XFL gets Hollywood ending as Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson buys upstart league

XFL gets Hollywood ending as Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson buys upstart league

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s is set to add the title of professional sports league owner to his entertainment résumé.

The former WWE star turned actor has agreed to purchase the XFL for approximately $15m, alongside his ex-wife Dany Garcia and private investment firm RedBird Capital Partners. The professional American football league, which was conceived as a spring competitor to the NFL, filed for bankruptcy in April as the Covid-19 pandemic hit its finances. The league, the brainchild of WWE chairman Vince McMahon, was in its second iteration and teams had only played a few games before the competition was shut down, leaving players and coaches out of work.

Johnson is no stranger to football: he played for the University of Miami between 1990 and 1994 before competing briefly in the Canadian Football League. He then found worldwide fame as a professional wrestler after his football career ended.

“The acquisition of the XFL with my talented partners, Dany Garcia and [RedBird CEO] Gerry Cardinale, is an investment for me that’s rooted deeply in two things – my passion for the game and my desire to always take care of the fans,” said Johnson in a statement on Monday. “With pride and gratitude for all that I’ve built with my own two hands, I plan to apply these callouses to the XFL, and look forward to creating something special for the players, fans, and everyone involved for the love of football.”

XFL president Jeffrey Pollack called the Johnson and his partners “a dream team ownership group and the XFL is in the best possible hands going forward”. He added that the XFL’s story had got “a Hollywood ending”.

The XFL lasted one season in its first incarnation in 2001, before McMahon invested $200m in restarting it this year. However, when Covid-19 shut down professional sports earlier this year it was unable to survive. The league drew an audience of 3 million in its first week but ratings fell thereafter.

The new ownership group did not say when they would restart the league but ESPN reported the XFL could play in an isolation bubble similar to that of the NBA as early as next year.