Dusty Finish

Dusty Finish

In professional wrestling, a Dusty Finish refers to a specific scripted ending to a match named after wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes. During his tenure as a booker in several promotions, he was known to have used this finish so often that it has since been indelibly linked to him. The finish itself is typically claimed to have been invented by Florida promoter Eddie Graham.


The archetypical scenario starts with a ref bump, in which the referee is knocked unconscious as a result of some action by one of the wrestlers. A second official is brought in to continue the match.

Pinfall vs. disqualification

In one variation, the substitute official declares a clean win (pinfall or submission), usually by the wrestler who is not responsible for the original ref bump. However, in the meantime, the first official regains consciousness and overturns the substitute official's decision, usually declaring that the original infraction caused a disqualification. This is especially important in title matches, as the standard rules of pro wrestling state that a title cannot change hands on a disqualification (though some federations, such as World Class or TNA, do not use this rule).

Double pinfall

Another variation also involves the original referee regaining consciousness, but doing so just before a pinfall where both wrestlers can be considered "down." One referee is on one side of the wrestlers, and the other on almost the exact opposite side, providing them with two different viewpoints. Both referees make a three count and signal for the bell to be rung, but award the match to differing wrestlers.This could also refer to a Cage match where both wrestlers hit the floor at the same time on opposite sides seen by separate referees such as Hulk Hogan's match with Paul Orndorff.


Another situation that some people consider to be a Dusty Finish occurs when a match's result is declared void because of some obscure stipulation or infraction, e.g. disqualifying a wrestler for use of a piledriver (use of the piledriver was largely outlawed in 1981, and this rule was never officially rescinded). This also can be (and has been) applied retroactively to overturn a decision, such as when The Rockers were stripped of their title because the top rope broke, yet the match continued.

In modern years, most pro wrestling associations have on-screen authority figures capable of overturning a decision on a variety of technicalities. When two or more officials are involved, it can lead to various kinds of trouble, including holding up a title that was on the line or forcing a match to continue to a second fall.

Reasons for use

One reason behind the use of the Dusty Finish is to put over the idea of a wrestler winning the big match, without actually letting him win and thus ending the chase. Theoretically, in this situation, the fans leave convinced that the hero should have won and has been screwed, leading to a revenge match and heightening the atmosphere of a rematch. However, this ending can have the opposite effect, reinforcing the fans' belief that title changes will never occur unexpectedly without being revoked in some way.

Another reason is to force a title off of someone without having them actually drop it. The aftermath of a Dusty Finish often involves the two wrestlers having some kind of "best of" series, especially when a title is on the line.

Notable Dusty Finishes


The Dusty finish was twice used in the American Wrestling Association in the 1980s to overturn the title victories of the popular Hulk Hogan, leading to rioting among the fans.

The Dusty Finish was also used to overturn a title victory by The Road Warriors against the Four Horsemen in the Warriors' hometown of Chicago at Starrcade '87. The grounds were that the Horsemen had clotheslined their opponents over the top rope, which was declared illegal. This too almost caused rioting, and angered fans enough that the NWA/WCW did not hold further events in Chicago for a long time.

A 1987 match between Gentleman Chris Adams and World Class heavyweight champion Al Perez ended in a Dusty-finish-style controversial fashion. Adams was about to finish Perez off with his superkick when Perez shoved referee John Alexander Keaton into Adams' kick. With Keaton out, Adams executed a sunset flip on Perez, and backup referee Bronco Lubich made the 3-count, awarding the match and the World Class title to Adams. As Adams and all of the Sportatorium fans were celebrating, Keaton reversed the decision and DQed Adams, not realizing that it was Perez who pushed Keaton into Adams to begin with. The title was held up for a short time, and upon further review, Lubich's decision was null and void, and Keaton's decision stood. Adams would never regain the World Class title again, but did win the Atlanta-based Southern Championship Wrestling title in 1988 and the Global Wrestling Federation North American heavyweight title in 1993.

A 1987 steel cage match televised on "Saturday Night's Main Event" between Hulk Hogan and Paul Orndorff for Hogan's WWF World Heavyweight Championship also ended in a Dusty-finish-style fashion when both competitors climbed and exited the steel cage and touched the arena floor at the same time. WWF referee Dave Hebner, who saw Hogan's feet touch the floor, declared Hogan the winner. Meanwhile, Danny Davis, who saw Orndorff's feet touch the floor, declared Orndorff the winner and the new champion. After a commercial break, a simultaneous instant replay of both wrestlers' feet touching the floor was shown, and it was declared that both wrestlers touched the floor at the same time. WWF president Jack Tunney, who came down to ringside due to the controversy, informed Hogan, Orndorff, Hebner, and announcer Howard Finkel that the match would continue. Hogan eventually won the match and retained the title.

The Rockers apparently won the WWF Tag Team Championships from The Hart Foundation during a TV taping. The switch came because Jim Neidhart was scheduled to be released from his contract. Before the match aired, Neidhart's release was cancelled, so the planned title switch was ignored and never aired. Jack Tunney filmed a short promo which aired on the local station broadcast of the syndicated WWF shows, in which he said the match had been declared void because of a rope breaking midway through the bout. This story was then covered by the Apter mags, several of which had gone to press with the title switch before it was dropped.


In 1991, a Dusty finish was used in Japan, where such endings were being discouraged. In a match for New Japan Pro Wrestling pitting NWA World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair against IWGP Heavyweight Champion Tatsumi Fujinami, the main NWA referee Bill Alfonso was (kayfabe) knocked out during the match and replaced by NJPW referee Masao "Tiger" Hattori, who eventually gave the victory to Fujinami. This was done to prevent a riot by Japanese fans who had begun to dislike American-style "screwjob endings." The NWA recognized Fujinami as champion but Flair kept physical possession of the belt, which was seen as he arrived at the Japanese airport for a flight back home. To work it into the storyline, it was announced in Japan that Flair's defeat of Fujinami at "Superbrawl" earned him "back" the NWA title when in America it was simply billed as a Flair title defense.

In 1994, Bret Hart and Lex Luger were the final two competitors in the Royal Rumble, and tumbled over the top rope. Their feet hit the ground at the same time. The two referees were split on who won the Rumble. To resolve this (since the winner of the Royal Rumble receives a shot at the championship at Wrestlemania), it was decided that at Wrestlemania X, Yokozuna would defend the belt against the winner of a coin toss, with the winner of this bout facing the coin-toss loser that same night. Luger won the toss and thus faced Yokozuna first; Yokozuna kept the title due to guest referee Curt Hennig disqualifying Luger, but lost to Hart later in the night.

Chris Benoit and Booker T have had two title matches end in Dusty Finishes (one in WCW, and the other in the WWE) both resulting in a title being held up and a best-of-seven series ensuing. In 1998, Chris Benoit challenged for Booker T's WCW Television Championship. Benoit managed to lock on the Crippler Crossface, and as Booker reached for the ropes, he appeared to tap out. The referee signalled that Booker had not tapped and he eventually defeated Benoit by pinfall. Before Booker could grant a rematch to Benoit, he lost the title to Fit Finlay, causing the two competitors to compete in a best of seven series to decide the number one contender.

At the pay-per-view in May 1996, referee Earl Hebner had been knocked out of the ring by The British Bulldog, during a match with Shawn Michaels for the WWF championship. Referee Mike Chioda ran into the ring to replace Hebner. Michaels German suplexed the Bulldog and held him down in a pinning combination. Chioda, noticing that Michaels' shoulders were on the mat, counted him down for a three count and awarded the match and championship to the British Bulldog. Meanwhile, Hebner had since regained his senses and noticed from outside of the ring that the Bulldog's shoulders were also on the mat and counted him down for a three count; slapping the mat at the same time as Chioda. Both officials declared each wrestler the winner of the match and the World champion. WWF president Gorilla Monsoon entered the ring and declared the match a draw, ordering a rematch for the King of the Ring pay-per-view event. This was billed as first for the World Wrestling Federation.


Chris Jericho and Chyna had a WWF Intercontinental Title match on "SmackDown!" that ended in a Dusty Finish. Jericho, the defending champion, performed a back suplex on Chyna onto a steel chair. However, both had their arms placed across the other (indicating both were in the process of pinning their opponent) with two referees present. Both referees counted three at the same time and the result of the match was disputed. Eventually it was determined that both Jericho and Chyna were to be considered champions (meaning this is the first time in WWF/E history that two wrestlers held a singles title at the same time). The title was stripped after the dispute then awarded back to the two, meaning Jericho got an extra title reign out of the whole deal.

Chris Jericho suffered a Dusty Finish in April 2000 in the WWF. He was in a match with champion and on-screen owner Triple H for the WWF Championship when the original referee was knocked out in the course of the match. Earl Hebner ran out to officiate the rest of it (he was also in the middle of a feud with Triple H at the time). When Triple H went to argue (both verbally and physically) with Hebner about a call, Jericho managed to hit a series of moves then covered Triple H for the pin. Hebner, in anger, proceeded to fast-count Triple H seemingly awarding Jericho the Championship. Fifteen minutes later the call was reversed after Triple H brought Hebner back out to the stage and bullied him into declaring Jericho's win to be null and void. The title was awarded back to Triple H and Jericho's title win was stricken from the record books. He eventually won it in 2001, losing it to Triple H three months later.

Chris Jericho was also the loser as a result of a Dusty Finish on August 7 edition of RAW is WAR, Kurt Angle and Triple H were booked in a Triple Threat match, along with Chris Jericho, to determine the number one contender for a WWF Championship match against the defending champion, The Rock. Both Angle and Triple H simultaneously pinned Jericho, which made both Angle and Triple H co-number one contenders for SummerSlam 2000.

The December 29, 2003 edition of WWE Raw featured Triple H defending the World Heavyweight Championship against Shawn Michaels, in Michaels' hometown of San Antonio, Texas. The referee was knocked out and then-General Manager Eric Bischoff came out to take over refereeing duties. Michaels hit Triple H with the Sweet Chin Music and fell across him in a pin cover, however, his own shoulders were against the mat. Eric Bischoff counted the pinfall and the San Antonio crowd erupted, until Bischoff informed them that the result was in fact a draw, as both men's shoulders were against the mat.

The main event of the December 6, 2004 edition of WWE Raw was a triple-threat match for the World Heavyweight Championship featuring Triple H defending his title against Edge and Chris Benoit. The finish involved Edge tapping out to Benoit's crossface submission, at the same moment that the referee counted the pinfall, occurring because Edge had rolled Benoit onto his shoulders in a pinning predicament. Vince McMahon later ruled that while neither man had won the match, Triple H was definitely not the champion, resulting in the vacating of the World Heavyweight Championship until the following January.

A very similar event happened on the 4th of July, 2002 edition SmackDown, in an Undisputed Championship title match, The Undertaker wrestled Kurt Angle to a draw when Undertaker won by pinfall and tapped out to Angle's submission hold at the same time as a result of a triangle choke by Angle, while Undertaker had Angle on his back. As a result on the following RAW Mr McMahon announced that Angle would be added to the Rock vs Undertaker match at Vengeance 2002 making the match a Triple Threat Match for Undertaker's Undisputed Championship.

At the inter-promotional January 2005 Royal Rumble, John Cena and Batista went over the top rope and hit the floor at the same time. As a result the "SmackDown!" officials awarded the victory to Cena while the officials from "RAW" awarded the match to Batista. The match was then restarted by Mr. McMahon with Cena and Batista as the only competitors. Batista eventually won the match.

There is at least one example of a false Dusty finish. At ECW One Night Stand 2006, John Cena defended the WWE Championship against Rob Van Dam. During the match, Edge attacked Cena by spearing him through a table, then knocked out referee Nick Patrick, who stepped in after Cena knocked out ECW official John Finnegan. Van Dam nailed Cena with his Five-Star Frog Splash, and ECW Representative Paul Heyman ran in and counted the fall, and Rob Van Dam was declared the WWE Champion. At first, the finish was disputed, but Heyman declared the following night that since the match was under "Extreme Rules," the victory stood. Otherwise, Van Dam's victory would've been a Dusty finish.

Another example is that of a match between Edge, Randy Orton and Shawn Michaels that happened in April 2007 for #1 Contendership for the WWE Championship at Backlash. Earlier in the match, Michaels had accidentally superkicked the referee while aiming for Orton, and proceeded to knock him unconscious. Later on, after Michaels and Orton traded their respective finishers, Michaels delivered a second of Sweet Chin Music to Orton, and fell into such a position where he was covering Orton's shoulders, but also had his own shoulders were on the mat (though no part of Orton was covering him). It is notable that all three wrestlers "earned" the #1 contender spot; the match at Backlash would be a fatal four way for the championship.

Mr. Kennedy and Carlito had a #1 Contenders match for an Intercontinental Title Shot just 6 days before SummerSlam 2007. Following a superplex both men pinned each other which resulted in a Triple Threat Match against Umaga at SummerSlam. Umaga retained the Intercontinental Championship at SummerSlam. This is very similar to the above case involving Triple H and Kurt Angle in 2000.

The Dusty Finish has also been used in Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. An example took place at Sacrifice in a triple threat match between Christian Cage, Sting and Kurt Angle for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship. Sting had a pin on Christian Cage. However, before the ref started counting, Angle came in and got the Ankle lock on Sting, which led one ref counting the three count, and another ref acknowledging that Sting tapped out. This Dusty finish was planned in order to introduce the TNA World Heavyweight Championship, as the NWA World Championship would be discontinued in TNA.

In Ring of Honor, it was used at the June 27, 2008 "Battle For Supremacy" event in Dayton, Ohio, between NWA World Heavyweight Champion, Adam Pearce, and Ring of Honor World Champion, Nigel McGuiness. Nigel McGuiness won the match after a Jawbreaker Lariat, but the decision was overturned and changed to an Over-The-Top-Rope Disqualification victory for Adam Pearce; this caused the crowd in Dayton to chant "Dusty Finish" at the result.

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