In most professional sports, the top stars' earnings are common knowledge. Soccer, football, basketball, the big names are earning a lot of money and that is no secret. When it comes to WWE and professional wrestling in general, it's a bit of a different story. What Superstars earn, plus what they can potentially earn, isn't something that often crosses fans' minds. Personally, I assumed WWE Superstars make a comfortable amount of money. I mean, they're effectively athletes who are also in show business. They have a foot in each walk of life, perhaps the two walks of life that pay the most money. Naturally, they'd all be earning big money.
A little research will tell you that some WWE Superstars do in fact make an absolute fortune. Aside from a healthy looking salary, there really is also no business like it for selling merchandise, for some stars anyway. What shocked me most while putting this list together is how much of a sliding scale there is between the top of the card and the middle of it.
Some stars that you'd expect to be making an absolute killing, in fact, make a lot less than those who perhaps were drawing at one point but really aren't so much anymore. If putting this list together has taught me anything, it's that WWE need to revise their salaries on a more regular basis. Whether they take my advice or not, here are 15 shocking salaries from both ends of the scale.
16 Great Khali: $974,000 (2013)
Anyone watching WWE SmackDown during the mid-2000s knows that The Great Khali received one hell of a push. He beat The Undertaker and became the World Heavyweight champion. Before he became The Punjabi Playboy, Khali actually had quite the career. The Indian's incredible size obviously had Vince McMahon thinking he had to be the top dog.
Clearly, Vince also believed that Khali's size also warranted a pay check to match. In 2013, Khali was on a contract worth $974,000 per year. Pretty impressive for a guy who mainly performed in rapid fire squash matches. Plus on top of that, and no offence intended toward the big man, due to the language barrier he earned all that money without actually doing much talking.
15 Sasha Banks: $150,000 (2016)
You would think being a part of the glamorous world of professional wrestling would earn you an absolute mountain of money. Well, for most of the entries on this list that is indeed the case. However, for Sasha Banks not so much. Even though The Boss is one of the top women in WWE right now, her annual salary isn't exactly as high as you'd perhaps expect it to be. Sasha banks just $150,000 per year.
The Women's Revolution has only just begun in the grand scheme of things. You'd have to assume that when her contract is up for renewal, that number will increase significantly, especially after her recent work with Charlotte Flair and show stealing performance at last year's WrestleMania.
14 Eddie Guerrero: $372,000 (2004/05)
Sasha Banks' hero is Eddie Guerrero. Since The Boss actively tries to follow in Eddie's footsteps, you can draw some similarities between the two. One similarity that's not so great is the fact that both were underpaid, considering their level of talent. Back at the height of Eddie's WWE fame, the former WWE champion was earning just $372,000 per year.
That may sound like an awful lot of money but you have to remember that Guerrero was at the very forefront of the company at the time. French Superstar Rene Dupree wasn't earning much less with a salary of $289,000, while fellow Superstar Edge, who wasn't at the top of his game at this point was earning almost double with $704,000!
13 Dolph Ziggler: $900,000 (2015)
Think of the WWE drawing power of Sasha Banks in the present day then compare to that of Dolph Ziggler. I think it would be fair to say that Sasha pulls in more fans and sells more merchandise right now than 'The Show Off'. Well, in 2015, Dolph was earning a mammoth $900,000 per year. That's an impressive six times as much as Banks made in the following year.
Ziggler is of course a former two-time World champion, and his time in WWE has built up such a strong contract. I bet Dolph was relieved when he won his match against The Miz last year to keep his place on SmackDown Live. Just short of one million dollars is not the kind of money he'd be pulling on the independent circuit.
11 Rey Mysterio: $985,000 (2013)
There's just about enough room on this list to squeeze in one more superstar before we get to the seven figure behemoths. Ironically, that star is one who is pretty small in stature, Rey Mysterio. The long serving luchador spent a long time in WWE and has been in the pro wrestling business longer than most probably realize (he made his debut in 1989 at the age of just 14). Towards the end of his tenure with WWE, Mysterio was earning almost one million dollars a year.
Only just shy of that milestone mind you, raking in an impressive $985,000. Much like Dolph Ziggler from earlier in this list, at one point during Rey's WWE career he was quite deservedly the World Heavyweight champion. Despite not being in the World Title frame for an extended period of time, he clearly managed to make the price tag of being there stick even after dropping back down to a lower level on the card.
10 Sheamus: $1,100,000 (2015)
Speaking of WWE Superstars who have held the WWE Championship and managed to keep hold of the salary that matches that status, enter Sheamus. What's slightly different in this case is that The Celtic Warrior has held WWE's top prize an impressive five times. Clearly, that's what gets that salary up and over the one-million dollar mark. In fact, if you cast your mind back, it was at the tail end of 2015 that Sheamus earned that fifth (and as it stands final) WWE title reign, which may explain his hefty wage.
Title reigns alone really shouldn't dictate how much a wrestler earns though. Drawing power should be the main factor and Sheamus doesn't exactly have much of that when being directly compared to a host of others on the roster. Well, at least he didn't in 2015.
9 The Miz: $1,200,000 (2014)
If you told me that The Miz is earning $1,200,000 now or even last year, I'd have absolutely no qualms with that at all. Outside of A.J. Styles, The Miz may have had the best 2016 in WWE. However, tell me that he was earning that incredible figure back in 2014 and I'm left scratching my head. All the way back in 2011, The Miz of course won the WWE Championship and headlined WrestleMania.
Even then I don't think the Hollywood A-Lister deserved such a hefty price tag. Clearly, somebody thought he did though and evidently he managed to keep hold of that amount of money for the ensuing years. Pretty good for a guy who was thrown out of the locker room when he first showed up in WWE.
8 Big Show: $1,300,000 (2016)
Aside from spending time as a world or WWE champion, what can seemingly get you a big money contract is tenure. Funny that Big Show should have such a huge salary considering there once was a storyline that revolved around the big man having an iron-clad contract. Since the late 90s, Big Show has seen and done it all in WWE yet never quite been the 'top guy'.
He's openly commented during interviews on how his lengthy spell with the company is down to him saying yes to pretty much anything Vince McMahon has sent his way. Some of it may have been humiliating, but almost 20 years later and a seven figure salary, I'm sure Show is pretty happy with how it's all panned out.
7 Kane: $1,300,000 (2016)
Kane and Big Show have been a part of WWE for similar amounts of time, so it's no surprise that the two rake in about the same amount of money from Vince. What is surprising is that they still make this incredible amount of money considering their sporadic appearances.
Kane may be a huge and important Superstar in the grand scheme of things and has had an incredibly impressive career, but he's hardly at the top of his game anymore. The Big Red Machine naturally has been surpassed by newer and younger talent, yet his salary doesn't seem to reflect that. I'm sure it will soon as his WWE appearances continue to decrease.
6 Randy Orton: $1,600,000 (2014)
Randy Orton is a 12-time WWE champion. If Sheamus can earn over a million with five title reigns to his name then Randy certainly warrants more than that. What makes me wonder with a lot of these salaries though is exactly when these Superstars started earning such big bucks.
It seems that when a WWE wrestler is at the height of their career, they don't earn as much as they possibly can, it's not until after their peak that they cash in. Orton is a great example of that. Although he is about to battle Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania 33, I think it's fair to say that the height of his career came a while ago when he was facing the likes of John Cena, Triple H and The Undertaker.
5 CM Punk: $1,700,000 (2013/14)
For any of you that think money may have played a part in CM Punk's famous departure from WWE in 2014, then I think you may be wrong. In the year leading up to Punk quitting, The Straight Edge Superstar was earning a massive $1,700,000. That's a lot of money to turn your back on.
So much in fact that upon learning this information, I couldn't decide whether it led me to have more respect for Punk or wonder if he's got a screw loose. You would have to be pretty unhappy with your job to turn your back on such a large amount of guaranteed money. Fair play I guess, and imagine how much he'd be offered to return.
4 The Undertaker: $2,200,000 (2016)
The Undertaker has effectively been wrestling more or less one match a year since about 2010. Yes, that's not entirely true, but his light schedule for the past half a decade makes his salary one of the most impressive on this list. Even with a couple of extra matches thrown in, what The Deadman is earning per match is absolutely unreal.
It may be a mammoth amount of money, but clearly it must be worth it. Even today, almost 30 years after debuting in the WWE, The Undertaker is still one of the biggest draws in the company. WrestleMania just wouldn't feel the same without Taker. Even if he wasn't wrestling at all, I feel The Undertaker deserves this sum of money each year simply for what he's done for WWE over the years.
3 The Rock: $2,756,650 (2012)
The Rock is one of the biggest movie stars on the planet right now. He's been in plenty of Hollywood blockbusters, so I dread to think how much The Great One must be raking in from that alone. It may have just been some very wishful thinking but part of me wanted to believe that when Rocky returned to his spiritual home of WWE for the fans.
Of course he was not, and when he came back for his 'run' if you can call it that with John Cena, he earned himself an awful lot of money. Well, over two and a half million dollars, in fact. Understandable I guess, as the mainstream fame The Rock had garnered during his time away from the business would have brought an awful lot of eyeballs to the WWE product upon his return.
2 Brock Lesnar: $6,000,000 (2016)
There is nobody on the WWE roster, perhaps no one in WWE history, who has a contract quite like that of Brock Lesnar. His pay-per-appearance major attraction type treatment has earned The Beast Incarnate an awful lot of money since he returned to WWE in 2012. I always assumed that Brock was receiving large sums of money to compete again in WWE.
After life in UFC, plus the lawsuit between himself and WWE following his first stint with the company, it was always going to take something big to persuade Lesnar to return to the ring. I just didn't realize it was as sizeable as the staggering $6,000,000 he's currently receiving. Not only did he get to conquer the streak and make John Cena look like a joke, he's making an absolute amount of money in the process.
1 John Cena: $9,500,000 (2016)
Here we are at number one, and take a deep breath for this one. I think we all knew that John Cena would be taking home an awful lot of money via WWE, but I was not expecting this. Cena reportedly takes home a staggering $9,500,000 a year! Unlike the other high earners on this list, such as Brock Lesnar and The Undertaker, Cena is making more appearances. Still, the fact that Big Match John can earn that much from the company and then make them unreal amounts of money just speaks to how big a star he really is.
While much of his almost 10-million dollar wage will be his base salary, no doubt that the number is significantly bolstered by his merchandise sales. Cena has been on top for as long as he has because as much as people claim they hate him, any wrestling fan that's 12 and under at any show you go to is normally kitted out in Cena merch. That'll be where most of Cena's fortune is unsurprisingly coming from.