While it might be fun to the fans watching at home, being a WWE superstar can be one of the hardest hitting and most painful professions out there, and therefore wrestlers deserve to get compensated pretty well for constantly putting their bodies on the line. Not that the company always does so, creating a flawed Wellness Policy that has forced several wrestlers to work while seriously ill amongst other questionable practices. Some wrestlers apparently aren’t earning enough to retire, either, forcing themselves into careers long past their expiration date in order to make ends meet well past the normal retirement age.
All that in mind, WWE superstars really don’t have it that bad, at least compared to independent wrestlers forced to pinch pennies by living together and sharing just about everything. The further up WWE the more likely you are to have a mansion, but even the curtain jerkers can probably afford pretty decent lifestyles if their reasonable and responsible with their money. Of course, as with all things in wrestling, what exactly constitutes worth in wrestling is entirely determined by one man and Vince McMahon doesn’t always have it right in determining how much money he should give his employees for their work. Keep reading to discover 8 wrestlers who are getting paid too much money and 7 who don’t get paid enough.
He’s come a long way from his days as a wannabe wrestler contestant on The Real World, but by and large the jury is still out when it comes to whether or not The Miz is as awesome as he claims. Rapidly improving since his bumbling WWE debut in 2004, Mike Mizanin has grown into one of the best mic workers in WWE en route to becoming a former WWE Champion and six-time Intercontinental Champion. The Miz is definitely in the upper tier of WWE superstars and yet an estimated $1.2 million per years still seems a bit steep. There’s a reason Miz spends so much time talking about his side job as a movie star in The Marine films and it’s related to his reputation for being an average if unspectacular worker in the ring.
In lieu of Mr. Bob Backlund’s efforts towards making his protégé great again, Darren Young’s status in WWE has gone on a bit of a rollercoaster throughout 2016. He’s been with WWE over seven years, signing with the company in 2009 to train at Florida Championship Wrestling. He debuted on the WWE main roster with The Nexus, returning to NXT when he failed to stand out amidst the luminaries in that group. Young was called back up to SmackDown alongside his new partner Titus O’Neil as The Prime Time Players, which is ultimately why Young finds himself on this list. O’Neil signed with WWE the same year as Young, though he didn’t do much of note until The Prime Time Players got together. Somehow, though, Titus is said to earn around $265,000 per year compared to Young’s $175,000, a discrepancy Mr. Backlund should probably look into when making things great again.
With semi-legitimate claims to his longstanding reputation as The World’s Strongest Man, it makes sense that Vince McMahon would want to hire Mark Henry virtually sight unseen. They probably met at least a few times before McMahon offered Henry a contract in 1996, lasting ten years at a reported sum of $1 million per year. Especially considering Henry was an untrained rookie at the time, that was a completely outrageous amount for his first contract and one WWE later regretted. Henry has come a long way since then, rejuvenating himself with a 2011 run with the Hall of Pain, and yet it still seems a bit much to hear he’s making somewhere near $965,000 a year to this day. There was a short portion of his career when Sexual Chocolate might have deserved somewhere near his hefty salary, but that time is over and his value only continues to fade as he spends less and less time in the ring.
Thanks to her recent behavior, Paige might not be getting paid much in the near future, but we’re considering everything that happened in her career up to the back-to-back Wellness Policy violations in mid-2016. At that point, Paige was arguably the top female wrestler in WWE, a two time Divas Champion despite being the Anti-Diva, the first time simultaneously with her reign as NXT Women’s Champion that helped usher in the women’s revolution. Paige has used these laurels to elevate herself into dozens of Raw main event segments and yet she’s reported to make only around $290,000 per year. Compared to even the mid-level male talent on either side of this list, Paige was still getting paid like a rookie, far away from a top star in a burgeoning division.
After a decent run in the World of Sport that is the British wrestling scene, Sheamus started working for the WWE Universe in 2006. He spent a few years in developmental and made the leap to the main roster in 2009, quickly becoming a major player and winning the WWE Championship within a manner of months upon his debut. Sheamus has remained a top star and main event performer from then on, and yet it seems a wee bit in appropriate to hear he’s making somewhere around $1.5 million per year. Despite having held the top prize in WWE on four occasions, winning a King of the Ring, being a Royal Rumble winner, and much more, The Celtic Warrior is more remembered for his stupid hair and how out of place he’s always felt as a top superstar to this day.
Being twins has probably given Brie and Nikki Bella opportunities other female superstars never could have had, though we’re not arguing it alone was reason for them to deserve any more money than they’re getting. The reason The Bellas are under-compensated is more related to the unfortunate gender pay gap that definitely exists in WWE. As the two top superstars of the division since their debuts in late 2008, The Bellas also earn a great deal of media attention for their time on Total Divas and their high profile relationships with John Cena and Daniel Bryan. The money they make doesn’t compare to their male companions, though, with Nikki reported to make a paltry $400,000 per year in comparison to Cena’s $9.5 million. Cena is a special case, so the example isn’t perfect, but the point remains that if the women’s revolution is really making females equal in WWE, the difference between the highest paid male and female wrestlers wouldn’t be more than $9 million.
Isaac Yankem would never find himself on a list like this, though as soon as Glenn Jacobs repackaged himself as Kane in 1997, he skyrocketed up the WWE pay grade. Albeit not as iconic as his kayfabe brother The Undertaker, Kane has a mythology unlike any other, one that has consistently kept him in the main event for nearly two decades to varying results. While his longevity is definitely impressive, his performance level doesn’t feel high enough to deserve the reported $1.3 million he annually earns for his work. Kane still gets paid like a bonafide main event star as he slides in and out of top roles, when the reality is he generally only serves to hurt people’s reputation in the wrong way and bore the fans when he’s given too much attention.
Granted the fact she may never reach the level of her legendary father “The Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Charlotte nonetheless deserves to be compensated on the level of her average male co-worker. The thus far four-time WWE Women’s Champion has increased the reputation of women’s wrestling in America more than any other superstar, wrestling in Raw and Pay-Per-View main events and countless top segments. In contrast to her top billing, Charlotte only makes an estimated $290,000. Her general inexperience may preclude her from making the truly big bucks, but her status as the top female wrestler in the company is nothing to ignore. Looking at this small sum, it feels like the company is doing exactly that, paying her significantly less than either the mid-tier male talent on the company that has never won any significant gold to write of.
If wrestlers were paid by the square inch, Big Show would probably find himself on the other half of our list. As is, he seems a little too big for his britches in the upper half of the WWE pay scale at around $1.3 million per year. He also gets his own personal tour bus, although this could be justifiable because travel for a man his size can often require special accommodation. The Showster has been with WWE since 1999, generally treated like the giant monster he is and put in main events because of it. Fans have long grown weary of his presence, though, especially when he gets pigeonholed into top storylines simply because he has big hands. Treating him like a goofy baby doesn’t do him any favors, either, and all it really accomplishes is making his high salary even more confusing.
Tag teams aren’t always compensated the same and trios can be even more confusing, especially when the amount of wrestling amongst them tends to be pretty lopsided. The disparity in salaries of the longest running WWE Tag Team Champions in history, The New Day, still seems inappropriately wavered against the interests of Xavier Woods. Though their varying experience and time in WWE starts to explain the respectively varying compensation, Woods’s $375,000 is considerably less than Big E’s $450,000 and Kofi’s $475,000. Woods gets in the ring slightly less than the others, but this doesn’t seem to be entirely by choice,and he puts on just as good a show as the others when he decides to wrestle. Xavier’s outside antics are also a huge part of New Day’s popularity, making his considerably lower salary something that most certainly doesn’t rock.
Let’s be fair: The Undertaker is a completely unique figure in sports entertainment and it’s extremely hard to measure his value as a performer against the average wrestler. One thing that can’t be argued, though, is that someone who works about five days a year and works only one match when he does, so he probably shouldn’t be one of the highest paid wrestlers in the world. However, that’s exactly what The Undertaker is, earning an approximate $2 million annually even as his time in the ring appears virtually over. From his 1990 to his last World Championship reign ending in 2010, it could easily be argued The Phenom was involved with more than enough iconic moments in wrestling history to earn this pay rate. In 2016, though, The Undertaker simply isn’t doing much of anything at all and it’s hard to justifying paying him seven figures to roll his eyes back and literally hide behind smoke and mirrors once every couple months.
Vince McMahon has been pretty open about not quite understanding the big deal with Cesaro, even as fans of the WWE Universe have been lauding him as the most underrated superstar in the company pretty much since his 2012 debut on SmackDown. Especially now that Cesaro is one of the WWE Raw Tag Team Champions with Sheamus, the apparent $275,000 per year earned by The Swiss Sensation seems outrageously low. The figure may have raised a bit since it was last reported, but there’s no way it comes anywhere near Sheamus’ aforementioned $1.5 million, something that probably looks like a role reversal to fans considering the abilities these superstars have portrayed in the ring. Until fairly recently, Cesaro was only said to be making around $80,000, truly showing how little McMahon has always valued his work.
Call him The Viper, The Apex Predator, or The Face of (Nepotism in) the WWE, Randy Orton has been treated like absolute wrestling royalty from the day he made his debut in 2002. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the youngest man to hold the World Heavyweight Champion remains one of the highest paid superstars in the company, earning in the neighbourhood of $2.7 million per year. Orton also has all of his travel and accommodations paid for by the company, which is fair given his role as a top star. The millions seem like a bit much though, feeling particularly out of place in the modern day, when Orton acts as an almost irrelevant lackey to Bray Wyatt, who for the record is making slightly above one-sixth of what his Family member takes home. Even notwithstanding this current role, Orton has simply never been the performer WWE treats him like and paying him like one doesn’t help his already out of control ego.
Easily on his way to becoming a millionaire if he’s responsible with his money, Dean Ambrose is the best compensated superstar on the underpaid half of our list. However, he still has significant reason to complain, because he earns less than half what either of his partner in The Shield get paid to do the same level of work. Ambrose is taking home the considerable annual sum of $1.1 million, compared to Roman Reigns’s $2.1 million and Seth Rollins’s even sweeter $2.4 million. The three have varying levels of experience prior to their WWE careers, all debuting in late 2012 as a unit to attack Ryback and assist CM Punk in retaining the WWE Championship. The Shield remained in the main event scene from day one, only growing in prominence when they split in 2014. They’ve all been WWE Champion, some more times than others, and while a slight variance in their pay grade was bound to happen, for Ambrose to be this far beneath his brothers seems like lunacy, indeed.
Next to the face of WWE, John Cena, Brock Lesnar is the second highest paid wrestler in sports entertainment today. According to Forbes, Lesnar’s highly limited WWE schedule nets him somewhere around $6 million each year, in addition to travel accommodations and a number of rides on the WWE corporate jet. It can be easy to look at Lesnar’s resume on paper and understand why he deserves such a hefty price tag. The Beast Incarnate is a multi-time WWE and UFC Champion and generally appears as the main event of whatever show he chooses to appear on, few and far between those appearances may be. On the other hand, Lesnar’s appearances of late have been dramatically short and met with critical disappointment to say the least. Programs with Dean Ambrose and Randy Orton were almost complete bombs and unless the shock of his loss to Goldberg revitalizes Brock to turn things around, he’ll remain the most overpaid wrestler in the company until his contract runs out.