The reigning champions of the PBR and PRCA will settle the debate of who is the top bull rider – at least for one night – Saturday in Decatur.
J.B. Mauney, the PBR champion, will face off against PRCA champion J.W. Harris in a $25,000 winner-take-all event at the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge at the Wise County Fairgounds.
The showdown is part of a full night of action with some of the PBR’s best riders and bulls that begins at 8 p.m. Gates open at 5:30 p.m. The night will also include a celebrity steer riding featuring Fernando Escobar, J.D. Clark, Beau Bell, Joe Neil Henderson, Jeff Sicking and Wade Watson, between the long and short go.
The event’s namesake, Hart, put up the $25,000 for Mauney and Harris to battle over in the unique challenge of champions, which will be streamed on PBR Live.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a rivalry, but fans and the media made it a rivalry [between the PBR and PRCA],” said Hart in a conference call with Mauney and Harris Friday. “Especially with J.W. [Harris] coming over to the Ford Tough Series, he’s showed that he’s one of the guys that could pose a challenge and stand up against the best in the world.
“This gives the fans what they want for the two to go head-to-head.”
The PBR started in 1992 when a group of the sport’s top riders splintered off from the PRCA. It quickly grew into a multi-million dollar league, which now draws more than a million fans to events across the world.
Mauney became the PBR’s champion last year, riding 47 of his 90 bulls at 26 events and winning $1.81 million. The 27-year-old from Mooresville, N.C. is second all-time in the organization, earning $4.849 million.
Harris, 27, of May, is making the transition to the PBR after capturing the PRCA title last year. Harris has posted a pair of top-10 finishes in six events on the PBR tour.
Both have a lot of mutual respect.
“He has a gold buckle around his waist for a reason – and I do, too,” Mauney said.
“He’s kicked everyone’s butt in the PRCA I don’t know how many times. A lot of people were running their mouth saying he couldn’t handle [the PBR bulls]. He’s shut them up pretty quick.”
Harris said of Mauney, “You don’t get that buckle on your belt by accident.”
Harris said he’s been honored to get the opportunity to compete on the PBR for the larger purses. In this competition, he doesn’t feel he’s carrying the banner for the PRCA, where he’s spent most of his career.
“I’m just a bull rider. I’m just a rider they wanted in the matchup.”
Mauney will ride Asteroid, and Harris will be on Shepherd Hills Tested. The two riders downplay the head-to-head matchup between them and say it’s just another ride on a tough bull.
“I don’t think we are really pinned against each other,” Mauney said. “We still have to ride the bull we have to get on and then the scores will fall into place.
“I have a job to do when I get there, and he has a job to do. It ain’t like we have the easiest bulls to get on. We have a tough road ahead of us.”
“It’s not that I am going against J.B. It’s going to be another bull, another day. We always compete against the bull, and I hope J.B. rides his bull and I ride my bull. We’ll let the judges sort it out after that.”
Asteroid is ranked second on the PRB tour, bucking off 93 percent of riders.
“I’ve been on him three or four times and rode him once,” Mauney said. “Last time I got on Asteroid he threw me over his head, so hopefully it goes a little different this time.”
Harris said Shepherd Hills Tested, the third ranked bull on tour, fits his style. Like Mauney’s bull, it has bucked off 93 percent of riders throughout its career.
“He is a kind of bull that I have always wanted to get on. I think he kind of fits my style. I ride bulls better away from hand better than I do into my hand,” Harris said.
“I crave getting on them bulls that nobody else rides and nobody, frankly, wants to get on. That is why you ride bulls, to ride them unrideables.”
Hart said over the 16 years of the Challenge that he’s always tried to come up with a special draw. Last year, the series’ top bull, Bushwacker, came to Decatur.
Hart said he’s not pulling for Mauney or Harris in the competition.
“I don’t have a favorite in the deal,” Hart said. “I have known J.B. longer, and have probably a better relationship with him, but as far as the fact as who is going to win on what day, on what bull, I am going to let them guys and the fans pick and decide because at the end of the day I probably need both of them to hit the ground so I don’t lose $25,000.”
Mauney and Harris both hope Hart is writing a check at the end.
“I hope I can stay on so J.W. [Hart] has to pay,” Mauney said.
Hart quipped back: “Hopefully they score the same, so they can split it down the middle.”
J.W. HART PBR CHALLENGE
- Saturday, May 31
- Wise County Fairgrounds, 3101 South Farm Road 51, in Decatur
- Gates open at 5:30 p.m., event starts at 8 p.m.
- The Celebrity Steer Riding will be held between the long and short go.
- Tickets are available at www.wcchallenger.org or at Wise Wireless in Decatur.