Updated: Apr 27
The microwave, the post-it note and penicillin. Some of humanities most important creations have come about seemingly by accident.
The same can be said for the Powerbomb.
One of wrestling’s most devastating and recognisable moves was invented by Lou Thesz.
A wrestling founding father and an inspiration to every technical style wrestler to come since his historic run from the 1930’s.
Usually remembered for his sublime grappling technique and innovative submissions – Lou Thesz never shied away from using more powerful slams and suplexs, especially in big title matches.
In one match, against Antonino Rocca, Thesz grabbed Rocca and positioned him for a piledriver. But as Rocca tried to fight out of the manoeuvre and lifted his head to try and escape, Thesz continued to slam his opponent onto his back and shoulders and in that moment, just by chance – the powerbomb was born.
It speaks volumes about the enormity and grandeur of Lou Thesz career, the fact that he achieved so much means that being as instrumental in the creation of such a famed moved – it is only a footnote to the other accolades of his history in and out of the ring. As such, we don’t call is the Thesz bomb as we do with other moves he is synonymous with, i.e. the Thesz Press.
HOW TO / TECHNICAL
“A powerbomb is a professional wrestling throw in which an opponent is lifted (usually so that they are sitting on the wrestler's shoulders) and then slammed back-first down to the mat. The standard powerbomb sees an opponent first placed in a standing head-scissors position (bent forward with their head placed between the attacking wrestler's thighs). He is then lifted on the wrestler's shoulders and slammed down back-first to the mat.” - Pro Wrestling Wiki
As previously mentioned on my video – The history of the German Suplex. Since Belgian wrestling icon Karl Gotch’s heyday, there has been a huge outside influence on professional wrestling in Japan.
Whether it be the much beloved Japanese catch style, shoot wrestling which originates in England or powerful greco roman style submissions and grapples seen often in Japan, which can trace it’s lineage back to the Olympiad in Greece.
Or even the strikers in Japan, famed for their quick punches and brutal knees – owes a lot to the martial arts of East Asia and the boxing seen in Europe & America.
The powerbomb is no different. Once it was popularised in the USA, word quickly spread of it’s power and trainees began practising the moves in Dojos across the country.
Jushin Thunder Liger has the Liger Bomb for which he has gained critical acclaim and success. One of Japan’s most famous exports, known for his supreme wrestling technique and colourful, eye-catching ring attire. Since his debut in 1984 Liger has consistently defeated some of the most recognisable names in wrestling history with his variant of the powerbomb.
Bringing his own style of force and strength to Japan, Vader made an immediate splash onto the wrestling scene in Asia with his notorious Vader Bomb. Big Van Vader’s size allowed for more verticality and a even more devastating decent, quickly earning him a fearsome reputation as a monstrous gaijin.
Today the move stays alive in Japan, in part thanks to Former Golden Lover alongside Kenny Omega and one of New Japan’s most beloved stars. Kota Ibushi adds emphasis to his victories by pinning his opponent following his vicious Golden Star powerbomb, a move which looks as perfectly executed as it is decisive.
WRESTLING IN ANIME
As with the German Suplex, so the powerbomb is a common attacking move seen throughout anime and manga. Two larger than life characters, battling it out, giving it their all – when BAM one of them scoops up the other and SLAMs them down to the ground.
You’ve probably seen it more often that you think. Especially if you’re not so familiar with wrestling techniques.
The powerbombs happen in cartoons, action films, on television and a host of other types of fiction.
WRESTLING IN THE WIDER WORLD
However that’s not where the powerbomb’s influence stops.
In MMA - Powerbombs are sometimes used in mixed martial arts competitions, when a fighter attempts to slam another fighter who has him trapped in a triangle choke. The strength and technique needed to pull this move off in a pro-wrestling ring – where both performers are trying their best to make each other look great and balancing their move-sets together to make an entertaining encounter.
Imagine how difficult this is to pull off when it’s for real.
Imagine Brock Lesnar has you synched into a tight triangle and you are fading fast – your last chance, your only hope need to lift him off the ground stand up straight with his 130 kilos or 286 pounds of Ham Hock on your arm like a meaty wrist watch and slam him to the mat full force, in hopes of an escape. Mind-boggling.
Formerly Mike Knoxx. A man of considerable stature and strength in the ring, known equally for his impressive athleticism and brutal, hard-hitting moves.
The Knox Powerbomb, Awesome-bomb – or by any other name. Mike’s variations of the classic powerbomb set a fire in ECW where he became known for some of the most sickening spots in what was already considered Extreme.
Throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s Mike Awesome was famed for his powerbomb in WCW, WWF and All Japan.
As with most things, wrestling moves change over time. The powerbomb I no different. And as wrestlers try their best to improve and adapt their move-set, the powerbomb has undergone quite the evolution.
· A Pinning Variant is a good place to start when adapting any move in wrestling. It allows for a quick transition into a pinning predicament and an attempt at winning the bout. The powerbomb works perfectly for this with the natural endpoint of the move being the attacker stood over his opponent who now has his shoulders already pinned to the canvas.
· The Undertaker has never been afraid of change – His character re-design as Bad-Ass biker Taker brought with it the Last Ride. An extremely high angle variation of the powerbomb which created even more distance from the canvas on top of Taker’s 6-foot 8 frame.
· Another main stay and giant of the attitude era in wrestling was Kevin Nash. His devastating Jack-knife Powerbomb looked sickening as his opponents in WWF & WCW in the 90’s crumpled to the mat, folded in half after falling 7 feet in the air. Big Sexy sure knew how to execute a powerbomb back then.
· Counter to Hurricanranna - In professional wrestling, it is also sometimes used by a bigger wrestler as a counter to an attempted hurricanranna by a smaller wrestler.
The powerbomb is one of the most adapted and evolved manoeuvres that a wrestler can perform today. Nobody owns the move and it isn’t synonymous with a particular performer’s career, yes Batista made a name with his destructive Batista Bomb and some of the others that I’ve mentioned today could say that the powerbomb helped their career.
But as a move that is used by so many, it’s never been linked so specifically to one wrestler, in the way that say the mandible claw was Mic Foley’s or the figure four was Flair’s.
As deep rooted into the history of wrestling as ring-ropes and kneepads, the powerbomb is an iconic signature of the squared circle.
A pure and undeniable indicator of an athletes physical strength and grappling skill – the powerbomb will continue to be used as a finisher for generations to come, as the future of powerful slams sets to roll on with the likes of Kota Ibushi in Japan, Authors of Pain in NXT and numerous proponents on the independent wrestling scene.
A devastating move which will continue to win matches as long as pro-wrestling bells continue to ring.