Return of Competition
Vince McMahon, Chairman of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), is generally thought of as a shrewd and brilliant businessman who succeeds by keeping his finger on the pulse of what Americans want out of entertainment.
Whether you love professional wrestling, think it’s fairly stupid, or are indifferent; there can be no doubt that McMahon took what was once a territorial concept, turned it into a national phenomenon and created an empire.
One of his first major accomplishments outside of the often insular world of professional wrestling was a cross-promotion that dates all the way back to 1976. In 1976, while promoted by Vincent J. McMahon Sr., the younger McMahon was the driving force in putting together a match between legendary wrestler Antonio Inoki and reigning WBC/WBA boxing world champion, Muhammad Ali.
As a side note, elsewhere on the card at Shea Stadium, where the closed circuit Ali v. Inoki bout was being broadcast, another boxer v. wrestler cross-promotion would take place live. That bout would feature Andre The Giant against professional boxer Chuck, “The Bayonne Brawler,” Wepner. That fight is not only interesting because of the cross-promotional aspect, but also because it was Wepner’s somewhat improbable championship bout against the same Muhammad Ali that inspired the Rocky series of films.
The fight itself would not be well-received, despite all of the excitement leading up to it. Inoki, perhaps wisely (and also due to some restrictions put upon him as to what he could or could not do in the fight) spent the vast majority of the fight on the ground, not because Ali put him there, but because he kicked at Ali’s legs whilst on his back and Ali wouldn’t be able to land a punch.
Ultimately, this fight would metamorphosize into the concept of mixed martial arts, (such as UFC and Pride Fighting Championships, the latter of which started by students of Inoki) that have become a staple of American bloodsport fans to this day.
It wouldn’t be the last time that Vince McMahon would incorporate pop culture and other popular American staples into his brand of wrestling entertainment. In fact, it was far from the last time that a professional boxer would be involved. Mike Tyson has a few WWE (then WWF) appearances to his credit, most notably, knocking out “The Heartbreak Kid,” Shawn Michaels with a punch during Wrestlemania XIV while serving as, ‘Special Enforcer,’ for the “Stone Cold,” Steve Austin and HBK championship match. The knockout was kayfabe, (scripted) of course.
Ten years and Wrestlemanias later, Floyd “Money” Mayweather would go on to defeat The Big Show in a no-disqualification match, having knocked him out in a previous Pay-Per-View, No Way Out.
Beginning in the early 1980’s, Vince McMahon would claim full ownership of the wrestling company through his company, Titan Sports, and would go on to expand the then-WWF nationally. He accomplished that by breaking previously established rules in, ‘The business.’
Until that time, professional wrestling was a highly regional affair and there was an unspoken (sometimes spoken) agreement amongst wrestling promoters not to leave their regions for promotions or live events. Everybody played nice prior to McMahon, and on rare occasions, a cross-territorial match would be a treat for fans who would get to witness the champion of one promotion take on the champion of a different one. Of course, many of these matches would end in some sort of disqualification, that way the losing combatant wouldn’t have to, “Drop the strap,” (read: lose his championship) to the other territory.
Furthermore, many of these territories would often, “Lend,” their wrestlers to other territories for one-off events. On other occasions, a wrestler would completely change territories. However, when a wrestler did this on his own, it would often result in some animosity between the two territories and the wrestler would generally find himself blackballed from the territory he departed. That aspect of the business would remain in play during the, “Monday Night Wars,” of the 1990’s between WWF/WWE and World Championship Wrestling (WCW) with the main difference being that a wrestler would occasionally leave one promotion only to return. Current WWE superstar, Goldust, is just one example as he left for WCW (prior to the Goldust gimmick) only to later return to WWE.
While his in-ring ability has been called into question by wrestling fans, perhaps the most charismatic wrestler of all-time, and probably the most well-known, Hulk Hogan would find himself front and center of a national wrestling craze starting in the mid-80’s. From that, came any number of interjections into the greater American entertainment that we see the WWE attempt so often today.
For one thing, Hulk Hogan garnered a ton of sponsorship and licensing money that went to the WWE as we started to see the appearance of wrestling action figures and other trademarked/licensed merchandise. Beyond that, “The Hulkster,” would go on to be featured in a great many television commercials as well as appearing in several movies, though with varying degrees of success. We see that, even to this day, many WWE superstars (such as The Rock, John Cena and Dave Bautista “Batista”) have gone on to become movie stars in their own right. In the meantime, WWE still maintains a movie studio producing films featuring some of the wrestlers in the promotion, again, with varying degrees of success.
As the 80’s turned into the 90’s, the Hulkamania craze kind of plateaued, but wrestling would continue to be both successful and profitable for McMahon. There were a few road bumps along the way, such as the very poorly received Wrestlemania IX, which was held outdoors during the daytime making for a poor optic. For the most part, WWF/WWE held onto a fanbase that became loyal watchers of that form of entertainment during the first few years of the Hulkamania era.
The one area that WWF would not meaningfully cross until after the 1990’s was a movement into cross-promotion with non-combat sports. This would change at Wrestlemania XI that featured (unfortunately) another somewhat poorly received (but very well-hyped) match between football player Lawrence Taylor and Bam Bam Bigelow. Of course, Taylor would naturally go on to win that match so as not to look bad.
The unfortunate side effect of Taylor’s victory was that it made the WWF look kind of silly, and arguably, weak. What you ended up having was one of WWF’s more, “Strongly booked,” guys lose to a guy who had never previously professionally wrestled. This was more than evident as Bam Bam Bigelow was clearly holding back, avoiding hitting Taylor with more risky moves that require training to know how to, ‘Take the bump,’ correctly. The result was that the majority of Bam Bam’s offense consisted of striking moves and submission holds. Perhaps ironically, Lawrence Taylor would do the following:
- Clothesline Bam Bam over the top rope.
- Avert a splash into the corner.
- Hit Bam Bam with a bulldog.
- Execute a hip toss.
- Hit a belly-to-back suplex (Or, maybe a side suplex...the execution wasn’t perfect)
- Jackknife Powerbomb
- Forearm shot from the second rope for the win.
In Bam Bam’s defense, he was the only participant to attempt any submission holds, (a boston crab, as well as an ankle lock) but aside from that, every ground move excepting one was striking. He hit a very weak looking body slam early in the match that consisted of him very gently picking up LT and placing him on the mat. (While stomping to make it sound like he did something) LT also kicked out of Bam Bam’s signature flying headbutt from the top ropes.
In other words, LT made Bam Bam look like a chump, and while the crowd was juiced because Bam Bam was a, ‘Heel,’ (read: bad guy) wrestling purists were not impressed with one of the better wrestlers going down to a professional football player.
The years after would see athletes from other sports (such as Dennis Rodman in WCW) and actors (such as David Arquette...also WCW) enter the fray. In fact, in one of their dumber moves, David Arquette would become the WCW World Heavyweight Champion, albeit briefly.
The problem with these types of matches, of course, is suspension of disbelief. Granted, while the WWE wouldn’t go on to openly acknowledge the fact until the late-90’s, it was no longer a public secret that professional wrestling matches are scripted and the result known ahead of time. Even with that, when watching a match, fans want the result to at least be feasible.
Vince McMahon, as we can see, had no problem incorporating other entertainment outlets and pop culture themes into his product. Hell, he was even body slammed once by current President Donald J. Trump, (a good friend of his) but aside from the WWF/WWE produced films...he never really attempted to enter the fray in any other entertainment forms.
Founded in 1999, a football product designed to compete directly with the NFL, Vince McMahon’s XFL would go on to (spoiler alert) fail both catastrophically and almost immediately. The XFL did a couple of things reasonably well, but those things were exceeded by the things that they did poorly. The concept was not just a more smash mouth brand of football, but also to incorporate entertainment elements into the game.
For one thing, one of the main selling points of the first incarnation of the XFL was scantily clad cheerleaders, which actual football fans cared very little about. Beyond that, wrestling concepts such as, ‘Heat,’ (manufactured issues between two players or teams) would be part of the mix. In other words, the coaches were essentially supposed to behave as if they had a genuine animosity towards the other teams, their coaches and their players...despite the fact that there was no legitimate reason for a, ‘Rivalry,’ given that none of the teams had any history with one another.
The inaugural XFL was a joint venture between NBC and the WWE, though the former (despite a two-year contract) would state that it intended to pull out after the first year due to extremely disappointing television ratings. The decision to align itself with the XFL would prove to have negative long-term consequences, too, as it would be four years until NBC was again able to secure any rights to broadcast NFL games.
Everyone took a gamble, everyone lost, but why?
The first reason is because none of the teams had been together long enough to field a quality product and that is, arguably, the most important reason. McMahon seeks to rectify this for the new incarnation of the XFL as he plans to compensate players year-round and expects them to practice, to some degree, across the entire calendar. He is going to begin by spending the next year assembling teams and then giving them a full year to practice before kicking off the 2020 XFL season.
In the first edition of the league, it became pretty clear that, not only would the play not be NFL quality, (which nobody really expected) but also that it would pale in quality to college football. In terms of quality of play, there have been some Arena teams that could arguably mop the floor with the XFL, who purported themselves to be the second-best league and eventually believed that they would compete directly with the NFL.
That belief was delusional then, and it is delusional now. Further, the XFL claims that it will not become a, ‘Farm league,’ or, ‘Developmental league,’ for the NFL. Maybe not, but here’s a question:
When McMahon’s initial outlay is the sale of 100 million dollars in WWE stocks to create Alpha Entertainment LLC, and one of the XFL teams (which the league itself owns, expectedly) is offered ten million dollars by the Cleveland Browns (or some other NFL team) to buy the contract of one of its players...can the XFL really say no?
You could argue that will never happen, and perhaps it won’t. It warrants mentioning, however, that the star quarterback of the Los Angeles XTreme and XFL MVP, Tommy Maddox, would go on to join the Pittsburgh Steelers for five years as well as be their starting quarterback for the second and third of those years. Prior to that 2001 NFL Season, Maddox had taken his last starting NFL snap for the New York Giants in 1995, a season that would see him complete zero TD passes while throwing three interceptions.
There were a few other less noteworthy players to play in the XFL who would move on to an NFL roster after being recognized for their performance in the ill-fated league.
Either way, when an NFL team comes calling for an XFL player...and they will unless they NFL forbids it...I think it’s going to be pretty tough to say no if the price is right. The teams may have coaches and general managers of their own, but those coaches and general managers only occupy their positions on the team at the whim of one Vincent Kennedy McMahon.
The XFL kind of went in the opposite way that the NFL was starting to slowly tread at that time and is steadfastly trending now. The NFL wanted to make professional football a safer game, at least, to as much of an extent as it can become safe. The XFL, on the other hand, wanted the sport to become more brutal.
The opening coin toss is a rather gentlemanly affair in the NFL. Both teams come out, one team is appointed to call heads or tails and the winner gets the choice of defending one side or the other, or as is more typically the case, whether or not they wish to kickoff to start the game. At the end of this process, the opposing teams will often bump fists, shake hands and sometimes even offer one another good luck.
The XFL, at least the first version of it, decided to replace this procedure with arguably the most violent and bloody aspect of their game to decide who gets the ball first. In the XFL’s version, two players would line up side-by-side on the thirty-yard line, the ball would be placed at the fifty, and both players would run at the ball in an effort to gain possession first. The player to gain possession would confer upon his team the right to determine who gets the ball first at the beginning of the game, as well as the overtime period.
This, ‘Opening scramble,’ as it was dubbed, was very gladiatorial in nature. So much so, in fact, that one of the players would suffer a separated shoulder on the very first play, of the very first game, during the inaugural broadcast of the league.
In short, the opening scramble didn’t go so well.
While the opening scramble wasn’t a great optic, the XFL did have some positive optics, literally. Believe it or not, the XFL was the first league to ever incorporate an overhead camera, which the NFL often uses in broadcasts for instant replay purposes and even occasionally flirts with using during the live game. I guess at least some good came out of the failed attempt at the league.
The XFL would determine that extra points, in their current form, were unnecessary because they were essentially automatic. The solution to that was to turn the two-point conversion (as it is done now) into a one-point conversion. The NFL has not done that, of course, but the more successful league would clearly go on to decide that extra points were too much of a, “Gimme,” and they responded by moving the attempt back fifteen yards.
As with anything in a venture that is failing, you try everything to right the ship, and the XFL would amend this rule by the time of its two-game playoffs. Not by bringing back the ability to kick for an extra point, but by giving the teams the option to move the attempt progressively farther away in order to try for two, or even three, points. It’s hard to say how well-received the ability to go for as many as three points after a touchdown might have been had the XFL survived, mainly because it was only used in a couple of games that nobody was watching.
Adding to the violence was the ability for defensive backs to hit wide receivers at any time, but not tackle, provided the quarterback had not released the ball. This concept, known as, “Bump and Run,” was determined to have too much of a negative impact on scoring and would later be adjusted to only allow defenders to bump receivers within five yards of the line of scrimmage.
The above rule is one area in which the NFL may have went too far the other way. Defenders now seem to draw a pass interference call if they so much as breathe on one of the wide receivers, and it even seems like they have to wait for them to come all the way down with the football before they can hit them. The result is that defenders will occasionally come between the receiver and the ball, making what would have been considered an outstanding defensive play just ten years ago, only to draw a flag.
Granted, the NFL game has adjusted such that the defenders are taught to come between the receiver and the ball without making contact with the receiver, this concept is known as, “Playing the ball.” In other words, the focus is more on preventing the ball from getting to the receiver more than it is on preventing the receiver from catching the ball. The more aggressive calling of pass interferences and personal fouls for illegal hits on defenseless receivers has led to an even higher-scoring affair in today’s NFL, as well as a more pass-heavy league.
Similar to the Canadian Football League and Arena Football League, the XFL would allow one receiver to move towards the line of scrimmage (but not past it) prior to the ball being snapped. Generally speaking, unless going for a decoy play, this receiver would simply be the fastest wideout on the team whose goal was to try to burn the coverage (safeties) for a deep completion. While an interesting concept, and one that has worked well in other leagues, the advantage was mostly nullified by the ability of defenders to, “Bump and Run,” anywhere on the field. To wit, the, ‘Bump,’ would often take the wide receiver, already going at full speed, completely off of his feet.
Aside from the opening, ‘Scramble,’ the punting game was arguably both the least recognizable, and most violent, difference between the old XFL and the NFL.
For one thing, there was no such thing as the, “Fair Catch,” which means that a punt returner could not wave his hand, essentially conceding that he wants to catch the ball without attempting a return. While that sounds potentially deadly, it was offset by the rule that no one on the punting team could come within five yards of the designated returner until he had caught the ball. Whilst a return would usually be attempted, the returner could instead opt to just hit the ground immediately if he believed himself to be in too much danger.
Another change was that the kicking team could actually recover a punt in the event it traveled more than twenty-five yards past the line of scrimmage. The result of that was that punting would remain a strategic affair, albeit with a much different strategy. Since punting out of bounds was itself a ten-yard penalty, (which led punters to be more likely to aim for the center of the field) punters would instead attempt to kick the ball in such a way that it would hit the ground and bounce back towards the punting team. Additionally, very skilled punters might instead opt for a kick with a lower trajectory, hoping that it would land somewhere between the punting team and returner and bounce around a bit.
Many punts would result in one type of penalty or another. Generally the penalties would either be for punt out of bounds, or for coming too close to the returner prior to him catching the ball. That sort of result is expected because, on the one hand, you had a punting team who was highly incentivized to aggressively pursue the ball, (because they could retain possession) but if they pursued too aggressively, they would come too close to the returner.
In short, it was a mess that did not look good at all.
Does the New XFL Have a Chance and What Does it Need to Do?
The main marketing point of the new XFL appears to be that it will be non-political, requiring all players to stand for the national anthem. Not only should all the hubbub over the national anthem protests die down by then, it already mostly has, that’s really not where I would want my marketing lead to be. I would want my lead to be that I am going to, first of all, produce a decent football product. There have been some differences between the XFL and NFL that have been proposed and there are some other things I think they could do.
First of all, Vince McMahon has stated that one of the goals of the XFL is to get the total running time of one of its games under two hours. His opinion, as well as that of several NFL fans, is that the games currently run too long. There are a number of ways to potentially effectuate this end, one or two of which were done by the initial XFL.
The first one is to reduce the play clock, which is how long the offense has between snaps. The current NFL play clock is forty seconds, and the first incarnation of the competing league set it at thirty-five seconds. The CFL currently has it set at twenty seconds after the ball is, “Whistled in,” which means the referees have set it and declared it ready for play. The XFL could very well choose to adopt the twenty second rule instead, bringing with it a faster pace to the offense more on par with the CFL.
Secondly, the XFL could also opt not to stop the game clock in situations that the NFL currently does. Of all the possibilities that spring to mind, the XFL could choose not to stop the game clock for plays resulting in an incomplete pass or a player going out of bounds.
More extreme still, even though the XFL does NOT stand for, “eXtreme Football League,” (a league actually had that name before the first XFL) would be to have a running clock during the entire quarter/half with the possibility of stopping it once similar to the two-minute warning. With a mechanism such as that, not even stopping the clock for touchdowns, there could theoretically be a much faster game even if you give each team five timeouts as opposed to the current three per half in the NFL.
Another option is to play the game with halves rather than quarters. Instead of four fifteen minute quarters, the league could instead opt for two thirty minute halves.
Perhaps unlikely, but another possible consideration would be to literally make the playing time shorter. Instead of fifteen minute quarters, the new XFL may opt to go with quarters of ten or twelve minutes, instead.
Define a Catch
If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck?
Perhaps one of the most controversial elements of the NFL is the fact that the highest professional football league in the world today does not know what the result of one of the most fundamental plays, a catch, should look like. While it becomes a sigh of relief for some fans and a depressing groan from others, I think everyone could ultimately do without hearing the words, “Upon review, it has been determined that the receiver did not survive the ground,” ever again.
Here is how a catch should be defined: If a receiver catches the ball with one hand and the ball does not make contact with the ground, or if the receiver catches the ball with two hands and both hands remain on the ball at all times until the end of the play, then the play shall be designated as a completed pass.
It’s really that simple. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes the, “Backyard Rules,” actually are the best rules.
The NFL has recently loosened some of the restrictions on endzone celebrations after a touchdown, but the XFL could perhaps benefit from taking that even further with more elaborately designed celebrations. Additionally, the old XFL allowed players to have a nickname (rather than last name) on the back of a player’s jersey. Notable amongst these was Rod, “HE HATE ME,” Smart. It’s just a silly little thing that doesn’t really hurt the product.
Personally, I think that the punting rules had some potential, the execution was just poor in the old XFL. The first thing I would do is keep the following two rules:
- An out of bounds punt is a ten yard penalty.
- The punting team can recover any punt that travels further than twenty-five yards from the line of scrimmage and regain possession.
However, fair catches would be allowed. Beyond that, the rule that defenders could not come within five yards of a returner would be eliminated, UNLESS the returner calls for a fair catch, in which event they have to leave him alone.
Given that a fair catch would be allowed, the opportunity for the kicking team to recover the ball without the returning team touching it will not come up very often, but it’s not really meant to. It should really be something that just exists as an outside possibility to add some excitement to the game. It wouldn’t happen much, but when it does, the fans will be amped.
Finally, I think you could keep the two-point conversion from the two-yard line as a one-point conversion, so no need for extra point kicks at all. I think that you could also have a two-point conversion that could be attempted from the ten-yard line, but three-point conversions are just silly.
Compete, but Not Exactly
The first thing that the XFL must accept, which they seem willing to now but not before, is that they are not really a competing league with the NFL.
The XFL intends to roll out a ten-game regular season with two conferences of four teams each who will play one another twice, and play each team in the opposing conference once. After that, the top two teams will enter into a two-week playoffs consisting of a semi-final and then the championship game.
The XFL is to have eight teams, the NFL has thirty-two. The XFL is to have a ten-game season, the NFL plays seventeen weeks (each team has a bye week). The NFL has a playoff structure consisting of four rounds. The very fundamental structure of both leagues is such that one really cannot be construed as competing with the other.
Besides that, Vince McMahon has emphasized that the XFL will not be a developmental league, of sorts, for the NFL. As I mentioned before, when an NFL team comes knocking at the door to buy out an XFL player’s contract for a meaningful sum of money, I think that’s going to be a tough offer to refuse. That is especially true when you consider that the XFL players will likely only start off with one or two year contracts to begin with.
In addition to Vegas most likely allowing betting on XFL games, (they did the first time) being considered a developmental league for the NFL, honestly, would serve to legitimize the XFL as a viable quality football product. When the dominant league wants some of your players, in my opinion, it means that you have produced meaningful talent.
One thing that the XFL will be able to do that the NFL cannot (read: chooses not to) is draft players immediately out of high school if they choose. The NFL currently has a rule that requires a player to be three years out of high school before he can be drafted, or even be signed as an NFL player. (Most people think the player has to attend college and play college ball, de facto, yes, but not technically true) If the NFL decides that they’ll take XFL players, then players can come out of high school and go directly to getting paid rather than play college ball.
However, if the NFL announces that they will not allow the XFL to count towards the four years, (it’s three if you went to college) then those players will have a serious problem. They can still go to college, of course, but they cannot play college football because they would no longer be amateur athletes. Provided the NFL does not specifically prohibit XFL players from joining the NFL entirely, however, a young player could play in the XFL, get paid, and take college classes. That would enable the NFL player to be drafted/signed by the NFL after the usual three years.
Let’s also take a look at some simple math, here:
The initial outlay of the first version of the XFL, that by NBC and Vince McMahon, was 100 million dollars. That’s the same amount as the current incarnation, except McMahon is going it alone this time. According to overthecap.com.
Let’s take a look at a few salaries for three NFL teams.
Going alphabetically, a random number generator has selected 31, 1 and 10, so:
- Tennessee Titans: $161,001,051
- Arizona Cardinals: $168,791,848
- Denver Broncos: $161,359,956
That means that an NFL team’s salary, for one season, exceeds the initial outlay for an entire eight team football league.
We can agree that, with much more preparation time and a greatly reduced emphasis on what McMahon calls, ‘Sports Entertainment,’ that the XFL will be able to field a better product, but it’s not going to be one that meaningfully competes with what the NFL puts on the field.
Here is the fact: If you take the XFL’s fifty-two best players, and put them up against the Cleveland Browns in a scrimmage, the Browns will blow them out by about fifty points and essentially stop playing the game midway through the second quarter. The Browns are terrible by NFL standards, XFL teams will be terrible, arguably, by the standards of the highest-level college football teams.
McMahon may not want the XFL to be considered, in part, a developmental league for the NFL, but the fact is, it will be an honor if they end up being considered so highly.
Will They Succeed?
The original version of the XFL lost 70 million dollars (35M per entity) of the original 100 million dollar investment, and it only took them a single season to do it.
There exists a glimmer of hope that the XFL could be successful, but many things have to go right:
1.) Live Draw
-The home teams are going to need to produce substantial revenue by selling tickets. The average attendance for an XFL game.
That sounds great, until you realize that the mean seating capacity of the XFL stadiums was 64,657. In other words, the average game only saw about 36.21% of the seats occupied, which makes for a terrible optic. Kind of like a Los Angeles Chargers game, except the away games would be empty, too.
Perhaps the worst part of that is the fact that those poor attendance numbers only game by way of lots and lots of initial hype. If you don’t believe me, consider that the opening game drew 14 million viewers on NBC. That’s certainly pretty good. For comparison, the Chiefs/Patriots NFL opener this year drew about 21 million viewers, though admittedly, television (in general) has declined since then.
The teams are going to have to draw live not just to make gate, concessions and merchandising revenue, but also so there’s a good optic for home viewers and plenty of crowd noise. For something of this scope, that most importantly is not financially backed by a major sports league, it’s going to have to draw. It’s not like Minor-League baseball where the MLB teams are paying the salaries of the players signed to MLB contracts.
McMahon has said that he doesn’t currently have a broadcast partner lined up, but you know what, it might not be necessary.
In the face of people increasingly inclined to, “Pull the plug,” the WWE rolled out the, “WWE Network,” which enables a person to watch all WWE broadcasts current and past. In fact, one can even watch the games of the first XFL on the network. If all else fails, the WWE can, “Pay,” the XFL for the rights to host its games live on the WWE Network. After a trial period of sorts, the WWE will likely determine whether or not network subscribership increased enough to justify continuing to do that.
Will a ton of people subscribe to the $9.99/month network just for XFL games? I think that’s a bit of a stretch.
What is not a stretch is that many sites, such as Facebook, have expressed an interest in maybe getting some sporting event rights, and an XFL Facebook live streaming of the games may well be right up the social media giant’s alley. Why not? Facebook bakes and butters its bread off of advertising and just about everyone in the country has a Facebook account as it is.
The only underlying flaw is that many individuals in the target market do watch football on cable and may be loathe to have to watch XFL games via some kind of Internet stream. They may have enough interest to stop flipping channels if it shows up on the TV, but insufficient interest to go out of their way looking for it.
McMahon is thinking about starting the new league back up with the first games coming in January or February 2020. The notion of doing it in January is AWFUL. Ignoring for a second that you’d be competing directly with the NFL Playoffs, one should also take into account that the NCAA bowl games will have just ended.
I think doing it the week after the Super Bowl, as they did before, wasn’t a terrible idea. More potential still would be to perhaps wait until the Spring when there has been a lapse of live football for those hardcore gridiron fans that are out there, although, you also want to avoid competing with the NBA and NHL Playoffs.
4.) The Cities
McMahon has stated that he wants to focus on locating these eight teams in cities that already have an NFL presence, and that can go both ways. On the one hand, San Francisco had the best average live attendance of any XFL team. On the other hand, Chicago (who also made the playoffs that year) had the worst...and they’re a much larger media outlet.
Where to position the teams is above my paygrade, but I believe that you almost have to put one of them in St. Louis, who lost the Rams in recent years. The infrastructure is already there. The Dome at America’s Center is still used for concerts and various other events.
San Diego, who lost the Chargers, and Oakland, who are about to lose the Raiders are also potential options. I think a better argument can be made for St. Louis, though, mainly because the size of the media market. With St. Louis, you can hope to be picked up by a local television station for live broadcasts, which may draw additional interest to the team. That could be especially true if they are one of the better teams.
That another team will be housed in New York/New Jersey is probably a no-brainer because of the size of the media market. That market also had the second-best attendance in the original league. Orlando also did well and had the league’s third-best attendance, but there’s no NFL team there and never has been.
While McMahon did not specifically comment on Pittsburgh, it’s pretty well-known that he is fond of the city and the WWE is also especially popular there.
Other than that, I have no ideas or guesses. Birmingham and Memphis, two of the worst performing teams in the original league, were serious head scratchers as locations.
5.) Sports, not, “Sports Entertainment”
McMahon has already stated that he is getting rid of the cheerleaders and the other more gimmicky type stuff commonly associated with professional wrestling. He needs to take it a step further and ensure that everyone broadcasting and reporting on the games is associated with football exclusively. One of the main failings, from a broadcasting standpoint, of the original XFL was the use of WWE personalities and announcers ill-suited to hyping or calling football games.
Unfortunately, the teams will not have the budgets necessary to pilfer any announcers from the NFL, but perhaps they could try to go for a few sports radio personalities, or personalities who call games from smaller colleges, just because those people will at least know and intimately understand the game of football.
In short, this needs to be a strictly football product. All football, all the time.
Two seasons, at best, but it would be cool to be wrong.
It failed the first time and it will probably fail this time. At least I got a cool Las Vegas Outlaws hat (that I still wear frequently) out of the deal. There’s an idea: Put a team in Vegas and have a team in Oakland for the season opener.