Updated: Aug 14, 2019
THE HISTORY OF ONE OF WRESTLING'S MOST DANGEROUS BANNED MOVES.
Thousands of people roar and cheer. You seem to have found yourself being held by an abnormally large and sweaty man, your face pressed deep into his now rather fragrant jockstrap, nose not a whisker away from his taint. You are dropped at lightning speed, your head smashed hard into the ground below. Your neck contorts as your back muscles spasm. Your life-less body slumps down as your attacker lays his heaving weight upon you. You hear 3 large slaps from your bleeding ear hole followed by more cheering. Lightning bolts fly across the room and a bell tolls. Is this death? No.
Congratulations – you’ve just received a tombstone piledriver from the Undertaker.
By some wrestling historians, the piledriver is said to have been innovated by Wild Bill Longson.
Credit goes to the likes of Black Tiger, Mark Rocco invented the move in Japan. Whilst others argue that wrestling legend Karl Gotch who was accredited with the design of so many other in-ring techniques, was responsible for the piledriver’s creation.
Named from the mechanical tools used for digging holes where the poles for the foundation of a building stand – this move was heavily involved in the foundations of modern-day wrestling around the world.
Pro Wrestling Wiki states: “A piledriver is a professional wrestling driver move in which the wrestler grabs his opponent, turns him upside-down, and drops into a sitting or kneeling position, driving the opponent head-first into the mat.”
The move has been devastating since it’s creation and a recognisable and fundamental part of several wrestler’s careers.
Old school legends, such as Harley Race. Notable tough guy and verified wrestling icon used his own brutal variant of the piledriver for decades and during his time as one of the top men in the business.
Jerry The King Lawler, since his time as King Of Memphis in the 70’s, Lawler has used the move to win numerous NWA titles including unifying the World titles against Kerry Von Erich at Superclash 3.
The move was favoured by other legends such as Paul Orndorff, Budd Rogers, Bret Hart & The Brain Busters.
Aside from the traditional Belly-to-back or Texas piledriver, the move has now morphed into several decisive and awe-inspiring variations.
One of the most common variants of the manoeuvre, seen since the 80’s is the aforementioned – tombstone piledriver.
1981 saw the very first tombstone in Memphis Wrestling by Super Destroyer.
The move was popularised in the UK on World Of Sport in the 1980’s and was used by various famed British performers such as The Dynamite Kid & The British Bulldog.
Then, the 90’s rolled around and with all of the Capri-Suns, bowl cut hair and grunge – came The Undertaker.
Arguably the most influential and important wrestler of the last 20 years, big red, the deadman, big evil, whatever you want to call him – he’s an icon of the industry and much respected.
Undertaker’s use of the variant piledriver as a finisher led quickly to it being renamed from it’s more technical name of ‘belly-to-belly piledriver’ to refer to Taker’s character more closely – The tombstone was born and helped Undertaker defeat 21 opponents in a row at WWE’s biggest show of the year, Wrestlemania.
Even if you aren’t a wrestling fan – you’ve probably known about the Undertaker. Thus this variant of the move is most recognisable when talking about the piledriver. Today, Undertaker is one of only two wrestlers in WWE who is permitted to use the move, due to how dangerous it is to perform.
THE DANGERS OF THE PILEDRIVER
Credited with directly shortening the most popular and lucrative wrestling career of all-time in Stone Cold Steve Austin. The move was quickly declared too dangerous in WWE and performers where barred from using it in their matches.
In recent years the piledriver has been banned in a huge array of wrestling promotions around the globe.
The manoeuvre is completely banned across Mexico, where it is referred to as a martinete. Performing a piledriver in a Mexican promotion would land you with an automatic disqualification.
The same can be said in some states of the US, such as Tennessee where the move is banned across the entire state.
Some wrestling companies in the UK go even further and fine any performer who attempts a piledriver of any kind – after the promoter has DQ’ed the wrestler first.
In the wider world, because of the extreme severity of the damage caused by a piledriver – in MMA, under the Unified Rule of Mixed Martial Arts the move is classed as a foul and is illegal.
The piledriver is a relic of wrestling history, it’s list of users is a who’s who of wrestling’s past.
The move, feared for it’s danger and destructive capabilities, is revered for those exact reasons. Not just in wresting, but ban anything in mainstream media and it creates a real sense of intrigue only adding to the illustrious heritage of the piledriver.
And now, at a small independent show in your local theatre or in a main event at Wrestlemania – when the piledriver or one of it’s many evolutions is pulled from a wrestlers arsenal it feels as impactful as I imagine it would have back at it’s inception.