Rhoden registered a huge upset in the top bodybuilding competition in the sport, taking the title away from seven-time winner Phil Heath.
Heath was hoping to become the third eight-time Mr. Olympia, but he finished second.
Rhoden consequently became the 14th recipient of the Sandow Trophy.
The dramatic announcement came at the end of a long night of competition. The judges had Rhoden and Heath stand next to each other on the stage of the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas throughout the majority of the poses, and they were able to see both men’s strengths.
Rhoden appeared to have the better abs and legs, while Heath had the edge in the shoulders and back. Heath earned $400,000 for winning the title in addition to the trophy. Heath earned $150,000 for finishing in second place.
When the announcement was made, Heath was stunned. He bent over and buried his head in his hands as Rhoden raised his hands in exultation.
This means so much to me,” Rhoden said on the webcast. “I have been working so hard to get to this point, and my team has been with me every step of the way. They have really worked me over to get me to where I am tonight and I am so grateful.
“I have been chasing Phil for such a long time. He has been champion, and it means a lot to win.”
Rhoden had been critical of Heath prior to the event, and there was some gamesmanship during the competition when Rhoden appeared to stare down Heath. Officials told Rhoden to “cut it out” and get back to posing.
Roelly Winklaar finished in third place, while William Bonac finished in fourth.
Many were expecting Mamdouh “Big Ramy” Elssbiay to make a strong run at the title, but he did not earn a spot in the final five. Elssbiay was much more competitive in the 2017 event than he was this time around, as he was carrying more weight on his huge frame than he did a year ago.
Winklaar earned the People’s Choice Award, which was given for the first time during this year’s competition. James “Flex” Lewis won the 212-pound Mr. Olympia title, and he said he would be moving up to the heavyweight competition in the future.