Action hero Dwayne Johnson snatched the XFL out of bankruptcy court during Covid. And now the relaunched spring league is hosting its first championship game.
The Rock is here for it all. It’s why he’s using his massive star power to help promote Saturday’s title game between the D.C. Defenders and Arlington Renegades. Johnson did an appearance on ESPN’s First Take Friday morning to talk about it all.
“Feeling great, feeling positive, feeling bullish about our season of the XFL,” Dwayne Johnson told ESPN. “There was a lot of great take away (from it). We learned a lot, I think we did some really nice things for the audience. And I think the players delivered on every level, No. 1 being the quality of play and their intention and intensity. The players really galvanized (in their) understanding and embracing what this is in the XFL … We wanted to create a league of opportunity. I’m feeling really good.”
As title game approaches, Dwayne Johnson says he’s in XFL for the long run
First, let’s give you some details about Saturday’s title game at the Alamodome in San Antonio. You’ve got the upstart Renegades coached by former Oklahoma Sooner head coach Bob Stoops. He directed the Renegades back in 2020, when the XFL tried to make a comeback. But Covid closed the league. Arlington finished at 4-6. However, the Renegades upset the South-division leading Houston Roughnecks, directed by former Dallas Cowboys coach Wade Phillips, in last week’s semifinals.
Luis Perez, the 2017 Harlan Hill winner as the best player in NCAA Division II, quarterbacked the Renegades to the 26-11 upset of the Roughnecks.
And the favorite to win it all are the D.C. Defenders. They beat the Seattle Sea Dragons, 37-31, to earn a spot in the title game. Will their fun-loving fans bring the infamous Beer Snake with them to the Alamodome? It definitely was part of the XFL charm. Former Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’Amu leads the Defenders offense. And Abram Smith, the former Baylor standout, was the XFL’s top rusher.
Dwayne Johnson and Dani Garcia, a co-owner and his business partner, admitted that the XFL did some things really well this season. There are other issues to improve. The pros? Games were quick, lasting an average of 2 hours and 49 minutes. That’s 12 minutes shorter than a typical NFL game. And speaking of the NFL, at least 54 XFL players signed free-agent deals with the big leagues.
One league negative — attendance lagged behind 2020 numbers
But attendance lagged behind the abbreviated 2020 season. St. Louis drew incredible numbers. The city last had an NFL franchise to cheer for in 2015. But the newest teams failed to average 9,000 fans a game.
“We’ve been doing business for quite some time, Dany and I, starting in the late ’90s,” Johnson told ESPN in an interview earlier this week. “We went into this XFL season determined and committed to playing the long game. So as the numbers were coming in, they were what we expected.
“We didn’t expect to blow the roof off the place with incredible numbers. You want to see steady growth, you want to get feedback from the fans and the audience, you want to see how the game plays on TV and then play the long game.”