World BodyBuilding Federation
I found this on another forum and wanted to share it for SDH. Thanks to thundarr2000 for posting this one.
Topic: World Bodybuilding Federation
Posted: 09/February/2011 at 20:10
Anyone remember the WBF and the BodyStars? The recent XFL thread reminded me of Vince McMahon's other failed attempt at expanding sports entertainment.
Vince McMahon had interests in both bodybuilding and the big fitness supplement markets from the mid-1980's. Both were niche markets at best.
McMahon was already disliked and distrusted by Joe Weider and his IFBB. Weider feared McMahon would poach his bodybuilders in order to turn them into wrestlers for the WWF. But by 1990, Weider suspected something else was a foot.
McMahon launched a magazine called Bodybuilding Lifestyles. Also immediately rumors swirled. McMahon denied any plans for a bodybuilding company. But after he hired bodybuilder Tom Platz to be the magazine's spokesman and editor, he changed his tune.
After the conclusion of the 1990 IBFF Mr Olympia contest Tom Platz publicly announced the creation of the World Bodybuilding Federation. Vegas-style showgirls handed out flyers to all in attendance. Many of the Mr Olympia competitors found WBF contract offers slipped under their hotel room doors.
Bodybuilders in the IBFF were averaging under $50,000 a year... while the WBF was offering 2-year deals for $200,000 a year. 10 of IBFF's regulars signed to the WBF. Gary Strydom was rumored to being earning double the standard offer. And Strydom was positioned to be the face of the WBF.
Joe Weider scrambled to defend his company. He raised the prize purse for Mr Olympia to $100,000. He may have even talked to World Championship Wrestling about cross-promotional events. But in spring of 1991, Weider declared war. At the beginning of a show he revealed 13 tombstones with the names of the WBF BodyStars on them... then had them smashed onstage. The even was called The Night of Champions.
The USA Network was uninterested in a weekly bodybuilding show. McMahon found that he couldn't drum up interest in a standard flex-and-pose bodybuilding event. So he decided to use his WWF production approach.
As the debut event neared... each of the BodyStars (except Strydom and Eddie Robinson) was given a nickname, character and theme song.
The three round PPV debut showed hosted by Regis Philbin, Vince McMahon and Bobby Heenan. The third round showed the BodyStars in pre-taped skits. In all 3 rounds, Strydom appeared last. To the surprise of none, Strydom was crowned the first ever WBF Champion.
The 1991 event had poor PPV buys. Sport reporters were split. Some liked that McMahon was willing to pay the bodybuilders far better than famously cheap Weider. Most noted the clear WWF-feel to the show. Some noted that bodybuilders managed to finish in exact order as their pay structure. Strydom the highest paid took first, second highest paid took second, third highest paid took third, and so on.
While McMahon and the WBF seemed please with their humble start, trouble appeared. Long time WWF associate Dr. Zahorian was arrested for illegally distributing steroids, including to WWF wrestlers and a WBF BodyStar. Zahorian acted as a ring doctor in Pennsylvania. A long time wrestling fan, Zahorian was a regular attending doctor at WWF events in the area.
McMahon quickly announced the WWF would start drug-testing, but omitted the WBF to this policy. Joe Weider quietly stopped drug testing in the IFBB in hopes of keep any more defections to the WBF. It was a silent omission that IFBB was at a serious disadvantage because of their strict steroid testing.
While the government began to investigate McMahon's involvement in distributing steriods to his wrestlers, they ignored the WBF. So the WBF continued to prepare for their second annual PPV event. Their first order of business was to land a name with mainstream recognition. They sought out the Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno.
In late 1991 Lou Ferrigno was preparing a return to bodybuilding. Ferrigno had never won the Mr Olympia competion and now wanted to capture the title that Arnold Schwarzenegger had denied him. Although Ferrigno wanted the IFBB Olympia title, they couldn't match the money that WBF was willing to offer. Ferrigno was offer $900,000 for 2-years with the WBF. The WBF was preparing their dream match of Strydom vs Ferrigno.
McMahon's steroids issues continued. While Congress pressed McMahon to clean up his wrestling empire, they continued to ignore his bodybuilding investment for the time. But quietly it was felt that WBF wouldn't be forgotten for long.
In early 1992, McMahon finally got his long desired wish and signed free agent Lex Luger from WCW. Luger's long no-compete clause prevented him from wrestling, but not from appearing on TV. Luger became the host of WBF BodyStars on USA Network. The show was a mix of health-bodybuilding advice, workout footage and comedy skits. The show also saw the first promotion of the supplement line ICO-PRO that McMahon invested heavily in.
WBF was still ramping up, and McMahon went into heavy promotional mode. BodyStars were everywhere on WWF TV. Family Feud had a WBF vs WWF week.
WWF and WBF cross-promotions continued. But moral in the WWF was suffering. Many Superstars felt McMahon's attention was too focused on his new pet project. WWF also saw payroll cut in order to free up money to back the WBF.
As June WBF event began to draw closer, McMahon announced major changes in March 1992. The WBF would begin drug tested all competitioners. In fact, it was the strictlest drug testing policy that bodybuilding had seen. The new changes saw Lou Ferrigno withdraw from WBF and return to IFBB.
Without their big star, WBF turned to Lex Luger. The WBF announced Luger would be a "guest pose" at the show. Despite his build, Luger had zero competitive bodybuilding experience. WBF morale sank. Rumors swirled: Strydom was said to be exempt from drug testing, Mike Christian's heroin addiction started as he was going thru steroid withdrawl, and others simply paid their fines without attempting to stop using. The drug testing quietly stopped in the weeks leading to the June 1992 PPV event.
Shortly before the PPV, Lex Luger crashed his motorcycle. He wouldn't be able to appear at the show. The event had lost it's "dream match" and now its Plan B. Only 3,000 bought the PPV. It is still considered to be the worst return for a live PPV event.
Strydom again was crown WBF Champion over a weaken field. Most of the BodyStars were in rough shape as a result of sudden steroid and PED withdrawl. Mike Quinn appeared vastly overweight. Mike Christian barely finished the show and quickly went into rehab for heroin addiction.
A month later, McMahon called Joe Weider and told him the WBF was shutting down. McMahon and Weider worked out an under-the-table arrangement that allowed McMahon to advertise his ICO-PRO supplements in Weider's Muscle & Fitness magazine. The WBF magazine was shutdown. The BodyStars were allowed to compete wherever they could. McMahon tried to convince Gary Strydom to try wrestling.
The WBF had lost $15 million during their 2 year existance. WBF BodyStars show turned into a late-night infomercial hosted by Lex Luger. Luger was still unable to wrestle but had a high-paying contract. And McMahon still had a warehouse full of ICO-PRO merchandise to unload.
In 1993, McMahon's steroid problems had grown worse and were clearly heading towards a trial. McMahon would spend another $5 million in legal fees defending himself. In the end, McMahon was only for guilty of overestimating the public's interest in bodybuilding.
At the 1993 IFBB Night of Champions, 10 caskets appeared on the stage again. Each had the name of a WBF BodyStar on them. This time they weren't destroyed. Instead each opened and the bodybuilders came out on stage greeted by IFBB loyalists. Weider reported fined them each $25,000 for jumping to WBF and then allowed them to re-join IFBB.
In 2006, Vince McMahon appeared on the cover of Joe Weider's Muscle & Fitness. In 2007, the WWE PPV Vengeance was subtitled Night of Champions. In 2008, the Vengeance name was dropped entirely.
Edited by RKHT8709, 13 January 2013 - 11:29 AM.