Professional wrestling may not be viewed as a legitimate sport, but it is physically demanding with WWE wrestlers working over 300 days a year. While the top stars are paid handsomely, keep in mind that wrestlers are not seen as employees of World Wrestling Entertainment. They are independent contractors and their salaries are not guaranteed. Instead, they are paid based on their amount of appearances, how much merchandise they sell and how many pay-per-views are purchased. They also must pay their own travel expenses, hence they spend a lot of their salary over the course of the year.
There’s a saying in the wrestling business, “it’s not what you make, it’s what you save.” Guys you’d expect to see on this list, such as Hulk Hogan or Ric Flair are not worth as much as their long successful careers would lead you to believe. Part of it is money lost in divorces and exorbitant spending.
WWE is the king of sports entertainment, so it’s no surprise that the top 10 wrestlers with the highest net worths are all current or former stars of the company. Not all of them are active wrestlers, but the wrestling business is where they established themselves as superstars and what led them to their fortune.
10. Mick Foley – Net Worth: $15 million
What? This loveable goof is worth $15 million? Well, don’t let the flannel and unkempt hair fool you. This man is the toughest to ever enter the squared circle and probably the wittiest as well.
He was the king of hardcore, having some of the industry’s most brutal matches, and he did it under multiple personas; Cactus Jack, Mankind and who could forget Dude Love? Well, if you ever read Mick Foley‘s work, maybe he can. That’s right, I said read. Foley was the first ever professional wrestler to hit the New York Times Bestseller list. Have a Nice Day was published in 1999, shortly before Foley’s retirement as a full-time wrestler in 2000. In fact, his book debuted at no.3 and was the no.1 bestseller a month later. He’s continued to write since then, and he has also taken up a career in stand-up comedy.
Foley always has a funny story to tell, and his fans are always willing to listen. He’s also learned how to branch out his work to non-wrestling fans due to his charm, sincerity and the fact that his writing skills are far better than what many would expect from a guy who’s been hit in the head too many times to count.
9. The Undertaker – Net Worth: $16 million
Longevity and headlining multiple WrestleManias is what propels Mark Calaway, ‘The Undertaker’ to this list. He’s been in the wrestling business for 30 years, and in the WWE for 22. Perhaps what’s played the biggest hand in landing his fortune is his 21-0 streak at WrestleMania. That’s 21 fat WrestleMania paycheques, as defending his streak has become the event’s main attraction year after year.
Taker is no longer a full-time performer at 48 years old. He shows up around WrestleMania, steals the show at the big event, earns his money, and goes home to rest his banged-up body. He’s earned the right to do so, as his mere presence sells tickets and pay-per-views. He’s an icon in the business and is likely down to his final few matches, but he has accumulated a nice living for himself.
8. Shawn Michaels – Net Worth: $17 million
Why wouldn’t the guy who constantly stole the show be on this list? Shawn Michaels was known as the Showstopper for good reason. Despite retiring due to a back injury in 1998, the Heart Break Kid returned better than ever in 2002 and wrestled well into his 40s. He was the best performer in the business up to the day his career ended when he put it all on the line and lost to the Undertaker at WrestleMania 26.
His career lasted about 30 years and despite going through drug problems in the 90s, Michaels cleaned up his act and had a very successful run in the WWE. He won every title there was to win, including four reigns as World Champion.
HBK has likely wrestled his last match, but retirements rarely stick in pro wrestling. There’s a slight chance we could see more of him. Every wrestling fan would welcome it.
7. Chris Jericho – Net Worth: $18 million
The first Canadian to crack the list, Chris Irvine, better known as Chris Jericho, is a multi-talented individual. Not only has he had a 20-year wrestling career, including 29 championships, but he is a New York Times Bestseller and author of ‘A Lion’s Tale: Around the World in Spandex’, the lead singer of the rock band ‘FOZZY’, host of the game show “Downfall” and was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. He can really do it all.
When he’s not on tour with FOZZY, Jericho wrestles under short-term contracts for the WWE. He is a busy man, and at 43 years old, he’s likely going to make even more. He has certainly paid his dues, having wrestled in Japan, Mexico and Germany before getting his break in the United States. Chris Jericho is a great performer in every sense of the word.
6. Kurt Angle – Net Worth: $20 million
If you ever doubted whether professional wrestlers are real athletes, look no further than Kurt Angle. Before he joined the spectacle of pro wrestling, Angle won an Olympic gold medal at the 1996 summer games.
Nobody learned the craft of pro wrestling as quickly as he did. In his first year in the WWE, Kurt Angle won every title the company had. While at the time, the feeling may have been it was too soon for him to win everything, looking back we could see why he was booked to win so often. His run in the WWE lasted only seven years. His chronic neck injuries led him to painkillers and alcohol abuse and he was too banged up for the rigorous schedule of the WWE. Angle signed with TNA in 2006 and he’s still the crowning jewel of the organization. He was and likely always will be their best signing. Angle only performs part-time for TNA. He was the WWE’s highest-paid star at the time of his departure and he remains the only Olympic gold medalist in wrestling history.
5. The Big Show – Net Worth: $20 million
The Big Show, Paul Wight, is seven feet tall and weighs 440 pounds. When you have that larger-than-life look, you can make a lot of money in sports entertainment. He made his debut in World Championship Wrestling in 1995 and has wrestled for the WWE since 1999. His work as a wrestler and gigs in movies like Jingle All the Way, Reggie’s Prayer, The WaterBoy, Little Hercules and Knucklehead all contributed to his fortune.
The Big Show has never been the face of the WWE, but he’s been a constant presence and has obviously saved his money very well. At 41 years old, he could comfortably retire today if that’s what he wanted.
4. Triple H – Net Worth: $25 million
Possibly the most shrewd man ever to lace a pair of boots, Paul Levesque or “Triple H” is a part-time performer now, after a successful career spanning over two decades. He debuted for WCW in 1992 and for WWE in 1996 as Hunter Hearst Helmsley. He is a 13-time World Champion and the current Executive Vice President for the global corporation. He married Vince McMahon‘s daughter Stephanie in 2003 and appears to be the heir to the throne, as Shane McMahon left the company in 2010.
He’s headlined countless pay-per-views, feuding with some of the industry’s biggest stars of all time, including Stone Cold, The Rock, Shawn Michaels, The Undertaker, John Cena, heck, even Hulk Hogan. Sharing the main event with so many top stars and playing the perfect villain is how Triple H made so much money in the wrestling business. He’s truly lived up to his nickname, ‘The Game’. Nobody plays it better. If and when he inherits a good portion of WWE’s shares, he’ll likely be worth hundreds of millions.
3. John Cena – Net Worth: $35 million
Many fans love him, many fans hate him. However, no current superstar affects WWE’s bottom line more than John Cena. Ever since his first WWE title win at WrestleMania 21 in 2005, he has headlined just about every WrestleMania, and just about every pay-per-view event as long as he was healthy. At 36 years old, Cena has earned in 10 years far more than what so many top stars made throughout their whole careers.
He truly is the Hulk Hogan of the 21st century, being a role-model to kids (his main target audience) and with an unstoppable persona in the ring. He is a 14-time World Champion. When you’re the champ that often, you make the most money in the company for long periods of time. Cena has been dubbed the WWE’s ‘cash cow’. He sells an abundance of merchandise and is still their most popular superstar. He likely will be until the day he decides to call it quits.
2. Stone Cold Steve Austin – Net Worth: $45 million
It’s said that while nobody was on top of the wrestling industry as long as Hulk Hogan, Stone Cold Steve Austin reached unprecedented heights of popularity amongst wrestling fans. Austin broke many of Hogan’s records for the business, including pay-per-view buys and merchandise sales. In fact WrestleMania 17, headlined by Austin and The Rock earned 1.4 million buys, the first time a wrestling pay-per-view ever reached a million.
His popularity hasn’t waned, despite having been retired as a wrestler since 2003, following another WrestleMania matchup with the Rock. He began his career in 1989, but didn’t join the WWE until 1996. Once he uttered the words, “Austin 3:16 says I just whipped your ass!” at King of the Ring ’96, he was a made man in the industry. He was a six-time WWE champion and he made every reign count. He was the main attraction when he wasn’t champion as well. Perhaps no wrestler had more passionate fans than the Texas Rattlesnake.
Steve Williams, the man behind the persona, had his dark days towards the end of his career. A neck injury suffered at SummerSlam 1997 ultimately shortened his career. He was also charged with domestic abuse in 2002. Since then, Austin has rebuilt his image, even legally changing his name to Steve Austin. He has also built a decent acting career for himself in the film industry. While he’s had some forgettable roles, he has been involved in feature films, such as The Longest Yard and the Expendables. That’s undoubtedly contributed to his fortune, but nobody comes close to what the next guy on this list has done outside of the wrestling industry.
1. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson – Net Worth: $70 million
Whether you see him as The Rock, the pro wrestler, or Dwayne Johnson the Hollywood mega-star, this man is perhaps the most recognizable face in the history of professional wrestling. The Rock’s popularity has not dwindled after stepping away from the business that made him famous in 2004. In fact, according to his box office numbers for 2013, he may be more popular than ever.
Dwayne Johnson grossed $1.2 billion in 2013 according to Forbes, topping any actor. His top roles included ‘Fast 6’, ‘G.I Joe’ and ‘Pain and Gain’. Oh, and he also headlined WrestleMania 29 against John Cena, which sold over 1 million pay-per-views.
The Rock has said that there was a time when he was 24 years old, having just been cut by the Calgary Stampeders practice squad of the CFL, that he had just seven dollars in his pocket. Those days are long gone. He’s 41 now and will continue to earn millions for the foreseeable future. He has the looks, talent and persona to be a major box office star for a long time, just as he was in wrestling.
The Rock debuted for the WWE in 1996 and by the time he retired in 2004, he had accomplished everything one could possibly accomplish in wrestling in a span of just eight years. He won every title multiple times, including seven runs as WWE champion. He had the most catchphrases of any wrestler, cut the most entertaining promos, sold tons of merchandise, and was just everything you could want in a superstar.
After seven years, he returned to the WWE on a part-time basis in 2011. He hosted WrestleMania 27, and headlined WrestleManias 28 and 29 against Cena. He even won his eighth WWE championship against CM Punk at the 2013 Royal Rumble. After dropping the title to Cena, Johnson had fulfilled all contractual obligations to the WWE and is back on the silver screen. We will probably see him back in the ring some day, but in the meantime, he’s keeping his schedule and his wallet full. There’s just not enough space to list all of Dwayne Johnson’s accolades.
The door has been opened for wrestlers to make money outside of the industry if they are big enough stars to do so. Many have gone on to earn movie roles and these numbers show that professional wrestling, while not at the level of popularity it once was, is still beloved by many.