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XFL:  Success or Flop?
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By Paul Herzog

Iíve gone on the record as stating that that XFL was a bad idea, a bad use of the money gained from their IPO, and an eventual profit drain that will cause shareholders to force WWFE to drop the league.  After one week, Iím a little more open-minded.  Iím not quite converted.  But Iím there enough to come up with three reasons why I think the XFL will end up a long-term (anything longer than three seasons) success.  Of course, since Iím not fully on the bandwagon, Iíll balance it out with three reasons why it wonít work.


1)  Theyíve delivered what they promised

They said theyíd have new rules, designed to make the game more hard-hitting.  They said thereíd be hot cheerleaders in skimpy outfits.  They said thereíd be a new television presentation, with all-access coverage that never has been shown before.  On all of those points, the XFL has delivered.  With a few weeks worth of execution to iron the bugs out, I think the production will go smoothly.  The camera angles are strange to an experienced football fanís eye, but again, with some time for the producers to see what works and what doesnít, itíll be just fine.  The on-field camera is a stroke of genius.

2)      Expectations arenít incredibly high

NBC isnít looking for their own NFL, something to dominate the sports world and take America by storm.  Vince McMahon isnít looking to take over a new industry, at least not that heíll admit.  Itís just something to entertain on Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons, while there isnít any other football and basketball and hockey are in second-half lulls before the playoffs.

 3)      Costs are controlled

This is the big point from my perspective, the deal I didnít know that was going to separate the XFLís operation from other sports leagues that have started up over the last thirty years.  Nobody got paid from the time they signed their contracts until last Saturday.  It may be incredibly unfair when compared to guaranteed salaries in other sports, but it fits right in line with the old ďyou donít work, you donít get paidĒ mentality of professional wrestling.  The most anyone can make at this is approximately $100,000, and thatís the quarterback for the championship team.  Every other league (from the old WFL to the current Major League Soccer) have fallen into the same trap, where in order to draw attention to themselves, they sign name-brand players for money that puts them way over budget.  If they can draw 20,000 fans a game at $25/ticket, thatís half a million per game, which more than covers the costs of all personnel for both teams.


1)      They canít play

I mean, they really canít play.  Some games were close, some werenít, but none of them had anyone who would make a football fan want to tune in.  What the NBA has sold so well in the David Stern era is the athletic ability of the performers.  Every sport needs to sell the fact that their audience can tune in to see great athletes doing things nobody else can do.  The quality of play in the XFL will most likely improve as the season goes on, but these will always be players who have not only been rejected by the NFL, but also like the World League and most likely Arena Football as well (both of whom pay better than the XFL).  I don't go out of my way to watch minor-league baseball and high-school basketball, and I wonít do it for bad football.

2)      They canít entertain

Ah, but you say, ďZog, you dope, Vince McMahon has never sold athletic competition.  He sells entertainment.Ē  So letís look at the XFL players as entertainers.  When the Las Vegas Outlaws introduced themselves on the field, most of them stumbled through that five seconds of camera time.  They had an extended promo for Ryan Clement, complete with double-entendre talking cheerleader babe, and he staggered through it.  Nicknames on the backs of jerseys belong in fraternity intramural leagues.  The idea of trash talk may appeal to some, but thereís only been a handful of athletes in the history of competition who were regularly entertaining with it.  None of those men are currently on XFL rosters, nor will be in the near future.  Sideline and locker room mics picked up coaches and players at their sports clichťd or jargon-packed worst.  If this is sports entertainment, what weíve got is a promotion filled with guys who talk like Hardcore Holly.

3)      Theyíre a square peg in a round hole

And herein lies my initial beef.  They arenít good enough at competition to be pure sport, not good enough at the other stuff to be sports entertainment.  The XFL is just in the middle enough to alienate large sections of both of their target audiences.  I donít believe thereís a big crossover between ďwatch anythingĒ football fans and wrestling fans.  If there was, thereíd be bigger swings in the Monday Night ratings depending on what game was on and what PPV we were building to.  Without a solid core audience, all thatís left is a group of folks tuning in for the hype.  And as good as Vince McMahon is at hype, that wonít carry the kind of ratings and attendance expected from the XFL on a long-term basis.

Paul Herzog has spent far too many hours as a columnist for various Internet sources, and the Wrestling Lariat newsletter, over the past six years. He is a systems engineer at Tellabs in Bolingbrook, Illinois, and is lucky to have a wife that likes the wrestling business, too. He can be reached at grapsfan@worldnet.att.net.

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