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A New Chapter In The XFL Story Begins Without Vince McMahon

After nearly two decades, The XFL was brought back from the dead by its founder Vince McMahon. Only to see his vision die and be reborn again, this time without him being a part of it.

The XFL is back. Hopefully, this time it’s for good. 

The original XFL, started by Vince McMahon back in 2001, despite creating innovations that last today in the sports world, failed overall as a football league.

Some pundits would have you believe that the 2020 version of the XFL also suffered the same fate. To some, the purchase of the league through bankruptcy by Dany Garcia, Dwyane ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Gerry Cardinale, and RedBird Capital is the XFL “failing upwards.” 

The 2020 version of the XFL didn’t fail. It’s still alive because of the great work that was put in by so many. The new owners are believers. Dany Garcia, Dwayne Johnson, and RedBird saw the value in what the league presented and built in a short period.

Recently in Sports Illustrated. Dany Garcia expressed her feelings on the XFL.

So when Vince re-launched the XFL this year, I was extremely excited. I actually was an avid fan right from the beginning. I ordered a ridiculous amount of merchandise. I decided I would have numerous teams that I would support. I was also envious. I wished we had been in that conversation right at the beginning. – Dany Garcia to Sports Illustrated on her fandom and interest in the XFL.

https://www.si.com/xfl/2020/08/05/xfl-dany-garcia-dwayne-johnson-interview

I was so impressed with the quality of play. I was very impressed with the production of the product. I loved the new rules. I thought the XFL did a wonderful job of breaking the barrier between the athlete and fan and allowing you to have that real sense of ownership. They were beginning to tap into that intangible phase, the phase where magic can happen.- Dany Garcia on what impressed her the most about the XFL.

https://www.si.com/xfl/2020/08/05/xfl-dany-garcia-dwayne-johnson-interview

Can the new owners recapture what the XFL had going for it and then build upon it? The 15 million dollars to purchase the league may seem low, but the commitment and the price tag in making the league work over the long haul will be high. It’s going to take a substantial investment financially for the league to operate and be a success. The new ownership group of the XFL knows this.

There is still one chapter to close in the XFL story before moving forward. 

VINCE MCMAHON’S VISION/BANKRUPTCY DECISION

There are so many theories and narratives about why Vince McMahon decided to pull the plug after the pandemic derailed XFL 2020.

Many have pointed to McMahon being influenced by his board of governors in the WWE, and based on conversations that I have had with people close to the situation, there is some truth to that theory. The pandemic has created a survival mode for many businesses facing tough decisions, and McMahon was undoubtedly influenced by the decision makers around him.

When all is said and done, The bottom line is that the WWE has billion-dollar TV contracts with FOX/NBC Universal to keep them afloat and can withstand the pandemic. The XFL as a first-year entity does not.

Detractors of McMahon and the XFL will pontificate that Vince saw the future and the end game with his league and decided to cut his losses.

There is some semblance of truth to those sides of the argument but the reality is the XFL would still be under McMahon’s ownership if not for the pandemic.

It’s as simple as this; Vince McMahon had a three year financial commitment and plan secured and in place. Year one was going as anticipated, in terms of the business model and its profitability versus the expected high costs of starting up a brand new sports entity.

The goal was to complete year one in order to get to phases two and three of the plan. But in order for years two and three to happen, phase one had to be completed. When the pandemic killed year one of the XFL in midstream, what it also eliminated were half the profits needed to take the next step in the transition to year two.

With year one of a three-year plan unfinished and uncertainty as to when year two could begin because of the pandemic. The end game and death blow for McMahon’s XFL was the elimination of fans at games until 2021 or 2022 at the latest. Without fans at games, a start up first-year league can not survive.

The multi-million dollar funding of a league no longer in operation until further notice made no business sense. Vince McMahon’s three-year plan for the XFL was dead. He wasn’t going to be able to fund a league with no potential profits for years coming in to cover all the expenses.

VINCE MCMAHON VERSUS THE ROCK

Very few people are as universally loved as Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. He has a deep connection to the sports and entertainment world. Johnson also shares a spiritual connection with football players. Something, Dwayne started out as in college before seeing his pro career ended abruptly in the CFL.

The love for ‘The Rock’ is intense. The same can not be said for Vince McMahon. Despite all of his achievements, McMahon has had a lot of detractors over time. Especially in the present-day. 

Many of McMahon’s business partners have a different viewpoint on him. Recent reports of ESPN and Fox treading cautiously forward with a McMahon-less XFL support the notion that McMahon has strong faith from many closely associated with him. To these networks, the best asset that the XFL had going for it was Vince McMahon. Quite frankly, Vince is the reason that the XFL was on FOX, ABC and ESPN.

On the flip side, Rightfully or wrongfully, McMahon’s involvement with the XFL steered many people away from the league. They ignored all the great work that the XFL was doing, simply because they couldn’t get over that it was Vince McMahon’s league. Some of the political stances like the polarizing national anthem rule, where players had to stand, alienated some while appeasing others.

Another point of contention among those involved in the Chapter 11 sale process of the XFL was Vince McMahon’s genuine motivations during the bankruptcy proceedings. Up until the final hour of the league’s sale, many of the unsecured creditors believed that Vince McMahon was trying to keep his creation alive for himself by any means necessary.

Ultimately, McMahon didn’t buy back in and reconstitute his league but the end result and feeling by some is that Vince McMahon ensured the future of his league by making sure that it fell into the hands of his choosing. 

Publicly, Vince McMahon may never come out and express this, but he has to be happy that his vision of “re-imagining” the game of football fell into the care of Dwayne Johnson and Dany Garcia. Two passionate go-getters who wholeheartedly believe in the XFL. Rather than an anonymous investment group with no emotional attachment to the league.

And also with the new like-minded ownership group. The reimagining that McMahon sought for the XFL may live on and extend beyond just the football field.

Early indications suggest that the co-founders of Seven Bucks Productions, Garcia and Johnson plan to expand their XFL into a multi-platform entity. With year-round content on multiple viewing platforms that intersect with all entertainment avenues. The plan figures to include documentaries and reality shows dedicated to following the teams and it’s players.

The new owners may not share everything that Vince McMahon desired for the league’s future, but what it ultimately represented and aspired to be, will remain intact. The Rock and Dany Garcia have already embraced McMahon’s mantra for the XFL ‘For The Love Of Football.’

Like him or not. The XFL doesn’t get to this point without Vince McMahon. The league he founded and resurrected now moves on without him but the spirit of what he started lives on.

Be sure to join our XFL Discord server and connect with other XFL fans.

I am a credentialed reporter and writer. Over time, I have covered and followed the NFL, NCAA, and multiple football leagues intensely. Like the USFL, CFL, WLAF, NFL Europe, AAF, UFL, and of course, the XFL. You can follow me on Twitter @byMikeMitchell

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