UPDATE: The XFL’s return may be moving closer to reality. In a move to fund his new Alpha Entertainment, which may be a vehicle to the XFL’s return, wrestling mogul Vince McMahon has filed details with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on the sale of 3.34 million shares of his WWE empire, equaling about $100 million.
The filing noted the sale was “primarily to fund a separate entity from the (WWE) Company, Alpha Entertainment LLC, which Mr. McMahon established to explore investment opportunities across the sports and entertainment landscapes, including professional football.”
Another clue that McMahon is moving forward on something big was Alpha filing for five trademarks to the XFL on Dec. 16, according to the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office. The applications will attempt to trademark the XFL as a professional football league and also covers potential league merchandise. The previous XFL marks were deemed abandoned from 2002 to 2005.
Alpha also is seeking to trademark “URFL,” but the filing does not indicate what that acronym may denote.
Previous: Wrestling mogul Vince McMahon has created Alpha Entertainment, a separate venture from his WWE kingdom that is self-funded and may be the vehicle for a revived XFL, the television-driven pro football league that lasted one season in 2001.
The WWE confirmed the move in a statement and said the new venture will explore “investment opportunities across the sports and entertainment landscape, including professional football.” The story was first reported by the Deadspin website.
The XFL was a joint venture between NBC and McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation (WWF), now known as the WWE. An outdoor league that played in the National Football League’s off-season, it was touted as having fewer rules than the more-traditional NFL. The XFL had eight teams in two divisions, all owned by the league, with games televised by NBC, UPN and TNN.
The league is best remembered for several innovations, including sky cams and on-player microphones. WWE talents like Jesse Ventura were part of the on-air commentary teams, and players like running back Rod “He Hate Me” Smart were encouraged to have their nicknames on their jerseys.
NBC and the WWF both reportedly lost $35 million on a $100 million investment in the first season, causing NBC to pull out of the project. McMahon wanted to continue, but said demands by UPN led the league to cease operations in May 2001.
However, with NFL ratings down and fans discontented with player national anthem protests, McMahon may see an opportunity. There have been several reports that the revived XFL may be announced as soon as next month.
ESPN recently ran a 30 for 30 documentary on the XFL and director Charlie Ebersol (the son of Dick Ebersol, the NBC sports head who was a key to the league) asked McMahon whether he ever thought about bringing back the league.
“Yes, I do,” McMahon said. “I don’t know what it would be. I don’t know if it’s going to be another XFL or what it may be, or how different I would make it. It seems like, in some way, it would tie in either with the NFL itself or the owners.”