Sure, pro wrestling is fake. But the strength feats pro wrestlers perform inside the ring, hoisting mammoth men, and inside the gym, hoisting mammoth weights, are real. But how real? In a world of vast exaggeration, it’s hard to believe the hype. Did Ivan Putski and Tony Atlas bench press 600 and Goldberg 565 and Hulk Hogan 550, as the internet says? These are all phenomenal numbers for raw bench presses (performed without a bench shirt) and done without helping hands in competition form. Without video or photo proof, we can’t believe any of them. (There are videos of Tony Atlas bench pressing 500 for single reps on multiple occasions, but that’s a long way from 600, and just shows how these numbers grow.) Especially in recent decades, people who can legitimately lift world-class weights document it. And what do we make of behemoths like Andre the Giant, Big Show, and Kane, who show up on lists like this because of their giant size and giant legends? We need proof—results from powerlifting, weightlifting, or strongman events, videos or photos (with real weights), or objective observers. Then we may believe a claimed number, even if unseen, if it’s in line with proven feats. Our ranking of the following nine pro wrestlers puts a premium on overall strength, ideally in a variety of lifts and events. We tried to add a verifiable 10th man, but we couldn’t without lowering our standards. So here, in order, are the nine strongest pro wrestlers of all time.
9. HOW STRONG WAS SUPERSTAR BILLY GRAHAM?
605-lb. bench press (claimed), 7th place 1980 World’s Strongest Man
6’4”, 275 (1943- ) pro wrestling: 1970-87
Teenage Wayne Coleman was a bodybuilder and a devout Christian, and he traveled as a preacher, incorporating strength feats into his sermons. In the late ’60s, he trained with Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original Gold’s Gym. According to his autobiography, around that time he hit a personal best bench press of 605 lbs. (274.4 kg.), which was very near the world record then. In the photo above he’s holding up a bench press of nearly that amount (585 lbs.) while Arnold and Franco Columbu spot him. Did he get it? Observers, including Dave Draper, claimed he was the strongest bench presser in Gold’s Gym then. When he began pursuing professional wresting, Coleman adopted the name of famed evangelist Billy Graham, and, throughout the ’70s, Superstar Billy Graham developed his flamboyant, influential character. He debuted with what became the WWE in 1975, and was world champ from 1977-78. At 315 lbs., he finished seventh in the 1980 World’s Strongest Man, which was won easily by Bill Kazmaier (see below). Graham finished second and beat Kazmaier in one of the WSM nine events—holding a car battery up with arms straight and horizontal to the ground, a testament to shoulder strength. Superstar Billy Graham was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.
8. HOW STRONG IS JOHN CENA?
487-lb. bench press, 611-lb. squat, 602-lb. deadlift, 353-lb. power clean (all video-verified)
6’1”, 250 (1977- ) pro wrestling: 1999-present
Former college football player and bodybuilder John Cena made his WWE television debut in 2002. He eventually became one of the most popular and successful pro wrestlers of the new millennium, including extended stints as world champion. In Wrestlemania XXV, he momentarily held Big Show and Edge on his shoulders (see opening photo), who together weighed approximately 700 lbs. That shouldn’t be a surprise when you consider he filmed himself squatting 611 lbs. in 2015 at age 38. Done together with the other videoed training lifts above, the three would give him an impressive powerlifting total of 1700 lbs. (771 kg.). On his 41st birthday in 2018 Cena power cleaned 160 kg. (352.7 lbs.). He’s relatively light compared to the top five guys on our list, but, pound for pound, John Cena is the strongest pro wrestler of his generation.
John Cena had the biggest verifiable bench in our ranking of Celebrity Bench Presses
7. HOW STRONG WAS BRUNO SAMMARTINO?
565-lb. bench press, 685-lb. squat, 685-lb. deadlift (all claimed)
5’10”, 265 lbs. (1935-2018) pro wrestling: 1959-87
Born in Italy, Bruno Sammartino immigrated with his family to Pittsburgh after World War II. Unable to speak English at first, he took up weightlifting and wrestling to fend off bullies. Sammartino soon excelled at both. In the ’60s and ’70s, he reigned for long stints as the wrestling world champ. His strength in the “squared circle” was legendary. Bruno Sammartino lifted Haystacks Calhoun, who was billed as weighing over 600 lbs. (he was certainly over 450 lbs.) to his shoulder and slammed him. A half-century before Instagram, it’s as hard to verify his gym lifts as it is to verify pro wrestler bodyweights, but in a 1966 interview, Sammartino claimed the bests listed above. (The 565 bench press in 1959 was considered an unofficial world record.) There were eyewitness reports and photos of him lifting large weights, and a photo of him setting up to squat with 575. In the era before training videos or sanctioned powerlifting meets, we’re not sure if he hit the exact numbers he claimed; but, a pioneering weightlifter, Bruno Sammartino was without a doubt one of the strongest humans of the ’50s and ’60s.
6. HOW STRONG IS BRAUN STROWMAN?
540-lb. bench press (claimed), 1st 🥇 2011 Amateur U.S. Strongman Championships, 1st 🥇 2012 Arnold Amateur Strongman Championships
6’8”, 385 lbs. (1983- ) pro wrestling: 2014-present
Adam Scherr excelled in amateur strongman events, rising quickly through the ranks to win the top American (2011) and world (2012) titles. However, Scherr had a short career as a pro strongman because he instead turned to pro wrestling, signing with the WWE in 2013 and adopting the muscular name Braun Strowman. In a 2012 article about his strongman pursuits, the future Braun Strowman, then weighing 405, claimed his best gym lifts were: bench press 540 lbs., squat 775 lbs., overhead press 405 lbs., deadlift 905 lbs. The latter was likely not off the floor or powerlifting legit, because there’s a video of him deadlifting 875 lbs. off 14-inch blocks and with training straps, hitching the weight (allowed in strongman competitions). It’s nevertheless very impressive.
5. HOW STRONG WAS TED ARCIDI?
718-lb. bench press (competition) (all-division world record 🌎)
5’11, 290 lbs. (1958- ) pro wrestling: 1985-90
Ted Arcidi is the best bench presser in pro wrestling of all time. In fact, for years he was the greatest bench presser of all-time, period. Though a one-lift specialist, he did full powerlifting meets in 1983 and 1984, squatting just over 500 and deadlifting just over 600, but he was merely coasting in the non-bench lifts to make his bench presses official. In 1985, Arcidi became the first human to officially bench press over 700 lbs. when he benched 705.4. Later that year, he leapt into the WWF (precursor to the WWE), billed as the “World’s Strongest Man.” His WWF stint ended in early 1987 when Ken Patera (see below) another “World’s Strongest Man”—and a much better wrestler—returned to the squared circle and Vince McMahon didn’t want confusion over the billing. Wrestling in other organizations, Ted Arcidi was sometimes billed as “Mr. 705.” In 1990, Mr. 705 broke his own world record with a bench press of 718.1. Mr. 718.1 is not as catchy, but it’s even more impressive.
(Ted Arcidi’s bench press records are not today considered raw, because Arcidi wore a 50% polyester, 50% cotton single-ply shirt, but, unlike later multi-ply slingshot shirts, this didn’t give him much of an advantage over raw. Also note that in 1990 he weighed only 291, about 150 lbs. less than the current raw bench press world record holder.)
4. HOW STRONG IS BIG E LANGSTON?
575-lb. bench press (video-verified), 711-lb. squat (competition), 799-lb. deadlift (competition)
5’11”, 285 lbs. (1986- ) pro wrestling: 2009-present
Under his given name Ettore Ewen, Big E Langston was one of the world’s best powerlifters, and not that long ago. After playing college football, Big E turned to powerlifting and pro wrestling in 2009. In 2010 and 2011, he won national powerlifting titles in the 275-pound class and then (though weighing only 292) the unlimited class. His best competition lifts are: squat with knee wraps 711 lbs. (322.5 kg.), bench press 529 lbs. (240 kg.), deadlift 799 lbs. (362.5 kg.), and total 2039 lbs. (925 kg.), all raw (without the help of multi-ply suits). In a video shot in 2012 in John Cena’s gym (with John Cena shouting with glee), Big E bench pressed 575 lbs. while wearing a sleeveless T. Since then, in the WWE, Big E Langston has been a world champion, both as part of the tag team New Day and as an individual.
3. HOW STRONG WAS KEN PATERA?
505.5-lb. clean and press (competition), Highest 3-lift weightlifting total by an America, 2nd 🥈 super-heavyweight 1971 World Weightlifting Championships, 3rd 🥉1977 World’s Strongest Man
6’1”, 320 lbs. (1942- ) pro-wrestling: 1973-’90s
Ken Patera was the greatest American super-heavyweight weightlifter of his era. He won the U.S. Weightlifting Championships four times (1969-72), was second in the 1971 World Championships, and held every American record of note. Patera’s best competition lifts were: 386.5 snatch, 505.5 clean and jerk, 505.5 clean and press (there were three Olympic lifts then). Ken Patera’s over two decades of pro wrestling included a two-year prison stint for assaulting police officers and years in the ’80s with the WWF (now WWE) when he was billed as the World’s Strongest Man. He was certainly in the running. In 1977, Ken Patera finished third in the inaugural World’s Strongest Man.
2. HOW STRONG WAS BILL KAZMAIER?
661.4-lb. bench press, 925.9-lb. squat, 886.7-lb. deadlift, 2425-lb. (1100 kg.) powerlifting meet total (all in competition); 🥇🥇🥇1980-82 World’s Strongest Man; 🥇🥇1979, 1983 Powerlifting World Champ
6’2”, 325 lbs. (1953- ) pro-wrestling: 1986-92
How strong was Kaz? The simple answer is Bill Kazmaier was the strongest human of his era and one of the very strongest humans who ever lived. He set all-division powerlifting world records and then broke them again and again. Chest and shoulder pressing, squatting, deadlifting, curling, strongman events—Kaz excelled at all of them. Bill Kazmaier had no weaknesses, only strengths. He won the World’s Strongest Man so easily three times in a row that he was uninvited for years because he was “too dominant.” Kaz’s short pro wrestling career included stints in the WWF and the WCW. For years he travelled the world, taking on strength challenges to prove he was indeed the world’s strongest man. In 1991, Bill Kazmaier became the first person to press overhead (with one hand) the “unliftable” 173-lb., thick-handled Thomas Inch dumbbell.
1. HOW STRONG WAS MARK HENRY?
585-lb. bench press (claimed), 953.5-lb. squat (competition), 904-lb. deadlift (competition), 2336.9-lb. (1060 kg.) powerlifting total (competition); 🥇1995 super-heavyweight World Powerlifting Championships; 🥇🥇🥇1993-94 & 1996 super-heavyweight National Weightlifting Championships; 🥇2002 Arnold Strongman Classic (pro)
6’4”, 360 (1971- ) pro wrestling: 1996-2018
Mark Henry, like Bill Kazmaier, can make a strong case for being the strongest human who ever lived. (Kaz had more upper body pressing strength, Henry more lower body strength.) We’ll give it to Henry, despite having a lower powerlifting total than Kaz, because Henry was drug-tested and excelled in three uniquely different strength categories: Olympic-style weightlifting, powerlifting, and strongman. Growing up in Texas, Mark Henry topped a 2000-lb. powerlifting total while still in high school. Then while only 19, he took up weightlifting and quickly established himself as America’s top super-heavyweight. In the ’90s, he set numerous world powerlifting records, and racked up the greatest combined total of the three powerlifts and the two Olympic lifts: 3218.7 lbs. (1460 kg.)—a mark that is unlikely to be broken, because so few men compete in both disciplines. An injury prevented him from medaling in weightlifting at the 1996 Olympics, and Henry, a lifelong drug-free lifter, vowed not to compete unless the sport was cleaned up. He retired from all competitive lifting at 26, likely far from his peak strength for powerlifting; and he is still the only under-25 person to hit a raw powerlifting total of at least 2300 lbs. After real lifting he took up fake wrestling. Mark Henry was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2018. In 2002, he took a mere four-month break from wrestling to train for strongman, and he promptly won the inaugural Arnold Strongman Classic against the world’s strongest men (all of whom had been doing strongman training for years), defeating the reigning World’s Strongest Man (Svend Karlsen), and proving once again he was the strongest of them all. It was his only strongman contest, and, as a side event during that same Arnold Classic, Henry also lifted the Thomas Inch dumbbell overhead.