The NFL has been the premiere league across the country for many years now. There have been attempts to try to rival the NFL, but those attempts either folded after a certain period of time or just never reached the popularity that the NFL has. The Canadian Football League is a prime example of this. Sure, it is professional football; but you don't see it being promoted on Sundays, Monday nights, and Thursday nights. Another league that was popular for a short period of time but folded was the United States Football League. The USFL, as it was called, had some of the all time greats participate such as Jim Kelly, Steve Young, and Herschel Walker just to name a few. Unfortunately, because of budget restrictions and owners going bankrupt; they had to fold after three seasons. It seemed like there would never be league that could compete with the "big boys" so to speak. But one man by the name of Vince McMahon dared to be bold and different (as if he wasn't already) by coming up with a brand new style of professional football. McMahon wanted a league filled with blood, sweat, and huge hits as he thought the NFL was too soft. He then partnered with NBC to form the one year wonder known as the XFL.
The XFL was filled with big time entertainment with small time talent. The XFL didn't have nearly as much skill as the NFL does today. Sure, there were cool names like Hitmen, Rage, Demons, and Outlaws; but the probability that it lasted was slim to none as we saw. There are some things we will always remember about it, but what about the stuff we forgot? This list will take a look into 15 things you didn't know about Vince McMahon's failure about the XFL.
15 The First Week Was Actually Successful!
Like a lot of discoveries such as the automobile and buffalo chicken calzone, the XFL had a lot of hype for the first year of its existence. It was supposed to be the next, best thing for people who enjoyed the NFL because of the big hits and occasional breakout of a fight. The first week actually had a great outcome! As listed in the picture above, the XFL had a 9.5 rating which is better than probably a lot of people expected. Unfortunately for Vince and the rest of the people invested in the XFL, the ratings dropped week by week. There are a lot of reasons the ratings dropped which included bad players, bad coaches, and even worse play on the field.
But for one bright and shining week in 2001, the XFL had something that people were tuning into. If only Vince could have figured out a better way to keep those ratings up week by week!
14 Matt Vasgersian was An Announcer and was Terrible!
If MLB fans watch MLB Network at all, one of the first names to pop to mind as a popular host is Matt Vasgersian. Before he hit it big in the MLB, he was a young news anchor trying to find his first big break in the sports entertainment world. Enter the XFL, when they offered Vasgersian to be one of several XFL play by play announcers. It is tough to work under Vince McMahon as he is an intimidating figures as Vasgersian quickly found out. After a less than stellar week one performance, Matt was taken off of the big games and given the smaller XFL covered games to report on.
Looking back on it, Vince probably wishes he was a little bit easier on Matt because now, look at the career he has had! Vasgersian is a professional that tries to stick to the games, so when the camera would focus on the beautiful cheerleaders in the stands; how else was he supposed to react? If you have time, look up Vasgersian reporting for the XFL; it is quite the experience!
13 The Million Dollar Game MVP was a Kicker!
The Super Bowl in the NFL is the one game, winner take all match-up that usually has an MVP that is a quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and even the occasional defensive player. But have you ever heard of a kicker being the MVP of a game? If not, that's okay it is rare; but it did happen in the XFL! Jose Cortez was a kicker who enjoyed an NFL career as well as one successful season in the XFL. He played for the Los Angeles Extreme and along with quarterback Tommy Maddox, helped the Extreme win the Million Dollar game. Cortez was MVP for the game, kicking four field goals along the way. But the fact that a kicker was the the one to get MVP truly showed the lack of talent around them. Even Adam Vinatieri didn't get MVP when he won two Super Bowls with the New England Patriots, and he kicked two game winning field goals to boot!
It would have been interesting to see if the talent level went up. But that question will never be answered and the one MVP in the XFL title game was a kicker. Who would have thought that?
12 The Million Dollar Game was a Blowout!
There are times in championship games, specifically Super Bowls, where the game comes down to the last second. The Patriots and Falcons last Super Bowl started off with the Falcons dominating the first three quarters of the game before the Patriots mounted the greatest comeback in NFL Super Bowl history. It is great to see games go back and forth like these. But unfortunately in the NFL million dollar game, the game was basically over in the second quarter. The Los Angeles Extreme crushed the San Francisco Demons dreams of a championship, by winning 38-6. Like we mentioned before, Cortez had four field goals in the game to take home the MVP awards.
The Extreme scored 18 points and ended up leading 21-0 at halftime. It would have been nice to see a little more firepower coming from the Demons. Unfortunately, they never could make up the ground and a football championship was brought back to Los Angeles. Maybe the next Million Dollar game will be closer...oh wait, nevermind!
11 He Used WWE Divas to Promote the League!
Who doesn't love to see a hot woman at a good sporting event? The best thing ever is when an attractive woman is interested in the sport a man enjoys. Vince McMahon realized that concept when he brought in the female version of the WWE. When the XFL was struggling for viewership, he figured he would change things up by including some of the WWE women to make things more interesting. It was a good strategy by Vince, but unfortunately for him; some fans wanted to enjoy the quality of football along with the gorgeous ladies dancing to music.
McMahon tried too much to combine the world of the WWE with the XFL, which is probably a main reason why it resulted in failure. Girls are great to get attention, but at the end of the day; it probably wasn't the smartest move by McMahon to include the ladies.
10 The X Stood For Extreme!
When the XFL came into existence, there was speculation as the what the actual X would stand for. There were plenty of words that they could have used, but they ultimately decided on Xtreme. Now while I get the point of why McMahon did this, it is something people probably didn't remember. Everything about this league was supposed to be wild and exciting from the opening possession run (which will be touched upon later) to the guests appearing at games such as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Jesse Ventura. Everyone loves to see big hits in the NFL, but nobody wants for the athletes to get hurt. Now the X probably should have been changed, but who can doubt the man who made wrestling a world wide phenomenon. Meanwhile, the league failed and hundreds of athletes lost their jobs. Shouldn't they have bothered to just change the first initial to something different?
9 The Rock Had To Appear Opening Night for Publicity!
Can you smell what The Rock is cooking? I think everyone in the XFL did. The XFL was trying to get their feet off of the ground and get the ball rolling. So what better way to do that than by getting the biggest WWE star of the early 2000's, The Rock. Dwayne Johnson was a good person to get because he actually has a background in football. He played at the University of Miami for the "rebel" hurricanes. After that, he ended up playing in the CFL before finally hanging up his cleats and trading them in for tights. He ended up joining his father in the family business and the rest is history. Another reason Johnson was brought in the opening ceremonies was because there were no big name stars that came over to the XFL. Still, The Rock was branded as a WWE Superstar and having him there immediately turned off some viewers who didn't particularly like wrestling.
If the XFL had done a better job of recruiting for the league itself, they probably wouldn't have needed "The Rock" for opening night. This is another failing move that McMahon did that couldn't save the XFL and having it only last one season.
8 Cameramen Were On the Actual Field of Play!
Imagine this concept in the NFL today. Stay with me here. During the games while these top of the line athletes are trying to mangle each other, the cameramen are right on the field where all of the action is. Well, that is exactly what the XFL thought would be a great idea! As seen above, the cameramen wore protective masks, but that is about it. First off, the cameramen could have been severely injured if they weren't on their toes at all times. Second, players were always looking for the camera to celebrate after a big play or even an average play. Thank goodness that there are sky cameras and more protective equipment today. Apparently, Vince McMahon didn't care about the well-being of all of his employees because he was willing to have them out there to get killed. Hey Vince, I would have loved to see you get on the field trying to film the game and see if you can take a hit like that!
7 Nicknames Were The Name On The Back of the Jersey!
The XFL wanted to prove they were completely different from the NFL in any way possible. The popular last names you see on the back of jerseys involve Tom Brady, Matt Ryan, Odell Beckham Jr., etc. With the XFL league, the players were able to express themselves with creative nicknames. The most notable one was from Rod Smart who came up with the ever so clever and controversial nickname, "He Hate Me".
It was a very interesting name of choice. Smart had said the reason for picking the nickname was because he wanted every single player in the league to hate him every time he touched the ball. "He Hate Me" was such a foreshadowing of what fans thought of all of the players in the league, the talent was terrible and the games were a waste of time. I know Vince likes to think outside of the box, but he might have been overthinking this concept a bit too much. The last names would do just fine for that league, stop trying to be so different!
6 NBC Cancelled It After One Season
NBC has had a reputation for putting out qualities sporting events on television such as the Olympics, Stanley Cup Finals, and more. When Dick Ebersol had the chance to help his good friend Vince McMahon get his football league off and running, he jumped right on board. NBC owned 50% of the rights to the league while McMahon and the WWE owned the other 50%. After the putrid ratings of the overall season in 2001, McMahon honestly believed the league could keep going and get better. Ebersol saw the writing on the wall and advised McMahon to join him in ending this whole league once and for all.
Eventually, McMahon agreed and the league folded. Safe to say, Ebersol and McMahon's relationship suffered a little bit. But NBC can't be blamed for trying to get on board with it. If it worked out, they would have made more money; the product just simply didn't work out. But it was a wise move on NBC's behalf to part ways when they saw the direction of the league heading downward.
5 Tommy Maddox was The League MVP And Returned To The NFL
Tommy Maddox was a journeyman quarterback that was bouncing from team to team in the NFL. He never won any big awards except for an NFL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2002. When he came to the XFL and the Los Angeles Xtreme, it opened the doors for him and showed us what he was made of. He had a monster year, leading in almost every offensive category there was in the league. He was the XFL MVP and a part of the only XFL championship team in the Xtreme. Maddox did end up winning a Super Bowl but it was as a back up quarterback. He never won the hearts of the NFL fans, but he seemed to win the hearts of XFL fans with his MVP caliber season. Fans have to wonder if Maddox could have been an XFL legend if the league had continued to progress on.
4 The Power Went Out In Week Two!
After a stellar Week 1, the XFL was hoping to improve their ratings and give fans the best show from their couches possible. But sometimes mother nature (and having enough gasoline in the truck) can be an issue that can't be controlled. The story goes that for week two, the NBC truck that was helping with the telecast of all of the games lost power and nobody could see any games. The worst part about it all is that the games were more competitive, the coaches were coaching better, everything was looking up. It was a sign of things to come when the power went out, that this league was going to struggle big time.
By the time they got reconnected to national television, the damage had already been done. Vince then supposedly yelled at all of his technical crew to start doing better and fix things. This was one incident McMahon would like to forget, but this definitely isn't the worst that happened during his time as commissioner of the XFL.
3 Bob Costas Mocked the League in Front of Vince's Face!
Bob Costas has been one of the most well-known sports anchors in sports history. He has covered it all, the World Series, NBA Finals, you name it; he has probably done it. However, he wasn't a fan of the XFL and he made that abundantly clear. During an interview with Vince McMahon, Costas questioned a lot about the product from the women, to the well-being of the league, to Vince being reputable as a commissioner. Costas basically got the best of McMahon as he was having McMahon all fired up, pointing in Costas's face and raising his voice. Costas even mentioned he felt very intimidated by Vince when they were face to face. Vince McMahon definitely does have a mean streak to him and will do anything to make his products and ideas work. But it was Costas who got the best of Vince that night by questioning a league he wanted no part of talking about because he knew how bad it would be.
2 There Was a Pre-Game Race for the Ball for Opening Possession!
The NFL has a very simple and safe solution to deciding who gets the ball first: a coin toss. It may be old-fashioned, but it most certainly works. Of course with the XFL, McMahon wanted to be different from the NFL in every way imaginable. So instead of a coin toss, a race for the ball before the game was born. One player from each team would stand side by side and run 10 yards to a ball at midfield. Whoever got to the ball first won and earned possession for his team first.
This concept is ludicrous for a few reasons. One, the players got hurt with concussions and leg injuries that caused some to even miss their seasons; all before kick-off occurred! The second reason it seems ridiculous is because in today's professional football leagues, teams want the ball in the second half. Getting the ball in the second half first can either get a team back in the game or put the game out of reach for a team who was dominating the entire first half. It is a good idea when you originally think about it, but after you really think about all of the factors; a race for the ball was simply moronic!
1 Vince McMahon Tried Using WWE Logic For the XFL
There have been a lot of things people didn't know about the failure that was the XFL. But the number one thing people didn't realize or simply forgot was that McMahon was trying to make the XFL into a WWE style instead of focusing on the football part. Vince gets all the credit in the world when it comes to entertainment: he knows how to get a crowd going. But we are talking about running a professional sports leagues. The players need to be good and the coaches need to be knowledgeable for a league to thrive.
McMahon was focusing too much on the physical element of the game rather than focusing on the game as a whole. It seems like Vince couldn't keep the two worlds away from each other and kept integrating WWE techniques into the XFL. People love physical violence, but this was a bit obsessive. Vince still has the WWE to go on, but the XFL was a complete and utter failure that should have never been attempted. Vince McMahon integrating WWE into the NFL was the one thing people forgot to realize during the disaster that was the XFL.