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8 Reasons Why The First XFL Failed In 2001

When Vince McMahon created the XFL, he envisioned it to be the number one competitor of the NFL. So how did the XFL fail and what are the reasons that led to its demise? To start off, Vince McMahon announced the league one year before it was launched. That gave him the media attention he wanted, but he wasn’t able to back it up. McMahon gave himself only one year to prepare for the opening of the original XFL and McMahon was not so experienced in the world of American Football as he was in the world of Professional Wrestling and that would start the demise of the league as soon as it started.


There was something missing: The Teams, Players, Coaches and literally everything else you need to make a football league run, including a place to actually air the games. Luckily for McMahon, then-NBC executive Dick Ebersol happened to be watching the press conference, and badly needed some football for his network.


Second, a blimp that was advertising the XFL crashed and it was heard around the world. In an effort to gain even more press, a blimp that was advertising the XFL logo flew over an NFL game in Oakland, CA. Unfortunately for the XFL, even that went horribly awry when the blimp crashed into a seafood restaurant.

“I don’t remember a whole lot about the XFL blimp except that it crashed,” McMahon says with a laugh in the documentary. “Which perhaps would have been an omen for what happened to the league.”


Third, while everyone involved was convinced McMahon would be more of a background player than anything else, the first game started with him taking the field as if he were his own WWE character, proclaiming, “This is the XFL!” Ebersol then cured upon remembering that particular moment. And from that point on, the XFL was already leaning a bit too far toward professional wrestling rather than football. When week two came up and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, “Good old JR” Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler was introduced, the fans were not taking anything seriously anymore as for them this was no longer a serious football league.


Fourth, instead of the usual coin toss that takes place before every game in the NFL, someone in the XFL decided that the coin toss was just too civilized so that someone invented the scramble. In the scramble, two men would make a dash for the ball at center field and whoever got to it first would get possession. “60% of those guys that went in the first two weeks were hurt with serious injuries,” Al Luginbill, head coach of the LA Extreme, says. Before the game could even get started, they were having to cart players off the field.


Fifth, the lights went out in week two. It seems someone forgot to put gas in the generators, knocking an entire professional sports game off the air. “We had no idea what happened,” McMahon says.

Luckily NBC had a secondary, though much less exciting game to switch to while they figured it out. However, the power outage also caused an already competitive game to run long. By the time they got the power back and were able to play the full game — including overtime — the XFL had cut into “Saturday Night Live,” which didn’t sit well with anyone and by the time the ratings came in, NBC and WWE learned that the audience that showed up for the first game didn’t bother sticking around for week two.


Sixth, the ratings continued to spiral down right after the first game was played. When the primary game in week one was played it wasn’t exactly all that competitive, but it did garner much higher ratings than what NBC or WWE were expecting and this lead to a buzz that they had a hit on their hands. Unfortunately, when week two started, the quality of the games kept on degrading and the league seemed more like professional wrestling than it did football.


Seventh, the XFL cheerleaders seemed like they were promoting sex on national television which didn’t set well with the majority of the spectators. Finally, the Million Dollar Game that become a huge disaster. The NFL has the Super Bowl and the XFL had the Million Dollar Game which was designed to be the “WrestleMania” of football. The game instead ended up being the final nail in the league’s coffin.

It was played before a stadium nowhere near sold out and a TV audience that continued to nosedive. Shortly after the final game of the season, NBC announced that it would not broadcast the second season, even though there was one, and McMahon closed the league permanently.


Beyond all of that, one of the more crucial mistakes of the original XFL was trying to blend football and WWE professional wrestling. This just added storyline and drama which shouldn’t be part of football and should just stick with professional wrestling. This isn’t to say that wrestlers in the WWE aren’t athletes, but there’s a heavy element of performance that simply doesn’t exist in commercial sports like the NFL, NBA, and MLB.

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