So, the XFL is coming back in the year 2020 to have another go at creating a rival football league to the NFL is it? According to one XFL Twitter account, “It’s not a Comeback. It’s a Hostile Takeover”.
If you are interested in the league, you can keep up with the hype by using the #XFL2020 hashtag.
What is the XFL?
The XFL has been around before but only lasted for one season before folding. The league was founded in 1999 with its first and only season played in 2001 which was won by the Los Angeles Xtreme team.
It was set up and run by Vince McMahon using his WWE (then known as the WWF) company and it used the popularity of the wrestling federation to try and further its own progression and popularity. It wasn’t just Vince McMahon and the WWF who put money in as the broadcasting company NBC put in an equal amount and had the broadcasting rights to it.
It was played during the NFL off-season and teams were situated in cities that didn’t have NFL franchises but were large enough to have a good audience.
There were eight teams split into two divisions and they were all owned by the league which is unlike the NFL in that its teams are individually owned by different people.
The XFL is probably best remembered for the introduction of Skycam which is the camera you see on gamedays flying over the heads of the players during the game. It is controlled by a pulley system and gives us fans some great angles to watch the game from. It also introduced the idea of having microphones on certain players so we get to hear what goes on during a game as well as getting to see better via Skycam. Both of these ideas are still used on a massive scale in the NFL today.
Like I said, the league only lasted one season after the NBC company pulled its support after making a loss on its investment. Both Vince McMahon and NBC lost around $35 million on their $100 million investment.
I must admit that I never watched the XFL when it was around in 2001 but I’ve seen the very good 30 for 30 documentary on it and I must say that it looked awful. I’m not a fan of the WWE as it’s far too over-the-top for me and this is what they tried to do with the original XFL. This is my biggest concern for the new XFL, if they make it in the mold of the WWE again it will without doubt fail. Yes, there will be an audience for it, but I imagine it would do better if it concentrates more on trying to bring quality football to the fans than all the extra crap that went on around it last time.
I could be wrong though as they do say that the human race is becoming more aggressive, so maybe an XFL of old might work. I’m just not sure there’s a place in modern society for the sexualising of the cheerleaders (although the NFL still does it) and other nonsense that was part of the league back in 2001.
The original XFL differed from the NFL in several ways. With regards to rules, the PAT’s, kickoffs, punts, pass coverage were different and with regards to salaries, they were more incentive based. They ranged from $3,500-$5,000 a week depending on what position you played and you got a bonus of $2,500 for a regular-season win and $7,500 for a post-season win. If your team won the championship game, you got a share of a $1 million prize.
The New XFL
Thanks to a $100 million cash input from WWE CEO Vince McMahon, the XFL is coming back. He got this cash injection via the sale of shares in his WWE company so I’d assume he wants the XFL venture to succeed.
There would appear to be many similarities between the plans for the new league and its predecessor. The current plan is to have eight teams competing in two divisions with two semi-finals and one championship game. A season will be played out over ten games during the NFL off-season, and rosters will be made up of forty players. Again, the league will be a single entity with all teams owned by the league.
The big idea behind the XFL is that it wants to be a league for the fans by the fans (well, ideas-wise anyway). The big announcement via Twitter recently by Vince McMahon basically said that they want us fans to get in touch and tell them what we want in a football league. They want to reduce the total time a game takes to play-out to around the two-hour mark from the three to three and a half hours an NFL game currently takes. This is a good idea and could see more international fans getting involved.
A difference between this and the original XFL is with the frontman. Vince McMahon stated in the announcement that it could very possibly be the last time we see him out front for the league. This again is a good thing as he is, obviously, too closely associated with WWE and all its nonsense and I get the impression they are wanting a more serious league this time.
Another move he’s made to distance his football league from his wrestling brand is to create a new company to head the venture. The company is called Alpha Entertainment and is/will be populated by serious professionals who will be pushing the XFL and its brand.
As for watching the XFL when it starts in 2020, no one appears to know just yet, not even Vince. It was put to him whether he will be showing it through his own streaming company or via established media channels during the announcement but he wouldn’t commit to any definitive answer on that.
I must say that there wasn’t really any definitive answers to many of the phoned-in questions as many others were about teams and cities. As of yet, no cities or team names have been finalised but Mr McMahon did say that every city is on the radar of the league. He didn’t say whether it would be the original teams coming back or new ones but did reiterate that it’s up to the fans and what they want.
To start with, I don’t think the cheap-looking green screen studio Vince McMahon was in to make the comeback announcement did his attempt at sincerity much good as it just looked like the usual cheap tackiness I usually associate him and his products with.
I would say, though, that if the league drops all the WWE over-the-top bullshit and the boys club sexism and actually gets down to some serious football, I do think the league could work and be a success. To what level of success is anyone’s guess, though.
I know that I for one would love to be able to watch a pro league of football during the NFL off-season and if it can take all that is good about the NFL and shorten the duration of a game and add in some good stuff of its own, then sign me up.
The NFL would remain my first love but a quicker-paced, shorter duration league during its off-season would be great for a casual watch.
The whole player’s brand thing that goes on in pro sports has escalated with the boom of social media and ever-rising popularity of sports in general, so the XFL could thrive if it retains some elements of its original self.
It would always be a second-rate league compared to the NFL and would be looked upon as more of a rival to the likes of the CFL and Arena Football League, which makes me wonder if it would ever gain a good following outside of North America.
Anyway, the jury, for me, is still well and truly out as 2020 is a long way off and many things can happen between now and then. It is an intriguing prospect and I’ll be keeping an eye on developments with the XFL.
What do you think about the league making a return? Do you think it could be a success and would you watch? Let us know in the comments below.
The Twitter post below is of the announcement made by Vince McMahon about the #XFL2020 comeback. I’d scroll the timer along to 25:50 as that’s when it actually starts.