Even in the world of powerhouses and muscular mammoths that is WWE, Braun Strowman stands out.
He is a hulking tower of flesh, an imposing figure at 6'8", 385 pounds, a grizzly bear in a singlet. He's a beast with a sequoia-like chest who flings Superstars around the ring like they are children.
Strowman is that rare wrestler who can tower over the monstrous Brock Lesnar.
And before he was one of WWE Raw's hottest acts, staring down the likes of Roman Reigns and Lesnar, The Monster Among Men was simply Adam Scherr, a young man from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, with a body built for power.
"My whole life I've been weird strong," Strowman told Bleacher Report. "When it comes to weights in the weight room, I had to train and to learn how to get stronger that way, but if you take me out into the field, I could pick up a 500-pound hay bale and carry it around."
Strowman found a place to use that strength.
While he was a bouncer for a nightclub, he met a pro strongman named David Hansen, who approached him with the idea of training to enter strongman competitions. In this sport, broad-shouldered bruisers lift massive stones, upend giant tires and hurl metal kettlebells into the air. The man who would later roam WWE rings first thrived here.
"I grew up watching it and was a fan of it," Strowman said. "It kind of fell into my lap almost the same way wrestling did."
Strowman, who describes himself as a "hardworking country boy," was soon in the gym, prepping to compete. Strongman was a natural fit for him. Within his first few weeks of training, he won an event dubbed The Beast in the East in East Columbia, South Carolina. He had found a new passion.
"The first time I ever did it, I fell in love with it," he said of the sport.
More victories were on their way. In March 2012, inside the Arnold EXPO Stage in Columbus, Ohio, Strowman earned his pro card in a memorable performance.
It wasn't until the 2012 Arnold Amateur Strongman World Championships that people within that world knew his name. Amid fellow behemoths, the North Carolina native made a resounding statement, abusing one heavy object after another.
Strowman plowed through the field, charging toward an emphatic win. "It was literally not a competition," Dione Wessels, CEO and president of the Strongman Corporation, said. "Not a lot of people at the time knew who Adam Scherr was because he hadn't been competing for a long time like some of the athletes. He buckled down and took it seriously. And once he took it seriously, he pretty much dominated the event."
After the announcer introduced him and the rest of the finalists to the crowd, Strowman waved his hands in the air, urging the crowd to get louder.
He soon stomped his way around the stage, snatching up weights that looked like something The Incredible Hulk would work out with and dropped them to the floor. An unnatural thunder rumbled through the building each time.
Strowman won five of the seven events and placed second in the other two. The success didn't come as a surprise to him.
"I've been dominating everything I've touched my entire life," he said.
En route to victory, he carried multiple 250-pound sandbags. He shoved a 500-pound sled and lifted a 320-pound log multiple times. When it came time to deadlift a car from its back end, he nearly caused the event to be canceled.
"When he lifted the car, because of his height and his strength, he would push the car backward," Wessels explained.
The vehicle began to scrape the ground. A display of strength was fast becoming a safety hazard.
"The fire marshals were coming and telling us, 'We're going to have to shut you guys down,'" Wessels recalled. That was the last time they had the car deadlift as part of the event, and as Wessels noted, "That's because of Adam."
Strowman said that representing the United States meant a lot to him. The thought of him barreling past the competition and becoming a pro still fills him with pride today.
"Without a doubt, winning the Arnold is right up there as one of the coolest things I've done in my life," he said.
A Taste of the Pros
Strowman only briefly entered the pro side of strongman competitions. A seventh-place finish in the Giants Live event in Poland in 2012 and placing 10th in the Arnold Strongman Classic the next year made up his early resume.
"He had just made that transition when he went into professional wrestling," IronMind's Randall J. Strossen, who has covered strongman and bodybuilding for three decades, said of the big man. "The pro side, in a way, was untested water for him."
For Strowman, strongman was a means to test his physical limits.
"How far can I push myself? How much can I pick up? How much can I press over my head? How big of a stone can I set on a table?" he would ask himself.
Strossen noted that an injured bicep plagued Strowman early in his pro career. That hampered the uphill transition from the weights used at the amateur level compared to what awaited him at the next stage.
Overhead lifts, for example, went from 300 to 400 pounds.
This event was one Strowman managed well leading up to receiving his pro card. And it's one that can expose an athlete's flaws. "Overhead lifts reveal any weakness," Strossen explained. "Any weakness in your body, you're going to see in an overhead lift."
Strowman showed impressive foot speed during events like the farmer's walk and balance during the overhead lifts. He was a giant in a world of giants with a strong foundation in terms of physical gifts.
Had he chosen a strongman career over wrestling, who knows what could have happened.
"At the amateur level, he was showing promise," Strossen said. "I would guess that even though he hadn't yet made that transition to the strength levels of pros, it wouldn't be unreasonable, had he stayed in strongman, to see him in the World's Strongest Man. And not just in the World's Strongest Man but in the finals."
It's easy to see why Strossen would think that.
In a training video from 2012, Strowman muscled through the 350-pound reps on a viking press with no problem:
He more than earned his "Country Strong" nickname.
"The human body is an amazing thing," Strowman said. "The things that I've been capable of and able to do with it in terms of feats of strength, I've had to take a step back and just take it. I've done things that shouldn't be humanly possible."
Beyond his strength, another trait began to emerge during his strongman days: his showmanship. He often played to the crowd, sauntered during competition and clearly looked like he was having fun.
"He's a natural showman, and everyone will tell you that," Strossen said. "Some people will say that it's really clear Adam enjoyed the spotlight of being in strongman. He's just a natural performer. He naturally engages with people in a positive way."
His pure power and athletic acumen surely got him noticed by WWE scouts, but the flashes of "it" factor he showed as a strongman had to leave them truly excited about what could be.
"Not everybody is 6'8," Strossen noted when discussing what makes Strowman special. "Not everybody is a nice guy. Not everybody is a good spokesman. And not everybody that size can move the way that Adam can move."
From Strongman to the Squared Circle
When he was a new, little-known WWE performer, the company hid Strowman's inexperience by asking little of him.
He debuted in fall 2015 as part of eerie backwoods cult The Wyatt Family. Patriarch Bray Wyatt, the veteran Luke Harper and the steady Erick Rowan did much of the work in their bouts. The Monster Among Men could get by via looking imposing in the background.
It wasn't until the second half of 2016, when Strowman went solo, that fans saw his ability on display.
To further introduce him to the audience and establish him as a fearsome force, WWE booked him to beat up a string of little-known enhancement talent. These jobbers, per wrestling's parlance, are tasked with taking a beating from a rising star in order to make them look good.
Most of the time, that's not a bad way to make a paycheck. Getting in there with Strowman, though, is a more punishing experience than normal.
When The Monster Among Men faced the masked Americo, Strowman tossed him to the canvas like he weighed nothing. When he battled the tag team duo of The Splash Brothers, Strowman yanked Clay Splash by the arm, spinning him into the mat.
"In sports entertainment, we try as much as we can not to actually kill each other," Strowman explained. "I think I've come close a few times."
In August of that year, Johnny Knockout found out firsthand how physical a match with Strowman can be.
"I've been in there with 7'0", 400-pound guys before, but Braun's gotta be the strongest," the New York native said.
Strowman's offense hurt. There were no theatrics needed. "When I took that avalanche in the corner, that was legit selling, man," Knockout said. "I felt every one of his 380 pounds."
And the usual assistance needed in helping one's opponent throw them around wasn't necessary that night. Knockout remembered Strowman grabbed him by the leg and ragdolled him, with the big man moving him around on his own.
"That was all him," he noted.
But Strowman wasn't reckless with him or anyone else. As devastating as everything in the ring looks with Strowman at the helm, he strives to be a safe worker.
"I work really, really hard to make everything I do as believable as can be," Strowman explained. "I take pride in the fact that I've never injured anyone."
Even so, facing The Monster Among Men is no ordinary in-ring experience.
"I punch steel and concrete, and [my hand] doesn't break—I can take a beating," Knockout said. But working against Strowman was different. He compared the bout to working a handicap match against two opponents.
Prepping for a Giant
C.T. Fletcher has seen his share of herculean men step into the Iron Addicts Gym.
The powerlifting champion owns the Signal Hill, California, facility where many an imposing athlete has visited. Fletcher himself is a physical marvel, a 58-year-old with biceps like light poles. When Strowman trained with him back in December, he was blown away.
"He is absolutely, ridiculously strong," Fletcher said.
Strowman relished the chance to work with him.
"C.T. is an unbelievable man and human being," he explained. "He's been a role model, an idol that I've looked up to for a long, long time. To have the opportunity to train in the valley of the beast with C.T. was something, man."
The drill sergeant-intense trainer tried to push Strowman. The Monster Among Men more than held his own.
"When we trained, I put him through torture, and he accepted it with a smile," Fletcher said. "He was able to do everything I asked."
When it came time to do preacher curls, Strowman powered through.
Fletcher explained that the preacher curl apparatus creates a restrictive kind of curling, one that doesn't allow you to use your body weight. Strowman did the exercise at 200 pounds, something not often seen in the Iron Addicts Gym: "Braun Strowman did it very easily. Usually, I'm the only one who can do that in the gym. I had company that day."
WWE Superstars Big E and Jinder Mahal trained there that same day. Even they couldn't touch what Strowman was doing.
"I haven't trained anybody that was as strong as Braun Strowman," Fletcher said. "That's for damn sure."
Strowman felt the effects of the workout, though: "He pushed us all. He pushed me almost to my breaking limit. I was satisfied but exhausted afterward."
Along with being "obnoxiously strong," as Fletcher described him, the WWE behemoth's attitude also left an impression on him. Fletcher remembered Strowman as humble, respectful and appreciative.
Soon after, Fletcher got to see another side of Strowman: the sneering, bloodthirsty predator he plays on TV. Strowman battled former WWE champion Big Show. And The Monster Among Men manhandled all 7'0", 383 pounds of him.
It's normal for Strowman to go hard in the weight room before a match. He feels compelled to work out.
"I do something every day," Strowman explained. "I don't really have an off day. It's something I have to do."
When Fletcher saw what Strowman did against the giant in the Staples Center after he had tested him so much in the gym, he watched in awe. "He tossed Big Show around like a sack of potatoes," he said. "I was very impressed but not surprised."
In May, Strowman had to pause his training to recover from surgery. A number of large bone chips from a shattered elbow needed to be removed.
The weights weren't safe from Strowman very long, though. Just two months later, The Monster Among Men is back to benching 450 pounds eight times.
"I'm not too mad for taking six weeks off and jumping right back in and being right where I left off," he said.
Wreckage on Raw
That wasn't the only time Strowman manhandled the behemoth known as Big Show.
The two have battled a handful of times recently, including a bout on Raw on Feb. 20. Most wrestlers limit their offense to strikes and submission holds when taking on The World's Largest Athlete. Strowman, though, lifted up the giant.
He struggled with his first attempt to hit a running powerslam on Big Show and followed up with a more emphatic version of the move:
Monday nights have become the space for Strowman to show off his strength. Several times on Raw, the monster has wowed with some new act of destruction.
And in a blend of animal strength and movie magic, Strowman flipped over an ambulance with a human being inside.
During his rivalry with Roman Reigns, Strowman refused to stop assaulting his enemy, even when medical staff stuffed him into an ambulance. The Monster Among Men approached the side of the emergency vehicle and shoved it until it crashed onto its side.
Retired strongman Michael Gill told BarBend: "There is no way a human could flip an ambulance. The amount of force necessary could be calculated by a physicist, but it would be crazy."
Strowman had assistance upending the ambulance. That goes without saying. But he played some part in pushing that massive vehicle over.
The moment still showed off his uncanny strength, which he also did when he maltreated WWE's masked men and when he deadlifted cars for sport.
His latest chance to flex his muscles will come in an Ambulance Match against Roman Reigns at Sunday's Great Balls of Fire pay-per-view.
It's a most fitting battlefield considering how many of their brawls have taken place in and around ambulances. This will mark the climax of what has been a physical, smashmouth feud. The latest battle will be just as violent.
"It's going to be a war," Strowman promised. "Roman Reigns continues to bring the fight to me, and I continue to knock him down. He's a tough son of a bitch. But I'm The Monster Among Men, the mountain among us.
"You run into Braun Strowman, you end up on your ass."
After pushing a dumpster off a stage and putting an ambulance on its side, the big man isn't done with doing damage onscreen.
"Anything I can get my hands on, anything that's not bolted down, I'm going to use as a weapon," Strowman said, "Keep your eyes open. There's no telling what I'm going to pick up and smash Roman over the head with."
That's quite the unsettling thought considering what the powerhouse has been able to hoist and throw around in the past.
Braun Strowman is a WWE Superstar for the Raw brand and a scary human being.
Johnny Knockout is an independent wrestler based out of Florida. He is currently one-half of the Platinum Pro Wrestling doubles division champs. C.T. Fletcher is the owner of Iron Addicts Gym and a bench press champion.
Ryan Dilbert is the WWE Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.