By Flex Staff
For our preview of the 50th Mr. Olympia, we knew we had to take it to the next level. And thanks to the stars and planets aligning for us at just the right moment in the space-time continuum, we assembled an all-star team with nearly 40 years of combined pro contest experience, including 30 Mr. Olympia appearances between them: Jay Cutler, Dennis James, and the newest member of Team AMI/Weider, Flex Wheeler. Their collective involvement in the Olympia dates back to the early days of the ’90s, when Dorian Yates ruled, through the Ronnie Coleman dynasty of the late ’90s to mid-2000s, and up to the present reign of Phil Heath.
From backstage to center stage, they’ve seen it all and, more important, done it all, at the sport’s greatest contest. And they’re sharing their unique perspective on all the competitors, including strengths, weaknesses, key matchups, and critical moments to watch for, which could make the difference between victory and defeat. So without further ado, here’s a look at the 2014 IFBB Mr. Olympia with Team AMI/Weider athletes Jay Cutler, Dennis James, and Flex Wheeler.
DENNIS JAMES: Phil is going to be extremely hard to beat. He has to keep doing what he’s been doing and not worry about size and beat everyone with his conditioning, like last year. It would be a mistake to change his contest approach. He has that 3-D look. He does not have to worry about a lot of people in this lineup—there are only three people who can catch him off guard and that’s Kai Greene, Dennis Wolf, and Ramy (Mamdouh Elssbiay).
JAY CUTLER: Phil is extremely focused on winning his fourth Olympia this year, and he has the size and conditioning to beat anyone. No one has fuller muscle bellies than Phil, he has great tie-ins, and he keeps getting better each year. He has overcome the width issue with his shoulders, and I don’t see his having any problems with anyone in this lineup. The advice I’ve always given Phil is to train smart and don’t get injured and don’t try to play the size game. His back double biceps is jaw-dropping as are his most muscular and his side chest, but his detail is what separates him from every person onstage.
FLEX WHEELER: I don’t think anyone is going to defeat Phil this year, when you have someone like Kai, who is his biggest threat and has the size but does not have the conditioning of Phil Heath, I don’t think Phil has a lot of competition this year. There are people like Dennis Wolf, who has the height, but no one can pack the mass and conditioning on their frame like Phil. Phil is probably at the peak of his career, and I don’t see anyone being able to take away the title from him this year unless he comes in off. Phil does not try to compete with anyone but Phil, which makes him a great champion. He loves being Mr. Olympia and he’s not going to give it up easy. It’s his Olympia to lose, but I don’t see anyone within striking range.
FLEX WHEELER: He is the only guy who can take the title away from Phil if he comes in conditioned. I want to see Kai arrive in shape like the first time he won the Arnold Classic—that’s the Kai who can win the Olympia. I have spoken to Kai and told him to compare the pictures of last year’s Olympia with the pictures of him when he won his first Arnold, and I asked him, “Which physique would win?” If he tries to get bigger, he’s going to lose. He has to come in peeled and not try to win the Olympia on size. He has everything he needs to win; he just needs to come in better conditioned than he has ever competed before. If Phil is not at his best, Kai can take the title. If he comes in like he did last year, he won’t be second.
DENNIS JAMES: He has proved that he is the most serious bodybuilder in the off-season by keeping his weight down and trying to come in leaner this year. There is no bigger threat than Kai Greene. My concern with Kai is that he has been dieting all year and keeping his weight down—will this affect him mentally when the Olympia diet starts? Mentally, can he sustain the fact that he has been runner-up the past two years? Sometimes not relaxing can negatively affect your performance. He can’t make the same mistake as last year and come in too big—he has to come in shredded, like the 2012 Olympia, and stay full. He needs to arrive in the condition he was in when he won his first Arnold Classic in 2009 and if he does that, there is going to be a dogfight between him and Phil. If he comes in the same shape that he did last year, I can guarantee he won’t get second place—he will slip to third or fourth.
JAY CUTLER: Definitely a top-three contender. The big question mark is what type of conditioning will he show up in? People always ask me, “Can Kai Greene win the Olympia?” Absolutely, he can win if he nails his conditioning. Phil is going to have to be slightly off his game, and Kai has to overcome this mentality of being 300 pounds two weeks out and then drop to 260 or 270. You can’t lose that much weight and expect to look on point.
When he drops that much weight, he loses his pop in the upper body and flattens out. I have been 290 two weeks out before a contest and competed at 260 and it’s too difficult to manage your fluids—it never worked well for me and for him either. Kai has got to understand that he has never won an Olympia because he has yet to nail his conditioning and have that thin-skin appearance because he is dropping weight too fast and the muscle can’t sustain the appearance. Kai looked his best a few years ago when he was downsized in muscle and had better conditioning.
JAY CUTLER: I expect him to be in the top three this year. Dennis has the height and size, and he has found the formula for his conditioning, but he needs to hold his size and not flatten out or he will drop in placing. If Phil or Kai is off on their conditioning, Dennis can win. Dennis has the size, but he lacks the conditioning of Phil Heath and will outmuscle a lot of guys on the stage.
FLEX WHEELER: He has finally started living up to the potential we all knew he had four or five years ago with his third-place finish at the Olympia. A lot of people had him second, even challenging Phil. He can still add more muscle to his frame with his height and structure. I think he will be an even greater contender this year based on the off-season pictures I’ve seen of him.
DENNIS JAMES: He’s finally starting to fulfill his potential as a top-ranked bodybuilder who can win the Olympia crown. Dennis has been steadily improving over these past few years, especially bringing up his back and hamstrings, which were his weak parts. Dennis is tall and wide, which makes him look dominating onstage. His problem is his calves—there’s nothing he can do about his calves, but I don’t think this will hold him back from winning the Olympia. There were plenty of Mr. Olympia winners with weak calves such as Dexter Jackson and Ronnie Coleman. For Dennis to take the title from Phil, he needs to come in razor sharp because Phil has the complete package.
FLEX WHEELER: He is like Jay Cutler—everyone knew he would be Mr. Olympia, it was just a matter of time. Jay got better slowly and started picking me and Ronnie and others off year after year and that’s what Ramy needs to do. I don’t think he should hit the gas pedal and just exhaust his capabilities. I would recommend a slow progress. I know he does not want to hear this but, “Be patient and continue to improve your physique year after year!” He has competed less than any other competitor on that stage. Let his physique ripen, and if he remains injury-free, I can see him breaking Ronnie’s and Lee’s record-eight Sandow wins.
JAY CUTLER: He is the X factor. He is not going to win if he keeps coming in as he has been; he has the size, and he just needs to nail his conditioning. He has all the body parts and no real weaknesses except for his conditioning. He has the best legs in bodybuilding to date; I have never seen legs like his from the front. He has a similar problem as Kai; he gets so big in the off-season that he has a hard time coming down to competition weight. He is only 28, he has all the tools, and it’s only a matter of time before he becomes Mr. Olympia. He has to get that thin skin—even if he loses some muscle, he is still going to be the biggest guy on the stage.
Every 10 or 15 years, a guy comes out of nowhere and blows everyone away, and Ramy is that guy. I feel that Ramy has had more of an impact than Dorian Yates. Dorian had that crazy conditioning, but Ramy’s size and structure is something that bodybuilding has not seen for a long time.
DENNIS JAMES: He has the potential to dethrone Phil more than any other bodybuilder! He has size, shape, and structure to be Mr. Olympia if he comes in conditioned. Everyone knows that Ramy has to be more conditioned than he has ever been to beat Phil. He is coming to train with me two months before the Olympia, so the world is going to be shocked when Ramy gets onstage. I will promise you that at this year’s Olympia Ramy will be the most shredded you have ever seen! Phil is the champ, but Phil knows the only person on that stage with the potential to beat him is Ramy. If Ramy comes in the same condition as Phil or close to Phil, he will win due to the sheer size. If Ramy is not on, Phil will not be beaten.
DENNIS JAMES: He can be as good as he was last year, but I think the best Shawn Rhoden we saw was at the 2012 Dallas Europa. I don’t see him being able to make improvements being almost 40 years old. He has beautiful lines, shape, and muscle bellies but just does not have the size to compete with the guys on the Olympia stage. I think he can make top five if he is on and people like Dennis and Kai are off, but I think the injured foot is going to hurt his training. If he nails his conditioning like in 2012, I think he will make top five.
FLEX WHEELER: That’s my Mini-Me. He is one of the more symmetrical guys onstage, and he continues to get better. He continues to put on size and it does not affect his symmetry. If Shawn can continue to improve his conditioning, come in a little bigger while not affecting his symmetry, and bring up some of his lagging body parts, he can possibly be top three. Structurally, he is more complete than a Kai Greene. If a few guys are off, Shawn can take their spots with his combination of conditioning and symmetry.
JAY CUTLER: He has the detail and symmetry, but as much as I would love to see him make the top three, I don’t see him making it this year because he lacks the size of the other competitors. He is structurally perfect, but the perfect example is the Arnold Classic, when Wolf outsized him. There was nothing more Shawn could have done. It comes down to a big man’s contest at the Olympia, and Shawn just does not have the frame to be a mass monster without losing his symmetry. Age is going to be a factor for Shawn; you have Phil in his prime and Dennis in his prime and Ramy has yet to reach his prime—how long can Shawn push the limits at 40 years old? I see him and Dexter battling it out for fifth place.
JAY CUTLER: He is the wild card. He has gotten bigger this year so it’s going to be interesting to see how this added size equates at the Olympia. He got fifth last year, and he can improve only so much because of his age, but he has that crazy conditioning that seems to keep getting better. Dexter is always on point, and that’s where he’s going to beat guys. I expect him to be in the top six, but if everyone is on, he is going to get pushed out of the top spots because of his lack of size. Dexter has lost some “pop” to his muscle, but that just comes with age.
FLEX WHEELER: He is living my dream. When I competed with Dexter back in the day, he did what me, Shawn Ray, and Levrone couldn’t, which was win a Sandow. If I were Dexter, I would just be happy to be on the stage—and since he has been training with Charles Glass, I think he has gotten better with age. Dexter is more consistent than any other bodybuilder, so I think he can crack that top five this year. He knows his body very well, so I think his consistency and his size and conditioning will be able to knock out those guys who come in out of shape.
DENNIS JAMES: I think Dexter is going to shock everyone again this year, he has put on more mass in the off-season, and he is going to edge out those guys who come in off. That’s what he has been doing and he is not going to stop. He is going to be full and conditioned and he is going to be in the top five or six spots, depending on if anyone is off. With his trademark conditioning, he is going to edge out anyone who tries to come in bigger but loses the conditioning. Dexter knows that he can’t come in bigger to beat guys, he knows that he is going to win with his conditioning and fullness.
JAY CUTLER:His structure is superb, he is big and wide, he has a lot of muscle on his frame, but he needs to be fuller, and in the past I feel he has come in flat and emphasized too much on conditioning. I think it’s hurting him. He has the legs, delts, and arms, and all he needs to do is keep improving. He needs to be fuller. He does not have a lot of flaws, but he needs more pop to his muscle when he poses. When I competed, I sometimes sacrificed conditioning to come in fuller, and that’s what Steve needs to do as well.
DENNIS JAMES: He was at the Olympia last year, and he did not make top 10. I did not see any visible improvements this year, so I don’t expect him to place well. He has the frame to pack on the mass, but he is missing the mass and fullness. He needs to get rounder and get that pop to his muscle that the other top Olympia contenders have. I don’t think he will be a factor this year. He needs more time to fill out his frame and needs better conditioning to compete with the top six guys.
FLEX WHEELER: He had a controversial win in Brazil, but I don’t expect him to place in the top six. He needs to fill out his frame more. He has yet to bring a combination of being full and being conditioned. I think he has the genetics to be a great bodybuilder, with a frame that can pack on so much mass, but he has yet to bring to the stage the type of physique that I want to see.
JAY CUTLER: Branch has the conditioning, but he does not have the separation. He is a shorter bodybuilder, and it is easy to get lost in a taller bodybuilder lineup. He won the Dallas Europa, but I think the wear and tear of heavy lifting has finally caught up to him. I competed against Branch as a teen, so he has had an unbelievable career. It seems that a lot of guys who start off with a great career tend to slide as they approach the 40-year mark—the muscle just does not seem to pop as much.
DENNIS JAMES: I don’t think he will make top six at the Olympia this year because of his structural flaws—and his body is not getting better. His conditioning is always spot on but I think the years of heavy training have caught up to him. His body does not have the fullness that he used to have. His legs, which used to be his best body part, are not what they used to be since the injury. He may prove me wrong, but I am doubtful that he will make the top six this year.
FLEX WHEELER: He has amazed me each time he has come back with injuries that would have retired any other bodybuilder. As much as I like Branch as a person, I think the younger bodybuilders in their prime are surpassing him. How much better can Branch get at the Olympia when guys such as Phil Heath, Dennis Wolf, and Ramy are hitting their prime? I am not going to count him out, but with his height, he is going to have an extremely difficult time cracking the top six against guys with no injuries.
JAY CUTLER: First time at Olympia is always tough for a rookie. He can possibly be a top 10 guy because of his crazy conditioning. He still needs work on his posing and presentation. He has the width, but he needs to bring up his legs to be a contender. I don’t see him placing near the top because of the wear and tear of competing so much this year.
DENNIS JAMES: He has earned his right to be onstage at the Olympia with his victory in Toronto. He is going to have a very tough time being competitive with the top-six guys. He has already done a lot of contests this year—even if his head is in the right place, his body will be tired. You can’t keep doing show after show and make progress. He is not going to have the fullness and roundness to his muscle bellies like the guys who have been rested. He is still young, so I predict in the next few years Juan will have better placings at the Olympia than at his rookie Olympia debut.
FLEX WHEELER: He busted his ass to get to the Olympia stage this year with his win in Toronto, but I think he will not make top six. He needs time to fill out his frame. I am not expecting Juan to do a lot of damage, but it’s going to be a great learning experience for him. He needs to bring up his legs to match his massive upper body and not try to play the size game and try to come in conditioned. FLEX
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