Written by Ron Harris
14 February 2017


Star Profile: Mike Christian - The Iron Warrior Interview Part 2


Few men have had an impact on the sport of bodybuilding like Mike Christian has. After turning professional in 1984, he became one of just a handful of men, along with Rich Gaspari, Gary Strydom, and Lee Labrada, to seriously threaten Lee Haney as he dominated the decade with a record eight Mr. Olympia titles. The Iron Warrior, as he was known, was one of the most massive bodybuilders ever at 6-1 and 245 pounds, known for his dense and full upper body. Mike also became one of the first bodybuilders to run a successful sportswear company, Platinum Everywear. After a strong run in the IFBB in which he scored five pro victories, he was lured away to join Vince McMahon’s World Bodybuilding Federation. This was the beginning of the end, as a hefty contract and too much free time contributed to a full-blown cocaine addiction. Mike went on to lose his house, his business, his fiance, his huge physique, and nearly his sanity. It’s been over a decade now since Mike last graced a contest stage. For his many loyal fans, it’s time for an update on one of the most inspirational and influential bodybuilders of the last twenty years.


What were the high points of your career in the IFBB? What did you enjoy the most about being a professional bodybuilder? The least?

MC: I would say ’88 and ’89 were my best years. In ’88 I won the Pro World in Columbus, which changed its name to the Arnold Classic the following year, and the Pro USA. I won three shows in ’89. I always enjoyed traveling around the world, meeting different people and experiencing different cultures. The only thing I never liked was the politics in the judging. Sometimes the judges would judge you not by how you looked that day, but compared to the best they’ve seen you – which shouldn’t have anything to do with it. Judges would tell me things like, “well, you could look better, like you did at such-and-such show.” That just blew my mind. I would say, “what on earth does that have to do with how I compared to these guys here today?”


Was there ever a year you felt you were legitimately screwed out of the Olympia title?

MC: Yes, 1990, the year it was tested. Lee was really off that year, small and not very cut. Shawn Ray and I were both in top condition, so it should have been one of us. Even Lee told me later that he thought I had it that time. After that show I took a long look in the mirror and said, “you’re never going to be Mr. Olympia, no matter how good you look.” Then the WBF came along and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.


You were one of thirteen IFBB pro’s to join Vince McMahon’s short-lived World Bodybuilding Federation. What were some of the most attractive proposals he used to lure you away from the IFBB?

MC: First of all, he flew us all out to his office on Grand Air, beyond first class. Then he offered me 300 thousand dollars a year, basically just to compete in one contest. That was 25 G’s a month!   I used to look at that check for five minutes every time it came in the mail, amazed. A lot of people now don’t realize that we started the whole contract thing for bodybuilders. Before I left the IFBB, I talked to Joe Weider, who is still a good friend of mine. I said Joe, I’d love to stay with your organization, but I’ve got three kids and a lot of bills. I wanted to buy a house. I asked if he could offer me a substantial contract, not exactly to match Vince, but just to be competitive. He said he wasn’t going to try and compete, but he understood where I was coming from and wished me well. Money talks, and me, Gary Strydom, and Lou Ferrigno all left. After that, Joe was afraid he would lose most of his top guys, and started signing them to exclusive contracts and paying them.


Do you blame the lifestyle you lived as a WBF athlete for your drug addiction?

MC: Yes, I do think it had everything to do with it. I had too much money and too much time on my hands, which is always a dangerous combination. I started hanging out with the guys at strip bars and drinking beer – and I didn’t even like beer! I started getting high. Then Vince McMahon got investigated by the FBI over steroids and wrestling, and he initiated frequent drug testing in the WBF as a public relations move. The first time they called me in, I still had some stuff lingering in my system, and I failed. I was fined 25,000 dollars – an entire month’s salary. I got all the guys together to talk about it, and Vince got really angry. But there had been nothing in our contracts about drug testing. Then I see Gary Strydom before the ’92 WBF show, just as big as ever, while here I am shrinking down to a shadow of the Iron Warrior. And Gary passed the test with flying colors, supposedly. I said, “here we go, same shit all over again.” I got very depressed, feeling like my bodybuilding career was over.


Did your life spin out of control fast, or was it almost too gradual to notice what was really happening?

MC: With all those things happening, the partying and drug use escalated very rapidly.


Do you still consider yourself “recovering?” What keeps you from relapsing?

MC: Yes, I haven’t touched drugs or alcohol in almost ten years, but I’m still in recovery. I still go to meetings and talk. I love life, I love my beautiful wife and children. She’s so supportive and loving, and I’m excited to be able to raise my kids. The little things like taking them to games, picking them up from school, that I couldn’t do when I was bodybuilding or addicted. I’m just very grateful for all these things.


You were diagnosed as bipolar and spent several months in rehab and in a psychiatric facility in Los Angeles. Once you knew what was wrong, did a lot of things in your life that had happened up to that point start making sense?

MC: It was like being reborn. I had no idea why I had been feeling certain ways. I would be up and happy one minute, then miserable the next, feeling like I was worthless and everyone hated me. People always saw me smiling and assumed I was a happy guy, but inside I often was anything but. I was prescribed medication to stabilize my moods and everything has been fine since.


You lost your bodybuilding career, your house, you went down to 185 pounds, your fiancé absconded to Seattle with your son – how did you come back from all that without letting it beat you?

MC: It was my strong belief in God that pulled me through those very rough days. I went to church and learned the word of God. I went to Narcotics Anonymous meetings and got a lot of support from others who had gone through what I had.


Why have so many good bodybuilders fallen into the party lifestyle in L.A?

MC: It’s that whole Hollywood scene that’s right there in front of you. You see the glamour, the money, the fancy cars, and it’s difficult to not want to be part of that crowd. A lot of bodybuilders come out to L.A. from other parts of the country and it’s too enticing to avoid.


Do you think that once someone is used to taking drugs on a regular basis to improve their body, that it’s not such a huge leap to start using recreational drugs habitually as well?

MC: Yeah, a needle is a needle. I used to be terrified of needles and injections, but as a bodybuilder I learned to inject my own steroids. Toward the end of my addiction I was injecting cocaine. Plus, the euphoric feelings of being high aren’t so different from the unreal sensation of being 250-300 pounds and always being respected, the center of attention.


Do you have any idea how widespread Nubain and Ecstasy use is among the bodybuilding elite these days?

MC: It’s really bad now, I know.


What happened to the Platinum Everywear line of clothing, and how did you start Mike Christian trademark sports?

MC: I still have it in ten countries in Europe, but it turned out some woman in the USA had filed a trademark for a high-end women’s clothing line called Platinum by Dorothy Scholin six months before I had. Ironically, I had done everything right. I had hired a patent and trademark attorney in the beginning to do a search on it, paid him five thousand dollars and had it registered, so I assumed everything was fine. She sued me, claiming her customers were confused, which was silly. I mean, I’m selling baggy pants and she’s selling 3,000-dollar dresses. But I lost the suit, and started my new line, Trademark Sports, in 1990.


What’s your training like these days? Do you still enjoy it? Do you still stay as large as you used to?

MC: I still love to train, and get in there four times a week for about 40 minutes of weights and 45 minutes of cardio. Gold’s Venice still gives me a free membership, and you can’t beat the energy and atmosphere there. It’s 25 minutes away from my office, but that’s okay. I actually enjoy my training more now because there’s no pressure for me to look a certain way. I’m down to 215, but very lean. I stay that way eating whatever I want; cookies, ice cream, what have you.


Has that urge to compete finally departed?

MC: No, it’s still there. Last week I went to watch the Pro Ironman, and I couldn’t help but looking at the guys and wondering how I would do against them. I was just eating at the Firehouse with Aaron Baker, and he’s thinking about entering the Master’s Olympia. It wouldn’t be worth it for me. I’m the only WBF guy who never went back to the IFBB. I know I would get screwed and have to pay my dues for a while, and who needs that? After what I went through with drugs, I’m not interested in using steroids again, either. To get ready for a show, I would have to put my business and family on hold for months. Basically, I have everything to lose and nothing to gain. It’s better to remain a legend than to linger long after your prime. I know realistically I couldn’t win a show today.


Who are your favorite pro’s competing today?

MC: I’m not really into the pro circuit these days, but I have a lot of respect for Flex Wheeler, who quit bodybuilding to become a better Christian and father to his children. Even though he lost his contract with Biochem and money is tight for him right now, he has kept his faith and his positive attitude. We go to the same church, and he always has a hug and a smile for me.


Maybe it’s because I started reading the magazines when the top guys were you, Haney, Gaspari, and Labrada, but it seems to me that the pro’s back then had more personality, and the sport was more fun and exciting than it is today. Do you agree, and what could be responsible?

MC: There’s a big funnel on one end, and a little hole on the other end. Very few of these guys today are making money from the sport. There’s just not enough room for them all to be successful, and they end up hating and blaming each other, wanting to beat each other up. You need a ton of money just for the drugs these days. Unless you’re winning the Mr. Olympia, you probably can’t afford the lifestyle of a pro bodybuilder. That’s reality. Then you have guys in other sports getting paid a half million dollars a year to sit on a bench for a few months. The pro bodybuilders get jealous, frustrated, and angry, and I don’t blame them.


Do you think the standards can get any higher than what they are today in terms of freaky size and conditioning, or have we hit the limit?

MC: Yeah. With all the drugs, we could have a lot of guys over 300 pounds pretty soon. Quincy Taylor was 290 at the Ironman last week, and that was only his first pro show.


Do you think Ronnie Coleman is unbeatable?

MC: No, he’s not. Jay Cutler pushed him really hard at the 2001 Olympia, and it easily could have gone either way for first. Incidentally, I saved Ronnie’s butt at the Arnold Classic one year when some guy started screaming at him for supposedly stealing his cab. The guy was running at Ronnie like he was going to attack him. Ronnie was ready to deck this guy, and I got in the middle, all of 225 pounds, and was able to stop him. He would have been in big trouble, being a police officer and under contract and everything.


Who the hell would try to start a fight with Ronnie Coleman?

MC: I don’t know, someone who wasn’t too bright. He’s one of the biggest, strongest men that’s ever lived.


Do you think bodybuilding helped you grow and mature as a person?

MC: Bodybuilding has been great for me. It gave me the discipline to focus on things like my business and family. I see what I want, and I put my heart and soul into achieving them, whether it was contest titles, my wife and kids, my business, my house, or properties.


What do you want to be doing ten years from now?

MC: I want to be financially wealthy. I’ve always toyed with the idea of getting into some type of acting. Right now, I’m working on starting up a supplement company. I can’t go into too much detail on it right now, but it’s going to be very different – an entirely new twist on what we’ve seen so far. I’m very excited about it. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in business over the years, but I learned from every one. I’m also available for personal training.


How do you want to be remembered in the sport when the fans of the future look back on your career and contributions?

MC: I hope that people know I was the innovator of some things in bodybuilding. Only about a dozen or so men have really invented trademark poses. Back at the Cal I came up with the most-muscular variation where you push your hands together to really bring out the shoulder fullness and chest density. Three weeks later at another show, a bunch of guys were doing it! I was one of the first to really start doing routines to music with choreography and make it a creative effort. Back in ’86 I got sick of wearing regular sweat pants and decided to make them baggy in the leg, and smaller in the ankles and waist. Later I started making them with wild prints. That became a multimillion-dollar business with baggy workout pants that’s still going on today. And with the other WBF bodybuilders, I started the whole trend of bodybuilders being signed to endorsement contracts and being paid for their hard work. And finally, I was one of the first bodybuilders to have their own training video, “Iron Warrior.” It was different, it had comedy bits with Lyle Alzado and Michael Dudikoff (American Ninja). The video even had a part on hypnosis with Dr. Pete Siegel. Because it was so original and not just your standard video of a guy lifting weights, it stayed a best seller for ten years/


Mike, I thank you very much. You were one of my idols in the early days, and I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you.

MC: You’re welcome, Ron.







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