Arnold Schwarzenegger is arguably the best bodybuilder in history. The seven-time Mr Olympia winner is renowned worldwide for his accolades. Schwarzenegger ruled the 70s. The Terminator actor went on a rampage in bodybuilding competitions at the time and has been part of some of the greatest rivalries.
Lou Ferrigno was one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most famous rivals. Ferrigno, who spent most of his life pursuing fame as an actor, was once a fierce competitor to the former California mayor. The former US bodybuilder won two consecutive IFBB Mr Universe titles, along with a Mr America title in the early 70s. His quick rise in bodybuilder competitions saw people draw parallels to the 'Austrian Oak'.
Interestingly, Ferrigno trained alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger earlier in his career. The duo were considered rivals despite only competing with each other on rare occasions. However, the bodybuilding greats cemented their rivalry in history after they took up roles as rivals in the documentary Pumping Iron. The documentary gave their rivalry a new high as it revolved around Ferrigno’s attempt to beat Arnold Schwarzenegger for the Mr. Olympia title in 1975.
The Lou Ferrigno - Arnold Schwarzenegger showdown
Lou Ferrigno was 17 when he first saw Arnold Schwarzenegger compete at the 1969 Mr. Olympia. It was the Twins actor’s debut at Mr. Olympia.
Ferrigno began developing himself and built out his enormous six-foot-five-inch frame. Soon after, he burst onto the scene, winning the overall title of the IFBB Mr. America contest in New York at only 21 years of age.
The similarities between Ferrigno and Schwarzenegger's physiques created a lot of hype among fans. Schwarzenegger stood at six feet two inches and weighed 230-240 pounds, while Ferrigno was three inches taller and weighed an enormous 275 pounds. Bodybuilding fans took notice of the rising stars and began terming a possible faceoff between the two as the 'Battle of the Giants'.
The highly anticipated confrontation between the two giant bodybuilders took place in 1974. Ferrigno took on Schwarzenegger in his maiden Mr. Olympia contest. The contest was hyped up as an article in Muscle Builder/Power magazine showed Ferrigno holding the reigning champion’s head with the headline:
“Bring Me the Head of Arnold Schwarzenegger!”
However, the contest failed to live up to its hype. Ferrigno faced Schwarzenegger in the Over 200 Pound Class and lost. The reigning champion won his fifth Mr. Olympia, out-massing the newcomer.
Ferrigno never managed to beat his rival as he finished third the following year.
However, the story of the duo’s short-lived rivalry became the plot for the cult classic movie Pumping Iron in 1977. The sports documentary film tells the story of an insecure underdog (Ferrigno) taking on a confident champion (Schwarzenegger).
Post his bodybuilding days, Ferrigno found his position as an actor, landing the title role in the Incredible Hulk TV series. He went on to star in movies and series including Hercules, Cage, Liberator, etc.
Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger went on to become a superstar, becoming more popular than Ferrigno in Hollywood as well. He landed lead roles in movies like The Terminator, Predator, Total Recall, and Last Action Hero, making him one of the biggest names in the industry.
Schwarzenegger went on to play various roles as a film producer, businessman, and politician. The former California governor even featured in the ‘100 most influential people in the world’ by Time magazine twice (2004 and 2007).