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#TIL (6/28/16): The Secret Origins of Beloved Moves




Orville & Wilbur Wright. Thomas Edison. Steve Jobs. Elon Musk. Famous inventors, all of them, who changed the world for the better with such innovative marvels as manned flight, electric lighting, the iPhone, and online payments.

But what of their pro wrestling equivalents? Such men as Mike "Hollywood Nova" Bucci, Kenta Kobayashi, Yoshihiro Asai, Jushin Thunder Liger, or Chris "Who Betta Than" Kanyon have built a decent reputation for innovation in their in-ring repertoires, but what of lesser lights who don't get as much shine among most modern wrestling fans for their contributions to the wrestling lexicon?

In this debut edition of #TIL, the only column in Smark Henry that's purely devoted to uncovering some little-known facts buried in the history of pro wrestling, we're going to take a look at ten beloved wrestling moves and the stories behind their invention, courtesy of our wonderful friends at r/SquaredCircle.

Let's go for a ride down memory lane, Henrinites!

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1. The STO (Space Tornado Ogawa)


Naoya Ogawa is a two-time NWA World Champion who once won a silver medal for judo at the 1992 Summer Olympics, competed in mixed martial arts against such opponents as the fabled Hidehiko Yoshida and Fedor Emelianenko, and was author of one of the most notorious moments in NJPW history when he broke kayfabe to pound Shinya Hashimoto into a bloody pulp in the ring with kicks and stomps. He's a certified bad-ass, and it shouldn't come as a surprise that he is the recognized author as well of one of the more painful-looking moves in wrestling, the Space Tornado Ogawa—more popularly known today as the STO.


The move was born from Ogawa's extensive judo background, and has the rare distinction of being one of those moves that looks both flawlessly smooth and brutally dangerous. Even when current NXT Head Trainer Jason Albert came back from his seven-year Japanese wrestling pilgrimage with a modified version of Ogawa's move as his new finisher, the WWE had to supposedly ask him to alter it to be less injurious to opponents.

That's pretty much the best sign that a move is a killer.

2. The DDT


The DDT is certainly one of the coolest wrestling moves of all time—heck, even the WWE says so on its own website—but it's also one of the most wrongly-remembered moves as far as its origin story goes. Jake "The Snake" Roberts is perhaps the man who brought it to greatest fame, and to this day claims to be the architect of the move. Unfortunately for Roberts, video evidence from as early as 1968 exists showing a Mexican wrestler named Black Gordman using the move in a wrestling ring.


While Gordman doesn't even have the courtesy of his own Wikipedia page, he's a lucha libre icon who engaged in lengthy feuds with such legends as John Tolos and Mil Mascaras both in Mexico and in North America.

But at the end of the don't particularly care who invented the DDT. Either way, it still means "The End," as Roberts once famously said.

3. The Pedigree


WWE Hall of Famer Andre the Giant was better known for his prodigious size and massive headbutts, but did you know he's also actually the first recorded performer of the double-underhook facebuster that's more famous today as the Pedigree?


To be fair, the execution of the move varies slightly—it's more of a double-underhook piledriver that lands the opponent on the crown of his head, rather than a pure facebuster. But there's really no point in debating the semantics. When a 600-pound giant called "The Eighth Wonder of the World" has made up his mind that he wants to turn your brains into mush, there's not much else you can do but hold your breath and hope for the best.


4. Northern Lights Suplex


Hiroshi Hase may be more famous today as Japan's Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (whew!), but he's a legitimate ass-kicker who survived a near-death experience in a wrestling ring after a stiff backdrop by former nWo Japan member Tatsutoshi Goto. But we think his real career highlight was the invention of the beautiful bridging suplex known as the Northern Lights Suplex.


Hase innovated the move during his time in the legendary Stampede territory in the mid-1980s, and named it after the famed aurora borealis—also known as the Northern Lights. What a poetic name for a poetic move.

5. Irish Whip


There are few moves as basic as the Irish Whip (especially among 2K online players who spam the hell out of it), but did you know that once upon a time it was a viable finishing move in pro wrestling?


Irish strongman Danno O'Mahoney brought the move to North American shores in 1934 as Boston promoter Paul Bowser's way to appeal to the proud Irish community in New York and New England, in much the same way that Bruno Sammartino would later be a hero among the Italian community. In its original form, the Irish Whip wasn't just a means to bounce an opponent into the ropes as a set-up for another offensive move—it was offense in itself. Blending elements from both Irish folk wrestling and judo, O'Mahoney would chain the first throw into what you would probably call a short-arm deep armdrag that was often enough to stun an opponent enough for a three-count.

Considering the dude rung up a 49-match winning streak using the move, you knew it was serious business.

6. Powerbomb


It's ironic that the move Lou Thesz is best known for—the Thesz Press, as popularized by "Stone Cold" Steve Austin—isn't even the greatest move he's ever invented. That honor would go to the powerbomb, which the six-time world champion used to great effect throughout his landmark career as the only male wrestler to have wrestled in seven different decades.


Perhaps foreshadowing the move's use today as a preferred "big man" finisher, Thesz's original version of the powerbomb was built on brute strength, physically deadlifting his opponents up into the drop position before unceremoniously dumping them back-first onto the mat.

7. Death Valley Driver


Retired Japanese joshi veteran Etsuko Mita may never have reached great heights in singles competition, but she does have the honor of being the inventor of the Death Valley Driver, whose bastardized version lives on today as John Cena's Attitude Adjustment.


People like to joke about Japanese wrestlers having absolutely no regard for each other's necks, and the move was no exception. While Cena allows his victims to keep their arms mostly free to spread out the impact of landing, Mita viciously kept her opponents' near arms locked snugly, dumping their full weight plumb on their necks. Even the late Louie Spicolli—who is often frequently cited as the architect of the move—Perry Saturn, or Tommy Dreamer never put that much mustard into their own respective versions.


8. Brainbuster


The brainbuster's history is often tied to former WWF Tag Team Champion Dick Murdoch, who infamously dropped Nikita Koloff on the concrete ringside floor with it during his 1987 run with the NWA, which led to a (kayfabe) 30-day suspension preceding his eventual exit. But in truth, Murdoch actually learned the move from a man named "Killer" Karl Kox.


Kox, as his nom de guerre suggests, was not a nice man. He was a main event-level heel in the glory days of both the NWA and AJPW, and a true sadist who frequently threatened to hospitalize his foes with his sadistic finishing maneuver. Legend has it that after using the brainbuster on a TV commentator, the switchboard of the network was flooded with calls complaining about him as a public menace.

9. Diving Headbutt


Most fans will more closely associate the diving headbutt with the Dynamite Kid, or his spiritual successors of Daniel Bryan or Chris Benoit. But the reality is it was a move created entirely by accident by Harley Race. The eight-time NWA World Champion apparently slipped on the second rope right as he was about to blast a fallen foe with an aerial maneuver, turning what should have been a dramatic flight into a clumsy head-first fall that just happened to bounce off his opponent's torso.


Despite Race becoming famous for this move, it's something he's vocally expressed regret about inventing on numerous occasions, blaming the move directly for his spinal problems, while aggravating internal injuries due to the repeated impact from his chest-first landings.

10. Sharpshooter


Depending on what generation of wrestling they grew up with, most mainstream pro wrestling fans will associate the Sharpshooter with either "Rugged" Ronnie Garvin, Sting, or Bret "Hitman" Hart. While that's not a bad list, let's not forget that Riki Choshu did it first as the Sasori-gatame



The Sharpshooter is a quick two-part move for most other wrestlers: grapevine the opponent's legs, then flip him over to put torque on his lower back and quadriceps. But for Choshu, the move was a drawn-out theater of torture. He would savor the initial grapevine, wrenching back on his opponent's trapped foot in a painful heel hook. Then when he'd sense a submission was imminent, only then would he transition over the the stomach-down portion, sitting low on the opponent's lumbar region to maximize his leverage.

If only the Rock had bothered to watch a few more YouTube videos of the Japanese mat legend.

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What did you think of this first edition of #TIL, wrestling fans? Did anything from this list take you by surprise? If you know of any other interesting stories over how a specific wrestling move was invented, drop some knowledge on us in the comments section below!

For more wrestling knowledge on the origins behind moves like the dropkick, the enzuigiri, or the figure four leglock, keep reading here.

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Mark De Joya (@MDJSuperstar) is an advertising professional and brand strategist by day, but dreams of being the Vince McMahon of the Philippines by night. He writes anything to do with numbers for Smark Henry. With 18" arms and a 300-pound squat, he is also the official bouncer of the Smark Henry offices. 

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