By Christian Duque
The stage is set for the epic showdown between two of the biggest bodybuilders on Earth. Neither of these guys look super healthy but they’re both the up and coming freaks everyone thinks will eventually receive the torch handed down from Big Ramy. None of the guys thus described embody the things that make bodybuilding beautiful. They don’t have classic looks that celebrate symmetry and flowing muscle. Instead they appeal to the freak factor of the sport.
Walker is a throwback to Dallas McCarver and Krizo represents the best the rival IFBB had to offer. For years, he’s been discussed as a future Mr. Olympia. His name has been compared to Curry, Ramy, Choopan and even the late Rhoden. Everyone always said that if the possibility for him to compete at the Olympia happened that it would be lights out.
The fact is he turned pro in a less than stellar contest. He qualified at a contest where many said he didn’t look his best but where it was an unspoken truth that he’d win no matter what. The fact is he has a lot of work to do before he can compete at the Olympia. The smarter thing to do would have been to get a Pro League card and maybe enjoy his first pro win and prepare for the 2023 Arnold Classic or the 2024 Olympia. Instead he’s doing the 2022 Olympia, his third contest in just three months. If he’s not burnt out by then, this considerable flaw will likely hold him back from a Top 3 finish. I, personally, would be stunned if he made Top 6 given the caliber of competitors he’s up against. I don’t think he could beat guys like William Bonac, Hadi Choopan, or Akiim Williams. I think much of what he’s got is talk and after seeing what he qualified with, I can say I’m not hugely impressed. That being said, he may have been reserving the best for the O.
When you’re doing three shows in three months you need to be very strategic. I said it all along and I can hardly fault the guy now. He did exactly what he was supposed to. He gave about 70% to turn pro. Then he gave about 75-80% to get his qualification. And now he hopes to put everything together and hit the Vegas stage firing on all cylinders at 100%.
The bigger question for me is has he ever put in 100%? Those Elite Pro shows he was doing didn’t have the depth of lineups of the Olympia. Maybe he’s never been really put to the test and how many guys who are in the Pro League choke at the 11th hour? How many spill over, lose their peak, or just carb-up incorrectly? Again, I’m not looking to jinx the golden boy of the Elite Pro, but he’s competing at the biggest show in bodybuilding and anything wrong could cost him Top 6 or Top 3.
Do I think Michael Krizo can win the 2022 Mr. Olympia? No.
Do I think Nick Walker can win the 2022 Mr. Olympia? No.
These guys aren’t going to win this year and may never win. They’re both very impressive for what they bring to the table and yes, I realize that Nick is an Arnold Classic champion, but so what? That does not mean he’s going to win the Olympia this year or ever. The fact is once Ramy goes I suspect the sport will return to aesthetics. Now more than ever, I think the sport is realizing the need for a champion that can actually grow the sport. A guy like Nick Walker is a throwback to Markus Ruhl. The fans of freaky physiques will be delighted, but what about everybody else?
Everybody else is the majority of the sport! Don’t be fooled. Most people don’t like big, blocky physiques. In fact, if you were to poll most bodybuilding fans between Big Ramy and Chris Bumstead, most would prefer Chris. If you were to put either Walker or Krizo next to C-Bum, most people would pick Chris.
And while Chris may be “classic physique” and not bodybuilding, more and more people are hoping that bodybuilding goes back to its roots. One look at Bumstead and you’re left wishing that the sport returned to the golden era. They want to see the tiny waist, the big shoulders, and the big back. They want to see guys who can hit a vacuum pose, who can nail side triceps, and can flawlessly execute an ab and thigh. All of these poses are based on a small waist.
No matter how small guys like Nick and Michael can their waists down, they still have these enormously large torsos that distort the look made famous by guys like Frank Zane and Robby Robinson. Even bigger guys like Arnold and Lou were still able to keep that artistic image. The last guy who could keep the essence of mass with class was Lee Haney. No bodybuilder since has truly been able to keep both mass and cuts at equal quality levels.
Guys like Wheeler and Levrone were able to present more size with a different, but still beautiful, aesthetic value. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it golden era, but it was comparable. Dorian, Ronnie, Nasser and Jay were just too big. Phil and Dexter carried on from Wheeler and Levrone. Currently, I’d say Curry and Bonac are carrying this torch, but guys like Nick Walker, Big Ramy, and Michael Krizo are pushing that mass card way too hard. Big Ramy pushes it so far that even guys like Nick and Michael are way behind. That’s why they can’t win in 2023.
Mr. Olympia sets the standard. We may not like the look but if you want to beat the champ you have to beat him or her at their own game. This is why Brandon hit the Olympia last year with 20lbs added muscle. Even still, he got dwarfed by the out-of-shape Egyptian Phenom. Size wasn’t enough for him to win in 2017, but size is what kept Ramy #1 in 2020, 2021, and likely 2022. It may also be what propels Walker and Krizo to higher placings this year as well. The question is how high can these guys go if they’re not in the running to topple Ramy? I’m pretty sure the Top 3 will be reserved for Ramy, Brandon, and Derek. Some even think Derek may win the title.
Ramy pissed off the sport’s elite by missing the Pittsburgh and he looked like trash last year. Perhaps Derek upsets him? Perhaps Brandon is finally given the nod? But aside from Ramy winning or not, the next big showdown fans are looking at is Walker/Krizo.
I think this secondary battle may offer the fans an interesting parallel Olympia showdown especially since Hadi Choopan’s buzz has largely subsided and many other, past-Top 6 greats may be making an exit to lower spots of the Top 10.
2023 may be more than a two battle contest, it may also be a very real changing of the guard. I hope to be wrong but I have a bad feeling William will be out of the Top 6. Not because of his physique but because the sport may want to give younger, more popular competitors better placings. Notice I said the sport may want to do that..
The fact is Bonac has been systematically screwed when it comes to placings at the O. This has become somewhat of a trend. Once could be an odd call. Twice raises an eyebrow. More than two crappy placings and you start to wonder if The Conqueror is part of the bigger picture. I won’t blame politics, but William should’ve been a Mr. Olympia by now and here we are talking about whether or not he’ll be in the Top 6.
The fact is someone has to go so there can be room for Krizo. He, at least, needs to be in the mix to make it believable. If he’s relegated to 9th or 10th, how is he going to stand next to Walker and do battle? Another key battle involving Walker includes Blessing Awodibu. The more I think about it the more I think bodybuilding is taking a page from wrestling. They want to create excitement and unfortunately, sometimes, the best built athletes don’t talk trash and don’t get the fans’ hearts pumping. That said, the competitor with the best physique and who poses the best, should win. That’s not always the case.
Whoever wins between Nick and Michael, I can’t say I really care. Then again, I identify as a bodybuilding purist and people like me have been ignored for the greater part of the last decade or so. If beautiful physiques were the standard, Ramy wouldn’t have a single Olympia, let alone be on the road to 3.
Who do you think will place higher – Nick or Michael? What say you?