AEW’s Best Finishers Today
Celebrating AEW’s short history of finishers
There are many angles to a great pro wrestling finisher. One angle sees a fog of anticipation to it, while a slight tilt shows it manifesting out of nowhere. Most angles resemble a moving painting. But peel away the layers, and a finisher at its heart needs to be known for finishing matches.
A high win percentage, popularity, and iconic moments separate regular old finishers from the great ones. But only those with a certain tier of success, and the blessing from fans over time, get to wield it. Which finishers from AEW have quickly distinguished themselves as truly elite? Let’s take a look.
(5) Dante’s Inferno (House of Black)
Tag teams run amuck in AEW. But with regard to tag team finishers, whether it’s the generally complex setups, or the infrequency with which they are seen actually ending matches, few stand out from the pack.
Dante’s Inferno makes up for those things by being a both fluid and impactful finisher, one that maintains a sense of spectacle befitting of how the House of Black is presented. The move is a front suplex assist into an inverted Gonzo Bomb, a mesmerizing exclamation point to any HOB match.
HOB have won many one-sided affairs a number of ways, some without even a double-team attempt. But rest assured, Dante’s Inferno is a special treat that means it’s over.
(4) Lockjaw (Britt Baker)
As World Champion Jamie Hayter fends off challengers in roster-elevating performances, Dr. Britt Baker, D.M.D. proves to still be the face of the division. Whether goodie or baddie (with a lowercase b), fans immediately knew who to root for when debuting megastar Saraya declared AEW her house. Truth is, though we may criticize Baker’s World title reign, she cemented two things well: her status and her finisher.
Some might argue Jamie Hayter and Rebel were her finisher, but they’re only half-right. Because Rebel handing over a shiny glove takes a Rings of Saturn/Mandible Claw hybrid to the next level visually. Theatrics aside, the crucifix transitions Baker have adopted for the Lockjaw through the years gives the move added layers of anticipation. And once properly applied, it’s a nasty, foul-looking match ender from AEW’s most camera-friendly star.
(3) Walls of Jericho/Liontamer (Chris Jericho)
Chris Jericho’s primary finisher remains the Judas Effect spinning back elbow. And while I understand the desire to reinvent, that move was visually doomed since its debut. With Jericho’s over 30 years in the industry, the Walls of Jericho is an iconic submission hold that has transcended pro wrestling in popularity. The “Walls” is a basic, elevated Boston Crab — a move rookies are expected to master. But look around today, and nobody else gets an arena on their feet from even just teasing the move.
The Liontamer is the rare, deadlier variant of the hold, which boasts an infinitely higher win-percentage. It’s the hold “Le Champion” used to retain the AEW World Championship in the historic (and controversial) first PPV defense for said title. And it seems the spirit of the Liontamer lives on in stablemate Daniel Garcia, in the form of the Dragontamer.
Nowadays, the spin elbow may end most of Jericho’s matches. But on the back of unmatched history, popularity, and crowd reactions, his O.G. finishers belong in the Top 3.
(2) Death Rider (Jon Moxley)
There’s something really wonderful and childlike about finishers that are simply executed from a higher place. Even in pro wrestling verbiage, they’re “super” versions of the standard move. AEW’s greatest example of this tradition is, without a doubt, Jon Moxley’s Death Rider.
Originally Moxley’s moniker, as well as the name of the finisher in New Japan Pro Wrestling to AEW’s Paradigm Shift, the move would eventually settle on its name come AEW x NJPW: Forbidden Door 2022. Paradigm Shift would refer to the snap butterfly DDT, which may occasionally win a bout. But more often than not, it’s the Death Rider, an elevated butterfly DDT/brainbuster, that wins gold and immortalizes matches.
The Death Rider has disposed of CM Punk in 3 minutes and launched up-and-comer Wheeler Yuta to the stratosphere. Never less feared, plenty more where it came from.
(1) One Winged Angel (Kenny Omega)
No one else in AEW exudes final boss energy like Kenny Omega. And when you carry a well-earned reputation as New Japan’s “Best Bout Machine,” and possess a move with a virtually perfect success rate, you tend to exude that energy.
Like Omega himself, the One Winged Angel is ingrained into the lore of AEW. From winning the World title from Moxley, to almost a year’s worth of high-level defenses, all culminating with the devastating electric chair driver. If the move couldn’t get any more dangerous, we’ve witnessed flying/crashing variants on Rey Fenix off of elevated ladders and stages, and who could forget that one on Sammy Guevara.
Not to mention all the other wrestlers who have attempted the move themselves, trying to harbor that same success Omega had but never coming close, only reinforcing its mythical status. Ticking every inconceivable box, Omega’s One Winged Angel is the ultimate finisher in pro wrestling.
Buckshot Lariat (Adam Page), Hayterade (Jamie Hayter)
These lariat finishers with set-up are steadily building a history. The Buckshot ended a 3-year saga with The Elite, and once saw Page somersaulting off a referee to land the move in a Texas Deathmatch. The Hayterade would put a stamp on the greatest women’s singles match in AEW thus far against Hikaru Shida. While both Page and Hayter have become World Champions with these moves, it will take more time to develop their mythos.
Big Rig (FTR), Meltzer Driver (Young Bucks), Strong Zero (Best Friends)
All these tandem moves are badass and winning finishers when landed. But it would be nicer to see them more often. Whether it’s the frequency with which Meltzer Drivers are countered or saved at the pinfall. Or the frustrating scarceness with which we see any of these main event duos wrestling at all. It’s hard to create and sustain that connection when they’re hardly booked, therefore unable to establish a special moveset.