You probably don't recognize the name Joe Greenstein, but you may have heard of the Mighty Atom. He was one of the world's strongest men even though he was so sickly as a child that doctors didn't think he would survive beyond the age of 14. Born in Poland in 1893, the Mighty Atom was frail and small when he was young, but he transformed his life physically and mentally to become a famous performer.
The Mighty Atom came from humble beginnings. He joined a European circus and learned from a mentor how to perform various feats of strength. Over the years, he made the news for his incredible stunts. Greenstein also used his powers of strength to combat those who opposed him and his beliefs. He is credited with kicking the crap out of anti-semites and others who challenged him. He also helped raise money for war efforts and taught law enforcement officials how to protect themselves.
He Grew Up A Small, Weak Child Who Others Nearly Beat To Death
The boy who became the Mighty Atom was born Yosselle L. Greenstein in 1893 in Suvalk, Poland. A premature baby and of small stature, he battled chronic asthma and suffered breathing problems; however, he had a strong spirit. When he was 14-years-old, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was told he would not live very long. Still, he didn't give up. He heard that Russian strongman Champion Volkano was making an appearance with a visiting circus. Greenstein was intrigued by the poster showing off Volkano's skills and wanted to see him perform.
Unable to purchase a ticket, Greenstein tried to pull a fast one by entering the show unnoticed. But circus handlers caught him and beat him so badly Greenstein could barely walk.
He Joined The Circus And Learned From A Russian Strongman
Following the beating, Greenstein tried to pick himself up and return home. Then something happened that would change his life – he ran into the Russian strongman, who took pity on the fragile teen. Volkano sat down with Greenstein and after talking with the boy, decided to help improve his life.
Volkano gave him advice to eat better, train properly, and change his mindset so he, too, could be strong in heart, body, and mind. Greenstein decided on the spot to join Volkano and learn the circus trade. Despite being just 5'4", it took Greenstein just two years to harden his body and become powerful in his own right.
He Started Wrestling And Left Poland For The United States
After bulking up and working hard to make his body strong, Greenstein started wrestling. He performed fairly well in his homeland but decided to further his career by moving to the United States, but he also noticed the growing antisemitism in his home country. He married before leaving Europe and moved to Texas.
To support himself, Greenstein worked oil fields and as a dock hand. He simultaneously launched a professional wrestling career using the moniker "Kid Greenstein."
A Coworker Who Lusted After His Wife Shot Him In The Head, But The Bullet Barely Left A Mark
While Greenstein lived in Galveston, Texas, one of his coworkers took a liking to his wife. The man became incredibly obsessed with her and felt that the only thing standing in his way was Greenstein. One day in 1914, the man decided to do something about it. He went to work and shot Greenstein in the head with a .38 revolver. Incredibly, the bullet didn't go through Greenstein's head. It either ricocheted or flattened on impact (accounts vary).
The hard-headed Greenstein was released from the hospital the same day he was admitted. He believed his strength training saved his life.