As many of you are well aware, WCW (World Championship Wrestling) was the WWE's biggest rival pro-wrestling promotion back in the '90s, which initiated the "Monday Night War" between the two companies. Pro-wrestling was at it's peak in popularity during the years when the WCW and WWE were fighting over ratings. The mid-late '90s were very cutthroat times for the WWE because of WCW's popularity (due to established WWE guys making the jump to WCW). As you would expect, many of those said wrestlers who jump shipped from the WWE to WCW (Nash or Scott Hall for example) did so for very lucrative contracts. For WCW to compete with the WWE, they needed to have as many recognizable names on their roster as they possibly could to draw in fans.
In addition to signing a plethora of older, established WWE guys by dangling loads of money in their faces, WCW also tried creating new stars like Goldberg, Booker T and Diamond Dallas Page. As you would expect, many of those said WWE guys, and even some of those newer WCW stars made a ton of money from WCW. However, not all wrestlers made that much money in WCW. In fact, some of WCW's talents barely made anything at all, and for a number of those wrestlers, it was absolutely shocking! On the contrary, some of WCW's talents made way more money than most of us would have ever expected or imagined. Stay tuned, as this list divulges the 15 Most Shocking Salaries (whether low or high) in WCW's history. With that said, let's begin our list.
15 15. Randy "Macho Man" Savage: $743,492
Although $740,000+ sounds like a fairly hefty sum, for someone who had the star power and the fan-base like the The Macho Man did, it seems like a pretty small number. Randy Savage made his official WCW debut back in 1994, and although he was featured widely in many programs, Randy Savage did not make the type of green that many fans would have expected a star like Savage to have been making. However, Randy's paycheck projected skywards each year, and after his shockingly low salary in 1996 of only $743,492, the next year (1997), Macho Man's salary more than doubled what it previously was.
His 1997 salary tallied up to the impressive sum of over 1.9 million dollars. A very significant increase from just one year prior. Perhaps Randy Savage joining the NWO in 1997 was one of the factors for Randy receiving such a hefty salary. Regardless, The Macho Man's 1996 salary was fitting for more of an upper-midcard talent, and not for a bonifed main-event superstar like Randy Savage was. The Macho Man had just spent years prior wrestling for the WWE as one of their biggest stars and he had multiple WWE Championship reigns. I believe most fans would have imagined that Randy Savage would have been making far more green than he did in 1996.
14 14. Roddy Piper: $185,206
"Rowdy" Roddy Piper, a wrestling legend known for his tenures in many pro-wrestling promotions including the NWA and WWE, wrestled at one point for WCW between 1996-2000. Although Piper was never a WWE World Champion or a solidified main event caliber superstar, Rowdy Roddy Piper was still a featured talent wherever he went and he had runs with the WWE's Intercontinental and World Tag Team Championships. When Piper arrived in WCW in '96, Roddy was featured throughout various main event storylines.
However, despite being positioned in an upper-card spot, Rowdy Roddy Piper did not make the kind of green that many fans would have expected a well known legend like Roddy Piper would have been making off the hop. For Piper's first year in WCW, his salary was only a smidgen over $185,000 which is in my opinion, quite low and shocking. However, for Piper's next couple of years in the company, he was payed a bit better with his average salary fluctuating around the $500,000 mark. Still, for his first year in the company, Piper received a shockingly low salary, especially for a guy who definitely drew some WWE fans over to WCW's product.
13 13. Bret Hart: $43,945
Okay, this salary is far from the most shocking considering Bret Hart was only in WCW for the second half of December 1997, but it's still a pretty shockingly low salary for a star in Bret Hart's league. For half a month, Bret Hart only earned $43,945 despite being involved in that years Starrcade pay-per-view, where he served as a special guest referee between the Eric Bischoff and Lary Zbyszko match, as well as declaring Sting the winner of the shows main event which pitted Sting vs Hulk Hogan for the WCW Championship.
Had Bret Hart worked all throughout 1997 earning $44,000 for every half month, in one year, that would of added up to a total salary of just over 1 million dollars. Although that sounds like a heck of a lot of money, for Bret, a guy who walked away from the WWE's offer of an annual salary of 2.5 million, you can start to understand why that doesn't sound like all too much for him. However, for Bret Hart's next couple of years with WCW, Bret made the kind of money that we'd expect him to, as he was earning around 2.7 million in '98 and 2.6 million in '99. Had Bret Hart been offered a contract by WCW with a salary of just over a million dollars a year, Bret would have walked away, no doubt.
12 Kevin Greene: $500,000
Kevin Greene, mainly recognized as a former American football linebacker who played for the NFL for 15 years, at one point, wrestled sporadically for WCW between the years 1996-98. Despite only appearing here and there in WCW and mainly wrestling in tag team matches with the likes of Steve McMichael (fellow NFL alumni), Roddy Piper and Ric Flair, Kevin actually made quite a bit of money despite his lack of wrestling appearances.
I would definitely say that without a doubt, Kevin Greene's salary in 1998 was very shocking and surprising, as Greene pulled in half a million dollars. The year previous in 1997, Greene's salary was over $400,000 which again, is very shocking. For a guy that I'm certain most fans had very little invested interest in, to be earning a wage similar to that of a wrestler close to the top of the card, is quite ridiculous if you ask me. There were far more deserving wrestlers on WCW's roster at the time that should of been making Greene's salary. Definitely a shock to say the least.
11 Tank Abbott: $624,259
Tank Abbott, a former MMA fighter, once upon a time wrestled for WCW in 1999 and 2000. Tank was brought into WCW as a way to add credibility to Goldberg, who at the time, was damaged after his loss at the hands of Kevin Nash. However, this feud between Abbott and Goldberg never really materialized. After this failed feud, Tank Abbott was used fairly sparingly for the remainder of his time with the company. Although Tank Abbott was a bit of an MMA and UFC star, he had no where near the status or fan-base to be given any sort of a large salary.
This proved to be true for his first year with WCW, as he only earned $80,137 in 1999. However, shockingly and seeming completely out of nowhere, in 2000, Tank Abbott's salary increased dramatically to just under $625,000 which is absolutely puzzling and mind boggling. I don't think there's one person who could give one legitimate reason as to why a special appearance wrestler like Tank Abbott should have been earning well over half a million dollars. Tank did nothing of significant importance throughout his entire WCW tenure, so his 2000 salary will come as a huge shocker for most fans.
10 Billy Kidman: $19,883
Billie Kidman, a former 3-time WCW Cruiserweight Champion (and now a WWE Road Agent) at one point, had a salary of only $19,883 in 1996. Although Kidman spent most of 1996 working for the company as a lower ranking cruiser-weight star, his salary still seemed very shockingly low. However, fortunately for Kidman, WCW saw some potential in Billie and as a result, the company promoted him up the card and he eventually won his first WCW Cruiserweight Championship in '97.
From '97 onwards, Billie Kidman's salary increased each year with his salary peaking in 2000 at $326,969. Kidman's initial salary proves that just because a wrestler is working for a large pro-wrestling promotion, that doesn't actually mean that he/she's making a lot of money. In this case, Billie Kidman was barely making the same amount of money as someone working a minimum wage job. Wrestling is a much tougher job than many of us believe.
9 Jeff Jarrett: $74,452
Jeff Jarrett, a former four-time WCW World Heavyweight Champion was at one point, only making $74,452 a year in 1999. Although no one ever really considered Jeff Jarrett to be "the guy" or even a main eventer during his WCW days, it still comes as quite a shock that he didn't even make $100,000 in his return year to WCW. In that year, Jeff Jarrett feuded with the likes of Chris Benoit over the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship and he was successful as he defeated Benoit to become the new champion.
However, despite making the measly sum of $74,452 in 1999, the following year (2000), Jeff Jarrett's salary increased dramatically to well over $500,000 which is a shock in itself. I guess this had to do with the fact that Jeff Jarrett was involved in the main event scene in 2000 and as a result, he had runs with the WCW World Championship. If we're going to be honest here, Jarrett was never a main eventer in the fans eyes. He was just another midcarder that was being pushed because WCW was such a mess at the time, and because those in charge had no idea how to properly run their show. Still, having a salary under $75,000 just one year prior to then making over half a million the next year is pretty shocking!
8 8. Rey Mysterio Jr: $37,042
Rey Mysterio, the legendary luchadore famous for his successful tenures in both WCW and in the WWE, started of his career in WCW with a fairly small salary. Rey Mysterio made his official WCW television debut back in 1996 and very quickly, Mysterio became one of the companies most popular cruiser-weight stars. In very short order, Rey won his first WCW Cruiserweight Championship, after successfully defeating Dean Malenko on Monday Nitro in July of that year. However, despite being pushed as a cruiserweight star, Rey Myserio was not earning a whole lot of money in his first year with WCW.
In fact, for Mysterio's first year in WCW, his salary was just $37,042 which is quite shocking. However, the next couple of years saw Rey Mysertio earning a fair bit more green than his first year. In 1997, Rey's salary increased to over $154,000 and the year after that (1999), Rey Mysterio's salary continued increasing to over $232,000. I think most fans at the time would have imagined that after such a successful first year in WCW, that Rey Mysterio would have been earning quite a bit more money than just $37,042.
7 Diamond Dallas Page: $12,088
Diamond Dallas Page is one of the WCW's most beloved superstars of all time. Right from the start, Diamond Dallas Page was booked like a guy who would never become a main eventer, which is why he got over so much with the fans because as fans, we tend to like rooting for the underdog, or the wrestler who wouldn't get the opportunities otherwise. At the end of the day, despite having a successful WCW career with three WCW World Heavyweight Championship reigns under his belt, at one point, Diamond Dallas Page was definitely struggling financially.
In 1997, after already being with WCW for over 6 years, Diamond Dallas Page's salary was only $12,088. This salary is unfathomable if you ask me. Despite not being a main event talent yet in '97, Diamond Dallas Page was still widely featured on WCW's programming as he won the WCW United States Heavyweight Championship that year. However, the following year, Dallas Page's salary increased fairly dramatically to over $360,000 and the year after that (1999), his salary skyrocketed all the way up to over 1.3 million dollars. It's crazy how quickly a wrestlers wage can fluctuate in the span of a couple years. For Diamond Dallas Page, I don't think his salary could have changed any more noticeably and drastically, and in a good way to boot!
6 Bill Goldberg: $5,191,132
Bill Goldberg is WCW's most successful creation of all time, who captivated the WCW audiences all over the world and went on to become one of the company's biggest stars and draws. As most of you are likely aware, Goldberg shot up into WCW super stardom with lightning quick speed. In 1998, just a year after Bill's WCW television debut, Goldberg climbed to the top of the ladder, as he became the WCW World Heavyweight Champion after successfully defeating Hulk Hogan. However, in 1998 following his first defeat at the hands of Kevin Nash, Goldberg was never the same again.
Fans instantly started to lose interest in Goldberg. His defeat ended his characters intrigue, but while the fans weren't as interested in Goldberg anymore, his salary says otherwise. In 1999, nearly a year after being defeated, Goldberg's salary was shockingly over 5 million dollars. At Bill's height of popularity in '98, Goldberg's salary was only a bit over $500,000. To me, Goldberg's '98 and '99 salaries should have been reversed, because Goldberg was not a draw like he was in '98 as he was in '99. Definitely a shocking salary to say the least.
5 Dennis Rodman: $1,174,814
Dennis Rodman, the retired professional basketball player who played for the Detroit Pistons, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers among others, also wrestled for WCW for a short period of time. After Dennis was suspended for the rest of the 1996-97 NBA season, Rodman seriously considered the possibility of pursuing his hobby (pro-wrestling), and that's exactly what he did. Rodman made his WCW debut in 1997 and although he made some money from the company in '97 and '98, it was 1999 that marked a huge WCW payday for Dennis.
For whatever reason, in 1999, Dennis Rodman made a total of just under 1.75 million dollars which is absolutely shocking. The previous year, Rodman earned $500,000, which is still very high for someone who only wrestled on a special appearance basis. I should note that Dennis did feud with The Macho Man Randy Savage in 1999, but he did very little to earn such a hefty payday. Regardless, I'm sure Dennis Rodman was all smiles after seeing that juicy check!
4 Sting: $87,740
Sting was one of WCW's most successful stars and as a result, he had a very illustrious WCW career because of it. Sting had the charisma, the look and the connection with the fans that proved he was the perfect fit to be the company's cornerstone. However, Sting was not always earning the dough to show for his efforts and position. By 1995, Sting was already an established talent who already had multiple runs with the WCW World Championship. However shockingly, in 1996, Sting allegedly only pulled in an incredibly low salary of just $87,740, which is mind boggling.
The next year, Sting's salary increased dramatically to over $960,000 which would have made many fans scratch their heads and not understand WCW's logic. In 1996, it's not as if Sting was nowhere to be seen, as he was involved in a major story-line that year, as Sting was the first WCW guy to stand up to the newly introduced "outsiders", Kevin Nash and Scott Hall. To me, Sting's 1996 salary is puzzling, as he should have been making way more money. Some of these wacky WCW salaries could be examples of why WCW was recognized to be a very unorganized company. If one of their biggest stars isn't even breaking the $100,000 annual salary mark, you know somethings not quite right.
3 AJ Styles: $1,300
Okay, it's not fair to compare AJ Styles salary when he was a no-name tag team jobber in WCW to what he's currently earning in the WWE, but still, AJ Styles WCW salary in 2000 was extraordinarily low. Although Styles only appeared a handful of times on WCW television, his earnings seem to be much smaller than they should have been. AJ Styles salary in 2000 was only $1,300 which is mind boggling. Even now a days, jobbers in WWE get paid $1,000 for each appearance, so AJ's jobber salary was very low considering he had made multiple appearances.
Even though "The Phenomenal One" was nothing more than a jobber then, I think most fans would have believed that Styles would have been making close to his entire salary for each of his WCW appearances, but that wasn't the case. AJ Styles WCW salary shows that just because a wrestler gets to be on television, that doesn't mean that they're making much green because in AJ Styles case, he was making next to nothing. It's incredible to think how far AJ Styles has come since his WCW jobber days because now, AJ Styles is raking in the dough as one of the WWE's most popular stars today.
2 Hulk Hogan: $477,113
Among the salaries on this list that are quite shocking, Hulk Hogan's salary for 1997 definitely has to be one of the most shocking, no doubt. The Immortal Hulk Hogan, one of the WWE's biggest and most successful wrestling attractions of all time, made the jump to WCW in 1994, following a short stint in NJPW after leaving the WWE in 1993. Most fans would have imagined that Hulk Hogan, wrestlings biggest star at the time would have been signed to WCW for an incredibly large sum of money. This is true to some degree, but for one year in particular (1997), The Hulkster was not raking in the dough like we'd expect him to.
In fact, in 1997, Hulk Hogan's salary was very low for a talent of his status, at just over $477,000. To most other talents, this seems like quite a bit of cash, but for pro-wrestling's biggest star, this salary seems like pennies and nickels on the dollar. Hulk's salary did not reflect his position on the card, as Hogan was featured in the main event scene challenging for the company's top prize throughout '97. Just one year prior in '96, Hulk Hogan's salary was over 1.9 million and in 1998, Hogan's salary skyrocketed to over 3.7 million dollars. Hogan's 1997 salary seems totally wonky and it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, hence why it's definitely one of WCW's most shocking salaries of all time.
1 Ric Flair: $20,365
Among the most shocking salaries included on this top 15 list, Ric Flair's 1999 salary is without a doubt the most shocking. The legendary Ric Flair, who was a huge star for the NWA, WWE and WCW, only made the piddly salary of $20,365 in 1999. Just one year prior in 1998, Ric Flair earned a total salary of $780,259 which seems closer to what a Ric Flair should have been earning (even though that still seems fairly low for how big of a star Flair was). It's almost unfathomable to think that one of pro-wrestlings biggest names, Ric Flair, barely earned what someone working a minimum wage job would have been earning in a year.
Just absolutely crazy and mind boggling! It's not as if Ric Flair was a newbie who had just made his WCW debut in 1999. Prior to wrestling for WCW, Ric Flair was already a huge wrestling star famous for his tenures in the AWA, NWA and the WWE. A wrestler like Flair, who was a huge draw wherever he went should not have been making such a ridiculous salary. No wonder why WCW went out of business. The company definitely had a few screws loose and they proved this notion in one way, by handing out such wonky and mind blowing salaries.