by Christian Duque
It seems that Nick “The Mutant” Walker is upset with the judges over their decision to give Samson Dauda a perfect score at the 2023 Arnold Classic. And it wasn’t just a perfect score at the prejudging, rather, Dauda got perfect scores for the prejudging and the finals.
The 2022 Arnold Classic champion was miffed by the fact that he took 2nd, thinking all the while he was going to win his second title in Columbus, OH. It’s a fact that everyone in the industry thought he looked better at the second biggest bodybuilding contest in the world from his impressive 3rd place at the 2022 Mr. Olympia. He came in excellent condition while holding onto his signature size. Nick had a tight midsection and posed very hard. He gave the judges exactly what they were looking for, he entertained the audience, and he was of the right mindset.
Him and coach Matt Jansen hit the ground running. They did a stellar job at the Olympia and they continued on with this showing just a couple weeks ago. That said, Nick didn’t lose the contest, he took runner-up. That’s a huge distinction. Out of ten guys, only one guy bested him, but Walker seems to vehemently disagree with that assessment. Other media outlets seem to agree, but at the end of the day it’s not the voices from the peanut gallery that decide bodybuilding shows. The judges and only the judges make that call and when the judges rule unanimously, that tends to speak pretty loudly. Samson didn’t edge out Walker. He beat him soundly if you go by what the scorecards say.
In The Mutant and The Mouth, Walker and Cisternino spoke to the point of fullness. Walker opted to come in shredded for a contest that’s widely known as one that prefers aesthetics and symmetry over sheer size and freak factor. This is why Nick opted to come in peeled rather than say as big as possible. While critics might say that was a mistake and even Walker himself went on record as suggesting he’ll never make the mistake of not coming in full in the future, I think he’s missing the point.
This decision wasn’t a green light for him to get as big as possible. I don’t think that’s what’s at play here, not at all. I think Walker getting 2nd place in this kind of lineup was a pat on the back for his efforts. Had he not come in peeled, I think Andrew Jacked would have edged him out. In fact, a great many people (myself included) had Jacked ahead of him. How are the judges going to reward the symmetry and balance of Dauda, but then not apply that love to Andrew? The way how is because of the fact that Nick’s condition was that much on point. That said, no matter how conditioned Nick was, it may have been enough to keep Jacked at bay, it wasn’t enough to push him over Dauda.
Samson brought size, symmetry, and condition to the stage and no one knew it better than him. This is why he hit the stage with tremendous self-confidence. Whereas Nick may have thought he had an edge because he was the highest placing competitor from the 2022 Olympia on the 2023 Arnold stage, I can assure you that that was probably the farthest thing from the judges’ minds. This isn’t some trivial European grand prix show post-Olympia like those held in the 1990’s.
In one of those contests Markus Ruhl looked better than Jay and Ronnie, yet he took 3rd. Why? Because those were post-Olympia tours intended to make the fans happy. There was no way in hell Markus Ruhl was going to defeat a guy who just won the Olympia or a guy who took 2nd in the Superbowl of Bodybuilding. And that being said, the top guys didn’t even prepare for those shows, which might explain why the one I recall, they both got their asses handed to them but the Olympia pecking order wasn’t disturbed.
If Nick Walker went into the second biggest bodybuilding show in the world thinking he was going to be treated any differently than any other guy on that stage, he should consider himself lucky he didn’t place lower.
And although Nick and Shaun are good friends, I highly suspect that Nick didn’t look at Clarida as real competition for the Arnold title. And Shaun nearly beat Ramy!!
Speaking of Ramy, I don’t think Nick saw him as a real challenge, either. I think Nick would only have seen Derek or Hadi – had they done the contest – as real competition. This is the danger of doing well at the Olympia and then trying your luck anywhere else. I’m by no means saying Nick slacked, but he shouldn’t be that shocked that a guy who was Top 6 at last year’s Olympia beat him at the Arnold a couple months later.
And yes, maybe Dauda didn’t beat him at the finals, but this is still bodybuilding. And in bodybuilding whoever (usually) wins the prejudging, wins the show. This is something that diehard Walker fans like Nick Trigili know but maybe aren’t so willing to concede with this particular decision. I can relate to that. I mean, I’m also of the opinion that this was the best Nick Walker to date, but it just wasn’t good enough to beat Samson. The judges were 100% on the money when it came to their scoring of the prejudging and as Greg Doucette puts it, unless Dauda had really dropped the ball at the finals, then the judges had no reason to change their scores for the night show. Was Sampson perfect at the finals? No, but he was perfect for the part of the contest that really matters.
Even though Walker looked as impressive as he did, I’ll reiterate my earlier position, in that I think Andrew Jacked had him beat. Imagine what the placings would have looked like in that situation. Imagine if it had been Dauda, Jacked, Walker, Ramy, Clarida, Williams – or – if it was Dauda, Jacked, Clarida, Walker, Ramy and Williams. The fact is Clarida is hell of a lot more aesthetic (albeit smaller) than Ramy and Walker.
The take home message here is that there are things we can control and there are things that we cannot. I know that’s not something some people want to hear, but there are folks who have limitations. Nick Walker is never going to look as aesthetic as Samson Dauda. That’s not something he can change in the gym and that’s not something food or drugs can correct, either. This is why Nick doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel or pack on a ton of weight. Coming in fuller and/or bigger would not have changed the outcome. And if the judges were only looking for aesthetics then Jacked would have placed higher too. Sometimes the judges don’t care as much about aesthetics as they do mass. This is why there were years that guys with artistic looking physiques lost to guys with the proportions of a refrigerator. Nick has a lot better shape than some past Mr. O’s, but in a situation like that which unfolded in Columbus in 2023, he found himself where he found himself. That’s not to say that if he doesn’t improve more from his 2023 look that he couldn’t move up a placing or two at the 2023 Olympia. If that’s the case, he might have a Sandow on his mantle come next Thanksgiving.
It’s normal for Nick to be upset and wish he’d won, but he also has a lot to be proud of and that’s very important. You’re on the right track Nick. Be happy for Sampson, don’t burn any bridges, and enjoy a couple of weeks of downtime. Then get back to business; get on your 2023 Olympia prep. You have A LOT to be proud of!! Top 3 at the Olympia and Top 2 at the Arnold. Don’t cry over spilt milk, market yourself as a force to be reckoned with in Orlando, FL in 2023!