In late January, World Wrestling Entertainment chairman Vince McMahon announced his plan to resurrect the XFL in 2020. With this new XFL, McMahon promised not to repeat the mistakes of 2001, and he could be successful this time around.

Pure football fans didn’t take the XFL seriously the first time McMahon launched it. Wrestling fans weren’t interested, and traditionalists didn’t like its marketing tactics. The lack of interest combined with multiple incidents, mishaps, and other failures—which were chronicled in an ESPN "30 for 30" film in 2017—forced McMahon to close shop after one season.

During its launch in 2000, McMahon said he wanted to bring back "old-fashioned smash-mouth football." He felt the NFL had become watered down with its many rules and regulations. So in response, McMahon eliminated the fair catch on kick and punt returns, enacted the "No Domes" policy, which meant every game was played outdoors regardless of the weather, and allowed quarterbacks to get hit when sliding (which is a 15-yard penalty in the NFL). McMahon also made sure penalties like unnecessary roughness and late hits were kept to a minimum.

"It was too 'gimmicky' for me," Shawn Sierra, an affiliated host for SB Nation Radio and a former player and coach in his own right, told Complex.

With this new XFL, McMahon has vowed to make changes, and he could be successful if he's able to put them into place. The sports and media landscape has changed since 2001 thanks to more options for television viewing and social media being used as a strong marketing tool. Today’s sports fans are constantly seeking the next big thing, and the time could be right for competition as the NFL was forced to deal with turmoil on several fronts in 2017.

Back in 2000, McMahon hoped he could compete with the NFL with an alternative product that was co-promoted with WWE and marketed to the 18-34 year old male demographic. McMahon fast-tracked his league for a 2001 debut, which many felt was rushed and should have waited until 2002. While the league did have a draft in 2000, the majority of XFL players were a collection of former NFL players, college players who were overlooked by the NFL, and players from minor leagues such as the Canadian Football League and Arena Football League, among others.

The XFL did, however, resurrect the careers of quarterback Tommy Maddox, kicker Jose Cortez, and the late Rashaan Salaam. It also launched the NFL career of Rod "He Hate Me" Smart. At that time, WWE was at the peak of its famed "Attitude Era" where sold out venues, insane television ratings, and record pay-per-view buys (before WWE Network) were common. McMahon tried use the success of WWE to propel the XFL.

Legendary WWE announcers Jim Ross, Jerry Lawler, and Jesse Ventura were among the broadcast teams. Wrestlers appeared at games throughout the 2001 season, and WWE promoted the league constantly during its weekly programs. McMahon also used multiple "gimmicks" to sell the league, such as eliminating the coin toss, getting rid of extra point kicks, taking cameras into the cheerleaders' locker room, giving coaches a live microphone, and introducing the innovative "Skycam," which is now used by both the NFL and NCAA.

"I can remember that people were indifferent about the concept," Jerry Riles, who has worked in sports media for nearly 30 years and currently hosts The Rewind Sports: 60, told Complex. "They were open to something new but felt some of the corniness was a bit too much."

"Competition is always good," Riles added. "Some experts around the sports world believe with the declining ratings, serious injuries, and the constant rule changes in the NFL that it will no longer exist in the next 20 years."

In addition to benefiting from an evolved marketplace and appealing to disgruntled NFL fans, player development may also help the XFL’s rebirth. The NFL has lacked a developmental league since NFL Europe shut down in 2007. The XFL can fill that void if McMahon plays his cards right.

XFL Championship 2001 Getty
Image via Getty/Scott Halleran/Allsport

"It could be a place for some players to develop and gain confidence, thus improving their chances of making the NFL," Sierra said.

With any sports league, money is always an issue. Players have frowned upon the CFL’s salaries, while the AFL’s financial struggles have been well documented. Even the XFL’s 2001 business model is outdated. So player compensation could help dictate the league’s future.

"If the XFL can compete with the salaries in the NFL that will change the landscape," Riles said.

Of course, the XFL won’t get anywhere without television coverage. Fortunately, with the expansion of cable and satellite networks and the various streaming services now available, McMahon shouldn’t have a hard time finding a network home.

"The multiple platforms that people consume their entertainment with will benefit the XFL because people can now watch on their phones, tablets or computers," Sierra said. "They don’t need to be in front of a TV."

"With social media and advanced technology this time, the game may take off. Fans are growing tired of the NFL, and if the XFL markets their games properly, it can be a game changer," added Riles.

McMahon always seems to make a business move at the right time. And if all goes well, 2020 could prove to be the XFL’s right time.

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