Those who are critics of the pro wrestling industry may wonder why it is that somebody would want to get involved in a business that is all about fake fighting. One reason is that those who are able to become main-event workers for a company such a World Wrestling Entertainment are able to potentially make millions upon millions of dollars each and every year. Those who are deemed to be worthy of long-term deals with the company can make fortunes off of their WWE contracts, endorsement opportunities and even movie offers that come from being a recognized wrestler.
While you may not be able to put the highest-paid WWE wrestlers in order from one to ten, any diehard WWE fan could probably guess the majority of the names that were mentioned by Forbes. At the top of the list is the man who has been the top babyface in the WWE for over a decade, the wrestler who serves as an authority figure both behind the scenes and on WWE television, and the former Ultimate Fighting Championship Heavyweight Champion. No wonder so many people out there believe that Ronda Rousey will eventually jump ship and join up with the WWE at some point down the road.
10. Dean Ambrose: $1.1 Million
We’ll be honest and say that we are a little surprised that Dean Ambrose makes over $1 million considering how little the company has done with him as a singles act since “The Shield” was broken up. Perhaps 2016 will be the year when the WWE decides to go all-in on Ambrose. The possibility exists that the WWE could choose to make Ambrose a heel, one who feuds with champion Roman Reigns and a returning Seth Rollins. Then again, maybe it will be Ambrose who becomes the top babyface in the WWE and who is put into a feud with a heel Reigns. Time will tell.
9. Kane: $1.3 Million
Those who may be curious as to how Kane, who has not been a legitimate contender for the world championship for years, makes over $1 million a year need to remember that he is being paid for his longevity as well as for what he can offer the WWE in 2016. Kane has been working for the WWE for over two decades, and he played several (awful) characters before he was eventually given the Kane character. “Corporate Kane” morphing into “Demon Kane” may not be your favorite gimmick, but there is little doubt that Glenn Jacobs has earned his money throughout his career.
8. Big Show: $1.5 Million
Big Show first earned his massive contract with the WWE in the 1990s during the “Monday Night Wars” when he jumped ship to the company from World Championship Wrestling. The larger-than-life athlete has been a loyal soldier to the WWE ever since he bolted from WCW, and he has been awarded with other opportunities such as movie gigs. Show may no longer be the top big guy working in the WWE, and you may have lost track of the amount of times he has turned from heel to babyface and back to heel. He nevertheless continues to make millions from the WWE.
7. Undertaker: $2 million
Undertaker works only a handful of WWE shows every year, and yet he manages to earn $2 million. That is a tremendous way to make a living if you can get it. Granted, Undertaker has earned his schedule and his money over the decades. Not only did Undertaker never jump ship during the Monday Night Wars. Undertaker has been responsible for the biggest match on WrestleMania cards on multiple occasions, and that was again the case for 2016. We may learn that 2016 is the last year that Undertaker works as an active wrestler for the WWE. If that is the case, we thank him for all he has given us.
6. Roman Reigns: $2.1 Million
Any and all WWE fans out there who are wondering why the company continues pushing Roman Reigns at the top of cards need only look at how much money he is making per year. Will 2016 be the year of the “Roman Empire” and when the WWE finally makes Reigns the top act in the company? Will WWE fans finally embrace a version of Reigns that is presented by the WWE, or will some pockets of fans continue to reject him? It should be interesting to follow the next 12 months of Reigns’ WWE career leading up to the 2017 edition of WrestleMania.
5. Seth Rollins: $2.4 Million
We are excited to see Seth Rollins make his return from a serious knee injury whenever that occurs in 2016, and not just because Rollins is a talented worker who can have great matches with several performers on the roster. Rollins will likely return to the WWE as a babyface, and his return could affect one of many different storylines. A healthy Rollins technically never lost the WWE Championship, and thus his character has a right to demand to receive a title shot as soon as he can wrestle. Reigns versus Rollins could have a different look this year than what we saw in 2015.
4. Randy Orton: $2.7 Million
Randy Orton was one of several different wrestlers on the WWE roster to be bitten by the injury bug in 2015. Orton is currently nursing a legitimate shoulder injury, and it is one that kept him away up through WrestleMania 32. A positive thing about Orton returning to the WWE is that he can work as a heel and as a babyface with just about anybody else on the roster. This opens Orton up for feuds with Roman Reigns, Dean Ambrose, Kevin Owens or with somebody who has received a call-up from NXT. Whatever you do, WWE, just please don’t have Orton feud with John Cena. We’ve all seen that enough.
3. Triple H: $2.8 Million
Triple H went into WrestleMania weekend as the reigning WWE Champion in 2016. Some things really do never change. The fact of the matter is that Triple H is a great performer in and out of the ring, and he is also largely responsible for the NXT product that is beloved by fans located all around the world. While the days of Triple H being an active wrestler should be coming to an end sooner rather than later, there is little question that the man who will one day be given the keys to the WWE Kingdom is not close to being finished making contributions to the company. Triple H and his wife Stephanie McMahon will be tasked with carrying the WWE banner for decades to come.
2. Brock Lesnar: $6 Million
It was during a SportsCenter segment when Brock Lesnar announced that he was staying with the WWE and not returning to the UFC that Lesnar explained that he was remaining a wrestler because he was making “full-time money for part-time work.” Lesnar wasn’t kidding. This is not to suggest that Lesnar is somehow robbing the WWE. Lesnar, truth be told, is probably the biggest single draw on the WWE roster, in part because he does provide a “real” feel to events and to matches. The WWE now needs to work to find its next Brock Lesnar. We are looking at you, Ms. Rousey.
1. John Cena: $9.5 Million
Far too many who took John Cena for granted are seeing what the company is like without the injured Cena on the roster. Cena not being fully healthy has not prevented him from representing the WWE at charity events and on programs such as The Today Show. While Cena was sidelined for WrestleMania this time around, he will make a return to action at some point in 2016. When he does, it is Cena and not Reigns who will be the top babyface in the eyes of many casual fans. What will the WWE do about that? Stay tuned to find out.