by Christian Duuqe
There seems to be an Olympia TV special covering the 2023 Texas Pro where The Sultan of Symmetry Flex Wheeler spoke on the importance of the mind muscle connection, Texas Pro champion Andrew Jacked, and how he hit certain poses. To be fair, Wheeler also had critiques of runner-up Hunter Labrada; however, Jacked seems to have taken exception by stating on his social media that he would only be listening to the judges’ feedback moving forward. In other words, he’s probably not too concerned with what people in the peanut gallery have to say. That’s no knock on Olympia TV or any other media outlet, including Iron Magazine, but it’s not an interesting commentary and it’s an interesting reaction. So let’s talk about it!
Contest coverage is a very difficult endeavor especially if you’re not backstage or interviewing athletes and/or coaches. To do the type of program where you’re breaking down a competition as it happens can be both challenging and daunting at the same time. You have got to make a subjective sport interesting from a fan’s perspective to watch an entire livecast within a program. While it may be fun and exciting to do football commentary or basketball commentary, it takes a special type of individual to be able to do it in Bodybuilding. It is not a sport where baskets are made or field goals are kicked. No one is shattering a background with a dunk or getting teeth knocked out on the ice. It’s what some derogatorily call a modeling show. I mean we’d argue that it’s a stage for the freakiest of the freakiest to battle, but to an outsider it just might be a bunch of oiled-up guys posing for a panel of mostly old dudes. I mean that doesn’t exactly spell blockbuster entertainment.
This is why making what might otherwise be a snoozefest into the kind of programming you don’t want to leave your couch for, a pretty tall task. Most commentators lack the insights and the perspectives to muster talking points during a bodybuilding show. That’s what it’s all about. It’s a sport where the commentator needs to break down each individual competitor while delving into the past and fusing the dialogue into a storyline that keeps the viewers engaged. It’s a lot easier said than done.
This is why very few guys ever make the transition from competing to media. We’ve seen Phil Heath try his hand with some success, but once he checked it off his bucket list, I haven’t seen him do it again. If you’re good, the money can be quite alluring. The problem is, most guys aren’t good at it and those who are able to play ball, usually don’t come back. When you commentate a show on Pay Per View or a livestream, you really earn your money. You may not get up and move around, but you’re constantly talking, constantly coming up with new and interesting ways to make people laugh, make people think, and hopefully get people to hang around. Retention is key and the best commentators create their own buzz, which in turn, helps with sales. This is after all a business. Most contests nowadays don’t make enough money at the door and need the PPV income stream to make a profit.
Take the 2023 Masters Mr. Olympia. There you had ten divisions of top level masters-level competitors. That’s a lot of significant others, family, friends, co-workers, fellow gym-members and fans. There were TONS of people who wanted to show support and who would’ve gladly taken a Saturday off from work and family to buy a ticket and cheer on their favorite physique-based athletes. That said, it’s one thing to drive down to the local high school auditorium or theater and it’s quite another to catch a flight to Romania. Very few people can do that, but they’d gladly buy the Pay Per View or livestream. Whether they actually enjoyed the 99% of the contest that didn’t involve watching their buddy is all on the commentator. That’s a pretty big weight on the shoulders of the people doing the play by play.
Flex Wheeler – the Sultan of Symmetry – like “Sugar” Shawn Ray, Fouad Abiad, and a shortlist of others have answered the call. They commentate in such a way that people are left wanting more. They know what’s trending, they know about the rivalries, the feuds and then some! They pepper their commentary with all sorts of things that elicit a response from the viewers.
When Flex talked about Andrew’s posing and the mind/muscle connection, he wasn’t trashing the guy. He did it to Hunter Labrada as well. It was simply a critique and done so for what I can only imagine was to fill space and be constructive. I mean there’s only so much you can hate on the winner of a contest. That said, when Jacked said the only people whose opinion he cared about were the judges’ (in so many words), many took this to be shots fired back at Wheeler. I don’t think Flex took shots and I don’t think Andrew fired back, either.
And while it is true that Jacked worked with Wheeler at one point, the fact they no longer work together wouldn’t create the animus in Wheeler to be anything but professional with Jacked – especially on Olympia TV!! So many people were looking back in time when Wheeler and Keone Pearson split up. And even there, there wasn’t a feud.
Coaches and clients just stop working together. It happens. It’s usually not personal. It’s just business and it’s a part of the sport we all know and love. Good coaches will always have work and good competitors need to think about themselves first. This is the nature of the beast. Either go with the flow or you just won’t make it.
That said, bodybuilding fans thrive on feuds and love to argue. I think many fans love arguing as much as they like following the actual sport. It just is what it is, but with regards to Flex and Andrew, there’s no feud here folks. Sorry to disappoint, but one thing we don’t do here at Iron Magazine is write false narratives. We get the hits because our articles are cutting edge and we have a loyal readership. If there was any semblance of truth to this feud, believe you me, I’d put the spotlight on it. But being a good writer isn’t just about breaking stories, it’s about having the integrity to say when something is just hot air. And this “feud” that some channels are looking to exploit, falls into the category of fake news and pure clickbait. Don’t fall for it, folks.
Huge congrats to Andrew on winning a tough show, and congrats to Flex and the entire Olympia TV cast for keeping us fans entertained the whole way through!