The rumors that Vince McMahon was ready to revive the XFL were brought closer to reality Thursday when the WWE filed documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission disclosing that McMahon had sold off about $100 million in stock to fund Alpha Entertainment, a company created, in part, for a professional football venture.
McMahon hasn't revealed his plans, so we're going to lay out some important rules that would help guide him to making the sequel better than the original.
1. It's either a gimmick or it's football
One of the reasons the XFL didn't work is that it focused on gimmicks but pitched to an audience that it was real football. It was certainly gimmicky, but it wasn't good football. If McMahon tries this again, he has to decide where he wants to go. Does he want to block out the plays and determine who wins? Does he hire a mix of athletes and actors and make it live drama? A faked "Hard Knocks" might work really well at a time when live musicals are drawing big numbers. Or does he try to do real football?
2. Real football would require real money
If McMahon wants people to root for the actual game, he's going to have to get real players. Sure, he can pick up the big names who are no longer in the NFL, but he has to pull out real football players in their prime. To do that, he's going to have to get real NFL players to leave the league for his second experiment. How does he do that? Guaranteed money for multiple years and offers three to five times bigger than those of NFL teams.
3. A soclal media streaming deal
If the opportunist in McMahon says the right time is now, it's either because the NFL is in a period of downturn or because he thinks the ability to break through is easier now than ever before. Let's focus on the latter. It's true that consumers have more options than they did in 2001, but if content is good, consumers also have social media to remind them how good it is. If that product itself is on social media, it's even easier to recognize. So if the time is right now, having a social media streaming component to what he is doing is necessary. Coincidentally, the WWE is testing out a Facebook-only execution starting in January.
4. One big wrestler has to be involved
The problem with the XFL for its first go-round is that it didn't leverage the huge audience of the WWE (then called the WWF). There has to be more synergy. Sure, there's a gimmick aspect to it, but you need to be able to take some of that audience and bring it over to a new league. The easy solution: Have at least one WWE star be intricately involved week in and week out.
5. McMahon must put himself front and center
McMahon certainly had a role in the XFL the first time around, but his involvement was limited in some way because of Dick Ebersol and NBC, which owned 50 percent of the entity. If he has no one to answer to, he has to go full Vince McMahon because that's worth watching -- most of the time.
Perhaps this whole thing is a ruse, but it's still 2017, which means don't discount anything from happening.