When you're competing with the premier wrestling company in the world, you're going to do everything possible to get the upper hand. WCW, with the backing of Billionaire Ted, had deep pockets to sign wrestlers they deemed important to combat the WWE and win the Monday Night War.
Unfortunately, when you're handing out massive contracts to every Tom, Dick, and Harry that can lace a pair of wrestling boots, some of those contracts are going to turn out as big mistakes. There were multiple reasons WCW folded, but their financial situation was definitely a leading cause. There's just something inherently wrong about Disco Inferno making more money in 2000 than Becky Lynch makes today...
10 Bret Hart ($6,754,074)
1997: $43,945 1998: $2,694,857 1999: $2,600,164 2000: $1,415,107
Through no fault of his own, Bret Hart's WCW contract ended up being a dud, much like his stint in WCW. Let's face it: people love controversy, so every wrestling fan was anticipating Hart's next move back in late 1997. WCW rightfully scooped him up after a certain screwjob that never gets talked about.
Instead of strapping the rocket to his back, WCW wasted Bret Hart's talents in useless feuds, mishandling one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. He didn't win the World Heavyweight Championship until late 1999, two years after he debuted! Had WCW not misused The Hitman, the contract wouldn't look so bad; unfortunately, WCW squandered him, and the money they gave him.
9 Disco Inferno ($760,542)
1996: $84,641 1997: $42,596 1998: $108,534 1999: $229,834 2000: $294,936
Sometimes, you just make friends with the right people, and you reap the rewards. That was the case with Disco Inferno, an entertaining, but ultimately mediocre wrestler that rubbed elbows with WCW's head booker at the time, Vince Russo.
That would explain why Disco Inferno, mid-card jobber extraordinaire, earned close to 300K at the turn of the century. The gimmick, while fun, lasted longer than it should have; coupled with his limited in-ring skills, nothing about Disco screams "money".
8 Goldberg ($8,899,460)
1996: $20,143 1997: $116,820 1998: $511,148 1999: $5,191,132 2000: $3,060,217
Goldberg made a lot of money working for WCW, especially for the short amount of time he had actually spent in the wrestling business. He was a homegrown talent (a rarity for WCW) who managed to become a massive star thanks to his tough-guy persona, quick destruction of his opponents, and immensely popular undefeated streak. Giving millions to this kind of popular character doesn't sound bad, right?
Well, WCW goofed it all up, as they tended to do in the late 90s. Head booker at the time Kevin Nash killed Goldberg's mystique when he beat him for the title at Starrcade 1998... with a taser. Goldberg never really recovered, getting paid millions of dollars to show up and just flounder.
7 Rick Steiner ($1,621,087)
1996: $156,213 1997: $330,452 1998: $336,224 1999: $176,935 2000: $621,263
The Steiner Bros were a really good tag team. They were pretty big dudes who pulled off some really athletic moves (love us some Steiner Frankensteiner) during the late 80s/90s. Eventually, they broke up, as that unwritten wrestling rule states, and Scott Steiner became Big Poppa Pump while Rick... barked a lot?
Yeah, we were never a fan of Rick Steiner's singles run. The guy deserved it, but he was paid waaaaaay too much money for what he was offering. It's almost as if he was being pushed strictly because WCW gave him such a ridiculous contract.
6 Dennis Rodman ($1,674,814)
1998: $500,000 1999: $1,174,814
We understand wrestling's fascination with celebrities, always craving the attention of mainstream audiences. Just because we understand it, though, doesn't mean we have to like it. During the infamous Monday Night Ratings War, WCW shelled out way too much money to bring in Dennis Rodman.
Rodman was an NBA superstar who had gotten suspended from the league for the season back in 1997, so he had plenty of free time to become a member of Hollywood Hogan's entourage. Far from the worst gig, especially when he got paid nearly $2 million to wrestle 2 matches. If that's not a waste, we don't know what is.
5 Sid Vicious ($1,525,990)
1999: $633,531 2000: $892,459
Sid Vicious joined WCW at the perfect time; the company was handing out massive checks to anyone they thought could help them beat WWE. Unfortunately, Sid was not going to be that guy, as he was never really THAT popular in the first place.
Sure, he won the big one, but it was during a tumultuous time in WCW, when things were getting desperate, and money was filling up the wrestlers' pockets but not the company's. And let's not forget how his career in WCW finished: by attempting a top rope maneuver (!) that shattered his ankle (!!).
4 Stevie Ray ($1,608,427)
1996: $154,451 1997: $238,977 1998: $264,231 1999: $641,665 2000: $309,102
If we were strictly speaking about Stevie Ray the tag team specialist, he wouldn't be included on this list. While his real-life brother Booker T was the true star of Harlem Heat, Stevie Ray more than held his own, winning multiple tag titles - a WCW record of 10, to be precise.
However, much like the Steiners, the duo eventually broke up and Stevie Ray joined the nWo. Coffin, meet nail. While Booker was becoming the face of WCW, Stevie Ray became a completely forgettable lower-card bad guy. And let's not mention him teaming up with Ahmed Johnson to form Harlem Heat 2000...
3 Ernest "The Cat" Miller ($892,317)
1996: $35,143 1997: $147,042 1998: $47,847 1999: $318,283 2000: $344,002
This one is baffling. Ernest "The Cat" Miller was a glorified jobber, a Heath Slater. He eventually got a gimmick beyond "karate", and became more of a Santino Marella. He danced, was supposedly "the greatest", and was entertaining enough, but prior to this sudden push, he was never on TV and didn't even come close to sniffing a title, so why the massive payday?
No one knows for sure. Perhaps he was a company guy who was getting his due. There are rumors that The Cat was training Eric Bischoff's son in karate, so there's that. Whatever the case, it was too much money for Mr. Miller.
2 Tank Abbott ($704,396)
1999: $80,137 2000: $624,259
Tank Abbott: great name, terrible... everything else. Sure, he had a unique look, that of an out-of-shape-but-can-definitely-hurt-you MMA fighter, which he was. But $700K+ for him was just way too much dough. He was making more money than wrestling legends, because "reasons." We'll go ahead and say this expensive hiring was to counter WWE's Ken Shamrock.
Feuds with Meng and Jerry Flynn (exactly) don't warrant big paydays. There was even an attempt by Vince Russo -who else?- to make Tank the World Champion. Thank the lord that didn't happen. We can only imagine how many bad Russo ideas were denied, since the ones that got approved were so terrible...
1 Hulk Hogan ($13,171,042)
1996: $1,969,062 1997: 477,113 1998: $3,788,061 1999: $4,610,062 2000: $2,326,744
Just take a look at all those digits. With WWE reaching its lowest point in the mid-90s, Hulk Hogan jumped ship to WCW and basically planted the seeds for the wars to come. WCW thought it had found its savior, the person who would get them to the promised land. Hollywood Hogan was indeed this person, but he was also the person who was probably most to blame for WCW's demise - who would've thought?
Let's forget about the controversies and just stick to financials. The bonuses and salaries Hulk was paid were beyond ridiculous. That money could have gone to guys such as Eddie Guerrero and Chris Jericho, who were not only help back creatively, but financially as well. Like him or hate him, Hogan cashed in on his status as a wrestling icon to bleed WCW's pockets dry.