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#FinisherFriday (6/5/15): Deconstructing the RKO

All throughout history, pro wrestling has been at the forefront of pop culture. From ass-whooping verses to vulgar crotch chops—and more recently, positivity chants, WWE has been the runaway leader of pro wrestling in mainstream media. Of course, not every gimmick or character flies across as relatable or even significant, but there are still a select few wrestling allusions that have gotten so over that it jumped through the ring ropes and vaulted into public consciousness.

After tackling a time-old heel finisher last week, this time we look and dissect, arguably the most over finisher in pro wrestling today: the RKO.

This variation of the jumping cutter has been a move that is synonymous to what a finisher should be: quick and effective. As dependable as it is for a three count, it has also become one of the most mainstream finishers in WWE history.

No, Randy. Not that.


Classified as a three-quarter facelock to a front face bulldog, the cutter is a move wherein the attacking wrestler reaches back and grabs the head of an opponent, pulling the head as he falls backwards to force the opponent face-first to the mat.

Originating from no one else but the 203rd wrestler in PWI’s Top 500 All Time Wrestlers list, Johnny Ace—or more popularly known now as Mr. Excitement, John Laurinaitis—the Ace Crusher has made its rounds in NWA, AJPW, and WCW in one memorable match after another.

The Most Exciting Man in Sports Entertainment!

But the cutter got its name from the Diamond Cutter, a finisher used by Diamond Dallas Page, who often sets it up through a fireman’s carry or an overhead gutwrench variation.

But the diamond upside-down is a—

That, of course, was until 2003, when a certain blue-chip prospect started dropping Hall of Famers and slaying legends with his version of the jumping cutter called the RKO.

Before there was Floyd Mayweather, there was Randy Orton

But what makes this simple move so successful that it has given Randy Orton twelve championship reigns? So dangerous that the move sometimes is stipulated to be banned?  And so popular that it’s even giving Zack Ryder a run for his Internet championship reign?

The Setup

Just like with any move in wrestling, position is everything.

Despite it being labeled and used as a surprise move, the RKO is still all about the setup. It takes great ring awareness to be able to recognize distance and space. At the same time, the Viper’s mat stomps are not just for show, as it creates a hypnotizing beat, putting his opponents in a trance and very much ready to be struck with the RKO.


Or you can just play possum

The Execution

The RKO is basically a jumping cutter, but imagine if the executor is a highly athletic and agile guy, able to twist and jump to grab your head at any moment’s notice. With a wrestler of Orton’s skill set and creativity, the RKO is a very dangerous weapon.  

With his body practically parallel to the mat, Randy Orton brings the finesse of Michael Jordan as he hangs in the air for a while before he plants his opponent’s face to the mat.

Now that's a real American way to taking an RKO

The Post-move

Half of what makes the RKO such a dominant finisher is all in Orton’s body language. Similar to his theatrics in setting it up, he finishes it off by taunting and stalking his opponent, making you cringe at the thought of what else he can do to you than being on the wrong side of an RKO.   

What makes it so popular then?

It’s like the basketball's slam dunk. An exciting move that can be both graceful and high-impact, dependent on how you set it up. It's highly versatile maneuver that can be unleashed at any given moment.

At the same time, regardless if its in-game or not, it’s a move that every basketball player would do if the opportunity presents itself, whether on a kiddie basketball ring or any dunkable surface.

That’s the magic of the RKO. It transcends from the screen as one of those wrestling moves that’s easily doable, yet very much believable as a wrestling move.

Yep. Easy.

It also helps that there are people who have a lot of time on their hands.

How can you survive the RKO?

Keep Orton at a distance and always be aware of where you are in the ring. You can always counter the RKO by anticipating the jump and cancelling Orton’s momentum. But you can only hope for the best, ‘cause it always, ALWAYS, comes out of nowhere.


Do you think Ralph Imabayashi does a prettier version with his Sonic Crusher? Is Charlotte changing the game with the Natural Selection? Should Johnny Ace make a comeback? Comments? Violent reactions? Any recommendations for #FinisherFriday? Sound off below in the comments!

GIFs and images are sourced from Tumblr


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