Not all professional wrestling salaries are made equally. Those indie guys you hear about who bounce from gym to gym every week to work a few shows in-between their shifts at day jobs aren’t exactly pulling in the kind of money that makes your head spin. Even some guys who work for larger promotions like Ring of Honor aren’t always able to pull in enough money to make that their full-time job. However, that doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible to make quite a bit of money as a professional wrestler. In fact, there have been some professional wrestlers over the years who have turned their time as a full-time performer into millions and millions of dollars.
Much like other professional athletes and entertainers, though, professional wrestlers who earn a lot of money aren’t always the same professional wrestlers who end up being incredibly wealthy later in life. Unfortunately, the opposite often turns out to be true. For a variety of reasons, wrestlers who make quite a bit of money during their careers have a habit of losing most of it later in their lives. These are the 15 wrestlers who were once highly paid in the business (but are now broke).
While most people probably first heard of Raven when he became one of ECW’s biggest stars, Scott Levy has been in the wrestling business since the late ‘80s. While he wasn’t a huge star in the early days, he was still a reasonably well-paid worker. Once Levy hit the big time with his Raven gimmick, he also managed to score a lucrative WCW contract. Raven wasn’t one of WCW’s highest-paid stars, but he still was well into the six figures a year territory. Despite his accomplishments, Raven isn’t exactly rolling in it. Like many of the stars on this list, Raven’s relative financial woes can be traced to his substance abuse issues and years of hard living. While he’s not completely destitute, most of the money he earned is gone.
14. Iron Sheik
Many younger wrestling fans probably just remember the tail end of Iron Sheik’s WWE career. He was the evil foreigner who Hulk Hogan infamously beat and kicked off the Hulkamania era. After that, he became everyone’s favorite crazy grandpa. However, there was a time when Iron Sheik was a legitimate star. Some people suggest that he made as much as $5,000 a week during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. While those aren’t exact figures, they probably represent the relative success of the Iron Sheik at one time. The Sheik’s current financial status is also unknown, but the former star has had to undergo a number of expensive medical procedures over the years and still regularly makes wrestling appearances. It’s not believed that Sheik’s financial problems can be attributed to any kind of extravagant lifestyle.
13. Brutus Beefcake
Brutus Beefcake has never really been a company’s top guy – far from it – but he is a wrestler who managed to stay employed by some major promotions over the years. Actually, between his initial early success as a WWE tag team wrestler and his longtime friendship with Hulk Hogan, it’s believed that Beefcake actually commanded some pretty respectable contracts during his time as a full-time wrestler. Beefcake retired as a full-time wrestler sometime in 2000, but he has continued to wrestle sporadically since then. Along with some sporadic appearances on the indies in the years that followed his “retirement,” Beefcake has been spotted working a variety of blue collar jobs. Actually, he once left a bag of cocaine in a subway station he was working at. Beefcake has also been busted selling unauthorized memorabilia.
12. Marty Jannetty
Marty Jannetty is another wrestler who was never really “the guy.” However, he was a respected performer who scored a big WWE contract based on his excellent tag team work with Shawn Michaels. Jannetty was never going to be bigger than Michaels, but he had many opportunities over the years to remain a respected – and employed – WWE worker. Without fail, Jannetty found a way to spoil all of those opportunities. His history of personal issues prevented him from staying employed by WWE for long. He even ruined a potential mid-2000s comeback he earned based on his abilities. Jannetty is a fixture on the indie scene these days and reportedly relies largely on the money he earns from these gigs as his source of income.
11. Jake Roberts
While you won’t find Jake Roberts on a list of the highest-paid wrestlers of all-time, nearly every promoter who worked with the man during his prime seemed to understand just how valuable the dynamic performer really was.Jake was one of WWE’s most popular and most respected stars. However, his big payday reportedly came when he decided to leave Vince McMahon high and dry and jump to WCW for a sizeable contract. Unfortunately, that’s roughly the same time that Roberts’ history of substance abuse issues truly caught up with him. It wasn’t long before Roberts became a nearly unemployable mess. As is the case with most unemployable messes, it wasn’t long before Roberts was hard up for cash. Roberts eventually cleaned up his act, but the damage to his bank account was done years ago.
Some people will tell you that Sunny should have been a much bigger star than she actually was. They’ll say that Sunny was a sexy female wrestler just before the era when sexy female wrestlers were really allowed to cut loose. However, Sunny still managed to work for WWE, ECW, and WCW during the glory days of those companies. In a perfect world, Sunny would have found a way to turn her earnings into a sizeable nest egg. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world, and Sunny instead spent most of her money on drugs and other bad decisions. By the time that she was released from WCW, she was already a shell of her former self. The years that have followed haven’t exactly been any better.
9. Buff Bagwell
It’s easy to forget just how big Buff Bagwell was during his WCW run. No, we’re not talking about his roid-fuelled physique, but rather the way he managed to connect to the WCW audience despite his apparent lack of in-ring skills or the ability to cut a memorable problem. Bagwell reportedly made close to $1.4 million during his time in WCW. Over $400,000 of those dollars came during Bagwell’s final year with the company. From there, Bagwell should have transitioned to a respectable WWE contract, but his attitude issues ensured that WWE would never hire him no matter how popular he might have been. If Bagwell has managed to save any of his money over the years, he hasn’t shown any signs of it. He’s also racked up a few serious medical bills as of late.
8. Justin Credible
Don’t remember Justin Credible? That’s not too surprising. Credible’s career peak arguably came during his time in ECW where he was a perennial tag title contender. However, Credible began working For WWE in 1994 and continued to work for WWE for a few years after WWE was shut down. He did fairly well for himself during that time – he supposedly did better in ECW than a lot of ECW guys – even if he wasn’t a main eventer. However, Credible apparently ran out of money not long after his 2006 WWE run ended. There’s even a famous story about how Credible was working a blue collar job and couldn’t convince his co-workers that he used to be a professional wrestler. He had to bring in a former action figure of himself just to prove that he was right.
7. Perry Saturn
Perry Saturn’s career isn’t too different from Justin Credible’s so far far as their relative levels of fame and career earnings go. Based on some leaked contract information, we know that Perry Saturn made over $500,000 during his four-year WCW run. The only reason he didn’t make more is because he joined WWE for, what we presume, was more money. Unfortunately, Saturn effectively killed his own WWE career when he decided to tee off on fellow wrestler, Mike Bell. Saturn wasn’t immediately fired, but he ensured that his days as a full-time performer were pretty much numbered.
Recent years have made it clear just how bad things have gotten for Saturn. He spent quite a bit of money over the years on drugs and other substances and has resorted to asking fans for money to pay for the basics.
You probably don’t believe that Virgil was ever really a well-paid wrestler. After all, how much could The Million Dollar Man’s bodyguard and manager actually make? Well, it’s a little tough to say how much money Virgil made in WWE. He apparently did alright for himself, but the definitive figures aren’t available. What we can tell you is that Virgil averaged over $100,000 a year during his time in WCW. That’s not life-changing money, but it is the kind of cash that Virgil could have theoretically parlayed into some kind of savings. As you can probably guess, it doesn’t sound like Virgil bothered to save anything. Actually, so far as we can tell, most of Virgil’s income went towards trips to the Olive Garden, minor luxuries, and other road expenses.
X-Pac may not have been quite as big of a name as Scott Hall and Kevin Nash, but he did jump ship to WCW around the same time as his WWE friends and was one of the earliest nWo members. He did quite well for himself in WCW, but he did even better when he jumped back to WWE ahead of a group of other WCW stars. However, it seems that Pac’s WWE and subsequent TNA runs weren’t quite lucrative enough to ensure that he would be comfortable for the rest of his life. Like many other formerly well-off wrestlers, Waltman’s financial troubles seem to be the result of years of substance abuse. While there are some slightly conflicting reports concerning X-Pac’s relative financial status, those close to him have suggested it’s not great.
4. Hulk Hogan
Were it not for some recent earnings from a landmark court case, you can bet that Hulk Hogan would probably top this list. That’s pretty shocking when you consider that Hulk Hogan is one of the highest earning wrestlers ever. Even if you put aside the millions and millions of dollars he certainly made during his glory days in WWE, and the money that TNA threw at him, there’s still the matter of the $13 million+ he made in WCW. By all accounts, Hulk Hogan should have been set-up for life. The fact that he had serious money issues not that long ago is the result of a few factors. Along with some truly awful business investments over the years and Hogan’s somewhat lavish lifestyle, Hogan’s messy divorce certainly hurt his bottom line.
3. Lex Luger
Some wrestling analysts will tell you that Lex Luger was never really a true main event star. They said that he could have been so much more than he was if he had just applied himself a little more and truly improved as a performer. Nevertheless, Luger was paid like a main event star over the years. During his 1996-2000 WCW run, Luger earned almost $5 million. There’s plenty of reason to believe he did almost as well during his initial NWA/WCW run as well has his time in WWE. What happened to Luger isn’t a mystery. He was an habitual drug user who burned his bridges with WWE when he contributed to Miss Elizabeth’s overdose. Luger’s substance abuse problems and subsequent medical issues depleted his bankroll quickly.
2. Scott Hall
Scott Hall is one of the most important people in wrestling history. The day that he came in from the crowd on Monday Night Nitro is the day that arguably began one of the most lucrative and popular periods for professional wrestling. Before that, he made quite a name for himself during his time in WWE as Razor Ramon. He’s truly was one of wrestling’s most valuable free agents at one point in time. Actually, he made over $1.4 million in wrestling-related income in 1998 alone. Despite all of this, Hall just couldn’t keep his demons in check. Drugs, alcohol, and years of physical self-abuse eventually claimed the majority of Hall’s cash. Much like Jake Roberts, Hall has thankfully been able to turn his personal life around in recent years and find a measure of peace. Unfortunately, he remains strapped for cash.
1. Ric Flair
The often fake or exaggerated world of professional wrestling can make even the wisest of fans question whether or not what they see on the screen is true. So far as Ric Flair’s high-rolling on-screen character and lifestyle goes, we can assure you that very few smoke and mirrors were utilized. Flair managed to make quite a bit of money over his considerable career and really was one of the highest-paid men in wrestling at certain points in time. While he didn’t make nearly as during WCW’s prime as other performers did, he should have certainly been prepared for retirement. Unfortunately, it seems that is not the case. Flair has battled with financial issues over the years that date back to his many divorces, lavish lifestyle, and medical issues.
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