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Bob Bell Owner and WNBF Vice President About Page WNBF Website

Bob Bell

Tina Smith WNBF Secretary and Owner About Page WNBF Website (1)

Tina Smith

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History of the WNBF

By Fred DiMenna

The first professional drug-tested bodybuilding contest was held on March 17, 1990, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was the WNBF Pro Natural Mr. Universe, and this event was quite unlike what we’ll see in 2014. In this inaugural event, there were no Figure or Fit Body competitors, and there weren’t even female bodybuilders! Thirteen men took the stage, and these 13 bodybuilders hailed from 10 different American states.

The Federation’s regulations required that all of them be drug-free for a minimum of five years. Specifically, steroids and growth hormones of any kind were prohibited, as were prescription diuretics and muscle implants. To verify this status, all competitors underwent both urinalysis and polygraph testing before competing. This type of testing protocol was the first of its kind in professional athletics.

Once all of the athletes were cleared to compete, the on-stage comparisons began, and it became apparent that eight of the 13 were the Best of their time. A particularly outstanding or particularly poor posing routine in round three could determine the show’s outcome. North Carolina’s Gene Howell was the biggest man on stage, but his routine was uninspiring, which made it an easy call to drop him to third. This left Virginia’s Doyle Washington and Utah’s John Moore to duke it out for the top spot. John Moore did an elegant routine that highlighted his shoulder-to-waist differential and dense back muscularity, but Doyle came through with the most original and dramatically artistic routine of the night.

Doyle Washington left Minnesota with $2,500, which was the first winner’s check ever awarded to a drug-tested bodybuilder. He achieved this distinction by a single-point victory over Moore, who received $1,500 for his runner-up placing. Howell’s third-place finish garnered him $1,000, and the remaining $2,300 for this event was distributed to the competitors that placed fourth through 10th. Included in this group were five men who would continue to compete and achieve legendary status in this initial era of the organization – Wayne Hammonds, Ondra Galloway, Curtis Payne, Ron Emmons, and Jose Oliva.

Now the stage had literally been set. There were many eager eyes focused on the second contest to see how things would pan out. The Virginia Beach Pavilion was the site for the 1990 Pro Natural U.S. Cup on July 28. More than 700 spectators witnessed the WNBF’s second event, which was noteworthy for a number of reasons. This time, 20 athletes took the stage. These were not simply local athletes who took part because there was a show nearby. At the time, there were three amateur organizations through which an athlete could qualify, and these were situated in distinctly different locations (California, Minnesota, and Virginia).

The other noteworthy occurrence at this show (actually a few days after it) was the disqualification of future IFBB pro-Ken Jones, who had the dubious distinction of being the first WNBF competitor to fail the urinalysis test. Jones was flagged for stanozolol (Winstrol), and he received a five-year suspension (at the time, the eligibility requirements tested via polygraph were for five years drug-free). This was proof that the organization meant business with respect to ensuring a playing field that was not skewed by pharmaceuticals.

Like the Universe, the U.S. Cup came down to a battle between John Moore and Doyle Washington, and like the Universe, Washington got the win. Ondra Galloway and Ron Emmons moved up to third and fourth, respectively. The show also saw the debut of a bodybuilder that would be a mainstay of the organization for many years to come. Displaying the same mind-boggling definition that would make him the first WNBF World Champion four months later, Pennsylvania’s Mike McCloud took sixth.

Manhattan, N.Y. hosted the first Pro Natural World Championships on Nov. 17. More than twice as much prize money was awarded at this event compared to the ones prior, as 18 bodybuilders vied for $20,000. This included 10 females – the first time a WNBF show saw women take the stage.

McCloud’s historic win at this event did not come easily as he and runner-up Galloway were tied for first, and the victory was determined via tie-breaker. Moore took third, with Carlo Bercy and Jose Oliva rounding out the top five. On the women’s side, Judy Kalvin-Stiefel took five of the seven first-place votes to claim the $2,000 top prize in the first-ever female pro bodybuilding class. The other two first-place votes went to the woman who would soon become the first generation’s dominant female champion, Kathi Harrison.

The 1991 Worlds saw the WNBF’s coming of age with no less than 34 men and 20 women taking the stage. And there was quality in addition to quantity, as All-American winner Terrence Bradich didn’t even make the top-17 cut! But Universe winner Johnny Green did, and he added a World championship to his 1991 resume. For the ladies, Harrison made it two in a row. The ‘91 Worlds made a statement that the WNBF was here to stay, and that prophecy was spot on.

During 1992 and ‘93, the WNBF would sponsor five more competitions, including the all-new American Chiropractic Cup (in South Carolina and Washington, D.C., in ‘92 and ‘93, respectively), a return of the Universe (Detroit; 1992) and, of course, World Championships to end each year. The 1992 Worlds, which was held in Union City, N.J., saw 41 competitors from five different countries lock horns, which was a testament to the growth of the organization on an international basis.

This worldwide presence was buoyed by contracts signed with foreign affiliates in 1991 (the ANBB in Australia and NBBUI in Italy) and 1992 (the ANB in Great Britain). The ’92 Worlds was also historical because successful IFBB pro-Bernard Sealy, who had jumped ship and claimed victory at the Universe seven weeks earlier, took the World title. Harrison made it two Worlds in a row by besting 15 competitors, including Karen Deo, who had won the other two contests that year.

In 1993, the Nippon Bodybuilding Federation became the official Japanese affiliate of the WNBF. On the home front, Kathi Harrison was back on top at the first show (the second American Chiropractic Cup). Harrison continued her dominance six weeks later by winning her third straight World title at the Hudson Theater in Manhattan. At this event, Harrison defeated 22 competitors, which was the largest women’s turnout to date.

In the Men’s division at the ’93 Worlds, McCloud, Sealy, Washington, Green, and Galloway all took the stage, but their placements (fourth, fifth, seventh, eighth, and 15th) indicate that a changing of the guard was taking place. Indeed, Washington native Kevin Davidson became the fourth different World champion in the first four years of the organization when he won the $5,000 top prize in only his second WNBF outing. It was the runner-up who lost via tiebreaker to Davidson at the ‘93 Worlds that would be one of the key players in the golden era that was about to begin. You see, this contest marked the debut of WNBF legend Eddie Hernandez, who gained fame as “The Rock” when Dwayne Johnson was still a jabroni called Flex Kavana.

A change of the guard took place in 1994 when what is generally considered the golden age of the organization kicked off in a very unusual way. Conspicuous by their absence in the WNBF’s first three contests were the ladies' and, in fact, four of the first five competitions saw only men’s classes contested.

However, from that point forward, a women’s division would always be part of the show, including the first contest of ’94, which didn’t have any men! On June 11, 1994, a women’s-only bodybuilding contest called the Pro Natural Atlantic Coast opened the WNBF’s fifth year with 13 competitors battling for $4,200 in prize money at the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City. In this very unique show, Karen Close, who had claimed the runner-up spot at the World Championships the previous year, nabbed top honors via a one-point decision over Sheila Bair, who was making her WNBF debut.

For the second contest of 1994, it was back to business as usual as both men’s and women’s classes were contested with $7,900 up for grabs at the Pro Natural Universe in Manhattan. But this show was also noteworthy because while the winners were each making their WNBF debut, both were far from rookies. Jose Guzman and Kathy Unger had previously competed at the highest level in untested competition in the Mr. and Ms. Olympia contests, respectively.

Joining Bernard Sealy, Penny Price, and Janet Tech as IFBB pro bodybuilders who had made similar decisions to switch affiliations in the preceding two years, the presence of these athletes was proof positive that the WNBF was making its mark on the bodybuilding landscape and a similar tale was being told at the amateur level. Specifically, unlike the WNBF’s initial years when pro qualifiers were staged by three different amateur organizations, during this period, the NGA took over with two huge shows. Indeed, the NGA United States and American Championships, which were held in Manhattan in May and October, respectively, will long be remembered as some of the most competitive amateur bodybuilding events ever. Classes that were 25 competitors deep were not unusual in these pro-qualifying competitions!

The second-place finishers at the ’94 Universe also had something in common as Californians Sky Wild Dixon and Will Willis claimed runner-up spots to Unger and Guzman, respectively. Willis had also been a successful bodybuilder in the untested circuit; however, he retired in the late ‘80s because he found he could no longer justify taking steroids.

Consequently, he provided the perfect case study for the inclusive philosophy that the WNBF espoused, which was based on the notion that their drug-free alternative should provide an incentive for steroid-using bodybuilders to change their approach as opposed to penalizing such individuals with a natural-for-life requirement. 1994 was also the year when the WNBF changed from the five-year drug-free requirement that had been in effect to a seven-year standard. This was based on the belief that any athlete who was still using drugs after a professional drug-free option became available should not be able to qualify for inclusion.

At the 1994 Worlds, Unger made it two in a row by defeating 18 women. Guzman could only muster a runner-up placement as he was bested by Colorado’s Gary Gomez, who became the fifth different World champion in the five-year history of the organization. The ’94 Worlds was the most competitive WNBF show to date, and here’s another fact, this contest also marked the debut of another future World champion who was, at the time, the youngest athlete to ever compete on the WNBF stage. Indeed, 19- year-old Kai Greene began his pro career by finishing eighth at this show.

Read More history from 1995 – 1999 by clicking Here.

History of the WNBF 1995-1999

By Fred DiMenna

The 1995 season opened with a return to Atlantic City as 17 men did battle in the second coming of the Pro Natural U.S. Cup. This contest was noteworthy because it involved the first installment of a battle that would define the era and have judges wearing out their erasers in the process. Kai Greene and Eddie Hernandez had made their debuts five months earlier at the Worlds with ninth- and sixth-place finishes, respectively; however, this time, they were first and second.

Greene did not compete in the other two shows of 1995, which opened the door for Hernandez to beat 16 and 19 bodybuilders winning the Universe and then World Championships. The latter victory, which took place at the prestigious Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort in Atlantic City, made Greene the sixth male World Champion in the organization’s first six years. At the women’s Universe, Sky Wild Dixon improved upon her runner-up outing of the previous season by defeating 11 women, including ‘94 Universe and Worlds winner Kathy Unger. At the ’95 Worlds, Unger came back to best 19 women, including Dixon (fourth place) and Linda Dunham.

The Greene-Hernandez first-second duel was reestablished for two of the three shows of 1996 as Kai garnered his second U.S. Cup title and became yet another male World Champion, with Hernandez in the runner-up slot both times. Greene also completed the sweep by winning the middle contest of ’96; the Pro Natural Universe with Hernandez was relegated to fourth place behind Joe Patterson and Dave Goodin.

For the lighter-weight Goodin, this was his second straight third-place finish at the Universe, which served as a testament to his ability to hang with the big boys. For the ladies, Dunham won the ’96 U.S. Cup and Universe but had to settle for third at the Worlds as Australia’s Femmy Ayegun pulled the biggest upset to date by defeating 15 women in her pro debut. The ’96 Worlds was also noteworthy because of the $31,450 in prize money that was offered, which exceeded the previous high by more than $10,000! In addition, eight countries joined the U.S. and were represented by the 35 bodybuilders competing.

The Universe led off in 1997, and for the first time in five years, the show was held outside the New York Metropolitan area. As the WNBF invaded Texas, this contest was also notable because it began the implementation of weight classes for all shows other than the Worlds. In the female division, a lightweight, Kayoko Nakano-Nunez bested heavyweight Tina Weber, while heavyweight Joe Patterson claimed the men’s title over lightweight Goodin and middleweight William Owens.

The second show of ’97 saw a new title up for grabs as the Pro Natural International was contested. Once again, entrants were divided into classes, and this time, 13 women and 15 men did battle, with lightweights Debbie Smith and Nigel Davis taking home overall championships over heavyweights Linda Dunham and Julius Ayinla both by tie-breaker.

The final show of ’97 saw the crowning of yet another male World Champion as Eugene DeVito beat 25 other bodybuilders, including former Worlds winners Hernandez and Mike McCloud. For the ladies, the anticipated battle between two-time Worlds winner Unger and ’96 champ Ayegun was upstaged by Nancy Andrews, who claimed the $4000 top prize by defeating those two and 13 other women. With fourth- and eighth-place finishes on her resume from her first two contests, Andrews’ victory was a bit of an upset, but from that point forward, Nancy reigning supreme would be the norm rather than the exception.

In 1998, the Universe found its way to the mountains of the Poconos, making Pennsylvania the 10th state that had played host to the Federation. Sixteen men were on hand to celebrate the occasion, with ageless wonder Carmi Smith dominating the heavyweight class before earning a unanimous decision overall. The women’s posedown was more competitive as debuting Stasi Longo bested Dori Frame by a split decision. Fame would also take a backseat to the heavyweight after winning the lightweight class 14 weeks later at the International; this time, it was the debuting Laurie Dady who claimed top honors.

Conversely, the lightweight would shine in the men’s division as Jean Theodore took the overall title by defeating heavyweight Desmond Miller and middleweight Dave Hamlette. Clearly, 1998 will always be remembered for the World Championships, which saw an all-time record turnout of 60 competitors (40 men and 20 women) that had to be whittled down to a men’s and women’s top 15 before prejudging even began!

Indeed, this created so much difficulty for judges that the no-weight-classes-at-the-Worlds edict was retired for posterity in the coming year. Moreover, the ’98 Worlds marked the Federation’s third and most successful show in Atlantic City, with 1,226 spectators packing The Showroom at the Tropicana Casino and Resort.

The biggest eye-opener at the ’98 Worlds was that after a day of grueling competition that saw champions like DeVito, Hernandez, Smith, and Jose Guzman lock horns, Dave Goodin walked away with the $6,000 first prize becoming WNBF World Champion number nine. Goodin’s win was not without controversy, however, as runner-up Hamlette was a clear-cut favorite with a vocal segment of the audience. A new female World Champion was also crowned in ‘98 as the debuting Tracy Bacon defeated a number of pre-show favorites, including Andrews (sixth), Frame (fourth), Dady (third), and ’97 third-place finisher Cassandra Floyd, who was the runner-up.

The Universe was staged in Arizona in 1999, and this show is remembered for the quality of female competitors. Indeed, the five-person heavyweight class included no less than three World Champions, with Andrews beating Bacon and Dixon, who took second and fourth, respectively. Nancy went on to win the overall title by unanimous decision, and the heavyweight winner also ruled the roost in the men’s division as Jeff Primm took home overall honors.

Next came the International, where a 39-person field tied the record turnout for a non-Worlds show. This contest served as a reminder of the competitiveness of the previous year's Worlds as heavyweight Reggie Smith defeated 20 other male bodybuilders to take the overall title. For the ladies, an unprecedented event took place as overall winner Kayoko Nakano-Nunez failed the IOC-standard urinalysis test that all competitors were required to consent to on the day of the event.

Nakano-Nunez was not the first competitor to be disqualified after the fact due to a urinalysis failure, but she was the first to suffer this fate after claiming an overall victory. Consequently, no overall champion could be determined for this show, and lightweight Floyd and heavyweight Kim Guzman were named co-winners.

The golden age of the WNBF then came to a close when 36 men and women were each divided into two classes for the first time at the Worlds. The 10th male champion was crowned when Carmi Smith won it all. Carmi’s posedown victory came at the expense of lightweight Antony Hall, who defeated Goodin and Hamlette. For the ladies, it was another repeat performance as Nancy Andrews defeated eight other heavyweights and lightweight winner Floyd to join Kathy Unger as two-time World Champs.

With the close of the millennium, the WNBF’s record book reveals that 890 entrants had competed in the 30 contests. These ranks included 348 different drug-free bodybuilders, with 81 men and 58 women sharing in the $434,550 that was distributed. As far as individual accolades, the king and queen of money earners were Eddie Hernandez and Kathy Harrison, who took home $19,650 and $13,000, respectively. Also topping $10,000 for the ladies were Nancy Andrews ($11,600) and Kathy Unger ($11,500), while eight men in addition to Hernandez earned that distinction, including Mike McCloud ($15,450), Carmi Smith ($13,450), Dave Goodin ($11,750), Kai Greene ($11,500) and Doyle Washington ($11,250).

History of the WNBF 2000 - 2024 Coming Shortly

By Tina Smith