Will The Arnold Be #1?


by Christian Duque

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the promoter of the contest that bears his name, has decided that he no longer is content having the second most prestigious event in bodybuilding. While he may not be able to change the fact that the Mr. Olympia is the “superbowl of bodybuilding” or the fact that the winner of that contest is the #1 competitor in each respective division, he can have a direct say in which is the highest paying show in the sport.

He can also ensure that there are far more eyes on his show than on the allegedly biggest show in the world. But how can he accomplish this feat and why hasn’t he until now? Also, what significance did the near-canceled Arnold of 2023 have on 2024, 2025, and the future of the Arnold Classic? Let’s talk about it! You’re in for quite an article. In fact, this article talks about Arnold going head to head with Olympia promoter Jake Wood. It’s not going to be contentious because there’s no bad blood here. It’s just going to come down to business and which promoter can present the better contest for athletes, vendors, and the fans.

For many years I thought Arnold did not try to make his show the biggest show in the sport simply because of the fact he wanted to keep harmony with the federation. That was always my thinking because of the fact that every sanctioned contest with the IFBB Pro League markets itself as the only road to the Mr. Olympia. The Mr. Olympia has always been the Super Bowl of Bodybuilding because only there can a competitor who wins truly say they are the best in the world. That history goes back 60 years and has never been challenged by any other competition in the sport so of course I figured that that was the reason that Arnold always kept his competition second best. It never dawned on me, however, that the real reason that he was doing that was because of deference to the master blaster, Joe Weider. That’s really the only reason that The Oak has kept his competition second best in terms of prestige, prize money, and even in terms of what time during the year the competition is held. And honestly, I don’t think anyone, especially from the federation wanted to speak on this topic either because it has certainly been a good thing all of these years. As the old saying goes if it’s not broke, why fix it?

That being said, when Arnold explained why he has always kept his show slightly smaller than the Olympia after this past contest in Columbus, Ohio it made a lot of sense to me and countless others. The reason why he has kept his show as second-best is simply because he made a promise to Joe and Ben. It’s a promise that he kept many years after their passing, but which now it seems he does not want to honor anymore. And in reality, he is one of the only promoters, if in fact, may be the only promoter that I’m aware of that can change prize money and change the entire scope of his contest, without any fear from a phone call from Pittsburgh.

Not only would they never dare try to rein him in, but even if they did, this is a guy that already has shows with the rival federation. And those shows are hugely successful. He doesn’t need either federation, rather, they both need him. No one knows that better than Arnold Schwarzenegger himself.

I mean, when you stop to think about it, Arnold is a guy that won the Olympia seven times, he has been the governor of one of the most important states in the country, he is a superstar, actor and celebrity. Why on Earth would he content himself with being second best anything? Now it makes sense.

But now that his promise to Joe and Ben seems to be a moot point I can see him totally bulldozing through the Olympia and making the Arnold the most important show in Bodybuilding. And this has the potential to throw a colossal monkey wrench into the whole affair. What is Jake going to do, compete with Arnold? He may have to because if he doesn’t, I don’t care how prestigious the Sandow is – money talks and bullshit walks. In the end, the athletes are going to look at that $500,000 purse and they’re going to look at what the Olympia’s offering. If the Arnold is offering substantially more, plus covering expenses, plus has more eyes on it, I can only imagine which contest they are going to decide to compete in.

But why would the Arnold Classic have more eyes on it than the Mr. Olympia? Here’s the thing the Olympia offers a fantastic webcast, but so does the Arnold. Both competitions offer an online way to watch their shows that has great commentators, top-of-the-line production value, and the ability for fans to feel like they are at the show, even though they are watching from their computers, half way around the world. But here’s the kicker. The Olympia charges nearly $80 whereas the Arnold Classic charges no dollars. The Arnold classic webcast is totally free and knocked it out of the park.

So as a vendor or sponsor it’s got to make you think where are they going to want to invest more, in the show watched by a handful of people willing to spend $80 a pop – or by the entire world watching for free? At the end of the day, it’s about eyes on the show and eyes on the sponsors and products. If I was an advertiser, I would much rather advertise on a platform, watched by 200,000 as opposed to one watched by a few hundred.

And again, maybe there are thousands of people watching the Olympia at $80 a pop but in 2024 I just don’t see it. I would be shocked if they sold anything more than $500 80 a pop cyber passes. People just don’t have that kind of money now. Gas is through the roof, interest rates are through the roof, and people are making less today than ever before. You can make more money working at Walmart or at a gas station than you can in an office. People just don’t have $80 to spend on watching a bodybuilding show on their computer or on their tablet. Therefore it only makes sense to me from a business standpoint to advertise on a platform that’s going to get a lot more eyes and a lot more attention than one that only a very small amount of people can afford.

I guess only time will tell where the sponsors go, where the athletes compete, and what show the fans tune into most to know for sure. What say you? Will Arnold succeed? And if he doesn’t, what do you think his failure will be attributed to? Do you think the Olympia will step up their game and really fight hard to be number one? Because they have never really had to fight for that distinction over the course of the last 60 years. It has basically been there for the taking but now Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to be number one. Who will it be?