Our biggest takeaways from the 2022 Arnold Classic.
And just as fast as it started, the 2022 Arnold Classic has come to a close. After a bit of a rescheduling last year due to the global pandemic, the Arnold Classic returned to its usual early March slate – unofficially kicking off the 2022 bodybuilding season. As expected, the highlight of the event came down to Brandon Curry vs William Bonac in a heated showdown during last night’s finals. You can check out our full results report for all divisions of the 2022 Arnold Classic right here.
Technically, it’s been less than a year since we last saw the Arnold Classic competition. Last year, the event took place just two weeks before the Mr. Olympia. It also only had four divisions in competition and took place over one night. This weekend, things were back to what we are used to seeing. The event was back to two days and held eight divisions all fighting for the what is considered to be the second biggest award in bodybuilding.
Also interesting to note, the Arnold Classic’s two day schedule shifted to something closer to the Mr. Olympia. Typically, the Men’s Open divisions – both pre-judging and finals – happen on Saturday. This year, the Men’s Open pre-judging was held on Friday night and finals on Saturday. This small, but significant, shift changes how the competitors can prepare and improve between the two rounds.
Now that event has finished and the dust has settled – here are our three biggest takeaways from the 2022 Arnold Classic.
Brandon Curry vs William Bonac ends in a controversial finish
Going into the 2022 Arnold Classic, many believed it would be a battle between Brandon Curry and William Bonac. This ended up being true. But most analysis considered this to be Curry’s show to lose. Bonac came into the Mr. Olympia at sixth place just a few months ago at the Mr. Olympia, whereas Curry landed second. Bonac had some significant improvements to make in a relatively short amount of time if he wanted to take down Curry.
When the two competitors stepped onto the stage at the pre-judging Friday night, fans and analysis were delighted to see William Bonac succeeded at improving his physique. We saw a very different Bonac this weekend than what was put on display at the Mr. Olympia. Many quickly noted that Bonac just might be overtaking Curry.
The pre-judging was a very close call, and many pointed out that Curry had a slight edge over Bonac. Fast forward to 24 hours later at the finals – and a lot of small but important things changed. William Bonac took the pre-judging battle to heart. He used the time leading into the finals to truly tighten up any loose ends. When he stepped on stage for his individual posing routine on Saturday, the first place spot for Brandon Curry started coming into doubt.
During a backstage interview while waiting for the results of the finals, William Bonac noted that he’s not only looking like the “William Bonac of old,” he’s looking like the best version of himself that he’s ever showcased in his career. While there might be some who nitpick this statement – the heart behind it was true. Bonac felt confident because he knew that he had a very strong chance to defeat his longtime rival Curry.
But when the final results were announced, Brandon Curry maintained his original perceived lead and won the show. Immediately, the fan and even athletes started to share their critiques. Many believed that William Bonac was robbed.
The key evidence they point to in this, is the fact the William Bonac won the Most Muscular Award just moments before the finals. While conditioning is also an important factor, many thought Bonac’s size was the biggest thing that could hold him back – as he had very strong conditioning. In particular, many thought his legs were more defined than Curry’s. So it felt like a shocking blow to see Bonac win the Most Muscular Award only to fall to second overall.
It’s not shocking for a judges’ decision to be controversial. This happens at almost every big and emotionally invested competition. But the reaction here was so swift and so loud – that it’s of note just how many people were confused about the final outcome.
Arnold Schwarzenegger maintains his love of Classic Physique – believing it to be the future of bodybuilding
Over the past year or so, Arnold Schwarzenegger has been very open about his opinions for each division in bodybuilding. While doing commentary at last year’s Arnold Classic, Schwarzenegger was very blunt about his distaste for modern Men’s Open physiques, calling them bloated and even claiming that they “take too much stuff.”
This year at the 2022 Arnold Classic, he had very little negative statements about Men’s Open. In fact, he had many positive things to say about Brandon Curry when he was doing his finals posing routine. But even if his comments about Men’s Open were less aggressive – it was clear how much he was praising Classic Physique during the Friday night finals.
After Terrence Ruffin won the Classic Physique division, Arnold Schwarzenegger came onto the stage to congratulate Ruffin as well as the other top six competitors. He also gushed about how much he was proud of the physiques he was seeing on stage in that moment. He then firmly stated that he felt that Classic Physique was the true future of pro bodybuilding.
It’s an extremely strong endorsement. And while he did not necessarily say anything negative about Men’s Open, he also didn’t endorse it anywhere near as hard as he did for Classic Physique on Friday night.
These comments also come alongside the fact that Classic Physique has consistently been an exciting battle at nearly every major show over the past few years. During our past two years of the Generation Iron Bodybuilding Awards, a fan voted competition, Chris Bumstead won best athlete of the year over the current Mr. Olympia champion Big Ramy. While this isn’t necessarily a reflection of the entire bodybuilding industry – it showcases just how loved the relatively new Classic Physique division has become.
The Arnold Classic brought a vastly improved broadcast and stage production
Typically, the Arnold Classic event is broadcast as a free live stream. Presumably earning revenue via advertisers and sponsors. This year, they made a transition into a PPV event. While it wasn’t particularly expensive (just $24.99 early bird special and $34.99 the weekend of), you can tell the paywall allowed for some improved broadcast production values.
Broadcasting via Fanmio, the PPV package not only let you stream the pro bodybuilding event but also Strongman, the new Slap Fighting Championship event, and nearly all of the 60+ sporting events that were held at the Sports Festival. These events are usually streamed in some form or another – but usually scattered across different platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and the typical main stream for pro bodybuilding.
Instead, this year the entire package was contained within Fanmio. It allowed for picture-in-picture if you wanted to watch multiple events as well. On top of this, the overall production value presenting on screen was improved. The commentator booth was improved, there were barely any gaffs (whereas past years would have stream quality troubles, audio getting cut off, hot mics at the wrong time etc).
Long story short, it felt like coverage of a real sporting event, rather than an afterthought. For the first time since perhaps Generation Iron ourselves produced the broadcast – the event felt to truly be in step with the streaming era of TV.
Arnold Schwarzenegger and Logan Paul brought Slap Fighting to the festival to seeming great success
Another big talking point that popped up just weeks before the 2022 Arnold Classic was the announcement that Slap Fighting would be a sport broadcast during the weekend. Slap Fighting is a sport that has gone viral over the past few years – gaining most attention when Logan Paul decided to join and then bail on fighting in a match.
Even though Logan Paul wasn’t fighting this weekend, he was in attendance as a sort of color commentator and MC of the event. Arnold Schwarzenegger himself sat by to watch the event unfold as well – though he admitted that he had never seen the sport before and had no clue what was really going on.
The 2022 Arnold Classic Slap Fighting Championship held five matches with the headliner being a super heavyweight event and the hardest slaps. The mere fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed the sport at his festival, helped promoted it directly using his image, and was also present for the matches – brings huge legitimacy to the fledgling sport.
Multiple times throughout the matches, Arnold Schwarzenegger was asked if the event would come back for a second year based on the excitement he saw during the championship. While he didn’t commit to anything in the moment – he noted that the fans seemed to go wild for the matches and a rather large crowd was drawn to the event. Especially if Logan Paul remains part of the proceedings, we wouldn’t be surprised to see this reappear next year and perhaps slowly take on a bigger role at the festival.
The Arnold Classic is a standout competition that is rivaled only by the Mr. Olympia. It’s a watershed moment each year that helps us determine the current quality and standing of pro bodybuilding. There’s no doubt that the 2022 Arnold Classic was electrifying and, finally, returning back to not only normal – but perhaps the best version of the show we all hold in such high regard.