Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson XFL, Vince McMahon WWE

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Former WWE star and actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson is part of a group of investors that has agreed to buy the XFL for around $21 million.

The XFL initially gained attention in 2001 when owner, wrestling mogul Vince McMahon, promised to bring American football fans an alternative competition with a WWE flavour and modified rules that was supposed to be more entertaining than the NFL, to be played during the off-season.

After a huge media campaign, the product fizzled out with fans less than impressed by the talent on show and the sports entertainment gimmicks adopted by the production. McMahon was forced to shut down the competition after a single season admitting it was a “colossal failure”.

But McMahon still had aspirations to capitalise on the down time after the NFL season, convinced there was space in the marketplace for a successful alternative professional football league in the US.

So the chairman and CEO of WWE decided to throw $200 million into the league’s second coming, and this time promised to “re-imagine” the game.

However, after five weeks of competition, play was suspended due to COVID-19 with all players and employees from eight teams cut, as the league filed for bankruptcy protection on April 13.

The level of talent involved the second time around was of better quality and TV ratings early on were decent.

XFL games averaged 1.9 million television viewers per game and generated nearly $28.5 million in gross revenue in 2020, according to reports.

The competition had been for sale the past three months and was pitched as a made-for-TV product that could be conducive to a bubble concept during the coronavirus pandemic because of its size.

With a net worth in the billions, McMahon said he was willing to lose $525 million on the XFL when it started its resurgence.

He considered bidding on the XFL himself early in the bankruptcy process but then pulled out.

Johnson and his fellow investors are planning to play next season according to ESPN.

In a statement, Johnson, who played football at the University of Miami from 1990 to 1994, said he wants to bring something special to fans.

“The acquisition of the XFL with my talented partners, Dany Garcia and 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.

“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.”

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