Having reached its height of popularity in the late 90s and early 2000s, the wrestling world has become a booming, multi-million dollar industry. With many wrestlers taking on roles in TV and films, making cameos and producing a variety of merchandise, there is a constant stream of well-earned fan dollars, pounds, euro’s, and magic beans entered into the industry.
What this also means is that the professional wrestling world is inundated with professional wrestlers in a variety of leagues, tables, matches and levels of ability, from the independent wrestling leagues to the European wrestling leagues. Wrestlers come from all walks of life to make their name (or rather a name, it is rarely their birth name, and rarely the same for very long) in the industry.
Whilst they will not all rise to the prominence of The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin or Hulk Hogan, there is still a strong living to be made in the right circles. For those that manage to forge a path, there is an amount of financial security, as well as fame, reputation and sporting prowess that can be gained. This top 10 list looks at those within the WWE who have brought in the most monetary gain in 2015.
12. The Miz – $712,000
The Miz came to prominence as a cast member on MTV’s The Real World: Back to New York and its spin off series Real World/Road Rules Challenge. Having just missed out on a WWE contract on the fourth season of Tough Enough, he began wrestling in Ultimate Pro Wrestling, Deep South Wrestling and Ohio Valley Wrestling. Having hosted the annual WWE Diva Search in 2006, The Miz made his wrestling debut in September of the same year. When he was moved from Smackdown! to ECW, he formed a partnership with John Morrison and as a team they won the WWE Tag Team Championship and World Tag Team Championship.
In 2011 he was ranked number one on Pro Wrestling Illustrated’s annual PWI 500 list. During his career, The Miz has won 13 WWE championships (1 WWE, 4 Intercontinental, 2 U.S and 6 Tag Team). He is the 25th Triple Crown Champion and 14th Grand Slam Champion. In 2015, Miz and Mizdow were unsuccessful in a tag team match against The Usos and Gold and Stardust, and again at Royal Rumble. In April, Miz defeated Mizdow in a match and then left to film Santa’s Little Helper. Despite not having a large number of matches during 2015, The Miz still features in the bottom end of this countdown.
11. Mark Henry – $877,000
Mark Henry began as a weightlifter prior to becoming a wrestler. He was a two-time Olympian and a WDFPF World Champion. In 1996, Henry joined the WWE/F and has since become a two-time World Champion (ECW Championship in 2008, World Heavyweight Championship in 2011). He is also a one-time WWF European Champion. Having previously teased his retirement in an episode of Raw where he slammed John Cena once he finished his retirement speech, Henry returned from a hiatus on the March 2015 episode of SmackDown.
Henry was unsuccessful in the Elimination Chamber match for the WWE Intercontinental Championship. Henry faced Reigns for his Money in the Bank spot but was unsuccessful. Despite missing out on the Money in the Bank title, Henry still features as one of the top earners of 2015. It would appear there is definitely money in the bank in the Henry household.
10. Kane – $905,000
Kane began his wrestling career in the independent circuit in 1992. Having wrestled in promotions such as Smoky Mountain Wrestling and the United States Wrestling Association, he joined the WWE (then WWF) in 1995. His name Kane came into use in 1997. Since then, Kane has won 18 championships during his WWE/F career including being a three-time world champion (WWF Championship, ECW Championship, World Heavyweight Championship). Kane also holds 12 tag team championship titles including WWF/E Tag Team Championship, WCW Tag Team Championship and WWE Tag Team Championship. In 2010, he became a Money in the Bank winner.
This year Kane has eliminated four superstars in the January Royal Rumble, surpassing the previous record. Kane also became victorious at Fastlane, however he was eliminated in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. He defended his role as The Authorities Director of Operations in a Fatal 4 Way Match. These wins ensured Kane’s position in this countdown.
9. The Great Khali – $974,000
The Great Khali began his wrestling career under the name of Giant Singh for All Pro Wrestling in the US in 2000. In 2001 he was moved to New Japan Pro Wrestling and formed one half of the tallest tag team in professional wrestling history along with Giant Silva with an average height of 7 feet 2.5 inches tall. In 2006, Singh signed a contract with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), making him the first Indian professional wrestler contracted to WWE.
Singh was introduced as the Great Khali in April 2006 and he won his first World Heavyweight Championship in 2008. In 2012 The Great Khali began to decline in performance losing the Royal Rumble pay-per-view event and at Elimination Chamber, being eliminated by Big Show. Khali did win a 20-man battle in an episode of WWE Main Event, but he was defeated by Cesaro. He began teaming with Santino Marella in late 2013 but they were defeated at Battleground. The Great Khali was also then defeated in the Royal Rumble. Having failed to win the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal, he also failed to win the WWE Intercontinental Championship Battle Royal and in November 2014 Khali left the WWE. However, his residual earnings still place him in this top ten.
8. Rey Mysterio – $985, 000
Rey Mysterio began his career in 1992 working for Asistencia Asesoria Administracion (AAA) in Mexico. In 1995, Rey made the move to Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) for a year until 1996 when he made the move to WCW until 2001. In 2002, Rey moved again, this time to WWE. Rey is often credited with assisting in the revolution of the cruiserweight wrestling division in the late 1990’s. In the WCW, he won the WCW World Tag Team Championship 3 times and the WCW Cruiserweight Tag Team Championship once with Billy Kidman.
Withiin WWE, Rey is a 3-time world champion and is currently listed as the lightest world champion in WWE history. Along with this, he held the WWE Tag Team Championship 4 times and the WWE Intercontinental Championship twice. He held the WCW/WWE Cruserweight Championship a record 8 times. He also held the WWE Triple Crown Championship and won the 2006 Royal Rumble. In 2014 Rey lost the Royal Rumble in January as he was eliminated by Seth Rollins. At Wrestlemania XXX, Mysterio was eliminated by Cesaro in the Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal. The following evening Rey lost to Bad News Barrett in an episode of Raw and then took time off due to a wrist injury. During this time, it was reported that Rey wanted to leave WWE. Due to contractual obligations, Rey remained with WWE until Feb 2015 when he returned to AAA, but his residual earnings place him in this top ten.
7. Sheamus – $1,000,000
Sheamus began his wrestling career on the European circuit. He became a two-time International Heavyweight Champion during his time with Irish Whip Wrestling (IWW). Sheamus became part of the main WWE roster in 2009 where he eventually became a three-time champion, twice holding the WWE Championship and once holding the World Heavyweight Championship. Sheamus has also won the 2010 King of the Ring tournament and the 2012 Royal Rumble.
In 2015, Sheamus was successful at the Money in the Bank ladder match and earned a WWE World Heavyweight Championship contract. Sheamus would later defeat Orson at SummerSlam, having lost to him at Battleground. Sheamus’ return to the ring in 2015 cemented his place in this countdown, despite his braided beard.
6. Big Show – $1,050,000
Previously known as The Giant in World Championship Wrestling (WCW), the wrestler joined the WWE in 1999 and became known as Big Show. He has held a number of titles during his career including the ECW, WWF/E, World and WCW World Heavyweight Championships as well as holding 11 tag team championship titles including WWF/World, WWE and WCW World Championship. Between the WWE and WCW, Big Show has held 23 total championships.
In January 2015, Big Show put in a strong performance at the Royal Rumble but ultimately lost to Reigns. As part of The Authority, he defeated Dolph Ziggler, Erick Rowan and Ryback at Fastlane. Big Show also won the second Annual Andre the Giant Memorial Battle Royal at Wrestlemania. Later in the year, Big Show lost out at Money in the Bank and he was also defeated in the pay-per-view and at WWE Live from Madison Square Garden. Maybe this explains why he is in the middle of this countdown rather than the top?
5. Brock Lesnar – 1 Year, $5-Million Deal
Lesnar began his career in WWE when he signed with them in 2000. He joined the main roster in 2002 and has since won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship title four times. He has also won King of the Ring in 2002 and Royal Rumble in 2003. Lesnar had a brief hiatus from wrestling when he left to pursue a career in the National Football League and then the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Within the UFC, Lesnar gained success becoming UFC Heavyweight Champion in 2008 and later the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion. In 2012, Lesnar returned to the WWE ring and two years later put an end to the undefeated Wrestlemania streak held by the Undertaker. That same year in the SummerSlam, he defeated John Cena to gain his fourth WWE World Heavyweight Championship title. Lesnar was this year named the most accomplished athlete in pro wrestling history in an ESPN article, so it’s no wonder he is part of this countdown.
4. CM Punk – $1,220,500
CM Punk is now retired from the WWE, however he is still one of the highest earners of the WWE for the year 2015. Punk began his career on the independent circuit working his way from the Ring of Honour roster to the WWE in 2005. He made his WWE televised debut in 2006. During his career, he won the ROH World Championship once, the ECW World Championship once, WWE Heavyweight World Championship three times and the WWE Championship once.
Punk also won the World Tag Team Championship and the Intercontinental Championship. This made Punk the fastest man in WWE history to achieve the WWE Triple Crown Champion title. This success has made Punk an extremely successful wrestler. Since announcing his retirement in 2014, Punk has switched to competing in the Ultimate Fighting Championship under the middleweight division. Despite this move, Punk has continued to generate income from WWE which has placed him in this countdown.
3. Triple H – $1,550,000
In 1992, after competing as a bodybuilder, Triple H joined the International Wrestling Federation under the name Terra Ryzing. Two years later, he was repackaged as Jean-Paul Levesque and joined WCW. In 1995, he then moved to WWF/E where his name was changed to Hunter Hearst Helmsley, which was then abbreviated to Triple H. In 1997, he co-founded the influential D-Generation X stable which went on to become a major part of WWF’s ‘Attitude Era’.
During the next decade he won a total of 13 world championships. From 2010, Triple H began having a greater influence behind the scenes and switched to wrestling part time. Triple H has now held a total of 23 championships including 8 WWF/E Championships and 5 World Heavywieght Championships. He won the 1997 King of the Ring Tournament and the 2002 Royal Rumble. In 2013, Triple H and his wife Stephanie McMahon created The Authority and, after briefly going out of power, they were reinstated by John Cena and has continued to be part of the prominent wrestling scene, aiding Triple H in becoming part of this countdown.
2. Randy Orton – $1,600,500
Randy Orton is a third generation wrestler, whose father and grandfather were also professional wrestlers as was his uncle, so it was inevitable that Randy would join the industry. Orton joined WWE in 2001 and has since held 12 World Champion titles, including 8 WWE World Heavyweight Championships and 4 World Heavyweight Championship titles. At 24, he became the youngest person ever to hold the World Heavyweight Championship. After joining forces with The Edge, Orton also held the Tag Team Championship Title. Orton start a feud with the Wyatt family in 2015. On the September 7th episode of Raw, he defeated Sheamus. Having then been put out of action when he was jumped by the Wyatt family, he returned and formed an alliance with Dean Ambrose and Roman Reigns. This return to form has aided his monetary reward to ensure his place in this top 10 countdown of the top earning wrestlers of 2015.
1. John Cena – $2,750,000
John Cena is one of the highest paid wrestlers of the WWE, and the highest paid in 2015. Born John Felix Anthony Cena in 1977, he started his pro wrestling career with Ultimate Pro Wrestling in 1999. In 2001, he made the move to WWE and debuted on the main roster in 2002. To date, Cena has won 24 championships with 15 reigns as world champion. According to Wikipedia, Cena has also racked up 12 reigns as WWE (World Heavyweight) Champion and 3 reigns as World Heavyweight Champion, 5 reigns as WWE United States Champion, and 4 reigns as world tag team champion. He also is a 2012 Money in the Bank ladder match winner, a two-time Royal Rumble winner (2008, 2013), and a three-time Superstar of the Year. Away from wrestling, Cena has released a rap album and starred in a number of films, notably this year’s Trainwreck. Is it any wonder he is ranked as the top earner of 2015?