This past week The Two Man Power Trip of Wrestling welcomed the Director of ESPN's 30 for 30: This Was The XFL as Charlie Ebersol joined the show. No stranger to the world of pro wrestling, Charlie's father legendary television executive, Dick Ebersol alongside his close friend Vince McMahon helped create the phenomenon that was Saturday Night's Main Event on NBC in 1985. In addition to that creative genesis, Charlie takes us deep into the execution of the "smash-mouth" football league as the one year of action on the field led to a lifetime of "arm-chair" quarterbacking by it's detractors and biggest critics. The full episode (including a TMPT Extra with Tony Atlas) can be downloaded at this link.
"ESPN and I had been talking for years about how to do a documentary about my Dad or something around sports given what I had grown up around with my father running NBC Sports and when they came to me and said what about the XFL? I jumped at it for two reasons. One, I desperately wanted to make a film about my father and Vince McMahon's relationship because I knew no one else could or would and two is the XFL is the only time I really saw my Dad and Vince for that matter really fail. I thought that they were so incredible in the face of sort of all the adversity around the XFL and also how their relationship survived what was a very public failure. It was great fodder for a film and I really, really wanted to show a different side of Vince. I am exhausted fighting people who have sort of the wrong impression about him and I thought a film would be a great opportunity to bring it to life."
Was Vince McMahon a football fan prior to the XFL:
"I've always wondered when it was that he had time to watch football but Vince is a huge football fan. Before the XFL he tried to buy the Canadian Football League. He has always been and I remember him being a football fan when I was really young. When my Dad and Vince formed Saturday Night's Main Event I was four and I grew up around and you will appreciate this maybe more than anyone else who has interviewed me but when I grew up, Hulk Hogan was my childhood babysitter once a month. At a Saturday Night's Main Event he'd be the last match so I'd be in his dressing room for most of the night."
The XFL's concept mirroring that of the original concept for Saturday Night's Main Event:
"To your point (earlier) about how Saturday Night's Main Event changed professional wrestling, the XFL did the same. There is actually a really clean parallel which I tried to draw in the film between the two projects. With Saturday Night's Main Event my Dad came in and Vince said to him what can we do to a television broadcast that can really change this? My Dad brought all the camera angles and all of the stuff that really is part and parcel on Raw and certainly what WCW stole when it came along it was largely my father's production techniques. When Vince formed the XFL and my Dad and him did the deal for NBC to broadcast then my father did the same thing with his team and that this was an opportunity to create a league for the television fan, which Vince felt was very important to the XFL and he gave NBC incredible leeway and in doing so they created the "sky-cam" (which is now in every football game), the steadicam's on the field, mic'ing the players, interviewing coaches during games. All of those things were invented for the XFL."
Interviewing Vince for the project:
"I've known Vince since I was four years old and we go years without seeing each other and I'll figure out a way to get over to Stamford or get to a RAW so I can hang out with him a little bit but it is a very different experience interviewing him. The challenge with an interview is that you have to press him so he'll go to the places you want him to go and I've never been in a position where I've been pressing my father or Vince McMahon very much at all. It was a very nerve-wracking day. I interviewed my father and the very next day did Vince and that night we did the dinner, so in 48 hours I did both of them and the dinner and it was an extraordinarily anxiety filled day but here is the thing about Vince. He is brutally honest and he's not really afraid to talk about anything. On some level I felt a certain degree of responsibility to maintain a level of decorum in asking the questions and not going off on tangents because God knows there was about 800,000 things I wanted to ask him about. But I wanted to make a film about a specific thing so I got through my questions I was asking him and had an additional fifth-teen others since we had a little bit more time."
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