These Are 10 of the Strongest Wrestlers of All Time

Find out whose muscles aren't just for show.

Wrestling has a long lineage of relying on famous celebrities to boost viewership numbers. Boxers Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather both appeared in World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). Dennis Rodman and Karl Malone appeared at multiple points in the now-defunct World Championship Wrestling. Even YouTuber Logan Paul, who has 22.3 million subscribers, signed with WWE in 2022. However, it is seriously strong powerlifters, bodybuilders, and strongman athletes who have consistently caught the attention of wrestling promoters. 

The crossover between strength and wrestling has been long established. Indeed, each era has its own muscle man — be it John Cena, Triple H, Lex Luger, the Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, or Billy Graham. It is tempting for promoters to claim these big, bulky wrestlers as the strongest men in the world or that they lift ineffably heavy weights

But who among them would rank as actually strong outside of the arena? Here are 10 legitimately strong wrestlers — and three honorable mentions — whose feats on the lifting platform truly sets them apart in the ring.

10 Legitimately Strong Wrestlers

Mark Henry

Mark Henry was with WWF/WWE from 1996 until his in-ring retirement in 2017. For much of that time, he was billed as the World’s Strongest Man. On signing with the WWF in 1996, Henry boasted multiple powerlifting and weightlifting records to his name, including an equipped with wraps total of 2,336.9 pounds. Henry’s real claim to strength, though, was his victory in the first-ever Arnold Strongman Classic in 2002.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Mark Henry (@themarkhenry)


Notably, Henry was the only competitor to press the Apollon Wheels at the Arnold. At that time, only three men in history had done so. Henry did it not once, but three times.

Bill Kazmaier 

Three-time World’s Strongest Man winner and two-time International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) World Powerlifting Champion Bill ‘Kaz’ Kazmaier rivals Henry’s strength claims depending on one’s opinion. He’s also the first man to bench press 300 kilograms (661 pounds) raw. Henry, on the other hand, beats Kaz based on their respective wrestling careers.

Beginning with Stampede Wrestling in Canada in 1986, Kaz failed to fully transition to the squared circle in the same way as Henry. For most of his career, Kaz was presented as an unstoppable monster. Despite this, he never rose past the mid-card.

Ted Arcidi 

Ted Arcidi was the first man to bench press 700 pounds in an official powerlifting competition. He pressed 705 pounds wearing a bench shirt. Specializing in the bench press, Arcidi’s best powerlifting total (1,730.6 pounds) came equipped with wraps in 1983 at the Hawaii International Powerlifting Championships.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Wrestling Memorabilia (@jws_wrestling_memorabilia)

 

Arcidi was also well known for his ‘bench off’ with Anthony Clark at the 1991 Mr. Olympia contest. Arcidi’s 725-pound bench press was disqualified when judges deemed he failed to lock out his elbows. (1) From 1985 to 1987, Arcidi wrestled 138 matches with Stampede, the World Class Wrestling Association, and the World Wrestling Federation. Arcidi was immortalized as a wrestling doll when WWF brought out a line of ‘Wrestling Superstar’ toys in 1987. 

Ken Patera

Ken Patera was one of the few individuals on this list to enjoy real longevity in wrestling. In fact, some may argue that Patera took to all elements of wrestling better than most.

An Olympic heavyweight weightlifter, Patera won a gold medal at the 1971 Pan American Games and a silver medal at the World Weightlifting Championships the same year. He also went to the 1972 Games but failed to place. Strongman fans will also know him as the man who finished third in the inaugural 1977 World’s Strongest Man contest. Patera is perhaps best known for being the first person to clean & jerk 500 pounds in competition.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Legacy of the Squared Circle (@legacyofthesquaredcircle)

 

As a wrestler, Patera’s career lasted from 1972 to the late 1990s, excluding a one-off return in 2011. It spanned over 2,000 matches across every major wrestling promotion in the United States (World Wrestling Federation, World Championship Wrestling, American Wrestling Association, etc.) and saw him win multiple heavyweight and tag team titles.

Paul Anderson 

Arguably one of the strongest men to ever live, few people remember Paul Anderson as a wrestler. Anderson won a gold medal at the World Weightlifting Championships in 1955 and a gold medal at the 1956 Olympics, where he pressed 369.3 pounds, snatched 319.7 pounds, and cleaned 413.4 pounds.

In 1957, he began performing at the Mapes Hotel and Casino in Nevada where, as part of his act, he would squat a bar with a box of silver dollars on both ends. It weighed anywhere from 900 to 1,160 pounds. His best-estimated lifts were around a 900-pound squat, a low 500-pound bench press, and over 700 pounds in the deadlift. (2) Anderson wrestled 50 times in the late 1950s as he hoped to raise money to open a youth home.

George Hackenschmidt

George Hackenschmidt is the only member on this list to wrestle at a time when championship matches were not pre-determined. His career began in the late 19th century and only ended in 1911. Matches at that time could be long, brutal, and, at times, boring affairs. Although primarily a wrestler, the “Russian Lion” Hackenschmidt was a strong weightlifter despite largely neglecting heavy weight training after the age of 25.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by ShootinTheShizzat (@shootin.the.shizzat)

 

He is credited with a 361-pound power clean, a 330-pound jerk, and two reps with 311 pounds in the pullover-and-press (an early forerunner of the bench press). His legacy for exercisers is undoubtedly the “hack squat,” wherein a barbell is held behind the thighs at waist level as the exerciser squats down. Although Hackenschmidt did not invent this exercise (he learned it from his mentor Dr. Vladislav Von Krajewski), he was famed for being able to perform the exercise 50 times with a 110-pound barbell. He is credited with winning more than 3,000 matches as a wrestler. (3)

Doug Furnas

Weighing over 270 pounds, Doug Furnas was yet another powerlifter who transitioned to professional wrestling. As a lifter, Furnas’ best total at 275.5 pounds was 2,276.2 pounds. He boasted a 985-pound equipped squat, a 600.7-pound bench press, and an 821.2-pound deadlift.

His last powerlifting meet was in 1987. By this time, Furnas had already begun his career as a professional wrestler. He was often praised for his strength as a wrestler but was never billed as the world’s strongest man.

Big E

Ettore Ewen (Big E) dabbled in competitive powerlifting before focusing his attention on professional wrestling. Competing in 2010 and 2011, Ewen finished first in his class at the USAPL U.S. Open Powerlifting Championships and the USAPL RAW National Powerlifting Championships.

His best lifts in competition were 711 pounds in the squat, a 529-pound bench, and a 799-pound deadlift. At that time, he was balancing his powerlifting with a burgeoning wrestling career in Florida Championship Wrestling. When he signed with the WWE in 2013, he spent a single year with the developmental brand NXT before moving to the main roster. As a member of the New Day faction, E has become a fan favorite. In 2021, he won the WWE Championship for the first time.

Braun Strowman

Another active wrestler, Adam Scherr (Braun Strowman or The Titan), was an amateur strongman-turned-professional wrestler. In 2011 he earned his Strongman Corporation Professional Card after winning the NAS Amateur National Championships. Thus began a series of victories which eventually culminated in Scherr appearing at the Arnold Amateur Strongman Championships, which he won in 2012.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Adam Nixon (@adamnixon1987)

 

In 2013, Scherr finished 10th (last place) in the Arnold Strongman Classic, where he competed against Vytautas Lalas, Brian Shaw, and other well-known stars. (4) Scherr signed directly with the WWE in 2013 and stayed there until his release in 2021.

Becca Swanson 

Becca Swanson can legitimately be considered one of the strongest women in the world. A powerlifter, bodybuilder, and strong woman, Swanson has excelled in strength sports. As a powerlifter, she broke a 2,000-pound total in 2005 with an 854-pound squat, a 523-pound bench, and a 672-pound deadlift.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Becca “Strongest Ever” Swanson (@bigbeccaswanson)

 

In 2009 and 2010, Swanson wrestled with Harley Race’s World League Wrestling in Missouri. Swanson held the women’s championship for 160 days, despite wrestling only nine matches. Perhaps unsurprisingly given her sporting achievements, she was billed as “The Strongest Woman on the Planet.”

Three Honorable Mentions

Just because you’re not the strongest doesn’t mean you’re not strong. Here are three honorable mentions on our list.

Dino Bravo

Known for his run with the WWF in the mid-1980s and early 1990s, Adolfo Bresciano, or ‘Dino Bravo,’ was a heavyweight wrestler whom many said was a legitimate powerhouse. He won multiple titles with the NWA before his time with the WWF, where he held the short-lived Canadian Championship and the tag team belts.

Credited with a bench press of 500 pounds, Dino was involved in an ill-fated effort to break the 700-pound barrier in a bench press contest at the 1988 Royal Rumble. (5) Greatly assisted by his spotter, Jesse Ventura, Bravo nevertheless called himself the ‘World’s Strongest Man’ for several months.

Rob Van Dam

Fans of Extreme Championship Wrestling in the 1990s will be very familiar with ‘The Whole Damn Show,’ Rob Van Dam (Robert Alexander Szatkowski). Still an active wrestler, RVD wrestled with ECW before moving on to the WWE in the early 2000s.

 

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

A post shared by Hard Mark (@hardmarkpodcast)

 

Known for his athleticism and high-flying style, RVD’s selection on this list stems from the ‘Van Dam Lift,’ which was named after him. Part of the US All-Round Weightlifting Association’s list of odd lifts, the Van Dam lift involves lifting a weight towards the body while doing the splits from a height. Van Dam initially set the record at 166 pounds. (6)

André René Roussimoff (André the Giant)

Giants in wrestling are a common feature. Currently wrestling in the WWE is Tolulope Omogbehin (Omos), who is billed at over seven feet tall. Older generations may remember the Great Khali, Big Show, Giant Gonzales, and The Yeti. The most famous wrestler of the era is André René Roussimoff or André the Giant. Wrestling from the 1960s to the early 1990s, Andre was billed at seven feet, four inches tall and had one of the most iconic bodies in wrestling.

In 1981, powerlifting legend and strength connoisseur Terry Todd wrote a biography of André for Sports Illustrated. In it, Ken Patera and others cited their awe at André’s strength, which included the ability to lift a small car for fun, toss 250-pound men with ease, and perform a dropkick despite his massive weight. (7)

Wrestling Strength

Given the passion that typifies wrestling fandom, you might not find your favorite wrestler on this list. But if you’re looking for the strongest to enter the ring, one thing to search for is verified feats of strength in other sports. While their fortunes varied in wrestling, few can dispute their strength. 

References

  1. ‘World Strongest Man of Wrestling,’ Street Fighter.com, May 31, 2011. https://www.strengthfighter.com/worlds-strongest-man-of-wrestling/ 
  2. ‘Paul Anderson,’ Strongman Project. https://strongmanproject.com/features/19 
  3. ‘George Hackenschmidt,’ Strongman Project. https://strongmanproject.com/features/10 
  4. Sean Guest, ‘Ex-WWE Star Looked Very Different Ten Years Ago,’ Give Me Sport, February 2, 2022. https://www.givemesport.com/1832448-braun-strowman-exwwe-superstar-looked-extremely-different-10-years-ago 
  5. Drake Oz, ‘WWE: Superplexing Big Show & the 10 Biggest Feats of Strength in WWE History,’ Bleacher Report, November 8, 2011. https://bleacherreport.com/articles/929030-wwe-superplexing-big-show-the-10-biggest-feats-of-strength-in-wwe-history
  6. Al Myers, ‘Is the Van Dam Lift Imposible?’, USAWA, June 30, 2009. https://usawa.com/is-the-van-dam-lift-impossible/ 
  7. Terry Todd, ‘To the Giant Among Us,’ Sports Illustrated, Dec 21, 1981. https://vault.si.com/vault/1981/12/21/to-the-giant-among-us-thats-no-small-beer-on-the-right-its-a-normal-12-ounce-can-in-the-hand-of-7-4quot-500-pound-wrestler-andre-the-giant-the-glass-is-in-the-prodigious-paw-of-the-author-a-former-superheavyweight-powerlifting-c 

All records for wrestling and powerlifting were taken from the following websites:

Featured Images (left to right) @bigbeccaswanson and @themarkhenry on Instagram