Vince McMahon says he's reviving the XFL

It's official: WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon is bringing back "extreme" pro football.The revamped XFL...

Posted: Jan 26, 2018 6:00 AM
Updated: Jan 26, 2018 6:00 AM

It's official: WWE chairman and CEO Vince McMahon is bringing back "extreme" pro football.

The revamped XFL will kick off in January or February of 2020 with eight teams, McMahon said in a press call Thursday. The team names and home cities have not yet been selected.

He billed the new XFL as a "fan-centric" league geared toward "all the things you like to see and less of the things you don't." It will offer a "shorter, faster paced" and "easier to understand game," McMahon told reporters.

Related: NFL Championship ratings dip, but games still bring in huge audience

The original XFL only lasted one season after it debuted in 2001. It was launched as a joint venture between the WWE (then known as the World Wrestling Federation) and NBC. It promised to be a rougher version of the NFL with looser rules and over-the-top sideline entertainment.

Players were allowed to wear nicknames on their jerseys, giving rise to memorable monikers like Rod Smart's "He Hate Me." (McMahon said Thursday he's not sure yet if nicknames will be permitted this time around.)

The first ever match up in 2001 drew big ratings -- but the excitement petered out big time. Fans complained the game play just wasn't that good.

A Sports Illustrated cover released soon after the inaugural game asked, "Will sleazy gimmicks and low-rent football work for the XFL?" The answer, according to football fans, was no.

At one point during the first season, the XFL became the lowest-rated program on a major network in prime-time history.

The first hints that McMahon was gearing up for a relaunch came in December when he sold about $106 million worth of his WWE shares to fund Alpha Entertainment LLC. Its stated goal: "explore investment opportunities across the sports and entertainment landscapes, including professional football."

"I've always wanted to relaunch and had this planned for some time," McMahon said Thursday in announcing XFL's revival.

McMahon promised not to repeat the same mistakes he made in the early 2000s, vowing to ensure the league brings a high level of play to the field.

This time around, the WWE and NBC aren't involved. And right now, it's not clear how fans will be able to watch the games.

There are no distribution contracts lined up, McMahon said, though he pledged XFL games will be available to stream on "big screens, mobile devices and everything in between."

Related: The NFL rejected a Super Bowl program ad from a veterans group

Some in the sports world see the XFL as ripe to challenge the NFL at a time when it's suffering from a waning viewership and a political controversy.

Others say the issue with football isn't the league; it's the game. Concussions and the risk of brain disease caused by head trauma, known as CTE, has raised safety concerns among fans, coaches and players.

It's unclear if or how McMahon's XFL will address those safety concerns, though McMahon said Thursday it is a priority and the league will "bring in experts."

One person who's likely to be an XFL fan: President Trump.

He's has been highly critical of the NFL, particularly with his public admonishments of players who kneel during the National Anthem to protest social justice issues.

During the press call Thursday, McMahon did not directly address whether XFL players would be required to stand for the anthem. But he did say it would "be appropriate to" stand.

Trump, a WWE Hall of Famer, is also a longtime friend of McMahon. The organization's "WrestleMania" event has twice been hosted at Trump properties in Atlantic City.

In 2007, Trump and McMahon even devised their own performance in which the billionaires "fought" each other, and Trump shaved McMahon's head for losing a bet.

Then in 2009, Trump "sparred" again with McMahon by claiming he purchased WWE's "Monday Night Raw" TV show and promised he would stop airing ads. McMahon later said he bought the show back at a hefty markup.

It's also worth noting that McMahon's wife Linda -- a former WWE CEO -- currently serves in Trump's cabinet as the head of the Small Business Administration.

-- Chris Isidore, Paul La Monica and Daniella Emanuel contributed to this report.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Ramsey14726372
Dakota10271139
Anoka9344155
Washington636273
Stearns625550
Scott360436
Olmsted340230
St. Louis325874
Wright273116
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Blue Earth21147
Carver18887
Sherburne183122
Kandiyohi18215
Rice170210
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Winona133619
Chisago11562
Crow Wing114322
Benton103311
Lyon10306
Beltrami9618
Otter Tail9508
Waseca94510
Todd8967
Polk8364
Morrison8259
Steele8013
Itasca78817
Douglas7744
Nicollet77118
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McLeod6214
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Houston2381
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Kanabec23710
Swift2252
Jackson2211
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Lac qui Parle1453
Wilkin1454
Clearwater1381
Norman1340
Lake1330
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Traverse590
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Cook190

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Confirmed Cases: 122218

Reported Deaths: 1691
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk19732289
Woodbury743799
Linn6038133
Johnson602431
Black Hawk5974102
Dubuque550658
Scott487343
Story411118
Dallas357347
Pottawattamie337845
Sioux254417
Buena Vista230212
Marshall212236
Webster196015
Plymouth172831
Wapello158962
Clinton156228
Muscatine153958
Des Moines151611
Cerro Gordo150227
Crawford138714
Warren13137
Carroll120413
Jasper119734
Henry11245
Marion106811
Lee101312
Tama100538
Delaware82713
Dickinson7939
Wright7591
Boone7509
Mahaska73824
Bremer7199
Harrison69716
Washington69311
Jackson6853
Benton6482
Lyon5688
Clay5574
Louisa54415
Winnebago52119
Cedar5087
Winneshiek5079
Hardin5017
Jones5004
Kossuth4970
Clayton4923
Buchanan4875
Hamilton4825
Poweshiek47611
Floyd46211
Emmet45321
Iowa4429
Cass4233
Mills4233
Guthrie42015
Page4200
Cherokee4122
Sac4114
Butler4083
Fayette4064
Shelby4022
Allamakee3999
Franklin39518
Madison3743
Chickasaw3731
Hancock3676
Humboldt3593
Clarke3573
Grundy3406
Palo Alto3292
Calhoun3264
Osceola3020
Mitchell2961
Howard2879
Monroe27212
Union2645
Taylor2602
Jefferson2591
Appanoose2503
Monona2492
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Fremont2152
Lucas2136
Ida2122
Adair1971
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Van Buren1882
Keokuk1731
Decatur1620
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