PUEBLO, Colo. – H.D. Page was pulling out of the D&H Cattle Company ranch in Ardmore, Oklahoma, last month when he glanced out into the pasture to see three-time World Champion SweetPro’s Bruiser playing in a dirt pile.
Bruiser immediately let out a holler when he realized the two D&H Cattle Company trailers were headed to Las Vegas without him for the 2021 PBR World Finals.
“Them two trucks drove by, and he went to hollering and screaming,” Page said. “He wanted to come with.”
Bruiser was retired earlier this year by D&H Cattle Company following a seven-year career in the PBR and PRCA. Bruiser, who also named the 2017 Bull of the Year in the PRCA, injured his tendon in Nampa, Idaho, at the end of the 2020 season, and the Pages decided to let Bruiser enjoy life on the ranch rather than push him to make a comeback this year.
“It was time,” Page said. “It wasn’t hard at all. I mean, it is hard not having him on the truck and replacing him, but it isn’t hard to leave him at home. It was the right decision, and he had nothing left to prove. He is doing good. He will never compete again, but he is doing good.”
Bruiser will go down as one of the greatest bucking bulls in PBR history. The 10-year-old bull is one of three bulls in PBR history who have won three world titles (2016-18), alongside Little Yellow Jacket and Bushwacker. Little Yellow Jacket and Bruiser are the only bulls to win three titles consecutively. Bruiser and Bodacious are also the only two bulls in history to win World Championships in both the PBR and PRCA.
The friendly bovine was a favorite in the locker room, as well as in the grandstands.
Bruiser concluded his career with a 60-17 record on the premier series and 104-29 overall. He was ridden for 90 or more points 25 times, which is all but four times that he was ever ridden.
Stormy Wing recorded the best ride ever aboard Bruiser when the duo teamed up for 95.25 points at the Ty Murray Invitational four years ago in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“That was the rankest ride I probably ever made,” Wing said at the time. “He is a World Champion bucking bull. That son of a gun is so big and so fast, but he doesn’t feel strong. He spends so much time in the air that it is (like a flash) of light. From when I nodded to when the whistle blew, thinking back about it feels like a split second. Yet there was a whole ride in between there. That is one of the coolest bulls.”
However, Bruiser also seemed to bring his best under the bright lights of Las Vegas, whether it was inside the Thomas & Mack Center or T-Mobile Arena, as the explosive bovine helped produce eight 90-point rides in Sin City.
Two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney clinched his second world title aboard Bruiser with a 92.75-point ride six years ago during the 2015 PBR World Finals, while six-time PRCA champion bull rider Sage Kimzey rode Bruiser for 94 points at the 2019 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
“He has been a lot of fun, and we made some special memories here,” Page said.
There were also plenty of headaches for Page and team in Las Vegas.
Bruiser seemingly always had some adversity to overcome in the desert. During his first world title run, his hocks became swollen in Las Vegas, leading Page and Mesa Pate to apply poultice mud three times a day to try and draw out the inflammation.
The bull who Bruiser beat out for his last world title three years ago was none other than Smooth Operator. If not for Smooth Operator, Bruiser could have finished his career with at least four world titles.
Smooth Operator – the oldest two-time YETI World Champion Bull in PBR history – also retired this year following a PBR-record eighth and final World Finals qualification.
“Those eight in a row contractor of the year titles (I won), Smooth Operator was there for every one of them,” Chad Berger told The Cowboy Channel after the PBR World Finals. “Right now, he is the only bull in the history of the sport to go to the World Finals eight times and to win two world titles at the age of 9 and 10, which is another record. He has set a lot of records quietly while Jose was setting them loudly.”
“Smooth Operator is a strong bull,” Leme said. “He moves a lot to the front. He knows what he needs to do to drop off cowboys. He is one of the best.”
Leme owns the highest score aboard the 11-year-old superstar – 94.25 points on September 12, 2020, in Billings, Montana.
Smooth Operator ended his career with one final buckoff – the 91st time he dumped one of the PBR’s top bull riders on the premier series – when he bucked off Derek Kolbaba in 5.52 seconds during Round 2 of the 2021 PBR World Finals. The out was nowhere near Smooth Operator’s finest, but Berger looked on proudly at the bull who finally provided him his long-desired world title in 2019 as Smooth Operator took one final victory lap around T-Mobile Arena.
Smooth Operator went 91-13 in 104 outs on the premier series/METC after making his debut in 2014. The feisty bovine is 116-13 at all levels of competition.
To really appreciate how special Smooth Operator’s career was, you have to go back to 2015 and 2016, where injuries appeared ready to end the up-and-coming bull’s career.
“When he was 5 years old, I think he was the rankest bull I’d ever seen,” Berger said last year. “And he got hurt (in 2015) with what could have been a career-ending injury, really. He severely hurt his back, and we did not know if he’d ever buck again. Then he breaks a kneecap (in 2016) and is out for basically half of another year.”
Smooth Operator qualified for the 2016 PBR World Finals despite missing the first half of the season, but he no longer looked like the World Champion Bull contender he previously was.
Berger and his team at Berger Bucking Bulls worked Smooth Operator back to full health by 2017, but it wasn’t until 2019 that Smooth Operator miraculously returned to championship contention, winning the 2019 World Championship with a 46-point World Champion Bull average.
“That bull has won two world titles just with the heart,” Berger said. “It’s all heart. That bull has got the biggest heart to keep doing what he does. He just reminds me of an old campaigner that knew what he had to do to win.”
Smooth Operator’s new era of dominance ensued as he spent 2018-20 battling Bruiser for the YETI World Champion Bull titles.
Before 2021 YETI World Champion Woopaa rose to the top of the bucking bull throne, Bruiser and Smooth Operator dominated the last five years.
Now Woopaa is the new bovine to beat for bull supremacy in the PBR, and stock contractor Laramie Wilson only hopes his animal can have the kind of career that Bruiser and Smooth Operator did.
“I don’t know if I’m going to have a reign of terror,” Wilson said with a laugh in Vegas. “The only reason I say that is because I pay attention to the younger bulls so much, and that’s my main forte. There’s a lot of good 3- and 4-year-old, and even 2-year-olds, that, in three years from now, they’ll be at that level.
“Every year, it’s a better and better set of calves. I hope I get a three or four-year reign of terror with Woopaa, and I know reputation will go a long way and stuff like that, but there are a lot of good 3- and 4-year-old bulls coming up. There’s a couple that are sure enough going to be frontrunners the next few years to make a new push at bucking bull of the year.”
Article Courtesy of the PBR
Photo By: Andy Watson/Bull Stock media