Few can deny Vince McMahon’s success in sports entertainment since taking over the then World Wide Wrestling Federation (WWWF) and turning it into the wrestling/sports entertainment monster that it is today having swept every single competitor by the wayside.
Despite all this success Vince has time and time again strived to be successful out with the parameters of the squared circle. There have been various failures including the World Body Building Federation (WBF) that existed until 1992, the on-going – and perhaps never ending – talk of a WWE Network, the WWE film studio and Antonio Inoki taking on Muhammad Ali. Perhaps, though, his most famous failing was with the XFL.
Clearly still riding high after putting WCW out of business, Vince decided he wanted to take advantage of the NFL off-season and put on a football promotion. The result? A project that cost both the WWE and NBC some $35 million and would fold within one season – half the time originally booked up by NBC.
The concept itself seemed doomed from the offset. After all, it wasn’t like the NFL was struggling so there really was no desire for a second football league and that became abundantly clear by week two of the broadcast. The games featured fewer rules, more scantily clad women and several backstage segments but that wasn’t enough.
Soon the games, which were of a fairly average standard, were shown from empty stadiums to abandoned living rooms. One of the largest contributory factors to the league’s demise was the WWE involvement as it led to both the media and football fans being unable to take the XFL seriously. Certainly a bad start for a project that had the aim of attracting both wrestling and football fans.
But could it have worked? In the McMahon DVD both Joey Styles and Vince himself said it could have worked and Jerry Lawler, in his autobiography, said that the league needed more time. However, after bleeding the money that it did in year one; that was never on the cards. Ultimately, though, it could have succeeded had it been portrayed as a football league and not an attempt to target people that are fans of both wrestling and football. That niche market and the close link with the WWE made the project doomed from the outset.
I can’t help but think I’ll be writing a column of this ilk in the near future about the WWE Film Studios and even further down the line on the Network, if that even gets off the ground.
You can read the other ‘Well That Didn’t Work’ articles here.