If you’ve listened to Stone Cold’s podcast or heard him talk at any time recently, you’ll notice his disgust at the way the DDT is used. His argument is that the DDT should be a move that either ends the match or drastically changes it. Austin has been harping on the importance of protecting moves and finishers. And while I agree that it’s dumb for guys to get dropped on their heads and bounce back up to make dramatic comebacks, I’ve never bought into finishing moves. They’ve always seemed…silly to me.
I know that finishing moves are staples of wrestling, but as someone who grew up appreciating the wrestling on WCW more than WWF, I always felt like finishing moves ending matches were more of a staple of the more glamorized WWF-style than what I saw at WCW. Great WCW matches usually ended in rollups and small packages than Figure Fours and Scorpion Deathlocks. WWF matches usually ended with leg drops and flying elbows. I’m not really a wrestling historian, but I don’t really remember any iconic non-WWE finishers from the 80s. Flair had his Figure Four but he rarely won with it. In fact, he won his big heavyweight championship match against Harley Race with a cross-body off the top rope. Sting had his splash and the Scorpion Deathlock but one a ton of matches with rollups. And I don’t even really remember Dusty Rhodes’ finisher. The Bionic Elbow? Whatever the case, I grew up appreciating matches that ended more organically than I did matches ending with dramatic finishing move presentations.
Another reason I was never a big finishing move fan was because I just never felt they were indicative of how guys actually fight. And since I’ve been exposed to UFC and watched people really fight, I’ve become even more turned off by finishers. When I watch UFC, I see guys who have go-to moves, but they go for them early and often and those moves sometimes end fights…but they also just serve to change the tide of the match. Mike Tyson’s left hook was the most feared move in sports, but he didn’t wait until the 10th round to use it. He went for it whenever he had the chance. He’d throw five left hooks a round. It’s just not realistic for Randy Orton to go for an RKO twice in a 20-minute match. Imagine Street Fighter where you can’t Hadouken until the end. That doesn’t make any sense.
Look, if I were going to be in a real fight, and had one move that I knew could knock someone out at the drop of a hat, I’m spending the whole match going for it. Especially a move like Big Show’s knockout, which is just a punch and no set-up. How is that something that a guy needs to be softened up for? To me, it’s less realistic for a guy to wait 15 minutes before going to the move that knocks people out.
I think Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena at Summerslam 2014 was the perfect use of a signature move. Brock hit the F5 on Cena within 30 seconds and it changed the course of the whole match. Like a backbreaking turnover or a punt return touchdown, the F5 put Cena behind and he never recovered. Though he kicked out, he spent the rest of the match trying to gather his breath and mount some sort of offense. Sure, Brock was naturally overpowering, the F5 was the move that really made the Summerslam match so one-sided. Eventually, Brock put Cena away with a third F5, but it was the first one that essentially put the match in Brock’s favor. Signature moves like the F5 that change the course of the match are integral in the back-and-forth drama, but the idea of one guy waiting for the “right” moment is insane.
Wrestling is about watching stuff we like or don’t like. There’s no science to it, so this isn’t something I hope or expect everyone to agree with. It’s my personal reaction to something I see in wrestling. So there.
If there’s something unrealistic for us to focus on that’s more unrealistic than people kicking out of DDTs, it’s the standing tradeoff punches we see in a lot of John Cena matches. We live in a generation of people watching Worldstar and UFC fights. So we know that punches hurt. And Cena standing up and punching a guy square in the face and getting punched right back while the crowd interchanges boos and cheers is silly and infuriates me every time I see it. But that’s a rant for another day.