In 2001, WWE owner Vince McMahon captured the attention of the sports world with the launch of an American Football league unlike any other: The XFL.
McMahon had big plans for the sport at the time, which was pitched as a no-holds-barred version of America’s favourite pastime, full of big tackles, belly laughs and beautiful women.
Dubbing it the “Xtra Fun League”, the WWE owner was intent on creating a version of the the game that did away with many of the rules and regulations that some fans felt stifled the enjoyment of the NFL.
Teams were given names like Orlando Rage and Los Angeles Xtreme, players even had official nicknames Rod “He Hate Me” Smart and games started with something called a “human coin toss”- one player from both sides essentially wrestling for control of the football from the off – something ultimately scrapped after one too many injuries.
But away from the bone-crunching tackles and extreme play that defined the game, arguably the league’s most extreme element came with the cheerleaders that accompanied each and every match.
Essentially circumventing the rules that governed their appearance in the NFL, the XFL featured cheerleaders in some of the most revealing outfits you are ever likely to see on a football field.
And it wasn’t just their pitch-side antics that courted controversy.
Ahead of the launch of the XFL, NBC aired a commercial focusing primarily on the game’s cheerleaders.
Except, rather than feature some of the real-life cheerleaders that appeared in the XFL, Playboy models like Penelope Jimenez and Karen McDougal were enlisted for a series of controversial clips that many in the media deemed too risqué for broadcast, and you can see why.
Arguably the most famous of these featured some of the XFL cheerleaders taking a shower in the locker room with the director utilising artfully placed objects to ensure the ad passed censorship rules.
It didn’t matter much: after just a few days the ads were withdrawn.
The game’s scantily clad cheerleaders remained in place for the majority of the XFL’s one and only season in existence, even featuring in a bizarre half-time skit during the game between Orlando Rage and the Las Vegas Outlaws, which featured plenty in the way of suggestive imagery.
Ultimately, XFL’s problems went far beyond the cheerleaders though and after one year and a loss of some $70 million it was scrapped and consigned to the realm of history – or so McMahon would have hoped.
Broadcast in February 2017, a new documentary from ESPN’s superb 30 For 30 anthology series is lifting the lid on that single season of XFL madness.
And you can bet for damn sure those cheerleaders are going to feature.
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Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.