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Ken Waller was featured in the 1977 movie Pumping Iron.

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Mike Katz hid Danny Padilla’s T-shirt

Ken Waller is probably best known for his bad guy role in the movie Pumping Iron. What did Ken Waller do that was so evil? Accorded to the drama acted out in Pumping Iron, he hid Mike Katz’s T-shirt.

Every movie needs conflict. It’s like resistance in weight training. Without resistance the muscle doesn’t grow and without conflict neither does drama. And even in a documentary you had better believe the director is going to find an angle where people go against each other, organizations, forces of nature, or even themselves. In Pumping Iron Mike Katz is the guy who is victimized and Ken Waller is the guy doing the victimizing. Never mind that Ken Waller was born a freckled redhead, one of the smallest and most teased minorities in the world. Never mind the fact that allowing Mike Katz to compete as the second heavyweight in the 1975 Mr Universe cost Latino bodybuilder Danny Padilla his role in Pumping Iron.

The Weider’s wanted the three precious spots representing the United States at the Mr. Universe to be two heavyweights and a middleweight but no lightweight, meaning no Padilla. The reason they made this unusual move was so Katz could try to win the Mr. Universe one more time before he retired. Sorry, Latino bodybuilder. You can’t compete at our contest this year. One of the problems with the whole deal was that Mike Katz didn’t retire in 1975. He competed in the 1976 Mr. Olympia, the 1980 NBA Natural Mr. America Professional, the 1980 IFBB World Pro Championships, and the 1981 Mr. Olympia. Another problem is that both Mike Katz and Ken Waller couldn’t have both won the heavyweight division anyway. However, Padilla could have won the lightweight division. Furthermore, Mike Katz didn’t place second to Ken Waller. He placed third. I’m sorry, he placed fourth, behind Ken Waller, Roger Walker, and Paul Grant.

After Padilla’s grueling pre-contest preparation, travel around the globe to South Africa and hours of participation in the filming of Pumping Iron, he then wanted to at least represent Portugal so his efforts weren’t for nothing and he could have a chance at winning the lightweight division, a very good chance. The Weider’s wouldn’t even let Padilla do that and  with non-competitor status he ended up with a only few seconds of screen time in Pumping Iron’s final cut.

The film maker’s needed conflict. A good guy and a bad guy. In the documentary about the documentary Pumping Iron, called Raw Iron, Waller explains that he and Mike Katz were actually friends and the T-shirt hiding business was staged. Waller was later quoted as saying, “”I would go to contests and get booed, after that!”, meaning people viewed him as a real life villain because of his part in a movie. Furthermore, none of the bodybuilders, except Schwarzenegger, really made any money from the movie, although Ferrigno’s performance may have helped him land his Hulk role. Waller helped make Pumping Iron successful, was barely paid for it, and suffered scorn because of the public’s manufactured impression of him…although he likely would have done it all over again if given the same opportunity. Pumping Iron is what Ken Waller is most known for and, come to think of it, it’s the same with Mike Katz.

So, the next time you watch Pumping Iron and see Mike Katz being brought to tears after not placing in the top three at the 1975 Mr. Universe contest, remember that a very qualified Latino bodybuilder was not even allowed to compete in that very contest and that a Ginger bodybuilder named Ken Waller “took a bullet” to make Mike Katz look more sympathetic. How do you like that take on bodybuilding history? Just creating conflict. Remember, resistance?

Ken Waller Bodybuilding Contest History


Mr America – AAU, 4th
Mr USA – AAU, 4th


Mr America – AAU, 3rd
Junior Mr USA – AAU, Most Muscular, 1st
Junior Mr USA – AAU, Winner
Mr USA – AAU, Most Muscular, 1st
Mr USA – AAU, Winner


Mr America – AAU, 2nd
Mr America – AAU, Most Muscular, 2nd
Junior Mr America – AAU, Most Muscular, 2nd
Junior Mr America – AAU, 2nd
Mr World – AAU, Tall, 1st
Mr World – AAU, Overall Winner


Mr America – IFBB, Tall, 1st
Mr America – IFBB, Overall Winner
Mr International – IFBB, Tall, 1st
Mr Universe – NABBA, Tall, 1st
Mr Universe – NABBA, Overall Winner
Pro Mr World – WBBG, 2nd


Mr International – IFBB, Overall Winner
Mr International – IFBB, Tall, 1st
Mr World – IFBB, Tall, 2nd


Universe – IFBB, Tall, 2nd
Mr World – IFBB, Tall, 1st
Mr World – IFBB, Overall Winner
World Championships – NABBA, Overall Winner


Universe – IFBB, Tall, 2nd


Universe – IFBB, Tall, 1st
Universe – IFBB, Overall Winner


Olympia – IFBB, HeavyWeight, 1st


Olympia – IFBB, HeavyWeight, 2nd
Olympia – IFBB, 5th


Night of Champions – IFBB, 6th


Grand Prix California – IFBB, 7th
Olympia – IFBB, 16th
Pittsburgh Pro Invitational – IFBB, Did not place


Olympia – IFBB, 16th

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