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When Wrestling Met Football – The Story of the XFL

When it comes to wrestling, WWE is the dominant player in the industry though AEW has been trying to change this in recent years. It has a near-monopoly of the pro-circuit and has become synonymous with the sport as a whole.

It’s not just present-day wrestling where it leads. Through WWE Libraries (known to most as the WWE Legacy Department), a subsidiary company owned entirely by WWE, the company has amassed the largest catalog of wrestling match footage in the world.

As well as all of its own content, WWE has been buying the rights to footage from many professional wrestling promotions that are no longer operating. The library extends all the way back to 1940, with more than 150,000 hours of wrestling content.

After completely dominating the past, present and future of the professional wrestling world, Vince McMahon set his sights on doing the same to football.

XFL Version 1

This resulted in the creation of the XFL. A completely new football league that would “complement” the NFL rather than compete with it directly. The league launched in 2001 as part of a joint venture with the American broadcaster NBC.

In the XFL, McMahon wanted to create a football league that was more exciting and focused more on entertainment. To this end, he pushed for more aggressive play, new camera angles, fewer rules, and much more showmanship.

Players were allowed to replace their name with a slogan on the backs of their jerseys, the pre-game coin toss was replaced with a one-on-one battle to grab the ball, and players were regularly mic’d up so fans could hear what was going on on the field.

Because of the XFL’s connection to wrestling, many were initially skeptical about whether the outcomes of games would be pre-determined. These concerns quickly went away when Las Vegas bookmakers began accepting bets on XFL games.

When the second iteration of the XFL was launched, the same story was repeated. Bookmakers across the country were accepting wagers on the league’s games, including many online sportsbooks in Colorado. XFL markets were similar to bets on NFL games, including spreads, totals, moneyline, and proposition bets.

Great Start, Poor Finish

A lot of anticipation had been created ahead of the XFL’s first game, helping it to attract huge viewing figures for the first game. However, it was unable to maintain this and the numbers tumbled as the season progressed. This led to NBC pulling out of the league, and it folded shortly afterward.

One of the biggest reasons for the league’s downfall was that the “showmanship” was unable to make up for the lack of quality players. This led to mediocre games, often worse than could be found in college football.

XFL Version 2

Almost 10 years later, the XFL returned, hoping to learn the lessons from 2001. It looked to acquire better players, spend more time integrating them into their teams, and place greater focus on fast-paced and entertaining play.

Although it launched with less fanfare than the first iteration, many praised the league’s first games for creating exciting moments. In the first five weeks, all but two games attracted more than a million TV viewers, though they had declined somewhat from the first week.

However, global events conspired against it and the season was canceled before the week 6 games could go ahead. The league later suspended operations and filed for bankruptcy.

What Next for the XFL?

Vince McMahon appears to have walked away from the XFL. The league has since been bought for around $15 million by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Dany Garcia, Gerry Cardinale, and RedBird Capital Partners.

Commenting on his purchase, the former WWE star said he made the purchase because of his “passion for the game” and his “desire to take care of fans”.

It’s not yet known how The Rock plans to revive the XFL again, so we’ll just have to watch this space.

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