It has only in the last few decades that wrestlers have been making acceptable money. They're on the road 300 days a year or more sacrificing their bodies for a company that is definitely profitable.
You might think that everyone performing under the bright WWE lights is a lear-jet flyin' millionaire son-of-a-gun but you would be wrong. The truth is that many wrestlers are signed to entry-level contracts that they take in order to realize their lifelong dream.
The WWE is the biggest and arguably only game in town to really wrestle in the big-time so the performers are likely to take what they can get. Their popularity might skyrocket in the first half of a three or five-year contract, leaving them to headline a card while still making rookie money. Of course merchandise and other percentages come into play and help balance out the popularity-to-payment ratio, but the base pay likely remains the same.
We must also take into account the high cost of working on the road. A lot of the money isn't guaranteed and wrestlers aren't technically employees, but rather independent contractors, meaning they have to pay their own expenses on the road, unless negotiated otherwise in their contract. Paying for expenses on the road makes saving money very difficult for wrestlers. This is why several wrestlers will often travel together. Back in the day, a lot of bad habits on the road left guys financially strapped after retirement, as adjusting to the post-wrestling lifestyle proved to be very difficult.
Wrestlers require large amounts of high quality food and gym time. Easy to get at home, but when you're driving through a two-bit town that can get very difficult and expensive. Rental cars, hotel rooms and other expenses are just a part of the job and if you aren't a long-time veteran, many of those expenses will come out of your pocket.
A salary list was leaked earlier this year and it revealed over 50 superstars and a dozen Divas' salaries. Included were details about travel, accommodation, merchandise % and PPV share. It's not clear exactly where this document came from (it was a leak after all) but if the information is anywhere close to accurate it's fascinating stuff.
We're assuming that the salaries listed are all base-pay with extra coming from gate-revenue depending on their position on the card. So don't feel too bad if you see your favorite main-event star making a small sum.
And hey, if you feel really bad you can always go buy their shirt!
10 Goldust - $700,000 - 3 years
One of the last remnants of the Attitude Era, Goldust started with the WWE at the tail end of 1995 and has given many years of great service. He accepted the controversial gimmick and wore it with pride, pulling off what many others could not.
He did leave the WWE a few times for WCW and TNA, which explains why he makes so little compared to other veterans. But he's also in line for a lengthy post-wrestling career with WWE as he has already worked as a backstage producer. He may not make the flashy bucks, but he'll definitely make up for it in longevity.
9 Ryback - $655,500 - 2 years
Ryback makes more than Rollins? If you've followed wrestling for a few years you're well aware that McMahon has a heavy bias towards bodybuilders no matter their in-ring skill. Like Rollins, Ryback should benefit from some Championship money and his increased presence on the card. As long as he can maintain momentum after his injury, Ryback could also be in line for a nice raise.
Remember how much Ryback loves to (needs to) eat. Feed me more isn't just a catchphrase for Ryback as countless stories have been told of just how much he eats.
8 Jack Swagger - $275,000 - 3 years
You would think the former World Heavyweight Champion would pull in more, but there he is. Swagger has been left in limbo after his momentous push from a few years ago and you have to wonder what his future is with the company.
Rumor has it that Swagger has been wondering the same thing as a few sites report that he is unhappy with his place in the company. To go from World Champ to tagging with Fandango on Main Event has to be a real buzzkill.
7 Bray Wyatt - $254,200 - 3 years
Rotunda's Wyatt character stormed the WWE after its debut, producing several top notch matches against The Shield, Daniel Bryan, and John Cena. He got over big time with the fans and his loss to Cena prompted much criticism. There are many that even wanted him to beat The Undertaker at WrestleMania 31.
So how does one of the most over and interesting heels in the company make a fraction of say.....Rusev's salary?
Most likely it's his non-athletic looking build and the fact that he rose so fast. It's hard to say when he signed this deal but it could be ending soon. We're hoping the WWE sees the value they're getting from him and pays him accordingly.
6 Bo Dallas - $165,000 - 2 years
Bray Wyatt's less successful brother is making almost $100,000 less with one less year on his term. He's shown flashes of promise but has mostly been on secondary television with the odd PPV match. The fans seem to enjoy him but he's yet to hit the next level. Perhaps the name 'Bo Wyatt' is in his future? Well, his salary can probably grow, right? All he has to do, is BO-Lieve!
5 Big E - $145,000 - 2 years
Big E's timing might just be perfect. His New Day stable started off rocky but they were flexible enough to make it work as a comedy heel team. With the tag division so weak, they have ample opportunity to make some noise and maintain a consistent spot on PPV. The way the titles change hands so frequently you could expect Big E to bring 'multiple tag-champion' to the negotiating table. Still a pretty low figure for a guy who was once rumored to be Vince's handpicked future face of the company.
4 R-Truth - $244,000 - 3 years
The Truth is one of the few wrestlers in today's WWE that wrestled for them way back in 1999. You think his years of relevant experience would gurantee him twice what he's making but it appears his long tenure with the competition (TNA) is hurting his bottom line. It's not like he jumped ship though, rather he was completely forgotten about during the Invasion and released. Still, the money isn't there for such an experienced veteran who c
Although Truth remains out of the main event picture, he is a consistent face on the program and it generally appears like Creative is trying with his character.
3 Seth Rollins - $310,500 - 3 years
Seth Rollins stormed the scene with the ridiculously popular Shield stable and has since parlayed that into the most individual success of the three. Participating in the WrestleMania main event (for a couple of minutes at least) and spending most of 2015 as World Champion must obviously boost his pay, but his base could still be this low.
With the way things have been going, Rollins could be in for a huge raise.
2 Daniel Bryan - $700,000 - 5 years
If Bryan had signed a shorter contract he could have demanded at least twice this amount for the next one. His Yes! Movement, WrestleMania XXX moment and BOTH of the last two Royal Rumbles proved that he is an extremely valuable commodity. With his career in jeopardy due to injury trouble, this might be the last performance contract he has with the WWE. We're all hoping he can return to the sport he loves and excels at or even in a non-wrestling capacity.
I don't know what world we live in that Sheamus makes more than the American Dragon.....oh right, Vince's world.
1 Roman Reigns - $245,000 - 2 years
This one has to be nearing completion. Reigns is obviously favored by the company and had half of a giant push before the fans forced a change in plans. It worked out for the best as the main event picture has still remained interesting and Reigns definitely needed more seasoning time. After the Royal Rumble backlash against him he initially came off very defensive and hard-headed but he appears to have changed his tune and learned from the experience. He has the charisma, but needs to get there organically, the fans are too smart and their gag reflex kicks in when something is forced down their throat.
Reigns could be in the plans for a championship next WrestleMania and if he hasn't gotten a new contract by then, he'll be cashing in like Money in the Bank.
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