LAS VEGAS – The Texas Rattlers etched their names in the sports history books, upsetting the Austin Gamblers in the Championship Game of the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) Camping World Teams Championship at T-Mobile Arena to be crowned the 2023 PBR Teams Champions.
After concluding the regular season No. 3 in the league, the Rattlers, despite narrowly missing a first-round bye in the progressive elimination tournament, were one of the hottest teams, winning three consecutive games before travelling to Las Vegas. They went 4-for-5 in the final playoff game that counted most on Sunday afternoon to beat the Austin Gamblers 355.25 – 265.25 and win the 2023 Teams title.
“This is so exciting,” said Rattlers Head Coach Cody Lambert. “I got the right group of guys – humble men who ride for the love of the game, and they’ll be paid well. These guys love to ride, and they got it done. We used all eight of these guys we brought to Las Vegas.”
Earlier, after a magical run in which they won both Last Chance Games on Friday and Saturday to survive and advance to Championship Sunday, the Missouri Thunder fell to the Austin Gamblers, 256 – 172, setting the stage for an all-Texas final.
On the opening night of game play in Sin City, Texas squared off against the No. 8 Missouri Thunder. Riding to the game lead in the bottom of the first courtesy of a game-best score from Joao Ricardo Viera, Texas never looked back, clinching the game win early, and ultimately defeating Missouri by one ride score, 174-84.5.
The Rattlers advanced directly to the second round, next taking on the No. 4 Oklahoma Freedom in bull riding’s version of the Red River Showdown.
The Rattlers jumped to an early lead in the first via a crucial early score from Vieira, but as quickly as they took the lead, they were overtaken by Oklahoma in the second by 2.5 points compliments of an 8-second effort from the Freedom’s Casey Roberts. Following four consecutive buckoffs, two per team, the Rattlers logged what would be the game-winning score in the bottom of the fourth when Eli Vastbinder put up 86.25 points aboard Lone Star, putting the Rattlers up by 83.75 points and forcing Oklahoma into a must-ride position in the top of the fifth.
The Freedom failed to keep their hopes of victory alive when closer Caden Bunch was tossed by The Maverick. When the dust settled, the Rattlers won 170.75-87, advancing to the PBR Teams Championship Semifinals for the second consecutive season.
On Championship Sunday, the No. 5 Arizona Ridge Riders stood between Texas and their first berth to the PBR Teams Championship Game. Via an 8-second effort from Brady Fielder in the bottom of the second, followed by Vieira covering his re-ride draw immediately after, the Rattlers jumped to a 175.25-poitn lead entering the third. After neither team converted in the third, the Rattlers’ early momentum forced Arizona into a must-ride situation in the top of the fourth, down by two ride scores with only two outs remaining. Marking his debut for Arizona, Hayden Harris was unable to keep the Ridge Riders’ hopes of victory alive, bested in 2.63 seconds by Renegade to cement the game win for Texas, whoearned their first berth to the Championship Game.
Awaiting Texas in the final game of the season was their instate rival and regular-season No. 1 Austin Gamblers.
Following a first-round bye, Austin advanced to the final game via back-to-back walk-off wins against the No. 8 Missouri Thunder, both delivered by their closer Jose Vitor Leme.
As both teams took to the chutes inside T-Mobile Arena, the energy was palpable.
Undeterred by the bright lights, Texas set the tone early for the five-on-five showdown as opener Vieira jumped them to an 88.75-point lead by making the 8 with ease aboard Outlaw. With the score Vieira also clinched the PBR Teams Championship MVP event title, finishing 3.25 points ahead of Missouri’s Felipe Furlan.
As Texas celebrated, Austin was unable to match the score as Dalton Kasel continued to falter, bucked off by Roc Wit It in 4.19 seconds. Texas then grew their lead to two scores and 176 points as Aussie Brady Fielder dominated Ah Hell for 87.25 points. Austin, however, wouldn’t remain shut out for long. In the very next out, the Gamblers’ Rafael dos Santos topped Mike’s Motive for a commanding 89.5 points to decimate Texas’ lead to 86.5 points.
In the top of the third, the Rattlers showed a slight chink in their seemingly impenetrable armor as Brady Oleson came down hard atop Hunter in 5.48 seconds. With the door open for Austin to overtake the lead, the Gamblers rose to the occasion, but Lucas Divino’s 86-point ride on Skippy was not enough to take the lead. Following the trip, Austin still trailed by 0.5 points entering the fourth.
Determined to leave T-Mobile Arena the 2023 PBR Teams Champions, Texas reclaimed their early momentum. In the top of the fourth, Cody Jesus rode Tijuana Two-Step for 88.75 points, to increase the Rattlers’ lead to 89.25 points. Needing a score, the Gamblers turned to Ramon de Lima aboard Short Circuit, but the reserved Brazilian came up short, hitting the ground in 3.53 seconds.
The buckoff opened the door for Texas to clinch the Championship early in the top of the fifth. In the pivotal out was closer Daniel Keeping atop Red River. Nodding with confidence, Keeping remained in perfect time with the bull, reaching the requisite 8 and erupting into immediate celebration following his dismount. Marked a monstrous, and game-best, 90.5 points, the score clinched the 2023 PBR Teams Championship for Texas.
While Austin elected to attempt their final out, with closer Leme concluding the season for his squad with a score, it did not change the result of the game.
With the final scoreboard reading a 90-point, 355.25-265.25 Texas win, the Rattlers were crowned the second ever PBR Teams Champions.
The 2023 PBR Camping World Teams Championship, and preceding 2023 PBR Challenger Series Championship, also featured the 2023 ABBI (American Bucking Bull Inc.) World Finals. Following two rounds of competition, Flyin Wired (Tommy Julian/BS Cattle Co.) bucked supreme, crowned both the ABBI World Finals Classic Champion and ABBI Classic World Champion. Earning a combined 180.4 points at the ABBI World Finals, finishing 0.64 points ahead of runner-up Shazam (Dorman/Weaver/Hilton Bull Co.), Flyin Wired first turned heads at the Challenger Series Championship when he tossed the eventual 2023 PBR Teams Champion Texas Rattlers’ Trace Redd (Malad, Idaho) in 3.47 seconds. The bovine superstar then put the bucking bull world on notice when he teamed with the Kansas City Outlaws’ Wingson Henrique da Silva (Naviraí, Brazil) for a tournament-best 92.5 points during the second Last Chance Game at the PBR Teams Championship Saturday night. The impressive two outs propelled Flyin Wired to the year-end Championship, finishing 0.44 points ahead of reserve World Champion Flapjack (Parker/OK Corralis/Gordon/D&H Cattle Co.).
PBR RidePass on Pluto TV will offer replays of the entire 2023 PBR Camping World Teams Championship from Las Vegas. Check https://pluto.tv/en/live-tv/pbr-ridepass for the latest programming schedule.
COURTESY OF PBR TO TENN TEXAS MEDIA