WWE is the place to work for aspiring pro wrestlers that want to make as much money as possible. The majority of prospects entering the wrestling business hold a love for the industry out of fandom from childhood but money is still a major priority. The love of the sport can only go so far when you're struggling to pay bills and risking your health on a weekly basis with a job that requires you to put your body on the line. The bad luck of injuries doesn’t know how much money you’re making and will strike at any time. WWE offers the stability of being financially taken care of.
The pay in the WWE is still quite difficult to figure out. There’s no official system that gives us the easy formula to find out how much a superstar makes but luckily, the salaries are often leaked online. Forbes has recently taken up reporting facts on pro wrestling and WWE’s contracts have been one of the topics they’ve tackled. That has given us more of an insight into the numbers many of the performers we are watching make at the end of the year. Very few wrestlers get into the elusive seven figure salaries of making over a million dollars in a calendar year but that’s the dream.
Most of the names earn about what you would expect and what they are worth. John Cena is making over $9 million dollars thanks to a decade of being the top guy that does everything required of him. The younger talents make considerably less, but they will attempt to change that through their work and rising name value. Currently, a number of the contracts do seem a bit strange with some wrestlers commanding way more than their position dictates and others just flat out getting shafted by the system. We’ll look at both sides of the spectrum to break down which eight wrestlers are most overpaid and which seven are drastically underpaid.
15 Overpaid: Mark Henry ($877,000)
Mark Henry should be proud of his career and WWE pays him very handsomely for his past accomplishments. Henry is an extremely loyal employee that has been in the WWE system since the mid-90s. The company pays him nearly one-million dollars per year despite him rarely being featured on television in a prominent role. His 2011 World Championship win was likely the time frame that saw his value jump enough to warrant a bigger salary. Henry has hinted at retirement but has yet to officially make the announcement. Can you blame him? No one would leave that money on the table to simply spend the majority of the time hanging out at home or eating dinner in catering while watching the show from backstage.
14 Underpaid: Luke Harper ($90,000)
The Wyatt Family is highly successful and Luke Harper may just be the hardest working member of the faction. Bray Wyatt is the leader and deservingly makes the most money of the group but Harper had a heavy workload in 2015 despite not making great money. Harper wrestled over 100 matches on the live events calendar. The only other people to do that were Dean Ambrose and the members of New Day. Harper is currently on the injured list but his hard work during his main roster run deserves a bigger contract. Without Harper, the rest of The Wyatt Family suffers with lesser matches and a lack of exposure.
13 Overpaid: Zack Ryder ($535,050)
God bless Zack Ryder’s agent. The hard working superstar deserves everything he gets, but there’s no doubt WWE is overpaying him for how he is currently being used. Ryder is rarely on RAW or SmackDown and has basically been a glorified jobber over the past few years. WWE gave him the feel good moment by winning the Intercontinental Championship in a ladder match at WrestleMania 32 in the ultimate underdog moment. Ryder unfortunately lost the title the next night and was already forgotten within a few weeks. Ryder making over a half-million is absolutely staggering and it shows why he doesn’t appear to get too vocal about his lack of television time nowadays.
12 Underpaid: Paige ($65,500)
The Divas Revolution and WWE branding the women’s division as being equal to the male wrestlers should lead to pay changes in the future. Paige reportedly makes $65,500 and that’s embarrassingly low for someone of her position. WWE markets Paige as one of the top stars of their reality show Total Divas and uses her in various platforms outside of the ring to bring more attention to the brand. While she isn’t prominently featured on television right now, Paige is valuable to the company and deserves better compensation. The overall number likely looks better when she gets paid for merchandise numbers and other bonuses, but the base salary is definitely too low.
11 Overpaid: The Miz ($712,000)
The Miz may go down as the most forgettable WrestleMania main eventer of all time after he retained the WWE Championship over John Cena at WrestleMania XXVII. Following that peak, Miz has spent the majority of his time as a midcarder. His recent rise as Intercontinental Champion with his wife Maryse as his manager has seen a new found return to relevance but Miz is still highly overpaid. He is paid like one of the biggest stars in WWE despite being nowhere near that level. It is safe to say that The Miz will remain in the midcard title picture for the remainder of his career, even though he’s getting paid main event money.
10 Underpaid: Sami Zayn ($7,000)
The most recent figure released of Sami Zayn’s salary showed him making just seven grand per year due to his NXT contract. Zayn signed during a time when NXT was still low profile developmental and the talent was making very little money. The standout talent evolved into a star for WWE and is the one who helped put NXT on the map with his incredible matches. Zayn’s recent call-up to the main roster should see his pay rise dramatically. It would be a safe bet that Zayn made more money from his WrestleMania 32 appearance than he did in his entire NXT stint. As fun as NXT is, the pay is the main reason everyone badly wants to get called up to the main roster. Zayn is likely to receive a starter package from the company near the $90,000 range. Expect his value to rise rather quickly following his first year.
9 Overpaid: Sheamus ($1.3 Million)
Sheamus is often viewed with disdain by wrestling fans for his boring character work and it would frustrate the fan base to know he is making well over one-million bucks. The Celtic Warrior definitely has talent and works extremely hard at his craft, but that salary is absurd. There are very few wrestlers that make the rare seven figures per year and Sheamus shouldn’t be one of those names. Sheamus not only makes huge money but he gets more opportunities than the majority of the roster. Despite his recent performance declining in quality, Sheamus is still getting opportunities appearing in the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. Factor in the fact that he’s a millionaire and Sheamus must have used voodoo to win at life this much.
8 Underpaid: Cesaro ($80,145)
The state of contracts in WWE leaves varying results. A long-term contract benefits established performers using their name value and past body of work to cash in. The problem arises when it puts a ceiling on the younger performers. Cesaro is the perfect example with his contract being just a little over $80,000, despite him becoming one of the most exciting performers on the show. Cesaro's push could always be better but there’s no arguing he has become a hot commodity over the past two-three years. Cesaro is in the same tier as The Miz, yet he makes $800,000 less. That should change whenever he gets to negotiate a far better contract.
7 Overpaid: Kane ($1.3 Million)
Kane is one of the last remaining stars from The Attitude Era still working for the company. The aging veteran has to be nearing retirement but he is cashing in on his reputation for the remainder of his contract. Kane makes an astonishing $1.3 million per year as a role player on the WWE roster. You likely forget Kane is on the roster until he makes an appearance, but WWE overpays him as a thank you for his service. Daniel Bryan revealed that Kane was one of the locker room leaders and that’s likely also a big factor in his pay, but Kane earning over a million bucks is bonkers. Katie Vick would have been well taken care of if she were still around.
6 Underpaid: Bayley (Low NXT Starter Package)
The most recent reports indicated WWE raised pay for current top NXT stars and that would indicate Bayley is making that figure. Bayley’s place on this list is basically representing all of the top NXT stars that deserve far more money than they are getting from the WWE. The developmental project has evolved into a red-hot brand and it showed last year with NXT selling out Barclays Center to have the same attendance as SummerSlam. Bayley vs. Sasha Banks was the biggest match on that show, but neither woman received a pay increase from their usual deals. Dave Meltzer stated the wrestlers wouldn’t get paid extra for the gate because NXT contracts provide them with hotel and transportation perks instead. Not a fair trade. Bayley especially should be making a bigger salary for her importance to NXT and bringing in young fans. You can expect a dramatic pay increase once she reaches the main roster in the very near future.
5 Overpaid: The Undertaker ($2.25 Million)
The Undertaker is the biggest legend to still wrestle occasionally for the WWE and he gets paid as such. Despite his very limited schedule, The Undertaker raked in a little over $2 million in 2016 for just four PPV matches along with a couple of live event tag matches. Everyone loves seeing The Undertaker once in a while for the nostalgia of childhood memories and his special aura, but his limited schedule should not see him be one of the highest paid wrestlers on the roster. The Undertaker still works hard in the gym to keep his body in ring shape and he is outstanding in the ring for his age, but the money is far too high in today’s climate given what his peers make.
4 Underpaid: Roman Reigns ($2.1 Million)
Please don’t boo me. Roman Reigns is definitely getting the push of a lifetime and may be less deserving than some of the other wrestlers on the roster. That doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be getting paid more money. Reigns tells us every week that he is “The Guy” and WWE believes in that, but he should be making more money if it’s true. The past two WrestleMania main events revolved around Reigns chase for the title and he is being treated like the top star in the company, yet he makes less than the likes of Randy Orton. Reigns has been featured more than anyone in the past year and WWE will likely have to shell out more money very soon to keep up with their push.
3 Overpaid: Brock Lesnar ($6 Million)
Brock Lesnar may just have the sweetest deal in WWE history. Following an ugly departure in 2004, Lesnar returned as a hot commodity thanks to a successful UFC run. Lesnar's return saw him demand a part-time schedule with very few matches per year and a massive amount of money. Brock is earning $6 million per year to wrestle maybe five or six times with most of his matches being short and simple. Lesnar hits his opponents with German suplexes over and over, lets them get some offense in and then hits the F5. The formula works, but WWE is overpaying him to do very little work for an astonishing paycheck.
2 Underpaid: New Day ($574,200 total)
The argument could be made that New Day has become the hottest act in the WWE. Fans love cheering for them at shows every week, they have great matches, their merchandise sells and they add something to the program that no one else can. WWE sadly doesn’t pay them in return for their value. Kofi Kingston is paid well at $354,200 but the other members of the group see a drastic drop off. Big E makes $145,000 and Xavier Woods is still on a starting package contract estimated at $75,000. The trio all deserve more than what they are making and hopefully WWE is forced to pay up soon. No wonder New Day is trying to get some extra money out of the invention of Booty-O’s cereal.
1 Overpaid: Randy Orton ($1.6 Million with Travel Benefits)
Randy Orton’s career is a very bizarre one to look back in retrospect. Orton's in-ring work was on point and his standing in the company definitely portrayed him as a main eventer, but it just never felt he was on the level John Cena. Orton didn’t even appear to be as valuable as CM Punk and Daniel Bryan during their peaks. There was something always lacking, preventing Orton from being a legitimate face of the company. WWE still managed to pay him like one with a salary of almost $2 million. Orton's use before his recent injury saw him as an occasional main eventer/upper midcarder but not of someone that would be worthy of such a massive payday. In bonuses, Orton also gets personal travel benefits like his own bus while on the road.
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