The seed was planted at the very end of ESPN’s 30 for 30 on the XFL. Vince McMahon, the chairman and CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment, floated the idea of giving the XFL one more try. Now, apparently, where there is smoke there is fire.
After rumors popped up last week about McMahon seriously considering another go at a football league, WWE Inc. has announced that McMahon has sold $100 million of WWE stock. The move was made to add funds to McMahon’s latest venture, Alpha Entertainment LLC.
Last week, McMahon began to trademark names such as the XFL under his new venture. The first indication that McMahon’s thought was more than just that. However, selling $100 million of WWE stock is a whole different story.
The first iteration of the XFL launched in 2001 to a lot of fanfare. After the first week, they blew the doors off the expectations. However, that high was short-lived. The league sputtered in the subsequent weeks and shortly after the very first championship game, The Million Dollar Game, they announced they would not return for a second season.
It wasn’t that bad, was it?
A “colossal failure” as McMahon later put it, the XFL never gained credibility. Despite the backing of NBC and Dick Ebersol. McMahon’s bravado that built a wrestling empire was partly to blame. Sub-par quality of play was a factor as well. The combination of the two was a volatile mix. However, that’s not to say the XFL didn’t have some positive impact on the game today.
In some way’s, they were ahead of the curb. At least by NFL standards. Right off the bat, the XFL elected to go without the extra point. A move that most feel the NFL may slowly be building towards. Just recently they moved the extra point attempt back to add to the degree of difficulty. McMahon and the XFL forced teams to go for the extra point by running one play from the two-yard line. They also followed closely to the College and CFL overtime rules, guaranteeing each team has a possession. Again, something the NFL seems to be slowly building towards.
When it comes to putting on a show, there is no better showman than Mr. McMahon. He brought the glitz and glamour of professional wrestling to the football field. For the most part, it was exactly what you would expect. On the flip side, it helped mainstream certain technologies that we see today.
First, the skycam. It wasn’t invented by the XFL, however, they utilized it in a way and manner in which it had not been used before. Now, we see it more and more every year. In fact, NBC began using it regularly this season after a game between the Patriots and Falcons required it on a foggy night. In addition, their utilization of on-field microphones is now more common in the NFL today. Multiple players are mic’d up, each and every week, providing fans with incredible on-field access. Although indirectly, the XFL laid the groundwork for this 16 years ago.
Will it work the second time around?
It is important to note that with all the good that eventually came out of the XFL there was ALOT of bad that came with it as well. McMahon eventually became the face of the league in the sense that each week felt more and more like the story was about him. His ego ultimately took over and it was one of the big factors in the rapid decline of the league. For it to work this time around, things must be different.
The first time around, McMahon tried to compete with the NFL. He claimed the XFL would give the fans stuff the NFL was afraid to. Ultimately, that was his goal and predictably, he failed. Much like many other leagues did in the past when they tried to compete with the NFL. However, this time around, the NFL may be a bit more vulnerable.
Let’s be clear. The XFL or whatever the name of the league will be, will not overtake the NFL. With that said, there is room for a bit more football if done correctly. The NFL has seen a small dip in ratings for a multitude of reasons. Not one reason is to blame. Protesting across the league hasn’t helped. Oversaturation has been an issue too. The point is, McMahon has an opportunity to grab the attention of a segment of fans who love football but have soured on the NFL. If the product is good, you could see more and more fans tune in. Especially if it were a league that was run in the spring and featured potential NFL talent.
Ultimately, with McMahon at the helm, the outlook of XFL 2.0 is unpredictable. However, despite his failure with the XFL, McMahon knows a thing or two about building an empire. If he has learned from his mistakes of the past, the league and McMahon could truly surprise many people. If he repeats many of the same mistakes, XFL 2.0 has no chance in hell.