The NFR traces its roots back to 1958 when it was first held in Dallas, Texas. Initially known as the “National Finals Rodeo,” the event aimed to bring together the top contestants from various rodeo associations to compete for a world championship title. The NFR was conceived as a culmination of the rodeo season, showcasing the best talent in a single grand event.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ty Murray, who qualified in bareback riding and saddle bronc riding, becomes the youngest all-around world champion in PRCA history at age 20, breaking the mark of Jim Sharp, who won the all-around title at 21.
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.
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.
Team roping legends Jake Barnes, right, and Clay O’Brien Cooper win their PRCA record seventh world team roping championship, setting a record of 59.1 seconds on 10 head.
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.
Fred Whitfield turns in the greatest tie-down roping performance in NFR history, roping and tying 10 head in 84.0 seconds to capture the aggregate title.
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.
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.
Joe Beaver caps a remarkable comeback from injury by winning his third world all-around title, rebounding from nearly $70,000 down after the first round to win the title.
Bull rider Cody Hancock becomes the first roughstock cowboy to go from 15th to first at the Wrangler NFR.
Rope Myers sets steer wrestling records for aggregate (37.4 seconds on 10 head), NFR earnings ($117,774) and season earnings (176,584) in winning his first world steer wrestling title.
Cody Hancock breaks a 25-year-old record by riding Diamond G’s Mr. USA for 96 points at the NFR.
Cody Ohl wins first world all-around title and his third world tie-down roping title despite severely injuring his knee in the ninth round of the Wrangler NFR. He accepted his gold buckles from PRCA Commissioner Steven J. Hatchell while on crutches.
Charmayne James wins her 11th world title and first on a horse other than Scamper.
Cody Ohl marks a remarkable comeback from injury by winning the world title, finishing with a dramatic flourish in the 10th round with a world-record 6.5-second run.
Team ropers Speed Williams and Rich Skelton capture seventh straight world team roping title, setting a PRCA record.
Dan Mortensen wins his sixth world saddle bronc riding title, equaling the mark set by the legendary Casey Tibbs.
Billy Etbauer rides Kesler’s Cool Alley for 93 points in the tenth round to clinch his fifth world title.
Trevor Brazille wins his third consecutive all-around title, the first cowboy to do so since Ty Murray (1989-1991).
Wrangler NFR rookie Ryan Jarrett, a 21-year-old from Summerville, Ga., became the second youngest competitor in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) to win the world all-around championship.
Representatives from Las Vegas Events (LVE) and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) officially announced that they have reached an agreement to keep the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in Las Vegas through 2014.
World Champion All-Around Cowboy Trevor Brazile of Decatur, Texas, set the PRCA’s single-season earnings record en route to winning his fourth all-around buckle and fifth world title overall. He won $329,924 in 2006, breaking the mark of $320,766 set in 2005 by bull rider Matt Austin.
In December, Las Vegas Events announced that the song “Cowboy Town,” recorded by superstar duo Brooks & Dunn, has been adopted as the official song of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) for the next two years. The song will become an integral part of the promotional plan for the NFR’s 50th anniversary celebration.
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.
The NFR celebrated its 50th anniversary. Special tributes were held each night to honor the past and present champions from sport of rodeo. Justin McDaniel, Luke Branquinho, Matt Sherwood, Randon Adams, Cody Wright, Stran Smith, Lindsay Sears and J.W. Harris all earned the title of World Champion, a feat they will never forget.
The NFR celebrated its 25th year in Las Vegas.
More than 4 million fans have attended the world’s richest and most prestigious rodeo. The Thomas & Mack Center has served as the host venue during its tenure in Las Vegas.
The Wrangler NFR has recorded 260 consecutive sold-out performances.
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.
Luke Branquinho wins back-to-back world titles in 2011 and 2012, the latter the fourth of his career. He would go on to win his fifth title in 2014.
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