|Rise and Fall of the|
World Bodybuilding Federation
The World Bodybuilding Federation (WBF) was an ill-fated attempt to set up another pro bodybuilding group which would rival the IFBB. It lasted only 18 months, from January 1991 to July 1992. Here is the history of the WBF, by Peter McGough, from Flex Magazine, October 1993.
It started as a rumor in the late spring of 1990. Wrestling czar Vince McMahon (President of the World Wrestling Federation and TitanSports) was planning to launch a bodybuilding magazine as a precursor to forming a rival pro federation to the IFBB.
All summer of that year, McMahon and his associates denied they had any designs on creating a bodybuilding federation, saying that they proposed only to produce a magazine called 'Bodybuilding Lifestyles'. In mid summer, it was announced that Tom Platz, one of bodybuilding's favorite sons, had joined the 'Bodybuilding lifestyles' team.
In order to promoted the magazine, TitanSports booked an exhibitor booth at the 1990 IFBB Mr. Olympia contest to be held on September 15th in Chicago. At the conclusion of the contest, the 'Bodybuilding Lifestyle' staff, in Trojan-horse style, scurried around the Arie Crown Theater handing out a press release that announced the formation of a new bodybuilding federation: the WBF. The release stated that the WBF would 'revamp professional bodybuilding with dramatic new events and the richest prize money in the history of the sport'. Furthermore, Tom Platz had been appointed Director of Talent Development for the WBF.
Throughout that fall and winter, potential WBF candidates were flown first class to TitanSport's Connecticut headquarters and given VIP treatment. Speculation ran wild as to who the WBF would sign.
All was revealed at a glitzy press conference staged at New York's Plaza Hotel on January 30th, 1991, when out strode the following 13 athletes: Aaron Baker, Mike Christian, Vince Comerford, David Dearth, Berry DeMey, Johnnie Morant, Danny Padilla, Tony Pearson, Jim Quinn, Mike Quinn, Eddie Robinson, Gary Strydom, and Troy Zuccolotto.
In recruiting the 13 musclemen, the WBF has flourished megabucks. For instance, it was reported that Gary Strydom had a three-year deal worth $400,000 per year.
McMahon announced that the WBF's first contest would be held in Atlantic City on June 15th, 1991 at the opulent Taj Mahal casino, owned by Donald Trump. The Plaza Hotel lineup was more impressive than anyone had previously thought, and Tom Platz further said that the signing of other 'biggies' would occur before June 15th. It seemed that a potent force was being assembled, and in reaction to the threat, the Weider / IBFF began signing athletes to contracts. In retrospect, that press conference can be viewed as the WBF's finest hour.
Eighteen months later on July 15th, 1992, Vince McMahon was reduced from 'kicking butt' to kissing it when he called Ben and Joe Weider, pronounced them the fathers of bodybuilding, and told them he was closing down his bodybuilding magazine production and the WBF.
Since the January 1991 press conference, the history of the WBF has been nothing but a catalog of disasters, including two lackluster contests that prompted the comment that WBF stood for 'We bore fans'; the Lou Ferrigno now you see him, now you don't farce, and McMahon's involvement in an ongoing drug scandal, during which he had been forced to admit to his own 'experimental' use of anabolic steroids.
The reason for McMahon's astonishing phone call to the brothers Weider, presumably, was that he wished to ensure he would be able to advertise Icopro products (the supplement he had millions invested in) in Muscle & Fitness, and Flex.
Having lost a reported 15 million dollars on his foray into bodybuilding, McMahon bowed out, disgracefully, many of the athletes said, as they were left to fend for themselves. After several variations of an appropriated penalty for re-entering the IFBB area had been mooted, it was announced in February 1993 that the WBF athletes would be allowed to compete at IFBB events: the fine being 10% of each individual's annual WBF salary, deducted from contest winnings and guest appearances. Of the 13 WBF athletes, six competed in May 1993 IFBB contests. None of them gained an Olympia qualifying place. The WBF came into being in 1991 with 13 athletes and, after a two-contest lifespan, expired in 1992 with 13 athletes.
It took a special kind of conceit on McMahon's part to think he could achieve more in two years than what it took Joe and Ben Weider 50 years to build. But if your life's work has been one of being satiated in the pantomime of pro wrestling, it must be difficult at times to know where acting ends and reality begins.
The athletes who signed with the WBF did so for financial gain. There's nothing wrong for that, and the IFBB, understanding that 'business is business', allowed them to return with a much milder penalty than anyone had first imagined. To those who say there should have been no penalty, how would they explain such leniency to those who refused the WBF's bait?
The opening of May's 1993 Night of Champions celebrated the return of the WBF athletes to the IFBB fold. Against a graveyard setting, they were resurrected and reunited with their former colleagues. The tableau concluded with the strains of John Sebastian singing 'Welcome Back'. Perhaps the symbolism of that scenario, made unquestionably complete by the reality of an onstage Icopro banner, and the sentiments within the song bear further scrutiny. The WBFers are now IFBB pros, and no future stigma should be inferred or attached to them for the former allegiance. THE WBF story is over and done with.