In the world of professional wrestling, it is sometimes favourable to keep things simple instead of overly complicating them. Yes, a fluent series of high spots can sometimes be truly thrilling and rewarding, but sometimes it isn’t necessary to be dedicatedly complex to garner a reaction. A good example of this would the Lariat or clothesline.
As far as wrestling moves go, it’s as basic as it gets. You clobber your opponent with an outstretched arm. That’s it. No flips, rolls or nuance. You just hit your opponent as hard as you ruddy well can so that they cannot answer the referee’s count of three. The move isn’t used that often as a finisher in the west anymore, but in Japan a well-placed Lariat is still a popular and accepted bout closer.
Today I will be listing ten of my favourite versions of the Lariat. This list is purely subjective of course, and I’ve missed out one of your favourite clothesline practitioners then please feel free to name them in the comments.
So, without further ado, let’s swing our arms violently in another person’s general direction! (Not literally of course, please don’t go out hitting random folk, you’ll get in some serious bother)
Number Ten – Barry Windham
At 6 foot 5 and 250+ pounds in his prime, Big Bazza was a powerful and technically proficient battler who often took World Champion Ric Flair to his very limits during the late 1980’s. What separated Barry from a lot of people his size was that he had tremendous speed and stamina. A lot of bigger wrestlers tended to get tired pretty quickly and weren’t especially agile. This wasn’t a trap Barry fell into, and at his peak he could be very light on his feet.
A great example of this would be his Lariat, a move he often used to win bouts along with his punishing leaping DDT. Barry would whip his opponent off the ropes before bouncing off the adjacent ones. As the two met in the middle, Barry would leap off the ground with a destructive strike that would fell his unfortunate opponent, often giving Barry the victory in the process.
Number Nine – Hulk Hogan
You may be surprised to see The Hulksters name on this list, especially as he was more widely known to crush his villainous foes with his patented Leg Drop of Doom™ in the States. Indeed, in his WWF and WCW days, his Lariat was treated as little more than a transition move at best. However, as mentioned earlier, whereas clotheslines aren’t often used to end bouts in the west, over in Japan a Lariat is pretty much the most devastating move you can do.
As a result of this, whenever Hulky would venture to the east his finisher would be a Lariat and not the leg drop. Named the “Axe Bomber”, Hogan’s Lariat was greatly feared amongst the people of Nippon, especially after the force of it caused Antonio Inoki to “swallow his tongue” during the first ever International Wrestling Gran Prix Final. Indeed, the Axe Bomber claimed many a scalp over in Japan, including the likes of Masahiro Chono and the Great Muta, and Hogan used it to dominate in that part of the world.
Number Eight – Bradshaw
Though he’s not often a popular figure outside the ring with certain people, there’s no denying that John “Bradshaw” Layfield was the proud owner of one of wrestling’s most punishing clotheslines. Dubbed the “Clothesline from Hell”, Bradshaw flattened many a rival with his lethal right arm. As someone who grew up during the Attitude Era of WWE, I regularly enjoyed playing as The Acolytes on the early Smackdown games just so I could take people’s heads off with Bradshaw’s devastating finisher.
Number Seven – Kane
Glen “Kane” Jacobs is another giant of the grapple game, ranging around 6 foot 9 and often weighing in at around 300 pounds during times in his career. Being that big, it seems ridiculous that Kane would regularly leap from the very top rope with a clothesline, but low and behold that’s what he did night in and night out during a 20+ year career. Though it’s not always the smoothest in execution, the fact a man Kane’s size has made a move like this part of his regular arsenal for all this time really is pretty bloody impressive.
Number Six – Riki Choshu
Along with having perhaps one of the catchiest entrance themes in wrestling history, Riki Choshu is one of the most successful and enduring wrestlers in all of Puroresu. Originally of South Korean descent, Choshu actually represented his country at the 1972 Olympics in amateur wrestling. Moving into the pros after the games, Choshu went on to win a cacophony of titles during his career, including the IWGP Heavyweight Title and the G1 Climax.
A core component of Choshu’s success was his “Riki Lariat”, a move which he used to great effect over the years. What I always liked about the Riki Lariat is the snap Choshu gets following contact. It’s almost as if he pings off his clattered foe. Choshu was renowned for being an incredibly “stiff” worker during his heyday, meaning that he often laid his strikes in. Watching a poor Riki Lariat victim laying as a crumpled mess on the mat, you can certainly believe it.
Number Five – Nigel Mcguinness
During his reign as Ring of Honour World Champion in the late 00’s, Nigel Mcguinness threw many a Lariat. Indeed, he basically destroyed his body with them, which makes his work from that time period a somewhat guilty pleasure. Nigel has since retired and now has a job as a commentator in WWE, which makes his older matches slightly less harrowing, and there’s no denying that he threw one heck of a Lariat in his day.
What I like so much about Nigel was that he had so many versions of the Lariat that he used, most of which appear to have been stolen by Dean Ambrose these days. He would sit an opponent on the top rope and then leap off the turnbuckle, rebound off the ropes to get extra momentum or just plain get a run up and smack his opponent as hard as possible. Nigel in fact got an unflattering nickname of “McLariat” during this time from a certain sub section of the ROH fan base. Regardless of that, I was a huge fan of Nigel during this period, and his Lariats were a big reason why.
Number Four – Satoshi Kojima
I’ve always been a big fan of Satoshi Kojima’s ring style. Whenever people who haven’t watched Japanese wrestling ask me what they should look for to start getting into it, I always recommend they start with matches involving Kojima and his long-time partner/rival Hiroyoshi Tenzan. I’ve always considered both of these men great “bridge” wrestlers between the American and Japanese styles. Both men are most certainly Japanese style wrestlers, but there is also an element of American showmanship in the way they go about their business, which makes them good introductory wrestlers for new fans.
Along with his “Cozy Cutter” and top rope elbow, Kojima’s most effective move in his arsenal has always been his Lariat, which he always delivers with a loud “YIIIAAAHHHH”. This yelp combined with the thick thud of his arm crashing into a rival wrestler never fails to illicit a reaction from the crowd. Kojima has used the Lariat to great effect, holding both the AJPW Heavyweight Triple Crown and IWGP Heavyweight Titles at the same time. Kojima still wrestles now for New Japan Pro Wrestling, though he’s limited mostly to tag matches. He still delivers a mean Lariat though!
Number Three – Kazuchika Okada
Kazuchika Okada is not only the current reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion, but there’s a very good chance that he could find himself voted as the 2017 wrestler of the year when all is said and done. He has had a constant stream of great matches with the likes of Kenny Omega, Minoru Suzuki, EVIL and Katsuyori Shibata. He’s won most of them with his “Rain Maker” Lariat, one of the most simple but effective finishers in all of pro wrestling.
What differentiates the Rain Maker from the usual Lariat is that Okada sets up for it from behind his opponent. First he grabs them in a waist lock before grabbing a hold of their wrist. From there he pushes the opponent around so they are facing him before tugging them into a vicious Lariat that knocks them into next week. It’s a brilliant finisher and always gets my vote for “move of the year” in the RSPW year-end awards. Will Tetsuya Naito be the next wrestler to fall to it at Wrestle Kingdom 12? I don’t know, but I sure can’t wait to find out!
Number Two – Kenta Kobashi
If you put me on the spot and asked me to name my favourite wrestler of all time, I’d probably go for Kenta Kobashi. What I love about him more than anything else is how he was always so willing to show emotion. Japanese wrestling on the whole has always put a premium on stoicism over emotion, with wrestlers like Mitsuharu Misawa and Shinya Hashimoto always trying to hide that they might be in pain or suffering. Kobashi completely went against this philosophy though and regularly sold that he was in absolute agony.
Combining incredible fire with impeccable facial expressions, Kobashi could convey a whole glut of emotions with just one look to the crowd. This often linked back to his “Burning Lariat”, a move that he used to great effect during his days an in ring performer. Being that his Lariat was so feared, opposing wrestlers would often target Kobashi’s arm in hope of reducing the threat.
Whereas some wrestlers will sell a limb these days only to completely forget about it when it’s time for the finishing sequence, Kobashi would sell that arm injury like a mofo. Yes, he might hit a Lariat, but he’d crumple to the mat in agony after delivering it. He’d then get up holding his damaged arm, look out to the crowd and give out a yell, a yell that said “I know my arm is buggered, but I’m in a GHC Heavyweight Title match here so I’m going to Lariat this bloke again, because I have to!”
Oh how I love Kenta Kobashi!
Number One – Stan Hansen
In my mind, I couldn’t pick anyone else for the #1 spot. Stan Hansen’s nickname was “The Lariat” for figs sake, how on earth could he not top this list? The fact his “Western Lariat” is one of the most violent and destructive manoeuvres in all of professional wrestling went a long way to deciding it as well.
For those that are unaware, Stan Hansen was practically blind without his glasses, which is why it always looked like he had a perpetual frown upon his face. He wasn’t frowning, he was squinting! This ultimately made his Lariat a fearful move to be on the end of as, due to his near sightedness, Hansen would just swing his arm in the general direction of his opponent with all the force of a Howitzer shell.
Whether he got the poor sap in a safe place or not was really up to chance. In effect, Stan Hansen was giving the people of Japan the gift of surprise. Though Hansen did most of the wrestling of his later career over in the land of Nippon, he also enjoyed success back home in the United States as well, defeating Rick Martel for the AWA Heavyweight Championship and Lex Luger for the NWA United States Championship. Regardless of what company he called home, his devastating Lariat always came with him, much to his opponents chagrin…
Thanks for reading!