The founder and chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment, Vince McMahon, announced at a press conference on Jan. 25 that he is reviving his professional football league, the XFL, for another go. Held as a joint venture between NBC and the WWF, now known as the WWE, the XFL was first introduced in 2001, lasting only one season before poor ratings and mismanagement led to the league’s cancellation. It relied heavily on scantily clad cheerleaders, and a more “extreme” approach to the sport that was an amalgam of both football and 1990s style wrestling. The XFL boasted strong ratings in its first few weeks, but fan interest seemed to have peaked in the early stages. Ratings showed a sharp decline in the following weeks as XFL’s lack of explanation for new rules frustrated fans. They became dissatisfied with the lack of any top tier talents and low-quality football. The failure of the league led to WWE and NBC losing tens of millions of dollars, officially closing shop in 2002.
Now, 16 years later, McMahon intends to resurrect the league and “reimagine” it to compete with the NFL. This time, however, he is solely funding the project with no partners and has had no talks with any media outlets. McMahon is not seeking any investors to partner with and said that the league is already fully funded. Launching a new company called Alpha Entertainment, the chairman claimed that there would be no crossover with the WWE and that it was a solo venture that he was working on. When asked about the structure of the league, McMahon confirmed that it would be a shorter format with only two hours of game time in a 10-game season, and four teams making it to the playoffs. This time around, the league will not rely on gimmicks and other antics that contributed to the original XFL’s demise and games will be much shorter with simpler rules.
McMahon has also stated that he did not want his new league to be a platform for social or political issues. He would not tolerate any sort of personal stances being made, as he wants the fans and players to simply focus on the game.
“People don’t want social and political issues coming into play when they are trying to be entertained,” McMahon explained in an exclusive interview with ESPN. “We want someone who wants to take a knee to do their version of that on their personal time.”
Players with criminal records would be excluded from being selected into the league— even a DUI infraction was enough cause to disqualify a player from being able to join. When asked by Sports Illustrated about several football stars such as Colin Kaepernick, Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel being allowed to play, McMahon responded by saying that he “[would] probably eliminate some of them. Not all of them. If Tim Tebow wants to play, he can very well play.”
The XFL is already shaping up and moving forward with full force and measures are already being placed to ensure that past mistakes would not be repeated. This time around, the XFL will not have to rely too heavily on TV ratings as they have multiple platforms and streaming services to choose from. The original XFL was announced in 2000 and launched a year later, and in hindsight many feel that perhaps the masterminds behind the league had rushed to create an unfinished product. Now that they have two years until its launch, there is more than enough time to ensure that the XFL can succeed and perhaps even be seen as a competitor to the NFL in the future.