From its inception, the XFL has had a roller coaster of a ride. Its history spans 20 years in the making but the actual number of games played could be counted on a few hands. Its story is a rather interesting one that starts with wrestling, beer, scandals, and ends with The Rock. Let’s dive into the history of the XFL and its sponsors.
What is the XFL?
The XFL is a small football league that was originally sold to the public as a hard-hitting, faster, no-rules, Xtreme version of football. It was ostentatious and overexcited, just like a WWE Smackdown event.
The general atmosphere was definitely a departure from a typical NFL game. Instead of a coin-flip, players would run and scramble for the ball and promoters would promise a sneak peek into the cheerleaders’ locker room. It was an all-around attempt to upsell football with sex and violence. It didn’t quite work, however, and even though stadiums never filled up, the fans who did show up had a hell of a time and were treated to some excellent sport.
The league was rebooted 19 years later, with much more streamlined plans and structure. Instead of trying to sell sex and violence, the XFL was selling football. Pure, uncomplicated football with fewer rules. What’s not to love?
Many of the early concerns about the XFL stemmed from one of the original founders, Vince McMahon. How can you have a legitimate sports league when the man funding it is known for a highly-staged “sport” like WWE’s style of wrestling? That’s not to say it’s not physically demanding but it is more about entertainment value rather than the athletic competition itself.
A lot of the early sponsors were hesitant to get in bed with Vince McMahon because of concerns that the games would be rigged in favor of entertainment value. In this instance, it was actually Las Vegas to the rescue. Once Las Vegas started taking bets on XFL games, it actually legitimized the matches in the eyes of the viewers.
The XLF announcers and commentators were a bit campy and overzealous, but if Vegas was taking bets on the outcome of the match, you can believe that the games were real. As current US gambling laws make progress, we can expect to see more involvement from gambling companies investing in the sports realm but at the time, Vince McMahon had to rely on his own funds to bring his brainchild into the world.
The mixture of the flamboyant wrestling personas on the team and the abundance of problems from the growing pains of the new league led to NBC pulling out of its contract even though it signed a 2-year deal.
Revival & Bad Timing
After the impromptu shutdown of the XFL, Vince McMahon seemed to never get the idea of owning his own football league of his head. 19 years later he revived the league and fronted a lot of the reboot costs himself to the tune of over $500 million.
The first game of the rebooted XFL was on February 8th, 2020. Players were greeted with the usual suspects of sponsors, like Gatorade, which can be found at every sporting event from little leagues to the pros, and Anheuser-Busch who was pushing a new brand of seltzer beer. Players were, of course, received the classiest of product placements, the Seltzer Smash in which players slammed seltzer beers in the locker room.
If you noticed the year of the second season reboot, you’ll notice that it’s the apocalyptic year of 2020. Due to COVID-19, all of the matches were canceled and the XFL was at risk of going under for the second time. They just can’t catch a break… or can they?
Between The Rock and Hard Place
With COVID-19 effectively wiping out the XFL before it could even begin to gain traction, prospects for the XFL looked doomed.
Fortunately, Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson came to the rescue along with his business partners at RedBird Capital. They officially bought out the XFL and are planning on revamping the system by 2022.
COVID-19 and the Future
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a monkey wrench into everyone’s plans for 2020. Even those who aren’t fans of football can see the tragedy in attempting to kick off a brand new league in 2020.
Luckily for football fans, “The Most Electrifying Man in Sports Entertainment” is at the helm, and right by his side is a solid investment firm with their hands in a little bit of everything, from gaming, sports, and energy.
It’ll be interesting to see how the XFL weathers the storm of COVID-19 and the many other hardships and roadblocks they’ve faced. Because after all, it’s always more fun to root for the underdog.
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