Perhaps the XFL isn’t dead after all. Vince McMahon appeared to get things right with his second iteration of the pro football league. Yet, once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the XFL, along with the rest of the sports world, got put on pause. In fact, the XFL shut down entirely. But Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson may have just saved the league by pulling the ultimate $15 million power move.
The second iteration of the XFL provided plenty of excitement
Vince McMahon failed at his first attempt to break into the pro football business. The first version of the XFL lasted just one season before it went away for nearly 20 years. But the billionaire WWE chairman unleashed a second version of the NFL alternative earlier this year.
This time, the league did away with many of the distractions that took away from its legitimacy. Instead, new camera angles, alternative rules, and legitimate NFL prospects made the XFL worth watching. The league employed experienced coaches, including Pep Hamilton, Bob Stoops, and Jim Zorn.
The on-field product delivered plenty of excitement for football fans. Houston Roughnecks quarterback P.J. Walker turned out to be the XFL’s biggest star. The former Temple signal-caller threw for 1,338 yards and 15 touchdowns in just five games. His top target, Cam Phillips, caught 31 passes for 455 yards and a league-high nine touchdowns.
Several defensive stars emerged, too. New York Guardians defensive tackle Cavon Walker racked up 4.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits in just five games. Deatrick Nichols, who once played for the Arizona Cardinals, led the league with three interceptions.
Vince McMahon suspended league operations in April
Ultimately, the new and improved version of the XFL gave fans and the media plenty to talk about. The league generated serious buzz for its innovative TV presentation and rule changes. Yet, everything came to a crashing halt once COVID-19 became a worldwide issue.
Just five weeks into the season, the XFL announced that the season would come to a close due to the pandemic. On April 10, the league officially suspended operations and laid off nearly all of its employees.
Of course, one of those employees happened to be Oliver Luck. Andrew Luck’s father joined the XFL to serve as the league’s commissioner. The former NFL QB even filed a lawsuit against McMahon for wrongful termination about two weeks after receiving his walking papers.
Things only got worse when the XFL filed for bankruptcy just days after shutting down operations. With the company for sale, it seemed as though the XFL would fade away as another failed football league.
The Rock just pulled the ultimate $15 million power move to save the XFL
The Rock may not have achieved his dream of playing in the NFL, but he certainly has done well for himself as a WWE superstar, actor, and investor. The star of the Ballers series just pulled the ultimate power move to save the XFL and perhaps launch a new direction for a league that clearly has plenty of potential.
On Monday, Sportico reported that The Rock, along with RedBird Capital, purchased the XFL for $15 million just before it went up for auction. His ex-wife and business partner, Dany Garcia, will be an equal stakeholder with the former WWE star turned actor.
“I could not imagine a better outcome for the XFL. Dany, Dwayne and Gerry are the best possible ownership group for the exciting journey ahead, said XFL President Jeffrey Pollack, who oversaw the sale process for the league. “Their collective track-record of success in entertainment, sports and media is stellar, and I think our fans, players, coaches, and partners are in for something special.”
With The Rock on board, the XFL has a legitimate shot at becoming a successful NFL alternative in the future. His experience with WWE and the entertainment industry should help make the TV product even more exciting. Perhaps he could use his connections to bring in exciting on-air talent to make broadcasts must-watch television.
Plus, The Rock’s dynamic personality makes him a much more likable presence than McMahon or Roger Goodell could ever dream to be. If he can build off the positive improvements the XFL showed earlier this spring, the league could eventually become a staple in the pro sports industry.
Nobody knows exactly what The Rock is cooking behind closed doors, but if his success in other business ventures continues with his foray into pro football, he will shine as the face of the XFL.