FORT WORTH, Texas ― More than a quarter century after the “Challenge of the Champions,” the names Lane Frost and Red Rock are still as synonymous with one another today as they were when they matched up with one another seven times in 1988.
Frost had failed to make the whistle either time he got on Red Rock prior to the series, but wound up making four qualified rides in the seven-match series.
Not that either of them would have been any less of a legend today – Red Rock had been retired unridden in his pro rodeo career following the 1987 season – had it not been for those seven matchups, but it certainly added to the lore of two great champions.
“It’s legendary,” said PBR co-founder David Fournier, who was competing in the PRCA at the time and saw several of Frost’s matchups with Red Rock.
Sure there have been other riders who have matched up with some great bulls over the years.
McKennon Wimberly has been on Yellow Jacket Jr. 10 times, while two-time World Champion Justin McBride got on both Mossy Oak Mudslinger and Hollywood eight times.
A half dozen riders – J.W. Hart, L.J. Jenkins, Valdiron de Oliveira, Guilherme Marchi, Ross Coleman and J.B. Mauney – have matched up with various bulls seven times in their respective careers. Among those, Hart was on Pandora’s Box and Marchi went head-to-head with Copperhead Slinger in the early part of his Built Ford Tough Series career soon after coming to the U.S.
Mauney has matched up with COC seven times, but the 27-year-old reigning World Champion has become synonymous with the two-time World Champion Bull Bushwacker.
“It’s absolutely the best,” said PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert. “There’s no doubt Bushwacker is the best bull and, in my opinion, he’s the best bull of all time. J.B. is a really good bull rider – a great bull rider, who has a chance to be the best PBR bull rider of all time. He’s for sure shown that he’s one of the best that we’ve ever seen in the PBR, but he’s just reaching his prime right now.”
Having won a gold buckle, Lambert said Mauney will only get better.
“He has a chance of being better than Justin McBride, Chris Shivers and Adriano (Moraes),” said Lambert, whose words weigh heavy considering he has a history of tempering his thoughts as opposed to overstating them.
“He’s got a chance to be that good.”
Not since Lambert’s longtime travel partner and good friend Frost matched up with Red Rock in a series that was chronicled in a documentary film have there been two athletes so closely associated like Mauney and Bushwacker.
Mauney is in the current issue of Time magazine, while Bushwacker has been featured in the Body Issue of ESPN The Magazine, The New York Times and has twice been profiled in The Wall Street Journal and Outside magazine.
Fournier said the legendary status has to do with how rank the bulls were at the time.
“Those are bulls that guys didn’t want to get matched to more than once,” said Fournier, who made a point to explain, unlike the riders, Red Rock and Bushwacker were still two very different bulls.
Bushwacker bucks off Eduardo Aparecido in 4.57 seconds, earning a bull score of 47 points in the championship round of the 2013 Built Ford Tough World Finals in Las Vegas.
“J.B. is probably the closest thing that we see to Lane right now. J.B. loves the challenge every time. It doesn’t matter how tough (the bull) is. It doesn’t matter if he wants to knock your teeth out. It doesn’t matter if he tries to yank your arm off. None of that matters because J.B. wants to be the best. That’s what’s setting J.B. apart from everybody else right now. J.B. is willing to accept any challenge to challenge himself and not necessarily for the public.
“It’s something that legends are made of.”
However, the Louisiana native was quick to note that he doesn’t think either Mauney or Bushwacker can be referred to as legends, while they’re still in the prime of their respective careers.
“It’s like life insurance,” Fournier reasoned. “You buy it, but you’re not going to be the one to collect it.”
J.W. Hart, who was only 14 at the time Frost was killed in 1989, a year after the “Challenge of Champions,” said Mauney has always been a throwback to the ’80s.
He added that Mauney likes to win big and he loves big, historic moments.
Mauney will get that chance this weekend when he and Bushwacker meet for the 12th time in their careers.
They’re first matchup was in Anaheim, Calif., in 2011.
Eight times they’ve gone at each other at BFTS series events – the last of which was in Biloxi, Miss. – and three times they’ve met at Touring Pro Division events.
He’s 1-for-11 and that lone ride was an event-winning effort that came in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round of the Tulsa, Okla., last year. Many surmised that ride was the catalyst to give Mauney the confidence he could come from 10th place in the world standings all the way to the front of the pack to win the world title after years of being a bridesmaid.
That may have been the first time anyone seriously compared Mauney and Bushwacker to Frost and Red Rock.
“Yeah, there’s that feel,” Hart said. “I never really put it in that perspective, but, yeah, especially going into Oklahoma City knowing three weeks out he’s getting on Bushwacker. … After Lane rode Red Rock the first time it was automatic that the odds were in Lane’s favor the next time. This is a little different. J.B. rode him once, but the odds are still in Bushwacker’s favor.”
It’s two different eras.
Frost would have never had a total of nine chances on Red Rock had it not been for the challenge, while Mauney has used the draft era to select the rankest bull available in the draw – namely Bushwacker – when they’re not matched up in the pre-determined 15/15 Bucking Battle.
This particular week it was specifically aligned for the No. 1 rider and No. 1 bull from 2013 to face each other.
“(Fans) want him to pick Bushwacker because he’s the only one with enough guts and enough balls to try him every time and he gives his heart out,” Fournier said. “Sometimes it lasts longer than others. Sometimes it works and sometimes it don’t, but he still gives his heart out every time.”
Fournier concluded, “You can’t hardly think about Lane without thinking about Red Rock, and J.B. is kind of writing his own story. Whenever you think about J.B. you think about Bushwacker.”
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC
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