Can the XFL Succeed the Second Time Around?
The weekend before Christmas, news broke that Vince McMahon was giving serious consideration to resurrecting the XFL, the football league he started in 2000 and only lasted one season in 2001, because of the NFL's hit in the ratings mainly due to the National Anthem protests. Later in the week, VInce added more fuel to the rumor mill's fireplace by selling off some of his shares in WWE to raise $100 million for his new sports entertainment company called Alpha Entertainment. And finally, on January 25th, Vince finally announced that he is indeed bringing back the XFL in 2020 and in a way that will focus more on the game of football than on the sidelines.
But why would Vince McMahon want to bring back the XFL in the first place? Did taking part in the ESPN 30 For 30 documentary about the league give him the idea to bring it back?
I think the bigger question I have is can the XFL succeed the second time around? Does a relaunched XFL even have a chance to succeed? I think it could since it seems like VInce has learned from the mistakes he made in 2001.
One of the major moves he's making is starting Alpha Entertainment with the intent to keep that company completely separate from WWE(or as close to separate as it can get). Vince initially started the XFL as a part of WWE(just like he did with the World Bodybuilding Federation in the early 90s & WWE Films later on) with NBC coming in a month later as its partner in the league.
Also, it would appear that Vince must feel that his children Shane & Stephanie are now ready to run WWE without his input(the last couple of years, it does seem like Stephanie & Triple-H have been given more control of WWE, case in point would be the women's division being given equal footing with the men's division as it has reported that Vince isn't a fan of women's wrestling), so it looks like Vince will run Alpha Entertainment while Shane & Stephanie run WWE(with Stephanie & Triple-H running the wrestling product, Shane running the financial part). Vince still ran both WWE & the XFL while being the face of both products simultaneously.
Another thing helping Vince is the decision to start the new XFL in two years. The extra year should give the league time to develop players and the type of football they want to play, find cities to place teams, & Vince announced the XFL in 2000 to start play in 2001, but waited until a month before the season started to start training camps for the league with only two preseason games.
Vince will run into problems, mainly finding television partners & advertisers for the XFL. Has enough time passed that the XFL brand has lost its toxicity to advertisers & TV networks? While WWE has become much more corporatized in the last ten years, when Vince started the XFL, WWE was still in the middle of the Attitude Era. Which I think hurt the XFL just as much as the poor play on the football field and Vince & other WWE stars being involved in the product(WWE Monday Night Raw announce team Jim Ross & Jerry The King Lawler were calling NBC's B-game the 1st week before Vince quickly soured on Matt Vasgersian and moved good ol JR up to the main game with Jesse Ventura; Lawler ended up leaving WWE entirely weeks later because of a contract dispute between WWE and his then-wife Stacy "The Kat" Carter). Advertisers were skittish working with WWE to begin with(in part because of the Parents Television Council's campaign against WWE, though when the XFL season started, WWE had sued the PTC over its lies about the WWE product).
Also, the football landscape has changed dramatically since 2001. The original XFL had teams in New York/New Jersey, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orlando, Memphis, Las Vegas, & Birmingham, Alabama. Los Angeles once again has two NFL teams(the Rams & the Chargers) and Las Vegas is getting the Oakland Raiders and got an NHL team. It helped that the league played games in Feburary, March, & April and it appears that will be the case again. Will the XFL keep the old eight teams or go with eight new teams?
And can Vince even find a willing TV partner? Dick Ebersol's no longer with NBC, NBC has been airing NFL games since 2006, and the XFL's other TV partners UPN & TNN no longer exist(UPN merged with The WB to form The CW in 2006; TNN was renamed Spike TV in 2002). While WWE has worked with ESPN on some ESPN 30 For 30 documentaries, like This Was The XFL and the Ric Flair 30 For 30, as well as letting ESPN do SportsCenter from WrestleMania & SummerSlam and the E:60 episode about NXT that focused primarily on Corey Graves and Adam Rose, would ESPN be willing to work with Vince on the XFL? Not to mention that the league will be once again competing for eyeballs against the NBA, NHL, NCAA(especially during March Madness), & NASCAR.
Then again, now that Vince has announced the new XFL and that the new XFL won't be like the XFL of 2001(no nicknames on the jerseys like "He Hate Me", for example), maybe that will help him get those sponsors & TV networks? Though it would be funny to see Bob Costas, the league's biggest detractor in 2000-01, working with Vince McMahon if McMahon's truly serious about focusing on the product on the field.