A finishing move in the world of wrestling is crucial. Something that can make or break a pro wrestler, often the coolest looking moves don't click, while something as goofy as "The People's Elbow" becomes iconic. Each wrestler has a different method to their madness when landing on their signature, match ending match up. In this new series, "Making A Finisher," Fightful.com will go in depth with wrestlers as they explain their moves, discuss how they were developed, who took it the best, the worst, why they stopped doing some of them, and the psychology behind them.
Magnum TA's career may have met an unfortunate and abrupt end, but his influence is felt today. In the 1980s -- a time before powerbombs, moonsaults, and the like were the norm, you had the Hogan leg drop. The Flair Figure Four leg lock. Magnum T.A.'s belly-to-belly suplex was poised to join the ranks of those moves.
As mentioned in previous editions of Making A Finisher, the common point of "being able to do a move to everyone" comes up. However, it usually comes up when talking about something that doesn't require lifting an opponent. Instead, Magnum's confidence in his core strength led to that "I can do it anyone" attitude.
"It was something I realized early in my career I had the ability to do to anyone, no matter what size they were, whether they were a seasoned professional or an enhancement type person or burst on the scene. I had real strong power in my lower back and hips that enabled me to utilize that move whether they weighed 180 pounds or 365 pounds like Kamala. When I realized that early on I would be able to be in a main event program, I could make it my own and it wasn't something anyone was using as a finishing maneuver. It fit. It worked well. That's where it came from. You have to be able to do your finish to anyone, and I could do it to anyone I could get my arms around," said Magnum.
Almost any wrestler you speak to is going to have a signature moment for their signature move. For Terry Allen, his involved correcting an in-ring mistake that led to his most memorable incarnation of his finishing move on an eventual member of the dominant Demolition team.
"I did it to hundreds and hundreds of people. I always went to the left -- that's just the way I did it. One of the most unique ones, the one that was funny to me, I was working with Barry Darsow (Demolition Smash) in Houston. Barry came running at me so fast, and he went to the right -- 300 pounds -- and I stopped him mid-stream and spun him to the left and gave him the suplex. I could only to it one way! I couldn't do it and pivot to the right. The way it looked on video was crazy. You could tell I took this guy and his full momentum and I changed him midair and planted him pretty good. That's one that sticks out to me. That strength that I had in that particular position I can get them with momentum, even when they didn't want to go the right way," Magnum recalled.
Despite the magic that was created with Darsow, Allen saw that as a once-in-a-lifetime version of the move. However, if Dusty Rhodes would have asked him to, Magnum made it clear he would in an effort to entertain the fans. T.A. remembered a moment in the original Crockett Cup where a creative finish was developed with a Japanese legend.
"I didn't (run it back), but they had me do some things. Back then we didn't go to the ring and practice things, it wasn't choreographed. For the Crockett Cup, I'd never worked with Tiger Mask in my life. For the finish, Tiger Mask did this leap off the top. Dusty said 'it'd be great if he did this leap and you caught him in mid-air and belly-to-belly'd him.' We didn't have dressing rooms that were connected back then, we were on the other end of the arena. The referee goes and tells Tiger Mask 'Magnum's going to catch you off the top rope with a belly-to-belly' and I did! It was the finish, and everyone popped and went crazy. Whatever Dusty said we'd do. Even if he wanted me to catch King Kong off the top of the Empire State Building, I was going to go do it! We were so pumped up and jacked up to produce the most amazing product we could, there were very little limitations to what we would do," Magnum said.
Since the days of Magnum T.A., a couple other names have used the Belly-to-Belly as a finish. Shane Douglas, Ken Shamrock to name a few. However, when Magnum sees the move used over and over again without any real impact, he also sees the work he put in to establish it somewhat diminished.
"I've seen some guys use some good ones. It was a special time, and it was my finish," said Magnum. "I beat people on TV in 15 seconds with it. As time has progressed and things have changed, I have kids who are 11 years old who watch my old matches via the WWE Network, and they'll see Brock Lesnar suplex somebody 15-17 times in a match. As punishing as that is, kids will say 'that's cool, but why does he have to do it so many times and he can't beat anyone?' You do something and it means something and someone doesn't get up. If you're doing it, doing it, doing it, it loses value somehow."
In today's WWE, Bayley uses the "Bayley to Belly" as a finishing move, but still sees the likes of Lesnar, Kurt Angle and numerous others utilize a version of her finish without using it as such. For Magnum, the importance is all about the impact the move creates.
"Today it's tough. They're in a world where all these high spots 20 years ago had the impact of a finish. It's exciting to watch, but sometimes less is more," said Magnum. "If the right person were to come along today, and where you do something -- I think if someone came along and did something and the other person sold it like they got killed, they would be over. When things that are spectacular just become a high spot, it diminishes the significance of the move. It's a different world. I remember in the 80s, we used to watch lucha wrestling and Japanese wrestling and we'd laugh. Nobody sold anything. At the end of the day, what does it mean if it doesn't have any impact on your body?"
Magnum T.A.'s in-ring career may have been taken from all of us too soon, but the impact of one of the best finishing moves from the 1980s remains on WWE television to this day.