by Christian Duque
History really has a tendency to repeat itself. Although we’re living in 2019, it might as well be 2009 all over again. Back then, Dexter Jackson was riding high after upsetting Jay Cutler at the 2008 Mr. Olympia. That victory, though a huge feather in The Blade’s cap, wasn’t one he got to enjoy for long. Almost from the moment he won, people started speculating about the return of Jay Cutler, the pundits weren’t sold on the new champ either, and the media was even less excited. In fact, the only major celebrity who believed Jackson would successfully defend his title, was Dan Solomon, then of Pro Bodybuilding Weekly.
Today, much of that same vibe is around and well. In fact, that vibe is even stronger for a Heath comeback, largely because, Heath was stopped from winning his 8th consecutive Sandow. When Jackson stopped Cutler, Jay was just about to win his third. For many people, the sure money is still on Heath. Also, very few fans, and far less members of the media, actually think Kai Greene will come back. The real battle, as far as I’m concerned, is between Shawn Rhoden, Brandon Curry, and everyone else, but the nostalgia card is a strong one. Let’s also not forget, that up until Jay Cutler in 2009, no defeated Mr. Olympia had ever come back to reclaim his title. Looking back, there were plenty who tried, though. For example, Frank Zana (aka The Chemist) tried unsuccessfully for a number of years. Samir also tried many times, falling outside the Top 10 on one of his final attempts. Even some of the greats, like Jay Cutler and the G.O.A.T., Ronnie Coleman failed, too. Part of the fanfare with a Heath comeback, isn’t so much seeing Heath win, but seeing someone defeat the odds again.
This past weekend at the Pittsburgh Pro, I ran into that mindset. Even the legends were all about it. The Golden Eagle, Tom Platz, also believes that Phil would return, that a fire had been lit under him, and that now he’d reclaim his title. Listen, that may be so, maybe a fire is lit, maybe Phil is really mad, and maybe the 2018 defeat humbled him a bit, but the truth of the matter is, even at 100%, Phil still has narrow clavicles, Phil still doesn’t have Rhoden’s tiny waist, and even though Heath’s back is still superior, who knows for how long. Also, Phil still can’t hit a side chest – but maybe now, he’s finally learnt how to do it – the right way.
Still, the idea that Shawn is just going to sit around, twiddling his thumbs, all year long, is utterly insane. From Chris “The Technician” Aceto, to everyone at Olimp, and Rhoden’s whole corner, it’s time to rock ‘n roll – this guy isn’t going to just bow down!. Let’s also focus on the fact that 2018 wasn’t 2008. In 2008 Dexter barely edged out an off-Jay; however, in 2018, it took a substantial knockout – one seen and heard throughout the world, to stop a 7x Mr. Olympia. Shawn won in the prejudging and won again at the night show – as far as I’m concerned – it wasn’t even close! In fact, I had Roelly beating Phil for many poses as well and so did the audience. That’s why Roelly got the coveted People’s Choice Award.
That being said, I’m not going to sit here and lie to you. I’m not a Phil Heath fan. I don’t know think he’s a good ambassador for the sport. I also think he’s far too moody and far too quick to lash out at and block fans. But, I do believe him, when he says he’s grown emotionally. We can all react positively to life-changing experiences and grow from them.
When you ride a high horse, like Phil did, for as long as he did, you start to think the world of bodybuilding owes you a thank you for everything; you stop being all about the fans, and suddenly you realize your ego is the size of Texas. It’s always bigger in Texas. The truth is, I believe a loss here and there, is actually a blessing, of sorts. I’ve never been a fan of long runs, whether in bodybuilding, basketball, or any other sport. Long reigns mean people get big heads and start caring less and less about the sport, and more and more, about themselves. Has Phil grown emotionally like he stated on a recent Generation Iron interview? Quite possibly, but the real test will be, if and when, he faces adversity. How will the New Phil handle it? Also, even if he has evolved emotionally, that alone, is not going to win him another Sandow. In fact, that’s not going to do anything for his comeback efforts. It’s a good thing for him as a person, but so what?
Look, there was at least one year Kai beat Phil. There was also at least one year Shawn beat Phil. In fact, in 2016, Shawn beat Phil, but I’m a hardcore Rhoden fan, so you can dismiss it. In 2017 health issues sidelined him, but in 2018, Flexatron knocked Phil out.
The unspoken rule is that you have to knockout the Mr. O. If you tie him, the champ retains. If you merely edge him out, the champ (oftentimes) retains. If you knock him out, with little stars circling his head, then you’re the new champ.
I think for Phil to win, he’d have to deliver the same knockout to Rhoden and I’ll say it, right here, I don’t think Phil has the ability to do that. He can read this and get as mad as he’d like, but I’m simply stating my opinion. Also, a big telltale factor will be his midsection. The guy is still young, but he’s no spring chicken, so even with a 100% successful hernia procedure, it may still not be enough. Just because it’s a fairly common issue, which has pretty straightforward treatment and PT, not everyone who gets it, is battling to be the best of the best in a physique-based sport. Successful treatments are also not geared for athletes whose physiques are scrutinized by panels of judges, media outfits, and millions of fans on social media. Also, the hernia may be corrected, but the aesthetics might still be off. I, of course, wish for the best, because I care about all the stars. Further, I believe a 100% Shawn beats a 100% Phil. Shawn doesn’t need Phil to be off, much less injured, to beat him. That being said, Phil’s aesthetics will most definitely have to be on point, if he expects to knock out Rhoden and defeat all the other champions. I just don’t know if that’s going to be in the cards; I also don’t know if Phil has the same level of heart as Shawn, Brandon, or the other guys comin up, hungry for their moment in the spotlight.
Last year, there were times Chris Aceto had to literally hold Rhoden up. It was like Mickey and Rocky, but in real life. Shawn gave 110% to win this title, he was going to do whatever it took, but he was going to win. In other years, Phil has come off that same Olympia stage, to belittle and heckle a Youtuber, nearly walking into traffic in the process. Two, totally different champions. One who talks a big game and the other who walks the walk. That being said, your rebuttal could be based on simple math, one has 7 Sandows, while the other only has 1, and that argument would hold water. But the thing is, unless the 7x Champ is ready for an all out war, he’ll have to wait till Shawn “Flexatron” Rhoden goes, before he can win another title.