People enter the professional wrestling industry for a myriad of reasons. Some fall in love with the business at young ages and can’t imagine doing anything else, regardless of where they perform. Others grew up watching stars such as Hulk Hogan, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, Triple H, The Rock, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and John Cena, and they dream of one day working for World Wrestling Entertainment and maybe even headlining a WrestleMania show. Then, there are the group of athletes who see pro wrestling and paths to the WWE as ways to get rich. After all, the highest-paid wrestlers signed to the WWE in March 2018 make millions of dollars every year. Those who are smart with their money could earn fortunes in under a decade.
There are unquestionably many individuals currently signed to promotions such as the WWE, Impact Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling and even Ring of Honor because of the money they are being paid today or because they hope their current contracts will eventually lead to bigger paydays. There’s nothing wrong with that. People all around the world take and keep jobs for the money. That’s a way of life. There are, however, some who choose to remain in the business regardless of the money they’re earning in 2018. They either love the industry that much, or they are looking to cement legacies that have little, if anything, to do with the balances of their bank accounts. Two such wrestlers could prove to be hot free agents in 2019 or maybe even sooner.
15 Cody: Doesn’t Care
The story of the artist formerly known as Cody Rhodes during his time in the WWE is downright fascinating. Cody, “The American Nightmare,” left the WWE to go out on his own via independent promotions, and he did well to find a new voice and new character en route to playing part in one of the best storylines in all of pro wrestling today involving Bullet Club.
While we don’t know, for sure, how much more Cody could be making in the WWE, nobody can deny he could have taken the easy way out and remained in the mid-card of that promotion. That wasn’t good enough for Cody, and his decision could lead to him receiving a significant pay increase from the WWE if the company wishes to bring him back in the future.
14 Ronda Rousey: Money
This is not meant to disrespect the former Ultimate Fighting Championship Bantamweight Champion who joined the WWE in 2018. After all, it’s well known Ronda Rousey has been a massive pro wrestling fan for years, and it was widely speculated even before she suffered her first loss in the UFC that she was interested in signing with the promotion once she was done fighting for a living.
With that said, nobody should pretend that Rousey’s UFC career ended as she wished. Truth be told, she likely would’ve easily earned another $20-30 million, at least, from fighting had she not lost to Holly Holm in November 2015. It’s been reported Rousey has been smart with her money over the years, and she deserves credit for earning a WWE contract while her name and aura still had value.
13 Billy Gunn: Money
While those of us who don’t know Billy Gunn cannot say, for sure, that he remains in the business only for the money, it’s safe to assume the 54-year-old who was willing to take gigs overseas in NJPW after his last stint in the WWE ended didn’t do so for free or only because of his undying love for the industry.
In November 2015, Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer reported Gunn had been fired by the WWE after he failed a drug test due to elevated levels of testosterone during a powerlifting meet that occurred the previous summer. Before he was unceremoniously shown the door, Gunn had been working as a trainer for the WWE, and there’s no reason to believe he wouldn’t have some role behind the scenes with the promotion had he not popped that particular test.
12 Neville: Doesn’t Care
You don’t have to question if Neville is in the business only for the money these days. If that was the case, he’d probably be on WWE television either as a member of Raw, SmackDown, 205 Live or even NXT. It was reported in October 2017 that Neville had walked out on the WWE due to unhappiness with the direction of his character and also with the fact that Enzo Amore, who has since been fired by the promotion, was being pushed as the top wrestler of the Cruiserweight division.
Since that time, numerous rumors have emerged that Neville and the WWE could be close to coming to terms on an agreement that would lead to the former King of the Cruiserweights returning. That hasn’t happened yet, and Neville’s status remains in limbo.
11 Zack Ryder: Money
Those who don’t know him personally can’t and shouldn’t tell Zack Ryder how to live his life or handle his career. The wrestler who will turn 33 years old in May has done well to remain in the WWE for over a decade, and one has to assume he has made a great living while working for the top promotion on the planet.
It’s clear, however, that the WWE barely sees Ryder as a mid-card act these days. Knowing what we know about the popularity of promotions such as ROH and about the opportunities that are out there for wrestlers who don’t receive pushes for the WWE, one can’t help but wonder if Ryder couldn't get over as a star on his own. Yes, he’d probably take a paycut, but leaving the WWE could be worth it in the long run.
10 Kevin Nash: Money
Long before Brock Lesnar was leveraging the WWE and UFC against each other in order to make the most money possible from one of those organizations, Kevin Nash created the blueprint for getting paid and getting paid big in the industry. Nash, along with Scott Hall, made the jump from the WWE to World Championship Wrestling in the 1990s, and Big Sexy then earned a good living doing a whole lot of nothing in Total Nonstop Action/Impact Wrestling.
While Nash has made multiple returns to the WWE since his time in Impact, he is no longer an active performer. That doesn't mean he is out of the business, however, as he continues to cash checks by working conventions, sometimes along his fellow New World Order/Kliq members such as Hall and X-Pac. He also makes various appearances for indie promotions - as he admitted himself, he'll do anything for money.
9 Kenny Omega: Doesn’t Care
Nobody should read this and think for a second that Kenny Omega is somehow hurting for cash by working for NJPW, ROH and other promotions rather than accepting a job with the WWE. “The Cleaner” is doing just fine.
He has, however, admitted that there are more important things than money as it pertains to his career at this stage of his life. The 34-year-old often referred to as one of the best wrestlers in the world has said in interviews that he is enjoying the freedom that comes with working outside of the WWE and in storylines such as the one involving himself, Cody and the rest of Bullet Club. Expect Omega to eventually sign with the WWE, but only when he is ready to give-up what he has as of March 2018.
8 Ric Flair: Money
Just about everybody who watched the ESPN 30 For 30 on the life and times of “Nature Boy” Ric Flair can understand why “The Dirtiest Player in the Game” remains active in the wrestling business for the money as of the spring of 2018. Flair lived his gimmick in more ways than one, and that brought multiple expensive divorces to his real life over the years.
Arguably the greatest wrestler of his generation, if not the best to ever live, still appears at conventions such at WrestleCon, and he has been known to sell off merchandise items such as his robes. Not for nothing, but you don’t get a rap video made by Metro Boomin, Offset and 21 Savage dedicated to you if you don’t style and profile. WOOOO!
7 Gallows & Anderson: Money
The signing of Gallows and Anderson was made to be a big deal at the time, however, both Superstars have been kept in the lower-card since A.J. Styles split going over to SmackDown. Now fans haven’t been too pleased but Gallows and Anderson have said otherwise in various interviews.
After working around the world and away from North America for such a long time, both Superstars admitted that their happy with the stability of their pays and less concerned with how they’re being booked. Nearing his 40s and a father to three children, Karl’s biggest concern nowadays is putting food on the table for his family – a feeling also felt by his tag team partner Luke Gallows who’s content with working the WWE schedule and not abroad. Both members of the tag team are considered fun to be around backstage and they're hoping that this factor can keep them around for even longer.
6 Daniel Bryan: Doesn’t Care
How can we say, for sure, that Daniel Bryan/Bryan Danielson isn’t in it for the money as he remains in the WWE? It has been mentioned numerous times underneath the WWE umbrella on segments that aired on WWE Network and even on SmackDown that Bryan could leave the company as soon as his contract expires and he is able to wrestle for a different promotion.
Perhaps WWE doctors will clear Bryan before the fall arrives, and he will be able to have the sendoff he deserves. If that doesn’t happen, however, he is almost guaranteed to show how much he doesn’t care about money and truly loves the industry by going out and working independent dates. While fans are worried about his health, they’re also counting down the days until he wrestles at least one more match.
5 Dolph Ziggler: Money
In February 2018, Justin Barrasso of Sports Illustrated reported that the WWE signed Dolph Ziggler to a two-year contract worth a $1.5 million downside guarantee per year. That, alone, would explain why Ziggler would remain with WWE up through the end of his 30s even though he is clearly behind the likes of A.J. Styles, Shinsuke Nakamura, Roman Reigns, Braun Strowman, Brock Lesnar, Seth Rollins, Finn Balor and others on the roster. Heck, even Jinder Mahal received a WWE Championship run before Ziggler during the current brand split.
Ziggler turns 38 years old in the summer, and nobody can blame him for getting paid while he is still able to perform at a high level. Think, however, of the great matches he could have in ROH or working in Japan.
4 Virgil: Money
I have a responsibility. It’s simple. Teach those who leave the big game about the small game hustle. I am the fuck money force that awakens the jedis to build their own power and learn to make that Gorgonzola on any level. Set up the table, find your preys, make that money, be your own boss. It’s a bloodbath and everyone is grabbing the squirrels nuts from the trees that shake with the da da. Da da gives you the ma ma and the ma ma gets you la la. @jamesellsworthwrestling has all the tools needed to be a Virgilante and the dungeon dragon. All he needed was for someone to wake up his inner beast. That someone was Virgil Skywalker. Let the power of fuck money take you to the highest power. To be honest— The lesson wasn’t free. I had to charge him and he understood. It’s all part of the process. You are all 109 times smarter for reading this... semester 2 Coming. #iteachtheteachers #irockthepartythatrocksthebody #dadamamalovesyou
Unless you are a wrestling fan who rarely looks for content on the Internet and somehow stumbled upon this page accidentally, you are probably familiar with the "Lonely Virgil" memes that popped up after pictures of the former sidekick of the "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase surfaced online.
To his credit, Virgil -- or Vincent, as some out there may remember him -- tried to make some cash off of this, which you can appreciate. After all, sometimes we all have to laugh at ourselves. As of December 2017, Virgil was still taking bookings for those who would offer. It's understandable, as he was never as big a Superstar as were the top players in the New World Order faction that adopted him in the 1990s because WCW apparently loved throwing money away.
3 John Cena: Doesn’t Care
According to Forbes, John Cena is second only to Brock Lesnar on the WWE payroll as of the numbers posted in 2017. The leader of the CeNation is obviously rich beyond rich thanks to pro wrestling and the WWE, but even those who boo him and chant that he sucks at events shouldn’t act as if he doesn’t love the company and the business. Cena could have followed the Rock and left the WWE for Hollywood, television gigs and other entertainment endeavors years ago, but he keeps coming back for Raw and SmackDown appearances and grueling matches.
He probably sees the light at the end of the tunnel, but we cannot envision Cena completely quitting the WWE for good so long as his body will let him take bumps.
2 The Undertaker: Money
Why else would The Undertaker keep coming back to the WWE for one-off WrestleMania matches if the money wasn’t right? The Phenom of the industry turns 53 years old in March 2018, his body has taken beatings and isn’t what it was even five years ago, and he struggled to get through a watchable match against Roman Reigns at WrestleMania 33.
Nevertheless, rumors continue to link Undertaker with a future WrestleMania bout against none other than John Cena. This could have been a dream match when Undertaker’s undefeated WrestleMania streak still existed, but now it’s just sad. Good for Undertaker for earning a ton of cash from the WWE (rumors suggest he got a massive pay for his match against Roman), but there comes a point when one has to admit that money isn’t everything, and also that he can only spend so much of it during one lifetime.
1 Brock Lesnar: Money
Not only is current WWE Universal Champion Brock Lesnar a mercenary. He is an unapologetic mercenary who is constantly searching for the best wages and best opportunities for himself and his family.
Lesnar is already a millionaire who could retire from combat sports, entirely, after WrestleMania 34, but he continues to be linked with a return to the UFC for a potential big-money fight against Stipe Miocic or Jon Jones. Such a bout could earn Lesnar an additional $10 million if it is signed and presented before the end of 2018. That’s not a bad way to go out. Lesnar is clearly still in the wrestling business as of the spring of 2018 for the money. Let’s see you or anybody else criticize him to his face about it.