The long-rumoured resurrection of Vince McMahon’s venture into the world of American Football was confirmed on Thursday afternoon as the WWE owner looks to make amends for his initial failed foray into the sport.
Lasting for just one season in 2001, the XFL failed to spark enough interest and imagination to lure fans away from the NFL and has spent the past 16 years as the punchline to any number of jokes.
During the live stream, in which McMahon took questions from journalists via conference call, Vince outlined a vision for the new football league that left those watching with more queries than answers.
Pledging to “give the game back to the fans”, McMahon justified the early announcement of the XFL’s reformation as a chance for those involved to have “plenty of time to get things right”.
The XFL’s original ethos leaned heavily on offering an alternative to the persistently under-fire NFL, an organisation once more facing opprobrium from all sides for any number of reasons.
“It will be a game reimagined” promised McMahon, whose goal of usurping the NFL with new rules and philosophies in 2001 was reneged upon almost immediately when viewers quickly realised not much had changed at all.
Looking as tense and aggravated as he ever does, McMahon laid out the foundations of the league’s basis and status as follows:
The XFL will begin in January or February of 2020.
There will be no crossover of WWE talent to XFL.
The XFL will be a single entity structure – not a franchise model – with plans for eight teams at launch, all of which will be owned by the league.
Each team will play a 10-game regular season followed by two semi-final games and a final Championship game.
Each team will have approximately 40 players.
WWE will not be funding the $100m venture, relying on the newly-formed Alpha Entertainment to be the catalyst for the league and its finances.
McMahon himself looked to distance himself from the XFL in terms of day-to-day front running of the operation. “Quite probably, this will probably be the last you see of me” he said in regards to his visibility in the XFL’s operations.
…and yet McMahon’s bullish demeanour and measured delivery could not mask the fact that before a ball has been kicked in anger, before a shirt has been stitched together, before a ticket has been sold, there are a vast number of loose ends fluttering around the XFL.
There are no team identities or logos, nor a single city selected to host a team.
When pressed on who would be broadcasting the games, McMahon said that a TV deal had yet to be struck, but cited “strong interest” from unnamed parties. McMahon remained typically tight-lipped when pressed about the role of the WWE Network within the XFL.
A close friend of President Trump, McMahon insisted the league will have nothing to do with politics and remain impartial on social issues, before implying that XFL players will be contractually obliged to stand for the national anthem before games.
“I think it’s a time-honored tradition to stand and appreciate the national anthem with any sport– here in America, and for that matter, in any country they do that,” he said. “So I think it’d be appropriate to do that.”
Since 2016 a number of NFL players have refused to stand for the national anthem, choosing to kneel in protest at, among other issues, the racial and social divisions that blight the United States.
Referencing Colin Kaepernick, the players whose kneeling protest kicked off the entire sordid drama, McMahon said when asked if the current free agent would be allowed into the XFL: “Again I think anyone who plays the game of football well and meets our criteria, in terms of the quality of the human being as well as the player– why not? As long as everyone abides by the rules as laid down.”
President Trump himself has voiced his dissatisfaction with events, and the convergence of the two with the XFL’s policy cannot be a coincidence.
When pressed directly by a journalist, an irked McMahon said he had “no idea if President Trump will support the league”.
In a move that will have wrestling fans slapping their knees with mirth at the irony of it all, McMahon not only implied the XFL may well have no half-time period, but this will be done to avoid games going on too long.
“Sitting and watching a three, three-and-a-half-hour game can be laborious at times,” he said with zero self-awareness. “We’re going to try to get to two hours”.
You read right. Vince McMahon is telling us three-hour broadcasts are “laborious”. Anyone else looking forward to Monday night?
In another groan-inducing, irony-laden statement, McMahon outlined plans for any and all XFL players to be clear of any criminal records: “If you have a DUI, you will not play in the XFL” he stated, no doubt thinking of the total lack of legal troubles both he and large numbers of his employees have enjoyed over the past four decades.
Vince’s plea at the beginning of the broadcast for viewers and fans to offer ideas and suggestions seemed to provide a portent of doom for XFL 2.0. It suggests McMahon is so determined to make right his failures of 2001 – something of an annus horribilis with both the XFL and the botched Invasion angle in WWE – that he is pitching into it while horribly underprepared.
Yet the only thing is to wait and see. Regardless of a rushed conference with a smattering of vague ideals and nothing to implement, interest will be high from those who either want to see McMahon sink or swim. Indeed, the circus rolls on.
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