Followers of Crossfit Jesus, rejoice: Seth Rollins’ rightful finisher has come out of retirement. Rollins dusted off the beloved maneuver on Finn Balor in the main event of tonight’s Raw after his tag team partner, Jason Jordan, tripped Balor from the outside.
The curb stomp was an invaluable asset during Seth Rollins’ rise to the top of the WWE card — it was unique, it looked truly devastating, and it could be hit on anyone at any time, helping mold Rollins’ "opportunistic douchebag" character in 2014 and 2015. It was a central theme in Rollins’ memorable feud with Dean Ambrose after turning on The Shield, as he stomped Ambrose through a stack of cinder blocks. It was the move he used to become the first and thus far only man to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase during the main event of WrestleMania as part of what Michael Cole called "the heist of the century."
Then, suddenly, it disappeared. Rollins tried out a couple uninspired DDT variants before settling on the Pedigree, passed down to him by Triple H. Once that angle ended, he began using the Ripcord Knee — a move that could be alright, if given some tweaks, but nothing compared to the unique brand of brutality offered by the curb stomp. Interviews suggest that the move was banned on one of Vince McMahon’s notorious whims, as when he was compiling footage for Seth’s appearance on The Today Show as the champ, he decided he didn’t want his champion to use such a violent-looking, easy to perform move, risking children imitating it on the playground. This perplexed and angered many, as dozens of pro wrestling moves are easily emulated by children with potentially fatal results. They never banned Sweet Chin Music, for instance.
It’s odd that by all accounts the perceived violence of the move was the sticking point with management, since the actual name "curb stomp" is clearly the most distasteful part of the whole situation. For the unfamiliar, outside of professional wrestling, a curb stomp is a brutal assault where a person puts their victim’s mouth on a curb and stomps on the back of their head, made famous by the movie American History X.
Which is why it’s borderline mind-blowing that of all days, WWE chose to bring back the curb stomp on Martin Luther King Day, a celebration of one of the most celebrated African American icons in history. WWE causing "curb stomp" to trend on Twitter thanks to thousands of excited internet smarks on a day like today is tone deaf at best, and, you’d have to think, part of the reason they stopped using it in the first place. A quick look on Twitter showed many people were confused and upset that a phrase with such a hateful connotation became a trending topic on MLK day.
When the move was performed on tonight’s broadcast, commentator Corey Graves noted that "Finn just suffered a Blackout." "Blackout" is what the move was called in NXT, a subtle nod to Seth Rollins’ previous life as Ring of Honor star Tyler Black. No mention of "curb stomp" was made by either Tom Phillips or Booker T, so it’s safe to assume that will be the name going forward.
However, WWE is still being coy with the name of the move. Here’s the official WWE.com description of how the match ended:
“As Finn attempted to finish off Rollins, Jordan tripped Bálor up, and Rollins dug deep into his arsenal, planting Finn face-first into the mat for the victory with a move we’ve seen him use to win many big matches.”
This move is more than just a finisher. It’s inextricably linked to Seth Rollins’ character, who has been having trouble finding his footing in the main event scene without it. What’s Stone Cold without his Stunner, or the Undertaker without the Tombstone? Whatever this move ends up being called going forward, it’s already gone a long way in increasing Seth Rollins’ stock.