Pro Bodybuilder of the Year: Jay Cutler, who else? The Ultimate Beef became the first guy in the industry to ever come back and win the Mr. Olympia crown after losing the title to Dexter Jackson the year before. Cutler was at his all-time best in ’09, coming in at a hard and deeply etched 255 pounds on his 5’9” frame. And, at 36 years old, Jay’s got plenty left in him to win a couple more.
Biggest Surprise/Most Consistent: Branch Warren, who else? The 5’6 ½”, 245-pounder out of Texas followed up his strong third place finish at the Arnold Classic (one slot ahead of Jackson) with a shocking second place landing only behind Cutler at the ‘Olympia. Talk about déjà vu; 16 years earlier these two stood side by side at the Teen Nationals, where Warren got the nod for the Overall. Like Jackson, Warren always steps on stage in prime time condition. Can he win the Arnold and the ‘Olympia in 2010? After last season, should anyone count Branch Warren out of any show he enters?
Most Improved: Hidetada Yamagishi, in a close call over Ronny Rockel. The reason I’m going with Japan’s first-ever pro in this division is that I’ve felt Rockel has been overlooked for a few years now, that he has always possessed the physique that should have landed him in second at last year’s IRON MAN Pro (he was third) and that eventually took him to a seventh place landing at the ‘Olympia (should have been sixth). Hide continues to get better with each outing and is one of the most conditioned dudes in the line-up every time he competes. No longer an outsider looking in, Yamagishi became a major player in ’09 with his ninth place finish at the ‘0.
Most Entertaining Poser: Kai Greene, for his mind-boggling performance en route to his win at the ASC in 2009. Now, after Melvin Anthony reads this, am sure he’ll come up with something Marvelous at the up coming ASC to prove he’s still the King when it comes to getting down on stage.
Rookie of the Year: Eduardo Correa. Fast Eddie won the 202 and Under in Pittsburgh, and was an impressive third at the ‘Olympia 202 and Under Showdown behind Kevin English and David Henry. Correa looked so good, in fact, that no less than an authority like Shawn Ray had him winning the title.
Biggest Disappointment: Dennis Wolf, going from fourth in the ‘Olympia the year before to not making the top 15 in ’09. What in the hell happened to Dennis, considered a legit contender for the title by many going into the show? Not sure, but Wolf now has the inside track for “Most Improved” next season if he brings back the package in 2010 that he displayed at the ‘0 in previous years.
NPC Bodybuilder of the Year: Cedric McMillan, edging Mark Alvisi. Both guys looked great, Big Mac at the Nationals and Alvisi at the USA. However, Mark was the strong favorite going in (for those with short memories, the Swami ONCE AGAIN tabbed this one months before the show); most people didn’t even know who McMillan was—unless you saw him win the Junior USA in 2008. How good can these guys be at the next level? Very good.
Video of the Year: My interview with Tyler Manion at the “Meet the Olympians” festivities. Tyler, 15-year-old son of JM, and Jim’s grandkid, displayed no surprise at all when I broke the news to him that his old man sports a (undetectable, I must admit) weave job.
Commentators of the Year: The Experts—Isaac “Hardbody” Hinds, Ron “Yogi” Avidan and yours truly. Why? With the usual dreadful predictions by Hinds and Avidan, sandwiched in between the usual precise picks by me, each contest wrap-up has provided more comedy relief than a SNL skit.
Until next year… over, under and OUT!