The XFL kicked off with a bang when it made its grand debut in 2001 but eventually went out with a whimper a few months later when Vince McMahon announced its inaugural season would also be its only one after the failed venture cost him and the company formerly known as the WWF a whopping $35 million.
After having 17 years to reflect upon what went wrong, McMahon announced his plans to bring the league back from the dead a couple of years ago, and after managing to generate a fair amount of hype, it filled the football-shaped void in our hearts when it officially rebooted a week after this year’s Super Bowl.
The reincarnated XFL managed to get off to a pretty solid start, as fans seemed to dig its retooled kickoff and other innovations, like having reporters on the sideline for in-game interviews and supplying teams with ample amounts of hard seltzer they could shotgun to celebrate a win.
Prior to the start of the season, it was revealed McMahon was prepared to invest $375 million to keep the XFL up and running for at least three years in the hopes of eventually recouping his investment in the form of a broadcast deal, so it appeared the league was in a pretty good position to not implode as early as it did the first time around (which isn’t really saying much).
However, things managed to fall apart even quicker than they did the first time courtesy of the situation that forced the XFL to join basically every other athletic organization by canceling its season. Soon after, reports began to circulate that there were no plans to give it another go in 2021, which seemed to be confirmed when it filed for bankruptcy last month.
So that’s that, right?
*Lee Corso voice*
Not so fast, my friend!
On Tuesday, The Athletic reported the decision to go down the Chapter 11 route seems to be part of a bigger strategy, as the outlet spoke with sources that said XFL president Jeffrey Pollack has contacted multiple venues that hosted games this year about renewing their lease and that McMahon may be using bankruptcy as a ploy to avoid paying operating expenses as he angles for a potential reprisal.
More evidence emerged in the form of court documents filed by creditors who are attempting to recoup as much money as they can who criticized the XFL for continuing to pay some high-ranking employees and not closing its headquarters. They also took issue with McMahon attempting to use $3.5 million to refund ticketholders, calling it an “unnecessary expenditure” and suggesting he’s trying to keep fans happy so he can rebuy his own league at a “fire-sale price” and resurrect it yet again.
A spokesperson for the league declined to confirm or deny any of these rumors, saying that the XFL would outline its plans in a court filing of its own that will address the aforementioned accusations lobbed its way.
You do have to wonder if the XFL would be greeted with the same enthusiasm it saw this year if it does ultimately come back, as even though attendance numbers rose as the season progressed, television ratings were on a steady decline before it was forced to close up shop.
I guess only time will tell.