The WWE has established itself as THE wrestling company in the industry over the past few decades, with the growth and brand power of Vince McMahon’s empire having the ability to attract the top wrestlers from around the world. Not only do the wrestlers want to perform on the biggest platform, but there’s also a lot of money to be made and the top talents normally sign big contracts which help them make a lot of dough in their time in WWE.
The established talents get quite the paycheck from the WWE, with some of them even getting million dollar contracts if they can show consistency in the company. The average payscale in the WWE is pretty decent compared to the Independent promotions, which is why we’ve seen so many Indy stars opt to join them. But money doesn’t always work for some wrestlers, who get frustrated with their position in WWE and leave the company for something better elsewhere, while there are others who are released and struggle afterwards.
There are certain wrestlers who go on to make crazy money after leaving the WWE because of their talent and ability to attract an audience, but there are also some others who struggle to find work or make much money and end up missing WWE’s big paycheck.
20. Missing Paycheck: Joey Mercury
Joey Mercury successfully transitioned from a wrestler into a producer in the WWE, where he made some memorable appearances in his last few years as part of J&J Security with Seth Rollins. Mercury and Jamie Noble helped Rollins win during his initial heel years, but later both faded into their production roles when Rollins got injured. Mercury was actually released from WWE in early 2017, forcing him to go back to the Independent scene. The paycheck of a WWE producer is actually pretty good and considering Mercury’s age and reputation, he doesn’t really get much work at top Independent promotions. He’s barely wrestling for some small-time ones to make a living and is trying his best to climb back up the Independent scene, as he must be missing the big WWE paycheck which enabled a much more comfortable life for him.
19. Making Good Money: Carlito
Carlito was definitely one of the “coolest” wrestlers in the WWE during his time in the company, with his arrogant heel nature and antics making him quite the interesting character. He was a solid mid-carder for WWE and won both the Intercontinental and US Championships in his term in WWE and after years of great work for WWE, he was released after violating WWE’s Wellness Policy and refusing to go to rehab. But that didn’t really hurt him, as he went back to Puerto Rico and in the Independent scene, getting paid quite heftily by them. He’s a top star in World Wrestling Council and also does prominent Indy shows, as he actually rejected a WWE return because of the money was too low a few years ago. WWE seem keen on bringing him back, but with Carlito making big money in the indies, he doesn’t seem intent on returning.
18. Missing Paycheck: JTG
JTG may be remembered by the fans as this thug-like character in the WWE who became popular as part of “Cryme Tyme” with Shad Gaspard in the company. The tag team were actually pretty entertaining and worked really well initially, but JTG’s character seemingly fell off the map after WWE parted the two. He couldn’t impress as a singles wrestler and mostly played the role of a jobber to the stars and managed to survive in WWE for many years before being let go in 2014. After that, he has struggled to earn much money or fame outside WWE and hasn’t really done anything impressive in the Independent scene. He’s written two books which haven’t been much success either and considering that JTG used to literally hide in the locker room during WWE shows just to get the event fee, it’s quite obvious that he misses their easy money.
17. Making Good Money: Austin Aries
Austin Aries didn’t really have the best of times on the WWE main roster, where he was turned into a Cruiserweight and failed to win the Cruiserweight Championship from Neville in a long feud. Aries would decide upon leaving the WWE earlier in 2017 because he was frustrated with his position in the division, as he has been doing Independent shows for the past few months and has been doing pretty well too. Aries has been charging quite a lot in Independent shows and wrote in a tweet about how he was making more in 4 weeks in the Independent scene than he was making in 6 months in WWE. This confident post proved that Aries must be charging quite the hefty amount to promoters, who want to use his star-power and have enabled Aries to have been making crazy money even after leaving a precious WWE job.
16. Missing Paycheck: Cameron
Cameron made quite the impression on the WWE fans during her time as part of the “Funkadactyls” along with Naomi, as they were the dancing valets for Brodus Clay. Cameron would later be in a feud with Naomi, which gained prominence during Cameron’s awful botch during a televised match. Cameron remained as a jobber to the stars in the WWE but also frequently appeared in Total Divas, before she was released by WWE in 2015. She has since been trying to gain fame in the entertainment business but isn’t doing so good at that either. Cameron earned quite the impressive pay-check during her WWE days because of her involvement in Total Divas and life was pretty comfortable back then because of how seldom she wrestled but kept on getting the money in WWE, and she has struggled to break through in the entertainment industry after that.
15. Making Good Money: Alberto Del Rio
Alberto Del Rio may have become a rather controversial figure in the wrestling industry in recent times, but that doesn’t take away the fact that he’s still quite the big star. Del Rio was released by the WWE in 2016 after he was frustrated with his second stint and decided to leave after getting suspended for a Wellness Violation, but it didn’t take him much time to get work. Del Rio has been wrestling for Global Force Wrestling and other prominent Independent promotions ever since leaving the WWE and he doesn’t seem to be worried about missing out on WWE’s big money either. Del Rio has himself stated to be making a lot of money in GFW and the Independent promotions he works for because he charges a hefty amount for his services and due of his reputation, Del Rio is making quite the fortune even outside WWE.
14. Missing Paycheck: Damien Sandow
Damien Sandow was quite the hilarious character in the WWE during his stay in the company, where he portrayed the role of a heel amazingly at first before perfectly playing the role of The Miz’s body double too much amusement of the fans. Sandow couldn’t really make it as a singles star and was released by WWE a few years ago, as he got an opportunity to show his talent later in TNA. He did impress at first in TNA, but soon fell down the ladder and left the company last year. It seems things aren’t going that good for Sandow, who must be missing the comfortable WWE paychecks he received for his “entertainment skills”. He’s now looking at a career in acting, but it’ll be difficult for him to reach a level of fame which could give him as much money which WWE got him.
13. Making Good Money: Trish Stratus
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Trish Stratus was one of the reasons for the rise of “Women’s Wrestling” in the WWE during the “Golden Age of Women’s Wrestling” in the mid-2000s, when Stratus emerged as a terrific female wrestler in WWE. Her ability to churn out amazing matches and iconic feud against Lita at the time elevated the reputation of the Division, as Stratus had attained legendary status when she retired from wrestling in 2006. But even after wrestling, Stratus had big ambitions in life and went on to open a Yoga Studio of her own. It’s known for being “Canada’s biggest eco-friendly yoga studio” and is something from which Stratus had made a lot of fortune from. Stratus is quite wealthy because of her yoga career and has appeared in some TV shows and movies at times as well, proving how she doesn’t need WWE to make a lot of money for herself.
12. Missing Paycheck: Hornswoggle
Hornswoggle was quite the entertaining character in the WWE when he emerged with Finley and helped the Irishman win many matches during his time in WWE. He went on to be part of some weird story-lines(one which included him being Mr. McMahon’s illegitimate son) and was used to hilarious effects by WWE. He actually managed to stay in WWE for many years and earned quite the fortune during the time, before he was released a few years ago. Hornswoggle then went to TNA for a while, but that didn’t work that well as he is now mostly working in low-key Independent shows. He’s definitely having to struggle to earn some money and considering how less he actually had to “wrestle” in WWE and got quite a lot of money for being a menace, he’ll be missing the easy paychecks he received when he was there.
11. Making Good Money: Johnny Impact
Johnny Impact will be more prominently remembered by fans as John Morrison of WWE, as he has been making quite the strides ever since his WWE days. Morrison gained popularity in WWE as part of the Tag Team Division, but later became quite the stunning singles star who couldn’t exactly become a main-event star in WWE. After leaving WWE, Morrison has been proving his doubters wrong and has appeared for many other top promotions. He was a top star for Lucha Underground and is currently known as Johnny Impact in TNA, as he seems to be set to be involved in main-event feuds in the promotion. Impact is actually making more money than he did in WWE because of him working for these two prominent promotions and doing Independent shows too and with his mainstream popularity sky-rocketing after appearing in Netflix’s “Glow”, he’s been making quite the fortune for himself.
10. Missing Paycheck: Wade Barrett
Wade Barrett seemed set to be WWE’s next top heel when he emerged as the leader of The Nexus many years ago, but he could never truly fulfill the potential shown at the time. Barrett did go on to become a prominent mid-carder for some-time and won the Intercontinental Championship multiple times too, but multiple injuries really cost him the momentum he needed to get to the top. Barrett was released by WWE a few years ago and it hasn’t really been easy for him after that. He took a hiatus from WWE for a year before appearing for Defiant Wrestling, where he serves as the on-screen General Manager right now. But Barrett definitely doesn’t make much of a fortune in that role and must be missing the sweet WWE paychecks which helped live a much lavish lifestyle which he can’t afford right now.
9. Making Good Money: CM Punk
CM Punk was quite definitely the “best in the world” during his stint as the top star of WWE a few years ago when his iconic pipebomb kick-started something special for him. What followed was a 434-day reign as WWE Champion for Punk, who established himself as a big fan-favorite star in WWE. Even though he left WWE a few years ago, Punk has still been pretty popular among the fans and has kept himself in the spotlight. Punk may not have a stable, great pay job he did in WWE but his work in UFC has made him a lot of money. He made $500,000 in his first UFC fight alone and his part-time comic-book writing also gives him some money. As Punk prepares for a return to the octagon, it’s quite clear that he doesn’t need WWE to stay rich and is making crazy money outside of it.
8. Missing Paycheck: Aksana
Aksana seemed to be the ideal “diva” for the WWE when she joined the main roster and seemed to flirt with Teddy Long at first. She later became the valet for the debuting Cesaro and kept on wrestling from time to time, but she wasn’t really that good in it. She kept feuding with the other divas and ended up mostly putting over other divas before she aligned with Alicia Fox and created “Foxsana”. That didn’t work either and Aksana was relieved of her duties by WWE in 2014, after which she hasn’t wrestled. She has been working as a fitness trainer and has been working on her fitness career, but isn’t really making much money from it. Aksana must be missing her life in WWE because not only did it keep her popular, but also gave her a lavish paycheck which she’s definitely missing right now.
7. Making Good Money: Bobby Lashley
Bobby Lashley’s WWE run may be remembered because of how he almost ran through the roster on his way to success in the WWE. Lashley won the ECW Championship and US Championships during his time in WWE and most memorably fought Umaga in the “Battle of the Billionaires” match at WrestleMania 23. But Lashley couldn’t make it as a top star in WWE and was released in 2008, soon after which he joined TNA. His recent run in TNA has been because of how well he’s built himself as the top star of TNA and is making a lot of money in it. He’s one of the top-paid talents in TNA and also fights for Bellator MMA at times which pays him heftily as well. Lashley has established himself as a “prize fighter” outside WWE and is reaping his rewards by making quite the fortune these days.
6. Missing Paycheck: James Ellsworth
James Ellsworth rose from an “everyday jobber” to a “WWE superstar” in the company who initially brought him to get destroyed by Braun Strowman. But Ellsworth later became a part of Smackdown Live! and got involved in the feud between AJ Styles and Dean Ambrose for the WWE title, even costing the latter an opportunity to win it. He later became Carmella’s valet, helping her win the Money in the Bank briefcase before she turned on him. Ellsworth was released by WWE a few months ago and he’ll definitely miss everything about WWE. The thing which he’ll really miss was the mouth-watering paychecks he received in WWE during the year, as he wouldn’t get this kind of money anywhere else with his reputation. Ellsworth was paid pretty well by WWE and knowing how he’ll struggle to get good-paying work in the Independent circuit, he’ll definitely be missing life at WWE.
5. Making Good Money: AJ Lee
AJ Lee may have been a “crazy” wrestler in the WWE, but she was definitely one of the most interesting characters in the company. After her initial years where she was involved in multiple romantic angles, she showed how good a wrestler she was and held the Divas Title for a record period of time. Lee had some great feuds with the other women, but she decided to leave the WWE after her husband CM Punk left. Much like her husband, AJ has also had a successful career outside WWE and gained a lot of popularity after her memoir became a New York Times best-seller. She made a lot of money because of how amazingly her book sold and is quite “crazy” rich right now because of it. AJ’s even developing a TV show based on the book, as this proves how her unique personality made Lee a ton of money.
4. Missing Paycheck: Ryback
Ryback has been quite the out-spoken wrestler ever since getting released by the WWE, with the “Big Guy” having a lot of opinions on his former employers. Ryback could never fulfill his potential as a top star in the WWE and could only become a dominant mid-carder who only won the Intercontinental Championship during his WWE career. He had a rather sour fall-out with WWE towards the end and demanded them to give him a bigger contract or he’d walk out, which he did after they didn’t budge. Ryback has been wrestling in low-key Independent shows and has his own podcast after that, but that definitely doesn’t match the WWE paychecks which he must be missing. Ryback was quite a well-paid superstar in WWE and is definitely not making that amount in the Indys these days, as he must be ruining his foolish decision to leave WWE.
3. Making Good Money: Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho proved that he had still got “it” in 2017 where he had another fabulous year in the WWE and won the US Championship as well as entertaining the fans with his hilarious gimmick. His “List of Jericho” was a major hit and even though Jericho can’t work full-time another because of his musical career, the fans are delighted to see him whenever possible. Jericho’s latest stint in New Japan Pro Wrestling showed how amazing his heel side is, also proving how he doesn’t really need WWE to be rich. Jericho’s band “Fozzy” is quite popular and his latest album “Judas” was a hit, as Jericho has many concerts lined up and is making a lot of money off that. He’s also getting paid heftily by New Japan because of his star-power and despite being away from WWE, Jericho is still making crazy money because of his amazing popularity.
2. Missing Paycheck: Adam Rose
Adam Rose was quite the entertaining character in the WWE when his “party guy” character was introduced on the main roster and managed to amuse a few people at first. But it got stale quite quickly and Rose continuing working as a jobber to the stars, even joining “The Social Outcasts” with some other like him. But tragedy would strike Rose when he got arrested for domestic violence in 2016 and was suspended by WWE, who released him later on. Rose has continued wrestling in the Independent scene after his WWE release, but he’s struggling to get proper work and only wrestles in some low-key Independent shows. He’s definitely not making the money he did in WWE, as “The Ultimate Party Animal” must be cursing himself for his actions which led to his release and is definitely missing WWE’s big paycheck right now.
1. Making Good Money: Cody Rhodes
Cody Rhodes has become a reformed man ever since he got released from the WWE, where he was treated quite terribly in his final years with his awful “Stardust” gimmick. Rhodes was frustrated with his position in the company and finally decided upon leaving in 2016, taking a bold step of trying his hand in the Independent circuit. But he had a lot of demand in the Indy’s who paid a lot of money to keep him in and Rhodes also signed with TNA for some-time. He got the breakthrough by signing with Ring of Honor and even became ROH champion last year. Rhodes also became a part of “Bullet Cub” which elevated his popularity, and he’s making crazy money in the Indy’s and Ring of Honor. Rhodes himself admitted having made a seven-figures fortune in 2017, proving how he was right in leaving WWE and becoming a star on his own.
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