Ever since his triumph at the Mr. Universe competition in 1981, Bob Paris has been one of the most admired and respected figures in the bodybuilding world. But he’s always been more than just a musclebound athlete-Paris is an accomplished author, actor, and activist who has used his platform to promote healthy living and progressive causes. In this comprehensive biography, we look at the life of this remarkable man. From his childhood in small-town America to his successes as a fitness icon and beyond, Bob Paris is an inspiration to us all.
Bob Paris Biography and Early Life
Birthdate: January 14, 1959
Birthplace: Small town in Ohio (some sources say Dayton)
Height: 5’10”Weight: 210 lbs.
Bob Paris was born on May 17, 1958, in Greenville, Ohio. Though Bob’s family didn’t have a lot of money he never felt deprived and enjoyed a happy childhood. He became interested in bodybuilding at an early age, starting to train when he was 13 years old after his father gifted him with a set of weights. At the age of 16, Paris entered his first bodybuilding contest. He was nervous but thrilled to win the novice division of the Mr. Teenage Ohio competition (he went on to win Mr. Teenage America later that year). Paris’s star was beginning to rise!
Bob Paris competed in some amateur contests, but he knew he wasn’t ready for the pros. At the age of 18, Bob Paris joined the U.S Navy (he had to get his parents’ permission first). Before he left for California he worked at a boatyard with some buddies. He was able to maintain his fitness level while serving in the military by training at lunchtime and after work with his colleagues.
Bob Paris was discharged from the Navy after 18 months and moved to Los Angeles. He wasn’t sure what direction his life would take; he just knew he wanted to become a professional bodybuilder. In 1979, Bob competed in the AAU Teen Mr. America contest and won a third-place trophy. This was an impressive achievement for a 20-year-old, but Paris did not feel satisfied. He believed he did not have the size or mass needed to compete with the pros.
Paris moved back to Ohio and worked as a personal trainer at a health club. He also coached young bodybuilders, hoping to improve their muscularity and conditioning so they could become more competitive in future contests. In 1981, Bob Paris made his dream a reality when he won the Mr. Universe competition (the same event he entered eight years earlier).
Paris was eager to share his bodybuilding knowledge with others but did not want to teach only at the gym where he worked, he wanted to reach more people. In 1982, Paris wrote an article for Ironman magazine titled “How I Trained to Win The Universe.” This was also the year he made his acting debut in John J. Palmer’s film “A Broken Hero” (he played the main character).
The following year, Paris decided to pursue a career in bodybuilding instruction full-time. He left Ohio behind and moved to Los Angeles (where most of the top bodybuilders lived). Paris’s first book, “The Bob Paris Program to Get Glutes” was published in 1985. He followed this up with the publication of his autobiography “To Be the Best” (it was later republished as “Off The Lip”) which showcased the ups and downs of his life thus far.
In 1988, Bob co-wrote “Flex Appeal” with Jeff Everson. This was an excellent book that featured exercises designed to unleash your inner gladiator. Bob also contributed articles to various fitness magazines in the 1990s including Flex, Muscle & Fitness, Ironman and Muscular Development.
Bob Paris appeared in numerous films during this period in his life including Gregory Dark’s “American Strays” (1996), David DeCoteau’s “The Young In Heart” (1998) and Gregg Maxwell Parker’s “Darkness Before Dawn” (2000).
Bob Paris continued to train throughout his late twenties/early thirties. He competed in numerous pro contests throughout this period, winning a few trophies here and there. His last pro competition was the 1999 Night of The Champions event where he finished in second place.
Bob Paris is a pioneer of drug-free bodybuilding, having won numerous titles before it became popular to go “natural.” Many young men and women have been inspired by his achievements and have become successful professional bodybuilders themselves. At 51 years of age, Bob Paris now works as a personal trainer (he now charges $100 per hour).
After retiring from bodybuilding, Bob Paris turned to acting. He has had guest star roles on The Young and the Restless, Silk Stalkings, Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place, Pacific Blue and Spin City.
Bob has also appeared in numerous films throughout his life.
- American Strays (Gregory Dark, 1996)
- Musclemen (Robert Craighead, 1999)
- Darkness Before Dawn (Gregg Maxwell Parker, 2000)
- Muscular Distortion (Jack Remy, 2002)
- Link Rogue’s Gallery (Richard Gabai, 2003)
- Bait Shop (Gary Chick / Daniel DiMarco / Howell Gibbens , 2008)
- American Islands (Daniel DiMarco, 2008)
- A Broken Hero (John J. Palmer, 1982)
Bob Paris and His Books
Bob Paris’s first book “The Bob Paris Program to Get Glutes” was published in 1985.
Other publications include:
- To Be the Best (1986)
- Off the Lip (1988)
- Flex Appeal (with Jeff Everson, 1989)
- In His Own Words: The Story of Bob Paris by Mike Lambert (1995)
- Off the Lip: The Autobiography of Bob Paris (with David Chanoff and Jim Jerome, 1988)
- Muscles & Mayhem: Behind the Scenes with Today’s Top Fitness Models by S.W. Carney (2001)
- Forever Fit: Strategies for Staying Healthy, Happy and Fit At Any Age by Bill Fabrocini (2007)
Bob Paris is one of the many celebrities who have at some point appeared in the world of professional wrestling. He took part in some “exhibition” matches during his teenage years but had to wait until he was 24 before making his official debut, this came about because of his long hair (which made him look too young).
Bob Paris made his wrestling debut in 1978. He came to the ring wearing a full-length leather jacket and sunglasses (thus, he resembled the “gangster” stereotype). His opponent was a local wrestler named Tommy Bolain. Bob Paris won this match by using a ‘flying mare’ technique followed by a sleeper hold.
After a few more “exhibition” matches, Bob Paris was invited to wrestle for the NWA Central States promotion in Missouri.
In his first official match for this wrestling company, Bob took on Tommy Bolain once again. The match was held at the Kansas City Municipal Auditorium and was attended by 1,700 people who saw Bob Paris win the contest.
After a few more matches in Missouri, Bob Paris was invited to wrestle for NWA Western States in New Mexico. In his first match for this promotion, Bob battled “Cowboy” Ron Starr and emerged victorious. The next night he went up against Bad Boy Hines but lost the fight after receiving a ‘flying mare’ from his opponent.
Bob Paris’s last match for NWA Western States was against The Destroyer (Dick Beyer) in Tucumcari, New Mexico on March 9th, 1980. He lost the match after receiving a ‘flying mare’ from his opponent. His final wrestling match took place in Dallas, Texas on May 16th, 1980 (he lost to “Denver” Danny Davis).
A year after leaving the world of wrestling, Bob Paris became a professional bodybuilder. He went on to win many titles and was crowned ‘Mr. USA’ four years in a row (1982-1985).
He then returned to the world of wrestling and wrestled for the American Wrestling Association (AWA) in 1984. However, he did not receive a permanent contract with the company and had to make do with “touring” contracts only.
Bob Paris ended his professional wrestling career in 1985 after being defeated by David Sammartino on an episode of WWF Wrestling Challenge. His final match was on November 25th, 1985, against Tony Atlas (which he lost, of course).
Bob Paris came out of retirement in 1997 and wrestled Jaime Dundee at a special event entitled “Wrestle America III”. He had another chance to wrestle again when he was invited by the Eastern Wrestling Alliance (EWA) to take part in their “Super Show” on June 7th of that year. Paris’ opponent was a man named Eddie Edwards and he won the match after applying a front sleeper hold on him. Bob Paris has not wrestled since then but is still open to the idea of one day returning to the ring although it is unlikely that this will happen anytime soon.
- After winning the Mister French Nationals in 1979 at the age of 20, Bob Paris became a professional bodybuilder winning his first major title, Mr. USA, four times consecutively.
- In 1982 he was third behind Lee Haney and Chris Dickerson at the prestigious Mr. Olympia contest after being placed second the year before to Arnold Schwarzenegger.
- He would have made the top three at least another four times, with just 7 wins between 1982 and 1993.
- Bob Paris was inducted into the International Federation of BodyBuilders (IFBB) Hall of Fame in 1999.
- Paris had some success after his bodybuilding career ended, winning the NPC Southern States Light Heavyweight title in 2001.
Competition and Awards
- 1979 French Nationals (2nd Tall, 1st – Overall)
- 1980 Mr France (1st – Heavyweight and Overall)
- 1980 Mr. Olympia (4th)
- 1982 Mr. International (6th)
- 1984 World Pro Championships (7th)
- 1987 Night of Champions (3rd – Heavyweight class B winner and 3rd – Overall)
- 1991 Night of Champions (3rd – Light Heavyweight Winner and 4th – Overall)
- 1998 Ironman Pro Invitational (7th)
- 2001 NPC Southern States Championships (1st)
- 2004 FIBO Power Pro (7th)
- 2005 FIBO Power Classic (8th)
- 2007 Olympia Masters (8th)
- 1991 Night of Champions (3rd – Heavyweight class B winner and 3rd – Overall)
- 2003 Ironman Pro Invitational (7th)
- 1984 Mr. Olympia – 12th place
- 1986 Night of Champions – 7th place
- 1987 World Pro Championships – 6th place
- 1993 Ironman Pro Invitational – 2nd place
- 1999 IFBB Hall of Fame
- 2003 Ironman Pro Invitational – 4th place
- 2004 FIBO Power Pro – 8th place
- 2006 Mr. Olympia Masters (8-year class) – 7th place
- 2007 Olympia Master`s – 8th place
Bob Paris after winning the NPC Southern States Light Heavyweight title in 2001.
In the early days Bob was said to have been a steroid user, but even during his bodybuilding career he was vehemently averse to any drugs. This controversial stance on drug use has seen him pick up a lot of criticism from within the world of professional wrestling and bodybuilding.
Bob Paris has said very little in recent years about his past, but he recently agreed to take part in an interview with the UK publication “MuscleTalk” (issue 68) which is available now on their website. The article titled “The Last of a Dying Breed” seems to have generated some interest amongst readers of the magazine and is the first media outlet in nearly five years to get Paris talking about his former career.
The interview with MuscleTalk is very interesting, but they only asked him a small number of questions that really didn’t go into depth about what happened between 1985 and 1997 when he walked away from the sport. I was lucky enough to ask Bob Paris a few extra questions to find out more about why he retired and what obstacles he faced along the way.
Interviewee Question: When you first became involved with professional wrestling, did you expect it to be as tough an adjustment as it turned out to be?
Paris’ Answer: I knew that getting into pro-wrestling was going to be tough, but I didn’t realize how tough it would be. I do know that if I had been involved in pro-wrestling from the beginning, my chances of long-term success would have been much greater.
Interviewee Question: What were some of the difficulties you faced when you first entered professional wrestling?
Paris’ Answer: I didn’t have a great deal of experience wrestling, so there was a lot to learn. I also had to make an adjustment with the way we “fake” fought. I wasn’t willing to do certain things, like break my nose and teeth for instance.
Interviewee Question: Was it hard adjusting from bodybuilding to professional wrestling? Did they treat you as a normal wrestler or were you treated differently because of your bodybuilding career?
Paris’ Answer: The guys treated me great.
Interviewee Question: The one comment that I have read numerous times from wrestlers who knew you during your training period was that people had judged you too quickly and determined that you wouldn’t be able to handle it. Did anyone ever say anything negative about your chances or did everyone have your back?
Paris’ Answer: I know some guys were ready to give up on me early, but I also know that there were others, like Dory Funk Jr., who was excited about the possibilities.
Interviewee Question: I’ve read where you said back in 1985 (prior to your first match) that you wanted a “comfortable living” wrestling and if it wasn’t for guys like Sting and Rick Martel pushing you, you would have walked away from professional wrestling. Who were the people that you looked up to and respected so much in the business?
Paris’ Answer: Sting and Rick Martel were fantastic, but there were others too like Funk, Bill Watts and Bruiser Brody.
Interviewee Question: Did you ever run into any problems with wrestlers not wanting to sell moves for you or someone telling you “this is how we do things here?” If so, do you have any examples of this?
Paris’ Answer: I think it was more about them being unsure about what my limitations were. It also probably wasn’t helped by the fact that I wouldn’t take the “business” seriously enough, so most guys didn’t think I’d be around that long.
Interviewee Question: One of the biggest problems you had during your career seemed to be that promoters didn’t want to push you. Do you feel that promoters were worried about making a bodybuilder look good and afraid to take a chance on someone who didn’t have a wrestling background?
Paris’ Answer: I think promoters were worried, not so much about how I’d look, but more about the fact that wrestlers wouldn’t sell for me or “put me over” as they say.
These questions and answers are only a small glimpse into the depth of Bob Paris’ career in professional wrestling.
Bob Paris’ Life Today
After leaving professional wrestling, Bob Paris went on to have a successful career as a model. He appeared in many popular magazines at the time, including Muscle & Fitness, Flex, Ironman, and Muscular Development.
As of today, Bob is still involved with fitness and models. He has also written two books about bodybuilding, The New Natural Bodybuilding, and Positively Unreal.
Bob is currently the fitness editor at The Stranger, a Seattle, Washington weekly newspaper. He also writes a column for Ironman Magazine and maintains a web site devoted to bodybuilding and fitness.