by Geoff Roberts
The 2015 Mr. Olympia competition, the 51st of its kind, has now come and gone. This year’s show has already been met with much scrutiny, and for good reason. The description that resonates the loudest in regards to the 2015 Mr. Olympia, via the accumulation of several different happenings, is simply, anticlimactic. Unfortunately, this year was a sort of “perfect storm” caused by many factors coming to head on the same night in Las Vegas. Generally speaking, the reason that a given bodybuilding show is thought of as “bad” is simply a reflection of the lineup being weak or the athletes in the lineup not showing up at their best. In the case of the 2015 Mr. Olympia, both of these negative connotations were a reality, but for unique reasons.
This year’s lineup was certainly weak, there is no debating that. In regards to the main factors contributing to the lineup being weak, there is one giant, red-hoody-wearing elephant in the room. Speculation of why Kai Greene never made it to the stage will not be seen here, as it really does not matter at this point. All that matters is bodybuilding’s own MTV-reality-drama-star himself, AKA Mr. Getting It Done, got absolutely nothing done on the Olympia stage, causing the overall quality of the show to suffer significantly. While watching the Olympia unfold this year, it became glaringly obvious that Kai may very well have won the show had he actually competed. In which case this year would have been one of the most memorable Olympias in recent history as opposed to the most likely to put you to sleep.
Kai Greene was not the only top competitor to not appear onstage this year. Cedric McMillan and Justin Compton both missed out (for very different reasons) on all but certain top seven finishes assuming they came in looking proper. Cedric apparently became ill in the hours leading up to the show, preventing him from getting onstage, while Compton simply chose to take the year off and make improvements for next year’s Arnold Classic. Cedric McMillan being absent from our largest, most prestigious competition is just plain bad. Simple as that. Cedric is a crowd favorite and is one of the few top Olympians with a look that might garner some much needed mainstream appeal. Justin would have made the show much more exciting for two reasons. Number one, he is still a young up and comer, making him fun to watch, and two, had he fixed the bloating issues we saw from him at the Arnold, which is a distinct possibility, he would have been right in the mix.
Now we come to the all too common show-quality zapper, competitors being off their mark. Most would agree that the two most exciting “what ifs” coming into this year’s show were Big Ramy and Shawn Rhoden. Ramy, not surprisingly, was not in shape. Ramy improved from his last showing, but was still a good 20 pounds heavier than he needed to be in order to threaten Phil. Rumor has it that Ramy will be once again teaming up with Chris Aceto. Chris may be Ramy’s last hope. If he fails to get into real contest condition yet again while working with Aceto, you can stick a fork in the possibility of him ever showing us true conditioning and dominating the sport like he should.
Shawn Rhoden was arguably the most disappointing competitor in the entire show. Not because he was out of shape, flat, or was judged unfair, but because his horrendous presentation prevented his extraordinary new gains from being properly put to use. Shawn strutted around the stage like he did not even want to be there, and what’s worse, he seemed to have absolutely zero control of any kind over his midsection. Shawn has the smallest waist onstage, no question. However, in this lineup, he could not afford to be distended during transitions, and even on several poses like the side tricep, a shot that he should win handily. Shawn Rhoden had the best physique on that stage. By not controlling his midsection, Shawn essentially handed 150k to Dexter Jackson and the Sandow directly to Phil Heath. If you were to eliminate his lower abdomen distention and keep everything else about his physique exactly the same, Shawn Rhoden would probably be Mr. Olympia right now.
Speaking of competitors acting as if they do not want to be there, this pandemic spread far beyond Shawn for some mysterious reason. Most of the guys just stood up there relaxed with their hands on their hips, showing zero emotion or passion of any kind when they were not actually hitting a pose. Even when the guys were hitting a pose, very few of them chose to hold their poses for any significant amount of time. Phil did show some fire at prejudging, but it was one of the worst versions of his physique we have ever seen, so it was still underwhelming. We went from the best press conference in Olympia history in 2014 coupled with pushing, shoving and high emotions on stage, right back to a boring press conference this year coupled with zero emotion at all onstage. Looking back, this stark contrast between 2014 to 2015 probably made this year’s show seem even worse than it actually was.
Luckily for bodybuilding fans, the giant balloon of negativity that engulfed Vegas Friday and Saturday night was sliced open and partially deflated by The Blade. Therein lies the Olympias one silver lining. This silver lining came in the form of 45 year old Dexter Jackson. Dexter did not contribute to any of the Olympia-degrading factors that have been laid out above. Dexter was arguably his best ever and displayed a high level of charisma onstage. Not only were both his physique and demeanor top notch, but seeing a 45 year old man bring a physique like that to the stage was truly something to behold. As Dexter stood there with Phil, about to potentially win bodybuilding’s greatest crown at 45, it was reminiscent of those magical moments that appear in every good sport-based Hollywood movie. Phil Heath won the Sandow for the fifth time in a row, but make no mistake, 2015 was the year of The Blade.