When a wrestler performs a move, there are two reactions – the most obvious reaction is that of the fans – they cheer or boo or express their disbelief at what they are watching. But the other reaction, even more important than that of the audience, in fact, is the reaction of the wrestler receiving the move. Because of the nature of wrestling, the deliverer and recipient of a move must be on the same page; and this is harder with some moves than others. This past year, we have seen unprecedented interest in the idea of ‘banning’ a move – we have seen WWE add a cherished technique to the closet of banned manoeuvres, and we’ve had calls to ban the Styles Clash after the move broke 2 necks in less than a year. While a tried and tested way to build heat is to ban a move as part of a storyline, we’re looking at real cases here. So without further ado we’re going to countdown the top 10 instances where a move has been hit with the banhammer.
10. The Curb Stomp
Reason for banning: Purported safety concerns; corporate image issues.
“Now, you got one hell of a finish, kid. I’m still seeing stars.” – Randy Orton, October 2014
The Curb Stomp. Peace of Mind. The Black Out. The move has had many names, but the formula is more or less the same – while the recipient of the move is bent over, the attacker stamps his foot down onto the back of the recipient’s head, driving his head to the canvas. This move is the whole inspiration for this list, and has become one of the most over finishing moves in decades. As anyone who has seen one in real life or (much more likely) has seen American History X, the Curb Stomp is one of the ‘realest’ looking finishing moves in WWE history, and unfortunately that ‘realness’ would be its undoing. With concussions being the topic of the day, and the need to appear as though they are doing something tangible to show their concern, the WWE recently decided to quietly retire the Curb Stomp from their current champ Seth Rollin’s arsenal and replace it with a headscratchingly awkward variant of the common DDT. There’s a reason all DDTs aren’t delivered like that; and it’s because it looks stupid. Let’s hope the WWE rectify this horrible error in judgment before long.
9. The Punt Kick
Reason for banning: Safety concerns; Vince McMahon took a pretty nasty one.
As the recipient is getting up, the punter runs forth and delivers a soccerball kick to the side of the recipient’s head. The Punt Kick is another move that looks very real and has gained a mass following with fans losing their minds every time Randy Orton so much as hints at delivering one. Sadly, aside from a few appearances working against foes like the Big Show, the Punt is all but banned, as confirmed by Orton in a 2012 interview. Whilst the move is considered deadly in the context of a WWE match, the injury list for the punt is somewhat sparse, with the most high profile injury sufferer being the figurehead of the WWE himself, Vince McMahon. In 2009 during an in-ring segment, ‘the Viper’ took his frustrations out on McMahon, delivering the aforementioned signature move. Unfortunately, in doing so Orton clipped Mr McMahon’s ear. With Orton’s popularity somewhat languishing as compared to previous years, in a WWE driven less by arbitrary PR decisions, this move would be a staple Orton match winner.
8. The Vertebreaker
Reason for banning: Safety concerns
The Vertebreaker, a move purportedly innovated by Shane ‘Hurricane’ Helms, is a move where, through actual sorcery (though actually through a combination of arm-locking and twisting) the deliverer hoists his opponent upside down onto his back. The deliverer stands for a second before dropping onto his rear, sending the recipient onto their head, or rather, their neck and shoulders. The move looks legitimately dangerous, and yet has sprouted few actual incidences of injury and has been used by Homicide for many years as ‘the Cop Killer’ or ‘the Gringo Killer’. However, this move definitely falls into the camp of ‘moves which children would cripple themselves trying to do’ and for that reason, despite being a mainstay of the WWE videogame series for many iterations, it has not been seen in the WWE since around 2003.
7. Knife-edge Chops
Reasoning: Undesired crowd reaction
The knife-edge chop. A move so synonymous with ‘the Nature Boy’ Ric Flair that any appearance is guaranteed to produce an enthusiastic round of ‘WOOOOO’s from any crowd. The move is simple – the recipient takes a slap to the chest from the side of the deliverers hand. This attack is so iconic that in Japan if wrestling fans spot a wrestler in the wild, they may request that the wrestler honour them by gifting them with a series of chops. According to former WWE referee Jimmy Korderas, the move had been banned in the WWE for many years, due to its association with Ric Flair, with the WWE even go so far as to have signs backstage reminding wrestlers that this simple attack is forbidden.
6. Going over the top rope
Reason for banning: Old school wrasslin’ mentality
It’s hard to imagine, but back in the territory days, wrestling was a much more ‘grounded’ sport, and no where is this more apparent than with the ‘no going over the top rope’ rule. For reasons that were never well explained, an old NWA rule was honoured on and off in WCW that decreed, should a wrestler be thrown over the top rope, the wrestler doing the throwing shall be disqualified. Whilst this rule had existed for many years prior, it was way past its relevance, really hurt the product. It was a perplexing move to say the least, which led to many matches simply ending when one wrestler, whether on purpose or by forgetting this strange proviso, opted to chuck his opponent over the top rope. The move would be the reasoning behind the Super Sunday finish of 1983 where Hulk Hogan was unable to beat Nick Bockwinkle for the AWA World Heavyweight title as he had thrown Bockwinkle over the top rope. This rule would be kept on the books for far, far longer than it should have been, but would be phased out around 1998.
5. All High-Flying Moves
Reason for banning:Old school wrasslin’ mentality; safety concerns
This entry is more of a blanket entry for two distinct times that top rope moves were more or less banned. Back in 1992, before WWE’s precious ‘Monday Night Wars’, WCW was trying to find its feet within the Turner organisation. After a series of misfire bookers, ‘Cowboy’ Bill Watts was brought in to book the promotion. Whilst Watts was highly respected by his peers, some of his views on professional wrestling were considered antiquated. For instance, he decided to do away with the mats outside the ring. Watts’ rules came into effect in WCW in 1992, which is around the same time that stars such as Brian Pillman and Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger were having highly acrobatic matches. Unfortunately for ‘Flyin’ Brian’ this rule would see him grounded. In 2005, after two unfortunate incidents where Billy Kidman hit Chavo Guerrero in the head with his knee off of a Shooting Star Press and Juventud Guerrera fractured bones in Paul London’s face with a botched 450 Splash, the WWE made the decision to ban any acrobatic top rope moves. This would seriously affect the quality of their Cruiserweight division, with Paul London being genuinely annoyed with the decision and Juventud Guerrera busting out a now banned 450 Splash in his final match in the company. In recent years WWE has lifted this ban for select performers, such as Evan Bourne and Adrian Neville.
4. Burning Hammer
Reason for banning: John Cena
The easiest way to describe a Burning Hammer is this: picture John Cena’s ‘Attitude Adjustment’. Now, turn the person receiving the move over, so that they are lying across the shoulders of the deliverer on their back, instead of their front. Before John Cena started using the ‘Death Valley Driver’ and renamed it, the Burning Hammer was invented by Kenta Kobashi. The move was brought to WWE in a much safer way by Tyler Reks, who changed the landing positioning. The move is, in practice, very similar to an Attitude Adjustment. As Reks would later tell in an interview, he was no longer allowed to use the move because John Cena did not approve, allegedly telling Reks: “Find another finisher or you’re fired.”
3. Chairshots to the head
Reason for banning: Safety concerns; going PG
Like the Punt Kick and the Curb Stomp before it, the banning of headshots with a chair in the WWE is considered a safety precaution. With new scientific discoveries showing that being beat around the head with a steel object is dangerous (as if that was something that needed proven) the WWE took this step. Once a staple of the Attitude Era, hitting a man with a steel chair in the head in WWE now can incur a massive fine, with reports stating that Undertaker and Triple H both paid an undisclosed amount after featuring such a shot in their Wrestlemania 27 bout. There is little doubt that chairshots to the head can have a detrimental effect on athletes, as evidenced by Chris Benoit, who would routinely take unprotected chairshots and whose brain was said to have resembled an 80 year old dementia patient’s brain. Furthermore Mick Foley, who famously took eleven unprotected chairshots in his ‘I Quit’ match with the Rock at Royal Rumble 1999, has talked about how he would drive past his own home for 20 minutes because his numerous concussions had led him to forget where he lived. Also coinciding with the banning of headshots in the WWE was the company’s decision to ‘clean up’ their product and go PG.
2. Double Underhook Facebuster
Reason for banning: Misogyny
The double underhook facebuster is a move used by many different wrestlers. Triple H’s ‘Pedigree’ is a variation of this move, as is Christopher Daniel’s ‘Angels Wings’ and Awesome Kong’s ‘Implant Buster’. This move sees the deliverer place the opponent’s head between their legs, hook their arms, lift the opponent upside down and then fall forward, crushing the opponent. When Michelle McCool debuted in WWE she adopted this move as her finisher, dubbing it the ‘Wings of Love’. And then, all of a sudden she stopped using the move. What gives? Well, in 2008 McCool blogged that she was asked by WWE not to use the move anymore, and she believes this is because the WWE officials think the move is too devastating for women. If they think that is too devastating, I wonder what they would think of Manami Toyota’s Victory Star Drop. With WWE’s treatment of its female wrestlers, passing arbitrary rules like not allowing them to use kicks and removing the heel/face dynamic for women, this order from WWE brass doesn’t shock me, but it does disappoint me. Stranger still, McCool would later use the ‘Faithbreaker’, her take on AJ Style’s signature Styles Clash, as a finisher, despite that move proving to be a dangerous property in recent years.
Reason for banning: Safety concerns
Was there really going to be any other move at number one? The piledriver is a basic move to apply: the deliverer puts the opponent’s head between their legs. The lift the opponent up and fall on the backside, purportedly driving the opponent’s head into the canvas. Whilst this move is basic, it and its variations have been responsible for a lot of injuries over the years. Once a staple of wrestling, as common as a DDT or suplex, the piledriver has been taken out of circulation and is now mostly performed only by a handful of practitioners – usually to end matches. The move fell out of use around the time Owen Hart accidentally broke Stone Cold Steve Austin’s neck with the move. Interestingly, 5 years prior to this incident, Steve Austin would break Masahiro Chono’s neck with the exact same spot. In Mexico, a tombstone is referred to as a martinete and the move leads to an instant disqualification, in a rare case a legitimately banned move being banned in kayfabe. In WWE the move is only used regularly by the Undertaker and Kane in their ‘Tombstone’ variations, with Triple H once using the move at Wrestlemania 27 against the Undertaker. CM Punk would use the standard variation of the move to great effect in a match against John Cena in 2013; as the known ‘banned’ nature of the piledriver led the fans to believe Punk was pulling out all the stops. For the Vince McMahon was allegedly livid as the spot was unscripted. On the independent scene, piledriver variations are very common, to the point that its use has become redundant. In NJPW, Kazuchika Okada regularly uses the move as a less effective trademark and in TNA Eric Young has adopted the move as his finisher. Whilst the manoeuvre is undoubtedly very risky, seeing CM Punk use the move in 2013 was very unexpected and a nice surprise, so if Seth Rollins is looking for a new finishing move, well… hint, hint.