#2 Flex Wheeler: 1992 Heavyweight and Overall
The Sultan of Shape, the “greatest bodybuilder to never win the Mr. Olympia”—these are some of the words used to describe Kenneth “Flex” Wheeler. In 1991, after placing second to Mike Matarazzo in the heavies in his first USA, Wheeler swept the ’92 rendition with perfect scores—and then hit the pro ranks running. He won his debut, the 1993 Ironman Pro Invitational and three more contests, including the Arnold Classic. His brilliant rookie season was capped off by runner-ups to Dorian Yates at the Mr. Olympia and the Grand Prix England contests. With “the heir apparent to Yates” practically added to his last name, Wheeler’s stock was skyrocketing, but in 1994, he suffered a near-fatal car crash that left him with a broken neck in two places. What should have been his “year” was now a painful struggle to regain his health. Defying the odds, Wheeler returned to the stage in 1995, won three contests, and placed second at the Arnold Classic and eighth at the Olympia.In 1998, with reigning Mr. Olympia Yates forced into retirement due to injury, Wheeler was favored to sit atop the vacant throne but was upset by Ronnie Coleman. He placed second to Coleman again in 1999 and third in 2000, after which he announced his retirement due to a kidney disease. Wheeler returned in 2002 and placed seventh at the Olympia and after a third-place finish at the 2003 Ironman Pro Invitational, retired for the final time. He finished his pro career with 17 wins, including a record four Arnold Classic titles (1993, 1997–98, 2000) and five Ironman Pro Invitational wins.