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.
Whether he appeared on WWE television as Nexus member Skip Sheffield, or currently as the popular character Ryback, the 6-foot-3, nearly 300 pounder doesn’t lack in the size department. While his wrestling skills have developed over his time in the WWE, the former Tough Enough contestant’s matches are often highlighted by his power moves like his running power slam and his shell-shock finisher. The fact that the Las Vegas native is often matched up with or against wrestlers of similar size and strength like The Big Show, Kane, and Mark Henry proves that the self-proclaimed “Big Guy” is exactly what he claims to be.
20 Big John Studd
His name and the fact that the late WWE star from the 70s and 80s took on none other than the legendary Andre The Giant in a $15,000 Body Slam Challenges hould be enough to get him on the list. All jokes aside though, the former actor, WWWF Tag Team Champion, and 1989 Royal Rumble winner who used a Reverse Bear hug as a finishing maneuver, was a monster of a man, even if his listed wrestling height of 6-foot-10 and weight of 364 pounds seemed a little exaggerated.
19 Scott Steiner
No list of the strongest wrestlers of all time would be complete without Big Poppa Pump. Steiner, whose offense includes a lot of power moves like a standing vertical suplex, gorilla press, double under-hook powerbomb, and his famous Steiner Recliner aka a camel clutch, would pause in the middle of his match to do push ups in the ring. It should come as no surprise than that even today at the age of 52, the former WCW, WWE, and TNA wrestler still has one of the best physiques in all of wrestling. What else would you expect from someone who claims to only care about his freaks and his peaks?
18 The Undertaker
While the Deadman’s days in the world of professional wrestling definitely appear to be winding down, his strength is still holding on after all these years in the ring. Whether it was giving his famous finisher the Tombstone to the likes of Mark Henry, Brock Lesnar, his brother Kane, or the late Big Boss Man, or giving a body slam to much bigger opponents like King Kong Bundy, Albert, or Kamala, or delivering the Last Ride Powerbomb to muscular foes like John Cena, the Rock, or Triple H, one thing is clear; there are very few wrestlers that could match the Undertaker’s strength.
17 The Rock
Do you smell what The Rock is cooking? Of course the self-proclaimed “Most Electrifying Man in All of Sports Entertainment” is on the list. While he is pure gold with the microphone in his hand, and known to be well…electrifying in the ring, the 10-time World Heavyweight Champion, current movie star, producer, part-time wrestler, and former Miami Hurricane and Calgary Stampeder could make the list off of his size alone, as there is certainly very few if any people in professional wrestling, let alone Hollywood that can match Mr. Johnson’s power, strength, and physique.
16 Hulk Hogan
From the AWA to WWE to WCW, whether he appeared as the Immortal Hulk Hogan, or as Hollywood Hulk Hogan, the man with the 24-inch pythons who for decades has tried to encourage kids around the globe to say their prayers and eat their vitamins has to be included on this list. While his legendary match at WrestleMania III where he slammed the legendary Andre the Giant in the Pontiac Silverdome stands out as his career defining moment, Terry Bollea has exhibited his super human like strength in hundreds of matches throughout his four decades in the business.
With his two signatures the running spear, and the equally impressive Jackhammer which he performed on massive opponents like The Giant, Scott Norton, Meng, the Ice Train, Bam Bam Bigelow, Big Bubba Rodgers, and others with ease, Goldberg was the definition of a super athlete with his size, speed, and strength. The former Atlanta Falcon defensive tackle was also the man with one of the most remarkable winning streaks in the history of professional wrestling. His undefeated streak which started on September 22, 1997 with a victory over Hugh Morrus on Monday Night Nitro, lasted a remarkable 15 months, and saw him amass 173 consecutive wins before he lost to Kevin Nash at WCW’s Starrcade pay per view via outside interference.
The Swiss Superman Cesaro has gained a lot of popularity amongst the fans with his patented Swing maneuver. The former Paul Heyman guy and current tag team partner of Tyson Kidd first burst onto the mainstream scene with the WWE in April of 2012 after wrestling for various promotions including Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Guerilla, and Chikara. What makes Cesaro special and earns him a spot on the list is not just his repertoire of moves and the fact that they require a lot of strength to do them, like his belly to belly overhead suplex, double under arm suplex, his finisher the Equalizer, and the aforementioned swing, it’s also he doesn’t hesitate to perform them on wrestlers much larger than he is like Mark Henry, The Great Khali, Kane, and The Big Show.
13 John Cena
The poster boy for hustle, loyalty, and respect has been one of the strongest men in the WWE for over 10 years. Whether it’s lifting heavyweights like Kane, Great Khali, Big Show, Ryback, Brock Lesnar, or Mark Henry on his shoulders with ease to deliver his finishing maneuver the Attitude Adjustment, there is no doubting Cena’s strength and power. At WrestleMania 25 in Houston, which yours truly had the pleasure of experiencing live, the former doctor of thuganomics was able to carry Big Show and Edge on his shoulders at the same time.
12 'The British Bulldog' Davey Boy Smith
His amazing standing vertical suplex and gorilla press slams alone should be enough to get him on the list. Smith who was a brother-in-law to wrestling icon Bret “The Hitman” Hart and trained in the legendary Hart Dungeon made his WWE debut at 19 as part of the British Bulldogs tag team with his partner the legendary Dynamite Kid. Although the latter got a lot of well-deserved attention for his skills in the ring, Smith’s wrestling ability -which was more than up to par- combined with his power, physique, and strength made the future Hart Foundation member look like he was created in a video game.
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."
Kane was also known to deadlift the most of any wrestler back in his prime and maxed out on the bench press at 670 back in 2001.
9 Tony Atlas
You would have to imagine that Mark Henry’s former manager would find a way on to the list. Atlas, however was more than just a mouth piece for the World’s Strongest Man. The former wrestler, powerlifter, and bodybuilder who on three separate occasions earned the nickname “Mr. USA”, is a member of not only the WWE Hall of Fame, but in 2007 he was inducted into the World Bodybuilding Guild (WBBG) Hall of Fame as well. Even today at the age of 61, Atlas who returned to the WWE in 2014 as a member of the WWE produced reality show Legends’ House, can still more than hold his own with the weights.
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.
Graham who won first place in the Best Developed Arm division in the World Body Building Guild (WBBG) Pro Mr. America Contest in 1975, also competed in the 1980 World Strongest Man competition. In between both events, he also beat the legendary Bruno Sammartino for the WWWF Heavyweight Championship in 1977, ending the former champion’s three year reign in the process. Graham himself would end up hanging on to the title for 296 days before losing it to babyface opponent Bob Backlund. The near 300-day reign by a heel was impressive, as the WWE typically only used heels as transitional champions. Graham proved the company could also do great business with a heel champion.
7 The Big Show
When your wrestling name is The Big Show, and you are labeled as “The World’s Largest Athlete”, one would have to assume that strength and power fall into the equation as well. In Show’s case that is true as well, as the 7-foot 455 pounder is second to none in both the height and weight department. Besides his endless array of power moves like his patented Choke Slam and Knockout Punch, the mere fact that he is able toss other heavyweights around in the ring with relative ease solidifies his spot on the list.
6 Brock Lesnar
The man referred to as the “Beast Incarnate” leaves a path of destruction no matter wherever he goes. In the NCAA, Lesnar became a two-time All American, two-time Big Ten Conference Champion, and 200 Heavyweight champion, all while amassing an incredible 106-5 record. In the UFC, he dominated the likes of Frank Mir, Heath Herring, Shane Carwin, and the legendary Randy Couture. In the WWE, we have seen their former World Heavyweight champ makes heavyweights like The Big Show, Kane, John Cena, Triple H, and The Undertaker look like lightweights. Whether in the octagon or the squared circle, Lesnar is one of the strongest wrestlers to ever grace the squared circle, and well deserving of a spot on this list.
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.
If his impressive physique, a college football career, and his choice of friends aren’t enough to get him on the list, his workout routine, and the four state raw power lifting records he set in his native Florida back in 2010 should be. Big E who broke into the sport in 2009 at the 275 pound weight class, broke the record in squats with 611 pounds, bench press with 490 pounds, and deadlift with 749 pounds. In all, he lifted a total of 1,850 pounds. His training regimen which was filmed by the WWE that showed him lift 405 pounds on the flat bench closed-grip, 135 pounds on bicep curls, and 110 on dumbbell rows in preparation for a match at SummerSlam 2013 is also very impressive.
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.
While in the squared circle, The Iron Sheik had tons of memorable matches with legends like Pat Patterson, Dusty Rhodes, Tito Santana, Chief Jay Strongbow, Bruno Sammartino, and Hulk Hogan. Arguably his most famous match occurred in 1983 at Madison Square Garden against longtime rival Bob Backlund. Their match on Boxing Day of that year was met with much anticipation as the then heavyweight champion Backlund had put his title on the line, was “injured” two nights earlier when he was attacked by the Sheik during an aforementioned Persian Club Challenge. When the challenger put the champ in his dreaded camel clutch, Backlund appeared to be in so much pain that his manager Arnold Skaaland threw in the towel, resulting in The Iron Sheik winning the match and becoming the new WWE Heavyweight Champion.
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.
The Olympics and weightlifting competitions obviously weren’t enough for the Portland, Oregon native. Patera who won a gold medal at the 1967 Pan American Games in the shot-put event, also competed in the inaugural World’s Strongest Man competition in 1977. Out of eight competitors, Patera who would use the strongman persona when he first started wrestling in the AWA, and later became the WWE Intercontinental Champion, finished a respectable third, beating none other than the original Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno.
2 Andre the Giant
Unlike some basketball players, when your name is associated with the word giant, chances are that in the world of professional wrestling, the person being spoken of will have some strength to go along with the size. It’s clear that the man who labeled as “The Eighth Wonder of the World” and who measured in at nearly seven feet tall and weighed close to 500 pounds definitely brought both attributes to the table. From tossing around notably strong wrestlers like Hulk Hogan, Bam Bam Bigelow, Big John Studd, and the Ultimate Warrior like they were rag dolls, the inaugural member of the WWE’s Hall of Fame phenomenal size was matched only by his awesome strength. The fact that he reportedly rarely ever trained in the gym makes him even more impressive.
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.