What a testament to fate it is that we’re not calling Nick Walker “Mr O” today. He would be, you know? Hands down, at least that’s what I think.

Based on this year’s lineup that took the stage this past weekend in Orlando, “the Mutant,” who is never out of shape—ever—would be admiring a nice sculpture of Eugene Sandow on his mantle today.

Instead, as fate would have it, we are squabbling over back shots and front shots and side shots and who had the better of each. This somehow results in a calculation that put Derek Lunsford over the top.

In reality, Nick would possibly have destroyed the top three—Lunsford, Hadi Choopan, and Samson Dauda—on all sides, except for maybe Lunsford’s back double, which I’ll admit is pretty unbeatable (especially if he’d turn his head!). Lunsford will own that pose into the foreseeable future.

However, if it not for fate jumping in—in this case a devastating hamstring tear—Nick would be Mr. O today. There’s simply no other side to that, at least from my point of view.

First, enough can’t possibly be said about the wow factor of this year’s offerings. Although I do submit work to the parent company, that in no way biases my opinion of what an amazing spectacle it was from watching on PPV, I can only imagine how remarkable it must have been to be among the world’s best bodybuilders being showcased with such an amazing production. Not to mention how incredible it must be for Derek Lunsford to have made history as the first man ever to win both the 212 and open Olympias.

This is far cry from the original black backdrop and crappy lighting with which Arnold and his brethren had to contend when they competed decades ago. Finally, you could say emphatically, the production paid due homage to the athletes—you could even say overpaid! Even some of the commercials were slam dunk masterpieces. Never in the 20-plus Olympias I’ve covered have I ever seen such a dynamic portrayal of the powerful and artistic elements of bodybuilding. It was truly a beautiful thing. Again, from my perch on PPV. Overall, what I watched on a 60-inch screen was impactful. Seeing Shaq and Bautista made me stand up and watch. If I had to have paid for the show (yes, I was given the link) I’d feel it was money well spent.

I don’t feel obliged to convey my props for the show. Quite the contrary. Believe it or not, I have been known to say nothing. Which sometimes speaks louder than anything. What I do feel obliged to do however, is offer my critique, as seen through the eyes of both a fan, as well as a journalist, and not an obsequious flatterer.

Now, it’s really not fair to set out to be a voice of the Monday morning quarterback. But, I’ve gone over this contest back and forth with several noted pundits and the argument for the winner could be made simply as the guy with the most right, or the least wrong—but not both—won. So, the prevailing argument from this camp states a very matter of fact, quantifiable, analysis:

Front double: Tie

Most muscular: Hadi

Abs/thigh: Hadi

Front lat spread: Hadi

Both side shots: Lunsford

Both back shots: Lunsford

That’s three Hadi, Four Lunsford. Lunsford wins. There really truly is no other way to slice it up. However, there is another side. He goes by the name of Samson.

Samson Dauda is, by far, the more “Mr Olympia looking” of the three, yet is not factored into any of the one- two models. Why is it only between Derek and Hadi? You want to argue condition? That seems to be the prevailing critique—“Samson’s conditioning was off.” Oh yeah? So was Hadi’s from the back and Lunsford’s form the front, and neither of them had striated triceps. So, there was no impeccable condition to be had by anyone up there really. Everyone was off. Every single one. So, the judging amounted to a very difficult shuffling of placings among those who had the least wrong with them.

If this is truly bodybuilding (as Ronnie Coleman would say) then why isn’t the biggest, tallest, most symmetrical, most massive guy similarly forgiven his condition, as with the other two, and reward him in favor of his mass and shape and stature?

The argument against that is? I’m listening…

Olympia 2023

2023 Joe Weider’s Olympia Fitness & Performance Weekend

Bodybuilding Biggest Event of the Year