The Rock’s Influence Reaches Far Beyond XFL Ownership

Gabe Zaldivar

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson continued his path toward world domination on Monday. Sportico reports the wrestling icon, Hollywood superstar, tequila purveyor and beacon of inspiration will add XFL owner to his list of accolades.

Johnson, along with business partner and ex-wife Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital, purchased a bankrupt XFL for $15 million.

According to the report, the sale is subject to a court hearing but could be settled and closed by Aug. 21, giving new life to a league that was ultimately shuttered after a short-lived resurrection of the brand in 2020.

“I could not imagine a better outcome for the XFL. Dany, Dwayne and Gerry (Cardinale) are the best possible ownership group for the exciting journey ahead,” XFL President Jeffrey Pollack told Sportico. Pollack was reportedly the lead in the sale of 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.”

The XFL has been an embattled brand since its first inception back in 2001 when it tried to blend WWE aesthetics with professional football delivery. The experiment lasted one season.

A seemingly more nuanced relaunch took place this year, two years after it was first announced. The XFL, according to Sportico, garnered 3 million viewers in its first week back but never gained a consistent footing and couldn’t withstand the ultimate death knell that was a global pandemic shutdown five weeks into the season.

Johnson now brings a splash of much-needed color to the sports front-office landscape. 

A 2019 study found that there were just 16 women and minority team owners across the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB and MLS. This is, however, prior to the NHL’s Coyotes welcoming a Latino owner, Alex Merulo, and the sport’s first Latino CEO, Xavier Gutierrez.

There is a dearth of color at the top, and Johnson is showing that you don’t have to look a certain way to dominate one venture after another.

ESPN’s Kevin Seifert asked Johnson about the league and it seems like the 48-year-old will be more than just the face of the league.

“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,” Johnson said. “With pride and gratitude for all 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.”

Johnson’s ventures include the small-batch tequila label Teremana; Seven Bucks Productions, Seven Bucks Digital Studios (a digital media brand), and a clothing line with Under Armour.

And he’s built all of this from essentially nothing.

One of the classic Rock stories is when he recounts “the best thing that never happened.”

The Rock is looking out over Vancouver in the above video, recounting where he was on one of his darker days. He had just been cut by the Calgary Stampeders.

“Dreams shattered, sent home with seven bucks in my pocket,” Johnson said. “I was like, ‘Wait no, I gotta play in the NFL eventually. Those are my big goals. That's my dream.' You realize that playing in the NFL was the best thing that never happened because it got me here.”

From having all of $7 and a dead-end football career, Johnson went back home and worked tirelessly to learn the WWE ropes, carving out one of the more iconic personas of all-time.

Time and hard work have a way of making things come full circle. Because now the guy who wasn’t good enough to play in Canada just bought his very own football league.

Forget movies and tequila and sports, Johnson’s actually in the business of inspiration.