“Bam!!!” There are few moves as spectacular as the knee strike. When dramatically delivered and sold, its victim looks like they were hit by a Mack Truck.
This is the fascinating history of the knee strike and the most devastating examples of it used in pro wrestling over the years.
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Daniel Bryan Takes Down John Cena with The Knee Strike at SummerSlam 2013
On August 18th, 2013, WWE Champion John Cena faced Daniel Bryan in the main event of SummerSlam.
Naturally, fans were clamoring for a Bryan victory, but in that era, Cena retaining seemed like the most likely thing in the world.
The two had gone to war during this match.
Several minutes after failing to submit Cena with his primary finisher, the Yes! Lock, Daniel Bryan managed to nail him with a roundhouse kick.
Bryan then made his way to the corner and started his trademark Yes! chant, hailing Cena to his feet before blasting him with a running knee.
The knee strike received a slight reaction, and the crowd didn’t break into total uproar until the referee counted three.
However, the lack of excitement had nothing to do with the maneuver’s quality; the knee strike just hadn’t yet been established as an authentic, main event level finisher.
Let’s take a brief look around today’s wrestling scene to see the importance of the knee strike.
The Knee Strike: Where Did It Come From?
Though no one can name the first person to use the knee strike, Southeast Asian martial arts such as Muay Thai and Karate show some of the earliest examples.
Many professional wrestling fans will be familiar with the jumping kick to the back of the head known as the Enzuiguri. However, they may not be aware of the similar-sounding term Hizageri.
Translating to “knee kick,” it is a term often used to describe knee strikes in Japanese martial arts and professional wrestling.
Well-Known Knee Strikes in Wrestling:
First up is the oddly named Kitchen Sink.
1. Kitchen Sink
Invented by Riki Choshu, a man perhaps better known for innovating the Sasori-Gatame (Sharpshooter), the Kitchen Sink is a simple thrust knee strike to the gut, typically used as a transitional move in a match.
Wrestlers will often flip into a back bump upon being struck with it, though other sells, such as the front bump seen above, are also used.
2. Bicycle Knee
The Bicycle Knee is a maneuver often seen in Muay Thai and Mixed-Martial-Arts. The move consists of the wrestler jumping with one knee in the air before thrusting the striking knee as the first leg falls, often used to close distances that a standard flying knee won’t.
Over the past decade, it’s become increasingly popular. Popular users include Kenny Omega and his V Trigger, Dragon Lee’s Incineration, and unnamed variants by Tam Nakano, Buddy Matthews, and Malakai Black.
Variants such as seated and ripcord versions also exist.
Perhaps the most prevalent variation on this list, the GTS, is a fireman’s carry dropped into a knee lift to the head.
The move was invented by Japanese wrestler KENTA in 2004 and later adopted by CM Punk.
Other notable users include Katauyori Shibata, Matt Riddle, and most recently, Danhausen.
KENTA also invented an inverted variation only broken out on special occasions.
4. The Running Knee
Various running knee finishers have become an increasingly common sight in recent years, but they have their roots in the past.
These moves include Jumbo Tsuruta’s Jumping Knee and William Regal’s Knee Trembler to present-day finishers, like KENTA’s Busiaku Knee Kick, as well as Konosuke Takeshita’s variant of the Jumping Knee, passed down from Jun Akiyama.
While these are all great moves in their own right, there’s one that has stood the test of time as perhaps the most brilliant use of a knee in wrestling history.
To understand the Bomaye, we first have to understand the man that utilizes it to this day: Shinsuke Nakamura.
Debuting in New Japan in 2002, Nakamura quickly rose to the top of the company due to a problem that was tearing the company apart at the time, “Inokiism.”
Inokiism is a term commonly used to describe New Japan’s focus on realism under the vision of Antonio Inoki—legendary wrestler and founder and head of New Japan at the time.
Wrestlers were booked in real mixed martial arts competitions and often had their positions in the company diminished due to losing these MMA fights.
There were exceptions to this, however, most notably Shinsuke Nakamura.
A young upstart with backgrounds in multiple martial arts, ending with a 3-1-1 record that one loss came at the hand of Daniel Gracie, a renowned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.
Where this story gets interesting, however, is in that no contest. Nakamura faced Alexey Ignashov, a multi-time Muay Thai World Champion.
Nakamura caught a brutal knee as he shot for a takedown but immediately sprung back up as if he hadn’t even been hit. Unfortunately, the ref had already called for the stoppage, and the fight was later labeled as a no contest.
Nakamura would win the rematch via submission.
Shinsuke Nakamura took this incident to heart, being inspired to begin using a knee strike of his own in pro wrestling years later when he returned from Japan.
He named this knee the Bomaye, a phrase he used in honor of Inoki, who received it from Muhammad Ali after their fight. It means “K*ll Him!” in Lingala, a language spoken in Western Africa.
He changed the name to Kinshasa, a reference to the city where Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman, sparking the original chant that inspired the Bomaye.
Now, what about the knee itself? What made it so special? First, it was stiff at times–in one instance, it broke the nose of Minoru Suzuki.
Nakamura had several varieties of the Bomaye and several moves specifically designed or repurposed to set up the maneuver.
Nakamura used a sliding enzu (to the back of the head) and second rope variations of the Bomaye throughout matches to set up the correct version of the Bomaye (pictured above).
He used grappling maneuvers such as his Landslide, a Samoan Driver with which he previously finished matches, to set up the Bomaye.
In WWE, he frequently uses the Inverted Exploder Suplex as the setup.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the intricate moveset he built around the Bomaye helped his designation as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time.
Though its use hasn’t been as prolific as some of the other finishing moves listed here, it felt wrong to write a piece on knee strikes without mentioning Kota Ibushi’s double wristlock knee strike, the Kamigoye.
Created as a tribute to the Bomaye above, Ibushi uses the move to great effect today in NJPW’s heavyweight division.
As the knee strike has evolved, so has the audience’s understanding and reaction. A well-executed knee will add credibility to the match and pop a jaded crowd. And on the right night, it may even make those fans feel it themselves.
These stories may also interest you:
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- The Stunner: Its Neck-Cracking History From Steve Austin & Beyond
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