When Vince McMahon allowed female WWE star to leave after $1 million contract demand
The term "best for business" perfectly sums up Vince McMahon's management style during his 40 years in charge of WWE. The former Chairman and CEO was forced to make countless difficult decisions regarding superstars' futures, especially when it came down to contract negotiations.
Chyna, one of wrestling's top stars between 1997 and 2001, is one of many who left WWE after a financial disagreement. Shortly before exiting the company, The Ninth Wonder of the World told former WWE executive Jim Ross she wanted a $1 million per year deal.
In 2020, Ross explained on his Grilling JR podcast how Chyna viewed herself on the same level as wrestling icon Stone Cold Steve Austin:
"She wanted a million dollars guarantee because she felt like she was worth more being a female, being more unique, than Stone Cold, some of the other guys. There was only a handful of guys making a million dollars per year."
Ross was in charge of assembling the WWE roster at the time, meaning he also negotiated contracts with talent. McMahon gave the legendary commentator permission to have the final say on whether Chyna was worthy of receiving a guaranteed $1 million contract:
"I said, 'Vince, if I can't get a decent number, we may have to pass on it,'" Ross continued. "He said, 'Well, that's your call.' I couldn't give her a million dollars a year. Could she have earned over a million dollars per year? She probably did a couple of times, if I remember correctly, but that guarantee was just too big."
In May 2001, Chyna defeated Lita at Judgment Day in what turned out to be her final WWE match. She was allowed to leave when her contract expired six months later.
Chyna's WWE salary: How much Jim Ross wanted to pay
During Chyna's time in the wrestling business, superstars could earn as much as $1 million when merchandise and other bonuses were taken into account. However, their downside guarantees often fell well short of that number.
Jason King wrote about the popular star's troubled life in The Great Fall of Chyna. He revealed that Chyna was offered $400,000 per year by Ross a few months before her contract ran out:
"For years she told friends and reporters that the company dumped her because of backstage tension with Levesque [Triple H, Chyna's ex-boyfriend] and McMahon [Stephanie McMahon, Triple H's wife], but that wasn’t true," King wrote. "Hamilton [Kathy Hamilton, Chyna's sister] says the WWE offered her sister a new contract in the fall of 2001 for $400,000 per year, but she opted not to sign it."
Chyna passed away in 2016 at the age of 46 following an addicental drug overdose. In 2019, she was posthumously inducted into the Hall of Fame as part of the D-Generation X faction.
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