Who Did It Best is a weekly column where we take a look at two or more wrestlers who use the same finishing maneuver, be it a grapple or running move, or a submission hold. As we break down the move’s origins, and what each wrestler accomplished while using it, we come to a conclusion on which superstar did it better. This week, the Cutter is featured.
Innovator: John Laurinaitis
Other Known Names/Variations: Ace Crusher, Argentine Cutter, Back Suplex Cutter, Crucifix Cutter, Elevated Cutter, Fireman’s Carry Cutter, Forward Somersault Cutter, Inverted Suplex Cutter, Jumping Cutter, Over The Shoulder Cutter, Rolling Cutter, Running Cutter, Somersault Cutter, Springboard Cutter, Twist Of Fate, and Yokosuka Cutter.
Johnny Ace, real name John Hodger Laurinaitis, is best known in today’s era as the former-Raw General Manager that inspired People Power, ruled Monday Night Raw with an iron fist, and sometimes from a motorized wheelchair. Before all of that, however, Laurinaitis went by the ring name Johnny Ace, and was a popular foreign figure in All Japan Pro Wrestling. The 6’4 big man spent time in WCW and NWA from 1985 until 1990, when he cut his ties with the NWA and settled on AJPW. His work in the tag team division, along with the likes of Kenta Kobashi, Dr. Death Steve Williams, and Bart Gunn, was rewarded with two All Asia Tag Team Championships and four World Tag Team Championships.
With two five-star matches in his career, one in 1996, and the other in 1997 (which was also honoured with Match of the Year), and a current position with the WWE as a Producer, “Big Johnny” has another credential to his name: that has held a place in the business of wrestling to this very day; the innovation of the Cutter. On August 20th, 1988, at AJPW’s Summer Action Series II, Johnny debuted the move in a tag team match, where he partnered with Tom Zenk to take on the team of Yoshiaki Yatsu and Takashi Ishikawa. Zenk and Ace would win in an upset finish, when Ishikawa attempted a German Suplex on Johnny, but the move was reversed into the first ever “Ace Crusher”, which was a falling forward neckbreaker, a move the Japanese crowd had never seen before and cheered.
“The crowd cheered and then went into an awe, because they’d never seen a move like that before,” Laurinaitis recalled.
The Ace Crusher was performed by Ace setting up his opponent in a snapmare stance, grabbing his opponents neck in his forearms. Instead of flipping the opponent onto his backside, Ace instead fell forward into a bump, crashing his opponent’s face into the mat. Since then, there have been several variants; from Tommy Dreamer‘s TommyHawk (Crucifix Cutter) to Marc Mero‘s TKO – Total Knock Out (Fireman’s Carry Cutter). Many wrestlers added their own flair to make the move their own, like Matt and Jeff Hardy for instance, who set up their opponent in a DDT position, taunted, and then whipped themseves forward, spinning into a snapmare position and landing in a Cutter finish, which the Hardys called the Twist of Fate.
In today’s debate of Who Did It Best: the Cutter, we bring forward the two superstars that utilized the Cutter and made it their finishing move, catching their respective programs by storm; Diamond Dallas Page and “The Viper” Randy Orton.
DIAMOND DALLAS PAGE – THE DIAMOND CUTTER
In the early 1990’s, DDP was working his way into the business of wrestling, starting off as a manager for the Fabulous Freebirds. Page worked a few matches, mostly in a losing cause to get his feet wet, and even teaming with Vinnie Vegas (who would leave WCW shortly thereafter, to join WWF as Diesel). His first win in singles competition came on the August 5th edition of WCW Worldwide Tapings in 1994. Although he wasn’t donning his trademark blonde hair, the King of Bada-Bing was in full character and already shining bright. In a short bout against Scott Armstrong, Page stood victorious after landing the Diamond Cutter for the first time on a television taping. The move was described as “some sort of snapmare set-up into a face-plant”.
DDP’s first championship came in 1995 at WCW Fall Brawl, when Page defeated the Renegade for the Television Title. His run would be short-lived however, as he would lose the title a month later at Halloween Havoc to Johnny B. Goode, and would fail to re-capture it during their follow-up match. In that story, Page and his then-wife Kimberly were in a dissension, leading up to Kimberly siding with The Booty Man, and even going by the nickname, “The Booty Babe”. This would lead to a match between Page and Booty Man, with the loser leaving town. DDP would end up losing the contest.
Two months later, at WCW Slamboree, Page would return to action, winning three matches in one night (two tag team matches and an 8-man battle royale). This would set up for DDP’s memorable singles push. In the 16 bouts that followed Slamboree, Page won 15 of them by pinfall, using his Diamond Cutter to put away the likes of Alex Wright, Billy Kidman, Scotty Riggs, and Marcus Bagwell. After two losses to Eddy and Chavo Guerrero, Page would win another 14 consecutive contests, even defeating both Guerreros, putting them down with his finishing maneuver.
In 1997, it was the year of the Diamond Cutter. After Wrestling Observer Newsletter dubbed Page as the Most Improved Wrestler of 1996, his finisher was awarded the Best Wrestling Maneuver of the year. Of course, it helps to have a program against Randy Savage, which elevated Page’s game to another level, leading him to monstrous wins over other big names as well, such as Hulk Hogan, Curt Hennig, and Ric Flair. The self high-five superstar grew in popularity in WCW so quickly, it was inevitable that he’d soon claim top of the mountain. In fact, he did it in grand fashion, when he defeated Hogan, Flair, and Sting in a Four Corners match, to claim his first WCW World Heavyweight Championship.
After a fantastic run, which included three World Heavyweight title runs and becoming the company’s fourth Triple Crown Champion, Page made his debut in WWF, when he revealed himself to be the stalker of The Undertaker‘s wife, Sara. Claiming that his intentions were solely to catch the deadman’s attention, Page embarked on a feud with Taker, which ultimately hurt his stock early in his time with the WWF. However, he quickly recovered when he joined forces with Kanyon, who, ironically enough, mimicked Page’s look and gimmick back in WCW, even delivering Diamond Cutters to anyone and everyone, to capture the WWF Tag Team Titles. Page added to his repertoire of gold when he defeated Christian in 2002, to take over the European Championship.
His “That’s not a bad thing, it’s a good thing” character was a major flop, but Page’s unwillingness to let it bury him came out strong, eventually capturing the love of the WWF fans, and making it a good thing. A not-so-good thing was his run in TNA, although it was a short one. Page would return to the WWE at the 2015 Royal Rumble, delivering three Diamond Cutters to Stardust, Fandango, and Bray Wyatt, much to the delight of the Philadelphia crowd.
RANDY ORTON – THE RKO
Debuting as a third-generation wrestler, Randy Orton quickly became a popular face in the company. A charming look and personality, a physique most wrestlers desired, and athleticism to boot, Orton was the complete package. While his first run in the company featured surprise wins over Hardcore Holly, you’d have to jump all the way to his introduction into the Evolution stable, which featured Triple H, Ric Flair, and Batista. During a match pitting Kane against Triple H, Orton interrupted a chokslam attempt while the referee was out cold and low-blowed Kane. Turning the Big Red Machine around, Orton leaped into the air and delivered his first ever RKO.
The title RKO is an acronym for his full name, Randall Keith Orton, and it stands true to its name, knocking out opponents that take the maneuver. While Orton was rehabilitating a foot injury, he observed tapes of DDP and Johnny Ace, learning the move and how to utilize it to perfection. “I had a good vertical leap, so I figured I’d incorporate that into my move,” Orton recalled. It was a cutter, but it was three-quarter facelock, leaping cutter, which created a unique twist to an already popular finishing move.
There is a long list of victims that have fallen to the RKO. All three of his Evolution teammates suffered countless RKOs during his face-turn that came hand-in-hand with his departure from the stable. His Legend Killer gimmick faced him off against the likes of Mick Foley, The Undertaker, and Hulk Hogan, who all took the finishing move as well. Chris Benoit was arguably one of the bigger known victims at the time, due to the fact that he dropped the World Heavyweight Championship to Orton at Summerslam in 2004, making the Viper the youngest wrestler to capture that title in the WWE’s history, at the age of 24.
Throughout his career, Randy was a fixture on WWE programming. Wrestling Observer Newsletter dubbed him the rookie of the year in 2001, most improved wrestler in 2004, most hated wrestler in 2007 and 2009, and best wrestler in 2009 and 2010. PWI-500 ranked him #1 in 2008, the year in which Randy held the WWE Championship, and pronounced the start of the infamous Age of Orton.
On top of his endless count of victories over big names, Orton has amassed several Championship runs. He is an 8-time WWE Champion, 4-time World Heavyweight Champion, and has held both the Intercontinental and Tag Team Championships once. The 2009 Royal Rumble win, and becoming the 17th Triple Crown Champion in WWE history, cap off his list of achievements, but his tenure in the business is far from done. Unfortunately, his stock took a hit in 2013, when fans grew tired of his character, labelling him as stale and cringe-worthy. Even Wrestling Observer gave him the title of most overrated wrestler in the same year. In 2014, he quickly shrugged that off with a phenomenon that swept the internet by storm.
The #RKOOuttaNowhere trend hit Twitter and Vine, spawning a hilarious sense of hysteria to create 10-second clips of Randy Orton’s image super-imposed into the video, delivering an RKO to an individual who was either falling or leaping in the air. The trend became so big, it even won a Slammy for Hashtag of the Year, to which Orton thanked his fans for making the hashtag popular. Since then, a video surfaced of Orton visiting a family (it may be his own family, but that was never confirmed) and allowing a young boy to hit his patented move on a bed. The #RKOOuttaNowhere movement propelled Orton to a new level of popularity, shedding his boring persona and breathing a breath of fresh air to his character.
WHO DID IT BEST?
This week’s battle is a tough one. DDP’s version is truer to it’s original form, which Johnny Ace utilized, while Randy Orton’s modification to the move created the illusion that more impact was given on the way down. The stylistic change and different paths of the two wrestlers allows me to dissect this debate more easily, leading one to believe that as tough as it may seem at first glance, this really is no contest.
In terms of career achievements, Orton has the edge. A combined 12 World Heavyweight/WWE Championships puts him in another class from DDP. Orton has also defeated several more big names than Page, on much grander stages. The Apex Predator has also spent more time on the top of the ladder of the WWE then Page ever did in WCW.
In terms of popularity of the move itself, if it wasn’t for 2014, Page would have won this cleanly. His light never shined brighter than in the late 1990s, when he was delivering Diamond Cutters and tearing up arenas, with the fans on his side. It was a coming-to party for Page, and his evolution has a wrestler coincides with the growth in popularity of the finishing move. In the early 2004, Orton’s RKO became a move that everyone (including yours truly) imitated, whether it was kids on the school playground or your local independent wrestler on a Saturday evening. We certainly can’t ignore the global sensationalism of the RKO, and what it has done for not only the move itself, but the wrestler as well.
While I have always loved Diamond Dallas Page, and appreciated all the work he has done inside (and outside) of the ring, there is no justifying putting him over Randy Orton in this debate. Orton has simply beaten more names, bigger names, and performed on bigger stages, using the RKO to put his opponents away. While the Diamond Cutter was one of the biggest things in 1997, the RKO has kept it’s allure for over 10 years, and doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. So with that said, the winner of this week: Randy Orton.
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