It was 2001. I remember being a skinny little nerdy kid that had a love of football that seemed to go beyond any other skinny little nerdy kid that I knew at the time. I also loved wrestling more than anything, which now explains why I had so much trouble getting a girl to like me. That’s the story I’m choosing to go with here. It had nothing to do with my Tommy Hilfiger shirt that inexplicably had elbow pads built into it.
Anyhow, when I heard that WWE owner Vince McMahon was going to start his own football league called the XFL, I obviously began preparations to stay a virgin for the rest of my life. And then the league folded as quickly as it began, and I found myself stuck with the NFL. But now there’s hope again.
EXCLUSIVE: Vince McMahon is looking to bring back the XFL and may announce it on January 25th, 2018.— Brad Shepard (@TheBradShepard) December 16, 2017
My first response was, “Why, Vince?” The WWE and NBC lost $70 million on the last incarnation of the XFL. The world is a completely different place now. Football has long been the most popular American sport, but now they own every sponsor under the sun and dominate three days of the sporting week. They’re even creeping in on Saturday's now.
The XFL is an even smaller fish swimming in an overwhelmingly larger ocean than before. As cool as it would be to see this happen again and as much as I believe Vince will throw money at it to actually make it happen, I’m at a “I’ll believe it when I see it” point right now.
But I have two thoughts. These are the two thoughts that have me writing this piece on a Saturday morning. The first is: What if Detroit gets a team?
This was something that was actually supposed to happen at some point. Back in 2001, the XFL expansion committee spent some time in Detroit, scouting locations and talking with the city about welcoming a second football team.
It makes me wonder if this time it actually goes through. What if the Lions are suddenly not the only team in town? Perhaps the more frightening thought is: What if Detroit’s XFL team is better? What if their XFL team starts winning championships?
What if the XFL starts poaching NFL talent? Dear god, what if the XFL steals Matt Prater or something? What if this causes the Lions to move to North Dakota and become the NFL’s first North Dakota franchise? What if you start liking this team more than the Lions? This is oddly scary to me.
But it somehow brings me to my next point. What if the Lions had a developmental team like the Grand Rapids Drive or the West Michigan Whitecaps? What if that team was in the XFL?
The way I see it, if Vince McMahon wants to make millions off this league and realize this crazy dream of his, he can do it, but he can’t do it alone. It’s a different world from 2001, where every product in the country seems to sponsor the same league. You shouldn’t be going against the NFL, you should be partnering with them.
The NFL is behind all major sports leagues in the sense that they don’t have a developmental league. You either make the NFL or you’re cast off to the CFL or arena leagues and likely never to be seen from again. Why not give some of these players a chance to show what they have? Imagine Brad Kaaya actually quarterbacking a team right now instead of just working in practice for a team he’ll never earning a starting job with.
This is where the XFL would come in perfectly. They can partner with NFL teams and begin forming rosters of practice squad players and guys that just can’t seem to land somewhere. They can even play during the NFL season. Imagine Friday night XFL football.
In this world, guys like Joique Bell or George Johnson are found way earlier in their career than normal. Guys like Zach Zenner get to be bigger stars and likely get a chance to have a much larger role somewhere else in the NFL.
This sort of puts an end to the undrafted free agent game. Why not take those players and have an XFL draft? This is just more money for both parties. To me, it seems like a no brainer. Plus Vince McMahon clearly has knowledge on developmental areas. Look at the success of his pro wrestling developmental league “NXT,” not to mention that most of the WWE’s biggest stars have almost always come up from one of the many developmental territories the WWE used to have.
We’ll see where this thing goes soon enough. We have no idea if this will actually come to fruition, but the WWE certainly isn’t saying it’s not going to happen.
A WWE spokesperson issued the attached statement to me & @Deadspin in response to my inquiry about tonight's rumors of a soon to be announced XFL revival. They declined further comment. Whatever Vince McMahon's "Alpha Entertainment" is, it's self-funded & separate from WWE. pic.twitter.com/oT0Oxyi2fV— David Bixenspan (@davidbix) December 16, 2017