When he was a professional wrestler, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson was known for always being able to get up off the mat. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that his football league has the same ability to make a triumphant comeback.
It’s been ‘Take Three’ for the XFL in 2023, as the alternative football organization has started, stopped, started, stopped again, and then re-started. All in the stretch of about 20 years or so. Even though the whole story has become a trilogy now, the plot remains the same: Will people watch football that isn’t draped with the NFL logo?
For now, the answer to that question appears to be a resounding ‘no’. Especially when you compare the viewership numbers to the last time the league tried to return to action.
Back when The Rock’s old boss, Vince McMahon, still owned the XFL, they were experiencing a resurgence until they were deflated by disease. The COVID-19 outbreak forced the league to suspend operations, with McMahon eventually cutting his losses. Johnson, along with partners RedBird Capital and ex-wife Dany Garcia, purchased the dormant XFL in August 2020 for $15 Million.
The first game of the 2023 season between Vegas and Arlington on ABC had 1.54 million viewers. In comparison, the first game in February 2020 (also on ABC) had 3.3 million viewers. That’s a 54-percent drop.
The other ABC game, the St. Louis Battlehawks at the San Antonio Brahmas, averaged 1.57 million viewers, a 54-percent drop from that same window of time in 2020.
The rough start has some critics already questioning the long-term viability of the XFL. But Rhodes of Black and White Sports believes the numbers aren’t too terrible saying, “I kind of think these ratings are sort of positive. Not as sharp a drop off as AEF or USFL from first to second week.”
Despite the fact that the Most Electrifying Man in Sports and Entertainment promised us all that the new XFL would be better than ever, it’s fallen on mostly deaf ears. He may have star power, but this collection of teams doesn’t.
And the fact that the teams don’t actually play in the local markets they represent isn’t helping the excitement level, either.
The eight-team XFL currently plays a 10-week regular season. The first championship of its new incarnation takes place on May 13 in San Antonio at The Alamodome.