by Christian Duque
The world of bodybuilding has always had guys that have been dubbed bad boys. These incorrigible characters push everyone’s buttons and seemingly can’t stay out of trouble. Many times they’re written off as troublemakers, but sometimes there’s a method to their madness. Every once in a while these rebels actually have a cause, but most times it would seem they’re more addicted to causing trouble than anything else.
Some like the attention, while others really could give a fuck if they’re well-liked or totally hated. They’re not making waves because they want a pat on the back or a round of applause. Many just have no filter. If they see something objectionable they’re not going to stay quiet. What would be the point? Being polite isn’t exactly something they strive for. There’s enough do-gooders and followers to go around. If people want to say yes all the time, then good for them, but the people this article is about don’t have any issues with being the odd men (or women out). Sometimes their brand of transparency brings them good fortune and other times it might be a recipe for their own demise.
I’ve seen guys get suspended, lose contracts, and/or get banned from competition. Those who want to save themselves will sell out and make nice. They’ll do whatever it takes to soften the blow of their punishment. And while that might be the smart thing to do, those guys won’t be discussed in this article. The people I’m speaking of here are the ones who will go down in a hail of (figurative) bullets. If the ship is sinking they’re not the ones looking for the life preserver. They’ll go down with the ship because the ship represents who they are.
Perhaps the first bad boy of bodybuilding would be The Myth Sergio Oliva. Sergio competed throughout the 60’s, 70’s, and even into the 80’s. His prime years were the late 60’s and early 70’s. He was so good he kept Arnold at bay. The greatest bodybuilder of all time couldn’t take out the Cuban-born Mr. Olympia until the judges and bigwigs somewhat soured on Oliva. This isn’t to say that Anrold wouldn’t have won in time, but when Sergio was on, The Oak had to content himself with being runner-up. Over time, however, even champions need to show restraint. Some got the memo, while others do not.
When Joe Weider became enchanted with Schwarzenegger and it became clear that the writing was on the wall, Oliva didn’t change a thing. In his mind, he was simply better, but when he lost the title, he spoke out. The smarter thing would have been to have accepted the new pecking order while still making a fantastic living. 99% of the guys then did just that. Sergio decided he would speak out. But he went further than that. He basically trashed the judges, trashed the federation, and maybe was the first to allege the unsavory role of politics in bodybuilding. This earned him a blackballing of sorts. After it became clear he would never be #1 in the IFBB again, he started competing in different federations. And while competing there, he’d earn their top titles. I don’t know that The Myth ever returned to the good graces of the powers that be.
Another bad boy just a few years later was Robby Robinson. The Black Prince took second to Frank Zane during a couple very close calls. While Zane held the Olympia for three years, Robinson battled him hard for two out of three titles. His third try didn’t get to happen as he was ousted by Mike Mentzer. This fact created some controversy but nothing like the 1980 and 1981 Olympias. Although Robinson didn’t actually say much to get him in hot water, it was the more the potential of him making waves that got him looked at closely. When that happens, it’s almost akin to a little dark cloud following you wherever you go overhead.
Going into the 80’s the bad boys of the sport really hit the surface and no one did a better job of playing the role than the late great Mighty Mike Quinn. Hailing from the mean streets of Brockton, MA, Mike was courted by the magazines and whenever he was featured, publications sold out. They loved marketing him as the person non grata of the sport. The only wrinkle was that a person that’s non grata isn’t wanted and the media couldn’t get enough of The Mighty Quinn.
This was an example of bad press getting him guest posing gigs, covers, and big contracts left and right. If Mike had toned down his rhetoric and not acted like he was possessed, then he would have lost the buzz, and he would’ve lost money. There’s a reason why when Vince McMahon started the WBF that they had to have Mighty Mike Quinn. He hadn’t won the Olympia or the first couple Arnold Classics, but he was known for being a loose canon and a fan favorite. And if you know anything about how scripted wrestling is, then it made all the sense in the world for the new bodybuilding organization which sought to entertain the people wanting a guy like this. Did Mike’s madness stand for something? Maybe not, but it sure made him rich and famous.
A guy like Lee Priest in the 90’s and 2000’s could be argued was a rebel with a cause. The 90’s had it’s fair share of troublemakers and badboys in Craig Titus and King Kamali, but they fit more in the category of Mighty Mike Quinn. They weren’t like a Lee Priest or Shawn Ray who were trying to unionize the bodybuilders or get higher contest prizes. I also wouldn’t call Shawn Ray or Bob Cicherillo bad boys, but maybe troublemakers, if you were talking to the powers that be at the time. It would have been much more acceptable had they enjoyed being in the money and let things be, but that didn’t make them bad boys, either.
Priest on the other hand went far beyond Ray or Chick. He was trying to change things for the better, but he also liked to stir the pot. Did it get him more work like with Mighty Mike Quinn? That’s debatable with Priest, but it basically cost him a pro career. And unlike Quinn, Priest placed as high as 6th in the world. Could he have won the Olympia? I guess we’ll never know.
Other notables for bad boys in more recent times would include Jeremy Buendia, possibly Kai Greene on some level, but we really haven’t had anyone that falls into the category – whether a media-made bad boy like MIghty Mike Quinn or some of the homemade types like Craig Titus, today. We also don’t have a guy like Lee Priest who would be a hybrid type badboy. Do we need one? Not necessarily, but it certainly makes the sport a heck of a lot more interesting. Wouldn’t you agree?