Big week for WWE CEO Vince McMahon. On Monday he took a “Stone Cold Stunner” on “WWE Raw,” then on Thursday he’ll announce he’s starting a new football league. We’ll see which moment ends up being more absurd.
McMahon tried football in 2001 with the XFL, and it bombed hard. He’ll try again, as he starts a new football league. The announcement was going to be officially made at 3 p.m. Eastern on Thursday, but a report from ESPN’s Darren Rovell confirmed McMahon will announce a new football league. That news has been long awaited since he set up an Alpha Entertainment LLC, and sold about $100 million in WWE stock to fund it.
The league has an eye on starting in 2020, which was first reported by PWInsider. Perhaps having a couple years of true preparation for the launch is a sign McMahon wants to do it right this time.
The XFL had some innovative ideas. The use of the SkyCam eventually took hold in the NFL, and this season the league used it as the primary camera angle for a couple games. The XFL also suffered from poor football, and delved into nonsensical WWE-style storylines to try to save dying ratings. It didn’t work.
It would make sense for a second professional football league to emerge. While McMahon might be looking to take on the NFL, which is a mistake, NFL football has an audience that dwarfs every other sport and a second league would only need a fraction of that audience to thrive. The most-viewed show on all of television over the past 11 months was the New England Patriots-Jacksonville Jaguars AFC championship game last week.
That was the largest audience for any show on television since … last season’s Super Bowl. Despite the hysteria about a ratings decline, the NFL still gets the type of ratings other sports dream about. So it makes sense that a second league, done right, would work. But it hasn’t happened yet. The USFL failed in the 1980s for many reasons, but the death blow was when the league — pushed by then-New Jersey Generals owner Donald Trump — thought it would be best to move from the spring to the fall and compete with the NFL. The XFL failed miserably in 2001. NFL Europe lasted much longer than you remember, but that never gained an audience either. Still, it stands to reason that when a conference championship game like Jaguars-Patriots can draw a 27.3 rating, there’s room for more football in our lives.
We’ll see if McMahon is the right man for the job. The WWE has been wildly successful for more than three decades. He struck out in his attempt to get a piece of the football pie years ago, but maybe he can learn from those failures.