ESPN recently announced that they will air another WWE-based special, This Was the XFL, scheduled for February 2 at 9 p.m. EST. In this documentary, they will allow the fans to remember the debacle that was the “Xtreme Football League,” or give fans who have no idea a piece of history the WWE is not proud of overall. In the press release, ESPN gave fans a glimpse of what to expect in the documentary.
“Bringing together a cast of characters ranging from the boardrooms of General Electric to the practice fields of Las Vegas, ‘This Was the XFL’ is the tale of — yes — all that went wrong, but also, how the XFL ended up influencing the way professional team sports are broadcast today. And at the center of it all – a decades long friendship between one of the most significant television executives in media history and the one-of-a-kind WWE impresario. This film will explore how Ebersol and McMahon brought the XFL to life, and why they had to let it go.”
Over the past couple of years, the relationship between ESPN and WWE has been a positive one. Former WWE star Raymond Leppan was documented regarding his journey from Leo Kruger to the party animal, Adam Rose. During the documentary, executives in NXT were at a crossroads of reviving his stock in NXT by debuting a new character or just letting him go from the company. Thankfully, they chose to revamp him, and his gimmick was one of the most popular in NXT for a period of time.
The concept of the XFL was quite bizarre from the very start. There were many rules that were seemingly purposed to be in complete contrast of the NFL.
- Instead of a coin toss, players were placed on the 50-yard line to recover the ball. Whoever recovers had the choice whether they wanted to kick or receive.
- The receiving team had to run kickoffs out of the endzone, unless the ball was kicked through the endzone.
- Defensive players can use bump-and-run tactics down the entire field.
- There was no kicker for the point after touchdown (PAT). It had to be either via pass or run.
- There was no fair catch rule.
With these rules, as well as others, every Saturday evening prepared viewers for a severe dose of wacky football. The names on the jerseys also encompassed the WWE gimmicky feel.
One example of this is Rod Smart, who played for the Las Vegas Outlaws. Formerly a running back and special teams returner for Western Kentucky, he joined the XFL donning the name “He Hate Me,” and became one of the most popular and notorious players in the entire league. After XFL, Smart would spend five years in the NFL, playing for the 2005 NFC Champions Carolina Panthers.
Smart explained the phenomenon of his nickname, and how if benefited him as a brand (h/t Complex).
“It was something different,” Smart says. “I got to show people my personality and creativeness. Being able to put whatever you want on the back of your jersey—what’s better than that? It was a new wrinkle. There were a lot of nicknames out there, but mine stood out. But my play stood out as well.”
While the XFL only lasted one year, it left a lasting mark in sports and media history. Whether you loved it or hated it, both sides will tune into the ESPN documentary in order to gain a better understanding of why it occurred, and why it did not work. Sixteen years later, This Was the XFL will give viewers a moment to relive the infamous 2001 Xtreme Football League.
[Featured Image by WWE]