WTF Happened To Bodybuilding? 15 Lesser Known Bodybuilders From The 80s/90s Who Crush Today’s Pros



A common topic on many peoples lips is the sorry state of today’s physiques and the general degeneration of bodybuilding. People can’t put their finger on it, but there’s something wrong about many of the physiques that hit the pro stage these days. Sure the bloated-guts and lack of conditioning are obvious factors in the unsightly parade masquerading as physique culture,  but there’s some intangible that makes the vast majority of today’s guys look like….shit, for some reason.

It might have been Monty Python that once quipped, “I don’t know much about art, but I know when I see it.”

Well, I know what I’m seeing…and I don’t like it.


This isn’t bodybuilding…

kai greene.jpg

What the fuck is this shit?

Mr O 2015


Mr O 1994


I use 1994 as just one example, but check out the superstar lineup for that year’s competition – talent on top of talent, stacked deep!

Screen Shot 2015-12-13 at 1.17.01 pm

This post salutes the lesser known, forgotten or unsung physiques from years passed. The classic division looks to provide some hope for resurrecting a similar bygone standard, but now with all the various (profit-making) divisions, the ranks are so diluted, I don’t think we will ever see the lineups truly bursting with talent from the glory days.

peter molnar

Can current guys like Peter Molnar resurrect bodybuilding from it’s current slump?

Just so the younger guys don’t think it’s us older dudes wearing rose tinted glasses waxing nostalgic over a golden era that never was, let me present to you 15 physiques of lesser known bodybuilders that still aesthetically crush the guys of today.

Dennis Newman

dennis newman

It’s no coincidence that “Inhuman” Newman possessed the golden boy looks and balanced physique to earn him more than a few cover shots and multiple magazine appearances back in the early 90’s. If it wasn’t for his near brush with death in the form of contracted leukemia, Newman might have dominated the Top 1o spots in any show of his choosing.

Porter Cottrell

porter c2Porter8

Not the biggest cat on the pro circuit, Porter Cottrell nevertheless had balanced lines and symmetry together with muscle groups that seamlessly flowed into one another.  A firefighter by occupation, Porter was equally balanced in terms of his personality and mental approach to the game.

Thierry Pastel


 If the wasp-waist had a personification, Thierry would be it. The Frenchman’s abs were matched with an amazing set of arms and proportions that defied reality.

Roland Cziurlock


I first watched Cziurlock pose to AC/DC’s Thunderstruck at the 1994 Olympia which was more than an apt choice of music for the spellbound crowd. With scads of muscle that hung off the bone, the German marvel dominated the stage hitting incredible back double biceps, most musculars and showcasing an insane flexibility to thunderous applause. Miraculously, this guy didn’t even place finishing 18th and LAST at the 1994 Mr O.

Mike Francois

mike francois

The soft-spoken Ohio native and former seminary student, exploded onto the early 90’s scene with exquisite levels of mass stacked onto his 5’8 frame with stunning symmetry and proportions. Taking out his first four pro shows (the only person to ever do so) including the 1995 Arnold Classic, Francois looked to be a contender to challenge Yates in the newly emerging brutal-mass era. Three years later Francois was in a hospital bed, weighing 100 pounds lighter and hooked up to an ostomy bag, felled by ulcerative colitis.

JJ Marsh

jj marsh

I didn’t really follow the career trajectory of J.J Marsh back in the early 90s as the dude seemed to fly low under the radar, and had a short pro career.  An impressive physique all the same.

Achim Albrecht

achim albrecht

There was a saying among lifters back in the 80’s and 90’s that if you wanted to compete at the pro level, you better hope you were descended from black, Italian or German parentage. (Or in Kevin Levrone’s case, 2 out of the 3).

Achim Albrecht was another of the many Germanic bodybuilders on the scene at the time and was featured in just about every Weider mag that hit the stands, despite never winning any major shows. He represented the beginning of the mass-monster era, but still had the aesthetic balance and good looks that kept him marketable enough to be eventually picked up by the pro-wrestling circuit.

Sonny Schmidt

The soft-spoken wonder from Down-Under is actually Samoan, so those beastly muscle-gaining genetics are practically a given. Sonny however presented a physique that was balanced from head to toe with perfect proportions and beautifully conditioned aesthetics. At 5’10 and 240 pounds he won the 1995 Masters Olympia at 40. His untimely death of cancer less than 10 years later proceeded a lengthy tangle with the law and jail sentence, but he was nevertheless one of the great physiques of the 90’s era.

Alq Gurley

Before blowing out both his knees which lead to an early career demise, Alq Gurley. He had that Shawn Ray look with every muscle group bursting from the shrink wrapped skin when he hit his poses.

Bertil Fox


British Bertil ‘Brutal-Fox’ is probably more infamous for the double murder of his girlfriend and her mother in the mid 90’s, but his bulldog physique for the time cannot be denied. He never hit the competitive high rankings but possessed some crazy arms, delts and one of the best chests in the game. He was known for his hardcore training approach and strength feats including a near 600 pound bench.

Phil Hill

phill hill2phil hill

I first saw Hill pose in the legendary 1988 Mr Olympia to Phantom of the Opera and was blown away by the amazing presentation of his huge but proportioned physique. An impressive poser, he could vacuum his already tiny waist into unsightly small dimensions that fully accentuated the massive arms, calves, quads and back. If you took Bertil Fox and gave him impressive legs, you’d have Phil Hill. When Hill received 12th place at the 88 Mr O, the crowd went into a frenzy in response to such a judging travesty.

phil horse.jpg

Joe Defendis

john defendis

Lesser known name, Defendis has all but been relegated to the history books because he competed only twice in the pro ranks. He’s famed for being one of the craziest  hard working son-of-a-bitches in the gym  which is no surprise coming under the tutelage of “Intensity or Insanity” Steve Michalik (Now there’s a program I want to experiment with in an upcoming blog!) There’s something about the granite hardness and sweep of his body parts that mesmerises the eye.

Gary Strydom


Ironically, Gary Strydom was one of the late 80’s mass monsters who was considered an early challenger of Dorian Yates (strange because Strydom couldn’t even unseat Haney). He was tall and possessed muscles that hung off tiny joints and a tinier waist. The fated Yates matchup was never to materialise as Strydom could never hope to duel with Yates in the back department. Just standing there from the front however, the guy was a serious contender for the Mr Olympia. Even in his late 40s and early 50s the guy looks better than all the rest of us put together…


Strydom at 46 years of age.

Aaron Baker


overlooked – criminally so

The sport is subjective and the judges sometimes get it wrong – but never were the decisions so blatantly biased than the snubbing of Aaron Baker. Nicknamed “Bat-Man” for his insane back development, Baker had those freaky Sergio proportions that easily placed him in the upper echelons of any line up were it not a decision of the long-seated, grudge holding, IFBB judges and their blind-guide dogs. Baker was one of the bodybuilders who defected to Vince McMahon’s WBF Federation and when it crumbled he was forced to return, cap in hand for placings that were punitive rather than praiseworthy.


  5 comments for “WTF Happened To Bodybuilding? 15 Lesser Known Bodybuilders From The 80s/90s Who Crush Today’s Pros

  1. Schimi
    December 15, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Hi buddy, wanted to thank you for a superb blog and also wish you all the best in upcoming contest. Discovered your blog pretty recently and really enjoyed reading it through.

    Today’s article was absolutely brilliant as I feel very similar like you regarding current state of bodybuilding. I also compete but totally lost interest in pro bodybuilding ages ago,don’t follow it and not missing it by a bit. I’m more excited about smaller shows where I know people personally and how hard they worked/dieted to step on that stage. It’s all about that journey eeey;-)

    Do you think that one of the reasons pro scene looks so bad now days is not just deterioration of training and dieting in general but also quality of gear with current market being flooded by fakes and contaminated drugs?


    • December 17, 2015 at 3:07 am

      Thank you for the supportive comment Schimi. I think the decline in the pro scene probably stems from a number of factors. Like you said, the emphasis on “quality” training and dieting seems to be widely absent – but in saying that, lazy “blessed” guys have populated the sport before. Ac ouple that spring immediately to mind is Flex Wheeler and Paul Dillet – but both had physiques that far outstrip the appeal of most guys today. The talent pool is definitely being diluted as guys are shifting to different divisions for the easier and more marketable paychecks. Whey risk your health taking 10+ years to build a bodybuilder physique when you can spend 3 years and become a men’s physique champion earning you more coin?

      Are the drugs responsible? I have to believe that the top echelon guys receive the premium quality gear and don’t have to fish the black market like most gym rats do. I remember Shadow Pro (the alias of a pro bodybuilder posting at T-nation) said he has contacts in most countries when he travels/competes so they’d definitely have better access than most.

      Maybe it’s dosages and the combination of high GH and insulin use? Witness the (sudden) changes in Ronnie and Wheeler’s physiques from 1998 to their much more appealing streamlined 92-94 look. From 98 onwards, everything really started going downhill. Back in the day, I used to think Yates was a fat, bloated mess, but he’s downright aesthetic compared to what’s on show today.

      I think these gurus running their little science projects have a lot to answer for. Twenty years ago, no-one had or needed a guru – they all knew their own bodies, did their own preps – and were all the better for it! Now it seems whoever has access to the best mad-scientist and is willing to roll the dice and accept the risks, places well.

      Glad you’re enjoying my journey and best wishes.


  2. Schimi
    December 17, 2015 at 11:34 am

    Hi Shawn, very well said I also think most guys from physique classes etc have far more bigger potential for contracts and exposure let alone keeping health in check. Obviously lots of politics play a role there as well.

    Definitely agree on that “guru” thing. It’s seems like the whole industry went crazy and suddenly everybody needed one instead of learning the whole process through trial and error,self education etc. People got unbelievably lazy to read and study lately,have you noticed? I mean I understand all of us who compete need certain guidance and advice throughout the contest prep but what’s going on lately is just plain wrong. It’s like they have zero confidence at themselves regarding diet,training, drug use,mental development etc. I come originally from former Czechoslovakia currently living in London so it’s very interesting comparing bodybuilding there and here especially the old school methods and little reliance on drugs the time I was growing up among competitors. It was unheard of guys in their early twenties to be heavily dependent on drugs and winging their diets. Old timers always wanted us to go natty as long as possible and suffer on rigid diets. I wasn’t competing at that time but some of my very good friends did and boy did they end up peeled to the bone. Conditioning was absolutely paramount and if they kept competing and started to place well on local level than and only than they were taken among the “inner circle” and advised on PED use. Most of them were monitored by docs and prescribed pharma gear. Very low to moderate usage too. There were occasional nutters too but they dropped out quickly and never bodybuilded “for life”. Obviously we talking like 20 years ago now but looking at the quality of competitors in local amateur shows now and than is truly shocking let alone nationals.

    Anyway,how you finding DC training? If you like it than I can definitely recommend reading Dr.Stevenson’s book Fortitude training especially if you’re like me who likes frequency with decent volume&intensity;-)


    • December 18, 2015 at 11:39 pm

      Very good point about the rigid diets. It was almost a badge of honour among the lifters of 20 years ago regarding who could diet the hardest. The quote “he who suffers the most during the prep-phase”, wins come competition day” stands in stark contrast to all the IIFYM and other short cuts (chemical or otherwise) that people will apply to avoid any “suffering” whatsoever. Competing is largely a mental game, because the training and eating is fun anyway – but to willingly deprive yourself not just of the tasty foods, but the QUANTITY is what I find the most challenging.

      I’m liking and hating the DC Training and you’ll find out why when I blog about it this weekend. 🙂 I did 30 days of it and now with the contest closing in and 6 weeks vacation here, felt it was time to switch back to the high volume stuff right up till comp day. The widowmakers and rest pause stuff is fun, but I could feel the injury potential creeping in….

      Thanks for the recommendation about the FT training – I’ll look into it some more!


      • Schimi
        December 21, 2015 at 9:54 am

        Hi Shawn

        Well said regarding the dieting process as when I’m prepping for a contest I literally gotta get rid of most carbs and stick to only potatoes,rice and cyclic dextrin/vitargo intra workout in pathetic amounts compare to most fellow competitors lol. I suppose some people can get away with IIFYM but anyone who’s more on the endomorphic side gotta stick to rigid dieting and ADHERE to it throughout the whole contest prep + refeeds when needed.

        Looking forward to read your take on DC as for me it was a very successful run but I stuck to it for 3 months. Definitely missed a bit more volume though and you’re right as potential for injury is there especially if ones is trying to beat the log book every single workout and we both know there will come a time when adding weight is no option unless form and technique goes to shitter. I gained that time about 5kg of bodyweight not all muscles but defo was very satisfied. Obviously running it after volume style training was very helpful alongside with supercompensation switching from lower calorie intake to slightly higher.


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