The History of the National Finals Rodeo

You should go at least once if you’ve never been to the National Finals Rodeo (NFR). The NFR will return to the Thomas & Mack Center from December 7 to December 16, 2023. The NFR will be held in Las Vegas for the 37th time.

Moreover, The National Finals Rodeo is a Rodeo competition and a cultural event that celebrates the West’s spirit and its people’s bravery.

The National Finals Rodeo is still among the most exciting and well-liked Rodeos because it has been going on for a long time, the competition is exciting, and the vibe is fantastic.

However, The National Finals Rodeo is held annually in Las Vegas, Nevada, and draws many people. We think it’s important to remember how far we’ve come so that we can appreciate where we are now.

Let’s go back in time and look at the history of the National Finals Rodeo!

What is the National Finals Rodeo?

It’s great to know that the National Finals Rodeo is widely recognized as the most famous Rodeo in the world! It’s the exciting Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s title event to wrap up the season.

It’s amazing that since 1985, the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas has hosted an event every December!

The National Finals Rodeo is a fun event where the top 15 riders in steer wrestling, team roping (headers and heelers), saddle bronc riding, tie-down rope, barrel racing, and bull riding get to show off their skills.

For many bull riders, this is a great way to make money during the regular season at events like the ProRodeo Tour, the Justin Playoffs, and the PRCA Xtreme Bulls Tour.

The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is an exciting event where the world’s best Rodeo athletes compete for the world champion title.

The winners are chosen based on their impressive earnings throughout the season, including what they won at the NFR and before. It’s a thrilling competition showcasing these athletes’ incredible talent and dedication.

How Does the National Finals Rodeo Work?

The National Finals consist of a series of 10 matches that are spread out over a period of 10 days. Rodeo competitors can earn cash awards for their performance in various rounds.

Specifically, those who place within the top seven in any given round and within the top eight in the overall average, which is determined by the overall time or points earned over the course of 10 rounds, are eligible for a cash prize.

After each NFR, two outstanding individuals are recognized in each event: the average winner, who achieved the highest ongoing time or score for that event over the 10 rounds and won the NFR, and the world champion, who earned the most money throughout the year (including their earnings at the NFR).

The world champion and the overall winner might vary for each event.

History of the National Finals Rodeo

Excitingly, the top fifteen money-winners in each event get to compete for the world title at the National Finals Rodeo! In this part of the content, we will see year-by-year NFL history. Let’s start.

1959

The first National Finals Rodeo (NFR) was held from December 26-30, 1959, at the Dallas State Fairgrounds in Dallas, Texas, marking the beginning of a great tradition.

The event lineup has exciting competitions, including bareback riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, and bull riding.

It’s great to know that since the first year, the finals for steer roping have been done on their own! They have been invited to the finals in Dallas!

In 1959, the Cowboys earned an impressive $3,137,245 in prize money, according to the Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA)! At the first National Finals Rodeo, 69 people got to fight for an extra $57,500!

This year, the average winners were:

Player’s NameEvent They Won
Jack BuschbomBareback Riding
Willard CombsSteer Wrestling
Jim TescherSaddle Bronc Riding
Olin YoungTie-Down Roping
Jim ShouldersBull Riding

1962

In 1962, the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) was brought to the exciting city of Los Angeles, California, by the Rodeo Cowboys Association (RCA).

The match was played at the Los Angeles Sports Arena. This year, team roping is an event at the National Finals Rodeo.

This year, the average winners were:

Player’s NameEvent They Won
John HawkinsBareback Riding
Mark SchrickerSteer Wrestling
Les HirdesTeam Roping
Julius BoschiTeam Roping
Alvin NelsonSaddle Bronc Riding
Olin YoungTie-Down Roping
Bob RobinsonBull Riding

1965

In 1964, the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) moved from Los Angeles to the State Fair Arena (also called the Jim Norick Arena) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The next year 1965, the first NFR was held in Oklahoma City. The event had 47,027 people.

This year, the average winners were:

Player’s NameEvent They Won
Dennis ReinersBareback Riding
John W Jones Sr.Steer Wrestling
Billy DarnellTeam Roping
Bronc CurryTeam Roping
Bill MartinelliSaddle Bronc Riding
Jim Bob AltizerTie-Down Roping
Ron RossenBull Riding

1967

It’s great that the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) added barrel racing in 1967! That year, Frances Smith made history by winning a race as the only woman.

This year, the average winners were:

Player’s NameEvent They Won
Clyde VamvorasBareback Riding
Walt LindermanSteer Wrestling
Bucky Bradford Jr.Team Roping
Ace BerryTeam Roping
Larry MahanSaddle Bronc Riding
Glen FranklinTie-Down Roping
Freckles BrownBull Riding

1974

Starting in 1974, the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) has been shown on TV, providing more opportunities for fans to enjoy the event. Between 1974 and 1986, the game was broadcast on various networks.

Starting in 1987, ESPN began airing it. The game was shown live on TV from 2011 to 2013.

Moreover, CBS Sports Network aired it from 2014 to 2019. The Cowboy Channel, RFD-TV, and the Cowboy Channel Plus app all show the game live.

This year, the average winners were:

Player’s NameEvent They Won
Jack Ward Jr.Bareback Riding
Bob MarshallSteer Wrestling
Jim WheatleyTeam Roping
Joe MarvelSaddle Bronc Riding
Ronnye SewaltTie-Down Roping
Colette Grave BaierBarrel Racing
Sandy KirbyBull Riding

1979

In 1979, the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) moved to the Myriad Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City, providing ample space for growth.

It’s amazing to see how much the NFR has grown since its first year in Oklahoma City! This year’s event had an incredible turnout of 117,070 people.

This year, the average winners were:

Player’s NameEvent They Won
Bruce FordBareback Riding
Jack HannumSteer Wrestling
Jesse JamesTeam Roping
Allen BachTeam Roping
Tom MillerSaddle Bronc Riding
Roy CooperTie-Down Roping
John DavisBull Riding

1981-2000

This event was a significant part of the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) from 1981 to 2000. It’s great that it was held at the same time as American freestyle bullfighting!

It’s amazing that Miles Hare won the bullfighting competition in 1981, and even more incredible that Mike Matt was the last winner in 2000!

1985

When the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) moved in 1985, they opened the Thomas & Mack Center at the University of Nevada. There were still plans to build a new $30 million arena at the SFOC.

Moreover, Herb McDonald, the head of Las Vegas Events at the time, said that the prize money for the Rodeo would be $1.8 million for the riders and $700,00 for the stores. 142,000 people went to the first NFR held in Las Vegas.

This year, the average winners were:

Player’s NameEvent They Won
Chuck LogueBareback Riding
Ote BerrySteer Wrestling
Jake BarnesTeam Roping
David MoteTeam Roping
Clay O’Brien CooperTeam Roping
Bud PauleySaddle Bronc Riding
Monty HensonSaddle Bronc Riding
Mike McLaughlinTie-Down Roping
Janet PowellBarrel Racing
Ted NuceBull Riding

2001

In 2001, an exciting marketing deal was made with Wrangler, making them the event’s main sponsor. The National Finals Rodeo (NFR) has been renamed to Wrangler NFR.

This year, the average winners were:

Player’s NameEvent They Won
Clint CoreyBareback Riding
Rope MeyersSteer Wrestling
Speed WilliamsTeam Roping
Rich SkeltonTeam Roping
Scott JohnsonSaddle Bronc Riding
Jerome SchneebergerTie-Down Roping
Kappy AllenBarrel Racing
Blue StoneBull Riding

2020

The Wrangler NFR will be held at the brand-new Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, in 2020, an exciting opportunity for fans to experience a new venue.

It’s great to see that the women’s event at the National Finals Rodeo took place over three mornings in the same field in response to the recent talk in the Rodeo business about runaway roping.

It’s amazing that Jackie Crawford made history by becoming the first person to win the Breakaway Roping event at the Wrangler National Finals!

This year, the average winners were:

Player’s NameEvent They Won
Jess PopeBareback Riding
Jacob EdlerSteer Wrestling
Erich RogersTeam Roping
Paden BrayTeam Roping
Ryder WrightSaddle Bronc Riding
Shane HancheyTie-Down Roping
Hailey KinselBarrel Racing
Colten FritzlanBull Riding

2021

After being gone for a year, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo returned to Las Vegas in 2021. The Thomas & Mack Center was used as the venue for the event.

169,539 people showed up to watch! And the prize was a record-breaking $13.3 million!

The Breakaway Roping event for the National Finals took place in the Orleans Arena.

This year, the average winners were:

Player’s NameEvent They Won
Jess PopeBareback Riding
Will LummusSteer Wrestling
Buddy HawkinsTeam Roping
Andrew WardTeam Roping
Brody CressSaddle Bronc Riding
Caleb SmidtTie-Down Roping
Jordan BriggsBarrel Racing
Josh FrostBull Riding
Sawyer GilbertBreakaway Roping

2022

The NFR is returning to the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas this year! The Wrangler National Finals Breakaway Roping has been rescheduled and will now occur at the South Point Arena & Equestrian Center just a few days before the NFR.

2023

The 65th National Finals Rodeo will be held at the Mack Center in Las Vegas from December 7–16, 2023. During the ten nights of racing, the top 120 riders will try to win the prized PRCA World Championship.

In addition, they will fight for a piece of the record-breaking $10.9 million prize.

How Much Does the Average Pay at the National Finals Rodeo?

The upcoming Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, scheduled from December 1-10 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, is expected to offer a remarkable prize of over $10.9 million, setting a new record.

The total amount includes a guaranteed prize of $1,200,000 for all NFR qualifiers and competition prize money totaling $9,700,098.

From 2015 to 2020, the NFR distributed $10 million. The budget allocated $8.8 million for prize money in competitions and $1.2 million for assured prize money for the winners. The payout for this year has increased to a significant amount of $10,254,040.

According to the updated prize structure for 2022, each round’s winner will receive $28,914, while the average winner can expect to receive $74,150.

The payout for each round is significant at $93,270, and the average payment per event is substantial at $279,810.

FAQs

What Year did the National Finals Rodeo start?

The first National Finals Rodeo (NFR) took place in Dallas in 1959 to crown the world champion in each of the Rodeo’s seven primary events. This ten-day horse showdown was an excellent display of the skills and abilities of a skilled cowboy.

When did the National Finals Rodeo move to Las Vegas?

In 1985, the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) changed to the Thomas & Mack Center at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Who were the winners of the National Finals Rodeo? 

The winner of the National Finals Rodeo was Caleb. Caleb won the average and 2022 Tie Down World Championship.

Has anyone ever ridden all 10 Bulls at NFR?

Jim Sharp has made history by successfully becoming the first bull rider to ride all ten bulls at the NFR. 

How many people attend the National Finals Rodeo?

Attendance at the National Finals Rodeo in 2022 exceeded that of the previous year, with over 170,000 people in attendance. 

What is the most money won in the National Finals Rodeo?

In 1993, Ty Murray (USA) won significantly by earning $124,821 at the National Finals Rodeo held in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.

Who is the most successful Rodeo cowboy?

Trevor Brazile is the most successful Rodeo cowboy. He has achieved an impressive record of 26 PRCA world titles, a remarkable accomplishment. 

Conclusion

History of the National Finals Rodeo was made in 1959 when the first National Finals Rodeo was held in Dallas. So, The Owners have the opportunity to showcase their skills in seven exciting events and compete for the prestigious gold buckle and world title.

It’s great to see a lot of money at stake in both the women’s and men’s events! If you attend a bull riding or horse race event, you’ll witness a thrilling display of energy, excitement, and enthusiasm!

Golam Muktadir
Golam Muktadir is a passionate sports fan and a dedicated movie buff. He has been writing about both topics for over a decade and has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with his readers. Muktadir has a degree in journalism and has written for several well-known publications, including Surprise Sports.