You need only have watched any WWF event from the late 80s and early 90s and you would have established that the company had a fondness for musclebound performers. It was little surprise, then, that Vince would dip his hand into the bodybuilding world and start his own organisation and in this ‘Well That Didn’t Work‘ I look at the short-lived World Bodybuilding Federation (WBF).
Formed in September 1990, the WBF was the competitor to the long established International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB). Although initially McMahon claimed it was only a magazine that he was creating.
At this point McMahon was on top of the world. His WWF had gone from a regional North East promotion to the dominating force in professional wrestling. It came as no surprise then that he began to use his financial muscle to make inroads into bodybuilding.
In January of 1991 he announced, at the company’s unveiling, that he had signed 13 IFBB regulars to long term contracts and dubbed them the “WBF Bodystars.” The group hosted their first event in June of the same year. The group brought in Regis Philbin was brought in to co-host the event with McMahon and Bobby Heenan.
The reviews were mixed, to say the least, with the majority of the criticism focussing on the rather unsurprising attempts from the WBF to give the ‘bodystars’ characters, going back on a previous pledge to avoid doing that.
The 1992 WBF competition was broadcast live on pay-per-view from Long Beach, California. Lex Luger was scheduled to participate on this show as a guest performer but was involved in a motorcycle accident prior to the event.
After the event received a poor buyrate, McMahon called the owners of IFBB on July 15, 1992 and announced that he was disbanding the WBF and is quoted as saying “The situation is very bad.”
Those WBF bodystars did get one final appearance in a 5 on 5 tug-of-war against WWF superstars, with both teams told to win. In a planned spot, however, DiBiase, Flair and The Berzerker let go of the ropes resulting in the bodystars falling onto the sand.
Although tied to long term contracts, Vince let the performers work elsewhere – perhaps in an attempt to get them off the contracts. Perhaps the most memorable part of the whole fiasco was ICOPRO.
It was virtually impossible to watch a WWF event or TV show between 1992 and 1995 and not see the ICOPRO logo. ICOPRO (Integrated Conditioning Program) was a line of bodybuilding supplements by Vince McMahon with the slogan “You’ve Gotta Want It!”
The WBF was, like the majority of McMahon’s non-wrestling pursuits, a failure. Obviously things in the wrestling world would be getting tricky for the McMahon family in the months that were to follow and everyone at Titan Towers had bigger things to focus on that bodybuilding.
In the end the WWF lost some $15m on this venture including the monies spent on contracts, promotion and stage set-ups. McMahon learnt the hard way that bodybuilding was not a spectator sport. Although it did give Lex Luger something to do when he was physically and contractually unable to compete in a WWF ring. That said, it was an expensive outlay for just that.
You can read all previous ‘Well That Didn’t Work’ pieces here.