History of the NFR

Courtesy of NFR Experience

1984 — Las Vegas visionary Benny Binion, along with Las Vegas Events and its then-president, Herb McDonald, had an eye on bringing the NFR to Las Vegas. But Oklahoma City, which had hosted the event for 20 years, was not about to let it go without a fight. It helped that McDonald and LVE guaranteed the rodeo a prize fund of $1.8 million to the cowboys and $700,000 to the contractors – compared to the $900,000 and $200,000, respectively, that was paid in Oklahoma City in 1984.

In December of 1984, McDonald and the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce each made their final pitches to the PRCA Board of Directors. The vote was a 5-5 tie. Thus it was left to then-PRCA president Shawn Davis, a member of the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, to cast the deciding vote. He cast it for Las Vegas.

1985 — The first NFR was held in Las Vegas – and what a history it has been. The rodeo has been an integral part of the Las Vegas success story over the past two decades, a time period that has seen the city’s population jump from 590,000 to 1.7 million, and its annual number of visitors from 14.2 million to some 37 million.

Also during that period, Las Vegas’ total room inventory has jumped significantly from 53,000 in 1985 to more than 135,000 total rooms today.

During the competition, when the halter broke on Scamper, barrel racing great Charmayne James’ great horse, she didn’t panic even though she had little control over the horse. Scamper finished the run and stopped the clock in 14.40 seconds to win the round.

1987 — Bareback rider Bruce Ford cemented his place in ProRodeo history by winning his fifth world title, tying the record set by the legendary Joe Alexander.

1988 — Jim Sharp makes NFR history by becoming the first bull rider to ride all 10 bulls. He sets the NFR record for the aggregate (771 points on 10 head), en route to his first world title.

1989 — En route to winning his second world title, bull rider Tuff Hedeman produced one of the most dramatic 10th-round rides in NFR history when he rode past the whistle and fanned the animal with his hat in memory of his friend and world champion Lane Frost, who was killed in a bull riding mishap in Cheyenne earlier in the year.

1990 — Team roper Allen Bach became the first NFR contestant to rally from the 15th spot to win a world title. The championship was his second.

1994 — Team roping legends Jake Barnes and Clay O’Brien Cooper win their PRCA record seventh world team roping championship, setting a record of 59.1 seconds on 10 head.

1995 — Tuff Hedeman, a three-time world champion, drew Sammy Andrew’s bull Bodacious in the seventh round and held onto the back of the chute while the bull ran out from under him. Hedeman had suffered massive facial injuries while attempting to ride the bull earlier in the year and had to have reconstructive face surgery. Bodacious knocked out Scott Breeding two rounds later and was retired during a brief ceremony in the 10th round.

1997 — Fred Whitfield breaks the tie-down roping record with a 6.9-second run two rounds after Blair Burk lowers the mark to 7.0 seconds. But the mark doesn’t last. Jeff Chapman lowers the mark another tick, with a run of 6.8 seconds.

1998 — Ty Murray wins his seventh world all-around title with his 10th round bull ride, surpassing the record of six world all-around titles held by Larry Mahan, Tom Ferguson and Murray.

2000 — Bull rider Cody Hancock becomes the first roughstock cowboy to go from 15th to first at the Wrangler NFR.

2001 — Cody Hancock breaks a 25-year-old record by riding Diamond G’s Mr. USA for 96 points at the NFR.

2002 — Charmayne James wins her 11th world title and first on a horse other than Scamper.

2003 — Team ropers Speed Williams and Rich Skelton capture seventh straight world team roping title, setting a PRCA record.

2004 — Billy Etbauer rides Kesler’s Cool Alley for 93 points in the tenth round to clinch his fifth world title.

2007 — Trevor Brazile become the PRCA’s first triple crown winner since 1983 with another outstanding performance at the Wrangler NFR.  Brazile, who won his second straight steer roping world title on Nov. 3, wrapped up his fifth all-around gold buckle after Round 8 and finished with the tie-down roping world title after the 10th and final round.  He broke the PRCA single-season record with $425,115 in earnings.

2010 — Trevor Brazile wins his second triple-crown and record eighth all-around title. He finishes the year with a single-season earnings record of $507,921.

2012 — In her first Wrangler NFR, barrel racer Mary Walker, at the age of 53, wins the gold buckle and the Ram Truck Top Gun award.

2013 — Trevor Brazile won his 19th gold buckle, besting the previous record holder, Guy Allen with 18.

2014 — Sage Kimzey, the 20-year-old from Strong City, Okla., put together one of the finest rodeo seasons in not only his event’s history, but in all of rodeo history. Kimzey earned $318,631 and ran away with not only the world title, but also the Wrangler NFR average buckle, as well as the PRCA Resistol Rookie of the Year award and the RAM Top Gun truck. He broke the bull riding earnings record with $175,466, and finished just $2,135 behind bull rider Matt Austin’s record for the best single-event rodeo season in history. 

2015 — The purse jumps to a record $10 million for the contestants. Trevor Brazile wins his 23rd world title, including his 13th All-Around gold buckle.

2016 — Mary Burger, 68, broke the WPRA regular season earnings record by amassing $200,977. She went on to win the gold buckle, amassing $277,554 during the season.

2016 — Levi Simpson and Jeremy Buhler became the first all-Canadian duo to qualify for the NFR in team roping, then became first team to win the world championship. In addition, Junior Nogueira became the first Brazilian in PRCA history to win a world championship gold buckle.