A success story

Chris Shivers and Little Yellow Jacket in 2003.


  • In honor of its 20th anniversary season, the PBR is releasing its official list of the Top 20 Moments in PBR History.
  • The PBR was founded in April of 1992 when 20 bull riders met at a Scottsdale, Ariz., motel room and voted to invest $1,000 each to form an organization that would establish professional bull riding as a standalone sport.
  • PBR co-founders are David Bailey Jr., Clint Branger, Mark Cain, Adam and Gilbert Carrillo, Cody Custer, Jerome Davis, Bobby DelVecchio, Mike Erikson, David Fournier, Michael Gaffney, Tuff Hedeman, Cody Lambert, Scott Mendes, Daryl Mills, Ty Murray, Ted Nuce, Aaron Semas, Jim Sharp and Brent Thurman.
  • After forming in 1992, the PBR began sanctioning events in 1994.

In This Article

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the third installment in a three-part series that culminates with the unveiling of the official list of the Top 20 Moments in PBR History.

PUEBLO, Colo. ― Nineteen years is a long time.

And what started in a motel room ― the founding of the PBR ― has elicited a wide range of accomplishments that most recently saw Brazil's Silvano Alves claim back-to-back world titles for the first time in PBR history.

Along the way riders and stock contractors as well as avid fans and casual observers have laughed and cried, cheered and booed.

As the PBR prepares to celebrate 20 years of innovation and unprecedented growth since the 20 founders ― David Bailey Jr., Clint Branger, Mark Cain, Adam and Gilbert Carrillo, Cody Custer, Jerome Davis, Bobby DelVecchio, Mike Erikson, David Fournier, Michael Gaffney, Tuff Hedeman, Cody Lambert, Scott Mendes, Daryl Mills, Ty Murray, Ted Nuce, Aaron Semas, Jim Sharp and Brent Thurman ― voted to form the PBR and attempt to establish professional bull riding as a standalone sport, the organization is releasing its official list of the Top 20 Moments in PBR History.

The list is not in any particular order and each of the 20 moments will profiled in-depth every other Wednesday beginning Jan. 2, as well as in special feature segments that will appear each week during PBR television broadcasts on CBS and CBS Sports Network.


The most defining moment in Professional Bull Riders history is undoubtedly the monumental meeting that took place in April of 1992 at a motel in Scottsdale, Ariz. It was there that the 20 founders of the PBR invested $1,000 each to form what has become the world's premier bull riding organization. Considering the history of the sport and what would transpire over the next 20 years, this meeting not only impacted the PBR, but also proved to be influential for the ongoing popularity of western culture. To fully understand the significance, it's imperative to know that - historically speaking - bull riders were initially thought of as unskilled cowboys. When rodeo was first getting started, bull riders were cowboys who didn't possess the skills to rope. It wasn't until riders such as Jim Shoulders (1950s) and then Larry Mahan (1960-70s) drew attention to the sport that eventually led to the golden age of the 1980s, which is when the 20 founders were all in their prime. Bull riders went from being "unskilled" to headlining rodeos, and eventually forming their own standalone sport, which sells out arenas such as Madison Square Garden and can be seen on network television. In 2011, a majority of the founders gathered in Las Vegas for the first Heroes & Legends Celebration held in conjunction with the annual Ring of Honor induction.


Adriano Moraes becomes the first World Champion in PBR history and, by the time he retired, was not only the first two-time champion, but finished as the only three-time World Champion. Moraes not only became the foreign face of the PBR, he opened the door and made competing in the United States a viable and lucrative option for all of the Brazilians who have followed. Four of those  ― Ednei Caminhas, Guilherme Marchi, Renato Nunes and Silvano Alves ― would go on to win world titles. Brazilian-born riders account for eight of the first 19 world titles and four of the past five. In 2012, Alves became the first rider in PBR history to win back-to-back world titles and at 25 years old has claimed the title in two of his first three seasons in the PBR.


Two-time World Champion Chris Shivers was the first rider to surpass $1 million, $2 million and eventually $3 million in career earnings. In 2003, Shivers also became the first rider to win the $1 million bonus for being World Champion. Earlier that year, he matched up with Little Yellow Jacket at the World Arena in Colorado Springs, Colo., for a chance to win $1 million. Unfortunately for Shivers, the three-time World Champion Bull got him on the ground well short of the 8-second whistle.


The PBR hired Randy Bernard as CEO in 1995. Bernard's vision and leadership was responsible for the organization's most prolific growth.


Friday night at the 1999 PBR World Finals is considered by many to be the "greatest night of bull riding." Chris Shivers on Trick or Treat and Terry Don West on Promise Land split the round win with 96-point scores. The pair was followed by Ty Murray with 95.5 points on Red Wolf, Jim Sharp with a 94 on Jim Jam Skoal and Jaron Nunnemaker with 94 points on Panhandle Slim to round out the Top 5. Two-time World Champion Justin McBride jokes that he rode Nitro for 91 points and wasn't even close to the Top 5. There were 11 scores of 90 or better that night against the rank pen. Mike White finished at 90 points and didn't place high enough to receive a check.


Justin McBride surpassed $5 million in career earnings ― not including sponsorships ― and retired as the richest western athlete of all time. He's still No. 1 on the list of all-time PBR money winners. The two-time World Champion won his first world title, and set the single season earnings record with $1,479,231 in 2005. In 2007, McBride won his second World Championship, set the single-season record for BFTS event wins with eight, and broke his own single-season earnings mark with more than $1.8 million.


J.B. Mauney was the first and only rider to cover all eight bulls at the PBR World Finals. He clinched the feat in 2009 when he covered Black Pearl for 93.75 points in the final round.


Luke Snyder holds the record for consecutive Built Ford Tough Series events with 275 in a row. He surpassed J.W. Hart, who earned the Iron Man moniker when he set the original record of 197 consecutive events.


Three men ― Bubba Dunn, Michael Gaffney and Chris Shivers ― hold the record for the highest-marked ride in PBR history with 96.50 points. Dunn rode Promise Land in 2000, Shivers rode Jim Jam in 2000 and Dillinger in 2001, and Gaffney rode Little Yellow Jacket in 2004. 


In 2001, the PBR made its network television debut on NBC after buying its television rights back. Tom Teague played an instrumental role in helping the PBR afford to purchase its TV rights, which was critical for the organization developing a national following via television. In the early years, the PBR had signed a deal with Allen Reed, who agreed to pay the PBR for each event, but the PBR quickly outgrew the deal after five years. To this day, the organization owns its rights and continues to negotiate television agreements, which would not have been possible without Teague.


In 2010, the PBR hosted the first Iron Cowboy Invitational at the newly opened Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The single-day, elimination bracket-style tournament drew a record crowd of 46,500 fans, who were on hand to see Valdiron de Oliveira win $260,000, which is the largest single-day payout in history. The Built Ford Tough Series returned in 2011, and in 2012, as part of a four-stadium mini tour ― Georgia Dome, Reliant Stadium and Ford Field. They will host yet another event at Cowboys Stadium in 2013 for the fourth consecutive year.


In 1996, the PBR offered a total purse of $1 million at the World Finals. In previous years it had been $120,000 and $300,000. In 2003, the organization began paying a $1 million bonus to the World Champion.


In 2010, at a Built Ford Tough Series event in Nashville, Tenn., the PBR surpassed $100 million in total prize money paid out in its then 17-year history. At its current pace, the PBR will double that total sometime in 2020.


Silvano Alves was the first rider in PBR history to follow up his Rookie of the Year season with a world title. In his first three seasons competing in the U.S., he won an average of $116,000 per month and is already fifth on the list of all-time money earners. He reached $1 million, $2 million and $3 million faster than any bull rider in history. In 2012, Alves became the first rider in PBR history to win back-to-back world titles and at 25 years old has claimed the title in two of his first three seasons.


Little Yellow Jacket won World Champion bull titles in 2002, 2003 and 2004. Little Yellow Jacket is immortalized in a statue located in front of PBR headquarters in Pueblo along with the only three-time World Champion bull rider, Adriano Moraes. In 2011, Little Yellow Jacket became the first recipient of the Brand of Honor, which is annually presented to a bull for exemplary performance.


Chris Shivers recorded 94 qualified rides in excess of 90 points or better. His 94 rides are more than the combined total of the riders who are ranked second and third ― Guilherme Marchi posted 48 and J.B. Mauney recorded 43. Shivers recorded his first 90-point ride with a score of 92.50 points on Tony Lama Boots at the 1997 World Finals, and his last with 90.75 points on Shepherd Hills Sod Buster at the 2012 World Finals. He has three of the Top 10 scores in history and five of the Top 25. He tied the highest score in PBR history with 96.50 points on Jim Jam and Dillinger while scoring 96 points on Trick or Treat and 95 points on Clayton's Pet and Navajo.


The 2013 season will mark the seventh consecutive year that Madison Square Garden, which is affectionately referred to as the world's most famous arena, has hosted the PBR. In 2010, the PBR also hosted a nationally televised event in the middle of Times Square a week before the World Finals.


The PBR has been featured in Sports Illustrated, People and ESPN the Magazine, as well as on ESPN's SportsCenter, and network series including "Dancing with the Stars," and "The Amazing Race." The PBR has regular coverage in USA Today, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and other metropolitan newspapers, as well as internationally. In 2011, Bushwacker was featured in the Wall Street Journal twice. Several years ago, LeRoy Neiman, who famously painted Muhammad Ali, painted Ty Murray on Red Wolf.


The formation of the American Bucking Bull, Inc. has helped raise the value of bucking bulls and provide contractors with an opportunity to compete for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The ABBI, which is the third-largest cattle registry in the United States, registers more than 15,000 bulls per year, and is providing more opportunities for individuals to get involved in the industry, especially with the development of Back Seat Buckers.


The Built Ford Tough Series secured international distribution in 2003, and two years later, the PBR established offices in Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico. In Brazil, bull riding and rodeo attract the largest live-event attendance of any sport, and bull riding is the second-most popular sport on television. In addition to the Built Ford Tough Series events being televised, Brahma Super Bull events are also broadcast throughout the country. In addition to continued growth in the five current countries, the PBR is looking for opportunities in other countries, including Argentina and China.

Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.

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