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.