Brainchild of WWE/Alpha Entertainment Owner Vince McMahon and NBC Sports burst through your TV and pile-drives your Grandma with an aggressive and fun alternative to the NFL with the XFL making its return in 2020.

The XFL debuted original on February 3rd, 2001, just days after Super Bowl XXXV (Ravens – Giants). This isn’t the first sport to vie for the NFL’s fanbase, but it is certainly the most likely to compete.

Attitude Era NFL

Announced in 2000, it wanted to combine the action of football with the drama of professional wrestling. Like the WWE in its most famous Attitude Era, the time of Stone Cold Steve Austin, Dwayne “The Rock’ Johnson, Triple-H, Degeneration-X, and Mick Foley aka Mankind, this was the vision of the XFL. Vince Mcmahon was approached with an offer on Canadian Football’s Toronto Argonauts but took it a step further, forming a joint venture with NBC.

Vince McMahon put several twists in the 80 year-old sport, changing a few rules. In hindsight, it exposed players to more injuries.

First, there is no coin toss. Two opposing players would line up and scramble for possession. Whoever came up with it would choose to receive or kick-off.

During punts a kick returner wasn’t allowed to call fair-catch where they wouldn’t be tackled, which went about as well as can be expected. 

Finally, there would be no extra points. After touchdowns, the offense lined up as if for a two point conversion but the reward of only a single point. Changes needed to be made.

Innovations

The XFL shined in presentation. Like the ABA bringing 3-point lines and dunks, the XFL brought the game closer to its viewers. It introduced the SkyCam, a camera on wires over the field for close up action shots, which is now used in the NFL. Players wore microphones at all times as well as a on-field camera in the huddle. It bought electrifying talent to football. WWE Legend Jesse “The Body” Ventura provided play-by-play.

Bad Product

When it came to on-the-field play, the XFL flopped. Teams were hastily cobbled together in the XFL Draft, mostly courting NFL washouts.

The play was horrendous in comparison to the NFL. In its wake, a few standouts went on to the actual action. Running Back Rod “He Hate Me” Smart went on to play in a Super Bowl with the Carolina Panthers.

XFL on Fire

The XFL attracted 54 Million viewers in the Feb. 3rd game. That fire quickly died, as the XFL’s ten game season set record level lows for NBC. It sputtered out in The Million Dollar Game, the XFL’s Championship between the San Fransciso Demons and Los Angeles Xtreme, which became the final death knell of the league.

Hopefully Vince McMahon has learned from his 2001 venture, and strikes when the public is ready for it, as the NFL wanes due to protests and a declining product.