WWE owner Vince McMahon has announced he is getting back into the pro football business, revealing that the XFL will return in 2020.
The announcement comes nearly 17 years after the original XFL folded after one season. The XFL debuted in 2001 as a joint venture between the WWE and NBC. According to ESPN, WWE and NBC lost about $35 million each, after taxes, on the league.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. McMahon Sold $100 Million in WWE Stock to Start the League’s Parent Company in December
Freelance journalist Brad Shepard first broke the story on December 15 that McMahon was going to announce the return of the XFL on January 25.
Vince McMahon sold $100 million worth of WWE stock in December to fund Alpha Entertainment LLC, “which Mr. McMahon established to explore investment opportunities across the sports and entertainment landscapes, including professional football,” a spokesperson told ESPN.
While McMahon and Alpha Entertainment have stressed that the company is not connected to the WWE, McMahon wont have to travel far from the wrestling giant’s Stamford, Connecticut, headquarters, to his Alpha office. According to the company’s website, Alpha Entertainment is located at 1266 East Main Street, right across the road from WWE’s headquarters at 1241 East Main Street.
“Vince McMahon has established and is personally funding a separate entity from WWE, Alpha Entertainment, to explore investment opportunities across the sports and entertainment landscapes, including professional football. Mr. McMahon has nothing further to announce at this time,” WWE said in a statement on December 16.
According to Forbes, McMahon’s sale of 3.34 million shares of WWE stock led to a 3 percent drop in its value, to $30.80. Forbes reports that the WWE has eclipsed all-time highs in 2018 and is in negotiations for a new television rights deal.
2. The Original XFL Had Teams in 8 Cities, but It Is Not Clear Where the Teams in the New League Will be Located
The original XFL had eight teams: the Orlando Rage, Chicago Enforcers, New York/New Jersey Hitmen, Birmingham Thunderbolts, Los Angeles Xtreme, San Francisco Demons, Memphis Maniax and Las Vegas Outlaws. The Los Angeles Xtreme defeated the San Francisco Demons in the championship game with breakout Xtreme star Tommy Maddox winning the first and only league MVP award.
At least one of those cities has expressed interest in being a part of a new league run by McMahon. Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer’s office told the Orlando Sentinel, “this is something we would be interested in learning more about to bring to Orlando.”
According to the legal website Justia, McMahon’s Alpha Entertainment filed for trademarks for the XFL in December. The company also trademarked URFL, UFL and the United Football league, according to Justia.
3. Interest in the XFL Was Reinvigorated After an ESPN ’30 for 30′ Documentary on the League Aired Last Year
Interest in the league was reinvigorated last year by an ESPN “30 for 30” documentary directed by Charlie Ebersol, the son of NBC’s Dick Ebersol, who partnered with McMahon on the original XFL project.
Charlie Ebersol told Fast Company last year that the XFL was actually a success in some ways.
“The underpinnings of the XFL business model wasn’t a failure at all,” he told the magazine. “The XFL created all of these technologies that we see in the NFL today–the Skycam, interviewing players during the game, mic’ing players . . . None of that existed before the XFL. But I also didn’t realize how brilliant the deal was between WWE and NBC. NBC invested in WWE as part of the deal, so WWE got a cash infusion, and NBC got a piece that turned out to be worth hundreds of millions. This turned out to be a profitable venture.”
Charlie Ebersol said the XFL’s biggest failure was rushing to start its first and only season.
“The biggest mistake they made with the XFL was that they only gave the players 30 days to train together as a team. You had guys who were working at Bed Bath and Beyond, and thirty days later they’re in the XFL,” he said in the February 2017 interview. “They spent six to eight months marketing the league, and thirty days training the players. If they’d done four and four… They sold this thing like it was the iPhone, and they rolled it out like it was whatever piece of crap Motorola put out.”
4. McMahon Smells ‘Blood in the Water’ Because of Political Issues Facing the NFL, a Source Told TMZ
A source told TMZ that McMahon “sees blood in the water,” because of issues surrounding the NFL, including dipping TV ratings, the Trump-fueled National Anthem controversy and other criticism from Trump and his supporters.
McMahon and Trump have a long history together and his wife, Linda McMahon, is part of the Trump administration, serving as the head of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Charlie Ebersol predicted McMahon’s return to football.
“I think it’s going to happen,” he told Fast Company last February. “The reason the XFL came into existence is because Vince McMahon is a wild man who really fundamentally understands marketing, and my father a year and a half earlier told the NFL that there was no way he was going to agree to lose money every year for rights. My core belief is that, given how out control rights fees have gotten, people are going to realize the value of owning a league. Jerry Jones has a big, beautiful stadium that is effectively empty 44 weekends a year. The need for a league is extraordinary high in that regard.”
5. Twitter Users Want Johnny Manziel & Tim Tebow Join the League, While Many Are Hoping for the Return of ‘He Hate Me’
Speculation about who could play in the new league has been rampant on Twitter, with many people anticipating the return of Johnny Manziel and Tim Tebow to the pro football scene. More controversial former NFL players, like Greg Hardy, have also been mentioned.
Others have expressed hope that one of the most recognizable stars of the original XFL, Rod “He Hate Me” Smart, while somehow be involved in the new league.
The WWE trademarked the phrase “He Hate Me” in December 2017, according to the legal site Justia.