If you are entertaining, there is certainly money to be made in professional wrestling. While there might only be one giant, it is attainable to be a part of that. Years of hard work pays off for some of these competitors, while others may get grandfathered in. However, it gets to the point where enough is enough. Rather it be the politics involved with the associated company or the physical demand put on a wrestler’s body. One thing is for certain, money is needed in today’s world, and if a wrestler is entertaining, somebody will pay them money to draw a crowd.
Money most certainly talks. Due to that fact and guaranteed contracts, fans today have the results of these financial issues. There is one king in professional wrestling, and that is Vince McMahon’s WWE. Older guys are running out of money and are having to bite their lip in an attempt to gain some coin. The competitors specialize in entertaining, rather it be in the ring or out, and Vince is the major monopoly holder for sports entertainment. Business deals are made, and fans begin to see things they never thought they would see. Things such as Bret Hart back on WWE television or Eric Bischoff hugging Vince McMahon. It makes for good programming, and that generates money.
This list looks at the top 15 wrestlers who only wanted to get paid. This list does not consist of one-time appearances such as Mike Tyson or Floyd Meriweather (even though they clearly wanted to just get paid). This list consists of people who stuck it out, sold out, or even became famous actors while using the WWE to promote their movies. One thing is for certain: these guys only see the dollar signs in their heads. Ironically, so does Vince McMahon.
15 Alberto Del Rio
Being the WWE’s go-to for Latin American fans for quite some time, the company cut ties with Del Rio in 2014 due to “unprofessional conduct.” He set out to make as much money as he could as he participated in many other wrestling promotions. These would include the World Wrestling Council, Wrestle-1, Ring of Honor, and finally became a mainstay in Lucha Underground. However, the WWE came back calling, and he immediately hopped back on that train with no hesitation. His return was unannounced, as he would appear with manager Zeb Coulter at the Hell in a Cell Pay-Per-View in 2015. When the money is there and you can have something guaranteed, it makes the most sense to go back even if you were thrown under the bus.
14 Randy Orton
If it was not for John Cena, Randy Orton would be considered the face of the WWE for the past ten years. He has certainly done his time, but clearly admitted that he wants to spend more time away from the company. Orton announced in 2015, prior to getting injured, that he would only be a part-time competitor. When you are part-time in this industry, you are looking for a paycheck. He plans on doing just enough time to make enough to get by. Unless something is worked out to having a championship part-time (which is not strange due to the way Brock Lesnar was handled), he probably will not hold a title again in the company.
13 Kurt Angle
Back when Angle started his career in professional wrestling after competing in the Olympics, he shopped himself around before finally choosing the WWE. Paul Heyman scared him away, completely. He would then wrestle for years in WWE before asking for his early release in 2006, citing health issues and that he was the top talent in the company. He would go on to sign with TNA shortly after. After a long stint there and a contract coming to an end, he kept hinting at wanting to return to WWE. He would have talks with Triple H, but it would never come to fruition. Angle was certainly seeking that payday, especially the money involved with being in the Hall of Fame. Angle would sign a big contract with TNA, which was hurting financially, and is currently doing his announced TNA Farewell Tour.
12 CM Punk
Clawing and pushing his way up the ranks in wrestling, CM Punk would eventually hit main event status. The man was not a fan of how the state of the WWE was during his tenure, but stuck around for that payday. He voiced many concerns and sucked up a lot of anger to stay with the company. At one point, his contract ended, and he "left" the company with the WWE Championship only to return shortly thereafter with a juicy new contract. After finally having enough of the politics of WWE, Punk would retire and is now involved in the UFC. He still needs to get paid, but an actual fight has not happened yet for him in the UFC.
11 Shane McMahon
Shane makes this list solely on the fact that he returned recently after quitting the company in 2010. He had enough of the business, and sought out his own business adventures. Now making amends with his father (who ironically was never acknowledged as his father during his appearance on Raw), he will be competing at WrestleMania 32 against The Undertaker in a Hell in a Cell match. How well will the gray-haired Shane be in the ring, who knows? However, his return and amends means that he is guaranteed a part of the company when Vince steps down. That is a lot of money, and if he can right the ship, Shane could end up very successful in the end.
Much like CM Punk did, Batista would leave the WWE due to the distaste for the direction of the company. Leaving in 2010 and returning in 2014, Batista needed a payday. He would eventually leave again due to creative differences, and attempt to embark on a MMA career. He would have one fight in CES and win. Thankfully for Dave, his build makes him perfect for movies. While he had mentioned he would be willing to return to the WWE for non-televised events, his focus is clearly on acting. He might have dug his own grave with his recent comments towards Vince McMahon involving Titus O’Neil, but money talks when you have a movie to promote.
9 The Undertaker
Nobody will deny the work ethic and overall tenure of The Undertaker. When most think about the WWE, he is the first one that comes to mind. At the same time, over the past few years, he would literally participate in one match per year. He has seen more action than that this past year, but now instead of going at it at WrestleMania 32 with the likes of Brock Lesnar, he takes on Shane McMahon. He shows up yearly just for the payday. The WWE still believes he draws interest, and to a degree he does, so Taker cashes in on this.
While Sting was the one main WCW wrestler to avoid the WWE like the plague after the buyout, the money does eventually stop coming. He was the face of TNA for that distance in time, and eventually got fed up with things. Many believe he sold out to come to the WWE, but money pays when you are in the Hall of Fame. Making extremely limited appearances and even less matches, Sting cashed in. Unfortunately, his last match in the WWE may be the last of his career due to a neck injury. He came for the money, and did enough to keep it coming in.
7 Eric Bischoff
What is the biggest way to sell out? Joining your rival enemies company. After WCW went under, time went by and Bischoff was able to take a break. Once the money went dry, he showed up and hugged Vince on RAW as the new General Manager. Vince certainly put him through hell and Bischoff eventually left to work with Hulk Hogan on attempting to get TNA going in the right direction. That did not work out too well. Eric always went where the money was, and it rubbed off during the peak of WCW. Still, Bischoff showing up on WWE television might have no equal in life.
6 Chris Jericho
Chris Jericho is the longtime front man of the band Fozzy. He is also a Hall of Fame caliber wrestler. For some time now, Jericho has been a part-timer. He has not held a championship for quite some time, and usually only competes to get younger talent over. He is still good in the ring, but clearly comes back for the payday. What better way to support your touring band then spending some limited time competing on WWE for guaranteed income. It is still cool to see him return and he is still good in the ring. However, it has become predictable whenever he comes back that he is getting someone over with the crowd (see AJ Styles).
5 Kevin Nash
To this day, Nash competes and makes public appearances solely for the buck. He can hardly move in the ring, but people will come to see him at local events. His knowledge and involvement in locker room drama always makes it seem like he lacks the attitude to want to wrestle, which is where the desire for the paycheck comes in. Nash flew the coup from WWE for a guaranteed contact in WCW. He had the contract that would ultimately bury WCW under financial disaster. No one could make more than him, so they would pay him more, and ultimately, Nash would do less on television. He would also make a Royal Rumble appearance a few years ago just to stand around for ten minutes in the ring.
4 The Rock
Dwayne went the way that Hogan did in the late '80s. He chased movies. Difference is that Dwayne has no doubt had the most success in the movie industry of any professional wrestler. He left the company with a distaste for the industry. However, good business decisions take precedence sometimes. The Rock would return many years later not just to promote movies, but compete. He makes random appearances, and even less so in the ring. He knows there is money to be made with the Legends Contract, much like the others. The Rock will be attending WrestleMania 32, so he will cut a promo and probably try to get Roman Reigns over with the crowd. Again.
3 Hulk Hogan
Hogan is another one that goes where the money is. He was the face of professional wrestling in the 1980s. After his gimmick got old in WWE, WCW offered a lot of money and even a parade to feed his ego. He successfully made the jump, went heel, and ended up being the face of the greatest wrestling faction in history, the nWo. After helping to bleed WCW dry, he would make amends with Vince and come back to the WWE. Eventually being let go, he went where the money was to TNA to try and get them over the hump with Eric Bischoff. He failed. He would end up with the Legends Contract in WWE where he would appear and do awful promos such as Ho-Ho-Hogan. A past recording eventually came back to bite him and he was removed from the WWE’s history.
2 Ric Flair
Having a tremendous amount of debt, Ric Flair will literally do anything for the right amount of money. Flair shows up for promotional purposes now on WWE television. Whether it be managing his daughter or doing an interview, he knows the money is there. He competed way past his prime, but still managed to be a major contributor in the WWE. Even after being done there, he jumped over to assist in TNA. Flair does what’s right for the money for the right price.
1 Brock Lesnar
The only difference between Ric Flair and Brock Lesnar is that Lesnar still competes. He hates the industry. He quit to try the NFL and MMA. Eventually, he worked out a part-time contract with the WWE. He even held the belt as a part-timer. Brock does draw crowds, and he has been built to be so unstoppable that he is a force worth watching. He even has the greatest promoter in wrestling, Paul Heyman, to do all the mic work for him. He literally just shows up to do a paycheck, and if he wants time off, they write him off for a bit. Brock is literally only interested in the money that the WWE gives him.