Moves that are banned in WWE

All wrestling moves are inherently dangerous. There’s a reason why WWE tells you not to try this at home, after all. But some moves are so dangerous, especially in an era where concussion research and concerns about athlete health are becoming more and more important on a regular basis, that they have actually been banned for use by WWE. Some of them are obvious choices, but some of them might surprise you.

The piledriver

It’s a move in which you bend your opponent over, tuck their head between your knees, hoist them upside down while grabbing them at the waist, and then execute the technique. They then hit their head on the mat as you drop to your knees or jump and land on your butt. The compression of the head, neck, and spinal column’s vertebrae is the most evident risk. Due to its high level of risk, only few wrestlers are still permitted to do this maneuver, although seasoned pros like Jerry “The King” Lawler and The Undertaker are trusted to execute it correctly since they have a history of performing it safely.

Headshots from a chair

Any part of the body can be damaged when a steel chair is swung at it, but the head and skull are particularly vulnerable. As a result of taking a sharp chairshot to the figurative bells, many wrestlers have experienced concussions and vertigo, and the effects of these hits to the head throughout the course of their careers are still being recorded. (Christopher Nowinski and Mick Foley are two of the better examples.) Many wrestlers have had head injuries from chair shots, including wounds, bruises, fractured bones, and concussions, and they continue to experience pain today. Consequently, the action has been prohibited in several federations. WWE games still have the feature of chair shots in the head, but still if you ask why it’s not banned from the game? The move is currently prohibited in the WWE in real life because in the past, wrestlers would repeatedly hit each other over the head with chairs, but this led to many of them suffering from concussions that prevented them from continuing to wrestle. However, in video games, they are not required to do this because the wrestlers are simply computer graphics and not actual people.

Curb Stomp and Orton’s infamous Punt Kick

WWE has always prioritized the wellbeing of its employees. WWE outlawed Rollins’ prior finisher, the curb stomp, because it’s so risky. Your neck and head are directly hit, resulting in a violent trauma that can cause paralysis, serious neck injury, or even death. For the benefit of the employees, it was also prohibited, similar to maneuvers like “The punt” and “Original pedigree,” and Seth was given “Pedigree” as a finisher. Between 2007 and 2009, Randy Orton was on a rampage, and the Legend Killer started running at opponents and punting them in the head. Between 2007 and 2009, Randy Orton was on a rampage, and the Legend Killer started running at opponents and punting them in the head. Another concussion problem where there was simply not enough room for error. However, this is more about perception than reality, much as Seth Rollins’ temporary ban on Curb Stomp. WWE don’t want to promote violence and, and when it comes to their “Don’t Try This At Home”, it wasn’t going well with this move specifically.

The Piledriver

A classic finisher, and possibly the very first move ever explicitly banned by WWE, after a mistake by Owen Hart accidentally broke the neck of rising star “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. The injury put Austin on the shelf for a year at the height of his popularity, and likely led to his retirement at a relatively early age. There are several versions of the Piledriver, but all of them basically involve turning your opponent upside down, and driving them into the mat head-first. Jerry Lawler is one of the most well-known users of the traditional Piledriver in his career, and a modified (and slightly safer version would be the Tombstone used by The Undertaker and Kane (the Tombstone is not banned, but only used on special occasions, and so much caution is used that the wrong camera angle can easily show that a Tombstone recipient’s head never comes close to hitting the mat). Banning the Piledriver was the beginning of WWE’s attempts to find ways to prevent serious neck injuries, a situation which they continue to monitor to this day.

Canadian Destroyer

This move has only ever truly been performed on the big stage by one man, Petey Williams, formerly of TNA. The move is a difficult one to perform and actually requires a significant amount of athleticism on the part of both wrestlers involved, which would already be a strike against it being performed regularly on WWE programming. If you can’t hit it on some of the super heavyweights that roam WWE’s rings, it’s not the most effective finisher. At any rate, the Destroyer is a piledriver that is performed by setting an opponent up as if you’re going to deliver a powerbomb, then diving over their back, forcing them to flip backwards with your legs, into a piledriver finish. You can probably guess the main reason why this move was banned before ever being seen in WWE, since we used the word “piledriver” twice while describing it. Arguably, it’s not the most dangerous piledriver variant, since the flipping involved removes most of the downward impact of the move, but the added complexity also makes it easier to screw up.

Shooting Star Press

After Brock Lesnar nearly sent himself to the hospital attempting a Shooting Star Press at WrestleMania XIX (arguably, Brock had performed the move repeatedly in developmental, but never before in WWE), the move landed itself on the banned list. The move is already a high-risk endeavour due to being of the top rope variety, but the fact that it’s very easy to either over or under-rotate, combined with an inability to see where you’re landing until just before impact, meant that it had a significantly higher potential for causing injury. Indeed, other wrestlers known for attempting the SSP, notably WCW and WWE Superstar Billy Kidman, often received criticism for being “sloppy” when performing it (Kidman had it turned into a story line where he was afraid to perform the move after legitimately injuring Chavo Guerrero during a match when he drove his knees into Chavo’s neck). Exceptions have been made to this ban over the years, when dedicated performers have proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can hit it safely and consistently, including Evan Bourne and, most recently, Neville, whose Red Arrow is an even more complicated twisting version of the move. Additionally, Superstars such as John Morrison have performed a standing version of the SSP, which is significantly safer due to being performed from a grounded position.

Vertebreaker

Popularized by “Sugar” Shane Helms in the last days of WCW (Helms would go on to slightly larger fame as superhero character The Hurricane in WWE), the Vertebreaker was as complex and dangerous as it sounds, essentially holding your opponent upside down on your back, then dropping to the ground, forcing them to land on their head, neck, and shoulders. The move requires a ridiculous set-up to pull off and can really only be successfully performed on smaller wrestlers, due to the combination of strength and leverage required to hold someone upside down on your back. Clearly, perfect timing is also required to prevent injury, and the margin for error is incredibly thin, since you can’t directly see the wrestler you’re performing the move on. It’s a move that probably never should have been invented, and it was no great loss when WWE added it to the banned list almost instantly.

Brainbuster

Dick Murdoch is credited with innovating the Brainbuster and bringing it into popular use, and it saw an increase in popularity in the modern era as a more brutal version of a suplex. After lifting your opponent up as if for a standard vertical suplex, you instead drop straight down, forcing them to land mainly on their shoulders and neck. A modified and reasonably safer version of a Brainbuster can be seen in the Jackhammer, a trademark move of Goldberg, where instead of dropping straight down, the opponent is visibly pulled over, allowing them to land flat on their back. The move is banned in WWE due to the combination of the lack of control involved in a move where everyone is falling, in addition to the obvious problems with dropping someone on their neck from a significant height. In an interesting bit of trivia, in Japan (where ridiculously dangerous moves are rarely banned), the standard vertical suplex is actually referred to as a Brainbuster, while the head-and-neck version is called a “vertical drop Brainbuster”.

The Pedigree

The Pedigree, clearly, is a legitimately dangerous move, as it drives a wrestler face-first into the mat, while hooking the arms to prevent them from cushioning the blow. While the wrestler’s head is theoretically positioned high enough that it shouldn’t come into contact with the ground, one mistake could be the difference between performing the move correctly, and a serious injury. It should be no surprise, therefore, that the original version of Triple H’s Pedigree was quickly banned by WWE, especially after some isolated incidents where wrestlers failed to take the move correctly and hurt themselves in the process. As a result, the move which Triple H would make famous and which Seth Rollins uses today is a modified version, in which the wrestler delivering the move releasing their opponent’s arms well before impact, allowing them to use their arms to hit first, preventing the possibility of the neck and head slamming into the mat at a high speed.

Burning Hammer

This move is so dangerous that it has only been performed a handful of times professionally, all by the same wrestler, and never in WWE. In concept, the move is similar to John Cena’s Attitude Adjustment, a fireman’s carry slam. The difference is that the wrestler taking the move starts by laying on his back across his opponent’s shoulders, rather than on his front, and instead of flipping over to land in a typical back bump, is dropped straight down to the side, usually landing on the shoulders, head, and neck. The move was pioneered by Kenta Kobashi, considered one of the greatest Japanese wrestlers in history (and the mentor of Kenta Kobayashi, who now wrestles in WWE as Hideo Itami), and even he recognized how dangerous the move was, only using it seven times in his entire career. Former WWE Superstar Tyler Reks briefly used a heavily modified and much safer version which was also called a Burning Hammer, but it was not the same move used by Kobashi.

Whilst WWE is scripted, it is not entirely fake. We wrestling enthusiasts have said it a million times, yet the negative connotations attached to the sport have persisted. WWE being scripted can too lead to dangerous mishaps. 

 

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Sarah Meere
Sarah Meere
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Sarah looks after corporate enquiries and relationships for UKFilmPremieres, CelebEvents, ShowbizGossip, Celeb Management brands for the MarkMeets Group. Sarah works for numerous media brands across the UK.

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