Passion defines Rutkowski

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Cinch bullfighter owns 4 freestyle world titles, a love for the game

Cinch bullfighter Weston Rutkowski gets a bull’s attention to help draw the animal away from the fallen bull rider during one of the 23 performances of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. This was the first year the Texas-born man has worked the Fort Worth Rodeo.

The climb sometimes is most of the fun when trying to reach the mountaintop. The labor of love can become grinding work once the goal is reached.

Cinch endorsee Weston Rutkowski found himself there after three straight years of dominating freestyle bullfighting in upstart Bullfighters Only. He was the organization’s first world champion in 2016 and followed that with title belts in 2017 and ’18. Through each phase, he battled the challenges and the challengers, all while facing aggressive fighting bulls destined to play this dangerous game.

He had his skull sliced open one year and suffered three facial fractures the next, and he still laid claim to being one of the best ever.

“I told (wife) Avery that I hit a pretty hard wall a couple years ago,” said Rutkowski, originally from the tiny hamlet of Haskell, Texas, but now living in Granbury with is bride of a year and a half. “In 2019 and 2020, I wasn’t fighting bulls good at all. I’d lost all the fun. I didn’t know why I was doing it, what I was doing and what my goals were. I was just going through the motions.

“I told her, ‘If I can’t find what makes this fun, I’m done.’ ”

Despite some early struggles in 2021, he found the joy again. He found the love affair with the intensity of the competition, the battle with himself as much as the battle with the bulls.

“I went back to the basics and fundamentals, just making sure I was doing everything right that I could control,” he said. “I realized I was putting so much pressure on myself to keep winning, I’d lost the fun. I realized how fun it is and how blessed I am to do something I love. That’s when things switched. I don’t know how long I’m going to do this, but I’m going to enjoy every minute of it.”

That mindset made all the difference in the world to Rutkowski, who won his fourth BFO world title that year. His pedigree is the culmination of a lifelong passion and an unrelenting work ethic. When he’s not fighting bulls, he’s training to fight bulls. When he’s not doing that, he joins other BFO shareholders in helping with aspects of the business it takes to produce the thrilling, action-packed shows for which the organization is known.

Weston Rutkowski is a four-time Bullfighters Only world champion and would love to continue to add to it while also handling many other aspects of his life. He won three straight BFO titles from 2016-18 and added a fourth during the 2021 season.

It’s not just freestyle, the competition that pits man vs. beast in an all-out gladiator-type event. Points are awarded on a 100-point scale with half the score based on how aggressive and agile the bulls are and their willingness to stay in the fight and the other half based on how close bullfighters get while maneuvering around or over the animals while staying millimeters from harm’s way.

No, Rutkowski also stays busy helping his wife and her business ventures, the primary being the release of Axa Cosmetics, a line she developed. Avery Greene Rutkowski is also marketing director for Run for a Million, an equine-sports showcase, as well as a makeup artist and model. When she needs him, her husband is always there.

“I met her at the Hooey Party during the 2015 (National Finals Rodeo),” Weston Rutkowski said. “She college rodeoed, and we very much have the same interests and love the same way of live. She’s everything I’d ever wanted. I chased her for years, and she finally just gave in. Her dream and her passion was to own a cosmetic line. She’s been doing wedding makeup for 10 years. She does contract work for the BFO as their production manager, where calls the show and writes the show.”

They work well together, even when he’s working a rodeo as a protection bullfighter. Weston Rutkowski has expanded that portion of his business. He’s spending this time of year working the 15-day Rodeo Austin in the state’s capital city. Two months ago, he was at Dickies Arena during the 23 performances of the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo.

“This was my first year getting to work that rodeo after Evan (Allard) retired,” he said. “I got the call to fill in his spot. When you go from 15 performances compared to 23, it feels like you work a whole other rodeo. It was cool to get to work that many performances in a row. It was a battle and a lot of learning. You learn what your body can take and what you can push through.”

While it’s still bullfighting, working in tandem with other men to protect cowboys during bull riding is very different from high-adrenaline phenomenon that is freestyle bullfighting.

“The cool thing about protection is it takes all the pressure off me to compete for money,” Rutkowski said. “I’ve got a paycheck coming. Now, I’m working with my buddies, working with a team. The movements I make reflect on what moves my partners make. We’re doing a job together. How can we control this wreck and all step away cleanly? If someone’s supposed to be hit, it’s going to be me. How can I excel and keep a wreck from happening, and how can I get in and also get out?”

He doesn’t work two of the biggest rodeos in his home state by being a freestyle world champion; he gets those jobs because the bull riders and other bullfighters respect the work he does in protection. For Rutkowski, though, the work goes hand in hand.

“Bullfighting is a crossover between a Western sport and an action sport, and you combine the two,” he said. “I know walking into the office every day, there’s a collision that’s going to happen. My job is to be as close as possible as long as possible and not get caught in freestyle. In protection, my job is to make sure the bull rider steps away safe and my partners step away safe.”

His resume reflects the accomplishments that many bullfighters would love, but his work is not complete. By the time he takes off his cleats for the last time, he’d like to add another BFO world title, maybe two, all while being in the middle of the organization’s development.

“Freestyle is now at the biggest level it’s ever been,” Rutkowski said. “The cool thing about the BFO is we’ve never regressed. The hardest year we faced was 2020, but that just allowed us to sit back and look at what we did good, what we did wrong and adjust. It’s just gotten better. This year we’ve got three brand new events with over $200,000 in prize money, the Ranch Fuel Bull Battles. We’ve never fought for money like that.”

He’ll be in the mix, all while building his own game for the next phases of his life.

“Bullfighting is such a mental battle that you have to be able to face everything your mind’s telling you that you don’t want to do,” he said. “It’s a competition against myself, going against an animal that has a mind of its own. I have to conquer my mind before I can conquer anything. I’m in constant pursuit of perfection.”

In May, Rutkowski will turn 35. His lifestyle has left him beaten, battered and bruised. He’s run toward rampaging bulls with 16 staples in his head and with a face that burned because of the multiple fractures he’d suffered just days before.

He’s pushed through the grind that is his business, and he’s continued to find a love affair that envelopes everything that’s right in this world. He shares that love with a beautiful redhead, who not only works beside him but with him, and they carry their passions together. He’d love to keep fighting bulls into his 40s, maybe longer. His body will tell him when it’s time to put the cleats on a shelf.

“Fighting bulls for this long and just the physical grind of what it takes to stay in shape and compete at a high level, I love being in the gym,” Rutkowski said. “I have never pursued it, because I don’t want to take away from what it takes for me to compete. I’d love to push the personal training. I want to work on buying a couple of properties, building them up and renting them out.

“I’m very much a guy who wants to pursue a lot of things, just like my wife. We just want to work for ourselves.”


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