By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
The Professional Bull Riders (PBR): Unleash The Beast Tour comes to historic Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey this weekend. The event will take place on September 15th and September 16th.
The event will begin at 6:45 pm EST on Saturday night. The second-day of the event will also start at 1:45 pm EST on Sunday afternoon.
“We’re always excited to come back to a venue that we have not been to in a long time,” PBR rider Sean Willingham said. “I think I was there the last time we were there. They don’t get to see professional bull riding at that level very often in Atlantic City, or especially New Jersey. I’m excited to go back and we’re excited to bring back the Professional Bull Riding: Unleash the Beast Tour there for the Atlantic City Invitational, September 15th and 16th.”
This is the first-time since 2003 that the Professional Bull Riders are coming back to Atlantic City. Mike Lee was the previous winner at the Boardwalk Hall.
“Not really,” Willingham said of potentially an advantage of going back to Atlantic City. “In our sport, it doesn’t give me an advantage because I’ve been there before. It means that I’m one of the older guys, who are still on tour competing at that level. That’s about all it really means. There’s a lot of new kids, who have not been there before, and there’s potentially a handful of individuals, who were there the last time we were there. It changes in-and-out with our sport every week. We have to battle it out to stay in the Top 35 every week. We try to roll with the punches. There’s really no advantages in bull riding. My competition is the bull that I get on. It’s my job to ride my bull for eight seconds, and it’s their job to ride their bull for eight seconds. Whoever does that the best with the best score will be the winner.”
Atlantic City has undergone a lot of changes since the PBR was last in town. This event should help bring money back into the area, along with the two new casinos — Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and the Ocean Resort Casino.
“The PBR will definitely bring a lot of people in,” Willingham said. “This is a crucial part of the season, as it is almost the end of the season. We’re winding down to the World Finals, which is our Super Bowl. That happens in Las Vegas in November. Our fans, who watch and support us, will show up and watch us gather our last few points before the World Finals. The guys in the top spots are going to compete to walk away as the champion. We’re going to bring in a lot of fans for two nights. This venue should be packed out. For the people, who live in New Jersey, who have not watched bull riding, or who are not very familiar with the sport, you will not want to miss out. Hands down, this will be one of the best shows you will see and it’s something that you can bring your family to. It’s very intense as we take on these big beasts. They weigh anywhere between 1,500-2,000 pounds. The bull riders max out at 160-170 pounds. It’s very entertaining and you do not want to miss out, as it is truly man vs. beast.”
Willingham said if you’re on the fence of coming, you should buy a ticket.
“I would say to get off the fence and buy your tickets,” he said. “It’s a great show. I’ve never met anybody in my 19-years, who were on the fence about coming — and showed up — and was disappointed. It’s something you definitely want to see if you never saw it before. It’s very intense. It’s a good sport to watch. It’s non-stop action for two hours with the best bull riders in the entire world. We bring guys from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Mexico, and the USA — we’ll all be there. The Top 35 bull riders in the entire world will be there. We’re very good athletes and we ride bulls for a living. We’re there to put on a good show, as well as please the crowd.”
During the event, each bull rider has to ride the bull for eight seconds in order to receive a score. Then, after being on the bull for eight seconds, they will be scored 1-50 on the bull and 1-50 on the rider. Any bull rider could receive 1-100 score overall. The individual with the best overall score will win.
However, if you do not make the eight seconds, you receive a zero score. In addition, you do not make any money for those rides. Many riders, according to Willingham, have sponsors to help offset those expenses.
Besides being on the bull for eight seconds, there are many dangers involved.
“There’s a little bit of danger involved,” Willingham said. “It’s the most dangerous sport in the world. Anything can happen. People love going to NASCAR races and they really don’t watch the races, as they’re there more for the wrecks. It’s the same in bull riding. More than likely, you’re going to see a wreck. I hope that nobody gets hurt, but it does happen. It’s the danger of the sport. We all know that being a bull rider. We know that coming into the sport. The danger is there. It’s not how bad you get hurt, but when. No, it’s not when you get hurt, but how bad.”
The turnout at the show may or may not cause the PBR to return to Atlantic City in the future. As previously mentioned, it’s been 15-years since their last event in the casino town. Willingham admitted, though, that it’s all about what the city wants.
“We love coming back,” he said. “But it’s all about what the city wants. If they come out and support this event, then they’ll definitely want us to come back. Then we’ll show back up. As you said, we do one in Madison Square Garden [in New York City] every year and it’s been going on for years now. It’s always a sell out crowd. We sell out three days there. We look for new cities in that area, because we do not take our tour up there enough. We love finding new towns that love to have Professional Bull Riding there.”
This will be one of the last rides for Willingham. After 19-years, he is retiring from the sport. He will officially take his final ride at Madison Square Garden in New York City in January 2019.
“I want to go out and not be beat up too bad,” he said. “It’s hard to walk away from something that’s all I’ve ever done. I’ve been doing this since I was 15-years-old. It’s definitely going to be hard to step away, as I enjoy competing at that level against those 18-year-old, 20-year-old kids. Over the 19-years, I’ve taken a lot of beatings. I’m going to retire at the end of the year.
“I’m actually going to do my retirement at Madison Square Garden in January. That will be my final ride. I’m going to retire there in New York City, which is pretty amazing. I got to ride there when we first got to ride there in New York City. I felt like that would be a good place to go out, as well. There’s also a lot of history at Madison Square Garden. I figured if I could leave a little piece of me there and finish my career there, that would be pretty amazing for me.”