Retired professional wrestler, highest paid actor in Hollywood, tequila maker, game show host, author, and producer.
Just when you thought Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson couldn’t add another title to his impressive resume, the megastar added professional football league co-owner to the list.
Yesterday morning, the 48 year old announced that he, along with his business partners Dany Garcia, and Gerry Cardinale of RedBird Capital, purchased the XFL and its assets, for $15 million from Owner Vince McMahon, and his company Alpha Entertainment.
According to TMZ, Johnson, along with his ex-wife Garcia, and RedBird Capital, will reportedly be 50/50 partners in the deal.
No plans have been announced as to when the XFL under this new regime, would look to start.
This latest rebirth however, would be the third the league has experienced in its short and ill-fated history, as it folded one season after their initial launch in 2001, and then saw their 2020 relaunch cut short after five weeks due to Covid-19.
The cancelation of the eight team league due to the virus wasn’t as clean as sports leagues like the National Basketball Association (NBA) or National Hockey League (NHL). Not only did the XFL not attempt a comeback in a centralized bubble location like their counterparts, but the league fired the majority of their employees, and then file for bankruptcy shortly thereafter on April 11. The result of which, has seen former XFL Commissioner Oliver Luck, and several other employees, sue McMahon for unpaid income.
All of the negative history aside, if this new deal which is expected to be resolved by the end of August goes through, this represents a huge opportunity for both the XFL, and Johnson as well
From a football perspective, Johnson gets it. Prior to ever stepping foot on a movie set, or in a WWE ring, the man who made eyebrows famous, played for the Miami Hurricanes from 1990 to 1994, helping them win a National Championship in 1991.
The Rock, even had a cup of coffee in the pro ranks, as he signed with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League (CFL) in 1995.
On screen, Johnson, has stared in football movies The Game Plan, and Gridiron Gang.
Speaking of the screen, the scenario that exists here, is playing out almost exactly like the storyline of his former hit HBO show Ballers, where Johnson’s character Spencer Strasmore, a former National Football League player, buys an NFL team. Perhaps, this could be Johnson’s endgame here as well.
Off the screen, for Johnson, the purchase will allow him to enrich his legacy, as along with rapper, actor, and filmmaker Ice Cube, Johnson, will become one of the only minority co-owners of a professional sports league in North America.
For the XFL, its players, coaches, fans, and potential sponsors, this proposed deal is electrifying (sorry, I had to) to say the least.
Getting arguably the world’s biggest star to promote you and your brand is one thing, but having that person pump in their own money, connections, and power behind you, is completely another, especially when that person seems to have the Midas touch.
From a television and marketing perspective, this looks like a win as well. The XFL, which broadcast their games on both ESPN and FOX among others, this season, averaged over 1.5 million viewers, including 3.1 their first week, according to Forbes. While the numbers did decline during their five week run from February 8 to March 8, they still compared favorably to the NHL, and college basketball during the same period.
All of those numbers were done under the watch of McMahon, who despite being the Chairman and CEO of the WWE, isn’t as popular, influential, and doesn’t have as much reach as The Rock. The irony of the situation is comical, considering who used to work for who. More importantly, McMahon has proven through of his two failed XFL experiments, that he is just a wrestling guy, who should stick to what he knows best.
With the current return to sports boom that is taking place amid the coronavirus, now could actually be the perfect time for this potential rebirth of the XFL to take shape.
While nothing is perfect, it is really hard to see how this wouldn’t work out for everyone involved. Besides having this third rise from the ashes fail due to a second wave of the virus, or some other unforeseen event, the only possible negative that can come out of this for both sides, is if football fans who have grown weary of seeing alternatives to the NFL fall flat, refuse to give the XFL another chance. Keep in mind this is football. As long as it is watchable, chances are people will watch.
While marquee names of yesteryear like He Hate Me, and Tommy Maddox are long gone, and stars from this season in Jordan Ta’amu, P.J Walker, and Cam Phillips, have found NFL homes, the smart bet however, would be to smell what The Rock is cooking (Ok, I’ll stop), and roll with him, and a league that despite its checkered past, has developed some quality players, and now has the backing of a giant in the entertainment industry behind them, it feels like third time might be the charm for the XFL.
From Under Armour, to the Fast & The Furious franchise, to reality TV, as I said before, whatever The Rock touches, seemingly turns into gold. Owning a sports league is the latest and newest venture for Dwayne Johnson. For the XFL, having a megastar Owner who has a football background and knowledge of how the pieces work, is a first time experience for them too. What is there not to like?