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History of the IFBB Professional League, Part 10

Submitted by IFBB Pro League Staff


Most Mind-Blowing Muscle Panorama Ever Held
Trainer of Champions since 1936

Sergio chickens-out as Arnold cops Mr. Olympia honors for a record fourth time!  Columbu and Nubret add to best-ever Mr. O contest!  Ken Waller is easy Mr. World victor!  New Super-Star, Lou Ferrigno, is easy AABA Mr. America!

Ben and Joe Weider congratulate the world’s greatest bodybuilder,
Arnold Schwarzenegger, on his Mr. Olympia victory.

Like a pack of lusting sharks sensing blood, over 3,000 muscle fans stormed the Brooklyn Academy of Music on September 8, ‘73, to gorge themselves on the greatest bodybuilding show ever held … 2,000 couldn’t get in, but refused to leave, and even police reinforcements failed to remove them from the streets until the last light was out and the final contestant had left.

At the same time, another muscle show was being held a few subway stations away in a Manhattan college auditorium.  Although it had some name entrants, and was selling through the widespread Ticketron outlets, orders were lagging until the legendary Steve Reeves, in New York on business remarked on TV that he would attend.  Reeves’ appearance, dressed, ensured a crowd for the rival show.  Yet there were more bodybuilders milling about on Lafayette Avenue and St. Felix Place outside the Brooklyn Academy who chose not to go to Manhattan than inside the college hall!  In the only known instance of contests in competition, the IFBB/AABA contest won by several thousand muscle supporters!

New York’s authoritative weekly, the Village Voice, blasted the other show, ridiculing its presentation and content; but Voice columnist, Howard Smith, wrote agreeably about the IFBB event, calling it "rather enjoyable" and "more like a sporting event than a beauty contest."

A partial view of rabid fans at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City.
Dig that crazy "Arnold and Franco" banner!

Traditionally, Ben Weider opened the evening with a fiery speech detailing how very close we are to Olympic recognition.  With Ben, a sports power in Canada and Montreal, hosting the next games, the IFBB may get Olympic exhibition permission by 1976.  Yet, even as he spoke these encouraging words, the audience writhed restlessly.  They had come to see, hear, eat and breath muscle – and MMMMMuscle it was about to get … !

With Lon at the organ playing "Mr. Wonderful," and Jimmy Caruso and Artie Zeller at stage center snapping their fabulous musclepics, the curtain flashed up to reveal the most super mind-blowing collection of bodies ever placed on one physique-contest stage!  Quickly it dropped to keep the awed crowd in a "Gimme more! Gimme More!" state of anxiety … and then the posing began.

Giant Newcomer Wins!
Two new faces ascended to national prominence in this bitterly-fought contest of muscular marvels.  Sensational Californian, Bob Birdsong, another marvel from Gold’s Venice, California gym, narrowly captured the Medium Class over veteran Franklyn Greene.  Greene showed fantastic abs and an inspired posing routine, but Birdsong’s muscle-dense physique, chiselled legs, and good looks supplied a 1.09 edge.

Leon Brown handily took first place in the Short Class; the eight other entrants well behind.  He was overall Most Muscular and copped the Best Back trophy, too.

But not surprisingly, all the excitement centered around the big boys.  Six-foot five, 260-pound, Louis Ferrigno, mad his American introduction in a fittingly Herculean way – smashing through all opposition (including another 6′1" giant, Bill Howard) to win the Class, Best Arms and Best Chest titles.  Then, towering over Birdsong and Brown, he acquired the enormous IFBB Mr. America trophy.  Ferrigno, only 21, is the tallest and heaviest Mr. America ever!  Joe Weider personally thinks he is heir-apparent to Mr. Olympia, Arnold Schwarzenegger, the only man naturally big enough to knock-off Arnold.  A little deficient in cuts, and not a top poser, Ferrigno needs considerable additional training before he can mount a serious challenge … but the potential is there, and the howling throng at this fantastic contest loved him!

The "Mr. America" height class winners mount the podium with Joe Weider
to the echoes of a standing ovation from the spectators.
From left to right: Bob Birdsong, Joe Weider, Lou Ferrigno and Leon Brown.

Much-Improved Ken Waller Wins!
Intermission, variety acts, even the Miss Americana show, seemed to irk the spectators this year … all they wanted to see was an ocean of muscle, and when the canvas parted for the Mr. World spectacular, the magnificent century-old building jumped alive!  In close competition, Johnny Maldonado edged Fred Berange, Bill Mitchell and 42-year old Elliot Gilchrist to conquer the Short men and get into the final round.  En route, he won the Best Chest trophy.

Last year’s out-of-the-blue sensation, Ed Corney, narrowly decisioned Steve Burnett for Medium Class honors.  His margin, 19/100 of a point, was the roughest height class struggle of the evening.

But, once again, out came the big men – and with them, Corney’s and Maldonado’s hopes were destroyed!  Ken Waller, bigger than life, with indescribable arms and back that engulfed the entire posing platform, fought it out with "Mr. America/Mr.Universe" Dennis Tinerino, and fast-improving Bill Grant.  The mob bellowed for their favorites, and the local hero, Tinerino, got plenty of cheers.  Yet, all had to admit it was Waller by a wollop, with absolutely deafening cheers!  He was the only 4-trophy victor of the night: Mr. World, Best Arms, Best Back and Best Poser … !  Tinerino gleaned Best Legs.  Grant, definitely a future force, was consoled with Most Muscular and Best Abdominals.

Ken Waller wins the "Mr. World" title over the formidable Bill Grant (left) and Dennis Tinerino (right).

The muscle-dazed audience had hardly a moment to relax before bodybuilding’s top contest, "Mr. Olympia", was upon them … much to the relief of IFBB officials expecting mayhem, Sergio Oliva had defected to guest-star at the other show, and he wasn’t even missed!  Another superstar, rarely seen in America, Serge Nubret, more than compensated for the absence of chicken-hearted Oliva.  Not since the incredible Larry Scott/Harold Poole showdowns of the mid-sixties had the fans been treated to such an Olympian Olympia!

Nubret, whose 1972 comeback at Munich was cheered by all muscledom, posed first and was brilliant!  The long-time hero had Schwarzenegger and Columbu worried as he scored near-perfect marks with the judges.  "Vive le Serge!" yelled his French-speaking fans as he rolled from one breathtaking muscle display to the next.  Only the super-greatness of the two other contestants subverted Nubret’s life dream of an Olympia medal.  Joe Weider claims Serge clearly is an odds-on favorite to displace Arnold in ‘74. If he would come to California and train, Nubret’s life dream of winning the Olympia title just might come true.  Serge Nubret has certain weaknesses, hardly noticeable in mortal company, but alongside Arnold and Franco, one must be a God …

Franco Columbu has no muscle gaps that human vision can detect.  Every inch of his physique burned with muscle-on-muscle.  In terms of pure muscularity, he is the Greatest Show on Earth; he has more than anyone! Unfortunately, his small stature compares unfavorably with taller stars.  But this night, Franco, in his absolutely greatest shape, made the crowd literally go beserk!  Over 3,000 mouths screamed, programs were thrown to the stage, and anxious guards rushed to protect him against an onrush of crazed Franco-worshippers.  He held the audience captive for ten minutes, and when he left , the knocked-out fans knew that no better Short Class man exists!

Unbelieveable … ! Here is the undisputed top collection of muscular might in the world world!
And well deserved, too …

Now it was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s moment in the spotlight … the man they said couldn’t do it; the man who couldn’t come back!  The man whose injured leg had ruined his training career.  The crumpled Apollo whose dethroning was a certainty according to Sergio Oliva and Ricky Wayne.  Well, here was the "Mighty Oak", Arnold, bigger and better than ever, throwing a 22-inch plus biceps and 57-inch chest right in their stunned faces, and then telling them to back-off … !  There would be no other Mr. Olympia this night; Arnold was "Super Arnold, September 8, 1973!"  Greater than when he beat Sergio in years gone by, and by God Almighty, the best built of the 50-billion men who have trod the Earth since time began!

Arnold had endured the doubts of his friends and the malevolence of his competitors.  He came back from a wrecked knee to train harder than ever.  As the truest of the true Weider Champions, Arnold was unstoppable! Everyone in the hall knew it, and even Franco and Serge gaped at him, entranced.  There is only one Mr. Olympia; there is only one Arnold … and they are one and the same.

Mocking boos echoed mercilessly when Sergio Oliva’s non-appearance was announced.  In order to match Arnold and Sergio – to satisfy IFBB fans yearning to know who is truly the greatest – I had offered Oliva an $1,800 bonus to appear.  The proposal was made during Tiajuana’s Mr. International contest.  Sergio could make more losing than Arnold winning ($1,000 first prize).  And would total $2,800 for beating Schwarzenegger!  But apparently Oliva was scared to taste defeat again.  He forfeited, for at least a year, any right to call himself the world’s best built man.

Joe Weider stands amidst the reigning "giants" of muscledom,
from left to right, Ken Waller, Lou Ferrigno, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And so the great spectacle ended . . . Tom Minichiello’s superb direction had crafted an unforgettable experience for the lucky ticket-holders.  As this is being written, Louis Ferrigno and Ken Waller are readying for their trip to Geneva, Switzerland.  Mike Katz will also go as the trio vies for individual and team honors in the Mr. Universe contest.  There expenses are being paid by the AABA.  In September, these and other greats will return to the 1974 Mr. America, Mr. World and Mr. Olympia events.  And, once again, if you can’t be there in person, MUSCLE BUILDER will bring you all the action in these pages.

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