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.
1985 – 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.
1989 – 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.
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, 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.
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 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.
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 – 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.
2001 – Cody Hancock breaks a 25-year-old record by riding Diamond G’s Mr. USA for 96 points at the 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 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.
2002 – Charmayne James wins her 11th world title and first on a horse other than Scamper.
2003 – Dan Mortensen wins his sixth world saddle bronc riding title, equaling the mark set by the legendary Casey Tibbs.
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.
2004 – 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).
2005 – 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.
2006 – 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.
2007 – 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.
2008 – 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.
2009 –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.
2011 – The Wrangler NFR has recorded 260 consecutive sold-out performances.
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.
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.
2013 – Kaycee Feild won his third straight world title and also claimed three straight average titles – the first bareback rider to ever accomplish this feat.
2014 – Las Vegas Events and the PRCA agree to a ten-year extension of the NFR. The NFR will remain in Las Vegas through 2024. 2014 marks the 30-year anniversary of the NFR in Las Vegas.
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.
As he headed into the Wrangler NFR, Trevor Brazile had already broken Guy Allen’s record for most overall gold buckles (18) the previous season. Now, the greatest timed-event cowboy in rodeo history is just putting distance between himself and everyone else. Brazile added his 12th all-around world title – and ninth in a row – while also capturing his fifth steer roping gold buckle. The Decatur, Texas, cowboy at that time had 21 overall world titles.
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.
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.
2017 – At the age of 23, Sage Kimzey wins his fourth consecutive world title in his fourth attempt, the first bull rider to ever do that. He becomes the only bull rider to break the $400,000 mark in a single season. The champion wins $192,134 at the Finals to give him a PRCA-record for most money won in bull riding in a year at $436,479, smashing the record he set of $327,178 in 2015.
Ryder Wright becomes the youngest saddle bronc riding world champion at the age of 19. Wright earns $284,938 to claim the world title. He edges out Brody Cress of Hillsdale, Wyo., who earned $282,287.
Tim O’Connell wins his second consecutive bareback riding world championship; Marcos Costa becomes the first Brazilian to win the tie-down roping title.
2018 – Trevor Brazile wins his PRCA-record 14th All-Around gold buckle, and 24th overall PRCA championship, in front of 17,150 fans at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Sage Kimzey becomes the first bull rider in the NFR era to win five consecutive world championships.
2019 – Sage Kimzey finished the season with a PRCA bull riding record $480,797, breaking his record of $436,479 set in 2017. Kimzey also won the average with 709 points on eight head.
Ty Erickson, having entered the 2019 Wrangler NFR as the regular-season leader for the third time in four years, finally broke through. The Helena, Mont., cowboy earned $234,491 to win the world championship for the first time.
Rookie Stetson Wright came in as the leader in the all-around standings and held off all challengers to win the prestigious title with $297,923. He became the first roughstock rider to win the all-around crown since ProRodeo Hall of Famer Ty Murray did it in 1998.
2020 – At the Wrangler NFR held in Arlington, Texas, Stetson Wright wins two world titles – All Around and Bull Riding.
Kaycee Feild becomes the third bareback rider to win five world titles.
Hailey Kinsel wins her third barrel racing world title, and all three over the last three seasons. She finished with $349,076 in the PRCA | RAM World Standings, including $270,615 at the NFR, a barrel racing record.
Courtesy of NFR Experience