Sunday, March 15, 2015

The 10 Most Dangerous Pro Wrestling Moves Ever!

A celebration of all the life-threatening, vertebrae-shattering maneuvers that make the opera of the Proletariat so enjoyable!

Well, another WrestleMania is right around the corner, and I for one, don't really give a shit. 

Yeah, I was a big fan back in the day, but honestly, I haven't watched a single wrestling card since 2007. I catch the occasional match the Intrawebs tells me I need to periodically, but frankly, after watching so much MMA, I just don't have the patience nor the ability to suspend my disbelief to sit through any modern 'rasslin show. 

Of course, accidents do happen inside the ring, as the tragedies befalling Owen Hart and Droz (and to a much lesser and more hilarious extent, that of JT Smith) will eternally remind us. The thing is, with the high volume of moves that realistically could cause severe, life-threatening injuries -- in conjunction with the fact that oh so many grapplers go into make-believe battle drugged out of their gourds -- you have to consider it nothing less than miraculous that more wrestlers aren't killed or paralyzed. 

To celebrate what is basically the Super Bowl and World Cup of people in their underwear pretending to hurt each other, I decided to do a quick and dirty countdown of the ten most dangerous pro wrestling moves ever attempted -- as in, the moves that either posed life-ending capabilities every time they were performed or COULD feasibly be used as murder methods if one chose to do so. Before we get to the dirty dozen minus two, a few also-rans are worth noting...

Honorable Mentions

Stan Hansen’s Top Rope Lariat

Stan Hansen was the antithesis of the pretty-boy rock-and-roller pro wrestler of the 1980s. With a body that owed more to the Michelin Man than Adonis, he was a tobacco chewing, bull rope lugging nightmare made flesh, who spent most of his career terrifying Japanese audiences as the original Texan hillbilly from hell.

Hansen’s already vicious Lariat was one of the most gimmicklessly violent finishers of its time, a no bullshit, balls-out football-style tackle that involved the 300 pound ball of adipose tissue throwing his beefy bicep at people’s necks at high speeds. So, why don't we make something that could already kill people even likelier to kill people, by having Mr. Hansen perform said maneuver off the freaking top rope? It's a ghoulish sight to behold all right, but sadly, old Stanny boy never really got a chance to perform it that frequently. Had it been a more common maneuver in his arsenal, it no doubt would have made the top 10, but as the grisly aberrant thing it is, unfortunately, an honorable mention is all I can afford it in this countdown.

Kid Kash’s Dead Level

The ECW standout turned WWE curtain jerker may not have had a lot of memorable moments inside the ring, but his finishing maneuver was definitely a hard one to forget.

There's this one move called a brainbuster. It works pretty much how it sounds -- it's a modified suplex that appears to send an opponent landing head first on the mat instead of back first. It's a move pulled off by a lot of grapplers, but I don't think I've ever seen a regular one executed as nerve-racking as Mr. Kash's. The simple fact the cruiserweight was allowed to do the move it all was pretty surprising considering the company's moratorium on most high-risk moves of the like ... how that shit was given the A-OK from Trips and moonsaults were verboten is just one of those great mysteries of life I don't reckon I will ever figure out.

Kevin Steen’s Package Piledriver

The Ring of Honor-trained WWE newcomer has a finisher that’s both gloriously old school and sickeningly violent in the modern sense. Rolling up his foes into a ball, he proceeds to cram them neck first onto the canvas, sans all of the usual protective measures associated with the standard piledriver protocol.

It's the perfect old-school meets new-school finisher. It has the high-gloss visual appeal of the modern era with all of the blunt force trauma grittiness of the territory days -- in short, it's a damn nasty looking move, in the best connotation possible.

Mankind’s Mandible Claw

This one is actually dangerous on quite a few levels. As far as a show business maneuver, it’s conceptually harmless -- the New York Times bestselling author takes his two, big, stubby fingers, delicately crams them in his foe’s mouths and then, they proceed to pretend to slowly pass out. The danger here is two-fold. I mean, really, what’s stopping Mick from ACTUALLY applying the dreaded hold (pioneered by the dude who inspired “The Fugitive,” if you can believe it) which literally paralyzes adversaries in pain? And on top of that, what’s keeping some body from freaking out and chomping the shit out of Mankind’s hand during the process?

And that’s not even exploring the hygienic nightmare posed by the move. Wrestling rings are notorious for being germ factories, and I can’t imagine a nice case of oral staph infection has to feel all that pleasing. On the positive side, however? Since it’s usually Mick Foley doing the move, at least the adversary probably gets a taste of buffalo sauce before acquiring a debilitating immunodeficiency disease, I guess.

And with those lovely runner-ups out of the way, who is ready to get down to the skull-cracking, head-splitting, spine-shattering creme de la creme?

Number Ten:
Crush’s Head Crusher

The grisly beauty of Crush’s finisher is its simplicity -- he merely grabs a dude by his head with both palms, squeezes as hard as he fucking can and if he has to, rag dolls them around until they experience an aneurysm.

I guess it’s an easy move to fake, but at the same time, it’s also a really easy move to use to kill someone in real life. Hell, what if Crush got mad at one of his foes and decided to amp up the pressure a bit? Yeah, most wrestler types could probably escape before serious damage was done, but if he were to apply the hold to a normal sized person, he probably could mash their skulls into a fine powder.

While the head crusher maneuver (frankly, I’m not really sure what the official title is supposed to be) isn’t all that glitzy, it’s certainly one of the more realistically deadly moves to ever get the A-OK in a major U.S. promotion. I mean, shit, I can imagine death row prisoners pulling this one off during a full scale riot … the Worm or the People’s Elbow, not so much.

Number Nine:
Yokozuna’s Bonsai Drop

Sure, the concept of Yoko’s finisher seems almost brutishly simplistic, but factoring in human error, each and every time the guy performed the maneuver he was just a heartbeat away from a manslaughter suit.

For those out of the loop, Yokozuna was a Pacific Islander fella who wasn’t even remotely Japanese. However, he did have the benefit of tipping the scales at 600 pounds at his heftiest, which made his mere existence at least mildly hazardous as an in-ring competitor.

Yoko’s finisher was very rudimentary. He climbed the top turnbuckle (remember, this is a dude who weighed a quarter-ton, so that alone took him awhile), humped air for a few seconds and proceeded to launch himself, colossal ass first, right on his opponent’s sternum. Whoever took on Yoko had to invest an unrealistic amount of faith in him, because if he made just the slightest gaffe, they were literally about to be flattened. Perhaps the most horrifying example occurred in 1996, when Yoko’s gigantic posterior caused the ring to actually implode, nearly crushing his foe (some flash-in-the pan named “Stone Cold” Stephen Austin, or something like that) to death on a live Pay-Per-View broadcast.

Number Eight:
Meng’s Tongan Death Grip

Meng, also known as Haku, is one of the most notorious wrestlers ever, a bona-fide bad-ass who has been known to literally chew off the noses of drunken bar patrons and allegedly pummel a Pac-Man machine to death with his bare hands. Simply put, he is most definitely not the sort you would want to vest your safety and well-being into, in any consideration.

The Tongan Death Grip ranks so highly because a.) it's brutally simple and b.) he actually could use it to feasibly murder another wrestler in the ring and probably make it look like an accident.

Sure, the sight of a 300 pound lard-ass with Troy Polamalu hair grabbing a dude by the trachea and throwing him to the mat may not be the most extravagant aesthetic, but what it lacks in glitz and glamour, it more than makes up for in outright brutality. In a staged bout, it looks nasty, but in a street fight, you KNOW it's probably going to lead to somebody being zipped into a body bag. Beyond being a dangerous move, it's a REALISTIC dangerous move, which makes it all the more nail-biting to witness.

Number Seven:
Chris Jericho’s Liontamer

By normal human standards, the 5’10 220-something Jericho is a pretty big dude. In the wacky, steroid-addled wonderland that was late 1990s ‘rasslin, however, the Winnipeg native was actually one of the smaller stars in the industry.

Most wrestling submission moves are, to say the least, impractical. Think you'd ever see a Scorpion Death Lock or a Figure Four inside the Octagon, or the dreaded Indian Death Lock in a bar room brawl? What makes the Liontamer so effective is that it's actually something you can see happening in a bona-fide mugging -- the fact that it can kill you three or four different ways, even more so.

The move is basically an elevated Boston Crab, which is intended to suggest the hyperextension of the legs and the compression of the spine. In layman's terms? A dude grabs your ankle, sits on you and proceeds to fold you up like an accordion. Jericho's variation on this is even ghastlier, as he makes it an effort to visualize the complete compression of the lower vertabrae to the skull. Once again, in layman's terms? He squeezes people into a ball makes their asses touch the back of their head. And sometimes, he would even dig his knee into their back, to really make things gruesome. Alas, when Jericho jumped ship to the WWF, he had to tone down the move, resulting in the sanitized "Walls of Jericho" finisher. It's still a bit grisly, but if you want to see a REALLY tummy-churning move, go check out some of his earlier WCW cruiserweight match-ups -- just try not to be eating anything when you do, though.

Number Six:
Kenta Kobashi’s Burning Hammer

One of the most time-honored wrestling moves of them all is the piledriver, a semi-homoerotic throw that, invariably, results in someone landing head first on the mat at high speeds.

Legendary purorseu star Kenta Kobashi took the move to sterling new heights in the early 1990s, when he introduced fans the world over to the Burning Hammer, a modified piledriver that makes even Jerry Lawler's old school finisher look like a delicate peck on the cheek by comparison.

The execution here is quite straightforward. Kobashi lifts an opponent over his head in a fireman's carry-like arrangement. Then, he lifts them up and sends them flying to the canvas at a perfect 90 degree angle, skull first. It's not exactly the most graceful sight in the world, but good lord, does it look like it hurts like the Dickens.

Number Five:
El Generico’s Brainbuster

Remember how we were talking about the brainbuster earlier? Well, imagine that already dangerous move, only done from an additional six feet in the air. Pretty chilling sounding, ain’t it? Well, now imagine that same scenario, only instead of your opponent driving you skull-first onto the canvas, you’re sent modula oblongata-first onto a rock-hard, metal ring post.

Independent wrestling sensation El Generico is the pioneer of just such a maneuver, which impossibly, is self-explanatory yet utterly impossible to describe with mere words.

The margin of error with the move has to give most life insurance adjusters hissy-fits. I mean, all it takes is one small misstep and a dude could literally be impaled before a live audience, which typically, isn't the kind of thing low-rent promotions want to become famous for (well, MOST low-rent promotions, anyway.) Needless to say, you really shouldn't try this one at home, kids...

Number Four:
Shane Helms’ Vertebreaker

Of all the piledriver permutations out there, probably the most iconic is The Undertaker’s Tombstone finisher. Indeed, it’s a dangerous move all right, but compared to the next four moves, it’s about as tame as a half-hearted abdominal stretch.

The Vertebreaker is a hard move to describe to non-fans. Basically, Helms begins the move by twisting his foe's arms up like a pretzel, flipping him upside down and draping them over his back, so he can leap up in the air and send their noggins plummeting to the canvas at what can safely be-called "breakneck speeds." The move has indeed been aped by others (most notably, ROH grad Homicide, who calls his version the ever-lovely "Cop Killer"), but I don't think any performer has made it look as spectacularly deadly as Sugar Shane ... or as most WWE fans know him, sigh, "The Hurricane."

The thing that really puts this one over the top is just how little control Helms' has while performing it. With a piledriver, you at least have some spatial control over where and how your opponent hits the mat, but with this variation, the dude is literally flying blind, and if the piledrivee doesn't tuck his head just the right way at just the right moment ... or if Helms makes even a teensy footing error ... well, that's going to lead to a HEFTY chiropractor bill / wrongful death suit.

Number Three:
Petey Williams’ Canadian Destroyer

In a lot of ways, the Canadian Destroyer is a terrible finishing maneuver. Despite its aesthetic awesomeness, it’s absolutely unbelievable in any fashion, and its quite obvious that it’s the piledrivee instead of the piledriver that’s doing all the dadgum work.

That said, just because it kills kayfabe doesn't mean it's not a gruesome looking move. In fact, it's actually one of the most irresponsibly reckless maneuvers ever A-OK'ed by a major promotion, and a move that very, very easily could go awry.

First off, the opponent hits the mat hard, and timing here is absolutely critical. If either Petey or the dude he is piledriving makes just the slightest tuck and roll too soon or too early, somebody is going to wind up bonking their heads unintentionally. The move resides in a rare category, where it poses potential mortal harm to both aggressor and the aggressed. Secondly, it leaves virtually no room for the two wrestlers to actually coordinate the timing, accuracy and eventual ending point of the move -- you literally have one guy going one way beholden to a certain set of mystifying physics and another guy going the opposite way while beholden to a completely different set of mystifying physics. The shocking thing here, ultimately, isn't necessarily who would volunteer for such a move, but more the fact that, as of March 2015, it has yet to produce one funeral.

Number Two:
Scott Steiner’s Steiner Screwdriver

There are really two Scott Steiners. There is the Scott Steiner of the late 1980s and early 1990s, who tag-teamed with his brother and rocked a sweet rats nest mullet and introduced most American wrestling fans to the hurrancanranna, a lucha-libre standard that loosely translated, means “hurricane frog” for some reason. Then, there is the late 1990s and onward Scott Steiner, who became a walking Steroid monster from hell.

Interestingly, both versions of Steiner were known to use an absolutely ghastly move called the Steiner Screwdriver, which if attempted in a street fight, would surely result in first degree homicide charges.

The concept here is painfully simple. Steiner lifts a dude over his shoulders with their buttholes conveniently wedged underneath his nostrils and he merely proceeds to jump up and drive them skull first into the mat from a good six or so feet in the air. It's one of the few pro wrestling moves that's literally stomach churning to witness; me and my pals saw the move on one of the N64 WCW titles and thought it was one of the sickest things we'd ever seen. And then, we saw Steiner ACTUALLY perform it on a living human being ... how that shit didn't lead to some "Faces of Death" B-roll footage, I will never totally understand.

Number One:
Toshiaki Kawada’s Ganso Bomb

What else in the world could have possibly been number one? Granted, it’s an unintentional finisher, but it’s a finisher nonetheless … primarily, in the sense that it could’ve finished Mitsuharu Misawa’s life a good decade earlier than it actually ended.

The decade-long Misawa/Kawada All-Japan rivalry was pretty much as good as wrestling has ever gotten, with their myriad bouts among the absolute greatest ever staged. Their Jan, 1999 Triple Crown throwdown was yet another masterpiece in their already legendary pantheon of bouts, but this time around, there was something a little special about their performances ... namely, the fact that Kawada fucked up and nearly paralyzed another person on live television. 

In the bout, Kawada was clearly aiming for a standard powerbomb -- itself, a pretty dangerous move. However, he appears to have slipped at the last minute, sending his arch-rival hurdling toward the canvas neck first in what any courtroom would easily describe as a murder attempt. Through what can only be described as a divine fluke, Misawa not only did not die instantly, he actually managed to rebound seconds later and carry out the match's original finish, which is sort of like being pummeled half to death in a strong-arm robbery and still hanging around to complete a full eight hour shift. 

Of course, there are scores of variations out there before, after, and kind of within the same timeframe, but no Ganso Bomb (roughly translated, "The Originator's Bomb" instead of the more fitting title "The Killing-A-MuthaFucka-Bomb") has had quite the same impact as Kawada's unforgettable late 1990s botch. Not only is it one of the most memorable moves in pro wrestling history, it's EASILY the most dangerous ever demonstrated inside the squared circle ... well, outside of most Great Khali matches, anyway.


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