Exactly two years ago on February 8th, 2020, the XFL officially launched their 2020 campaign. It was an exciting time for spring football fans, and marked the beginning of a new era. The league had been resurrected by Vince McMahon, who was also in charge of the first iteration back in 2001.
With a brand new team of leaders and executives, the league was poised to make major waves in the world of sports entertainment. For several weeks, they did just that. Unfortunately, we all know what happened in March; when the COVID-19 pandemic swept the country by storm, shutting everything down.
That being said, the XFL’s 2020 kickoff was a glorious day, and is one of spring football’s best moments to date. Let’s take a look back, shall we?
Good morning. pic.twitter.com/uz7SnKZOX6
— XFL (@XFL2023) February 8, 2020
Seattle Dragons vs. DC Defenders – Inaugural Game
Things got underway with the Seattle Dragons taking a trip to the country’s capital, to face off against the DC Defenders. The excitement in the air was hard to contain, as fans in DC were thrilled to have an XFL team in their city. Without a doubt, the league did an impressive job getting fans to back the new teams, and that was evident on opening day.
ESPN’s broadcast opened up with Steve Levy on the call, and he did not disappoint. The energy in the building was unmatched, as over 17,000 people filled Audi Field in support of the new franchise. Once the game began, we were instantly treated to an XFL classic.
While DC was the favorite by a small margin, the Dragons held their own, and made it an exciting matchup throughout the opening half. One of the most electrifying moments came in the early third quarter, when Defenders HC Pep Hamilton called a trick play resulting in a touchdown, sending the crowd into a frenzy.
The DC Defenders with the trick play and TD 👀🔥
— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) February 8, 2020
As the game continued, the Defenders were able to maintain their lead, and eventually won the first ever XFL 2.0 game, 31-19. Generally speaking, the product on the field was entertaining, while the new rules and innovations worked well.
The @xfl2020 on ESPN/ABC is off to a strong start! pic.twitter.com/ZjAzmTLmz9
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) February 10, 2020
As expected, the season debut was a hit, racking up over three million viewers on ESPN and ABC broadcasts. The full game can be viewed here:
Houston Roughnecks vs. Los Angeles Wildcats
For the second game of the day, viewers were introduced to the incredible PJ Walker, who took the league by storm. The Houston Roughnecks hosted the Los Angeles Wildcats on a beautiful Saturday evening, eventually coming away victorious which set off a winning streak that was never broken.
After a relatively competitive opening half of football, the Roughnecks dominated the third and fourth quarter, led by Walker’s sensational playmaking abilities. His savvy for finding the open man down field was a rare gift, and made him one of the elite athletes in the league.
Highlight MACHINE @pjwalker_5 😎
Absolute dime pass to @Samxmobley to take the lead!pic.twitter.com/Bzw5gLO9ys
— Houston Roughnecks (@XFLRoughnecks) February 8, 2020
The Wildcats were missing their starting QB, Josh Johnson, due to an injury. Sadly, the league shut down before these two teams faced off again, so we never got to see Johnson and Walker duel. However, the full week one game can be viewed here:
Generally speaking, the XFL 2.0 had a phenomenal opening week, and garnered quite a bit of attention. With games broadcasted on both ESPN and FOX, the league was able to bring their product to the homes of millions across the country.
Had the XFL been able to continue their 2020 season, odds are the success would have only increased as the Championship game approached. Sadly, we will never know what could have happened during the rest of the season.
At the end of the day, we are thankful for the entertainment the XFL provided us in 2020, and look forward to what the league’s new ownership will produce in 2023. Without a doubt, February 8th, 2020 will always be known as one of the most exciting days in spring football history.
Did you watch the XFL on opening day back in 2020? Do you think the league can make a legitimate return in 2023? Let us know down in the comments below, or join the conversation on Discord!