Here we are folks, the calendar has rolled over, and the old PBR is dead. It went out with a bang, as Jose Vitor Leme made history by winning his second championship in a row. Leme put an exclamation point on the greatest season in PBR history, as in his final ride, he mounted “Woopaa.” “Woopaa” was the number one bull coming into the World Finals. Leme made him his bitch, riding to a score of 98.75, the highest score ever recorded in PBR. That’s not the only record Leme broke in 2021, he had the most event round wins in a season (21); most 90-point rides in a season (24); first perfect 50-point rider score; the highest-marked qualified ride of all time (98.75 points); and most event wins in a season (tied with 8). (All information via pbr.com.) Jose deserves major praise for his dominance last season, but we also quickly pivot to 2022. This season is about the evolution of a sport trying to jump to the next level of popularity.
Right off the bat, PBR is changing the length of its season. Instead of holding the World Finals in Vegas in November, they are relocating to Fort Worth, Texas, and holding it in May. Doing this will compress the season from a full calendar year to five months. Previously, the new season would start almost immediately after the conclusion of the previous World Finals. This led to an awkward schedule. It ran from January-May but took a summer break. Then it would resume in October and conclude in November. Some summer events were still held, but none of the big-name riders attended them. PBR decided to fix this problem, thus moving the World Finals to May.
PBR making these changes doesn’t mean bull riding won’t occur after May. They are hoping this part of the year will be even more lucrative than ever before. They will be unveiling a team format, that will run from June through November. The team format isn’t new as it debuted during Covid and is being improved for 2022. Each team will play a 10-match regular season. The regular season will cumulate in a playoff, which will replace the World Finals in Las Vegas. After this, the 2023 season will begin, and the new PBR schedule will be off and running. PBR has been tight-lipped about the details of how the teams will work. But, a draft will likely decide the teams.
Now that the schedule is set, who are the names that we should look out for in the 2023 season? Jose Vitor Leme, as mentioned before, had the best year of all time in 2021. Since the 2022 World Finals are being held so close to last years’ Leme should be considered the favorite. Kaique Pacheco was a runner-up in 2021 and will be back with vengeance this year. Cooper Davis finished third and will also be back. Some other riders to keep an eye on is Boudreaux Campbell, who was the 2020 World Finals Event winner. Mauricio Moreira finished fifth in the World and is only 22 years old. Mason Taylor is also 22 years old, and placed 11th in the World. Jess Lockwood has been recovering from an injury. Is this the year he finally returns to form as a top rider? A Lockwood vs Leme rivalry could benefit the sport. What about the bulls? Well, “Woopaa” is a historically good bull, and he might even be considered the greatest of all time when he’s retired. Other bulls to watch are “Chiseled”, “Mezcal”, “Ridin Solo,” and “The Right Stuff.”
I’m not going to pretend to know much about PBR. When I watch it, I see a psychotic human get on the back of a 2,000-pound animal that wants to kill him and try to hang on for eight seconds. I don’t know much about the riders besides basic research, the history of bull riding, or anything about how the points work. Yet, I do applaud the PBR for making the changes they did. It makes everything make a lot more sense, it gives more value to events and will create an interesting new angle to a great sport. I’m rooting for PBR, and I’m hoping to make it to some of the events this year. Also check back soon to see our list of the 10 hottest PBR Wives going into 2022!