It’s official: the XFL, Vince McMahon’s ill-fated American football league, is making a comeback. Vince McMahon made the announcement through his non-WWE affiliated LLC, Alpha Entertainment on Periscope today at 3pm EST via livestream.
There have been rumors floating around about an XFL revival going back to December, when it was discovered that trademarks for “XFL” and “He Hate Me” (the nickname of one of the most memorable XFL players, eventual Carolina Panther Rod Smart) were filed by a new company that Vince McMahon sold millions of dollars of WWE stock to fund.
Vince McMahon held a press conference, where he promised the XFL will be “all of the things you like to see and less of the things you don’t.,” “shorter, faster paced, family friendly, and [an easier to understand game.” “Don’t get me wrong,” he interjected, “it’s still football, but it’s professional football reimagined.”
The new XFL season will feature eight teams of 40 players each. The teams will all be owned by the league, and McMahon said it’s “way too early” to announce where the teams will be located. The games will be “multiplatform,” which promises to “engage fans in ways never imagined a few years ago.”
Vince McMahon was asked why right now is the right time. “Football is America’s favorite sports. There are seven months of no football, and 70 million fans. So why not now? … I’ve always wanted to bring it back.”
When asked what he learned in his first go-around, Vince said “the quality of the play. Quite frankly, we only had a very short time to put everything together. We have two years now to really get it right. It’s the quality of the play.”
Vince promised he will still be the chairman and CEO of WWE. He assured a reporter that “it won’t affect [his day to day responsibilities at WWE] at all.”
Another key difference between XFL’s first season and this reboot is that this time, Vince McMahon is promising “no crossover whatsoever” between WWE talent and personalities and the XFL. This is in contrast to the original XFL, which had the likes of The Rock introducing games and Jim Ross and Jesse Ventura commentating them. In fact, Vince doesn’t even expect himself to be much of a public figure for the company, and noted the question and answer session today may be the last time you see him publicly speaking about it.
In contrast to the original XFL, which was branded as a smash-mouth, violent brand of football, McMahon noted that a major goal of the XFL is now safety. Though he was sparse with specifics in nearly every aspect of the league, he reiterated safety is a major concern.
Another concern is the speed of play. McMahon floated the possibility of eliminating halftime as a way to speed up play. “Our goal is to get to two hours,” from beginning to end, he said.
A reporter asked if President Trump will be supporting the league. Trump is notoriously critical of the NFL, largely because of the rising number of players who have used the national anthem to silently protest police brutality and other social issues. “[The XFL will have] nothing to do with politics and nothing to do with social issues either. We’re here to play football,” McMahon assured. That said, “the national anthem is a time honored tradition … whatever our rules are is what everybody will abide by.” He was pressed on whether or not it will be in the rules to stand for the anthem, to which he replied “I think it would be appropriate to do that.”
As far as the most iconic aspect of XFL, allowing nicknames such as “He Hate Me” on the back of jerseys rather than player last names, Vince wasn’t sure that will come back. “We’re going to be listening to football experts and the fans,” he said.
The original XFL was a joint venture between the then-World Wrestling Federation and NBC, meant to supplement the NFL during its off season. The XFL was also marketed as a more action-packed, authentic brand of football, in contrast to what Vince McMahon called the “No Fun League”.
But the sports landscape has changed in the past 17 years. As scientific knowledge surrounding CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) and the damage of concussions has improved, the NFL has taken steps to try to prevent such constant direct impact to the head of players. Two of XFL’s differentiating features were the pre-game scramble, in which one player from each team raced toward a football for possession to determine who would receive the ball first in lieu of a coin toss, and the “no fair catch” rule, where players could not signal for a fair catch when receiving a punt. This time around, though no specifics were given, Vince McMahon seems to be zeroing in on the major criticisms of the NFL today, such a player injuries and involvement in politics.
Though, it sure sounds like if you’re not standing for the national anthem, you’re not playing for the XFL.