March 10, 2001
The season may be far from over, but the outlook for Vince McMahon’s XFL looks bleak at best.
Ratings continue to plummet, and despite announcing staff switches and weekly modifications, the bottom line is that the dropping numbers threaten the future of McMahon’s fledgling football league.
NBC Sports President Ken Schanzer last week refused to speculate about the league’s future. Officials have said in the past that NBC is committed to airing the XFL in prime time for the duration of its two-year contract. McMahon downplayed the doom and gloom forecast for the XFL in an interview published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“I think predictions of our demise are way premature,” McMahon said. “It’s kind of like Mark Twain said: Rumors of our death are greatly exaggerated. We’re in this for the long haul. Look how long it took the NFL to get up and running. I am in the brand-building business. From that standpoint, I understand it takes awhile to build a brand, and I have to take a long- term view of it.”
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]It has been speculated that NBC believes the league’s only chance at a fresh start next season is by distancing itself from pro wrestling and the stigma attached to it. Jim Ross was dropped from the XFL’s “A” team announcing crew last week in favor of Matt Vasgersian, who will rejoin Jesse Ventura and Mike Adamle. Ross will team with Dick Butkus, who recently replaced Jerry Lawler, to do NBC’s backup game.
McMahon made it clear he wants the XFL to have a separate identity from the WWF.
“Having J.R. there, with the black hat on just having come in from Monday Night Raw, gives the feel this is the WWF playing football, and that’s not the concept we want to promote,” said McMahon. “We’ve said it over and over that this is about the football and, sooner or later, I think people will realize we mean that – and that we’re right.”
The New York Post reported last week that Linda McMahon’s comments at a media investment conference were less than optimistic.
“I think we have to evaluate the viability of the product in the marketplace,” she said. “It takes time to build a brand. It takes time to build player awareness. It takes time to develop the stars.”