Starring: Trace Adkins

Producer Shooter: Eric Castro
Released: 2019

Mood: If you’ve had a long week and need a lot of awesome cowboy action and entertainment but in small doses that feel more manageable than a whole movie even though you’re gonna binge the entire thing anyway.


Ultimate Cowboy Showdown is officially my new favourite show. It’s so good that after two episodes I dragged my husband away from video games to watch it, and he didn’t even try to go back to playing.


I came across it while trying to make up for lost time on this website of mine. You see, I was painfully aware that I hadn’t watched a Western in TWO F’N WEEKS. I was a little busy getting married, but I’m not here to make excuses. I have a reputation to uphold, and an imaginary fanbase to please.


Anyway, I had a few movies lined up, but all of them were over two hours long and my brain just could not. So I was sitting there on the couch, half-heartedly scrolling through Roku search results, when there it was: Ultimate Cowboy Showdown. A reality TV show about cowboys doing cowboy things, for a big cowboy prize.


One episode felt way more doable than a movie. And if I fell asleep, well, at least it would be to Trace Adkins’ rich baritone voice.


Clearly I didn’t fall asleep. In fact, we watched the entire first season in one go, staying up way past my work night bedtime. I even tried to start the second season immediately afterward, but Prime put a stop to my bingefest by telling me the second season isn’t available in my location.


Good thing I found season two on Tubi. Guess what I’m doing tonight.


ultimate cowboy showdown tv poster art


Ultimate Cowboy Showdown’s first season brings 12 cowboys and cowgirls (cowfolks?) together on an Alabama ranch, and pits them against each other in a series of competitions for a prize of $50K worth of cattle and a livestock corral. The challenges range from cowboying skills and hard ranch work to activities that toe the line of rodeo:


  • Roping and tying
  • Rounding up, driving, cutting, and sorting cattle
  • Judging cattle weight
  • Horseback races
  • A ‘money the hard way’ contest (IYKYK and it is insane)
  • Plus mending fences, throwing bales, changing tires, and chopping wood

Each day the gang is presented with an immunity challenge, and whoever wins gets to wear a sweet buckle and is safe from elimination that night. Sometimes they compete all day in teams, doing stuff like moving and sorting cattle where one weak link can ruin it for the whole team. Other times they’re being judged individually at things like roping.


Trace Adkins has guest judges who ride alongside him on horseback, watching the events and consulting on everyone’s skills. But at the end of each night, Adkins picks two cowboys pack their bags and head home.


illustration of a moustache that is curled at the ends


Now, a lot of cowboys may hate me for this, but the cowboying was only MOST of the reason I instantly fell for Ultimate Cowboy Showdown. It’s also a little bit because it’s the same format as RuPaul’s Drag Race: every episode has a mini challenge, a maxi challenge, a winner or winning team, people who are safe and told to step to the back of the stage/sit on the fence, and two people in the bottom. Trace even says the same line as RuPaul, “I’ve consulted with the judges, but the decision is mine to make.”


I mean, it’s probably the same format as a lot of reality competition shows, but that’s the only one I watch. And that familiar tension perfectly set me up to get into it from the first scenes. I was watching for who got the most screentime, aka the person most likely to either win or go home that day. I knew to expect dramatic editing to showcase close calls, massive disappointments, snarky comments, and one or two people getting ‘the villain edit’.


But seriously, this show is so bloody entertaining for anyone with ranching experience of any kind.


You get tons of action. You get interpersonal drama, and even a fist fight. You get the impossibly charming and chivalrous Hadley Hunting of Utah, and the adorable Texan J Storme, who is like Pam from The Office on horseback. There’s not one but two epic ranch relay races featuring seemingly straightforward activities that you just know are going to go sideways.


You also get personal stories of these real cowboys from around the States, and at times it hurts that they all can’t win because so many of them truly need it.


And unlike Drag Race, the guest judges are all real cowboys, trainers, and ranchers, highly qualified to be judging people’s cowboying skills. Adkins is the only one whose qualifications are questionable, but damn, that man plays the part well. It almost makes up for Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story. Almost.


I am legitimately so stoked to watch more seasons of Ultimate Cowboy Showdown. I see that they all have more than season one’s measly six episodes, which is fantastic news. And there’s an ALL STARS season airing right now. Whether you’re a little more into ranching or rodeo or reality TV, there’s definitely something for you here.