McMahon betting big on ability to get XFL off the ground

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Vince McMahon is reportedly prepared to lose $375 million to get the XFL to the point of sustainability.

The report, from Dave Meltzer at Wrestling Observer, offers that hefty figure as coming from McMahon, the chairman of WWE, for the first three years of XFL operations.

McMahon, you might remember, lost $35 million on the first iteration of XFL, which had a one-season run in 2001.

(The value of that loss in 2020 dollars: $50.6 million.)

Per Meltzer, the current-day investment would be aimed at getting the XFL in position for a TV deal by Year 4 of operations, in 2023.

That assumes the league will, over time, come to be a ratings hit, which it decidedly wasn’t back in 2001.

After debuting to an estimated audience of more than 14 million viewers, more than double what broadcast partner NBC had projected, within a month, the audience had plummeted more than 75 percent from the opening.

It got to a point where NBC found itself reduced to offering free air time to advertisers, on the way to, later in the spring, the one and only XFL championship game drawing just 24,153 people to the 90,000-seat L.A. Coliseum.

The second go at the XFL has a slew of rules changes designed to improve the pace of play and offer wrinkles to boost scoring, but in the end, it will all come down, as it did in 2001, to the quality of play on the field, with a talent pool thinned out by the fact that the NFL gets first choice for its 2,016 roster spots, and that the NFL pays players significantly more.

To wit on that last point: the average XFL salary for the 2020 season checks in at $55,000. The NFL rookie minimum is $480,000, with minimums increasing based on experience to just short of a million dollars per.

Which is to say, this isn’t the Monday Night Wars of the 1990s, with McMahon and Ted Turner having equal access money-wise to the talent pool of pro wrestlers to feature on “Raw” and “Nitro.”

The XFL is, at best, a regional indy, bartering for TV time, hoping to ride things out with a product featuring guys not good enough for the NFL until it gets an audience.

Even AEW, the latest pro-wrestling upstart, is getting actual dollars from its TV partner, TNT, and AEW has top names like Chris Jericho, Jon Moxley, Kenny Omega and The Young Bucks on its roster to be able to build around.

Nobody, not even McMahon, carnie that he is, is claiming Landry Jones, Aaron Murray or Trent Richardson is anywhere near comparable to Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady or Ezekiel Elliott.

It’s an uphill battle, is the bottom line.

Story by Chris Graham


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