by Christian Duque
The invite lists are out for the 2023 Masters Olympia to be held in Romania later this year and fans will be delighted to see some athletes on stage that they haven’t seen in years. I will admit that while I was skeptical of the invite process, the promoters got it right by selecting a number of fantastic competitors. These guys and gals all have tremendous heart and will put on a great competition for fans all around the world. That said, the open bodybuilding division which I’m sure is most people looked at first doesn’t have any big names.
What I mean by that is that there aren’t any major comebacks as so many onlookers – myself included – were expecting. We don’t see Jay Cutler, Dexter Jackson, or Victor Martinez. The main reason is probably because the money wasn’t big enough. Just days ago the G.O.A.T. of The 212 made comments very similar to those of Phil Heath and Jay Cutler. He said the money had to be right and that he would come back if it made sense. I’m paraphrasing not directly quoting, but that was the gist of what he said.
And much like with Cutler and Heath, Flex Lewis isn’t going to get $250k, $500k, or much less a cool million to compete. In fact, he wasn’t even able to get a second special invite even after he basically said he would accept it in no uncertain terms last year. That invite would go to Derek Lunsford who placed runner-up at the 2022 Mr. Olympia to The Persian Wolf, Hadi Choopan. Still, the idea of The Welsh Dragon competing either in the open or 212 2023 Masters Olympia would have been enough to make the contest run parallel to the open competitions to be held in November in Orlando, FL. There’s still a slim chance we might see some big names though, but how?
The Masters Olympia like any other Olympia division should have the ability to extend special invites. I would think this would especially apply since very much like the Arnold Classic this event is an invitational; therefore, why not invite an extra couple competitors – if anything to give the fans what they want? The promoters make the rules and they can do whatever they want. But who could they give a special invite to that will be in Romania, will be in contest shape, and would totally blow the fans’ minds?
The mystery addition would be Jay Cutler. Although the 4x Mr. Olympia has officially announced he will not be doing the contest and is doing the Fit For 50 challenge only for himself, I’m still a little reluctant to take his word for it.
I have never known Jay to be dodgy or to play games with the fans, but I’ve also not seen him in this kind of shape in years and I think it’s very interesting he’ll be in Romania at the exact same time as the show. Being in Romania isn’t like just happening to be in New Jersey or Florida at the same time a show is happening. Now he will be a part of the show’s events and may be doing things on stage, play by plays, or other ambassadorial gestures, but I’m still going to be wondering what-if until the contest concludes. Unlike Flex Lewis, Phil Heath, or other guys who could’ve been huge additions to the roster, Jay’s presence is enough for me to speculate as to whether he might do the show at the 11th hour. That said, he most likely won’t do it, and we’ll probably see a battle among the guys that actually appear on the invite list.
Let me say it once again – I’m not a super big fan of accepting applications and inviting from that pool. We still don’t know how the $220k is going to get divided up across the Top 5 of ten divisions, either. You’d think that’s something that would be common knowledge by now, but I’m a fitness industry journalist and I still don’t have the faintest idea. Maybe it is out there – somewhere – but I haven’t come across it.
Those numbers will be interesting when it comes to how much each competitor will get and what exactly is on the table. I’m also curious if the contest will be covering any expenses for the competitors it selected. A trip to Romania, including air, hotel, and food can get very expensive and fast!! Let’s also not forget that most contests of this magnitude call for competitors to arrive at least 1-2 days early in order to check-in, attend athlete meetings, and/or compete over 1-2 days. During this time competitors need to eat and contest-friendly meals are usually off-the-menu and cost even more money. I’d be curious as to what the Masters Olympia is covering.
With regards to the actual competitors per division, I’m happy to say that I recognize many of the names, but I’m also a fitness industry journalist. There’s also a pretty big number of competitors in each division that I’ve never heard of. I’m not entirely sure if that’s a good thing. It could mean that they’re giving international athletes a shot and by doing so they’re creating a good amount of diversity in the contest.
Oftentimes, bodybuilding shows are dominated by U.S. and western Europeans. I see a lot of names from different parts of the world. This is great for the fans and great for the athletes. That said, there aren’t any really big names that jump out. There’s a few well-known competitors in each division, but with all due respect, I don’t see any names that are going to bring about huge ticket or pay per view sales. I’m curious what the contest posters will look like and how much marketing will go into promoting the various divisions. The best division of all seems to be The 212, but open bodybuilding will likely be the best paid.
The fact that the Masters Olympia is held apart from the Olympia Weekend in Orlando, FL, is going to downgrade its reach considerably. They could have also put it elsewhere in the U.S. or more frequently visited European cities. I get that Wings Of Strength has strong ties to Romania, but I’d imagine that flights will be few and far between. This show will depend on pay per view sales to really pay the bills and this is why I think having invested in some bigger names to compete would have been the way to go. And while Jay Cutler, Phil Heath, and Flex Lewis all said they’d entertain comebacks for the right price, bodybuilding isn’t a sport that’s structured in such a way that promoters can or would pay athletes just to compete.
I’m very curious to see what the prize money split will be, how well the show will do in sales, and what the athletes do throughout social media in preparation for the show. If we get a surplus of high quality content from the various men and women doing the competition, then maybe we might see some really good buzz for it. I’d also be curious to see how much attention big fitness channels and websites give to the Masters Olympia. This, too, will determine how much interest is generated. The next few months will be very interesting for sure. How do you think the contest will go? Are you going? Do you have any competitors you’re rooting for?
I look forward to reading your feedback in the comments. Be sure to copy and paste a link to this article on your various social media feeds. It’s sure to generate some great conversations!