Benjamin Franklin once said, “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. There is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.” We’re not going to get into a philosophical conversation about the meaning of life, happiness and the root of money, buy the quote does seem fitting for the article. The guy did chase lighting and a thunderstorm on horseback to further the advancements of electricity and he also helped create a democratic republic, so we know what he’s saying isn’t some mumbo-jumbo you’ll hear from your local hippie.
Professional wrestling can be a lucrative business, especially at the top, but like everything else, if you don’t spend your money right, you’ll fall into a deep hole of debt. One example is wrestling legend, Gorgeous George. He sold out events and helped transcend the sport onto television, but by the time of his death, he was so poor, former colleagues had to chip in to pay for a tombstone, according to Brian Solomon’s book, “Pro Wrestling FAQ.” Not every wrestler is like Gorgeous George, many have kept the money they’ve earned and are millionaires because of it.
Without further ado, here are eight wrestlers that are surprisingly filthy rich and eight wrestlers that are broke.
16 Broke: Haiti Kid
Kids today know of Hornswoggle and El Torito, however, little people’s wrestling was huge decades ago. Let us introduce to you Raymond Kessler, otherwise known as Haiti Kid. His career started in 1971 and worked with wrestlers like Little Beaver and Sky Low Low. He would bounce around multiple organizations, including Stampede Wrestling, NWA, and AWA. In 1984, he would appear on an episode of WWE’s All-Star Wrestling. He was at both WrestleMania II and III, cornering Mr. T against Roddy Piper and competing in a six-man tag match for the latter.
He would work as a wrestler until 1993 and then would pursue a career in acting. Sadly, Haiti Kid would fall on dark times and once was reported dead in 2001. He would resurface in 2009, claiming he didn’t die and that the rumor hurt his career for work. He also claimed he was homeless in Brooklyn. Wherever he is now, hopefully not dead, we pray Haiti Kid can find some peace and financial security.
15 Rich: Shannon Moore ($1 Million Net Worth)
He may not be as wealthy as others on this list, but he also isn’t in the broke section neither. Moore was childhood friends with Matt and Jeff Hardy and was a part of their backyard wrestling promotion, Omega. He would dip his toes into the big leagues when the late Chris Kanyon hired him to be a part of the cruiserweight division in WCW. With Jimmy Hart as his manager, he quickly joined a stable, 3 Count, and became a reliable cog in the machine. He would be involved in many cruiserweight matches until WCW was bought by the WWE.
After a stint in the WWE’s territorial development organization, Heartland Wrestling Association, Moore would be called up and become reunited with Matt Hardy. He would work for the company for four years before leaving for TNA and then worked again for the WWE for another two years in 2006. He would return to the independent circuit after leaving the WWE and had his last performance in 2015. Outside of wrestling, Moore is a tattoo artist and owns his own shop in North Carolina.
14 Broke: Lex Luger
He was the total package, no pun intended, and could have been the next Hulk Hogan but mediocrity and a boring personality made him one of the worst wrestlers to be pushed to the sun. Luger began his career in the NWA and then moved to WCW in the 80s. McMahon loved his size and signed him, trying to make him the next Hulk Hogan. It failed and Luger became one of the many veterans who left the WWE for WCW when Ted Turner wanted to change the landscape of wrestling. When WWE bought WCW, Luger wasn’t allowed back in the fold and he joined TNA in 2003.
Legal trouble would hit Luger in 2003 after becoming involved in an altercation with then-girlfriend, Elizabeth Hulette (Miss Elizabeth). Not only was it a domestic dispute call but police found multiple controlled substances, including OxyContin, anabolic steroids, Alprazolam and a slew of others. In 2007, he went under the knife for a nerve impingement in his neck. The operation made him a quadriplegic but over the years, Luger would gain strength in his arms and legs. Luger lost a lot of his earnings and hit an all-time low, however, he has made a comeback, publishing a book in 2013 and becoming a born again Christian.
13 Rich: Teddy Long ($3 Million Net Worth)
Tag team matches all day playa playa. Teddy Long has a long history in the industry, dating back to the mid-80s when he was a referee for NWA’s Jim Crockett Promotions. In his career, he’s had roles as a manager, referee, General Manager, and senior adviser in the wrestling business. He debuted in the WWE back in 1998 as a manager and repeated the role again in 2003. He served as General Manager for SmackDown twice, so it was no surprise when Long made a surprise appearance on WWE’s Raw this month.
He was a little rusty on the mic but wanted to become the new General Manager of SmackDown when the brand split happens. Safe to say, he didn’t get the job. He may be known for wanting tag team matches, but Long has managed some of the greatest wrestlers ever, such as Eddie Guerrero and Chris Jericho. Teddy having a cool $3 million is pretty impressive for someone who wasn’t a wrestler and deserves to be on the list.
12 Broke: Ric Flair
Wooooooooooo! The Stylin’, profilin’, limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin’ n’ dealin’ son of a gun has gone through tough times financially and may never get out of it. Flair has been on television since the 70s, he was involved in an infamous plane crash, made the south a destination to watch wrestling, feuded with nothing but the best, and he’s always been the same character while doing it. When we talk about wrestlers whose gimmicks are of them in real life, Flair is up there. We’ve heard the stories of him buying drinks for everyone, walking around in his robe naked on an airplane flight, and buying extravagant things.
With the millions upon millions he made, he also lost a lot of that money due to several situations. On Steve Austin’s podcast, Flair spoke about owning $800,000 dollars to Vince McMahon, which he paid off. He also talked about his financial struggles coming from his three divorces and breaking the law. In 2010, he faced eviction from his home and failed to pay taxes which cost up to $627,758. Flair seems to be doing better but you never know what’s next for the 16-time World Champion.
11 Rich: Chuck Palumbo ($4 Million Net Worth)
Those that only started watching wrestling this decade might be asking themselves, who? Palumbo worked for both WCW and WWE, but was a mid-carder and in the tag team division at best. He captured the WCW Tag Team Championships with Shawn Stasiak and when the company folded, he made his debut in WWE as part of The Alliance angle. After the merger, he would team with Billy Gunn and would have a few good matches, most notably losing the tag titles to Hulk Hogan and Edge in 2002.
He wasn’t the flashiest, didn’t have the best mic skills, wasn’t the greatest in-ring worker, and surely wasn’t at the top of merchandise sales. That’s why it’s surprising that he’s worth over $ 4 million. He retired from wrestling in 2009 and became an entrepreneur. He became co-host of Discovery Channels television series, Lords of the Car Hoards, he owns CP Kustoms, which make custom motorcycles, and has a gym in El Cajon, California, called Chuck Palumbo’s Garage Gym.
10 Broke: Perry Saturn
A student of Killer Kowalski, Saturn became an absolute beast for Extreme Championship Wrestling in the mid-90s. He was paired with fellow friend and Kowalski student, George Caiazzo, better known as Kronus, and they formed The Eliminators. They were hired to job for the Steiner Brothers in ECW but were hired after putting on a great performance. When ECW invaded WWE in 1997, they were there, and could have been a great tag team for years but an injury sidelined Saturn.
He would then end up in WCW before becoming in love with a mop in the WWE. No wonder Saturn hit the dumps after the merger, how can you go from being booked in important feuds to having a segment about loving a mop? Saturn hit a rough patch after his success in the wrestling industry. He stopped a sexual assault from happening but was shot in the process. He became addicted to methamphetamine and became homeless for over two years before gaining the public's attention in 2009.
9 Rich: James Storm ($5 Million Net Worth)
“The Cowboy” is one of the original members of TNA Wrestling, performing at the inaugural Pay-Per-View in 2002. He teamed with Chris Harris and they became known as America's Most Wanted, due to Storm’s brush with the law. They won six NWA Tag Team Championships together but it wasn’t his most memorable run in the division. After breaking up, Storm would wrestle in singles competition before becoming one-half of the famous Beer Money, Inc.
He and teammate Bobby Roode would have a great run as top dogs of the tag division but all things must come to an end. Each went their own way and Storm would mix it up with a few other partners and stables. In 2015, he left TNA for WWE’s NXT and was well received. He would work a few matches but ultimately would return to the company that made him famous. For someone who only has been a TNA Heavyweight Champion once, Storm does know how to save his money.
8 Broke: Jimmy Snuka
No surprises here, Snuka went from one of the greatest to getting the Chris Benoit treatment. This means, the WWE doesn’t want to talk about him, have anything to do with him, or even speak his name. Snuka exploded onto the wrestling scene in the 70s. He would debut for the WWE in 1982 and became an instant star. Nothing but top matches and feuds were booked for Snuka. His legendary steel cage match at Madison Square Garden inspired a whole generation of new wrestlers at the time, including Mick Foley. Surprisingly, he didn’t win any titles while being with the WWE during his career. After Snuka left the WWE for good, he would work on the independent circuit. Trouble hit the wrestler in 2015 when he was arrested for involuntary manslaughter of Nancy Argentino, his girlfriend who died 32 years prior.
Snuka was known to have done steroids and could have killed her in a rage fit. This year, a judge ruled Snuka incompetent to stand trial due to dementia. Whatever money Snuka did make, it’s long gone now and nothing but legal payments are in his future.
7 Rich: Bella Twins ($8 Million Net Worth)
We know, they were the main attractions before the women’s revolution in the WWE hit the airwaves in 2015. They also appear as centerpieces for the hit reality television show, Total Divas, but we’re still surprised at how much money they’re worth. Born only 16-minutes apart, the Bellas do everything together. They were both a part of Budweiser’s World Cup advertisement campaign and were seen on the reality show, Meet My Folks, before transferring over to the wrestling industry.
We'll give them some credit for their wrestling contributions as they did bring a few fresh storylines into the mix the past several years, however, if you’re a fan of wrestling, you know it wasn’t the best era for women’s wrestling, and that’s why the WWE changed it. According to Forbes 2016 salary, Nikki has earned more money than her sister throughout the years and is due $135,000 this year.
6 Broke: Kamala
Once one of the scariest gimmicks on the planet, James Harris has fallen on hard times, losing both his legs to due to high blood pressure and diabetes. He debuted in wrestling in 1978 but didn’t become a member of the WWE Universe until 1984. He would have several runs with the WWE from ’84 to 1993. His most famous feud was with The Undertaker, becoming the first man to face him in a coffin match. He would also battle Hulk Hogan and Jake the Snake Roberts.
He reappeared as a guest spot several times with the WWE from 2001-’06 and also had a match with Daniel Bryan in the indie promotion Ring of Honor before retirement. He may be the only person to say he wrestled Hulk Hogan and Daniel Bryan. In 2011-12, things turned for the worst, as both his legs were amputated. It was reported in 2014 that Kamala receives a disability check and sells handmade wooden chairs for a living.
5 Rich: David Otunga ($10 Million Net Worth)
When The Nexus debuted in 2010 and destroyed John Cena, CM Punk, and everyone else who was at ringside, the WWE Universe went into shell shock. Either they were cheering for the surprise attack or despised the fact that their hero just got completed dominated on television. One of those savages was none other than David Otunga. Fast track to 2016 and you won’t be seeing Otunga enter the squared ring again, however, he survived the latest cuts by the WWE. Otunga hasn’t wrestled on television in a very long time, so why does he have so much money?
Before Otunga became a two-time Tag Team Champion and the last member of Nexus and New Nexus, he graduated from Harvard Law School. Outside of wrestling, he was a legal analyst for both CNN and HLN. He may not wrestle anymore but he’s still involved with the company on several fronts, including recently becoming a part of the commentary team for WWE’s Main Event and Superstars. It also doesn’t hurt that his wife is actress Jennifer Hudson, who's also a success.
4 Broke: Virgil
Twenty years ago, when you heard the name Virgil in wrestling, you thought of him as Ted Dibiase’s bodyguard/servant/money holder. He was a part of some great cards, helped push the career of Yokozuna at Survivor Series ’92 and even got a shot at the title against Bret Hart. Mostly working on the undercard and mid-card at best, Virgil put his stamp on wrestling in the WWE. When he went over to WCW he was even a part of the nWo, the most famous stable to come out of the promotion.
After his career was over and he wasn’t getting the checks, Virgil would show up to conventions. In 2016, when you hear the name Virgil, you think of him sitting by himself at a wrestling convention. Just google it or you can read TheSportster’s’ “15 Wrestlers That Need to Stop Hanging Out at Conventions.” Virgil was so desperate for money, he would lie to organizations that hold these conventions and say wrestling legend Ted Dibiase would show up with him, which was not the case. Good luck and god speed Virgil.
3 Rich: Torrie Wilson ($18 Million Net Worth)
During WWE’s Attitude Era, it was remarkable that so many beautiful women could also wrestle. You had Trish Stratus, Lita, and Sable to name a few. Wilson gets lost in the shuffle but she’s become the most successful out of the bunch. The blond bombshell’s debut in wrestling came in the WCW when she came out as a valet for Scott Steiner. She was given the name, Samantha, and was then used in a feud between the Flairs and the nWo.
She made her WWE debut in 2001 after the merger and her very first story was having an affair with Vince McMahon. She was involved in many storylines and had a few good feuds on her own, however, the fact that she worked for Playboy magazine, made her more appealing to the masses. To be fair, she was a model to begin with, winning the pageant, “Miss Galaxy 1998.” She has made quite the penny modelling for publications and being in a relationship with Major League Baseball player Alex Rodriguez amplified her popularity.
2 Broke: Dynamite Kid
The tragic tale of The British Bulldogs began with Tom Billington, better known as Dynamite Kid. He was short in stature but built like a monster. Making waves in Bruce Hart’s Stampede Wrestling, he was one of the faster men in the ring but also had the strength to look intimidating and believable. The pressure to become a big bulking heap of mass was prevalent in the wrestling industry in the 70s and 80s. That pressure caused Billington to use steroids for the very first time in 1979 when Junkyard Dog introduced him to Dianabol.
After traveling the world, Dynamite would make his debut on WWE television in 1984, teaming with Bret Hart. He would then join Davey Boy Smith as The British Bulldogs and would be involved in some great feuds. Throughout his career, Billington abused his body with an abundance of cocaine, speed, LSD, and even horse steroids, leading to multiple strokes and close calls with death. His left leg became paralyzed and he has to use a wheel chair. He was hospitalized in 2015 after suffering a stroke. You can watch him on CNN’s Death Grip: Inside Pro Wrestling.
1 Rich: Big Show ($20 Million Net Worth)
This list is about being surprised about how much a wrestler makes. So we did exclude The Rock, John Cena, and others because of that reason. You may be asking yourself why the Big Show then. Big Show ranks eighth on the list of the highest net worth of wrestlers at an estimated $20 million. His net worth is surprisingly higher than legends such as Kurt Angle, Chris Jericho, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, Bret Hart and Mick Foley. HBK and The Undertaker’s net worth is less than the Big Show's? Now that’s surprising. Big Show did come into the game at a young age and when the money was being thrown out the window at WCW, so it may not be that surprising. He was a main eventer for such a long time, he held multiple championships, and played both a great heel and baby face.
Maybe it’s all the movies he was in or he just knows how to negotiate a great deal in his contract. Whatever the case, he deserves the number one spot on this list.