The Arnold Classic 2014 preview by Muscular Development’s Shawn Ray, Flex Wheeler and Kevin Levrone. The three legends give their opinions on who will do what at the Arnold Classic 2014. would like to thank Muscular Development,  Shawn Ray, Kevin Levrone and Flex Wheeler for their the class service in keeping the fans up-to-date.

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(Editor’s Note: At the time of writing, Roelly Winklaar was scheduled to compete at the 2014 Arnold Classic. Since then he has had to withdraw due to an injury caused by a motorcycle accident. Also, Hidetada Yamagishi has switched from the Open Class to the 212 division.)

arnold1The Arnold Schwarzenegger Classic began somewhat modestly in 1989, the collaboration of the seven-time Mr. Olympia and movie star and Jim Lorimer. From its first winner, Rich Gaspari, the list of champions to bear this title grew to include a pantheon of greats including Shawn Ray, Flex Wheeler, Kevin Levrone, Jay Cutler and Ronnie Coleman. No longer just one event based in Ohio, the Arnold Classic has expanded globally and this year will host competitions in Brazil on April 25, in Madrid, Spain on September 26-27 and for the very first time, a venture onto the Asian continent with the Arnold Classic in Beijing, China on October 25. In 2015, Tony Doherty’s long-running pro show in Australia will become the Arnold Classic Australia. But of course, it’s the original Arnold Classic held the first weekend every March in Columbus, Ohio, that still holds the greatest prestige and that fans look forward to with the highest anticipation. This year’s lineup is truly star-studded, and we turned to three past Arnold Classic Champions, Shawn Ray, Flex Wheeler and Kevin Levrone to give us their thoughts on this year’s Arnold Classic as well as the very first 212 Arnold Classic.

Branch Warren
Ht:       5’7”
Wt:      245
Age:    39 (as of February 26)


Arnold Classic History
2006     Second Place
2007     Seventh Place
2008     Fourth Place
2009     Third Place
2010     Third Place
2011      Winner
2012      Winner
Branch already has two Arnold titles, and I don’t know how many of those huge crystal “Most Muscular” trophies (five?), but he’s back for more. Branch had a pretty miserable showing at the last Mr. Olympia, which tells me he’s on fire to show everyone what he’s really capable of this time. Not that Branch needs to prove he’s still a contender— his track record speaks for itself. But in this sport, you’re only ever as good as your last show and people can turn on you in a heartbeat. Branch has been at this game a very long time now, and that can sometimes work against an athlete. Father Time gets the best of all of us, eventually. But it’s possible that Branch still has a few great shows left in him before that day comes. We’ll soon see if this is one of them.
 I personally feel this former two-time Arnold Classic Champion has maxed out. I think we have seen the best of Branch, as he has aged and taken on more responsibilities such as the role of father, battled injuries and more importantly, Father Time. Branch has some aspects of his physique that are amazing but overall, his injuries are more noticeable than his strengths at this point. His condition has been slipping and the “wow factor” we got used to is now just OK. Branch would have to be his absolute best in 2014 to win here.
 I’ve seen Branch written off more than a few times now after not placing well or suffering some serious injury, but all of those times he came back and either won a show or did extremely well. He seems to be the type of guy who gets pissed off when people say he’s finished, and has a real “I’ll show you” attitude. For that reason, I strongly suspect he won’t be off at the Arnold the way he was at the last Mr. Olympia. Not to blame the coach, but he was also trying out a new coach for the Olympia and the end result just wasn’t satisfactory. He’s back with George Farah now and they have made a pretty good team over the last few years. It was with George that he won two Arnold Classic titles and took second at the Mr. O in 2009. So for all those reasons, I expect Branch to be on his game again this time.
Dennis Wolf
Ht:      6’0”
Wt:     270
Age:    35


Arnold Classic History
 2011   Second Place
2012    Second Place


Based on the last Mr. Olympia, Dennis is the highest-ranking man in this contest and thus should be considered the favorite to win. When he shows up big and full and in condition, there are very few men competing today who are capable of beating him. That height, shape and X-frame are a formidable combination. It’s hard for a good shorter man to beat a good taller man, and for that reason it’s hard for me to see anyone taking him out as long as he can repeat his stunning look from the last O.


My oddson favorite to win this show! Dennis arguably should have been second at the 2013 Mr. Olympia to Phil Heath, which would have bested former two-time Arnold Classic Champion Kai Greene and everyone else competing in this contest! Dennis is slowly growing into his physique and adding size. He is one of the tallest and biggest guys in the lineup, still only 34 years young and maturing nicely. His X-frame will loom large here, and if he nails his conditioning as he did at the Mr. Olympia last year, he should walk with his first Arnold Classic title!


I’ve always been a fan of this guy’s physique. He just has qualities so few others competing today do, like his height and shoulder span together with a small waist, plus great shape and symmetry in general. The areas that were glaring weak points for a while, his lower lats and his hamstrings, have improved significantly. All he really needs to do to win is show up looking the way he did at the last Olympia. The only men there who beat him were Phil and Kai (many felt only Phil deserved to beat him), and neither of them will be in this show. So unless one of the other front-runners manages to make insane improvements since the end of last September, Dennis could walk away with this show.
Shawn Rhoden
Ht:       5’9”
Wt:      240
Age:    38
Arnold Classic History
2012     Eighth Place
 Flexatron (it’s OK, bro … the nickname doesn’t bother me anymore!) is another favorite to possibly win this. In taking fourth at the last two Mr. Olympia contests, he’s given us glimpses of his ultimate potential if he can add a bit more size in key areas like his back and chest. Shawn is getting up there in age, but he looks younger than 38 and is definitely still “young” in the sport since he’s only competed in four seasons as a pro so far. I look forward to seeing what he brings to Columbus because he does have some of the best shape and symmetry out there today.
Shawn is a classical bodybuilder with little “wow factor,” as no one area really jumps out at you. However, the sum of all his parts stacks up favorably against this field. For Shawn to ensure being in the hunt, he will have to bring better condition and improve size on his upper pecs, shoulders and arms. I like the way his physique flows. Rhoden needs to watch the size of his quads, as they are borderline overpowering his upper body. Good choice to compete here for Shawn!
Shawn is another athlete coming into his own over the last year. His aesthetics and shape remind me a lot of Flex Wheeler. The only thing I think might hurt him is if he gets caught up in the size game and lets his condition take a backseat. Shawn’s strong point is his lines. With his type of structure and the fact that he’s already 38, I don’t see him ever pushing the biggest men on their own turf, pure mass and thickness. Rhoden should focus on bringing killer condition to go along with his awesome shape and symmetry, and that will take him close to if not all the way to the top. Shawn still does need more back thickness, but if he shows up totally shredded, that won’t be too much of an issue. He was third at the 2012 Olympia and fourth at the 2013 Olympia, and the only man in this show that beat him last time was Wolf. Logically, that means he should be right up there with Dennis fighting for this title.
Victor Martinez
Ht:       5’10”
Wt:      250
Age:    40
Arnold Classic History
2005     Seventh Place
2006     Third Place
2007     Winner
2009     Second Place
2011     Third Place
I tell you what— I bore witness to one of the best improvements in only two weeks’ time in Victor from the last Mr. Olympia to the Arnold Classic Europe in Madrid. He maintained his great condition from the Olympia, but was also able to fill out so much. If he’s filled out to his usual size since then, he could very well shut the door on everyone else. Along with Branch, he’s the only other former Arnold Classic champ and Mr. O runner-up competing.
This former 2007 Arnold Classic winner never looked as good as when he won here some seven years ago now! That said, now over 40 years old and having competed four times in 2013, I believe he has enough gas in his tank to land top five in this lineup, but he is not a threat for the win. In 2013 Victor, as usual, overcame a lot of adversity to pull off a first runner-up in New York this past May and a win in Toronto in June— all the while being the “sub Victor” we have become used to. He is badly in need of extra size overall, and his legs have noticeably diminished in size.
I was very impressed with the condition Victor brought to all four shows he did in 2013, but not so impressed with the fact that he was downsized. Victor’s strong points are his perfect shape and structure and round, full muscle bellies. I didn’t see those gifted muscle bellies at all last year. He claims he finally has all his size back now that he lost in the training time he lost, first while locked up awaiting his immigration status to be determined, then the next year when he broke his arm while arm-wrestling some dude in Mexico. We’ll see. If he has, he should be up in the top three or four for sure. The only nagging doubt in my mind is whether or not his legs will be as thick and full with the same outer quad sweep that they had before he hurt his knee a few years ago. They haven’t looked the same since then, and I have to wonder if they ever will. I doubt it’s from lack of effort. Sometimes injuries are so severe that even after surgery and rehab, a bodybuilder simply is never able to train that area with the same intensity and heavy loads as before
Roelly Winklaar
Ht:       5’7”
Wt:     245
Age:    36
Arnold Classic History
2010   Seventh Place
2011   Eighth Place
This is going to be one hot Arnold Classic, because even some of the men who aren’t necessarily in the running to win are still pretty impressive. This past fall, I saw the best package of size and condition ever from Roelly, who appears to be bigger and thicker than ever. It might sound crazy, but if he steps it up another notch or two, I think Roelly has the potential to possibly win this thing, especially if the heavy favorites don’t bring their A-game for whatever reason.
Roelly is my most improved bodybuilder of 2013! I had him in sixth place fighting for top five in Las Vegas against the world’s best, where he finished seventh. Roelly’s muscularity and condition improved by leaps and bounds, and if he brings his Olympia condition with similar muscularity, this former Arnold Amateur champion could find himself in the top three of this contest.
The first things I remember hearing about this guy were people comparing his shoulders and triceps to mine back when he first turned pro in 2009. Once I got a look at him, I had to agree he had those going on! The Dutch Beast has sort of been up and down in the placings since then, but he looked the best I had ever seen him at the recent Mr. Olympia. He has a ton of thick, round muscle and hopefully he can bring that crisp condition again. Roelly’s shape isn’t perfect. In his front double biceps, for example, he doesn’t have a great taper because you can’t see his lats from the front. But overall, he has a great look and should be up there around the five or six spots.
Toney Freeman
Ht:       6’2”
Wt:      275
Age:    47
Arnold Classic History:
2005    Tenth Place
2006     Ninth Place
2007     Third Place
2008     Seventh Place
2009     Fourth Place
2010     Fifth Place
2011     Ninth Place
2013     Third Place
Father Time must have lost this man’s contact info! Toney is like Branch in the sense that he has a pattern of coming back at 100 percent following a poor showing, and I know he wasn’t happy with 15th place at the last Olympia. Toney inspires the hell out of me because he’s only one year younger than me and he’s still doing this. Huge props to the X-Man and I wish him the best here.
 The oldest competitor in this contest at 47 is also one of the tallest and nicest of our athletes competing. Sadly, these adjectives are not enough to move Toney into the top six. Toney will always have a pretty X-Frame, but at the height of 6’2”, the first things to go are the legs, which was noticeable in 2013. Last year he was considerably down in size and his condition was never really close to where he had become accustomed to. Toney snagged a first runner-up spot at the Arnold Classic Brazil this past April in a not so “talent-rich” contest, and third here only a year ago. Even then, he was still in need of detail, thinner skin and overall more size to counter his height. I love you, Toney, but as with all the greats before you, Father Time is what will keep Toney from being a factor here. His desire and passion to win and improve have never been in question.
 Forty-seven years old, wow! I gotta give it up to the X-Man, because he doesn’t look his age at all. The fact that he’s pushing 50 and is still up there at the top of his game with guys half his age is a feat in itself. Genetically, I always thought Toney had some amazing gifts to capitalize on. I’ve even wondered what I could have done with that height and structure myself. Not to upset him or put him down in any way, but to me it seems like Toney trains “just hard enough.” If he trained the way I used to in my prime, I suspect he would be bigger and fuller. But then again, he might have had to retire with injuries 10-15 years ago if he went that heavy! I’m always a fan of Toney’s, though. I hope he focuses on condition and brings that blend of fullness and cuts that had him in third place last year.
Evan Centopani
Ht:       5’11”
Wt:      260
Age:    31
Arnold Classic History:
2011     Fourth Place
2012     Third Place
 Evan has been very smart and strategic in picking his contests since he turned pro, which is why he won all of them up until he started competing in the big two, the Arnold and the Olympia. This is a tough show with some very steep competition this year. Was it wise for him to enter this show, or should he have sat it out and continued to fill out that big frame? That’s a tough call, because at this point in his career, he has a whole lot of fans that want to see him compete more often now. I doubt we will see him looking too different from his last Olympia showing, but if he can manage to show up a little fuller, that could be just enough to keep him up there with the very top men.
 Evan has slowly but surely compiled a winning track record as an IFBB Pro, with victories in New York, Los Angeles and Tampa Bay while slowly filling out his young super heavyweight frame. That said, I believe Evan is close to coming into his “peak” years and has top-four potential in this lineup, based on his conditioning and muscularity. He still needs back thickness overall and a fuller chest, but he seems to be ready to “break through” and this lineup is very suitable for that!
 This is a guy who seems to me to still be “unfinished,” meaning it looks to me like he hasn’t fully filled out his frame yet. As big as he is, Evan really needs to be bigger to hang with guys like Wolf. That being said, he has some serious strong points like his shoulders, arms and overall structure. He’s done well at this show the two times he’s competed in it so far, so as long as he brings his usual tight condition, he should be in the fight for a top five or six spot.
Fred Smalls
Ht:       5’7”
Wt:      230
Age:    38
Arnold Classic History:
2013     Seventh Place
 I was actually very impressed with Fred here last year, and also at the Arnold Brasil and Prague shows, both of which he was in the top five at. His condition is getting better all the time, and that was really his only Achilles’ heel in the past. With so many veterans and big names entering this year’s Arnold, I’m not sure how he will fare. Fred probably will have the best posing routine again, though.
 Fred is still a work in progress and has flashes of breaking out at times. However, Fred needs to find the right mix of muscle separation and detail if he is to make an impact here. Fred has entertaining posing, but in this contest the physique is what will be scored. While I feel Fred may be in the hunt for the $10,000 Best Presentation Award, I see him out of the top six.
 Fred is one of those guys who looks fantastic by himself and can do really well at the smaller shows, but has a tougher time in really stacked lineups. He has really good size and round muscle shapes, but I’ve yet to see him show up in truly nasty condition. Like a lot of pros out there— he could very well be a surprise if he manages to figure that part out for this show.
Cedric McMillan
Ht:       6’1
Wt:      265
Age:    36
Arnold Classic History:
 2013    Sixth Place
 Cedric, Cedric, the great “what if?” This is a man that pictures don’t even do justice to. When you see him onstage and especially next to men who lack his height and structure, you have to wonder why he isn’t winning everything. I’m going on record to say that no man competing today has more potential but has underdelivered more times than Cedric. I say this because I’m a fan of his. I want him to fulfill his destiny and win the big shows. I’m waiting!
 Every contest Cedric enters, you have to consider him the “X Factor” based on not knowing which Cedric will show up. Cedric, winner of the 2013 IFBB German Pro last April, was then disqualified at the end of April at the Arnold Brasil, then failed to make the top 15 at the New York Pro in May (a show he had won just a year earlier) and later was out of the top 10 at the Mr. Olympia in September. I had Cedric as the 2013 pre-contest winner of the Arnold Classic Brasil and the top 10 at the Mr. Olympia. If he comes to Columbus and nails it, he is a shoo-in for the top five, but not a lock! Cedric is too inconsistent for the betting man, but so genetically advantaged that you cannot ever count him out.
 More than once, I’ve asked myself, why isn’t Cedric Mr. Olympia by now? The man just has things going for him that no one else does, like his height and incredibly small waist, like Wolf. Cedric has a classic type of physique that really reminds you of the very best stars of the ‘70s and ‘80s. To me, he has enough mass already, but apparently others seem to feel he needs more— along with better condition than he’s shown so far. I’d love to see this guy do really well here.
Ben Pakulski
Ht:       5’10”
Wt:      270
Age:    32
Arnold Classic History:
2011     Tenth Place
2012     Fourth Place
2013     Second Place
 Big Ben was a surprise last year when he came out looking like a true freak and beat everybody except Dexter. He reminds me a bit of a younger Jay Cutler. Ben has taken his time and isn’t pushing his body too far, too fast. Ben is setting himself up to be one of the top-tier men in the entire sport as the older veterans gradually go away.
 What a huge breakout last year at this contest for Ben, finishing in the first runner-up spot and then sliding to third place a week later in Australia. The knock on Big Ben last year was stomach distension, which many felt was oddly ignored at the Arnold Classic, yet he was punished for it at the Aussie Pro. If he streamlined his waist, brought his weight down a bit and added some back thickness, he could be as dangerous as last year— but nowhere close to beating Dennis and Shawn, in my view.
 I’ll get this right out of the way— Ben does not have a pretty body. But, the man is thick and massive with some of the best wheels in the sport today, and the grainy detail he showed in Columbus last year when taking second to Dexter was pretty damn impressive. As I said before, when someone really nails his condition to that extreme, you tend not to notice his weak points as much. Ben needs bigger arms to match those giant legs, and his back thickness is really lacking. But when you walk onstage shredded to the bone at 270 pounds, it’s not too hard to look past those things.
Hide Yamagishi
Ht:       5’6”
Wt:      220
Age:    40
Arnold Classic History:
2007     13th Place
2010     Eighth Place
2013     Fifth Place
 Hide is one of the most solid and consistent competitors out there today who nails his condition again and again. Unfortunately, he doesn’t carry a lot of size relative to the bigger men in this particular lineup. His posing routines are always among my favorites in any show he enters, and he carries himself with pure professionalism. I look forward to seeing him again and wish him the best.
 Hide is coming back from a rather long injury layoff due to a badly broken wrist, which affected his last few appearances, to his detriment. He has left Los Angeles to train in Las Vegas and works with nine-time Ms. Olympia winner, Iris Kyle. That should help his return to the stage, considering she will not be competing and can turn her full attention to coaching him. Hide, whose last contest was at the Arnold Brasil, has a lot to prove in this contest and will struggle to make top six purely on his relative lack of size. He will be in the hunt for the Best Presentation Award, to be sure!
 Hide is up against some very stiff competition, and is giving up a good amount of height and weight to some of the top-ranked men in this show. For that reason, his only hope of staying in the top five like he was last year is to come in at his absolute best-ever condition. Hide won’t be beating too many men in this lineup on mass, so it has to be crazy detail and separation that will keep him in the game.
Ed Nunn
Ht:       6’1”
Wt:      260
Age:    42
Arnold Classic History
2013     Eighth Place
 Second to Nunn! Ed is a structurally sound man, with an X-frame right up there with Toney Freeman’s. And like Toney, he’s struggled to bring that perfect balance of fullness and condition. Ed has told me before how frustrating it is for him. When he focuses on bringing the sharpest possible condition, he flattens out. And when he stays fuller, his condition isn’t quite on point like it should be. He’s listened to various advice, but what I suggest is to bring the look that he is personally happiest with. The critics will always ebb and flow with what they want him to bring, so just aim for your ideal.
 Ed is a legitimate six-foot, 255-pound pro bodybuilder with a classic X-frame. Sadly, in the course of his pro career, he has made very little progress in adding upper pec thickness and improving his overall stage presentation. That said, Ed is still a work in progress— trying to find the right mix to “thin his skin” just enough for the detail to shine through. If Ed doesn’t nail his condition in this show, it is doubtful he will have a better opportunity to be considered in the elite class of the pro ranks. A good showing here and he finds redemption, if not it’s going to be another long season.
 I know they are two different men, but Ed always reminds me of Toney with his height and proportions. Ed really impresses with his arms, legs and shoulders. If he could fill out his chest more and also get more back thickness, it would go a long way toward making him appear more complete. He was eighth place here last year and could easily wind up around there again. That’s no knock on him. It’s just a really solid lineup, assuming everybody shows up in shape.
Brandon Curry
Ht:       5’8”
Wt:      230
Age:    31
Arnold Classic History:
2012      Seventh Place
 I know Brandon won his first pro show last year at the Arnold Classic in Brasil, but the look I would love to see him bring this time is the crisp condition he had at the 2011 Mr. Olympia— where he placed eighth in his first time at the O. His shape is phenomenal, and his upper body in general impresses with round, full muscle bellies everywhere you look. He’s not the most massive guy, and he doesn’t need to be. But when you’re giving up size to a lot of the other guys like he is, your condition needs to be impeccable. Brandon is incredibly gifted, and I don’t believe we’ve even seen 50 percent of his true potential yet. Hopefully this show will see him come closer to fulfilling it.
 The 2013 winner of the first-ever South American Arnold Classic in Brazil, Brandon came in as sharp as he could to beat the lineup and hold off a 46-year-old veteran who was not at his peak, namely Toney Freeman. That said, Brandon now has had the time and rest to really nail it in Columbus, and we expect nothing less. But given this lineup, I think he may struggle to make the top six. It is within his control to be there in the end, so let’s hope he pushes for that extra bit of condition we see in Brandon at times.
 From the waist up, Brandon Curry is good enough to push even the top two or three guys competing here. His legs still aren’t where they need to be. Another issue that seems to plague him is inconsistency in his conditioning. He’s nailed it a couple of times, but a few other times he’s been pretty far off the mark to my eyes. Curry has some of the best shape and symmetry in the sport right now, but he needs to be shredded if he’s going to have a chance at beating much thicker men like Wolf, Branch, Pakulski and Roelly. That being said, I do like his physique a lot and I wish him the best.

Arnold Classic 212

Flex Lewis
Ht:       5’5”
Wt:      212
Age:    30
David Henry
Ht:      5’4”
Wt:     208
Age:    38
jose1Jose Raymond
Ht:       5’3
Wt:      212
Age:    39
 It will be interesting to see Flex Lewis compete again so soon, because he typically takes a full year off between shows. I’ve watched him gradually improve, adding maybe two to three pounds of muscle a year, without ever losing that insane condition he brings every single time. He wants to win this first Arnold Classic 212 title, otherwise he would never be back onstage so quickly.

 Nobody in this division is thicker and rounder than David Henry, and he’s another guy who never fails to bring the crazy cuts. He also has my utmost respect for doing it all while being an active-duty member of the U.S. Air Force and defending our nation’s freedom all over the world.

Jose Raymond is a straight-up freak in the same way Branch is, and the crowd loves him. It’s not out of his reach to win this show, and I am looking forward to a real fight to see who becomes the first Arnold Classic 212 champion.

 I have Flex Lewis winning this show. From where I sat at the last 212 Showdown at the Mr. Olympia, nobody was ever close to beating him. That’s no knock on Jose or especially on David Henry, because they are both excellent competitors. It’s just that Flex has become that good.
 I love Flex Lewis’ physique. The guy has spectacular shape and symmetry, and everything just flows. Other guys aren’t consistent with dialing-in 100 percent in the problem areas of the glutes and hams, but Flex has it down to a science. His chest and back still need to be thicker, but he’s a master of presentation and knows how to pose so that you’re too busy being wowed by his many strong points to really notice.

 David Henry reminds me a lot of Shawn Ray with his thick, round muscles and tiny joints. Like Flex, he also is very consistent with showing up without an ounce of fat or water on him, and displays an elite level of muscle maturity and detail. My only knock on him is that his legs don’t quite impress the way his entire upper body does.

As for Jose Raymond, he is a true warrior in the gym and onstage, and has the type of physique the hardcore fans go wild for: thick, grainy and veiny. Shape-wise, it’s tough for him to compare to men like Flex and David because he’s built like a tank.

What is your opinion on Dexter sitting this out instead of possibly setting the all-time record of five Arnold Classic wins?

 I am so happy he is sitting it out and won’t break my record! No, just kidding. I want to see my record broken and Dexter is the man I want to see do it. It won’t be this year, but maybe next year. Dexter knows he’s in the twilight of his career, so he’s choosing his battles very wisely.
 With Dexter being as active as he has been in the past 12 months and his entire career, he rightfully earned a “pass” on this contest, but I think it was due to poor planning. Dexter has nothing to prove since he has won this four times already, but to set himself apart from Flex Wheeler, I personally would have had this contest on my radar after winning it last year no matter the circumstances. At 44, passing on this contest Ieads me to believe he will have little to no chance at coming here in 2015 for the win with the young guys coming up from the back of the pack. He certainly can win in 2014 if he chose to compete in the Arnold Classic Brasil, Madrid or China, but nothing is set in stone. Knowing he has beaten all of this year’s lineup before, he would have been my number one choice for his fifth Arnold Classic title, but it seems he chose another career path, which he is entitled to pursue. Good luck to him, he will be missed.
I would have loved to see Dexter compete here and I have no doubt he had it in him to possibly win a fifth Arnold title, but he knows himself and his body far better than any of us could. He’s been running at full speed for the last couple of years, and peaking perfectly for show after show after show. I am sure sitting this one out was a wise decision for him, and I look forward to hearing about his plans for what’s next.