Ever wonder what a WWE contract consists of? Well, today’s your lucky day. The following article will take an in-depth look at what terms go into a WWE contract before signing a deal with the company. For most wrestlers, contract terms are the same, as each individual is regarded as an independent contractor. As you will see in this article, this term is quite misleading because of various benefits these wrestlers get out of working for the company, which include medical and travel.
Despite some contradictory terms, the contracts have managed to stay fairly consistent over the last 25 years. Some changes have been made, however, and some wrestlers do work based on limited dates (The Undertaker and Brock Lesnar are two veteran stars that work based on booked dates). They also enjoy first class accommodations, unlike other WWE wrestlers (we’ll have more on that topic a little later in this article). Enough of the chat; here are 14 things you never knew about a WWE contract. Enjoy!
14) Every wrestler is an independent contractor
Believe it or not, every wrestler is regarded as an independent contractor and not an employee. Many wrestlers have challenged this contract notion in the past, including Jesse Ventura who tried to unionize WWE wrestlers together back in the 80s. The term “independent contractors” is misleading because of the fact that wrestlers are still compensated with various benefits like employees, which include health and travel insurances. Despite this factor, the WWE continues to refer to their talent as independent contractors and not employees. This is a term that has been in their contracts for the last 25 years.
13) WWE owns the rights to your content
In a WWE contract, the first section states that the WWE has permission to film and photograph a wrestler for whatever they might need, whether it’s for a live show or pictures on wwe.com. The WWE also clearly states in the contract that they own the rights to what is derived during their programming which include storylines, routines and costumes, among others. Basically, once you sign a deal, the WWE has a right to use your content on their programming which includes the WWE Network, Raw, SmackDown and any other form of media (also including wwe.com, Facebook and Instagram). So when Vince says I own you, he’s not kidding…
12) WWE chooses your name and gimmick
In the Intellectual Property section of a WWE contract, the terms discuss that the company has the right to choose your in-ring name, gimmick, costumes and heel or face status. So basically, the company has creative control on your entire gimmick. Now with this being said, the WWE are certainly flexible with veteran talent. Sting and AJ Styles are two wrestlers that come to mind; despite this contract term, these wrestlers are still given some flexibility to operate how they want to. Although, at the end of the day the WWE has the right to change whatever they want to in a wrestler, just ask CM Punk how that felt….
11) Booking Rights
The first section of a WWE contract discusses booking and everything it entails. Wrestlers grant the WWE rights to book them for any event or TV broadcast that deal with the WWE. The company also owns the right to merchandise and commercial opportunities outside of the WWE which include endorsement deals, public appearances and other roles outside of the WWE. Now some wrestlers have this term modified; Lesnar for example only works an X number of days per year (which include TV appearances and public appearances). Brock is one of the only wrestlers in the company to have this term in his contract.
10) Contracts are exclusive
No big surprise here. A WWE contract states that all contracts are strictly exclusive to the WWE. So basically, wrestlers can’t jump ship to another wrestling promotion while under contract, as this would be deemed a breach in contract, something past wrestlers have faced, including WWE star Brock Lesnar. When it comes to a popular talent, the WWE puts a 90 day no-compete clause on a contract which states that a wrestler cannot wrestle anywhere else for this amount of time following his release from the company. In 2005, Lesnar decided to skip the 90 day period and appear on the New Japan Pro Wrestling program ahead of time. This caused the WWE and Brock to go to court for a breach of contract. Eventually, Lesnar was allowed to leave the WWE after multiple court hearings.
9) Salary and Merchandise Bonus
This is where WWE contracts sometimes get a little confusing, as these terms make it hard to track exactly how much a talent really makes per year. The WWE gives its workers a base salary along with contract bonuses that include merchandise sales and gate receipts. Typically, the average number a WWE performer makes per year is $500K. Lower card talent range from $100k to $300k, and high end talent like John Cena and Roman Reigns make seven digit figures per year. According to the latest WWE salary details, Cena is set to lead the way this year bringing in close to $10 million. Reigns on the other hand is set to rack in a modest $2.1 million.
8) Travel Costs
Unless you’re Triple H or Brock Lesnar, travel doesn’t come cheap. As independent contractors, wrestlers must pay for food, lodging and ground travel. So going from show to show and renting a car is actually the responsibility of a wrestler and not the WWE. The company does however, pay for airfare which is expensed by the company. Some wrestlers like Brock and Triple H have some little incentives in their contracts which include first class accommodations on chartered flights. Lesnar had this term in his 2003 deal. Despite what most fans think, not all travel accommodations are covered by the WWE.
7) Training, props and costumes are not provided by the WWE
Contrary to beliefs, a WWE contract states that all talent are responsible for their well being outside of the ring, which includes training on their off time. The contract also states that wrestlers must provide their own costumes, props and makeup. This is where the term “independent contractor” really kicks in. The WWE however does have a training facility down in NXT where wrestlers are allowed to go to for added training help. This is a benefit that former WWE superstars did not have years ago. The facility is certainly groundbreaking to say the least.
6) Cannot sue for injury purposes
A WWE contract states that a wrestler cannot sue the company if an injury is sustained. The wrestler signing the contract must fully agree to the bodily harm and acknowledge responsibility to whatever injury that might occur to them while working for the WWE. In an odd case, the Hart family sued the WWE after Owen’s death. The Hart family was awarded $18 million for a wrongful death suit.
5) Company Pays for Medical Treatment
This is where things get confusing, the WWE does in fact pay for all medical treatment and rehab costs for a performer. This is rather unusual considering wrestlers are regarded as independent contractors, and not employees. This seems like a benefit one would get as an employee, contrary to how the WWE sees its superstars. Despite the confusion though, the company does in fact pay for rehab following an injury. The company has also gone out of its way to pay for rehab for former talents which include Scott Hall. According to Stephanie McMahon, the company spent the 6 figures to accommodate Hall in his long battle with addiction.
4) Termination Details
One of the final sections in a WWE contract discusses termination. This clause is split into three parts; the first discusses a termination as a result of the WWE or a wrestler. Each contract is different, the WWE can in some instances release a wrestler by giving them a 90 day notice. In other situations like Brock Lesnar, the beast must receive six months notice before being released by the company. Other deals have a mutual consent termination, which sees both sides agree to the release.
The other two termination parts include a section on wrestler death and how they are compensated, and in the situation that a wrestler is released early, the company maintains the right the sell their products for an extended amount of time.
3) The WWE can sell your merchandise after your release
Following a release, the WWE clearly states in its contract that it has the right to sell your merchandise for the next 90 days. Ever wonder why the WWE immediately puts these items up for sale quickly? Well, now you know it’s because of the small window they have to get rid of all the items of the released wrestler. T-shirts have gone as low as $4.99 in some instances, as opposed to a regular priced T-shirt which sells for approximately $29.99. The company is very aggressive at selling merchandise when it comes to a wrestler leaving the company, trying to turn any possible profit. I wonder what they did with all those Hogan shirts…
2) Contract Constituency
Despite a couple of differences in the contract terms, the WWE contract has managed to stay remarkably consistent over the last 25 years in terms of language and contract breakdown. The terms have also generally stayed the same over time. The word independent contractor continues to be a staple of the contract, it remains to be seen if the WWE will ever treat their contractors as employees instead. At this point, it seems highly unlikely.
The final part of a WWE contract discusses a confidentiality clause. The WWE stresses the importance of not disclosing any personal business related topics to the public. The company, for years, has been very sensitive when it comes to the disclosure of their contracts. Since the origins of the WWE, the company has always wanted to keep what goes on behind closed doors away from the public. Don’t expect terms to be made public like other sporting leagues any time soon.