Wrestling alongside strongmen with statuesque bodies and dandies with bleached hair, the hirsute Steele was hard to miss. Bald, hunched slightly over and with that tongue sticking out (stained green thanks to a handful of breath mints), there was no wrestler in any of the territories that resembled him. And by the early-1980s, with Vince McMahon's WWE (previously known as the WWF) redefining wrestling and calling it "sports entertainment," characters like Steele, who were perfect for nationwide television audiences, were in demand. Crowds would wait in anticipation for Steele to undo the turnbuckle and send the stuffing flying out everywhere as if he was actually eating it.
On April 29, 1999, the WWF made its return to terrestrial television , airing a special program known as SmackDown! on the fledgling UPN network. The Thursday night show became a weekly series on August 26, 1999—competing directly with WCW's Thursday night program Thunder on TBS . In 2000, the WWF, in collaboration with television network NBC , announced the creation of the XFL , a new professional football league that debuted in 2001.  The league had high ratings for the first few weeks, but initial interest waned and its ratings plunged to dismally low levels (one of its games was the lowest-rated prime-time show in the history of American television). NBC walked out on the venture after only one season, but McMahon intended to continue alone. However, after being unable to reach a deal with UPN, McMahon shut down the XFL.