"The loser is usually the one who is ready to lose. Fight, overcome difficulties, control your emotions – and you will win."
Alexander Karelin is the real-life equivalent of what you would get if you mixed Ivan Drago with Fedor Emelianenko and Zangief from Street Fighter II. He's the single most dominant Greco-Roman wrestler of all time, and, if the picture above is any indication, one of the most goddamned frightening human beings of all time.
Karelin's life story reads like a Greek myth. He was born on the frozen wastes of Soviet Siberia in 1967, a 15-pound baby so ridiculously massive that this dude's 5'6" mother probably also deserves her own article on this website just for somehow popping him out. His father was a truck driver / amateur boxer who encouraged Karelin to do two things – be a man, and cut his hair short – and from an early age, the harsh, -50 degree snow-covered wilderness of the Siberian forests made Karelin strong as hell. As a kid, this dude hunted fox and sable while hurtling through Siberia on skis, which is pretty over-the-top by itself, and he spent the rest of his time eating entire pizzas in one sitting, drinking a half-gallon of milk a day, and trying to become the world's ultimate killing machine. Karelin started wrestling at the age of 13, and his budding career as a Greco-Roman asskicker was going pretty damn well until two years later, when he broke his leg in half in a tournament (I can only imagine that he continued on and won the match anyways). Karelin's mom, freaked out about this horrific injury, burned Alexander's wrestling outfit and forbade him from ever competing again, but the Russian behemoth's first response wasn't to punk out like a wussbag just because his femur was exploded in the middle of a competition – instead, this guy decided he "couldn't leave the sport to which I'd given my leg." He rehabbed by running through the Siberian woods and rowing a wooden rowboat until his hands bled, and eventually became the most dominant Greco-Roman wrestler since Hercules.
Uh, that's fucking insane.
To most people, Karelin is known simply as "The Experiment", mostly because this guy is a freak of nature so over-the-top hardcore that everyone living west of the Iron Curtain figured he must have been grown in a vat as part of some Soviet supersoldier experiment designed to create an unstoppable crop of genetically-enhanced warriors capable of dismantling Abrams tanks with their fists and killing the entire crew by bodyslamming them into the ground with enough force to crack concrete. Karelin, being a total badass who doesn't for a single second want anyone to think he didn't earn every fucking award he ever received, simply says people consider him a freak only because, "I train every day of my life and they have never trained a day in theirs."
It's worth noting that he had a strict policy of immediately submitting to every drug test ever requested of him. He never tested positive for those weapons-grade mega-horse steroids everyone seemed to think he was taking. He also bench presses 450 pounds as part of his daily workout routine.
Dubbed, "the strongest man in the world," this is a dude who can crush your fist into dust simply by shaking your hand. When TIME Magazine asked him who his toughest opponent was, his response was, "My refrigerator," which sounds weird as hell, but apparently this dude once bought a fridge, put that shit in a bear hug, and carried it up eight fucking flights of stairs by himself to get it into his apartment. That's usually the sort of insane thing I use for over-the-top hyperbole when I'm writing one of these articles, but the fact that it actually happened kind of makes me want to crap my pants a little bit. Competing in an event where brute strength is the sole requirement (unlike MMA or other forms of wrestling, in Greco-Roman wrestling you aren't allowed to attack the legs – it's all upper body strength), this guy dominated the sport so hard he probably should have bought it dinner first.
Karelin's record speaks for itself. Competing in the heaviest weight class in the sport, this guy spent 13 years mercilessly kicking the shit out of every single person on Earth who was unlucky enough to weigh over 286 pounds (130kg). He's the only three-time Olympic champion in Greco-Roman Wrestling,, a 9-time World Champion, a 12-time European Champion, and he also won the only MMA match he ever participated in. Shit, for six full years this guy never lost a single point in international competition, to anyone, and won most of his fights in less than three minutes. The guy's such a fucking legend that he's officially been declared a Hero of the Russian Federation, which is the highest award for bravery and heroism the country has to offer, and has been made an honorary Colonel in the Russian customs police for some reason.
But it's not just the fact that this guy won enough metal to armor-plate a T-80 Battle Tank that makes him harder than an Adamantium boner – it's the way he completely fucking annihilated everyone in his path without mercy in a one-man quest to take every poor chump stupid enough to stare across the ring at him and pound him into a crimson smear on the mat. For instance, Karelin is famous for a move known as the "Karelin Lift". Basically, the way this works is that Alexander Karelin would kick the shit out of people so hard that their first reaction was to curl up in the fetal position on the mat, clutching their imploded ribcages and sobbing uncontrollably in the desperate hope that giving this guy the deadweight would prevent him from hurling them out of the ring like a live grenade, and then Karelin would respond to this nonsense by grabbing this 300-pound man, prying him up off the mat, hoisting him above his head, and then viciously slamming the guy back down again. That's right, folks, this guy invented a fucking suplex, and then used it routinely in real-life, non-WWE situations to hurl grown-ass men around like they were giant spandex-clad stuffed animals. Karelin, for his part, calls the move the "Reverse Body Lift", presumably because he's not a gigantic raging egomaniac, but in reality it more or less resembled a live-action re-enactment of Zangief's jump-spinning 360-degree piledriver (in fact, while I wasn't able to find any evidence to support this in my research, I had always heard that Zangief was actually based on Karelin... it makes sense to me).
The fact that this guy could pick up 300-pounds of man meat and fling it around at will was so fucking terrifying that a lot of wrestlers eventually started rolling on their backs to try to avoid the maneuver – a tactic that allowed Karelin to easily pin them. I'm not even kidding, this guy's competition – the toughest wrestlers in the word – were so freaked out by his human-tossing abilities that they would rather concede the match than get chucked across the gym like bitches. That's probably part of the reason why Karelin won the 1990 World Championships by pinning his opponents in 1:35, 1:07, 1:21, 0:26, 2:58, and 2:50. When you're taking down the planet's toughest men in 26 seconds, you're pretty much a total fucking beast.
"I was doing everything humanly possible to prevent him from lifting me off the mat. I weighed 265 pounds. I was in good shape. I was scared -- intense fear. I don't like flying through the air like that. I kept thinking, 'Don't get hurt. Don't get hurt.' With him, it's almost a victory if you don't get thrown."
- Jeff Blatnick, former Olympic Gold Medalist in Greco-Roman Wrestling
That's how Karelin rolled. Everywhere he went, the Experiment left a trail of bodies crumpled in his wake. Then, just to fuck with everyones' heads, after dismantling people in a sport that essentially amounts to hand-to-hand combat, Alexander would go back to his wife and kids in a private helicopter (which, by the way, was constantly staffed with a team of two massage therapists who would rub him down whenever he wanted) , write poetry, read Solzhenitsyn, and spend his weekends attending opera and ballet shows. I guess anything less chill would have resulted in this guy freaking out Incredible Hulk-style. Oh, and he also has a law degree and a Ph.D and can do the splits, which is a combination you don't see all that often when you're talking about 6'4" tall guys who weigh over 280 pounds.
Karelin suffered the only defeat in his 13-year career (and gave up his first point in 6 years) in the Gold Medal match of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, when a relatively-unknown American dude named Rulon Gardner pulled a miracle out of his ass and somehow managed to bring down The Experiment. Karelin decided that if he couldn't be absolutely invincible all the time, there was no point, and he immediately retired, leaving his shoes in the ring as he left (this is the international sign of retiring from wrestling). He returned home, ran for elected office, and now, awesomely-enough, represents his Siberian district in the Russian Parliament. Obviously, he is a member of Vladimir Putin's political party, which makes sense because Putin is probably the most badass world leader on the planet right now (the only reason I haven't written an article about the guy for this website yet is that every time I think he's done doing badass shit he goes out and kills a grizzly with his teeth while shirtless), though, I have to admit that if Alexander Karelin ever becomes President of Russia (and there is some talk about this being a possibility), I might have to revisit my thoughts on the subject.
"I do not like to seem immodest, but if I am asked, I must be truthful. Yes, I see fear in the eyes of most of my opponents. In the match, Johansson tried hard to resist it, and when he couldn't, he allowed himself to be pinned rather than submit to the lift. This move not only involves losing points, it involves losing face. Tomas, he did not want to fly."