PUEBLO, Colo. – Reigning Stock Contractor of the Year Chad Berger never needed a World Championship or a certain set of accolades to know he was standing in front of greatness whenever he would spend time with his red muley Smackdown.
“He had a heart of gold,” Berger reflected on Monday afternoon. “He is one of the best bulls of all time as far as giving everything he got every single day. Every single trip, he gave everything he had.”
Berger announced on Monday that Smackdown had been laid to rest after the bull became sick over the weekend because of natural causes. The six-time PBR World Finals qualifier would have been 13 years on April 15.
“It hurt me to see him that way and I am glad he is no longer suffering from old age,” Berger said. “A lot of great memories with that bull.”
Smackdown was one of the most consistent bulls in the PBR’s 25-year history.
The talented bovine athlete concluded his six-year PBR premier series career with a 45-point average bull score following the 2014 PBR World Finals.
Smackdown ranks 12th all-time in PBR premier series career outs (78) and is tied for 18th with 57 career buckoffs, according to ProBullstats.
The bovine athlete appeared in 104 events at all levels of competition with a record of 81-23 and competed alongside two generations of legendary bulls, including World Champions Bones, Chicken on a Chain, Asteroid and Bushwacker.
Smackdown’s ability to reward riders with gold buckles, round victories and a boat load of cash was synonymous with his name.
“He was one you can count on every time,” said PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert. “For years and years. He was a bull they could be in the 90s on. He had so many outs and they were all short-round and championship-round type outs. You had the best bull riders in the PBR who were the best that week. Those were the guys that got on.
“He got rode a few times, but they won on him all the time when they rode him. Everybody couldn’t ride him because he was strong, but if one of the Top 10 guys drew him, and they were left-handed, there was a good chance they were going to be 90.”
A rider earned 90 points or higher on the back of Smackdown 69.5 percent of the time (16 rides) and on 14 instances at the PBR’s top level.
Robson Palermo holds the highest score aboard Smackdown at any level of competition after riding the bull for a memorable 94.5 points at the 2011 Bismarck, North Dakota, Touring Pro Division event.
To this day, Berger believes the ride nearly “blew the roof off” the Bismarck Civic Center.
“One of the best rides I have ever seen in person was Robson Palermo on him in Bismarck,” Berger said. “That sticks out as one of the greatest rides in the PBR.”
Palermo and Berger were doing some public relations appearances leading up to the Bismarck event on TV and radio that year. During one radio hit, Berger joked with Palermo that the fans wanted to see him ride Smackdown in the championship round.
Palermo responded that he would pick Smackdown if he had the opportunity to.
The three-time World Finals event winner stuck to his word.
“Sure enough, I make the short go in first place and when I go to the shark cage everybody started hollering, ‘Smackdown! Smackdown!” Palermo recalled Monday night. “That night I was so pumped up. The people wanted to see me ride him. Everything went well that night. I had him for 94.5 points and I won the event.
“It is one of the best scores in my career.”
One year later, Palermo rode Smackdown again – this time for 92.5 points to win the 2012 premier series event in Nashville, Tennessee.
The 35-year-old has a picture from that ride hanging at home in Texas. He also has a big poster of Smackdown hanging in his barn.
“He is a great bull and is a bull that gave me a lot of money,” Palermo said. “That bull looks easy to ride, but he was not easy. When he goes to the left he is going hard and moves his shoulder. He drops pretty much everybody real close to him. Every time he drops somebody, they dropped hard.”
Berger hopes to honor Smackdown during his annual bull riding this summer in Bismarck, which will feature the highly anticipated $100,000 Match of Champions.
Berger purchased Smackdown from the Katich Ranch in Washington when he was 4 years old. Berger cared and hauled the bull on behalf of co-owners Clay Struve and Julie Rosen.
Smackdown recorded his first score on the BFTS at the 2009 event in Portland, Oregon, and would compete in three more events before hitting the PBR’s main tour full time in 2010. His best season came in 2012 when he finished with a 45.73-point average bull score in a career-high 18 outs.
Smackdown finished third to Bushwacker during the 2013 World Champion Bull race.
“The only thing that kept him from being Bull of the Year was Asteroid and Bushwacker,” Berger said. “He was the third best bull in a two-bull race.”
That was the same year when one of the most famous rides aboard Smackdown was made.
Smackdown will forever be a part of that year’s history as two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney rode Berger’s bovine athlete for 93.75 points during the second round in Las Vegas as Mauney continued his march to his first world title.
Mauney debuted in Portland three years before Smackdown did.
“I am a big J.B. Mauney fan,” Berger said. “I watched him from day one when he came to Portland, Oregon, at 18 years old. For him to ride him at the World Finals, I was hanging on for him just as tight as he was. I will never forget that ride. It makes me feel good he got it done on him.”
Mauney was 4-for-6 against Smackdown for an average score of 91.5 points.
Both Berger and Lambert said Mauney’s 86.75 points on Smackdown during Round 7 of the 2009 PBR World Finals stands out in their memories.
It was Mauney’s seventh consecutive ride at the Finals as he went on to ride Black Pearl for 93.75 points the next night in Round 8 to become the first rider to go a perfect 8-for-8 at the World Finals.
“When J.B. Mauney and Kody Lostroh were fighting it out for a World Championship, J.B. rode him at the Finals and barely got him rode,” Lambert said. “J.B. won the Finals that year and rode all of his bulls, but Smackdown challenged him as much or more than any of them.”
Berger added, “I can still see J.B. hanging on and gritting his teeth with all he had to get to the whistle,” Berger said.
One of Smackdown’s sons is already slowly making a name for himself on the premier series.
Talking Smack is 7-1 on the Unleash The Beast and 11-1 overall. World leader Ramon de Lima rode Talking Smack for 87 points in St. Louis.
“He has been in some championship rounds and we have a bunch of 2- and 3-year-old Smackdown calves coming along,” Berger said.
Talking Smack, though, has a long way to go to reach the status of his father.
“Smackdown was just so consistent,” Berger concluded. “He was Mr. Consistency.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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