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'I will create something special': Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson saves bankrupt NFL rival the XFL in $15mn deal 'for love of football'

'I will create something special': Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson saves bankrupt NFL rival the XFL in $15mn deal 'for love of football'
American superstar The Rock says he has returned to his roots as a budding NFL pro by leading a bid to buy troubled American football league the XFL, which suspended operations with more than $50 million of debt earlier this year.

Wrestling overlord Vince McMahon's Xtreme Football League had planned to divide eight teams between two divisions in a winter and spring season before being halted during its debut campaign as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the US in April.

Shortly afterwards, the league laid off the vast majority of its employees and declared bankruptcy in a financial disaster that listed more than 1,000 creditors under its stunning liabilities.

Now Johnson has stepped in to save the league six months after its doomed start, joined by ex-wife Dany Garcia and investment boss Gerry Cardinale in a move that he says has been motivated by his "passion for the game" and "desire to always take care of the fans."

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"With pride and gratitude for all that I’ve built with my own two hands, I plan to apply these callouses to the XFL," he explained in an unusual description of the hands-on approach he could take.

"[I] look forward to creating something special for the players, fans and everyone involved for the love of football.”

Johnson was a promising college footballer for the University of Miami, winning national championship in 1991 but failing to earn a deal in the NFL Draft four years later.

He subsequently signed with the Calgary Stampeders, of the Canadian Football League, turning to the wrestling career he became best known for after suffering a mid-season cut from the team.

XFL president and chief operating officer Jeffrey Pollack spoke of his gratitude for the deal.

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“This is a Hollywood ending to our sale process and an exciting new chapter for the league," he said.

"Dwayne, Dany and Gerry are a dream team ownership group and the XFL is in the best possible hands going forward.”

The condensed league played a single season as a joint venture between the WWE – then the WWF – and NBC in 2001 before again going bankrupt.

A scheduled sale auction has been cancelled ahead of the expected closure of the high-profile deal later this month.

Johnson, who is thought to be worth around $320 million, made no mention of the deal to his following of more than 192 million on Instagram, although he did confirm that his action comedy thriller on Netflix, 'Red Notice', is about to resume filming.

"Back to work we go," he said in a typically motivational speech. "Disciplined, cautious, optimistic.

"I’m confident in our safety strategy and execution but we’ll also be fluid and amenable to best practice changes on the fly.

"Stay healthy and stay disciplined, my friends, as you all get back to work."

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