WWE Chairman and XFL founder Vince McMahon reportedly had plans to shut down the XFL even before the COVID-19 pandemic, reports claim.
McMahon founded the original XFL in 2001, off the back of one of the most successful boom periods in wrestling history. Money made off the backs of wrestlers like Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock and The Undertaker helped fund a passion project that Vince McMahon hoped could rival the NFL – The Xtreme Football League.
However, due to huge losses sustained by Vince, the XFL was shut down after just a single season. The league suffered $35 million losses, and was fraught with attempts to bring pro-wrestling into American Football, which did not resonate with fans.
The league died a death, but resurfaced in 2018 with plans to restart the league. This was without the gimmicks and pro-wrestlingisms that ruined the game the first time. It was pure football, with less breaks in play and just more, more, more football.
The relaunch was much better. The teams were much more professional (including the best team, the St Louis Battle Hawks KA KAW) and the league was treated much more seriously than before. The teams were a much higher standard than before and the game was a high standard and fun to watch. You would never have known that Vince McMahon was behind it.
However, early on in the inaugural season, COVID-19 hit. The global pandemic shut down the world and by extension the XFL. Just five games into a season that what set to be dominated by the mighty Battlehawks (Ka Kaw), the league was shut down.
It would be revived years later by none other than The Rock, who is set to launch the new XFL season in early 2023.
Vince McMahon XFL
The Vince McMahon XFL dream was clearly a real one. Twice he sunk millions into a league, only for it to fail, and only once was his fault.
While the plan was for him to sustain losses at first before negotiating a new TV deal, he reportedly got cold feet and decided to abandon the league once the pandemic shut down the country.
During the latest edition of Wrestling Observer Radio, Dave Meltzer discussed, what he calls, the real story behind the XFL shutting down in 2020. According to Meltzer, Vince McMahon decided against sticking with his original plan, which was to lose money and wait to negotiate a big TV rights deal.
Metlzer said about McMahon and the XFL:
he ratings started good and they did drop every week, but, you know, they were still higher than, like, AEW numbers and AEW ended up with a TV deal within a few months that paid the money. When Vince was considering folding the league, they went to the TV partners and said, look, you’re getting these numbers from us. We may fold the league unless you pay rights fees, and they said, ‘We got a contract.” And it was a multi-year contract. Of course, AEW also had the multi-year contract and AEW, three months in, they ended up getting paid.
Vince was looking to get paid for the TV after posting the early ratings, even when they signed the multi-year contract and they said, ‘We got a multi-year contract. When it’s up we’ll discuss money,’ and Vince threw in the towel.
With Dwayne, I am certain Dwayne is not… Vince was out there with the idea he was going to lose 200 million dollars and then decided after a couple of weeks between all the headaches, and they were probably losing money quicker than they expected, he threw in the towel. COVID was a good excuse, but the reality is there are a million sports leagues. Like, people are saying, ‘Oh, you know, COVID killed the XFL,’ and it technically did, but I’m pretty sure that Vince had enough money earmarked for the league. The fact is is that there were a million sports leagues that were out there. Many of them shut down. Almost everybody shut down, pretty much everybody shut down with the exception of UFC and pro wrestling for months. But, every single one of them came back except the XFL, because Vince was just looking for a way out. And then Dwayne bought the thing, the rights and everything like that.”
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.