by Christian Duque
When the news broke that 2x Mr. Olympia Mamdouh Mohammed Hassan Elssbiay was throwing his hat into the 2023 Arnold Classic ring; it sent shockwaves throughout the sport of bodybuilding. Just about two weeks ago, it was looking like the contest wasn’t even going to happen as more and more competitors were dropping out. This had been a very tough year for The Oak’s namesake.
Historically, back when the Arnold was held in March and the Olympia was held in September, both shows were pretty much on an equal footing. While the Olympia has always been the “Super Bowl of Bodybuilding,” or more specifically the contest that determined the best in the world, both shows had huge appeal. In fact, some competitors felt as if they were judged more fairly in Columbus and while they could never be deemed the best in the world by only competing there, that’s just what they did.
As of the pandemic, however, everything’s changed. The Olympia has been held in December for the last two years and will be held in November this year. Many of the top Olympians are way too exhausted to hold their peak for three months and then do Columbus. The alternative is to take a break for a week or two and then do a blitz prep in three months. That’s not too promising for guys who finished Top 6 at the biggest show in the sport. Plus many top Olympians don’t want to do two contests of that magnitude in the same year. Therefore, the Arnold was languishing and by the time the competitors dropped to just a half a dozen The Oak had to take decisive action. Hence increasing the prize money by $100,000.
Arnold’s hail mary got Nick Walker to jump in. It also got a few more, albeit less impressive, guys to accept invitations. With 9 guys including two Top 6 Olympians in Walker and Dauda, plus a past champion like William Bonac, and two 212 Mr. O’s in Shaun Clarida and Kamal El Gargni, the contest was looking pretty solid. Fans now had some match-ups to keep them busy for the message boards and groups, and the new roster gave the bodybuilding press room to create content, generate commentaries, and sufficient quality to drum up fan support. When it was down to six guys, however, the show looked to be on the verge of collapsing. It became a major draw with the added $100,000. What no one could have ever expected was the entry of 2x Mr. Olympia Big Ramy. That was bombshell news and it sent the half-asleep fitness world into a frenzy.
While Walker’s entry put Dauda back in the shadows, Ramy’s entry has had a similar effect on all the buzz around Nick Walker.
Nick was the star for a couple of days. Now no one is talking about him. Even though the kid placed 3rd at the Olympia, Ramy is a 2x Mr. O and many people think 2022 was a fluke. Most bodybuilding fans believe Dennis [James] when he says Ramy looked like he was on his way to winning #3 just 48 hours out. The fans also invest a great deal of trust in Chad Nicholls’ take. The legendary coach who gave us The Big Nasty Ronnie Coleman was of the same opinion as James.
Chad said Ramy looked fantastic as close as two days out. Both gurus seemed convinced that if you were to poll most bodybuilding fans they would agree that something prep-wise was the culprit of Ramy’s poor look and not injuries. In fact, most people saw a stark contrast in The Egyptian Phenom’s whole approach to the 2022 Mr. Olympia. He was hungrier than in 2021 and maybe even hungrier than 2020.
In 2021 Ramy was settled in. It was the first year of his title defense and his head got big. He was doing movies, inking million dollar deals, and snubbing the fans and the federation. He was the man.
It’s kind of like that line in Pumping Iron relative to the lion being at the top of the mountain. He may have known where the food was and how to get it, but he was resting on his laurels. And when Brandon came looking as good as he did in ‘21 and Ramy still held the title, I think his head got huge. It wasn’t until he snubbed Jim Manion and did the no-show in Pittsburgh that I think people got in his ear and told him his ironclad reign wasn’t quite so ironclad. He hunkered down and he got ready way before the O.
And what about 2020? Well he was a competitor hoping to place well. That’s all. He had taken 3rd to Dexter and Bonac that year in Columbus and I honestly doubt he thought he could topple Brandon and beat Phil. The fact he won was probably a bit of a surprise to him. So between 2020 and 2021, I’d say it’s safe to say 2022 was the year Ramy fought the hardest of all. That’s why people were so dumbfounded to see him finish a disappointing 5th.
So while both his coaches seem to think he can regain the Olympia and many of the fans agree, it’s a huge gamble for Ramy to return to the Arnold Classic stage after three years, where his highest placing was 3rd, and after a disastrous Olympia title defense just about a month ago. If he wins the Arnold, it can be argued he’s the #1 contender to Hadi’s title in 2023. If he places anything less than 1st, his legacy will take another massive hit.
Legacies don’t determine who wins places or wins at the Olympia, but a poor showing in Columbus could really mess with the Ramy’s head. Is it worth it? $300,000 isn’t chump’s change and it certainly may still draw out even more big names, but Ramy has a lot to lose – maybe more than anyone else.
Only time will tell if this was the right decision. I can tell you that Ramy’s inclusion will boost ticket sales, booth sales, and send PPV sales through the roof. Now that there’s going to be 3 of 6 of last year’s Olympia Top 6, it will present one of the most talked about showdowns of 2023. Two mass monsters battling it on stage for the big payday!! If anything else, it’ll be a hoot to see Ramy and Nick battle. And while everyone says it can’t happen, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Derek Lunsford is that 11th hour addition. It’s just such a huge amount of money that I think a lot of guys are really contemplating doing it.
Why not? It’s nine months out from the Olympia, it’s a huge payday, and the bragging rights would offer limitless opportunities. It’s very tempting to say the least.
So what say you? Is Ramy making the right decision? If he places poorly do you think he’ll retire, regroup, or what? To be honest, anything less than a win in Columbus would amount to a defeat for the 2x Mr. Olympia. This is why I don’t understand his rationale jumping in – especially knowing that Samson Dauda and NIck Walker will be in the mix, not to mention two 212 Mr. Olympias. I think the stakes are very high, maybe too high. Only time will tell if Ramy made the right choice by his career. With regards to the contest, this train wreck as of two weeks ago, is on its way to having one of the best Arnold lineups in 20yrs.
It’s crazy what $100,000 can do.