Ass-kicking Athletes of Antiquity: Apollon the Mighty
With a name like Apollon the Mighty, this guy has a got a lot to live up to, and that’s before we point out he was French, which as far as the internet is concerned is essentially a terrible disability that affects manliness. But we’re about to explain how not only was Apollon a soundly undefeated wrestler (despite not being one) but that he was also strong enough that it’s entirely possible he was singlehandedly holding together the fabric of space and time itself with his legendary kung-fu grip.
Born Louis Uni (since even French people with the ability to choke out Satan have silly sounding names) in the 1860s Apollon quickly got a taste for performing when he ran away from home at the tender age of 14 to join the circus as a strongman. Though the young entertainer was quickly found and returned to his parents by the police, he didn’t lose his spark for lifting heavy things, which is why when he came of age he, decided to organize strongman performances from a cafe he owned. Because Apollon was a Frenchman first and a strongman second and as such he had to embody every French stereotype possible.
But here’s the weird thing, after all this, Louis under his stage name Apollon, became one of the most respected strongmen of all time. We’re not using hyperbole here. Eugen Sandow, AKA the father of modern bodybuilding and one of the most famous strongmen of all time openly acknowledged that in a test of pure strength, Apollon was superior. The only reason we can conceive of for why Apollon isn’t more well-known is that he personally threatened to strangle history if it remembered him.
Apollon was so strong that if he was ever arrested it’s likely no prison cell of the day could have held him. How do we know this? Well one of Apollon’s more famous stunts was one he liked to call the “escaping prisoner,” in which he’d be placed in a mock prison cell complete with-standard issue iron bars which he’d then effortlessly bend to escape. Other tricks involved Apollon lifting a 342-lb. barbell clean over his head, hold it with one hand and then stick his leg out at a right angle. If that wasn’t enough, he’d drop the barbell then catch it in the folds of his arm. It’s at this point we’d like to mention that as “grip specialist” (yes, those exist) Apollon probably did this with a barbell with a handle thicker than a Pringles can. In what seemed to be a conscious effort on Apollon’s part to preemptively counter every joke ever made about the French being quitters, Apollon was a constant one-upsman. When he saw someone struggle to lift a 500-lb. dumbbell with two hands, he lifted it with one. When someone lifted a 300-lb. dumbbell with a grip thicker than a goddamn coke can to knee height, Apollon raised it over his head and smashed it to the floor. The fact that the only entity to ever consistently best Apollon was gravity itself since the things he lifted occasionally touched the ground should speak to the level of strength this man possessed.
In fact his feats of grip are so numerous and so impressive that World of Grip (yes, this exists) has a page longer than a giraffe’s wang detailing them all. But what makes Apollon so impressive isn’t his feats of strength, it’s the fact that as a relatively untrained wrestler, he managed to earn a rather respectable win ratio simply by being able to outman his opponent.
Again, as detailed by a World of Grip (a site we’re going to keep plugging because we’re so happy knowing it exists) Apollon entered dozens of wrestling competitions under the self-appointed name “The King of Human Strength,” mainly as a vehicle to showcase his immense strength, since even if he lost (which rarely happened), he’d still woo the crowd afterwards by holding 176-lb. weights at arm’s length. The sheer fact he was able to both grapple an angry 200-lb. man to the floor and lift a train wheel in the same evening, let alone the same lifetime, makes us wonder how women’s midsections avoided detaching themselves from their bodies and running at him groin-first during his shows.
The closest Apollon ever got to failing in a test of strength came when he was challenged to hold two cars apart at arm’s length. The cars actually ripped out the muscles holding his arms on, which surely ended his career, if not his life, right? Well, no, Apollon gripped injury by the throat then promptly tore it right the hell out and continued working as a strongman until the day he died, 25 years later, at age 66.
Just think about that for a second. A guy pretty much had his arms ripped out of their sockets by cars, in 1913, a time when medical science was still limited to giving people whiskey till their injury stopped hurting and he not only recovered, but recovered enough to snap your neck at 66 years old. Wait, why do people make fun of the French again? That argument has honestly just been obliterated from our memory after typing that sentence.
Karl Smallwood is a freelance comedy writer you can hire! His work has been featured on Cracked, Toptenz and Gunaxin. You should probably click those links to make sure he isn’t lying. He also runs his own website where he responds to the various pieces of hate-mail he’s gotten over the years, in fact, he got so much hate-mail that he wrote a book about it that you can buy on Amazon. When he isn’t writing, Karl also Tweets and uploads pictures of himself drinking on Facebook.