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Wayne’s Hard News: 2008 Arnold Classic Report

Wayne’s Hard News: 2008 Arnold Classic Report

Who says there is no money in professional bodybuilding? Do not try asking Arnold that question as the Mr Olympia cash prize was typically $1000 when he competed. If you want to bring that question up to date then try asking Dexter Jackson or any of the bodybuilders, men and women, who placed at the various pro events at  the Arnold Sports Festival this year. For example DEXTER JACKSON took home $130,000 cash for his first place finish. PHIL HEATH took home a cool $75,000 for second place which is not too bad for the youngest guy in the contest. In 3rd place with $50,000 it was a very happy KAI GREEN with the biggest pay day of his career. 4th place with $30,000 and a magnificent crystal trophy from Joska Kristall for the Most Muscular award went to BRANCH WARREN.  In 5th place with $15,000 it was a very happy SILVIO SAMUEL who was clearly delighted to finish in front of the always popular GUSTAVO BADELL and his $10,000. This was just the prize money for the men not mentioning other trophies and awards they received. Melvin Anthony took home a cool $10,000 for his Most Entertaining Posing Award.  The women also took home cash at a lower level as they were spread over 3 different events compared to the men.

Having got the financial side out of the way, let’s get back to the basics of the Columbus experience namely bodybuilding and fitness. As mentioned above, the whole Arnold Classic weekend is now called the Arnold Classic Sports Festival. This is nothing new, as it has been much more than simply bodybuilding contests. The sheer excitement and the prestige of the event is why I now make the very long journey from Australia to Columbus each year. It is the premier bodybuilding, sports and fitness event in the world. The first Arnold Classic was held back in 1989 making this the 20 year anniversary of the Arnold Classic. It was certainly an historic year in many ways.

The Arnold Sports Festival has more participants than the Olympic Games. It also relies on a huge team of volunteers who keep the event rolling along smoothly. The other important aspect I really love is that the Expo lasts 3 days compared to the Olympia Expo which is still only 2 days. I am so busy with my focus on the shooting of the bodybuilding and Strongman events on the Friday and Saturday that the Sunday is my only full day to focus on the Expo.

The Expo and environs included such events such as strongman, arm wrestling, powerlifting, weightlifting, karate, MMA, boxing and fitness pageants along with less obvious sports including gymnastics, dance sport, cheerleading and archery.  The Prejudging of the women’s bodybuilding, figure and fitness takes place on the main stage at the Expo on the Friday. 

This year the amateur bodybuilding contests were international events opening up competition to the rest of the world. A number of past World Champions were competing along with many other top USA competitors making this one hell of an event! I see a whole new future for this type of international bodybuilding competition and predict it will simply grow bigger and better next year. We are about to start the editing of the separate Men’s and Women’s DVDs from the Arnold Amateur Contest.

On a personal note, I know that we need a much larger camera team from GMV to cover all of the bodybuilding contests and many other contests I feel will be of interest to GMV viewers. Volunteers for next year please send me your CVs! This is the fifth time I have shot video at the Arnold Classic, the other years being 2001, 2002, 2006 and 2007. I am sorry to say that no videos/DVDs were produced by any other company in the inbetween years since the 90s.


The Expo and many of the complimentary events are held every year at the massive Greater Columbus Convention Centre with the Pro bodybuilding primarily held at the Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium in down town Columbus, Ohio. Although shuttles were provided, I found it an easy 15 minutes brisk walk between the 2 main venues.  When the Arnold Classic hits Columbus, it is the major event of the year and is the talk of the town with Arnold’s face on billboards all over the city. This year it was the biggest Sports Festival ever in both events and competitors with approximately 200,000 people descending on this usually quiet city and bringing millions of $s into the local economy.

I arrived in Columbus on Wednesday 27th February so that I could meet with Rob Martin, the technical guy from Live Technologies at the Convention Centre main stage area. This was to fine tune the placement of my camera for the women’s prejudging and the Strongman events, and my cabling requirements to the TV platform (riser) for the main Expo stage where I traditionally shoot. My very special thanks to Rob and also the main man in charge from Live Technologies, Shawn Loevenguth for being so professional and helpful in all that they did to assist me. Live Technologies did a wonderful job providing the camerawork and house feeds to all the big screens. They do this amazing job every year and are some of the unsung heroes of the event who mostly do their job very quietly behind the scenes. They were also responsible for the brilliant stage sets which changed from women’s night on the Friday with its blue chandelier motif to the more macho classical Greek pillar type design of the men’s finals on Saturday.

It was good to catch up with my old friend and GMV sponsor, Kerry Kayes of CNP Professional from UK at his Expo booth. His latest supplements were on display and Kerry is the former long time promoter of the English Grand Prix. Along with Kerry’s products, all the major brands in USA were also represented. The various booths mostly all had eye candy in the form of beautiful, fit, healthy sexy and muscular fitness models or heavy duty bodybuilders. Some booths even had their own competitions on smaller stages such as the Fitness Model event on the Muscular Development stage where we met and interviewed Arina Manta of Australia. She is one of our only 2 IFBB Figure Pros, the other being Rose Ramiro. Arina is currently shooting a DVD with master lensman Bill Dobbins which GMV will be marketing and distributing.

Naturally the big names in men’s bodybuilding were on their sponsor’s booths. Great long lines of fans trailed back from these booths into the crowded aisles making it a most exciting scene with so much energy. You had to be patient to get near these stars to grab a photo or what ever they may have had on offer. Frank Zane had his usual very popular booth and his appeal never diminishes and if anything grows stronger each year. Some of the other stars of the past also had  areas set aside for them such as Sergio Oliva, Ed Corney, and Lou Ferrigno etc. I also spoke to Dennis Wolf and Shawn Ray, with Dennis sitting the Arnold out as he focuses on the Olympia later this year. I hope to see Dennis compete in his first Arnold next year.

On Sunday I spend all day at the Expo with good friend and expert interviewer, Kenny Kassel. Our goal as usual is to interview as many people as possible in the field of bodybuilding and fitness. The day started out with an in-depth interview with David Webster in his hotel room, before we rushed off to find the first of our people Kenny had booked for interviews at the Expo. For those of you who do not know David Webster, he is a world authority on strength and bodybuilding and the author of over 40 books on the subject, plus head judge at the Strongman Competition at the Arnold.
The specific reason for this latest interview was to record David’s stories and recollections of those first ever NABBA Universe events he attended as a judge. They featured such great names as John Grimek, Steve Reeves, Reg Park, Bill Pearl and many more.

I also had a breakfast meeting with Terry & Jan Todd of the Todd-McLean iron game collection fame at the University of Texas in Austin.  It was exciting to hear about their plans for their wonderful new home for the collection at the Stark Centre also incorporating a physical culture museum at the University. After Kenny interviewed Jan Todd at the Expo, we simply kept going all day. Our interviews included such luminaries as new Gladiator stars Hollywood Yates and Valerie “The Green Goddess” Waugaman. For the past 2 years Valerie has been a top competitor in the Arnold Figure International and is one of the most beautiful and striking figure competitors I have ever seen. To see Valerie in the 2007 Arnold Women’s Finals DVD, please click here for GMV-664DVD.

These interviews were mostly done in front of the booth as a small thanks for all the help they gave me and GMV over the Arnold weekend. They were also one of the main sponsors of the whole event, as well as my DVDs, and my thanks to Russ DeLuca and his family and staff. I also shot an hilarious boxing segment in front of Kerry Kayes’ CNP Professional booth where one of his staff talked the world’s most well known fitness model, Timea Majorova into an impromptu boxing lesson. Words cannot easily describe how funny and entertaining this was.

Kenny was at the top of his game as we rolled off interview after interview with many of the stars of the sport. I will make a complete list for the site so that you will know who to look out for! I do recall that we wrapped up just after 4PM with our last interview being with Dayana Cadeau, 2nd place finisher in the Ms International bodybuilding contest. That pretty much covers the Expo. Now to my report on the Pro bodybuilding contests, bearing in mind that the women’s prejudging took part at the Expo on Friday at noon, followed by the first event of the Strongman contest. All other pro bodybuilding took place on the stage of the Veterans’ Memorial.

The Veterans’ Memorial Centre has been associated with top bodybuilding events since 1970 when Arnold won Mr World there. From 1976 to when Frank Zane won his last Mr Olympia in 1979, it was all held on this very historic stage. In 1980 the Olympia was staged in Australia, giving Columbus a well earned rest!

This year’s sell-out show started with Arnold’s heart felt tribute to Reg Park who died on Thanksgiving Day last year. Reg was Arnold's idol, mentor, inspiration and friend and Reg was pivotal in making bodybuilding the sport it is today. The show also included a lifetime achievement award to Ben Weider presented by Arnold.  Another special highlight of the show was the presentation on stage of all the men’s and women’s Arnold Classic bodybuilding champions of the past 20 years as they came and stood beside their cardboard cut-outs. It was great to see the former Arnold winners such as Rich Gaspari, Vince Taylor, Shawn Ray, Mike Francois etc through to modern day champs such as Coleman, Cutler, Martinez and Jackson. Of the past  women’s champs Laura Creavalle obviously wanted to have a posedown with some of the others such as Kim Chizevsky and Iris Kyle, but it did not happen! It was good to see all past winners could make it.

Here are my comments on the top men’s competitors in the order in which they placed. The top 6 was the main focus of course and they finished as follows:
First – Dexter Jackson
Second – Phil Heath
Third – Kai Greene
Fourth – Branch Warren
Fifth – Silvio Samuel
Sixth – Gustavo Badell

1st Place.

Dexter Jackson made it a 3rd Arnold title for The Blade, now joining Jay Cutler on 3 victories. I can see Dexter making it 4 titles next year, barring injuries or other unforeseen circumstances. It is very simple to explain how Dexter Jackson was first and Phil Heath had to settle for second place. Muscle maturity. Both men were fantastic with Dexter displaying a harder degree of muscularity. The Blade cuts deep and is very hard to beat with what I feel is the most pleasing and complete physique in world bodybuilding today. He looked sharper than anyone else.

2nd Place.

Phil Heath was only a fraction behind Dexter and was fresh off his win at the Iron Man Pro. I will say one thing for Phil, he does have the superior calves compared to Dexter and a posing routine that was second to none, barring Melvin of course. Phil is full and symmetrical and greatness awaits him at the highest level in Las Vegas. It is just a matter of time. Same for victory at the Arnold in the very near future. Phil has the complete package, is heavily muscled and not lacking in confidence. 

3rd Place.

Kai Greene was a surprise to me as I had no idea he had improved so much since he was virtually unplaced at the Iron Man several years ago. He is a man on the rise and has an interesting package of size, definition, reasonable symmetry and an entertaining posing routine.  I felt he should have got into his posing routine much more quickly at the finals instead of prancing around the stage like a panther and then running out of time. I doubt he will make that mistake again. To me his 3rd placing was a small surprise as I had Branch Warren as my choice for 3rd.

 4th Place.

Branch Warren looked fantastic like he was carved out of granite. He was much improved over the last year or so. Not surprisingly he was one of the crowd's favourites.  His upper body was nicely improved from last year, his legs are better than the Tom Platz legs at their peak and he has a dangerous air of raw aggression about him. He thoroughly deserved his Most Muscular Award which I felt in a way was as a form of consolation prize for not being placed higher.

5th Place.
Silvio Samuel has a unique physique and a very special look. The judges either go for his look 100% or they don’t. I felt they were split in half in this regard and that is why he placed a very credible 5th. Many I spoke to had him placed a little higher based on the sheer quality and condition of his physique. He does need more chest thickness but makes up for this everywhere else. He had the best abs in the competition.

6th Place.
Gustavo Badell had to settle for 6th this time which was certainly no disgrace.  Gustavo has excellent thickness, great muscle maturity and is a true monster. Maybe at times his side-on profile lets him down a little, but all round he presented a very good package and had a wonderfully entertaining posing routine reprising all the past Mr Olympia winners in their favourite poses.

7th Place.
Toney Freeman did not quite hit his peak on the day. Although he convincingly won the 2007 Iron Man Pro and the 2007 Sacramento Pro, he has not been able to recapture that winning condition.  He is tall with a very big physique and that makes it even harder to hold perfect symmetry and superb condition at the same time. He has so much he has to work with! When he gets it all together he is nearly unbeatable. Toney had a most pleasing posing routine and is a crowd favourite. Both he and Melvin looked much sharper at the Aussie Pro Grand Prix in Australia one week later. Please click here for details.

8th Place.
I  was surprised when Melvin Anthony was not called out till the 4th group. When he tensed hard he looked big and impressive. However when standing semi relaxed he lacked the hardness and condition to place higher on the day. This did not detract from his stage presence or magnificent posing routine. He was a worthy winner of the Most Entertaining Posing Routine award.

At the end of the show Arnold conducted a most amusing and entertaining interview with Dexter. All in all it was the best Arnold Classic I have ever attended.

Arnold Classic Complete Results:

1. Dexter Jackson
2. Phil Heath
3. Kai Greene
4. Branch Warren
5. Silvio Samuel
6. Gustavo Badell
7. Toney Freeman
8. Melvin Anthony
9. Johnnie Jackson
10. Desmond Miller
11. Moe Elmoussawi
12. David Henry
13. Ronny Rockel
14. Deshaun Grimez
15. Adorthus Cherry

For all of the details on our 2008 Arnold Classic 2 disc set, please click here for GMV-692DVD.
For all of the details and results on the women’s DVDs from the 2008 Arnold, please click here for GMV-695DVDSP.

For the complete Arnold Results – Men and Women, please click here.

In my next Hard News, Part 2 of this report will cover the Women’s Events and the Strongman Contest.

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