PUEBLO, Colo. – Throughout 2018, the PBR has been celebrating its 25th anniversary by looking back at various historical moments throughout the bull riding organization’s rise to international stardom.
Some of those moments can be traced back to reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger and his annual bull riding event in Bismarck, North Dakota, every summer.
However, none of those famous rides or buckoffs in North Dakota are going to compare to what Berger has in store for June 15-16 at the Bismarck Event Center.
Berger announced on Thursday morning that he has invited 15 champion bull riders to compete in a World Champion Bull Riders $100,000 Match of Champions. The field below consists of eight PBR World Champions, five PRCA World Champions and two additional champions.
The 15 Champions Invited to Compete:
Three-time PBR World Champion Silvano Alves
Two-time PBR World Champion J.B. Mauney
Four-time PRCA World Champion J.W. Harris
Four-time PRCA World Champion Sage Kimzey
2017 PBR World Champion Jess Lockwood
2016 PBR World Champion Cooper Davis
2012 PRCA World Champion Cody Teel
2011 PRCA World Champion Shane Proctor
2009 PBR World Champion Kody Lostroh
2008 PBR World Champion Guilherme Marchi
2007 PRCA World Champion Wesley Silcox
2004 PBR World Champion Mike Lee
2002 PBR World Champion Ednei Caminhas
2017 Collegiate National Finals Rodeo Champion Cole Melancon
2016 Indian National Finals Rodeo Champion Cody Jesus
“An old rodeo buddy of mine (Duane Smith) that I used to travel with put it in my ear,” Berger said. “We were talking about what we could do this year because we always try to do something special. Between the two of us, we came up with bringing in all the World Champions.
“This is something we dreamt of and it has never been done in the history of bull riding.”
The champions will attempt one bull each night. The winner with the highest-combined aggregate score will be the event winner and take home $50,000. Each round winner will receive $25,000.
There is also the possibility that Berger increases the payout between now and June.
It will not be easy money by any means.
The seven-time Stock Contractor of the Year said the two 15-rider rounds will be randomly drawn on the dirt and the bullpen will consist of his Top 15 bulls, including 2018 World Champion contender Pearl Harbor.
There will also be a Touring Pro Division event prior to the Match of Champions.
Tickets go on sale to the general public on March 10 at Bismarckeventcenter.com.
“This a World Champions’ event with the best of the best,” Lockwood said. “I couldn’t miss this.”
There are a combined 22 PBR and PRCA gold buckles among the contestants.
This will be Kimzey’s first time at Berger’s PBR event, but he is no stranger to Berger’s Don King-like promotional tactics.
Kimzey rode Pearl Harbor for 92 points and $20,000 last year during an exhibition showdown at the PRCA rodeo in Berger’s North Dakota hometown of Mandan.
“It will be the best of the best in the world of bull riding,” Kimzey said. “Everyone that has hit the pinnacle of the bull riding world will be riding side-by-side for the first time in the last 25 years.”
Mauney was the marquee draw in Bismarck last year for The Cooper Tires Battle in Bismarck. The richest bull rider in history was bucked off by Pearl Harbor in 4.91 seconds with a chance at winning $50,000 for 8 seconds of work.
The 31-year-old said the opportunity to compete for $100,000 against legendary bull riders was a no-brainer.
“This is pretty cool,” Mauney said. “It is matching the best guys going right now against each other. There is enough money that I am going.”
Mauney had no qualms about saying the event will be an opportunity for bragging rights too.
“Oh yeah, it gives you a little bragging rights too,” Mauney said. “You can say you whipped all of their asses.”
Berger said he isn’t trying to make this a matchup of PBR vs. PRCA, but rather he wanted to give fans an opportunity to see the best bull riders in the world.
“I don’t know if it is bragging rights for either association, but it sure will be bragging rights for the guy that walks away with the saddle, the buckle, the rifle or whatever else we come up with,” Berger said.
The Match of Champions is going to be the most-highly anticipated summer event since J.W. Hart convinced seven other PBR legends to unretire for the one night winner-take-all $160,000 Unfinished Business pay-per-view event in Decatur, Texas.
“It will be like a reunion. It will be a great thing for fans and bull riders,” PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said. “Every active bull rider in the world should be trying to get entered in that event because it will be something to be able to hang your rope next to any of those guys.”
Lostroh hasn’t competed at a PBR event in three years when he decided to take a break from bull riding following the 2015 season-opener in Baltimore.
During that break, Lostroh began to sustain serious problems with his vision and doctors believed he may have had a stroke.
It was eventually learned that a tumor had wrapped itself around his carotid artery and that he needed surgery.
Lostroh has competed at some rodeos part-time after finally being cleared to return to competition, and now the 32-year-old will get to throw his hat back in the ring with his fellow champions.
“Bismarck in the summer is way better than Bismarck in the winter,” Lostroh joked.
He later added, “The coolest part to me is competing against only a group of guys that are each one of the best bull riders to play the game. There’s a higher level of respect and motivation when a group like this is put together.”
Berger has been recruiting Alves – one of only two men to ever win three PBR gold buckles – to come to his event for years.
Alves thinks the time may be right for him to make the trip north.
“Every time Chad has invited me, I have gone home to Brazil,” Alves said. “Maybe this year I stay. It will be a good event and it is a good deal for all of the champions. I think I will maybe go. I am excited for this event.”
Marchi said he was also honored to be invited and will be looking at his summer schedule a little bit closer now.
Many fans have been saying for years that they would like to see an event featuring PBR and PRCA World Champions.
There have been instances, such as the Calgary Stampede or THE AMERICAN, where some PBR and PRCA champions have competed together, but nothing of this kind of magnitude, especially with riders from different eras of bull riding.
There is a 23-year age difference between the youngest competitor – 19-year-old Cody Jesus – and the oldest rider – 42-year-old Ednei Caminhas.
Davis was one of those fans that hoped someday a scenario like this could be arranged where it made sense for riders of all backgrounds.
“This is a cool deal and something that has been needed for a long time,” Davis said. “I told Chad everybody has had this in their mind, but nobody had the platform to do this. I am glad Chad stepped up to the plate to do it.”
Regardless of where these guys are from, they are all proven winners.
“I have been on both sides of the spectrum,” Davis added. “It is good to see guys like Wesley Silcox and then you got J.B. Mauney on this side of things. It is going to make it really interesting. To see all of these guys under one roof competing for more prize money is going to be really good for the sport.”
Silcox said, “I’m privileged to be invited to an event that has never been done before and to ride against all the World Champions is going to be something special.”
Teel has ridden in both the PBR and PRCA, and he is excited to see all of the champions step up to the challenge of competing under one roof for a weekend.
The 25-year-old made the switch to the PBR last season for the opportunity to challenge the best bulls in the world on a weekly basis.
“Chad’s event is another big opportunity to face some great bulls and make big rides alongside some great bull riders,” Teel said. “I’m excited to compete at it. Best bull riders in the world against the best bulls week in and week out is why I love the PBR. Everyone’s on a level playing field every week and when you do good and win you get rewarded big for it.”
The two riders without a PBR or PRCA gold buckle on their names are honored to have been given the opportunity along the bull riding legends.
Melancon is no stranger to PBR fans after helping Team USA win the Global Cup in Edmonton.
The 23-year-old had surgery to repair a slipped disc in his back on Jan. 10 and has been chomping at the bit to start competing again. Melancon was just cleared to return to competition last week.
“It is a great opportunity to show myself even more than what I’ve already,” Melancon said. “I’ve been wanting to go to these Velocity events, but my surgery set me back.”
Jesus came up just short of the 2017 PBR World Finals as a wild card winner from the 2017 Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour Finals.
“Chad must see potential in me to invite me even though I haven’t won a PBR or PRCA buckle,” Jesus said. “It’s something real special, cause this will maybe open new doors and stuff in my career. Being a poor kid on the rez and not having a paved road like most guys, Chad inviting me to his deal is something I could only dream of.
“A big opportunity. Something I will have to capitalize on and not let slip away.”
There may be additional surprises or additions to the event too, said the always wheeling and dealing Berger.
Berger had tried to convince two-time World Champion Justin McBride to unretire for his event, while he also revealed that he is in the process of recruiting 2010 World Champion Renato Nunes.
Regardless, the field that he has already organized is one unlike none other.
“It is unprecedented,” Berger concluded. “It has never been done before. To have it happen in my home state, and across the river from my hometown, is exciting. The state of North Dakota, Bismarck and Mandan is going to be crazy. This is going to draw fans in from all over the United States.
“This is going to be an once-in-a-lifetime event.”
© 2018 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.