by Cade Thomas
Foreign tours were a staple of 1990’s bodybuilding. The “Grand Prix” events would take place in various countries across Europe and beyond, usually taking place after a big domestic contest in which most of the main competitors would pack their bags and all endure a grueling schedule of competitions over a several week period. Many classic rumors and stories were spawned from these tours, as the bodybuilders would all travel together and be forced to spend entire days side by side while also trying to hold their peak and still look close to their best.
Those tours vanished for many years. While there was still usually 2-3 contests scattered around the globe post Mr.Olympia, the competitor list would be different and most athletes would pick one of the shows, possibly two.
The list of dates has been growing over the years, and 2014 was the first time it felt somewhat close to the same as what the 90’s guys went through. Several shows have been packed into a few-week period, and most of the athletes are chasing each other around battling for spots and moving up and down in placings. Some guys participated in every show while others would skip one here and there, but the line ups consisted of mostly the same big names in each outing.
Here were the few things that were brought into my mind from the tour.
1. Dexter Jackson is the most consistent top professional of all time.
I have written an article on Dexter where I went over his ridiculous history in the top 5 of IFBB professional shows, and the streak just got extended by another handful. He snagged a win in Dubai, which was his 20th profession win…putting him in a VERY small group of 20+ pro show winners. His conditioning was steady for all shows and he maintained a very similar look while travelling, which only further showed his experience. His IFBB record has to be considered one of the most impressive in the history of the sport.
2. Dennis Wolf has finally figured out his body…a few years too late
The Big Bad Wolf is an overwhelming bodybuilder for a lot of his competitors. He has an inhuman structure and shoulder width that can simply make his competition look small. In 2007, he shocked the world by jumping into the mix as a legit Olympia contender, but unfortunately had issues with his prep for several years where he would show up everywhere from flat to soft and everywhere in between – Sometimes even in the same contest! Since 2013, Wolf has been very consistent and although he still has 1 or 2 different looks (ultra dry but flat, or big and full) they both present his physique in a way worthy of a top spot. If Wolf could have dialed in this peaking strategy right at the top of his momentum after the 2007 Olympia, I honestly believe he could have a few Sandows in his Las Vegas home. Although he has brought up his hamstrings (immensely) and thickened up in areas he used to be criticized for, his body is showing the signs of some wear and tear and imbalances are becoming obvious. He definitely still has a few good years ahead of him, but you can’t help but imagine what he could have accomplished if he avoided the “awkward years”.
3. Shawn Rhoden isn’t just “pretty” anymore, he is big as hell
Rhoden has been known as the “shape” guy since he burst onto the scene, offering a counterpoint to the wider waisted and less genetically gifted competition. Although his structure was always praised, there was always the “but he’s not big enough” part of the conversation (which was certainly justified). Although he still has some thickness to develop in his upper body, namely in his back, Rhoden pulled a bit of a trick on us. While he didn’t transform overnight and shock everyone by showing up much larger, his size almost seemed to fly under the radar until you would look at comparison pictures and notice he is as big as everyone else. Being that he is taller than the two gentlemen who placed ahead of him at the Olympia and is now a 250+ on stage bodybuilder, he can actually overwhelm them in some shots and has definitely leapfrogged the second callout crowd in terms of mass. I think with 10 more lbs or so he will be a legitimate Olympia contender even against Heath at his best…and most impressively, his waist remains as tight as ever.
4. Roelly Winklaar has jumped into true freak status
Roelly has always had impressive arms and body parts. His triceps are that of legend and he has had a dominating most muscular pose for years. Under the guidance of his old trainer “grandma”, he basically showed up flat at 90% of his showings and we really had no idea the kind of potential Winklaar had for size as he must have been dieting it away. Well, that has all changed. At the 2013 Olympia he was probably the most improved athlete, beating people that no one thought he was going to beat and having a WOW factor that he didn’t bring to stage before. It appeared as though following his own guidance paid off, as he dropped Grandma that year…and looked immensely better and bigger. He was widely considered the favorite in the 2014 Arnold Classic until he was injured in a motorcycle accident just shy of the show and had to withdraw. He competed in the Chicago Pro and once again was victorious, but didn’t have time to get back to his form from the Olympia the previous year and had taken a step backward. At the 2014 Olympia, Roelly prepared in the famed Oxygen gyms of Kuwait (breeding ground of IFBB sensation Big Ramy), and he showed up BIG…but his midsection seemed to experience the same amount of growth as the rest of his body. Regardless of how unappealing his 2014 Olympia physique was, it raised the question…What the hell is going on in Kuwait? This was not the same Roelly, he had been mutating. Thankfully, we saw him improve over the course of the entire post Olympia tour as he seemed to remedy his gut issue and also dial in his condition a few % better. The added size without the distracting midsection was surely a sight to see. Although his lines and aesthetics are suffering (never were his strong suit to begin with), Roelly is turning into one of the biggest mass monsters of todays IFBB.