WWE founder and chairman Vince McMahon announced Thursday he is giving a professional football league another go.
It will be called the XFL, the same name of the league McMahon and NBC tried for one season in 2001, but it won't rely on flashy cheerleaders and antics as its predecessor did, he said.
McMahon said he is the sole funding source for the league, which is slated to begin in January 2020.
Its first season will have eight teams around the country playing a 10-week schedule. The initial outlay of money is expected to be around $100 million, the same amount of WWE stock McMahon sold last month and funneled into Alpha Entertainment, the company he founded for the project.
"I wanted to do this since the day we stopped the other one," McMahon told ESPN in an exclusive interview. "A chance to do it with no partners, strictly funded by me, which would allow me to look in the mirror and say, 'You were the one who screwed this up,' or 'You made this thing a success.'"
McMahon told reporters on Thursday afternoon that he has had no initial talks with media entities.While this announcement raises a few eyebrows, especially considering how much of a flop the original incarnation of the XFL proved to be, a big takeaway I got from ESPN's 30 for 30 on the XFL that McMahon wasn't finished with the idea of operating a football league.
That being said, and while I commend him for trying a different tactic with the second version of his football league: if the XFL of 2001 was such a flop even with all the gimmicks - the flashy cheerleaders, Jesse Ventura, He Hate Me, etc. - what makes him think that a "toned-down" version will somehow be more successful?
What makes McMahon, furthermore, think that springtime football will ever be successful at all? It didn't work for him in 2001, it didn't work for the World League or NFL Europe, and it didn't work for the USFL back in the 80s (although the USFL's failure was partly due to the incompetence of the embarrassing buffoon currently occupying the Oval Office). Americans just don't seem to have an appetite for springtime football.
One of the reasons McMahon thinks he will be able to succeed 19 years after the league first failed is because, he said, television ratings no longer dictate success.
"To me the landscape has changed in so many different ways," McMahon said. "Just look at technology and companies like Facebook and Amazon bidding for sports rights. Even if ratings go down, there's no denying that live sports rights continue to be valuable and continue to deliver."
One of the ways McMahon envisions enticing major media partners is to offer them something the NFL hasn't: more creative feeds of the same game.
"I don't think people want to see the same thing when they're streaming as they see on television," McMahon said. "That's boring. I think fans want it shot in a totally different way, and I think there's an immersive opportunity that's more interactive to the game."Meh... I'm still skeptical. But hey, it's his money, and it's his dream.
Teams will be announced in 2019, with kickoff in 2020. We'll see where it goes.