The 90s gave wrestling the hottest period in the history of the business. WWE and WCW competed with the Monday Night Wars leading to both shows dominating the ratings. Wrestlers jumped back and forth between both major promotions leading to huge contracts being offered. Each promotion would offer a higher number to prove they wanted the talent of the wrestler on their roster. Many wrestlers took advantage of this to make ridiculous money while others somehow were underpaid during this boom. We'll look at some of the more surprising contracts to be agreed upon in the 90s by WWE and WCW.
WCW had the reputation of overpaying wrestlers due to Eric Bischoff not having to worry about his own money. Bischoff had Ted Turner’s check book and the full confidence to run the promotion by signing whoever he felt was needed to become the top wrestling company. WWE tried to be more responsible with their spending since Vince McMahon was using his own money to add talent, but they still made some wild moves. Both companies will be examined here as we look at the money thrown around during the war between them. These are fifteen of the most shocking pro wrestler contracts of the 90s.
15 Ultimate Warrior
WCW signed Ultimate Warrior after he had multiple falling outs with WWE. The lack of professionalism shown by Warrior made him an enemy of Vince McMahon. That influenced WCW to reach out to sign Warrior since they already had all the other top 80s WWE names like Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and Roddy Piper. Warrior landed a deal with WCW worth $1 million.
14 Big Show
A forgotten name to switch companies during the Monday Night Wars is Big Show since he is considered such a model WWE employee today. However, Big Show started his career in WCW as The Giant when Hulk Hogan discovered him at the gym. Most of his years in WCW saw Big Show make great money somewhere between $200,000 and $500,000. Not bad for someone lucking into a gig.
13 Billy Kidman
Billy Kidman’s first contract was a rare occurrence of a WCW star being underpaid. The talent of Kidman always showed potential of having the in-ring ability to entertain fans. WCW figured out within a few years that he would be a fixture in the Cruiserweight Division. However, Kidman only made a very low $20,000 salary in 1996 as a secondary performer usually wrestling on WCW Saturday Night.
12 Vince Russo
WCW was so open to spending money that they ended up paying $350,000 to someone that may have killed the company. Vince Russo was the lead writer for WWE during the Attitude Era working under Vince McMahon. Many of Russo’s ideas were used during the rise of shock television, but there was always a filter to prevent all his ideas from being selected.
11 Tank Abbott
Another absurd WCW contract saw Tank Abbott make huge money after making the jump from UFC. MMA wasn’t as popular in the 90s, but WCW felt Abbott’s shoot fighting skills would have made him the perfect opponent for Goldberg. Abbott specifically joined with the end game being a huge PPV match against Goldberg to bring in huge money.
Chyna earned her big pay check in WWE by becoming the first woman that credibly challenged the male wrestlers. WWE saw Chyna become an attraction as the giant muscular bodyguard of Triple H. They continued working together in D-Generation X allowing Chyna to showcase her personality. The more we saw of Chyna, the more popular she became.
9 Disco Inferno
If you want to feel depressed about your salary, remember that Disco Inferno made over $300,000 for the final three years of his WCW career. Disco is remembered as being somewhat funny comedic enhancement talent. WCW would slightly push Disco occasionally with a mid-card title run, but he was never a credible performer. Fans would laugh and mock him rather than expect him to defeat the top names.
8 Rey Mysterio
Rey Mysterio was arguably the most underrated performer in WCW history. The luchador joined the Cruiserweight Division and instantly got over. WCW fans at the time were against the smaller wrestlers that didn’t have star power from past years. Cruiserweights were often heckled with “boring” chants before the match even started.
7 Brian Pillman
The career of Brian Pillman is remembered fondly due to being ahead of his time. Pillman had matches at his peak that would become what fans wanted from wrestlers today. Towards the mid-90s, Pillman suffered a few injuries to slow down his wrestling, but he took it up a notch on the character side. WCW got worked into releasing Pillman as part of a storyline allowing him to double cross them and sign with WWE.
6 Bam Bam Bigelow
Every wrestler wants to be in the main event of WrestleMania for multiple reasons. Not only is it the biggest show of the year, but it usually leads to the most money for a wrestler. Bam Bam Bigelow proved this all the way back in 1995. WWE chose Bigelow as the man to have a match with former NFL star Lawrence Taylor as an attraction match.
Bill Goldberg making a ridiculous amount of money from WCW isn’t a surprise. However, the years in which he raked in the money was the shocking discovery. Goldberg peaked in 1998 by becoming the most popular star in the company. WCW believed in Goldberg enough to have him defeat Hulk Hogan for the WCW Champion less than a year into his debut.
4 Lex Luger
The career of Lex Luger is not celebrated as much as most of his WCW peers today. Luger is viewed as one of the most overrated wrestlers of all time. WCW was the only promotion to ever benefit from having him on the roster. WWE tried to make him the face of the company in 1994 after Hulk Hogan left but he failed to deliver in the role.
3 Mark Henry
WWE took a huge risk when offering Mark Henry one of the greatest contracts in company history to join. Henry competed at the Olympics as part of the American weightlifting team and Vince McMahon wanted him in WWE badly. This led to Henry getting offered a ten-year contract with a downside salary of $250,000 from day one.
2 Bret Hart
A forgotten aspect of the Montreal Screwjob is the WWE contract that Bret Hart signed in 1996. Vince McMahon offered a ridiculous 20-year contract with a downside salary of $1 million every single year. It was realized one year into the contract that they needed to end it as soon as possible. McMahon talked Bret into agreeing to give up the contract and move to WCW for $2.6 million per year.
1 Hulk Hogan
The most shocking contract of the 90s is clearly Hulk Hogan’s WCW contract. Hogan shocked the wrestling world when jumping from WWE to WCW in 1994. The biggest star in the wrestling industry switching companies required a massive contract. Hogan made a downside salary between $2 million and $5 million every year in WCW.
However, there were even more bonuses and perks in the contract that made Hogan the smartest man in wrestling for signing it. Hogan made 15% of WCW’s sales for every PPV he appeared on and an insane 25% of money for tickets sold on any event that he appeared on. There was also the creative control clause that Hogan often used to refuse to lose cleanly. As much as Hogan helped take WCW to the next level, his contract played a huge role in the company sinking.
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