An older and presumably wiser Vince McMahon is playing it straight this time.
XFL 2.0 is set to kick off this Saturday, just a week after the Kansas City Chiefs’ comeback win in Super Bowl 54 over the San Francisco 49ers.
Nineteen years after the first try went down in flames, the relaunched XFL has a new look, new teams, sleek new uniforms and new rules, which hope to make the game more fan friendly.
This time, there won’t be any of the WWE-tethered madness which made the first go-round such a colossal mess.
Gone are the scantily-chad XFL “cheerleaders” or TV cameras in the cheerleader’s locker room. There won’t be any wrestling-style story lines, no wrestling announcers in the booth parading themselves as football announcers and no “He Hate Me’s” on the back of the players’ uniforms.
McMahon, the WWE owner, is hoping the football does the talking this time.
McMahon is reportedly putting up a whopping $500 million of his own money to make sure the latest attempt at a spring/summer professional football league is a success.
It won’t be easy.
Going up against the NFL, the standard-bearer for pro football, never is.
Just last spring, the Alliance of American Football, which was tied to the NFL, tried to make a go of it but the league went bankrupt and was unable to finish its season.
McMahon is hoping the lessons learned from the XFL’s failure in 2001 and the crash and burn of the AAF are heeded.
The eight-team XFL begins its season with weekend with four games and will play a 10-game season, culminating with two playoff games April 18-19 and the league’s championship game on April 26.
Games will be broadcast on ABC, Fox, Fox Sports 1 and also ESPN and ESPN2.
One thing sticks out about the XFL: its ties to the state of West Virginia.
McMahon has tabbed former WVU Athletics Director Oliver Luck as the league’s commissioner.
Former Marshall University quarterback Chase Litton is a member of the XFL’s Tampa Bay Vipers.
At least a dozen other players on XFL rosters are former WVU Mountaineers or hail from the Mountain State.
One of Litton’s teammates with the Vipers is Marquis Lucas, an offensive tackle and former WVU player.
The head coach of the Vipers is veteran Marc Trestman, who has been a head coach and assistant in the NFL, the Canadian Football League and also in college football.
On the DC Defenders team is defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow of WVU. Cornerback Jeremiah Johnson, a former player for Division II Concord University, is a member of the Houston Roughnecks, coached by June Jones. The Roughnecks’ helmet logo decal is an ode to the Houston Oilers.
On the New York Guardians’ roster is former WVU safety Dravon Askew-Henry.
The St. Louis Battlehawks features safety Kenny Robinson, defensive lineman Will Clarke and linebacker Terence Garvin, all of WVU.
The Seattle Dragons are coached by former Seattle Seahawks’ QB Jim Zorn. Other XFL teams are the LA Wildcats and the Dallas Renegades.
The XFL and last year’s AAF are the latest attempts at establishing an alternative professional football league in North America. In almost all accounts financial instability was the reason for the demise.
Back in 1974-75, the World Football League folded after two seasons amid many financial woes.
Then in the 1980s, the United States Football League shut down after three seasons in 1983-85, famously winning a $1 anti-trust lawsuit with the NFL. President Donald J. Trump was the owner of the USFL’s New Jersey Generals.
In 1991, the World League of American Football came onto the scene, with teams in the US, Canada, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and the UK. The league later folded and then returned as an NFL-backed all-European league, known as NFL Europe and later NFL Europa, but ceased operations in 2007 after losing millions of dollars.
The established CFL, North America’s oldest professional football league, attempted to expand into the US from 1993-95 but that experiment was also a failure. The American-based Baltimore Stallions did, however, win the 1995 Grey Cup, the Super Bowl of Canada.
The new XFL will also implement a bunch of new rules, so have a rule book handy. The most notable, just as the AAF did, there will be no extra point kicks.
After a touchdown teams will have the option for going for one point, two points or three-point conversions. For one-point conversions the ball will be placed at the 2-yard line. Two-point conversions will be placed at the 5 and three-point tries will scrimmage from the 10-yard line. That opens a whole new realm of possibilities for teams that are behind and allows teams to score up to nine points on a single possession.
In an effort to speed up the game, there will also be a 25-second play clock and outside of the two-minute warning, the clock will run continuously.
Test games have lasted around two and a half hours, an hour shorter than the NFL.
In an effort to avoid touch backs and foster more kick returns, teams will kick off from their own 25-yard line, instead of the standard 35-yard line in the NFL and in the college game.
There will also be no fair catches on punts. Instead, a five-yard cushion must be allowed for punt return men after the ball is caught. If a kicking team goes inside the five-yard area a no-yards penalty of five-yards will be marked off, similar to CFL rules.
The XFL will not allow gunners. All players on a punting team must remain on or behind the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked.
Overtime will be decided by a five-round shootout of two-point conversions. Think soccer or hockey and how its done in those sports.
Teams will be given two timeouts instead of three and there will be no coach’s challenges. All calls will be reviewed by a sky judge.
Halftimes will be shortened to 10 minutes and the XFL’s drug testing program will also reportedly not screen for marijuana.
Similar to college football and the CFL, players will only have to have one foot inbounds on sideline catches unlike the two that’s required in the NFL.
The XFL kicks off this weekend with four games.
Seattle plays at DC on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the inaugural game which will be broadcast on ABC. The 5 p.m. game on Fox has LA traveling to Houston. On Sunday at 2 p.m., on Fox, Tampa Bay plays at New York. The 5 p.m. contest on ESPN has St. Louis hitting the road at Dallas.