Three days before Super Bowl LI, ESPN Films will premiere the 30 for 30 documentary “This Was the XFL,” directed by Charlie Ebersol, chronicling the short-lived, ill-fated pro football league. The documentary, airing on February 2 at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN, tells the story in fascinating, candid, and often rollicking fashion featuring fellow television legends and close friends – Dick Ebersol and Vince McMahon.
A bold challenge, a fearless experiment and ultimately, a spectacular failure. In 2001, sports entertainment titans Ebersol and McMahon launched the XFL. It was hardly the first time a league had tried to compete with the NFL, but the brash audacity of the bid, combined with the personalities and charisma of Ebersol and McMahon and the marketing behemoths of their respective companies — NBC and WWE — captured headlines and a sense of undeniable anticipation about what was to come.
Bringing together a cast of characters ranging from the boardrooms of General Electric to the practice fields of Las Vegas, “This Was the XFL” is the tale of — yes — all that went wrong, but also, how the XFL ended up influencing the way professional team sports are broadcast today. And at the center of it all – a decades long friendship between one of the most significant television executives in media history and the one-of-a-kind WWE impresario. This film will explore how Ebersol and McMahon brought the XFL to life, and why they had to let it go.