When it comes to professional wrestling, the late '90s was the peak of its' popularity thanks to the battle between the World Wrestling Entertainment company, WWE, and World Championship Wrestling, or WCW as you might know it as. As each company started to grow and become a huge success, they pushed each other to do better, to be better, to beat one another.
The fight for professional wrestling supremacy concluded when the WWE's owner, Vince McMahon, purchased WCW in 2001 for next to nothing following the WCW's horrible management of their wrestlers, success, and the company itself.
A guaranteed contract was one of the most coveted in the industry because it guarantees you every single penny, even if you are fired or injured. In a business as shaky as professional wrestling, having a guaranteed contract was as important as winning a title belt or getting television time.
So in 1996, the first year WCW actually made a profit, they started blowing all of their funds on wrestlers from other companies, celebrities, and desperately trying to keep all of their current roster by signing them to guaranteed contracts.
Although this was not the only reason the WCW folded in 2001, it was a big part of the downfall and one of the contributing factors to the debt they acquired.
Let's take a look at the worst contracts of the WCW and maybe you will see why the company struggled following its' peak in the late '90s.
15 Master P
A good example of just how bad WCW was at making decisions was in 1999 when they paid Master P a ridiculous $293,000 for almost nothing at all.
During the dark days of the WCW, someone (probably Vince Russo and his demented ass) thought it would be a great idea to use racism to form heat between rivals and the No Limit Soldiers were created in WCW. They consisted of Rey Mysterio Jr., Konnan, and Big Swoll. They competed against their bitter rivals, The West Texas Rednecks, which was made up of Curt Hennig, Bobby Duncum Jr., Barry Windham, and Kendall Windham.
Swoll was played by Randy Thornton and after experiencing some of the worst professional wrestler storyline writing in existence, he ended up retiring not long after the entire rivalry came to an awkwardly racist halt following several horrible matches of forced animosity that no one cared about.
14 Scott Steiner
If we could move Scott Steiner down to number one, we would. However, his contract, as ridiculous as it was, still could be argued, at the time, as something that makes sense for WCW. They might not have had the money but he was one of the only wrestlers that ended up staying around in WCW therefore he became the World Champion by default. The company knew times were bad when one of the craziest, self-absorbed, nutjobs was carrying around the world title belt, and no one seemed to even notice.
In 1998, Scott's contract jumped into the $750,000 per year range, which is insane for a man that calls himself, "Big Poppa Pump." When the company was at their lowest point, he was still cashing in on the contract and not helping one bit. He wasn't a big draw anymore, or ever for that matter, so why did he deserve almost $1 million per year in salary?
13 Tank Abbott
Many of you only know about Tank Abbott because of his WCW contract, which is still hard to understand, even in 2016. He earned about $81,000 in his first year, which included only four matches but with a lot of hype that failed miserably, before jumping up to $650,000 in 2000 and 2001. He made more money in one year than Ric Flair did in the previous two combined. Tank Abbott deserved more money than Ric Flair? A legend?
Tank was a newcomer towards the end of 1999 and began wrestling in WCW with matches against guys like La Parka, Meng, and Jerry Flynn. It wasn't long before the Mixed Martial Arts fighter was propelled into the World Heavyweight title battle with a match against the champion at the time, Sid Vicious. He would lose that match and then continue down a road that would lead him to another title shot, only this time, it was against David Arquette? If you are still wondering how the WCW failed, ask them why David Arquette and Vince Russo are on the list of World Champions.
12 Rick Steiner
If you were upset over Scott Steiner's pay, imagine how you are going to feel knowing Rick Steiner, Scott's less talented former tag team partner, was making almost just as much money. Between 1996 and 1998, before he got a new contract with the WCW, Rick made $825,000.
But then the WCW started turning a profit and opened the gates to financial freedom to all of the wrestlers that had been there awhile, even if they did not deserve it. His contract went from $340,000 a year to $750,000 a year in 2000 and 2001. Although he ended up having the most success in his singles career during those few years, it was forced than anything else. It felt as though the WCW was putting him front and center because of that large contract and not because anyone truly cared about his relationship with his brother.
11 Bret Hart
When Bret Hart showed up in WCW in 1997, it was already Hollywood Hogan's world and he was just another slob on the ticket that wasn't going to end up getting over unless Hulk Hogan and Eric Bischoff decided so. That just isn't how Bret Hart deserves to be treated. He was a WWE legend already and deserved to become one of their main attractions instead of the nWo and Hogan. But, as with most WCW storylines during that time besides the nWo ones, Hart was never truly given much to root for besides a few highlights, here and there. WCW squandered the chance to truly stay on top the wrestling world by featuring talented Superstars like Bret Hart.
His contract was hefty too. He made $2.7 million in 1998, $2.6 million in 1999, and $1.4 million in 2000. His salary went down in 2000 after his retirement following several months of terrible decisions made by the WCW writers, aka Vince Russo. It did not help things when Bret's brother, Owen Hart, died during a WWE PPV event in May of 1999.
10 Stevie Ray
Booker T and Stevie Ray were real life brothers that wrestled in WCW as members of the tag team Harlem Heat. Together, Stevie Ray and Booker T won the WCW World Tag Team Championship a WCW record, ten times. As a duo, they were exciting to watch and easy to root for as they spent a lot of their time at the bottom of the wrestling totem pole.
However, things changed when Booker T started to branch off for himself and Stevie Ray joined the nWo. That was the moment that might have cost Stevie Ray his wrestling career because he went down a path that turned him into a forgotten villain as opposed to his brother, Booker T, who was becoming a WCW Superstar.
He makes the list because during the time when Booker T was helping the company sell tickets, Stevie Ray was being forced on us and still earning a lot of money in the process. In fact, he earned $1.4 million from 1998 to 2001 during a time when he was slowly being replaced by his younger, more talented brother, Booker T.
9 Dennis Rodman
The biggest difference between WCW and WWE during the late '90s was that WCW stopped worrying about the wrestling aspect and started to worry about the number of fans they had each week on Monday Nitro. One of the worst ideas they had was to start adding celebrities and professional athletes into the mix. It's not the most horrible idea but then they put Jay Leno up against Hollywood Hogan and Eric Bischoff. That might have sold a few extra tickets but what demographic is Jay Leno truly aimed at?
That was in 1998, a year after they had gone out and hired Dennis Rodman to join the nWo and be a part of Hulk Hogan's entourage. It worked out well for Rodman because the NBA suspended him for the entire NBA season and he needed something to do. WCW kept him on their payroll for two years paying him almost $2 million dollars to wrestler twice at two consecutive Bash at the Beach PPV's. It was the easiest money he would ever make in his life.
8 Sid Vicious
After being teased for quite some time, Sid Vicious finally made his in-ring debut on WCW in June of 1999 where he lost to Sting after just six minutes to a disqualification. He showed up a year too late and it ended up costing him dearly.
By the time Sid came to WCW, the checks being written were filled with zeroes so he ended up with a ridiculous $800,000 in 1999, followed by an increase each year until 2001 of $50,000 per year. He also earned $50,000 per PPV in 1999, $55,000 in 2000, and $60,000 in 2001. Without even counting all of his PPV appearances, he earned about $2.5 million dollars in a short few years with the WCW. He was long past his prime and even his name wasn't drawing the crowds it did when he was in WWE.
It all came crashing down when he was asked to perform a maneuver from the top rope which caused him to fall and completely shatter his ankle. That was about the moment he was finished with the WCW.
Sadly, Wrath, also known as Bryan Clark, is one of the few WCW jobbers that lasted much longer than he originally should have with the company. He tore his ACL after a couple of years wrestling under the name Wrath. He ended up spending an entire year sidelined from the injury, that was in 1999. When he returned to the ring, he ended up becoming a World Tag Team Champion with fellow WCW mid-card legend, Kronik. The two men got involved in the Vince Russo mind mess of a storyline that was simply pitiful and they ended up losing the title belts.
He was signed in 2000 for about $175,000 per year until the WWE purchased WCW in 2001. He was actually injured at the time of the purchase by his former company and even ended up wrestling a few matches in the WWE before moving onto the independent circuit.
6 Hugh Morris
Bill DeMott wrestled with the WCW for quite some time, from 1995 to 2000. He was there when the company was at its' peak and he left just after the fall, not because he chose to but because it was either sign with the WWE or go work for peanuts on the independent circuit.
He was never a lead guy, he was always better when part of a bigger group of guys like Jimmy Hart's First Family or the Misfits in Action or even the Dungeon of Doom. Hugh Morris was a good wrestler but he was never worth the nearly $1 million he earned from 1999 to 2001. It was almost like the WCW was not worried about folding and simply worried about losing talent so they just kept signing them to meet their demands.
It was a good time for the professional wrestlers but a bad time for the company that once pushed the WWE to greatness.
5 Ernest Miller
$1.169 million dollars.
That is what Ernest "The Cat" Miller earned in his final three years with the WCW. In 1999 he got about $320,000 while his salary continued to increase each year going up to $400,000 in 2000 and $450,000 in 2001.
WCW paid Ernest Miller, a man who spent five years with the company and only wrestled 259 times while never even coming close to a title belt, of any kind. Even the worst wrestlers walked away with the United States Championship. There were a ton of belts floating around the company but he couldn't get to a single one of them.
Now explain how a man that is less than mid-level talent would be earning such a large sum of money with WCW? You can't and neither can WCW. It made no sense back then and it continues to confuse us all, even today.
4 Horace Hogan
If Hulk Hogan is the greatest professional wrestler of all time, then anyone of his family should have no problems getting taken care of in the wrestling industry, right?
Horace Hogan proved otherwise and by the time he reached the big time, he was nothing more than just a guy who was related to Hulk Hogan. In real life, he is Hulk's nephew and is a big guy that had all the chances that anyone else had, maybe even a bit more being that his uncle could write Horace into any match or show due to his creative control clause of his contract.
But even then, Horace just could not get away from the shadows of his uncle and when it came out that he was earning an easy $200,000 in 1999, $250,000 in 2000, and $250,000 more in 2001, people were really beginning to see just how the WCW was losing money.
3 Buff Bagwell
If Buff Bagwell is remembered for anything, it would be from the two matches he had against Booker T for the WCW World Heavyweight Championship in July of 2001. It was memorable because it was the first match after WWE purchased WCW where the wrestlers still fought under the WCW banner. The audience was not pleased at all and Buff was booed out of the arena, for both matches, on two consecutive nights where he lost a shot at the WCW World Heavyweight Championship twice.
Aside from the fact that Buff Bagwell is a terrible wrestler, no offense but there is more to the sport than having huge muscles. Even when he was part of the WCW Tag Team Champions, The American Males, or the two-time champs, Stars and Stripes, he wasn't interesting to watch.
Yet somehow, he was earning between $250,000 and $400,000 a year between 1998 and 2000. In total, he earned over $1 million dollars for three years of just plain bad wrestling.
2 Hulk Hogan
When it comes to professional wrestling, almost 99.9% of the world has heard of Hulk Hogan because he is the man that changed the entire game. He turned the industry into the spectacle it has become when he wrestled Andre the Giant at WrestleMania III. He proved that wrestlers can become superstars in Hollywood, helping to grow the industry's core audience from hardcore fans to just about anyone.
So when he signed a four year contract with WCW in 1998, he cashed in on his status as a wrestling icon at the expense of the WCW and all of its' wrestlers. The only reason anyone knows about his hilarious contract is because it leaked online in 1998 and the fans went nuts over its' ridiculousness.
He would earn a flat rate of $1.35 million per year starting in 1998 through 2000 which isn't that bad considering what other wrestlers were making. However, he would also make either 15% or $675,000 per PPV event, whichever is higher with a guaranteed six per year, minimum. He also received a $2 million dollar signing bonus, 25% of the gross ticket sales at any event he would wrestle on, and the best part of the whole thing, creative control.
To no fault of his own, Goldberg's massive $11 million dollar contract was a big part of the companies downfall. The guaranteed contract paid him $2.5 million in 1999, 2000, and 2001, annually. That yearly salary would grow to $3.5 million in 2002 which is a big reason he was not so quick to jump ship and go to the WWE, he did not have to. All he had to do is the same thing the rest of the big stars did, they just sat out until their contracts were finished paying out. It would be the easiest money he would ever make in his life.
However, by 2001, there was simply no way WCW could afford to pay him anywhere close to that $2.5 million as they were already losing so much money it was insane. We don't know the exact percentages but looking at the rest of the contracts in the WCW in 2000, besides Hulk Hogan, he was making double what Bret Hart was getting paid still and anywhere from four to 10 times as much as the rest of the company.
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