Strongman Showdown: Can Eddie Hall Beat Brian Shaw in 2017?

Perhaps the only person as tenacious as Eddie Hall is an Eddie Hall fan. Strength enthusiasts seem to rally behind him more than any other strongman. This claim is not merely anecdotal, though teems of social media and forum users who post in praise of “The Beast” do make it hard to dispute.

One might point out that Eddie Hall is the only strongman to have his own feature documentary, or that he has over 240,000 more “likes” on Facebook than his rival Hafthor Bjornsson – and Hall isn’t the one with a recurring role on Game of Thrones, one of the most highly rated shows on television today.

At 692,981 “likes,” Eddie Hall dwarfs the Facebook presences of Brian Shaw and Zydrunas Savickas, the two strongest men of all time, who each boast under 200,000. (It must be conceded, however, that Bjornsson has the most popular Instagram account of all strongmen, with Hall in second place, but quite far behind him.)

Eddie Hall’s career seems perpetuated by spectacular momentum. The twenty-nine year old seems to break his own records with regularity.

Each of Hall’s World’s Strongest Man performances have been an improvement on his last. In his debut, he finished fourth in his qualifying heat. Next, he finished third. By his third appearance in the annual competition, he was cracking into the WSM Grand Final. Hall placed sixth in 2014 and fourth in 2015. Last year, he earned a coveted spot on the podium for the first time.

Despite dislocated fingers that completely sabotaged his performance in the Frame Carry event, where he placed dead last, Eddie Hall proved he was the third strongest man in the world.

Third place is far from where his ambition ends.

Hall, despite never winning the title, believes he is the strongest man in the world. In his documentary, he distinguishes certain events as “proper” strongman events. These so-called proper events include deadlifts, squats, and presses (all of which Mr. Hall excels at). The term does not seem to apply to medleys, runs, or carries, which can be cited as Hall’s weakest events.

In contrast to my analysis, Eddie Hall does not list any weaknesses as the cause for his third-place performance, but rather those dislocated fingers, which undoubtedly were an inhibiting factor.

On his Instagram, Hall made himself clear by writing, “I genuinely believe I would have been in with a win if I hadn’t had the injury!” He throws up some logic to back it up: “Even if I got middle placing on the frame and an extra point per event, I’d have won, but it’s easy to say whats, buts, and shoulds after the event.”

Was he really that close to victory? Let’s do some back-of-the-napkin math.

Brian Shaw won the 2016 World’s Strongest Man with an impressive 53 points. Eddie Hall was a full ten points behind. Improving from last to sixth in the Frame Carry, which would be just behind Hafthor Bjornsson, Hall improves four points. [53-47] Had he pulled the C-130 Hercules just 0.08m more, he would have bested Shaw, trading one point. [52-48] Moving up one rank in the Kettlebell Toss, where I imagine fingers are quite valuable, adds another point, but doesn’t detract from Shaw’s supremacy there. [52-49] With all these concessions, Hall is still three points behind.

Even winning the Circus Barbell Press and the Max Deadlift outright, rather than tying for the win (as he did in each case), could only take Brian Shaw down half-a-point, and lift Eddie Hall by one. That would make the score 51.5-to-50, preserving Shaw’s championship, and perhaps dispelling Hall’s Instagram bravado.

For Eddie Hall to have won the 2016 World’s Strongest Man, he would have needed to win the Atlas Stones. That incredibly tall order would have been the only way left for Hall to earn the number one spot, 52-to-50.5.

So, no. With respect to Mr. Hall, healthy fingers would unlikely have helped him to victory. 2016 was not his year. Still, it says something that one can even dream up a situation where he’s within 1.5 points of glory.

One year may be enough time for him to close the gap. Despite my criticism, I am not betting against him.

Featured image: @eddie_hall_strong on Instagram

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.