World’s Strongest Man of… Wrestling
Written by PYGOD on January 9, 2008
It is widely known, pro wrestling has always been the land of strongmen. It seems the general public has always had some sort of fascination with strongmen and musclemen. These herculean icons never failed to capture the hearts and imagination of their fans with their larger than life aura of indestructibility. This article “The World’s Strongest Men… of Wrestling” will probably be the first of a series, titled “The World’s Strongest Men…” This will give some perspective of these strong athletes where strength became their official gimmick. Strength became the core of their persona. Strength became their life and character. Here come the strongest of them all! The World’s Strongest Men of wrestling.
Being dubbed the “World’s Strongest Man” in the land of giants is not an easy feat. So let’s study the case of the five wrestlers who, at one time or another, were officially billed as the “World’s Strongest Man”.
Born November 6, 1942 in Portland, Oregon. Ken Patera began his strength career in football as an all-state fullback in high school. Then, he went to Brigham Young and threw the shot put 67 feet and could dunk a basketball all at 6’1″, 270 lbs. At 19, he was capable of a 42 inch vertical leap. In 1968 at 25 years old he placed third in the NCAA finals in the shot put and fifth in the hammer throw. The next year, he moved to weightlifting and became a national champion with only one year of training. By 1971, Patera has already won three national championships and finished second to his arch-rival, the all-time great Vassili Alexeyev, in the annual World Weightlifting championship.
Patera’s moment of glory came on July 23, 1972 in San Francesco, California at the age of 29, weighting in at 340 lbs for and officially measuring a height of 6’1.75″ he became the first American to clean and jerk 500 lbs (officially lifting 505.5 lbs). He was also the only American to clean and press 505.5 lbs! Patera also snatched 387.5 lbs on that event-which registered his all-time career’s best. After such a feat, he was viewed as a serious threat for the worldwide famous Vassili Alexeyev for the 1972 Olympics. But when the time came, he failed miserably and didn’t place at the 1972 Olympics. So, shortly after, he resumed his Olympic career and broke his all-time best total at the three Olympic lifts, which was 1395 lbs; only second to Alexeyev’s best effort of 1421 lbs. 1972 was the last year that the press was an Olympic lift. Now, there is only two Olympic lifts: the snatch and the clean and jerk.
In the end of 1973, at 31 years of age, he begin his wrestling career, already billed by promoters and announcers, as the “World’s Strongest Man” -A billing that he would maintain for his entire wrestling career. Even though he lost most of his bulk through his wrestling career; starting at 330 lbs dropping to a mere 245 lbs by 1980 that enabled him to increase his wrestling abilities and his stamina. Doing so, he relied less and less on power moves but was always pushed as a powerhouse. Performing feats of strength on TV, like holding back an accelerated car with his legs pressed against the car’s front and his back against a wall, bending nails and iron bars, driving nails through boards, and blowing hot water balloons until they exploded. Enhancing his reputation as the “World’s Strongest Man”, he competed in the contest of the same name in 1977, the first of a long series which is still continued today to truly define who is the worlds strongest man. Patera placed third in the extravaganza; behind Olympic weightlifter Bruce Wilhelm and football player Bob Young. This feat was truly remarkable despite undergoing repaid weight loss and being far from his ideal “strength-weight” which was due as he was greatly suffering from a back injury.
His career took a turn to the worst, on April 6, 1984 in Waukesha, Wisconsin. It all began when he and fellow pro wrestler Mr. Saito went to a local McDonald’s joint late at night and were denied service because it was no longer open. So, an angered Patera threw a heavy boulder through the window and breaking it. Later that night, several police officers go to the hotel room of the two belligerents to arrest them. But Patera and Saito didn’t were not cooperative and kicked the asses of the several police officers that night. The police clubs and mace weren’t enough to get the upper hand on these two powerhouses. The police officers got to pull their guns to get the “cooperation” of Patera and Saito. Both of them were sentenced to two years in jail.
After his time was served, Patera returned to WWF wrestling in 1987-he was 45 years old at the time. He was still billed as the “World’s Strongest Man”; however he failed to catch up his past momentum and was mostly used as a mid-carder and not a headliner.
Nonetheless, Ken Patera was an amazing all-around athlete and a great performer. He will be remembered as a great showman, one of the most hated man in wrestling, and a top notch strength icon.
Born in June 16, 1958 in Nashua, New Hampshire. Introduced by Ken Patera, “Mr. 705” Ted Arcidi began in WWF in late 1985 at 27 years old. He was immediately billed as the “World’s Strongest Man” due to his raw bench press world record of 705.75 lbs. Being the first man able to bench 700 lbs.
At 5’10”, 290 pounds, he was so big and muscular that his wrestling skills were next to nil and he could barely move in a ring. His lack of skills and the fact that WWF honcho Vince McMahon didn’t want two wrestlers billed as “World’s Strongest Man” on his show decided to release Arcidi upon the return of Ken Patera (ironically the same man who introduced him) to determine this billing.
He also wrestled for various independent wrestling federations. Even feuded with fellow “World’s Strongest Man” Bill Kazmaier in Calgary. But he ultimately left pro wrestling to set new world records in powerlifting. Weighing 291 lbs, in 1990, he set another world record with an amazing 718 lbs bench press. On September 14, 1991, at a Mr. Olympia contest, he squared off face to face with
his greatest rival Anthony Clark to determine who the greatest bench presser of the world was. At 5’8″, 375 lbs, the much bigger Anthony Clark failed to even budge the 725 pounds off his chest a weight Arcidi bench pressed to establish a new, but controversial, world record. It was considered controversial because his elbows weren’t fully locked, allegedly due to his advanced state of arthritis.
Ted Arcidi will always be remembered as a poor wrestler but a tremendous powerlifter and arguably one of the greatest bench pressers of all-time.
Born August 6, 1948 and dead March 11, 1993. Italian-born French Canadian Dino Bravo (Adolfo Bresciano) was, unlike the other strongmen of this list, a career long pro wrestler. Unlike the other so-called “World’s Strongest Man”, Dino Bravo never officially competed in strength sports like powerlifting, strongman, and Olympic lifting.
At a legit height of 5’9″ and weighting a legit 255 pounds, Dino Bravo was already the self-proclaimed “Canada’s Strongest Man”. Feuding with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy “Macho Man” Savage, and The Ultimate Warrior, Dino Bravo was one of the most hated main event heel in the WWF of the late 80s and early 90s.
He officially started the “World’s Strongest Man” gimmick at the WWF 1988 inaugural Royal Rumble, were he bench pressed 715 pounds (minus four bogus 45-pound plates) to beat the world record of the time. Despite his bogus attempt to etablish the new bench press world record. Dino Bravo was legitimaly strong and able to bench press more than 500 pounds. Former tag team partner Gino Brito even stated that Dino Bravo bench pressed 675 pounds, which is seven 45-pound plates per side.
He retired from professional wrestling in 1992 and to keep up with his lavish lifestyle he turned to organized crime. However Dino Bravo aka Adolfo Bresciano was found shot to death on March 11, 1993 at age 44 with 17 bullets in the head. His execution was related to his involvement in illegal cigarette smuggling and loan sharking.
Born December 11, 1961 in Commerce, Oklahoma. Furnas, began his athletic career as starting running back on the University of Tennessee football team. Coincidentally, one of his teammates was the former NFL star, Reggie White. But his greatest achievement came as a powerlifter. Already in college, he was a physical marvel. Able to run a 4.6 forty yard dash, a 36-inch vertical leap, doing full legs splits, and regularly benching 450 lbs and squatting 775 lbs. On March 26, 1983 at the same University; he set the men’s collegiate national records in the squat (881.75 lbs) and the deadlift (766 lbs) in the 242 weight class.
Furnas was truly a powerlifting extraordinaire, achieving his career best total in June 28, 1987 in Bloomington, Minnesota with a 2403 lbs competing in the 275 category. His best squat came in 1986 at 985 lbs weighting a ripped 265 lbs with 35-inch thighs. His best bench is 600 lbs and his best deadlift is 821 lbs. During his illustrious powerlifting career, he set 29 world records, often breaking his own. He probably still holds the Tennessee State record for the squat (985), deadlift (821) and total (2403). And keep in mind that his exploits were made with minimal supportive gear compared to today’s ridiculous slingshot suits. Interesting fact: during his height of his powerlifting career Furnas only trained twice a week.
In 1986, he started pro wrestling. Evidently billed as the “World’s Strongest Man” but only for the first few years of his career. In 1990, he was exposed to national TV coverage on WCW, where they heavily emphasized him as the “World’s Strongest Man” every chance they got. But, unfortunately the billing ended in 1990 after his WCW departure. Despite his incredibly large legs and very muscular stature, he lacked size and looked more like a sun-tanned bodybuilder. Furna’s stats were exaggerated at 5’11” and billed as 265 pounds (more likely 245 lbs) and his high-flying, ultra-athletic style of wrestling was hardly seen as a credible title as the “World’s Strongest Man”. He was exceptionally strong, but he didn’t look like he was and his wrestling highlight as the “World’s Strongest Man” came in a losing effort against Barry Windham in 1990 NWA Clash of Champions XI.
Another conflict of determining who the real “World’s Strongest Man” came upon the arrival of Bill Kazmaier in 1991. One year after the departure of Furnas in 1990. Fans questioned why the two of them were called “World’s Strongest Man”? So, the announcer Gordon Solie came on TV and explained that Doug Furnas was the strongest man in the 275 weight class and Bill Kazmaier (their new “World’s Strongest Man”) was the strongest man overall. Since Kazmaier was a lot bigger and stronger looking; these explanations easily convinced the public.
For the rest of his wrestling career, Doug Furnas achieved international success in tag team wrestling with his partner Dan Kroffat (Phil Laffon). Sadly, due to his drop in weight to 230 lbs; his strength accomplishments were all but forgotten and he was never seen as a powerhouse again.
Born December 30, 1953 in Burlington, Wisconsin. Bill Kazmaier is, without a doubt, one of the strongest men of all-time. He was a fullback at the University of Wisconsin-Madison from 1973-1974 before leaving school for a full-time powerlifting career. Doing so, he won his first National championship in 1978 with a 782 lbs squat, a 534 lbs bench press, and a 804 lbs deadlift as a 275 pounder. In 1979, as a 25 year old superheavyweight, he won the American powerlifting championship and the IPF World powerlifting championship with a 865 lbs squat, a 622 lbs bench (world record at the time) and a 804 lbs deadlift.
He does his best powerlifting lifts in 1981 at 27 years old. That year, he set the world record with a 661 lbs bench press in a drug-tested competition, completely raw (no stupid bench shirt) with a narrow grip. He also made his best total, 2425 lbs. Which, I believe is still an unseen feat in raw, drug tested powerlifting. His best drug-tested deadlift was 886, which remained a record for the next seven years and his best squat was 925 lbs. Keep in mind all of this was done in 1981 under official circumstances, drug-tested and without supportive equipment. Wow!
The great Kaz wasn’t only a powerlifting marvel; he is also a three-time World’s Strongest Man. He won the prestigious contest three consecutive years in 1980, 1981, and 1982. He was so dominant that he was blackballed by the organizers, fearing a lost in interest by the viewers as he would be the only champ. So in 1983, the great Kaz returned to powerlifting, winning the IPF world championship again. Ironically, due to the emergence of another dominant
strongman (Jon Pall Sigmarsson of Iceland) Kazmaier was re-invited back to the annual World’s Strongest Man contest. Kaz, finished second to strength phenom, Sigmarsson in 1987 and 1988. He in 1989, he finished fourth, while injuring his ankle in the process and this was the beginning of his pro wrestling.
Briefly competed in WCW in 1991, with over 30 records under his belt (at the time) and officially proclaimed the “World’s Strongest Man” by Guinness. Kaz was incredibly strong and his physique looked even more incredibly strong but he was a poor wrestler. However, he still managed a few shots on pay-per-view events, he received some title shots including from then champion Lex Luger. His highlights came when he was sneak-attacked and “injured” by the Enforcers (Arn Anderson & Larry Zbysko) before the tournament finals of the WCW world tag team championship and the outcome had him and his partner Rick Steiner losing to Anderson & Zbysko.
Kaz worked for other wrestling outfits like the local Alabama promotion, the Canadian Stampede wrestling, and New Japan. His wrestling career came to a close and he returned to his bread and butter sport- strongman competitions.
As I mentioned earlier, Kazmaier was a poor wrestler, but who cares – he was the “World’s Strongest Man”!
The last “World’s Strongest Man” of wrestling is none other than
Born June 12, 1971 in Silsbee, Texas. Mark Henry is, in my view, with Louis Cyr and Paul Anderson, in my view one of the three greatest World’s Strongest Men who ever lived.
Already weighing 365 pounds at 17, he was published as the next superheavyweight Olympic weightlifting gold medalist. At the young age of 21, and weighing a more muscular 366 pounds; he finished tenth in superheavyweight weightlifting at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic. He was also a gifted powerlifter; scoring his best lifts on July 16, 1995 at 24 years old weighing 405.8 lbs. He bested the 1976 934.5 lbs raw (unequipped) squat world record by Don Reinbourt with a superhuman 948 lbs squat. A 463 lbs raw bench press and a 865 lbs raw deadlift.
Later in 1995, at the World powerlifting championship, he lifted 953 lbs in the squat, a 518 lbs bench, and a 865 lbs deadlift. His best total ever recorded was during that year, at 2336 lbs for the three lifts and he also won the Pan American Games silver medal in Olympic weightlifting. Henry was the Senior American record holder of the best snatch, clean and jerk and total from 1993 to 1997, where he became the Senior National Weightlifting Champion in 1993, 1994 & 1996.
His dominant performances in the strength arena intrigued the WWF, who sponsored him for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta where he finished 14th. Henry made his pro wrestling debut in September 22, 1996 at 25 years old, defeating Jerry “The King” Lawler at the pay-per-view event In Your House: Mind Games. Mark Henry signed on for a 10 years at a whopping $10 million contract which was unheard of at the time. Unfortunately, this contract proved to be the worst business deal ever inked by WWE Vince McMahon (second to his ill-fated football league XFL). In fact, the giant was miss-used by the creative team, rather than pushing him as an unstoppable monster heel like he should have been was pushed into losing weight to enhance his in-ring performance. They strongly compelled the giant to eat very clean, do one hour of cardio every day, and train on a ridiculous fitness program. So the big man became the shadow of himself without his precious bulk and strength. It was totally stupid! I hate what the WWE did to Mark Henry.
Despite all of WWE’s stupid efforts of making Mark Henry a good wrestler never panned out as he still sucked in the ring. Slow, injury-prone, sweaty, no charisma and filled with silly gimmicks like Sexual Chocolate and crap like that. The “World’s Strongest Man” was, for the most part of his ten-year contract, sends at training facilities Ohio Valley Wrestling, on the injured list or losing to an established superstar. Again it was ridiculous!
Finally on February 23, 2002 the light of day shone through dark, at the inaugural Arnold Classic strongman contest. The Arnold setting in my opinion is the ultimate and is best platform to see who the real Strongest Man in the World is. He got the okay by Vince McMahon to train and participate at the prestigious event. All the years of rust, diet, and lack of brute strength training was not a deterrent as Mark Henry bested seven of the strongest powerlifters, strongman competitors, and Olympic lifters in the world to be crowned the 2002 Arnold Classic Strongman winner. Weighing in at over 400 lbs at 30 years of age, he achieved world class fame for his feats of strength and was evident when he
cleaned and jerked the Apollon wheels three times and snatching the Inch dumbbell overhead. It was impressive!
After that, he returned to WWE TV programs with his own televised segments called “Feats of Strength” in paralleled with his official “World’s Strongest Man” status he was bigger and badder. On his segments; he routinely performed various feats of strength like bending an iron cast, lifting a car, holding off an accelerated truck with his foot on the bumper and his back against a wall all while other wrestlers took bets. Sadly, this was short-lived, and he was returned to OVW for more training.
He re-signed in 2006 with the WWE and Mark Henry was finally used as a brutal 380-pound monster that injures his opponents on a regular basis. However, he is still the same wrestler: injury-prone, immobile, and somewhat boring. What a waste of talent! He was meant to be the strongest man who ever lived but he was lured away by the big paychecks of pro wrestling (who wouldn’t be right?). He didn’t achieve his full strength potential and his combined powerlifting (squat, deadlift, bench press) and Olympic lifting (snatch, clean and jerk) total is already the highest ever recorded. The preceding record holder was Don Reinbourt. Like Don Reinbourt; Mark Henry was one of the very few strength marvels that excelled in the three main strength disciplines: Olympic lifting, powerlifting, and strongman sports. Amazingly, despite his short-lived full time dedication to the strength world and we are often left with what if… Mark Henry is still probably the strongest man who has ever lived!
For more about Mark Henry and other strongmen and strength training secrets.
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