Photos: Devin Chen Photography
Roderick Strong’s House of Backbreakers
There are some wrestlers who, throughout their careers, become synonymous with a certain type of move. They maintain a specific repertoire of strikes or holds that evolve from a base move. Tazz is often associated with the suplex, which he would use in his moveset in a number of variations: the capture suplex, the T-Bone suplex, the belly-to-belly suplex, the Tazzmission-Plex, etc. Another major example would be Chris Hero and the cravate, which, based on his Wikipedia page, he uses in an incredible amount of different ways: the Hangman’s Clutch and its many variations, the Cravate Cutter, the Cravate Buster, etc.
For Roderick Strong, it’s the backbreaker. From his breakout run in Ring of Honor in the mid 2000s as a member of the stable Generation Next, to his reigns as ROH World Champion and ROH World Television Champion in the 2010s, to his many years spent kicking ass in Pro Wrestling Guerilla, to his brief stint in TNA in late 2005 to early 2006, to Dragon Gate, to Pro Wrestling NOAH, to Full Impact Pro and all over the world, Roderick Strong’s oeuvre is defined by his longstanding devotion to using the backbreaker. Just as Tazz was known as “The Human Suplex Machine” and Chris Hero had dubbed himself “The Mack Daddy of the Cravate,” Roderick Strong has become known as “The Messiah of the Backbreaker.”
And like his compatriots Tazz and Hero, Strong has stuck to the idea that variation is the spice of life. Roderick’s innovate mind has produced such moves as a half nelson suplex into a backbreaker, an Argentine rack dropped into a backbreaker, a double underhook lift into a backbreaker, the Power-Breaker (which is a Powerbomb onto Strong’s knee) and, one of my personal favorites, a belly-to-back suplex where Strong drops his opponent back first onto the apron. Each of those moves is based around the core move of the backbreaker, but is executed in its own way. It speaks to Roderick’s ability to build an offense that is both consistent and dynamic at the same time.
But none of those variations are the subject of this article. No, this article is about one particular backbreaker in Roderick Strong’s canon: the Orange Crush Backbreaker. Roderick lifts his opponent up with a suplex and then lets go of him. As the opponent falls back first to the mat, Roderick drops to his own back and lifts his knees up. The opponent’s back thus lands squarely on Roderick’s knees as he lands.
I’ve Got My Spine, I’ve Got My Orange Crush
First thing’s first, the name of the move. The Orange Crush Backbreaker gets its name because it is itself a variation on another move, Kenta Kobashi’s Orange Crush, which is a suplex dropped into a Powerbomb. However, the O.C.B. has two alternate names that people sometimes use to describe it. These are “The End of Heartache” and the “Strong Breaker.” If I had to pick between the three, I would pick “Orange Crush Backbreaker” because the other two do not make much sense. Roderick Strong is a straight-laced wrestler. He has asshole-ish tendencies, sure, but with his stiff strikes and brutal moves he comes off as all serious business in the ring. “End of Heartache” sounds like a name that a Jimmy Jacobs-type wrestler would use. It has an emo, “woe is me” vibe that someone like Strong doesn’t give off. It’s also the name of a Killswitch Engage album, and even if Roderick is a really big fan of them (which actually might be true given his entrance music includes Korn, Pantera, and Misery Signals), the name just doesn’t fit him. And if you think about it, the Strong Breaker doesn’t make much sense either. Theoretically, what do backbreakers break? Backs. What do neckbreakers break? Necks. What does the Strong Breaker break? Roderick Strong? I know it’s typical of wrestlers to shoehorn their names into their moves in any way possible, but I cannot see the logic in using a name that would imply that the wrestling doing the move would be the one getting hurt. Plus the name Orange Crush Backbreaker brings with it the inherent legitimacy of Kobashi’s move, while also allowing Strong to build off of it and add his own spin.
The first major factor that makes the Orange Crush Backbreaker an effective finisher is the sequence of moves that comprise it. Taken separately, the vertical suplex and the backbreaker are rather standard wrestling moves. Almost every pro wrestling match features one of these moves and rarely is either of them used as finishers. And yet, when strung together, these two seemingly generic moves become something greater. A standard suplex ends with the opponent hitting the mat flat on his back. With the Orange Crush Backbreaker, however, Strong makes a painful substitution. Instead of the mat, the opponent is landing right on Strong’s knees. Landing flat on the mat after a vertical suplex is not that bad; most wrestling rings nowadays have more give to them than the old school rings, plus the pain of hitting the mat is dissipated along the entirety of the opponent’s back because the mat itself is flat. Roderick Strong’s knees, on the other hand, do not have any give to them. And you can forget about dissipating the pain, because the point of impact is much smaller. Instead of the entirety of the back hitting as much of the mat as possible, it’s the middle of the spine hitting Strong’s knees, so all that force is much more concentrated and painful. Roderick is maximizing pain while minimizing the rate of pain relief. Think of it like this: It’s the difference between falling backwards and landing flat on your back in a dirt field and falling backwards and landing the center of your back on an anvil. One of those scenarios will hurt, but the pain will be manageable and go away fairly quick. The other scenario is landing on an anvil.
The second major factor is the speed with which Roderick performs the move. Strong’s suplex lift is so short. If the expression in wrestling goes that a guy was in a promotion for a cup of coffee, then the opponent was in Roderick’s suplex hold for a thimbleful of apple juice. The guy goes up in the suplex and then down onto the knees in less than one Mississippi. That quickness is very smart on Roderick’s part because it gives his opponent practically no time to counter the move. Rather than holding his opponent in the vertical suplex position for a longer time and giving them that chance to counter (perhaps by the time-tested move of wiggling the legs or maybe something more creative like hitting a knee into Roderick’s head), Roderick just drops them almost immediately. Wrestling is about time management. The more time you waste setting up your finishing move, the more time you give your opponents to counter and potentially win.
Death(s) by Roderick
When sizing up the Orange Crush Backbreaker to Roderick Strong’s other finishing moves—Death by Roderick, the Gibson Driver, the Strong Hold, and the Sick Kick—the most obvious checkmark in the win column is the move’s uniqueness. The Orange Crush Backbreaker is a move that, as far as I know, only Roderick performs. Compare this to Strong’s other finishers, which other wrestlers have been known to use:
- Death by Roderick (Fireman’s Carry into a Double Knee Gutbuster) – Jamie Noble, Darren Young (“Gut Check”)
- Gibson Driver (Double Underhook Powerbomb) – Mitsuharu Misawa (“Tiger Driver”), Jamie Noble (“Nobilizer”), Ares (“Toblerone Driver”), Dean Malenko, Rodney Mack
- Strong Hold (Elevated Boston Crab) – Chris Jericho (“Walls of Jericho/Liontamer”), Lenny Lane (“Tigertamer”)
- Sick Kick (Running Single Leg Dropkick) – Naruki Doi (“Bakatare Sliding Kick”)
Each of Roderick Strong’s other finishing moves have been other wrestlers’ finishers too. That’s not to say that these other finishing moves are less effective than the Orange Crush Backbreaker. Roderick has won plenty of matches with the Strong Hold or the Gibson Driver or the rest. It’s simply that since the Orange Crush Backbreaker hasn’t been done by anyone else, that helps make it a standout finisher above the rest. If Roderick Strong is the only wrestler doing the Orange Crush Backbreaker, then it makes the move unique and it makes Roderick unique as well. Roderick’s stock goes up with the crowd because his finisher is original and exciting. Strong has a good amount of finishing moves, but the Orange Crush Backbreaker’s uniqueness is the key to making it noteworthy.
Yet—and this is a big yet—its unique complexity could also be its downfall. A suplex dropped into a double knee backbreaker is not an easy move to just pull off. And while I mentioned earlier that Roderick’s quickness with the move is a positive, I also recognize that it can be a hindrance as well. In less than two seconds, Strong has to lift his opponent up with a suplex, let him go, drop down on his back, lift his knees, and catch his opponent coming down, all the while making sure that his opponent’s back is directly over his knees. With all of these steps and a miniscule amount of time to pull it off, there is a good chance that Strong’s precision can go awry rather quickly. In fact, I have seen a few Roderick Strong matches where Roderick isn’t directly under his opponent, so his knees clip the guy’s shoulder blades, or only one of Roderick’s knees makes contact to the back. Sure, the Gibson Driver, the Strong Hold, and Death by Roderick have been other wrestlers’ finishers, but maybe it’s due to the fact that when compared to the Orange Crush Backbreaker, they are much simpler to execute.
It wouldn’t be wise to tell Roderick Strong to stop using any kind of backbreaker in his moveset. He might chop you really hard. They are like his children, after all. And while I still do enjoy seeing Roderick bust out the Orange Crush Backbreaker, it might be wise to stick to one of his simpler, yet still effective finishers for more often and save the O.C.B. for special occasions. Even if Strong didn’t connect with it 100% every time he used it, its reduced exposure would keep the move looking unique and awesome and get the fans on their feet.