In reflection, a lot of things changed while many others stayed the same but what else is new?
Pro Ironman Invitational: Dexter Jackson
The pro contest season kicked off with Dexter Jackson crushing the competition in Pasadena, California by winning the 1st contest of the year and taking home a paltry $10,000.00! I say this not to slam the contest but to bring light to a situation that has not been addressed in 15 years! Raise the prize money already!
While Dexter continued his dominance of his competitors by winning his 1st ever Ironman Title, he won the same amount of Prize Money I did in 1990, 14 years ago!
That being said, the Pro Ironman expanded its borders to include a 3 Day Expo, where you could meet Pros, attend Seminars and buy Sponsor Products. However noble this Expo may have been, the Pro Athletes on stage that people paid money to come and see, got left in the cold, as the 5th place finisher walked with a measly $1,000.00 for his efforts and a handshake from some "Fitness Chick."
Left: Lee Priest. Right: Quincy Taylor, John Schneider and his son with Carmen Garcia and Russ DeLuca.
Lee Priest picked up 2nd and IFBB Pro on the rise from Puerto Rico, Gustavo Badell got 3rd along with the final spot to qualify for the Mr. Olympia in October!
The contest in 2005, I am assured the event will be nothing short of spectacular including the Expo!
The Arnold Classic Invitational: Jay Cutler
Arguably the premier contest of the year with prize money upwards of $150,000.00 for 1st Place, that includes a brand spanking' new H2 Hummer, a high priced watch and $100,000.00 prize was Jay Cutler's to lose! Jay coming off his 2 consecutive ASC Victories and narrowly beating "The Blade" Dexter Jackson some 5 months prior for the 2nd place spot at the Mr. Olympia, was a little less for wear.
Jay, noticeably down in weight and fullness, eeked past Chris Cormier and Dexter to grab his 3rd Hummer in a row and the $100K! The contest was not without its fair share of "boo birds", as the majority of the pros and fans in attendance where "Pro Cormier!" Chris nailed the prejudging and from my seat in the 2nd row center stage, handled Mr. Cutler in almost every pose, as well as condition, shape and readiness!
When the night show came, the posing round began, (which is never judged properly) according to some "Blue Suits" Chris' cape wearing prop, pulled the oil off his body and it cost him for it. Huh? Lack of oil after the contest has all but been decided, cost the man $50,000.00 and a H2 Hummer?
As Chris would say, "Something smells rotten in Denmark!" The majority of spectators and pros agreed with him and he would go on to take home a record 5th second place finish in the ASC, while Jay would set his sights on Flex Wheeler's record of 4 ASC titles down the road.
The addition of the "$10,000.00 Best Presentation Award." I created this award at the Mr. Olympia in 2003 by way of sponsorship dollars from various companies and was denied by Wayne Demilia. Later he implemented it back into the show on terms through his channels and monetary sponsors. I was cool with that.
The problem was, I was told by the former IFBB Vice President, that several noticeable superstar judges were going to be the ones who would choose the deserving winner of this award.
Sadly, that was not the case. No LL Cool J. No WWE Superstar, "The Rock." No Tom Arnold. Well, at least they came up with some judges:
- Some choreographer from some award show...
- A producer of this and that...
- As well as, a designer from wherever...
- No one cared. Who where these people?
At the end of the posing routines, Shari Kamali won the award to a chorus of Boo's as many in attendance, including PPV Television Commentator and former 6-Time Mr. Olympia, Dorian Yates felt there was not enough posing and too much dancing for this Pro to even come close to winning this award!
Overall the biggest losers in all of this, as far as the outcome of the show and winner of this award ceremony, were the people in the audience.
* Subpoenas where handed out to several big name pros over the weekend in the attempt by the DEA to follow up on a "Steroid Investigation" following the Balco Labs fiasco into the land of the IFBB.
The San Francisco Pro: Dexter Jackson
"The Blade" would once again for the second time in 2004, head West to pick up another $10,000.00 and a 1st place prize by way of winning the San Francisco Pro! He would unanimously beat 2nd Place finisher, Aussie Superstar, Lee Priest for 1st and 2004 National Lt Hvy. Champ, Rookie Pro from Sacramento Kris Dim, who would finish 3rd and qualify for his 1st Mr. Olympia Contest later in the year.
- Chris Cormier would not finish the contest and withdrew after prejudging, where many in attendance had him as low as 8th place, due to "Illness"
- Bob Cicherillo would pull out of the contest due to severe dehydration and land in the hospital for 3 days with an IV Drip to re-hydrate his body after a serious bout with vomiting and diarrhea.
- Samir Bannout, former (Mr. Olympia 1983) was scheduled to make a "Comeback" here but fell ill to an infected tooth and opted to "Guest Pose" instead.
The Australia Pro: Dexter Jackson
Dexter would continue his annihilation of his fellow competitors on the Pro Circuit by smashing the competition! Dexter would fly 21 hrs from his home in Jacksonville, Florida to Melbourne, Australia and beat up on Chris Cormier (who finished 2nd and was the previous winner of this show 4 Times) for 1st place and another cool $10,000.00 for his efforts!
"Der Freak" from Germany, Markus Ruhl would pick up 3rd place and qualify for the showdown in Las Vegas at the Mr. Olympia later in the year!
* Craig Titus would miss his peak due to being held up in customs, according to him for 6 hrs ruining any chances of him being spot on to take out his rival Kamali in a "Hyped up Showdown" that never fully materialized.
The Orlando Pro: Darrem Charles
I was the Master of Ceremonies for this event.
Darrem would serve notice to everyone competing in the Mr. Olympia later in the year that his time had arrived by winning the first ever Orlando Pro Contest! Darrem posed gracefully to the same song I used at the Nationals in 1987 "I'm Telling you I am not Going" by Jennifer Holliday and would go on to top fellow Floridian, Amhad Haidar who placed 2nd. New Jersey Native, Craig Richardson took 3rd and got the final Olympia qualifying spot.
Serious Problem: The athletes have still NOT BEEN PAID IN FULL by the IFBB Promoter! One more problem in our sport that still has not been resolved by the federation in guaranteeing the Prize money to the athletes immediately on stage!
This promoter should be banned until all the athletes have been PAID!
Night Of Champions: Melvin Anthony
I did not attend the NOC for the 1st time in 14 yrs however, I was in constant communication with Dexter Jackson as things unfolded.
"Marvelous" Melvin Anthony would win his 1st pro title of his 4 yr pro career and the last NOC Championship Ring as we know it. The acting IFBB Vice President, Wayne DeMilia would be ousted from his position by the federation following this contest. As well, the contest name for the show he has promoted since the 70's would go with him!
Melvin would have a showdown with 2nd place finisher Darrem Charles, (arguably the 2 best posers in the industry competing today) and knock out fellow new comer and Rookie Pro Sensation, Richard Jones who picked up 3rd place in his first pro show since winning the Lt Hvy & Overall at the 2003 USA's!
Hungarian Pro: Pavol Jablonicky
The 40 year old Czech Republic Senior Citizen would put the hurt on contest favorites, "Marvelous" Melvin Anthony and "Dangerous" Darrem Charles in his back yard to pull off his 2nd Hungarian Pro Championship and qualify for the Big O in Las Vegas! Pavol would take the $10,000.00 and walk away from this contest on cloud nine!
Darrem Charles would finish 2nd Place again while relatively little known and overlooked IFBB Pro; Jaroslav Harvath would land in 3rd to qualify for the Mr. Olympia. Marvelous Melvin Anthony was left "Dazed and Confused" as to how this show was scored after winning the NOC 2 weeks prior.
Toronto Pro: Darrem Charles
I was Master of Ceremonies for this event
"Dangerous" Darrem Charles would pose his way into victory lane once again and nab a cool $10,000.00 for his efforts to add to his ever increasing bank account and stash of victories in 2004!
Picking up the number 2 spot was strongman and former USA Lt. Hvy Champion, Johnnie Jackson, who finally added enough cuts to go with his mass! Jaroslav Harvath would stay steady at number 3 one week after Hungary.
Show Of Strength Pro: Victor Martinez
"Vicious" Victor Martinez, the pre-contest favorite once Dexter Jackson decided to sit out the contest along with fellow, IFBB Pro Chris Cormier due to the prize money being drastically reduced by over $100,000.00 at the 11th hour for "Internal Reasons" not fully disclosed to the athletes or fans?
Nevertheless, the show went on and Martinez picked up $20,000.00 for his efforts after a stint behind bars on a drug charge late last year.
Once again a bridesmaid for the 3rd time this year, "Floridian" by way of the "Caribbean", "Mr. Consistency" Darrem Charles would pick up a smooth 2nd place finish and beat out up-and comer pro, Gustavo Badell for 3rd.
"Canadian Colossus", Greg Kovacs would pull out of this show seconds before walking onstage due to illness. What illness remains a mystery, as I was back stage watching him prepare for the line up introductions?
Mr. Olympia: Ronnie Coleman
Ronnie Coleman once again and for the 7th straight year picked up the Sandow Trophy!
Under the current judging criteria, no one comes close to "Coleman Pound for Pound." Have I seen Ronnie better? Yes, definitely. Was he too heavy for me? Yes, 15lbs too heavy and it showed. Ronnie can continue winning with the judging criteria being the way it is.
Sadly, we are not gaining in popularity due to the sheer "Size emphasis" the judges reward the winner with. Not taking anything away from Mr. Coleman, he won hands down from where I sat based on our system of judging but there could be a strong argument that detail is sorely over looked, as well as symmetry.
Ronnie claimed to be 297lbs, but he looked to be overweight and uncomfortable on stage hitting poses. On the side of the stage he could be seen clearly gasping for air and physically struggling at times with basic poses. One has to wonder how far he will push the envelope and how high he will raise the bar for future would-be Mr. Olympia Winners.
Jay Cutler picked up his third, 2nd Place finish at a show that is "OWNED and OPERATED" by Ronnie Coleman! Jay, soft from the rear, was poised on stage and smooth hitting his shots! From the front Jay is hard as nails! He hits all of his shots well and is very professional, while being all business! However, he appeared blocky at times but was beaten in these poses by both Dexter Jackson & Gustavo Badell; side chest, rear double bi and abs & thigh shots.
The Puerto Rican sensation, Gustavo Badell crept into Dexter Jackson's Worst Nightmare as he foiled "The Blade's" chance at placing top 3 in the world!
Gustavo was hard and peaked perfectly! The challenge round helped Gustavo overtake Dexter, as the total points added up in his favor while Dexter was left wanting.
Overall, the contest season brought out the best in our sport while some side bars left us looking over our shoulders.
Where are we headed and what does the future hold for us as a sport?
Some Side Notes:
My Lord and Savior, I give you all the thanks, all the praise and all the glory!
Please continue to direct my life on the path you have chosen for me and allow me to continue to live your word and dwell in my heart. It is by you going to the cross for me, that I draw breath. I will lift your name on high wherever I go, in what ever I do.
Thank you for being the way, the truth and the life!
Reigning fitness diva, Adela Friedmansky for pulling off the triple crown in woman's fitness by winning the International, Show of Strength & Olympia in one year!
Shout Out To:
Darrem Charles, for taking home the 2nd annual: $10,000.00
Best Presentation Award:
"Best Presentation Award" after this year's Mr. Olympia Contest! Someday this award will be given away onstage following the performances of these great athletes when the federation is willing to recognize the athletes and their efforts, as well as the sponsor's support of this award!
Special Thanks To:
Weider / AMI and their vision to try new things in bringing Bodybuilding to the next level by implementing the "Challenge Round" for better or for worse!
Rest In Peace:
Trevor Smith, Russ Warner, Marianna Komlos,
Joe Gold, Joe Weider's Secretary, Annalise, Ray Charles.
Surprises Of The Year:
- DEA Raids Bodybuilding
- Gustavo Badell 3rd place in Mr. Olympia, 3rd Pro Ironman, 3rd Show of Strength
- Darrem Charles - 2 Wins (Toronto & Florida) and 3 more 2nd place finishes
I Told You So:
Ronnie Coleman walking away with a 7th Mr. Olympia title.
All Star Seminar VI - We gathered together the biggest names in our sport a mere 24 hours after the biggest contest in the world for a smokin' hot seminar in Las Vegas! The Sixth Annual All Star Seminar featured: Coleman, Cutler, Jackson, Wheeler, Levrone, Gunter, Markus and Darrem Charles!
We raffled off: videos, photos, posters, t-shirts, dvd's and presented a "Free All Expense Paid Trip" the pro Ironman to a lucky winner!
Garrett & Annemarie Downing on the birth of their daughter: Marina Elizabeth Downing.
What The *@!?X? Happened?
Ronnie Coleman beating both: Gustavo Badell & Dexter Jackson in the abs & thigh pose during the challenge round?
Biggest Bust Of The Year:
Mike Tyson - AGAIN.
Wacko Of 2004:
Michael Jackson - For like the last 10 years...
Quizzically Quiet & Missing In Action:
Shari Kamali - "Things that make you go, "HHmmmmm?"
Time To Say Goodbye:
Greg Kovacs - Need I say more?
No Sympathy Award:
Former IFBB Pro, Bertil Fox - You KILL People, you go to JAIL!
How Could This Happen Again:
Re-election of President George W. Bush. Have we learned nothing in the last 4 yrs?
"Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we." - Washington, D.C., Aug. 5, 2004
What Were You Thinking:
Scott Peterson - Hello? Ever heard of "Divorce".
Cinderella NFL Season:
Pittsburgh Steelers (13 wins - 1 lost).
From Penthouse To Out House:
Best TV Series:
Best New Web Site:
www.californiafitnessreview.com - Congratulations to Travis Chapman for creating an all access web site for news and information related to the health & fitness industry! Runner up -
Always The Number One Musical Artist:
Simply The BEST:
8-Time Ms. Olympia, Lenda Murray.
Nicest IFBB Pro:
Mark Dugdale - USA Champ, Businessman, Husband, Father of 3 girls and still has time for Jesus.
End Of An Era, Gone Hollywood:
"Maryland Muscle Machine" Kevin Levrone - Thanks for the memories brotha.
Best Wishes & Speedy Recovery:
IFBB Pro, Mike Matarazzo we wish you a speedy recovery from an emergency Double bypass heart surgery. Big Mike, you are in all of our prayers!
A big thank you to all the athletes who participated in the Muscle Camps in South Africa and the US. Learn more about the 2004
South Africa Muscle Camp...
Pastor Mike Wenger and Andy Steiner, you guys are invaluable to our support group in the bodybuilding community! From the bottom of my heart, what you guys are doing in this industry for our athletes is a blessing from God!
Sharing Jesus Christ with our athletes and Praying for them throughout the year and at contests is exactly what Jesus would have you do. May you both continue on the path that God has put you on to shed Light where there is Darkness in our sport!
Charity Golf Tournament:
Financial Title, my wife's company put on their 1st annual charity golf tournament for the Boys Scouts of America and raised $10,000.00!
Special thanks to the celebrities that came out to support Kristie and the Boy Scouts of America notably from the bodybuilding industry; John Brown and Bob Cicherillo, as well as Former NLF Hall of Famer, wide receiver from the Denver Broncos, Cephus Weatherspoon, Former Rams DB, Leroy Irvin, Former Chicago Bear and Kristie's Business Partner, George Willard, Former LA Raider QB, Billy Joe Hobert and all the players who participated!
Good Bye Friend:
Diablo Lamborghini Ray was born on December 7th 1992 and laid to rest on June 1st of this year. He was 12 years and 7 months. Diablo was the best thing to come into my life before I met my wife.
I raised him from 10 weeks old, the only thing I ever care about and missed as I traveled the world. He had liver disease but lived a full healthy life. He will be sorely missed as there will never be another one like him.
Kristie, thank you so much for your support and guidance you have provided me with. Marrying you was the best thing I could have done!
The Balance, Security, Friendship and Wisdom you have brought into my life are second to none! Bodybuilding helped build my physique; however, you have built my Strength to trust, love and care. I love you!
Wishing everyone the very best of the Holiday Season, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!