Aaron Singerman calling out Shawn Ray as a liar regarding the Comeback Award at the Masters Nationals on his facebook blog
On December 10th, Jarka Lorie put on the IFBB Pro World Master’s Championship in Miami, Florida. For the men’s bodybuilding portion of the event, an unprecedented $220,000 in prize money was given away, with $100,000 of that money going to first place winner, Dexter Jackson. Everyone who had viewed Jarka’s contest website (www.jarkagym.com/ifbb.html
) saw the prize pool was large, but almost no one realized that there would also be a $5,000 Best Poser Award and a $20,000 Biggest Comeback Award. As far as I know, the $5,000 for the best poser was the most money given out for such an award in many years, and I have never even heard of a Biggest Comeback Award. Tricky Jackson beat out Darrem Charles for the Best Poser, and Bill Wilmore won the Biggest Comeback. This column will explore the circumstances that surrounded the decision to award Bill Wilmore with the $20,000 prize.
The first thing I did was head straight to the top. I called Head Judge and Senior IFBB official, Steve Weinberger. Steve informed me that the IFBB had nothing to do with judging, deciding, or presenting the Biggest Comeback Award. The IFBB’s responsibility started and ended with the actual prize money that was handed out to the top 12 men, and top placing bikini girls.
During this investigation, I received an email from Rx Muscle photographer, Pierre Lamely, telling me how upset Roland Cziurlok was that he didn’t win the Best Comeback Award. Normally, a bodybuilder complaining about not placing as well as he thought he should is nothing to write home about. The thing that caught my interest was what Pierre’s email revealed: A very interesting email conversation between Cziurlok, Shawn Ray, and Vince Taylor.
The serial email began with Cziurlok complaining to Shawn that he believed he should have won the Best Comeback award.
Ray responded, “I thought you were a freak bro. Wow was I amazed at your conditioning! That said, it was a vote from ALL the legends that decided that Bill Wilmore should win the award. There was nothing that ONE person could do or say to change that outcome from: Coleman, Taylor, Haney, Ferrigno, Levrone, Yates, Zane, Robinson. The vote was final once everyone said who they thought should win the award. Sorry Bro.”
Cziurlok then forwarded what Shawn Ray wrote to his longtime friend, Vince Taylor. It’s my guess, at that point, Roland was hoping for some clarification on what Vince and the rest of the legends were looking for.
Vince wrote the following reply to Cziurlok: “Roland.... Please understand... I had NOTHING to do with any voting! I had nothing to do with the show! Please write or call Shawn Ray and tell him you and I are personal friends, and that I, Vince Taylor, said he is a LIAR! To say to you I voted for anyone... My wife and I came to the night show for 20 minutes, then went home. We never saw the show! Not during the morning pre-judging, and NOT AT ALL AT THE NIGHT SHOW!”
After talking to Weinberger and reading these email exchanges, I was hooked. You can probably see why, but this is just the beginning of this story. Let’s first discuss discuss what exactly a “Best Comeback Award” is anyway.
Webster’s Dictionary defines a comeback as a return to a former position, status, etc. Bill Wilmore competed LAST YEAR, and took a controversial 3rd place at the Dallas Europa. It wasn’t controversial in the sense that people thought Bill should have done worse, but just the opposite. I was sitting next to Shawn Ray in the press pit, and both he and I had him in 2nd place, ahead of Mark Alvisi.
I decided to poll some of the people that are experts in our sport and industry:
Peter McGough (former Editor and Chief of FLEX Magazine): Roland Czurlok- “With all due respect to Bill it’s tough to consider a guy who competed in 2010 as meriting "Comeback" status. "Most improved" would have been more appropriate for Bill. If we take a strict interpretation of "Best Comeback" it would have to be Roland -- most conditioned in show after a 10 year lay-off.”
Lonnie Teper (writer for Ironman and World Famous MC): Roland- “Wilmore did look good, but it’s been years since Roland has competed.”
Isaac Hinds (founder of Hardbody.com and photographer): Roland- “Easily, Roland.”
Dan Solomon (host and creator of Pro Bodybuilding Weekly Radio): Roland- “If you’re going to have a Comeback Award at a Legends Show, you should acknowledge one of the Legends... Someone like Roland would have been the logical choice.”
Lee Thompson (IFBB Judge and NPC Texas Chairman): Roland- “Bill looked great in Dallas. He’s always looked good. Impressive showing, but not a comeback.”
Ron Avidan (Creator and Owner of Getbig.com): Roland- “He placed the highest of all the guys who were making a comeback.”
Dave Palumbo (Owner of RxMuscle and Species Nutrition): Roland- “He was easily the most impressive guy to be making a comeback. Wilmore, while impressive, competed last year.”
Seven of our industries most notable experts all would have voted for Roland. But, according to Shawn Ray, it was up to the Legends that attended the show... Or was it? I decided to call the “legends” in attendance. When I asked Ronnie Coleman about how he decided to vote for Bill Wilmore, he told me, “I didn’t vote for anyone; didn’t know anything about a Comeback Award.”
Obviously, neither did Vince Taylor. Samir Bannout told me that Frank Zane wasn’t even at the pre-judging and was only at the night show for limited time. I know both Lee Haney and Lou Ferrigno were in the lobby at their booths for a majority of the night show, and were also not at the pre-judging.
Shawn Ray not only MC’d the show, but he also played a big role in organizing the event with Jarka Lorie. When Roland had questions about the show and, more specifically, the award, he went to Shawn for clarification. I decided to do the same. It was Saturday night and I was on the way to a Christmas party, so I sent Shawn a text message instead of calling. This is what I received:“The award was presented on MY behalf. ‘The Shawn Ray Comeback Award’. End of story. When the media creates their own award then they can finance it and present it. It’s not open for debate. Sorry. I chose Bill Wilmore...”
I was shocked when I received this text, as it contradicted everything I had been told up until this point. I actually got the impression that Shawn wasn’t involved with the voting at all. I did speak to Shawn later that evening and he insisted that he’s standing by HIS decision.
As happy as I am to see Bill Wilmore win the $20,000, I can’t figure out the logic that would make Bill’s impressive showing a better comeback than Roland’s... Or even a comeback at all! The fact that Shawn Ray would explain to Roland that the “legends” decided the outcome of the Best Comeback Award and then go on to contradict that sentiment days later in a text message to me lead me to the conclusion that “something’s rotten in state of Denmark”.