WCW is one of the biggest wrestling companies in the history of the industry, and remain the only promotion to successfully challenge Vince McMahon and WWE’s monopoly on the business, but to do that, they had to take many risks, both creatively and financially, and while they paid off somewhat in the short term, it hurt management quite a bit in the long term. The Georgia-based promotion knew that they couldn’t challenge the WWE with their own homegrown performers and great wrestling alone, they needed to poach some of the biggest stars in the industry who made their name in the WWE, and with that, they needed to spend A LOT of money. But they had Ted Turner's backing, so it would be okay, right? Wrong.
Eric Bischoff and WCW management were so eager to beat the WWE in the short term, that they forgot to build a stable foundation, and when they began splashing record amounts of money on stars past their prime, the fans could begin to see the writing on the wall. So who was paid too little, too much or just the right amount during WCW’s run? Read on and find out about 20 WCW salaries that we can still barely believe to this day.
20 Konnan ($469,675 in 1999)
Konnan has always been a name known round the wrestling world, so it was obvious why Eric Bishoff brought him into WCW in 1996 to appeal to the Latino crowds, but somehow the AAA veteran came in earning more than the likes of Chris Benoit and even fellow Latino star Rey Mysterio. Sure, Konnan was a great hand, but he wasn’t a star by any means, but for some reason, WCW overpaid for him, and the year before they went out of business, he earned almost half a million dollars. If you know the story of WCW, you know that they overpaid several people, and in the case of former big-time WWE stars, it’s easy to see where they’re coming from. But in the case of Konnan, it’s just crazy to think that he was earning so much.
19 Curt Hennig ($485,595 in 1999)
Mr. Perfect will go down as one of the best pure wrestlers in the history of the business, and is remembered fondly by all the WWE Universe today. His peak came during his run with the WWE, but that didn’t stop Eric Bischoff and WCW from throwing ridiculous amounts of money at him, money that could have been used in much better and much more efficient ways. Due to his fantastic run in the WWE, he was able to leverage such a big contract from WCW, and while it seemed like a good idea at the time, it was a huge mistake to give in to his contract wishes, and it may have cost the future of the company. It was great to have a big name in WCW, and it was good to see Curt Hennig get the opportunity to ply his craft on an international stage after his departure from WWE, but it just wasn’t a good idea on WCW’s part.
18 Eddie Guerrero ($509,593 in 1999)
Eddie Guerrero will no doubt go down as one of the greatest wrestlers of all time, as he had phenomenal appearances in WCW, ECW, Japan, Mexico and most prominently, WWE, but before he decided to join Vince McMahon’s company, Guerrero was one of the best cruiserweights in WCW, and he was getting paid like it. Your first reaction to seeing Eddie earn this money is probably “yeah, fair enough,” but what makes it even more surprising is the fact that Eddie was out of action from January to June, meaning he earned all this money in just a six-month period. Seeing what Eddie went on to become in WWE, this seems like a very reasonable salary, as he was highly sought after at the time. It’s just unfortunate that WCW made so many other financial mistakes.
17 Tank Abbott ($624,458 in 2000)
WCW (and WWE for that matter) loved to bring non-wrestlers into the fold, and if it’s for one night or one feud, it can be a major blessing for a promotion, but when you bring in a UFC fighter (before it became popular in the mainstream) and give him over $600,000 a year, it was not only a big mistake for the promotion, but no doubt would have rubbed every wrestler in the locker room the wrong way. Unlike others, Abbott brought absolutely nothing to the ring outside of a few punches, and early on, people could see that WCW made a huge mistake. Not Vince Russo, however, as he suggested the world title be put on Abbott, and even wanted to present him as a contender to Goldberg. But before that could happen, they realized their mistake and swallowed the $600,000+ loss.
16 Rick Steiner ($621,263 in 2000)
In the course of this article, we will talk plenty about guys getting overpaid, but the majority of them were big main event players, who had big matches on every PPV. Somehow, the brother of Scott Steiner managed to earn over $600,000 in WCW’s final year, and he wasn’t even close to a main event star. What’s even more perplexing about the whole situation is the fact that the less popular Steiner was earning under 150k the year before, and for some reason, WCW felt the need to increase his salary to blow by the likes of Eddie Guerrero and Jeff Jarrett. By this time, most people realized the company was already on its death bed, but a contract like this just makes them look worse, even looking back 17 years later.
15 Roddy Piper ($718,195 in 1999)
During his day, Roddy Piper was absolute money, and is considered one of the best talkers in the history of the wrestling industry. But like others, he used his big name value from his run in the WWE to pump up the value of his contract, and like they often did, WCW bit the bullet and signed him to a massive contract. By this time, he was well beyond his prime, and with such a contract, you’d imagine he was one of the most important stars in the company, but he never once tasted the WCW World Title. In fact, his most notable feud was with Ric Flair for kayfabe control of the company. No one can blame Piper for this, as he benefitted from his run in the WWE a decade earlier, but it’s another case of WCW needing big names to compete with the already established WWE.
14 Goldberg ($5,191,132 in 1999)
Goldberg is easily WCW’s highest-ever earner, as he was also one of their biggest stars, and when you look at how the crowd got behind him during his infamous streak, you can understand why the company wanted to pay him so much. But that’s the problem – when he was paid this amount in 1999, he had lost the streak, and his aura with it. By this point, he wasn’t the top star in the company, and the WWE had well and truly taken over the Monday Night Wars, so WCW were splashing all this money on a star who wasn’t bringing it back. To this day, Goldberg remains a big star, as proven by his recent return, but it’s very understandable why the WWE chose not to bring him in after WCW folded, as this is an incredible salary to take on for a very limited wrestler.
13 Kevin Greene ($520,000 in 1998)
Earlier in this piece, we talked about how Eddie Guerrero earning over $500,000 a year was very well earned, as he wasn’t a top star, but was a key performer in the cruiserweight division, so it just seems absolutely insulting that someone like Kevin Greene was able to earn more, with his salary from the year 1998 coming in at $520,000. He was given this guaranteed money because he was active in the NFL for the Carolina Panthers, and WCW was hoping that the mainstream attention would help their battle for supremacy with the WWE, but he was horrendous, and it turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes the company ever made. Due to this flop, the NFL instituted a no-wrestling policy in their contracts, and it’s safe to say that this was a major disappointment for everyone involved.
12 Diamond Dallas Page ($1,325,404 in 1999)
As you’d be able to tell from his WWE Hall of Fame induction or any of his current career, Diamond Dallas Page is a very inspirational person, as he started out as a manager and an announcer, but eventually trained hard and got into the ring, and became one of WCW’s most popular performers in history. By the time he came into the main event scene, he was wildly over, and a more than average performer, and eventually he won the WCW World title, but he was never a top draw like Flair, Hogan or Goldberg. Still, DDP was paid like one. He was wrestling at the top of the card in 1999, but he just wasn’t as big a star as those other performers, yet he was earning almost double the likes of Ric Flair. While you may think he deserved it, but it was just a bit too much.
11 Jeff Jarrett ($539,971 in 2000)
Jeff Jarrett was always a good hand, and was a great midcard act in the WWE, but he wasn’t very self aware, as he always believed he was a main event star, even though no one else in the crowd or the business agreed. Somehow he convinced WCW that he should be a top star, and be paid like it, and he definitely was. The year was 2000, and everyone could see that WCW was dying, and while there were many potential reasons for this, paying someone like Jarrett who was never believable as a top guy this kind of money, it was just a mistake, an understandable one at that though. Since then, Jarrett has been a key backstage figure for TNA and GFW, and even when he was an in-ring performer there, no one bought him as a main event player.
10 Lex Luger ($1,380,139 in 2000)
Before making his way to the WWE, Lex Luger was actually a talented worker, but with the increased muscle mass and expectations Vince McMahon placed on the character, he is largely seen as a cheap, imitation Hulk Hogan, and thus, many fans didn’t like him. By the time he made his way to WCW, he was just a shell of his former self, yet still managed to get paid like one of the top stars in the business. Sure, in the year 2000, Luger was working with some of the top guys in the company, but simply put, he was dreadful, and wasn’t even worth close to a million. Yet WCW officials somehow paid him almost $1.5 million, a clear sign that their business was going down the drain.
9 Ric Flair ($780,259 in 1998)
When you think of WCW and when it was at it’s best, you think of guys like Sting, Goldberg and even Diamond Dallas Page, but the biggest draw in the history of the company by a long way is The Nature Boy, Ric Flair. For some reason, WCW wasn't going to pay him like it. When you see some of the contracts that other guys had at the time, it’s just mind-boggling to imagine that Ric Flair wasn’t the top star in the company, and maybe if backstage politics had not manifested and everyone was paid properly, they would have had a chance. Obviously, no one should really complain about over $700,000 a year, but for the top and most over star in the company, he really should have been paid like it, and his salary should have been in the millions.
8 Sid Vicious ($892,458 in 2000)
Sid Vicious was a decent performer in WWE, but he never got over as a main event player like the company would have liked, so when he went to WCW, it baffled people that he was making main event level money, especially when he was being paid more than RIC FLAIR of all people. He main evented a WrestleMania with The Undertaker in the WWE, so he did have some name value, but WCW paid way too much for him, as he was earning $600,000 the year before. That said, this raise is just ridiculous. He was in some big matches in 2000, and even had a run with the World Championship, so the idea of a pay raise is understandable, but it’s Sid Vicious, and he just didn’t deserve it.
7 “Macho Man” Randy Savage ($1,927,932 in 1997)
Randy Savage will be remembered as one of the best in ring performers of all time, so when WCW snapped him up from the WWE in 1994, it was a huge move, but three years later, he was barely active, so for him to be earning so much money was just ridiculous. He was a part of the overused nWo, who were rocking way too many members at the time, and despite having a big feud with Diamond Dallas Page, it was very clear that the Macho Man’s best days were long behind him. It’s great to see that Randy got paid, as he wasn’t appreciated enough in the WWE,, but it hurt WCW in the long term that he was paid so much while barely being an active performer.
6 Scott Hall ($1,423,193 in 1998)
When Kevin Nash and Scott Hall left the WWE in order to join WCW, it was a massive move, and was one that perhaps got the wheels in motion for the Monday Night Wars. A couple years later in 1998, Hall was still a big name as a part of the nWo, but there was no way he was worth almost $1.5 million. It’s understandable in some ways to see why WCW had him on such big money, because they knew Razor Ramon was a megastar in the WWE, and he could have returned at any time, but for someone who never won the WCW title, this kind of money can’t be justified. Most importantly, Hall, along with Nash was seen as a disruptive personality backstage, and perhaps his high salary was part of the reason why he wasn’t popular, as there are stories Goldberg hated his guts.
5 Dennis Rodman ($1,174,814 in 1999)
After seeing the main event press and success that Mike Tyson had in the WWE, the idea behind bringing in an NBA superstar, and major character in his own right like Dennis Rodman wasn’t a bad idea. But it just didn’t pan out, and ended up being a major financial mistake (not the first of its kind, though). He was heavily involved in the biggest storylines, but paying someone over a million dollars for just one year of work, especially when he didn’t bring in the views that the company expected, wasn't justified. I’m a big fan of Rodman’s work in the NBA, but he was just out of his element, and WCW was trying everything at this point. But by the time 1999 was over, the company had made him the 11th highest earner in the promotion, and he did little work at all, which made it a flop all the way around.
4 Hulk Hogan ($4,610,062 in 1999)
Hulk Hogan is still quite possibly the biggest name in wrestling history, and his heel turn in 1996 set the wrestling world on fire. Although he wasn’t WCW’s top earner, he was certainly bringing in the money, with rumors circulating that he was earning almost $10 million at some points during his long WCW tenure. 1999 was an interesting year for The Hulkster, as he turned back babyface, started the year with the title and had some big matches, but was his in-ring work any good? No. He wasn’t a great performer by any stretch of the imagination, but he was still a huge star. Yet then again, we can’t believe that even his star power warranted such a whopping contract.
3 Sting ($1,969,089 in 2000)
Sting will go down as perhaps the most important player in the entire history of WCW, so by the year 2000, he deserved to be paid as one of the biggest stars in the industry. This also tells us why he never came to the WWE, because it would be unfathomable that Vince McMahon picks up a WCW performer earning almost $2 million. The more unbelievable stat about Sting’s salary is just how much of it came from licensing (over $500,000), which shows just how vital his image was to WCW and it’s fans. The Stinger would eventually come to the WWE after at least a decade in TNA, so it’s safe to say he’s earned a fair amount of money since. But for someone who did so much for the company, he is one of the rare cases where almost $2 million is well deserved.
2 Kevin Nash ($1,864,062 in 2000)
When the topic of Kevin Nash in WCW comes up, the first thing you usually think of his how much backstage politicking he got up to, so when you think about that, it’s really not too surprising that he was on almost $2 million. But he definitely wasn’t worth it. He was always an average in-ring talent, and when the nWo wasn’t a hot faction, Nash just wasn’t entertaining at all. By the year 2000, despite being in the main event, he just wasn't relatable, and the fans didn’t want to see him anymore. If WCW didn’t invest that much in Nash, they could have been in a financial position to stay viable for more time, but giving someone like Nash that much money was just a mistake, and he didn’t deserve it.
1 Bret Hart ($2,694,857 in 1998)
When WCW signed one of WWE’s top stars in Bret Hart, it looked like they had finally taken over supremacy of the Monday Night Wars. But as luck has it, his signing to WWE’s top rival did way more to help Vince McMahon’s company than it did to hurt it. Hart accepting the almost-$3 million salary was a no-brainer, but there was no way WCW could have got their money back for this investment. And with the controversy that was the Montreal Screwjob, Mr. McMahon became the biggest a**hole in the world, and set up the biggest rivalry in wrestling history against Stone Cold Steve Austin. Bret was well beyond his prime too, and by the time he was forced to retire due to a botched kick from Goldberg, WCW had splashed and lost record money, making this one of the biggest wastes of almost $3 million in wrestling history.