As any true wrestling fan can attest to, we have witnessed a slight change, even an evolution over the years in professional wrestling. The long time and yet simple formula of good guy versus bad guy that defined the sport is alive, but it can be argued that it’s become obvious that it’s not at the forefront of every match or angle. The shift has also occurred in the type of wrestler we see depicting the roles of the face and the villain in the last few years as well. That variation in philosophy for a lack of better term, has dramatically altered the appearance of wrestlers as well. In the 60s and early 70s performers like Bruno Sammartino, Chief Jay Strongbow, Gorilla Monsoon, Verne Gagne, Ernie Ladd, and Lou Thesz among others were the headliners. While they were all big men, none of them were really known as ripped or extremely muscular.
While the late 70s saw a changing of the guard with The Superstar Billy Graham, the 80s and early 90s is where the complete transformation occurred. The entire sport went from just having big guys as the champions and main eventers to having wrestlers with chiselled bodies who look like superheroes take those coveted spots. Characters like Hulk Hogan, Sting, Hercules, The Ultimate Warrior, The British Bulldog, The Legion of Doom, The Undertaker, and Lex Luger amongst many others, not only jump onto the scene, but were able to make a huge splash in part due to their impressive physique and super human strength. That is a trend we have seen continued today with the popularity of in-ring performers like Brock Lesnar, Mark Henry, John Cena, Goldberg, and Cesaro.
Wrestlers like the ones mentioned above, bring me to the point of the article. I will attempt to list the top 20 strongest wrestlers of all time. As I mentioned above, wrestling has a long and storied history. Strong men have played a crucial role in the success in the sport throughout its generations. That was never more evident than the fact that more than a few individuals on this list are former Olympians as well. That detail alone made choosing only 20 hard but fun at the same time.
We're also taking into account the time these men spent in wrestling, so although the legendary Bill Kazamaier is a three-time World's Strongest Man, his time in wrestling was very short in comparison to the ones on this list.
20 Big John Studd
19 Scott Steiner
18 The Undertaker
17 The Rock
16 Hulk Hogan
13 John Cena
12 'The British Bulldog' Davey Boy Smith
The man also known as the “Big Red Machine” has been in the WWE for almost 20 years. While he will probably never be accused of being an in-ring technician, the veteran is still more than capable of putting together a good match. Whether he wrestles as corporate Kane, the fake Diesel, Isaac Yankem, or teams up with his brother The Undertaker as the Brothers of Destruction, the power, size, and strength that he displayed during his 1997 debut at the In Your House: Bad Blood pay-per-view still appears intact today.
In an interview with Dynamite Nutrition Magazine a few years ago, Brock Lesnar said that during his first stint in WWE, Kane was the strongest wrestler in the locker room.
"At one of the events, the guys in the back were all testing their strength through arm-wrestling and 'mercy'. Most of them were there to 'impress the divas'. I remember running through all of them, even Paul [Big Show], who had bananas for fingers. The only guy I remember being stronger than me and it pissed me off because I hated not being first, was Kane. No one in the WWE was as strong as that guy. Trying to slam his arm down was like trying to push over a tree with one arm."
9 Tony Atlas
8 Superstar Billy Graham
Arguably the most colorful wrestler in the history of the sport, Billy Graham (Eldridge Wayne Coleman) was also one of the most popular. He is also a former training partner with none other than the Terminator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. With his bleach blonde hair and muscle-laden body, Graham has been credited with giving birth to the modern day physiques that we have seen on numerous professional wrestlers since the late 80s and early 90s.
7 The Big Show
6 Brock Lesnar
5 Big E
Just based off of looks alone Big E deserves a stop on the list. Currently one part of the current World Tag Team Champions, New Day, the ex-Iowa Hawkeye defensive lineman was first introduced to the WWE television world on the December 27th, 2012 episode of Monday Night Raw when he aligned himself with former WWE Diva AJ Lee and attacked fan favorite John Cena. He further distanced from the fans when he became the enforcer for Lee’s love interest Dolph Ziggler.
4 The Iron Sheik
The Iron Sheik’s Persian Club Challenge, and his finishing move –the camel clutch-are good enough to get him on the list. All jokes aside however, the former WWE champion who served as a bodyguard for the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his family for several years, was also a member of his native country’s Olympic Greco Roman team at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Although he failed to medal, he later went on to be an assistant coach for Team USA in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany.
3 Ken Patera
Just like the Iron Sheik and the “World’s Strongest Man” Mark Henry, Patera, the WWF star from the 70’s and 80’s was also a former Olympian Weightlifter. In the 1971 Pan American Games, Patera won a Gold Medal in the weightlifting total competition. In the same year at the World Weightlifting Championships in Lima, Peru, Patera won a Silver Medal. He also competed for the United States in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. Unfortunately for the future professional wrestler, he failed to medal. The next year however he did continue his four year streak of finishing 1st place in the Super Heavyweight Class at the U.S Weightlifting Championships that he started in 1969.
2 Andre the Giant
1 Mark Henry
Was there really any doubt as to who would top the list? The former ECW and WWE Heavyweight Champion who the organization still calls “The World’s Strongest Man” has done many things under the company’s’ umbrella to hold onto the throne. From pulling 2 tractor trailers at the same time, to suplexing The Big Show off the top rope, or leaning on a wall and holding a running limousine in place with his legs, Mark Henry’s strength is comparable to an animal.
Outside of the ring is where he really earns the number spot on the list. In 1990, Henry was named “The World’s Strongest Teen-ager” by the Los Angeles Times. Henry has also set the standard and broken many weightlifting and powerlifting records in various categories. He holds the World Drug-Free Powerlifting Federation (WDFPF) record for squats, deadlift, and total weight. He also holds the United States of America Powerlifting (USAPL) American record for deadlifts as well.
In weightlifting, Henry is a 3-time U.S. National Weightlifting Champion, the 1992 American Open Winner, and in 2002 he won the inaugural Arnold Strongman Classic. The Silsbee, Texas native also has some international pedigree as well. The man whose finishing maneuver is called “The World’s Strongest Slam”, is also a former Olympic weightlifter. He competed in 1996 for his country at the Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. He also served as captain of the weightlifting team. In the 1995 Pan American Games in Mar del Plata, Henry won the Bronze medal in the Clean and Jerk event, the Silver Medal in the Olympic Weightlifting event, and a Gold Medal in the Snatch event at the young age of 23.
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