during the ’70s, where he had a lock on the the tag team titles with a variety of partners, most notably the Great Goliath. Oh, and he was also dropping dudes on their heads with a finishing move he called the Diamond Twist, which looked exactly like what we now know as the DDT. Gordman was hitting his version of the DDT at least as early as the mid-’70s, while Jake Roberts doesn’t claim to have invented the move until sometime around the early ’80s. I know, wrestling just doesn’t make sense if Jake Roberts wasn’t the first guy to do a DDT, but the evidence is pretty clear.

He Did It First, But Did He Do It The Best?

Nobody’s got more mileage out of a move than Jake Roberts did with the DDT. Jake Roberts may not have created the DDT, but he sure as hell owned it.

Angelo Poffo (Neckbreaker)

Before his sons Randy Savage and Lanny Poffo took the wrestling world by storm in the ’80s, Angelo Poffo was a journeyman wrestler who managed to capture a version of the the NWA U.S. Championship with his deadly Italian Neckbreaker. Oddly, neither of his sons would adopt the move their dad invented, but a lot of other wrestlers were all-too-eager to add it to their arsenal.

He Did It First, But Did He Do It The Best?

Woof, this one is a tough one, seeing as approximately half the wrestlers of the past 20 years have used some sort of neckbreaker as a finisher. Angelo Poffo had a good, solid career, but, ultimately, his greatest accomplishment was producing some crazy talented (and just plain crazy) kids. Ignoring all the flippity-floppy crazy neckbreaker variations we have today, I’d say the best neckbreaker is still Rick Rude’s classic Rude Awakening.

Mando Guerrero (Moonsault)

Mando Guerrero’s upper lip created something pretty special of its own.

Mando Guerrero is the least well-known son of the legendary Gory Guerrero (the other three being Hector, Chavo, Sr. and, of course, Eddie), but he made his own indelible mark on the wrestling industry by creating the quintessential “high risk” maneuver. Mando created the moonsault in Mexico in the ’70s, but it was his big brother Chavo who introduced it to a wider audience in the United States. Ultimately, Mando’s wrestling career was innovative, but quite short, as he decided to leave the family business to become a Hollywood stuntman in the late ’70s (hey, at least they have a union).

He Did It First, But Did He Do It The Best?

The Guerreros may have been doing moonsaults since the ’70s, but it was The Great Muta and “Leaping” Lanny Poffo who really popularized the move in the ’80s, and of course many high-fliers have perfected it since. Personally, for pure “oh God, somebody’s going to die” terror, I’ve always been a fan of Vader’s ‘sault.

John Laurinaitis (Cutter)

Yes, Mr. Charisma himself, John Laurinaitis is the creator of one of the most dynamic and exciting moves in wrestling history. Of course, before Laurinaitis was the the dork in a suit we know today, he was Johnny Ace, a dork with an epic mullet who tore it up in hard-hitting five-star matches with every Japanese legend you can name. Appropriately, his Ace Crusher wasn’t nearly as dramatic of Randy Orton’s RKO, but it’s unmistakably the same basic move.

He Did It First, But Did He Do It The Best?

When it came to in-ring stuff, Big Johnny did a lot of things pretty damn well, but guys like DDP and Randy Orton elevated the outta nowhere cutter to the level of high art.

Buddy Rogers (Figure-Four Leglock)

The guy your grandpa was wooo-ing at.

While most know it as Ric Flair’s patented move today, it was the original Nature Boy, Buddy Rogers, who created the definitive pro wrestling submission hold, the figure-four leglock. If Buddy Rogers isn’t the greatest pro wrestler of all-time, he’s certainly got a permanent spot in the top five. He created the most indelible pro wrestling character of all-time, and basically created the action, drama (and wackiness)-packed style of pro wrestling we know today.

He Did It First, But Did He Do It The Best?

This one’s a hair-splitter. If there’s one guy who could challenge Buddy Rogers for the title of best pro wrestler of all-time, it’s Ric Flair. In the end, I’m giving it to Rogers because, as Ric Flair himself will point out, he didn’t actually win with the figure-four all that often, while Rogers regularly put his opponents away with it.

“Jumping” Joe Savoldi (Dropkick)

Above: Jumping Joe dumping a guy outside with dropkicks, then blasting the ref in the face in a match from 1935. Depression era wrestling was crazier than you thought. 

Yes, even something as simple as a dropkick has to be invented by somebody, and that somebody was “Jumping” Joe Savoldi, one of the earliest pro-footballers to get into the wrasslin’ game. Savoldi made his wrestling debut in 1931, and wowed crowds with his athletic ability and his then-groundbreaking “flying dropkick.” Another wrestler, Abe Coleman, also claims to have created the dropkick, but his move was more of a running kick to the midsection. Savoldi’s high, standing kick was more in line with what we think of as a dropkick today.

He Did It First, But Did He Do It The Best?

Well, literally thousands of men and women have thrown dropkicks since Jumping Joe first started kicking guys in the face. At least a few of those thousands have to have had a better dropkick than Savoldi. But hey, we can say a good amount of certainty that Savoldi’s dropkick was at least better than John Cena’s.

So, there you have it, 10 wrestlers who created the moves that make up about 75 percent of every pro wrestling match to this day. Have any favorite pro wrestling innovators you think should have been included on this list? Think I was making the wrong calls in the “Did he do it best?” section? Let’s hash it out in the comments.

via Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, WWE, “Gentleman” Chris Adams bio, SoCal Uncensored & Slam! Wrestling