Listen up, brother! This blog is gonna be bigger and more epic than any wrestling match you’ve ever seen! It’ll take you on a wild journey through the XFL, where the biggest names in the game, like “Tater” and “He Hate Me”, have battled for dominance.

I’ve been in the ring with the greatest of all time, from Andre the Giant to Stone Cold Steve Austin, and today’s main man, The Rock. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his team have taken the football world by storm, brother, and in this blog, we’ll explore just how they did it. So get ready to rumble!

Hulk Hogan, probably

The Rock is bringing back the XFL. Why?

There are very few things more American than football and wrestling. True there are plenty of countries with participants across the world, but when you look back at what makes the US of A shine as a bright star in the sporting world, it’s hard to look past the likes of Troy Aikman and Hulk Hogan – NFL and WWE greats respectively. 

And while one sport may be a bit more “pre-planned” than the other, both hold the attention of the American public like nobody’s business. According to Statista, the 2023 Super Bowl, which is the annual championship game of the NFL, averaged an astounding 113 million viewers, while the average television viewership for a regular season NFL game in 2022 was estimated to be 16.7 million. Don’t forget about all that college football viewership, or the USFL, or even the Fan Controlled Football League… even more eyes on even more games. 

Though the NFL only plays 18 weeks plus playoffs, wrestling is a year-round venture with tons of competitions. Wrestling as a sport is on almost every night of the week on one channel or another, averaging anywhere from 40,000 to 2.45M viewers. Being totally candid here, there’s a crap-ton of wrestling on all the time, and it seems like people watch the hell out of it no matter what.

So how does this all connect? Our coverage will include a look at what the XFL is, the involvement of WWE stars, the distinguishing features that set XFL apart from the NFL, as well as the takeaways from this XFL experiment.

And honestly, there are a lot of people who like watching man-on-man violence in America.

What is the XFL?

Before anything, there was the idea for a competitor to the NFL dreamed up by none other than Vince McMahon and Alpha Entertainment. The chairman and CEO of WWE, McMahon founded the XFL, a professional football league to compete with the NFL, in 1999.

He had the vision to create a league that was faster, more exciting, and more interactive than the NFL, changing up the rules to get a more interesting product on the field. It was basically NFL Blitz the video game, but in real life. Some of the original rule changes included: 

  • There were no coin tosses or kickoffs to start the game, instead, there was a “scramble” in which a player from each team would try to grab a ball at midfield to determine starting possession
  • Fair catches didn’t exist, so returners were regularly demolished as they caught punts
  • Extra points were out the window, too, a rule that persists into today’s XFL
  • Players could put any name they wanted on the back of their jersey, leading to some of the most colorful play-by-play announcing you could imagine – this is where the names He Hate Me and Tater come from

Unsurprisingly, this new-look league generated a lot of buzz thanks to its innovations. The XFL then was initially launched in full with a partnership with NBC in 2001 as an eight-team league playing across ten weeks. Despite an initial strong start, the league struggled to maintain viewership through even the first season and was eventually shut down after just one year. Regardless of the failure of the original incarnation of the XFL, McMahon’s willingness to take risks and listen to the fans has made him a respected figure in the world of sports entertainment.

(NOTE: You may think the X in XFL has deeper meaning. It doesn’t. It’s quite literally just the letter X.) 

How Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson Got Involved In The XFL

To make a super long story about the league short, in 2020, former WWE superstar Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and his business partners purchased the XFL for $15 million – and with him came a litany of changes aimed at modernizing and refreshing the XFL brand. Despite a hiccup of a start in 2020 which was completely derailed due to the pandemic, the 2023 season is on track to be completed (as of publication).

The Rock’s influence in the entertainment industry has played a significant role in the XFL’s early success, with his massive social media following (over 250 million followers across all platforms) helping spread the word better than any marketing campaign. Surpassing his former boss, The Rock’s influence has helped to generate buzz around the league, attract attention from mainstream media outlets, and even garnering partnerships with ESPN.

Another significant change that The Rock has made to the XFL is to the league’s business model. The XFL is now owned by a group of investors (The Rock & Co), rather than a single owner (Vince McMahon). This has allowed the league to spread the risk and create a more sustainable business model. The XFL has also secured partnerships with major brands, such as Bud Light and FanDuel, which have helped to generate revenue for the league.

How The Rock is positioning XFL as a lifestyle brand and changing rules

One of the key changes that The Rock has made to the XFL is the league’s focus on creating a culture throughout the league. Essentially, the XFL is not just a football league; ownership views it as a lifestyle brand. The XFL’s focus on culture has helped to create a sense of community around the league and attract fans who are passionate about the game and its culture. 

The XFL has also made changes to its game format to make it more exciting for fans above and beyond what McMahon used. The league has introduced new rules, such as the double forward pass, which allows teams to throw two forward passes on the same play, all with the idea of making the game more exciting and engaging for fans. Instant replay is run through a centralized hub which is televised, providing viewers unprecedented access to the league’s inner workings.

The Rock’s involvement in the XFL has also helped to attract high-profile athletes to the league, including a laundry list of former NFL players like Josh Gordon, Ben DiNucci, and Martavis Bryant. Many of these players were drawn to The Rock’s star power and his reputation, expecting the league to be run in a professional and productive manner. 

How The XFL Is Modernizing Their Marketing Strategy

The XFL has revolutionized the marketing industry in various ways. One of the most significant impacts is the league’s innovative approach to fan engagement, using technology and social media to create an interactive experience for fans. The XFL was smart to adopt a strategy from the Fantasy Football playbook – their app enables fans to interact with the league in real-time by monitoring scores, keeping tabs on their favorite players, and engaging with other fans in the league.

Additionally, the league’s social media platform, “XFL Fan Zone,” enables fans to interact with one another and share league-related content as well. Partnering with major brands such as Bud Light, Gatorade, and Nike, the XFL has also created exclusive merchandise and promotional events for fans

The XFL is heavily prioritizing social media marketing

In case you live under a rock (get it?), you probably know about The Rock’s social media prowess. With over 200 million followers on Instagram alone, he is one of the most popular celebrities on the platform. His social media presence is known for being positive, inspiring, and entertaining as he shares personal stories, motivational messages, and behind-the-scenes glimpses of his life and work.

The Rock’s influence on social media extends beyond just entertainment, as he has also used his platform to promote important causes and charity work. With his authentic and relatable approach, The Rock has created a loyal fan base that eagerly follows his every move online.

The XFL’s social media presence is attempting to mirror that brand voice in its own unique way, and so far it has been a game-changer for the league’s success. With more than 1 million followers on Twitter and Instagram combined, and over 250,000 followers on Facebook, the XFL has created a significant online following.

The league’s overall social media strategy is focused on creating content that resonates with its target audience, which is primarily millennials and Generation Z football lovers looking to fill the early-spring football-less lull. This audience is known for its high levels of engagement on digital and social media, making them the perfect target for the XFL’s social media campaigns.

One of the key components of the XFL’s social media strategy is its emphasis on truly engaging content. The league has found success this year already in creating a buzz around its games by live streaming on social media platforms. This has allowed fans to watch the games in real-time, no matter where they are. Additionally, the XFL has created behind-the-scenes content that gives fans an inside look at the league and its players, like interviews during the game. This has helped to build a connection between fans and the league, and has created a sense of community around the XFL.

The XFL knows what social media looks like in the 2020s, prioritizing video and memes

The XFL’s engagement with younger audiences has not only been about creating digital content, but also about actively engaging with fans on social media. The league has made a conscious effort to respond to fan comments and messages in real-time, creating a sense of community and encouraging more interaction. Additionally, the XFL has utilized social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram to run interactive campaigns and contests, incentivizing fans to engage with the league and its content. 

These efforts have not gone unnoticed, as the XFL has seen a significant increase in social media followers and engagement since its relaunch in 2020. By prioritizing engagement with younger audiences, which in the 2020s means prioritizing videos and memes, the XFL has positioned itself as a dynamic and exciting league, attracting a new generation of sports fans who crave interactivity and digital content.

In addition to creating engaging digital content, the XFL has also partnered with major influencers and social media personalities to promote the league and its players. By leveraging the massive followings of these influencers, the XFL has been able to reach a wider audience and build a more loyal fan base. 

The XFL prioritizes safety, which is also a smart PR move

With talent limited and fans tiring of constant injuries, the public relations trump card of “player safety” is a key concern for the XFL, and the league has gone above and beyond. The XFL’s emphasis on player safety is not just a marketing gimmick, but a core value of the league itself. As we mentioned before, the league has implemented a number of new rules aimed at reducing the risk of head injuries and other serious injuries, such as the elimination of kickoffs and the adoption of new tackling techniques. These measures have not only helped to make the game safer for the players, but they have also improved the overall quality of the game – a PR move that caught everyone’s attention, including the NFL

The XFL’s focus on player safety has also resonated with fans in a really positive way. The commitment to the well-being of its players has helped to differentiate the league from other professional football leagues, especially the NFL. Fans appreciate the XFL’s efforts to make the game safer for its players, and this has helped to build a sense of trust and loyalty between the league and its fans.

Are the Rock’s changes to the XFL making it successful?

Everything is changing all the time, and the XFL is no different. We’re only a few weeks into the season and things could go belly-up or smoothly for any number of reasons – just ask 2020.

But according to recent TV ratings, the 2023 XFL season appears to be off to a promising start. The league’s opening weekend games saw an average of 1.8 million viewers tune in across the league’s three broadcast partners, Fox, ABC, and ESPN. This is a decent increase from the 2020 season, which averaged around 1.4 million viewers per game. But viewership has dropped every week, leading some to voice concern about the league’s immediate future.

The XFL has seen success in terms of their social media engagement strategies to generate fan interest. Though exact measurement is difficult from afar and without any official reporting, XFL-related hashtags trended on Twitter and Instagram and the league itself took positive reviews across the board. The XFL’s intentional focus on innovative gameplay and promoting player personalities are also contributing to the league’s growing appeal, as fans are drawn to the funky but recognizable games and unique rules, as well as the chance to see some up-and-coming football talent in action. 

So it kinda just depends who you ask. The XFL is definitely not an unmitigated failure, but it may not be competing with the NFL just yet. 

If you ask me? It depends on the game but it seems to be working. Fans are loud and engaged, the on-field action can sometimes leave a bit to be desired but most games are high scoring and have big play moments that rival any NFL game. 

If the NFL is a 10/10 on the scale I just made up, college football is probably an 9.0 and the XFL is around a 6.5. That doesn’t mean there isn’t room or time to improve, in fact I think setting the bar low in the first full comeback year is a good thing. 

Final Thoughts

Despite its initial failure, The Rock’s influence and massive social media following has the XFL is on track to become a sustainable business and a potential alternative to the NFL. Whether or not the changes made by The Rock and his team will be enough to make the XFL a viable competitor to the NFL remains to be seen, but it is clear that The Rock’s impact on the league has been significant.

For now, it seems that The Rock has a solid investment with a decent future. With his charm, business savvy, and passion for all-things entertainment, he took the XFL and breathed new life into it, much like his movie career after his first crack as the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns. (Remember that CGI nightmare??)

The league has gone through a transformation under his ownership, and the changes have attracted big-name players, generated buzz in the media, and created a strong sense of community among fans.

The Rock’s leadership has given it a second (third?) chance to prove itself as a football league that can compete with the big dogs. With a focus on creating a unique culture, introducing new rules, and engaging fans in a meaningful way, the XFL could well be on its way to becoming a major player in the world of sports entertainment. 

So get ready, because this league is not just about football, it’s about the lifestyle and community that comes with it.