Though most people are unaware of an amusing bodybuilding sideshow that occurred in the 1990s, the WWE briefly attempted to conquer bodybuilding in the same way they conquered professional wrestling. From 1990-1993, the WWE’s parent company Titan Sports ran a bodybuilding federation designed to rival the Weider hegemony. Instead of becoming a rival, however, their efforts ended in both financial disaster and the veritable end of the career of every athlete who competed in in their federation.
Called the World Bodybuilding Federation (WBF), it was launched on the back of a magazine badly titled Bodybuilding Lifestyles run by “Quadzilla” Tom Platz. In an audacious move, the magazine purchase booth space at the Mr. Olympia contest that year and handed out pamphlets announcing the new federation. Then, they essentially slapped the IFBB in the face with the news that they’d poached some of the IFBB’s most promising young superstars.
The WBF signed thirteen competitors to long-term contracts: 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. Dubbed the “WBF BodyStars,” these athletes cut workout videos and promos just as they would for the WWE that would be played during the WBF’s television shows.
Tragically, the “slice of life” content and contracts were ahead of their time. After disappointing pay-per-view numbers for their second championship event, the WBF folded. In doing so they showed that bodybuilding fans do not want tested events (one of the two WBF championships instituted testing to disastrous results), put more money in the pockets of 13 bodybuilders every year than most bodybuilders at that point made in a career, and utterly ruined the careers of the thirteen men who’d made the switch.
The Weider empire seemed to respond to the news of the WBF’s collapse with a bit of malicious glee and quietly declared that any bodybuilder who had competed in the federation persona non-grata in the IFBB thereafter. Bodybuilding’s former golden boy, Gary Strydom, went from non-stop top-five finishes in every pro show he entered, from the Olympia to the Grand Prix circuit, to twelfth at the Night of Champions after the WBF folded.
Thus, the WBF, like Dan Lurie’s WBBG before it, stands as an object lesson to bodybuilders that any deviation from the IFBB’s party line is likely to end one’s career quickly and unpleasantly.