‘Dwayne Johnson’s success is literally unparalleled’: Randy Ambrosie sees potential, Canadian connections in partnership with The Rock

CFL commissioner Randy Ambrosie has absorbed equal parts praise and scathing criticism for his decision to take the league’s talks with the XFL public, but he had some incentive for getting the news out early.

“Dwayne Johnson’s success is literally unparalleled and it led us to where we are today,” Ambrosie shared in an interview on the CFL’s YouTube channel Thursday.

“We just wanted to be transparent. We’ve got great fans and we have a great group of players and we thought before we get too far along, we’ll just let the world know that we’re talking. We don’t know what the outcome of all of this will be, but we are excited to be in this conversation.”

Dwayne Johnson shares that excitment for the ‘unique opportunity’ the CFL and XFL ‘can potentially create together.’ The most recent incarnation of the XFL lasted just five games before the COVID-19 pandemic put their season on hold, which led to Vince McMahon filing for bankruptcy and selling.

Johnson, business partner Dany Garcia and RedBird Capital were selected as the winning bidders last August for all of the assets of Alpha Entertainment LLC, the parent company of the XFL. It cost $15 million and the goal is to make the XFL a stable league in the future, which could be an agreement with the CFL.

That seems a natural given The Rock famously spent time with the Calgary Stampeders, but the mega-stars interests north of the border are much more meaningful than one training camp.

“I’m going to let Dwayne Johnson speak for himself, but I can tell you my impression, having got a chance to get to know him a little bit, is his connection to Canada runs deeper than his time in Calgary. His family came to Canada through the underground railroad and settled in Nova Scotia,” Ambrosie explained.

“He’s got this very cool, very long history and then, you know, his time in Calgary, his relationship with Wally Buono, and how all of it really gave him a springboard to the success that he’s had.”

Though he didn’t under the rules in place during his time as a player, The Rock would count as a National in the modern CFL thanks to his father’s upbringing in Nova Scotia.

“You can feel it when you talk to him. You can feel his love of the game. You can feel his appreciation for the CFL and I believe all of those things are really helpful, but it goes beyond that,” Ambrosie said of why he’s hopeful for a partnership.

“You have to look at what he and Dany Garcia have done together. I’m told that if you took the aggregate of Dwayne Johnson’s social media platforms and accounted for it as a population, he’d be the fourth biggest country in the world.”

That could be a much needed doorway into the younger demographic that the CFL desperately needs to attract, something that has become clear to Ambrosie during his cross-country roadtrips.

“Something that has come up almost at every occasion, I have a fan say to me, somebody that loves the game, a father or a grandfather or an uncle or an aunt who says I love this game as much as I love anything in the world of sports. And then they say, but you know,  my nephew or my niece or my son, or my daughter, my grandson or granddaughter, doesn’t connect with it the same way that I do,” he explained.

“I think that’s what this is about.”

Still, that won’t calm the nerves of thousands of CFL faithful who worry the league is selling its soul and more than a century of tradition essential to Canadian culture in order satiate the profit driven motives of billionaires.

“There will be some trepidation, but I think if we can harness the energy, which I believe is authentic, that everyone wants to see our league, wants to see football in Canada grow and be stronger, then this is going to be a very positive experience for us.”

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