Jim Ross has discussed what caused the failure of Vince McMahon’s first attempt at creating a new football league to rival the NFL in 2001.
The XFL ran for one season in 2001 and was a product of the relationship between McMahon and Dick Ebersol, who was an executive at NBC. With everyone involved in the production of the league reportedly losing millions of dollars, the XFL was mothballed, seemingly for good.
Jim Ross who served as Head of Talent Relations of the World Wrestling Federation at the time also became involved in the XFL as one of the television announcers. For Ross, a proud follower of the Oklahoma Sooners, the reason the league ultimately failed was a very simple one.
Speaking on his Grilling JR podcast, Ross explained:
“We shoulda had a longer off-season or a pre-season in the hopes that we could improve on-field play. We did not have good football, because those teams – I don’t want to say ‘thrown together’, but they kinda were. They had very little time to come together as a team and they needed more rest together. We needed to play better football, and then all of a sudden they got really ‘rassled-up’ a little bit. […] So we started trying to use some smoke and mirrors to try and create interest in other areas of the presentation that never got over – obviously.”
To the surprise of many, McMahon brought the league out of cold storage for another go in 2020. However, this time it was the COVID-19 pandemic that seemed to be the league’s downfall as the remainder of the season was cancelled on March 12th 2020.
One month later the league filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and all employees were let go. A condition of the bankruptcy agreement was that Vince McMahon could not buy back the XFL, with an auction for the company to take place on August 3rd.
That auction never took place, however, as on the 2nd of August RedBird Capital Partners along with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and his business partner Dany Garcia purchased the XFL for a reported $15 million.
In March 2021, it was announced that the XFL were in talks with the Canadian Football League about a deal that would see the two organisations explore ways to collaborate and grow the sport further. Dwayne Johnson had competed in the CFL, joining the Calgary Stampeders before getting involved in the wrestling business.
Jim Ross also discussed on his podcast the unwillingness of certain members of the ECW locker room that refused to lose during the extreme invasion of the WWF.