WWE Superstars enjoy stardom and fan-following unlike any celebrity in any other industry. They are not just pro wrestlers, they are the heroes for those who look up to them to get inspiration. As much as every Superstar loves doing what they do, they get an equally lucrative amount in their bank accounts for the same.
With the recent emergence of a new rival promotion in All Elite Wrestling, WWE Superstars have been very clear in demanding higher pay from the company, and in most cases, the company has willingly done so. A few months back, a report revealed the salaries of many current WWE Superstars, and the numbers were very high for some of them. The top five highest earners on the list were -
- Brock Lesnar - $12 Million
- John Cena - $8.5 Million
- Roman Reigns - $5 Million
- Randy Orton - $4.5 Million
- AJ Styles - $3.5 Million
While it wasn't much of a surprise to see the Beast Incarnate top the list, the fact that he has had just 8 matches on WWE TV this year makes the deal look extremely profitable for the WWE Champion. There's no doubt that Lesnar is an attraction worth paying to watch for, but that right there is some huge money. Right below him on the list, John Cena has hardly been seen on WWE TV this year and still makes a fortune from the company.
Now, a simple question that arises in one's mind is whether pro wrestlers getting these gigantic paychecks is a new trend? Before the PG and Reality era arrived, WWE had already established itself as a pro wrestling giant, with numerous Superstars ruling the heart of the fans. And if you think they didn't charge much, think again, because Lesnar isn't the first star to receive an 8-digit salary!
It won't be an overstatement to say that Hulk Hogan (Real Name: Terry Gene Bollea) had a huge part in making the company and pro wrestling popular in the 80s. Playing a pivotal role in establishing WrestleMania as the Show of Shows by headlining eight of the first nine, Hulkamania was running wild, and the business was flourishing. Hogan has himself mentioned in his interviews and autobiography that he was making nearly $10 Million a year at his peak in the late 80s (87-89). It's reasonable to assume that Vince McMahon would have not been very hesitant in giving this package to a guy around whom he was building the WWF.
One of the biggest qualities that contribute to the success of a WWE/F Superstar is his charisma, and none of the superstars in history can compete in that with the Ultimate Warrior (Real Name: James Brian Hellwig). His value in the company could be understood by the fact that he earned $650,000 at WrestleMania VI for his title victory over the Hulkster. He again went on to earn $550,000 for his match against the Macho Man Randy Savage at WrestleMania VII. And here we were talking about Big Saudi Money! All in all, Warrior made more than $2 Million during his peak in 1990-91, emerging out as a megastar in the meantime.
Stone Cold Steve Austin
Stone Cold Steve Austin (Real Name: Steven James Anderson) is one of those Superstars whom many unanimously agree should be in the Mount Rushmore of Pro Wrestling - if there ever was one. While Hogan and others were the ones to give this industry a kickstart, it was people like Austin who contributed heavily to make it a massive success story in the late 90s and early 2000s. His classic rivalry with Mr. McMahon is still considered by many as the best one in the company's history, and Austin was selling out arenas with his incredible talent of raising hell on his evil boss. According to his ex-wife Debra Marshall, the Texas RattleSnake nearly made $12 Million in 1999. That's what Brock Lesnar makes today in 2019! An eight-digit salary from a Boss whom you constantly beat-up? Now that's a dream job!
Special Mention: Mike Tyson
During Shawn Michaels' rivalry with Stone Cold Steve Austin in 1998, Vince McMahon played a masterstroke and convinced boxing legend Mike Tyson to be a part of the storyline with the purpose of getting more eyes on the WWF. Tyson was the special guest enforcer in the main event of WrestleMania XIV between Austin and Michaels for the WWF World Heavyweight Championship. For his few appearances for WWF, Mike Tyson received a huge sum of $3.5 Million but this investment turned out to be a great decision as WWF's popularity skyrocketed.
WWE Hall of Famer Goldberg (Real Name: William Scott Goldberg) is easily one of the most dominant superstars to have ever stepped foot inside a wrestling ring. Before the WrestleMania streak of the Undertaker, it was Goldberg's undefeated streak of 173-0 in World Championship Wrestling that was a sign of pure dominance. His massive paycheck of over $5 Million in 1999 saw him become the highest earner of WCW, getting more money than Hulk Hogan. Eventually, he had to settle down for a lesser pay of a million dollars per year when Vince McMahon took over the promotion.
Considered by many as the heir of Vince McMahon once he retires, Triple H (Real Name: Paul Michael Levesque) has had an exceptional career as a wrestler before easing in on the producer, manager, and Chief Operating Officer role. Being one of the top executives of the company, the Game still earns $1.65 Million just from his talent contract. Being one of the biggest Superstars of the Attitude Era, the Cerebral Assassin enjoyed a lucrative paycheck of over $2 Million in 2006. But that was not all, his contract made sure he got first-class flight tickets, hotel accommodations, and ground transportation paid for every week. On top of that, Triple H had the special allowance of using the company jet ten times per year for his personal use.
As mentioned by Stone Cold Steve Austin in his recent podcast with the (dead) man himself, The Undertaker (Real Name: Mark William Calaway) is arguably the best character the company has ever produced. And a lot of the credit behind the success of this gimmick goes to the man who rarely appeared out of character until recently. Having been with the company for nearly three decades now, the Dead Man has had a career unlike anyone else and continues to be a top attraction for the fans. According to salary figures of 2006, The Undertaker got a base salary of $1.8 Million, with added benefits of first-class flight tickets, hotel accommodation, and ground transport paid for every week. Nearing the end of his storied career, 'Taker still earns a massive amount of $2.5 Million in his recent contract.
One of the biggest fan favorites of all time, Shawn Michaels (Real Name: Michael Shawn Hickenbottom) wrestled for the company for more than two decades and continues to be an important backstage figure as well as an on-screen special attraction. Be it his historic ladder match with Razor Ramon at WrestleMania X, his feud with Austin, his DX Alliance mischiefs, or his retirement angle with The Undertaker, Michaels has performed at his absolute best in whichever role assigned by the company. He earned over $1 Million in 2006 along with the benefits of first-class tickets, hotel accommodation, and ground transportation. For his in-ring return match at WWE Crown Jewel in 2018, Michaels was paid a sum of $3 million.
All the stars mentioned in the list above played a massive part in increasing the popularity of the company, but if there was one who made a massive impact on a global level and turned eyes from around the world to the product, it was John Cena (Real Name: John Felix Anthony Cena). The 16-time World Champion was the biggest star of the PG era and became a worldwide sensation in a very short time. In 2016, when he was still with the company full-time, the leader of Cenation made a staggering $9.5 Million. Even after hardly appearing on WWE TV these days, Cena continues to be one of the top merchandise sales for the company and hence still earns a sum of $8.5 Million. The Face that used to run the place has made it very clear that he has not hung up his shoes and will be back in a WWE ring soon.
Bonus: Vince McMahon
Vince McMahon (Real Name: Vincent Kennedy McMahon) is a visionary who changed the way pro wrestling was viewed by many and played a huge part in converting it into a multi-billion industry that it is today. He doesn't shy to spend that extra dollar to get what he wants. From the recent reports, McMahon himself has a salary of $2.4 Million as the CEO of WWE. While the Internet Wrestling Community has been very vocal of the poor decisions from him, continuously urging him to step down, McMahon continues to lead the promotion under his guidance.