The 10 greatest top-rope finishing maneuvers
Sports-entertainment wasn’t always like this. Back in the days when a black-and-white RCA was still the pinnacle of modern technology, in-ring competition wasn’t much more than two burly guys in cotton trunks trading hammerlocks on the canvas. Early stars like Gorgeous George and Lou Thesz didn’t jump off the top rope. In fact, they barely jumped at all.
Leap ahead to today and it’s rare to find a Superstar who doesn’t perform a maneuver from the perch. Even the 7-foot, 441-pound Big Show throws the occasional missile dropkick off the top. But which high-risk aerial maneuver is the very best? WWE.com dives right into the debate with this list of sports-entertainment’s greatest top-rope finishing maneuvers, presented by 5-Hour ENERGY.
Finn Bálor's Coup de Grâce
The equation is simple: Finn Bálor goes up, Finn Bálor comes down. When the lithe, ruthless Irish Superstar takes to the skies for his Coup de Grâce finishing move, there’s very little frivolity involved, fitting for a Superstar who made his bones in the rough-and-tumble world of Irish wrestling before putting the final touches on his game in the strong-style dojos of Japan. Bâlor simply takes to the skies and curls his body into the fetal position mid-flight, spiking his legs out at the last minute to drive the balls of his boots straight into the sternum of his opponent. Feet, meet chest; eyeballs, meet lights; opponent, meet shower.
Mustafa Ali's Reverse 450
Mustafa Ali did not invent the 450 Splash. He isn’t even the first Superstar to perform it. Justin Gabriel did a mean one back in the day, AJ Styles does a springboard twist on it and Rich Swann can do one from a standing position. But this Cruiserweight’s variation on it — he does it backwards— lends the maneuver a particularly impressive air that elevates it, so to speak, above all other variations. Ali’s combination of agility and fearlessness doesn’t just win him matches; it’s also an almost peerless display of athleticism. He’d be just as at home doing this in the Olympic Games as he is pancaking dudes on 205 Live.
Ember Moon's Eclipse
Can we interest you in a maneuver that has never — never — been kicked out of? It may have only been marinating in Full Sail for about a year, but Ember Moon’s pinpoint Eclipse, where she leaps off the top rope and twists her way into a flying Stunner, has already received a reputation as a guaranteed match-ender. The maneuver is so bulletproof that even Asuka, who has never been pinned or submitted since arriving in NXT, had to resort to some apparent chicanery to avoid it. Moon has been in NXT for less than a year, but one of the thrills of tuning in to WWE Network Wednesday nights is watching her legacy, and this move’s, be written in real time.
Shane McMahon's Coast-to-Coast
There was a time when Rob Van Dam seemed like the only competitor with enough dexterity and mettle to execute what he originally dubbed his “Van Terminator.” And then along came Shane McMahon. The Prodigal Son’s variation — dubbed Coast-to-Coast and usually accompanied with a trash can to the face — might lack the athletic polish of RVD’s, but Mr. McMahon’s only son performed the move with a recklessness that was, and is, downright frightening to watch. It’s unclear who has gotten the worst of it — Shane’s target or his spine. But whenever Shane-O-Mac climbs the turnbuckles, it’s impossible to look away.
Evan Bourne's Air Bourne
Japanese icon Jushin “Thunder” Liger invented the Shooting Star Press, but no Superstar ever performed the maneuver with as much polish and precision as Evan Bourne, the highflier from St. Louis. Beginning in 2008, Bourne used the dangerous move to fly to victory over Sheamus and Chris Jericho and score a Slammy Award for “Best Finishing Maneuver.” And although he pulled off the midair backflip from the top of a ladder and to the outside of the ring, Bourne has admitted that he was frightened every single time he did it.
Rich Swann's Phoenix Splash
You won’t see many moves on this risk more make-or-break than the Phoenix Splash, which starts like a moonsault, only the Superstar performing it reverses their body in midair, ultimately landing in the position of a Frog Splash. The move is typically delivered at such high speed that, 1) it takes a peerless athlete to perform it, 2) it takes about three rewinds of the DVR to see what just happened (trust us on this) and, 3) it almost never actually connects the way the performer expects it to. Seth Rollins has become the most high-profile Superstar to incorporate the move, but he’s only found purchase a handful of times. The Superstar who uses it the most? Former WWE Cruiserweight Champion and current 205 Live standout Rich Swann.
Randy Savage's Elbow Drop
Moving with grace and agility that was uncommon for a man of his size, WWE Hall of Famer “Macho Man” Randy Savage possessed an athleticism that had carried over from his days as one of the nation’s top high school baseball players. In the ring, his offense was often defined by reckless strikes and blatant chokes, but on the top turnbuckle, the former WWE Champion appeared artful. Always taking a moment to pose with his fingers pointed to the heavens, Savage launched his powerful frame at downed opponents, driving the point of his elbow right into the sternum with a clear intent to buckle chest cavities. Superstars like Shawn Michaels later adopted Savage’s signature maneuver, and former Raw Women’s Champion Bayley is currently putting her own stamp on it. But no one ever matched “Macho Man’s” savagery.
Rob Van Dam's Five-Star Frog Splash
Innovated by Art Barr, one of Mexican wrestling’s great antagonists, the Frog Splash was later adopted by Eddie Guerrero in tribute to his friend and former tag team partner. In their version, the traditional top-rope splash was given an extra kick by tucking in the arms and legs midflight and then extending them right before the point of impact. When done right, the action mimics the movements of a frog swimming.
Rob Van Dam borrowed that element of the splash, but amped it up. Instead of just launching himself forward off the turnbuckle, Mr. Monday Night would go up, jumping as high as he could in the air before crashing down with tremendous impact. The reverb of his Five-Star Frog Splash was so intense that RVD would often bounce off his opponent and land on the other side of the ring. It wasn’t uncommon to see Van Dam scrambling to cover a challenger after finding himself thrown halfway across the squared circle from the force of his own impact.
Jeff Hardy's Swanton Bomb
A daring maneuver that only the most fearless fliers are gutsy enough to perform, Jeff Hardy executes the Swanton Bomb by bulleting his body off the top rope and flying headfirst at a supine opponent on the canvas. At the very last second, the iconoclast rolls forward, sending his upper back directly into his target’s sternum. Whipping his lithe, 215-pound frame off the top of ladders, 18-wheelers and even the entryway of Madison Square Garden, The Charismatic Enigma has established a loyal fanbase with his air shows, but it’s always this move that leaves a lasting impression.
Neville's Red Arrow
We’re going to dispense with the lead-in here and cut to the chase: This is the coolest wrestling move we’ve ever seen, and we don’t know how Neville does it. Well, we know how he does it, propelling himself off the top turnbuckle into a shooting star press before corkscrewing his body around like an Olympic diver without interrupting the maneuver’s original loop-the-loop, finally hitting pay dirt on his prone opponent juuuust after he rights himself. But we don’t know how a man can shrug off Newton’s Laws like some kind of metaphysical vigilante, weaving and twisting his way through the force of the Earth itself to create a finishing maneuver so epic that The King of the Cruiserweights flat-out decided the WWE Universe was unworthy to lay eyes on it. Of course, he’ll still break it out in those all-or-nothing moments, so make sure you have your camera ready when he does.