Though I am hardly one to start some shit on the internet or raise the slightest fuss about anything whatsoever, having been surprised to read a report on the 2016 Olympia on the Bleacher Report last month, I feel compelled to chime in about claims to the effect that Arnold was one of the greatest bodybuilders in the history of that competitive sport. Like the persistent ignorance regarding the history and ridiculously insane fallacy of body structure phenotypes, virulent, fervent, and borderline psychosis regarding Arnold Schwarzenegger's competitive dominance and his potential placings in fantasy matchups with other bodybuilding superstars is as endless as it is as retarded... and we're talking low-functioning handypotato deep in a K-Hole after a three week bath salt binge retarded, not the potato from The Ringer retarded.
Tards is about ta get feisty.
I'm certain this will cause a great many of you no little amount of consternation, given the fact that Arnold was likely involved, at least in some small way, in your participation in physical culture/weightlifting/powerlifting/whatever the fuck you want to call it, but bear with me- the proof behind my statement lies in plain sight. Though Arnold was without question the greatest representative of weight training that the world has seen in the last 60 or so years, his greatness in competition was largely manufactured, and his fellow competitors were often few in number and usually both inexperienced and naive. Arnold, then, was a Mensa member picking on kids in the Special Olympics... if the Special Olympics were to fracture into half a dozen organizations with different rules and a palpable hatred for one another.
Not only did Bernarr never commission a statue of himself using someone else's physique (Weider used Robby Robinson's), but he was essentially cooler in every way (O'Connell).
When Arnold entered the bodybuilding scene, Joe Weider's empire was in its infancy, often fighting dirty against its competition, in a half-hearted effort to pick up where the consummate marketer and showman Bernarr MacFadden had left off. Like MacFadden before him, Weider dabbled in publishing soft-core gay porn to pay the bills while battling for supremacy in the burgeoning American physical culture fad, and he struggled to really find his niche until the Austrian Oak arrived on the bodybuilding scene. Built like a Greek god, dripping with machismo, and so tall and jacked he was like Hitler's wet dream (Hitler had an obsession bordering on sexual with men over six feet tall), Arnold was the only person who could have breathed life into a bodybuilding federation that was international only in name, screwed over competitors and promoters, and was basically run like an elementary school bake sale staffed by child molestors, organized by embezzlers, and which served only weed-infused edibles.
Sidebar: In case you've forgotten, Bernarr MacFadden was a harder motherfucker than you will probably ever be at the incredibly young age 12. Having grown up in an environment wherein he was constantly being reminded that his death from tuberculosis or some other horrible and now easily curable disease was eminent, Bernarr decided to get hard. Essentially an orphan he had no money to join a gym at 12, so he did what he could- he bought a set of dumbbells he used religiously every morning until he couldn't lift them, replacing them with heavier dumbbells when he needed a bigger challenge. He idolized the badass motherfuckers he saw coming out of mines and loathed the bitches he saw in banks, so he started carrying a lead ingot everywhere he went at age 15 so he wouldn't go soft (though he worked in an incredibly white collar company that would eventually became Dunn and Bradstreet. As he grew older and got more wealthy, his penchant for experimentation expanded, and he became a renowned wrestler and strongman weighting only about 150 lbs due to a fanatical, round the clock lifting program and in spite of a near vegetarian diet... all the while running massive capitalist empire ranging from mail-order weightlifting programs to the first modern bodybuilding contest (and with the biggest cash prize ever awarded), sanitariums, multiple magazines, and a variety of other wacky shit . In other words, BERNARR MACFADDEN WAS EVERYTHING JOE WEIDER FUCKING WISHED HE COULD HAVE BEEN AND NEVER EVEN GOT CLOSE.
NABBA Mr Universe Earl Maynard. At 5'10" and 220 lbs, this was one of a handful of people "competing" against "The Myth" Sergio Oliva... who then was one of a couple of people to compete against Arnold.
Arnold's "Competition" History
Yes, yes, we've all heard that Arnold's seven Olympia wins makes him the benchmark for true greatness in the bodybuilding scene, though no one seems (much like the massive ignorance surrounding body phenotypes) to be willing to do an iota of research to determine who it was that Arnold beat. SPOILER ALERT- it was occasionally nobody or next to nobody, and the rest of the time it was either a bunch of nobodies or the game was rigged to ensure that Weider's prodigy (and his prodigy's best friend, Franco). And before the Arnold marks start screaming about my lack of qualifications to make such a statement, the fact that Arnold's steroid reign was vastly smaller than modern athletes, or any of the other half a million excuses and justifications they could make on the Oak's behalf, let's all bear in mind that at best, the lot of you likely have only read about the controversial 1980 Olympia, wherein Arnold was allegedly handed a victory by the judges. As you'll see in what follows, Arnold was pretty much handed every victory he achieved with the Weiders, and competing in a sport wherein the professional ranks were fledgling in all federations and the IFBB was one of the youngest and least entrenched, Arnold's victories over a couple of other physiques nearly impressive enough to make them bodybuilding versions of Annika Sorenstam... in a sport so subjective it makes open ended questions posed by drunk college girls at bars seem like objective-based interrogations.
Larry Scott, a man whose physique seems to have been the sole inspiration for ever superhero ever drawn by Art Adams- massive forearms, arms, and calves, and just the barest demon's whisper in a church nursery of definition in the legs.
In case you didn't know, the Olympia in Arnold's day is hardly what it is now- it was barely a pimple on the ass of the "sport" of bodybuilding, and apparently the weightlifting world gave less than two shits about determining who was champion amongst what was then considered a complete sidebar to Olympic weightlifting and the emerging sport of powerlifting. If that seems odd to you, consider that Bernarr MacFadden's bodybuilding competition, held in 1903, had cash prizes of $500 (~$13k in 2016) for both the male and female winners... whereas the Olympia's prize in early years, despite being subsidized by the Weider publishing empire, was only $1000 ($7.6k in 2016 dollars) sixty years later. Arnold was the third Mr. Olympia in what was essentially a brand-new organization promoting professional bodybuilding in what was almost entirely an amateur sport, competing for small crowds, small prizes, and against very few people. Although all of the big names in bodybuilding were invited to the 1963 inaugural Mr. O, only three dudes showed up- Larry Scott, the youngest competitor in Olympia history, Harry Poole, and the above-pictured professional wrestler Earl Maynard. It was, as such, hardly a barn-burner of a competition. As the Olympia grew into the next decade, the size of its competitive pool was nearly as tiny, though it perceived importance was far greater as Weider's magazine empire ground out its compeition in a variety of sheisty, duplicitous, and shrewd (if horrendously shitty) legal and PR maneuvers.
Sergio looked so good in 1973 that Weider pulled Arnold from the competition and arranged to have Sergio suspended from IFBB competition to ensure no one would make his golden boy look like shit onstage.
As the field had hardly grown, Arnold faced very little true competition when he "competed" for the Olympia crown because the reigning Mr. Olympia was a black Cuban ex-pat, which made him about as appealing to your average white American in the late 1960s as quick-onset hemorrhagic fever in a community of hemophiliacs. With his only real competition coming from a man who "would run into ... problems" because "his cultural background wasn't in sync with [American] ideals" (Roach, Vol 1 367), Arnold's SS-Obersturmbannführer-good-looks made him the perfect golden boy for Weider, and if he failed, insanely photogenic Dave Draper (who took fourth out of four against Harold Poole, the amazingly brutal, always-zero-fucks-given, superhuman lumberjack Chuck Sipes, and the melanin-rich, precontest hamburger munching, genetic freak of a political refugee Sergio Oliva) could have stepped in without missing a single beat. Without missing a single beat, you say? Yeah- Sergio won UNCONTESTED in 1969 and lost in a two man field with Arnold in 1970.
YOU READ THAT RIGHT.
ARNOLD'S FIRST OLYMPIA WIN WAS AGAINST ONE PERSON.
One person, I might add, who was fucked over and over by Joe Weider until the man resembled a gibbering lunatic because he couldn't stop carrying on about what a shitlord Weider was.
So, Arnold's first win came in a racially-, politically-, and marketing-motivated judging climate against a single competitor. His second was hardly more impressive, as he beat a 50 year old Reg Lewis and Oliva, and his third win was a complete joke- in a field of four, three of the competitors were disqualified before the show (Sergio Oliva and Franco Columbo), and the third was perhaps the most insanely hard-training motherfucker in history, Roy Callender, but the guy was just an unknown former bodybuilder who retired from pro wrestling and loved lifting. The next year he beat Franco again, along with winner of the Most-Fucked-Over-Bodybuilder-in-History Serge Nubret. His fifth, you think might have been better, but nooooooo... Arnold beat 23 year old Lou Ferrigno, the midget Franco, and a half-starved zen monk named Frank Zane like a drunk xenophobes who had stumbled into Bruce Lee's dojo screaming sinophobic slurs. Yes, in a field of four totally outmatched humans, Arnold reigned supreme in his fourth win. Thereafter, he retired from competition, likely since there was no point to even showing up if he was declared victory, and only reacquired the interest in competing after training for Conan and getting back into decent bodybuilding shape for the first time in a couple of years. With only seven weeks of contest prep, Arnold won his seventh and final gift from the Weiders, setting a ridiculous and pointless benchmark for the title that people only respect because they are ignorant fucking handytards without an iota of curiosity or drive to do any semblance of research.
Arnold's Pro "Highlights"
- 1970 NABBA Mr. Universe - professional in London, England. Who cares?
- 1970 AAU Pro Mr. World in Columbus, Ohio. Sergio entered the competition after showing up only to watch Vasily Alexeev clean and jerk 500 in an exhibition, so Arnold walked away with an easy victory against one day-of entry Oliva and perrenial bridesmaid-in-competitions Dave Draper.
- 1970 IFBB Mr. Olympia in New York. Beat one guy who previously won uncontested.
- 1971 IFBB Mr. Olympia in Paris, France. Beat two guys, one of whom was 50.
- 1972 IFBB Mr. Olympia in Essen, Germany. Beat three disqualified opponents.
- 1973 IFBB Mr. Olympia in New York. Beat a guy he outweighed by 50 lbs and the sliced and diced but totally outmassed Serge Nubret, because Sergio was so pissed at Weider's shenanigans, tomfoolery, and balderdash to bother showing up.
- 1974 IFBB Mr. Olympia in New York. Beat one unseasoned competitor and two guys he outweighed by 50 lbs.
- 1975 IFBB Mr. Olympia in Pretoria, South Africa. In his final lackluster Olympia victory before retiring, Arnold again defeated the Hulk, Serge Nubret, and a handful of guys who weighed what Arnold weighed in high school, all while competing light and having only trained a couple of months for the event.
- 1980 IFBB Mr. Olympia in Sydney, Australia. Arnold is handed a victory in what is widely considered a fixed competition against decent competition, though seven of them would be considered "manlets" under today's standards because they weighed less than most novice lifters can bench.
I hope I'm in better shape when I'm 70 than I was when I was 35.
A healthy degree of skepticism can be useful when investigating what appears to be a conspiracy theory, and I will freely admit that much of what I've related here might smack a bit of a David Icke-style, the-reptilian-aliens-are-our-overlords, tinfoil hat lunacy, but consider the following:
- According to Rick Wayne, professional bodybuilder and longtime Weider magazine editor, "It was no secret around the Weider headquarters that whenever the publisher featured a black champion on the cover of Muscle Builder, sales plummeted. Surely a champion who couldn't sell magazines was a close to useless as an endorser of food supplements and gym equipment" (Roach Vol II 35).
- Sergio's 1970 Mr. Olympia loss was engineered. Wieder and Arnold were known to be close and had entered into several joint business ventures by 1970, and Weider's fate was increasingly tied to Arnold's. As such, Weider and Arnold convinced Sergio that Arnold was not competing at the 1970 Mr. World (though Weider had arranged private transportation to the event for Arnold), which precipitated Sergio's naive entry into the contest the day of the event and subsequent loss. This loss destroyed his confidence and interrupted his preparation for the Olympia, which was held two weeks later.
- Due to the deception, Arnold was crowned Mr. World, run by Jim Lorimer, both of whom began co-promoting the Night of Champions a few years later in the same venue.
- Onstage at the 1970 Mr. Olympia, Arnold tricked Oliva into leaving the stage as if he'd lost as Arnold kept posing. According to a variety of sources, this had a measurable effect on the judges in Arnold's favor, and guaranteed that Weider would have his fair-haired Mr. Olympia for Magazine covers.
- Weider quickly passed rules banning IFBB competitors from competing in other organizations, which prevented any real competition from entering the Olympia and kept Arnold out of any competitions that would jeopardize Weider's investment, including an exhibition in 1972 in which both Arnold and Sergio would have been paid $2500 each to compete... at a time when only Mr. Olympia received prize money in that competition and the prize was less than half of Lurie's.
If this was my competition for anything at all, be it a math competition (he was a high school math teacher, but given that calc was so easy I taught it to myself while reading Michio Kaku) or bodybuilding, I'd not lose any sleep about whether or not I'd retain my crown.
In short, Arnold couldn't possibly be considered one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time- it could be argued that he was one of the top bodybuilders of his era, but that would still invite a tremendous amount of room in that conversation for other extremely overlooked bodybuilders from that time period, such as Robby Robinson (two-time Olympia Tall/Heavyweight Class), Sergio Oliva, and others. Additionally, a conversation about the greatest bodybuilders in history would hardly include a man who only learned to train legs after he started winning bodybuilding competitions... no matter how sick his genetics. I don't see Hany After all, when some of your chief competition comes from weirdly proportioned, smoother than a college freshman chick after a trip to Dairy Queen, and very likely autistic as fuck Mike Katz, it's pretty hard to drop the ball.
This isn't to say I lament the sort of machinations that led to Arnold's rise to prominence as a foreigner who married into American aristocracy, one of the highest paid actors of all time, the prime motivator for most of our collective entry into the field of weight lifting, the man who paved the way for the inimitable and underrespected Dolph Lundgren (who punched Stallone so hard in Rocky IV he stopped the actor's heart), and generally one of the greatest public personalities of all time- Arnold is the unmitigated shit. He simply wasn't the bodybuilder everyone thinks he was... unless recent Conan Jason Momoa should be included in a discussion of great bodybuilders, because Momoa's physique is not far off from Arnold in his prime, at this point.
Stop starfucking. Start reading. Dicks out for Harambe. Lets all stop being fucking retarded, eh? Jack off to pics of Ronnie or something- at least he was strong, for fuck's sake.
... and yeah, I'm aware that guys like Dallas McCarver are more jacked than I am. I'm also aware of how the endocrine system works, and about the sad postscript that follows pretty much any negative response to this article. If Arnold is the best of all time, I am a fucking Chinese jet pilot, and you're fucking retarded.
Hansen, John. Arnold vs Sergio- Bodybuilding's greatest rivalry. John Hansen Fitness. 28 Apr 2013. Web. 29 Sep 2016. http://johnhansenfitness.com/2013/04/28/arnold-vs-sergio-bodybuildings-greatest-rivalry/
Hansen, John. The most controversial Mr Olympia- 1980 r evisited- Part 2. RX Muscle. 7 Dec 2011. Web. 3 Oct 2016. http://www.rxmuscle.com/articles/john-hansen/4672-the-most-controversial-mr-olympia-1980-revisited.html
Hansen, John. The Tijuana incident. RX Muscle. 9 Feb 2014. Web. 29 Feb 2016. http://www.rxmuscle.com/articles/john-hansen/10155-the-tijuana-incident.html
Heffernan, Conan. 1903 and the birth of American bodybuilding. Physical Culture Study. 22 Oct 2015. Web. 29 Sep 2016. https://physicalculturestudy.com/2015/10/22/1903-and-the-birth-of-american-bodybuilding/
O'Connell, Jeff. Joe Weider (1919-2013): Remembering The Father Of Bodybuilding. Bodybuilding.com. 2 Apr 2013. Web. 26 Sept 2016. http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/joe-weider-1919-2013-remembering-the-father-of-bodybuilding.html
Roach, Randy. Muscle, Smoke, and Mirrors, Vol. I. Bloomington: AuthorHouse, 2008.
Roach, Randy. Muscle, Smoke, and Mirrors, Vol. II. Bloomington: AuthorHouse, 2011.