Former WCW commentator and radio host Mark Madden said it best, “You know how to make a small fortune in wrestling? Start out with a large fortune.”
With that said, in the early 2000’s, the wrestling landscape had drastically changed. The WWE had just bought out both ECW and WCW….The AWA was long gone….The territories were all dried up and TNA was still a twinkle in the Jarrett family’s eyes. Wrestling fans no longer had an alternative to the monopoly that became the WWE.
Enter Kevin Harrington….a self made multi-millionaire who was one of the brains behind the “As Seen On TV” infomercial craze. He along with some pro wrestling friends including Jimmy Hart decided to start a new wrestling promotion to be a new rival to the WWE. Its concept was very similar to WCW’s blueprint….a mix of veterans and youth and an array of different wrestling styles from traditional to European to Lucha Libre. The XWF (Xcitement Wrestling Federation) was born!
Hall of Fame manager, “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart was in charge of the talent and the booking. It didn’t take long for Hart to gather some of the biggest name free agents in the business at the time. Hulk Hogan…Curt Hennig…Buff Bagwell…Juventud Guerrera….Vampiro….Konnan….Low Ki ( Renamed Quick Kick )….former Tough Enough contestant Josh Mathews ( as a wrestler )…Simon Diamond…AJ Styles….Horace Hogan….and several others.
The announce team even had some cache, as Tony Schiavone returned to the mic teaming with color commentator Jerry “The King” Lawler who had recently quit the WWE. “Mean Gene” Okerlund was hired as the behind the scenes interviewer. Their tag line was, “No more prima donnas, no more politics… In your face!”
The XWF taped over 10 hours of footage to present to networks in hopes of getting a national deal. They even ran house shows in several cities to get a buzz going about the product. The initial XWF tapings saw Hulk Hogan defeat Curt Hennig with Bobby Heenan in Hennig’s corner. An angle was developed where Rena Mero (Sable WWE) the on screen CEO of the XWF had a battle of control of the company with on screen XWF commissioner Roddy Piper. Josh Mathews (Yes, the current WWE announcer) defeated AJ Styles….The KISS Demon (Dale Torborg) defeated Barry Horowitz…The Nasty Boys defeated The Road Warriors and so on and so forth.
The XWF had a pretty solid roster…the tapings were in no way a train wreck and overall seemed to be on the proper footing to go national. The only problem…timing. The Monday Night Wars were over and pro wrestling as a whole seemingly cooled off as it was no longer the “in thing” in pop culture. It became extremely difficult to even get a meeting with network executives. Kevin Harrington, perhaps seeing the writing on the wall…sold the XWF to a group led by Jimmy Hart which also consisted of Brian Knobbs and Greg Valentine believed to be in the $100,000 dollar range.
With Jimmy Hart now the owner of the XWF, he managed to secure meetings with networks. According to Hart, after airing the pilot episodes…the execs wanted to do business…only one problem…a lot of the stars used for the tapings like Hogan, Jerry Lawler, Rena Mero and Curt Hennig had left to rejoin the WWE. That’s when he started to get the “Thanks, but no thanks” speeches.
The XWF managed to get a TV deal in Puerto Rico and even “invaded” Puerto Rico’s top promotion…The World Wrestling Council. He brought in new talents like Rey Mysterio, Carly Colon and Terry Funk….but alas…no national TV deal ever came to be. The writing was on the wall…The XWF was never going to be seen on TV. A once promising promotion never truly materialized.
It is rumored that Jimmy Hart was the first person to come up with the concept of a pay per view company much like how TNA got its start…but nothing ever developed. Hart eventually released the never before seen XWF footage on a 3 disc DVD set. The XWF…like many other upstart wrestling promotions…became Xtinct.