Finishing maneuvers in wrestling are ingrained into today's wrestling scene. One of the first things an aspiring wrestler may think about is what move they are going to use to claim their victories. About 90% of matches now-a-days that consist of a pinfall or submission are concluded with a finishing maneuver followed by the pin or the submission. However, as cool as finishing moves can be, they are crippling wrestling matches.
A wrestler's finisher or signature move is something that is viewed as being one of the key factors in a wrestler's quality. A weak finishing move can hinder a wrestler's popularity; an impressive one can make their career. Petey Williams is a good wrestler, but when you think of him you don't think of his smooth technical ability or his athleticism, you think of the Canadian Destroyer, which is fine, it's a great move, and it shows how important a finisher can be for a wrestler. Moves such as the Pedigree, Tombstone and Sharpshooter are as iconic as the men who perform them.
But from a match-quality standpoint, finishers are severely handicapping what the performers can do in the ring and what kind of finishes can be used. At the higher levels of pro-wrestling, especially in the WWE a match basically cannot end without a finisher being hit.
For example, Kane throws Dolph Ziggler off of the ropes and hits him with a big sidewalk slam and goes for the cover. What are the chances of Kane getting the full 3 count on that maneuver? There isn't a chance, to the best of my knowledge he has never won a match using that move. So why would he go for the pinfall? It is such an anti-climactic moment, then why not avoid the pin completely and set up your next move? Nobody with a brain is in suspense about that cover, nobody thinks that the match could be concluded right then and there because Kane didn't chokeslam him, he only gave him a sidewalk slam.
If finishers did not exist, then no one move would signal the end of a match. Instead, a wide variety of maneuvers could be considered the one that could finish a guy off. When one move in particular is considered the most lethal of an individual's repertoire, then all the other moves are considered weaker and less effective. If all those moves were considered to be equal in power, than matches would be more exciting, more unpredictable and the finishers could be more diverse.
One of the reasons I am a big fan of Dolph Ziggler is that he really does not have a go-to finishing move. He has won matches in the past with the sleeper hold, the Zig-Zag, the Fame-asser and the superkick. When Ziggler hits one of those moves, it is possible to think that this could really be the conclusion of the match. Conversely, just because he hits one of those moves that does not mean the match is over. If John Cena hits the Attitude Adjustment, unless it is a particularly large match, you might as well count the 1,2,3 because hardly anybody kicks out of it unless the match is on ppv or for a championship.
Robert Roode is also someone who does not have a real official finishing move. He has a variety of moves that he has won with, making each move just as lethal or effective as the next. What do Roode and Ziggler have in common? They are both generally perceived to be very good in-ring workers. Both men have a significant list of good/great matches on their resume. Is it a coincidence that the two main individuals who are known for not having a real finisher are also two of the best workers currently performing today?
Historically, finishing moves have not always been as significant or apparent as they are today. Ric Flair and the Figure-our, but he hardly won a majority of his matches using that move. No, Flair won a substantial amount his matches using a variety of roll-ups and cradles. Every time Flair did a small package or an outside cradle, drama was being portrayed because Flair often won using those moves. And who is regarded as easily being one of the top five wrestlers to ever lace them up? Why Ric Flair of course.
The undoing of finishing moves is a pipedream of course. Where wrestling is currently, there really is no way to get rid of finishers. Without finishing moves, guys who are limited in their skills and have restricted move-sets would be reduced and guys with a wide-range of moves would stand out. Guys such as Big Show, John Cena and even Randy Orton would all be hampered, which is obviously something the WWE would not be interested in doing.
Historically, the trend is that finishers are becoming more and more prevalent in wrestling. In the late 80s, not everyone had a true finisher, before that only a select few had even signature moves. Before Hulk Hogan and the national expansion of the WWF, a wrestler who only relied on half a dozen moves would never have been able to make it in the big time.
I am a huge fan of wrestling presently. When done right, a match taking place in 2013 could easily trump a match that happened 10, 20, 30 years ago, in my opinion. But in this case I guess I can be considered old-school, because the over-reliance on finishing moves has to go.