by Christian Duque
If you’ve been on the message boards as of late, then you’re well aware of rumors of a possible Kai Greene comeback in 2024. In fact, similar rumors have been surfacing of a Phil Heath comeback. The sport of bodybuilding finds itself in a very interesting situation. With Big Ramy officially out of the Olympia and the two still-active Mr. O’s on the Olympia stage in reigning champion Hadi Choopan and 2019 champion Brandon Curry are both more or less are out of the handicappers‘ predictions to win the 2024 Sandow. It’s created a sort of vacuum that the sport really hasn’t seen in recent memory.
Fans are looking at a wide range of competitors who they believe may be able to win the title. These include Derek Lunsford, Nick Walker, and some more distant possiblities like Michael Krizo, Nathan DeAsha, and Hunter Labrada. Even Choopan fans don’t think there’s a high likelihood that The Persian Wolf will win another Sandow. His physique is one that many people find suspicious. This could be because of oddly-shaped muscles and his lack of any real aesthetics. Let’s not forge that Choopan isn’t very tall at all. He got his start in the 212 and just kept adding more and more size onto his frame.
Even though Lunsford’s physique is prettier it’s still basically the same concept. For as wide as these guys are, they’re not getting any taller. It’s for these reasons that both the reigning champ and last year’s runner-up aren’t that much fun to watch when they get dwarfed. Then again they’re both without a doubt freaks when they battle on stage. The fact of the matter is that when they go head to head there isn’t a fan left in their seat. Then again, it’s not a mere two man show. There’s a lot of top talent but no one who’s a clear cut winner. It’s not like it used to be in the Phil/Kai days. In fact, the sure money is that neither Hadi or Derek will be the Top 2. Just because they finished Top 2 last year by no means means they’ll be the Top 2 this year.
Back in the old days bodybuilding fans were accustomed to see these two battle year after year because it dealt with two guys that were both so good they stumped most fans on the boards. Anytime we’d do side by side comparison of Phil Heath and Kai Greene it was as if the sport split down the middle. Each guy had bodyparts that stood out, both guys had their own unique styles of posing, and each guy had their diehards.
Even to this day if you criticize Phil Heath you can expect his diehards to come clawing at you. They are relentless and believe Heath was robbed. They believe he totally should have won his 8th and possibly 9th Sandow. There’s Heath fans in faraway places that believe he was GOAT. While many in my generation give that distinction to Ronnie and folks back in the 80’s and 90’s give it to Haney, many fans from the 2010’s believe it was Phil. That said, I’m not sure how much I agree with that. Phil always had small clavicles and towards the end of his run was exhibiting an unsightly bubble gut. I mean who can forget the abuse he took from then YouTube sensation Luimarco?
Then of course there was abuse Kai took. People just weren’t ready for the stage masks, the bondage gear, and the grapefruits. They didn’t know what to make of him. He was an artist that sculpted his ultimate masterpiece with his physique and when he posed, he presented it like no other. He could do handstands, headstands, and he cold do robotics ala the breakdancing culture. This all the while he had the most killer genetics since Flex Wheeler. I mean when you looked at Kai you were left trying to find flaws. And when he turned around – that back – it was just surreal. I mean you’d be hardpressed to find anyone that could hold a candle to it.
And what’s crazy is that Greene has never shed the size or definition that catapulted him to the top of the sport. It’s always been a topic of interest because while he continues to be a sponsored athlete and work fitness expos, there’s just no reason to be that big and that ripped. And he’s never competed again since the last time at the 2016 Arnold Classic. Furthermore, he’s never been injured and looks pretty much the same.
When Phil Heath returned in 2020 and looked absolutely phenomenal, a lot of fans were hoping that Greene would join him. Even when the late great Shawn Rhoden won in 2018, followed by Brandon Curry in 2019, the fans were always hoping Phil would return alongside Kai for one last showdown. The years these guys battled were among the most entertaining. Sure, it cost bodybuilding being on NBC in 2014, but who really cares about that?
Bodybuilding may strive to be on network television again, but no one watching Barbara Walters specials or 60 Minutes is ever going to get it. They wouldn’t watch Phil and Kai battle anyways, but seeing those guys elbow it out and get in each other’s face was priceless. Years later they said it wasn’t as intense as it seemed – but I call BULLSHIT!! Had those guys had the chance, they would have ripped each other to pieces and although that may not fall into the good sportsmanship category, it’s ENTERTAINING!
Bodybuilding today is boring. No one fights anymore. The press conferences showcase a bunch of guys who all smile and get along. There’s no more trash talk, much less posedowns. Everything is very subtle. It’s almost comatose.
Will 2024 be different? Phil and Kai are not old yet, but they’re also not spring chickens, either. Every year that passes makes the chances of this fantasy showdown all the slimmer. Phil has all but said he’ll come back in 2024 and as a past Mr. Olympia he’s automatically qualified. If the Olympia folks want Kai back, they’d have to give him a special invite. All Kai would have to do is show interest. Even the faintest, most remote interest would have Dan speed-dialing him.
All we can do is hope. I’d say that the buzz on the boards is a good sign, but it happens every year. Every single year around this time. As the Olympia nears, fans wish the The Predator would return.