With another year in the books, the WWE had a variety of ups and downs for the year. One of the big components to come out of 2016 was the addition of the brand split. Whether it’ll thrive or fail remains to be seen, but as of now, reactions are generally mixed. It’ll be interesting to see how things continue to go into 2017.
The year 2016 was highlighted by journey Indie stars dominating the WWE landscape. The likes of A.J. Styles, Kevin Owens and Shinsuke Nakamura all dominated their respective shows, whether it be Raw, SmackDown or NXT. Although that all sounds great, not every wrestler on the roster was worth the price of admission and that was very apparent for the WWE who writes the checks.
This article will specifically look at some of the very worst contracts for 2016. The Superstars on this list range from part-timers, newcomers, Superstars that failed to make an impact and some that are just flat out highly overpaid for what they do. This is a list of the 15 worst WWE contracts for 2016. Make sure to let us know which deal you feel is the absolute worse of the year. Enjoy!
15 Randy Orton
To make things perfectly clear, Randy Orton is worth every penny of his 2.7 million dollar contract, however, an injured Orton is not.
Pulling out of the Hell In a Cell PPV back in October of 2015, Orton experienced a long leave of absence with the WWE. The Viper would end up missing the road to WrestleMania and didn’t appear in 2016 till he was finally promoted for the SummerSlam PPV. The build to his match against Brock was decent, however it was more overshadowed by the brand split. The match itself was alright and ended with a unique TKO finish.
Following the event of the summer, Randy finally began to appear regularly on WWE programming. His involvement on the SmackDown brand is crucial and fans breathed a sigh of relief seeing his name to the brand desperate for talent. 2016 wasn’t his best year, but you can expect the Viper to rebound with an awesome 2017 barring an injury free year.
14 Big Show
Given his body of work and the fact that he’s been a member of the WWE family since 1999, the company would argue that his 1.5 million dollar salary is merited. To the casual fan however, the deal is absolutely shocking given his lack of work in 2016.
Looking at the reactions he gets from the crowds, the WWE felt like it was best to leave Big Show on the sidelines for most of the year. The times he would perform, fans would serenade the arena with “please retire" chants. Well, since the brand split, it does seem like Show has retired appearing on the program twice in the last couple of months. To make matters worse, fans are unsure what role Big Show is currently playing. On the Independence Day episode he was a face but then took on Seth Rollins on Raw as a heel, but ended the match aiding Rollins as a face? You still with us?
Look for 2017 to be Show’s final year as he transitions into a new salary along with a job behind the scenes away from the squared circle.
Like Big Show, the WWE is paying Kane in relation to his experience and body of work over the years for the company. Making $1.3 million, we can safely assume that Kane will do just fine once he decides to retire and pursue that political career he’s being linked to.
Looking at his deal in the grand scheme of things however, it’s quite poor. Wrestling fans are torn when it comes to WWE contracts; some believe longevity should play a role, while others would argue that the payment should be about your current body of work. Look at pro sports leagues for example, the older players don’t make more than the younger ones just because of their age, it’s simply all about current skill. Many believe the WWE should use this logic when assessing contract terms. Kane is another perfect example and poster boy for this. Like Big Show, his involvement was extremely limited aside from a handful of matches. At the age of 49, Kane has become an attraction for his appearance more so than anything else.
12 Mark Henry
With an impressive background in powerlifting, the WWE went all-in signing the mammoth of a man to a whopping ten year deal despite the fact that he had no experience whatsoever. 20 years later, Henry is still employed by the WWE and among one of the top earners in the company. At any point in his career, this would have seemed like a big improbability, but Henry is in fact still making quite the amount of dough for his experience and dedication to the company.
Despite retiring from the WWE, Henry was forced into returning by Vince who was starved for talent at the time. Since returning, his role has diminished as time goes by. Today, he’s rarely on any show and more of a backstage presence. It remains to be seen what 2017 holds for the big man, but looking at his body of work in 2016, we can safely say his contract was one of the very worst strictly based on his involvement.
Like the others on the list, Sheamus has cashed-in quite nicely for his body of work over the last couple of years. Working with the company for almost a decade now, Sheamus has become a respected individual behind the scenes.
Unlike the others however, the Celtic Warrior remains a prominent face on WWE programming at the age of 38. Despite the fact that he’s getting closer to his 40s, Sheamus can still work a match very effectively and doesn’t seem to have missed a beat conditioning-wise. For that, we credit the veteran. However, his status in the company is a mid-carder at best and in 2016 he certainly was not worth his price tag in the millions along with travel expenses fully paid for. In 2016, Sheamus lingered for a long-time as a member of the League of Nations faction that destroyed the reputation of the men involved for a short-while. Though, the Dublin native is now back on his feet and working as one half of the WWE Tag Team Champions. Look for 2017 to be a better and more productive year for Sheamus in all aspects.
10 Curt Hawkins
Looking at the abundance of talent out on the Indie scene, it was rather puzzling to see the WWE offer the 31 year old Curtis Hawkins a WWE deal. With the rumor mill swirling about veterans returning to the WWE during the brand split, those speculations quickly died down as the company apparently offered low-ball contract offers to former stars. This caused many to look the other way and keep working the Inide scene which was more worth it for most along with greater freedoms.
This opened the door for some lackluster talent including the aforementioned Curt Hawkins who returned this year. His ability on the microphone is passable, but the crowd just doesn’t seem to care making the signing a complete waste of money in 2016, even if it was for a lesser amount. Fans will argue that the money could have went to another young talent, instead of bringing back a familiar face that nobody cared for to begin with.
9 Darren Young
Signing in 2009, it seems like the fire coming from Darren Young is slowly extinguishing itself. Give the WWE some credit, they tried to revamp Young’s character, something they’ve been unwilling to do with so many others. Although they had the right intent, his character rebuild failed miserably thanks to some awful creative writing. Young was put with Bob Backlund in an attempt to make Young “great again”. His run was a flop from the start and he lost all momentum once he was defeated by The Miz as his IC Title pursuit fell short.
To make matters worse, his 2016 run was completely derailed by joining the Raw brand. He feuded with Titus O’Neal for a little while and went completely MIA after that. Looking at his longevity in the company, this truly was one of his worst career years yet and a flop in terms of contracts.
8 The Spirit Squad
The WWE made some bizarre contract offers in 2016 and signing Spirit Squad members Mikey and Kenny, was another one of those head scratching, God awful moments.
The group tanked horribly during their run, and fans celebrated when the WWE shipped the group back down to development. In all likelihood, that was the last we thought we’d ever see of them. Well, most of us were completely wrong. With the brand split in place, the WWE not only looked to add cheap talent, but they also needed wrestlers that could make others look good, like the group did with Dolph Ziggler. Regardless of that, Kenny and Mikey were a pretty big flop and haven’t been seen on SmackDown for the last couple of weeks. Even if the WWE gave these guys a lower card contract, it still was not worth the price nor the time. It was another major contract bust in 2016 that could have been easily avoided.
7 Eva Marie
At this point, some fans have changed their anger for Eva into actual sorrow for the WWE Diva who still hasn’t managed to do anything in the company. If you don’t think her contract's a bust, we suggest you look at the evidence which truly speaks for itself.
Signing with the company in 2013, 2016 proved to be another mulligan year for Eva. We respected the fact that she got some extra help alongside Brian Kendrick, but ultimately, that did nothing for her during this calendar year. Eva briefly appeared on SmackDown using a pesky gimmick which saw her constantly get out of matches. Just as she was finally gaining some type of steam, boom, the run once again ended with Eva serving a 30 day suspension for violating the Wellness Policy. She failed the exam back in August and hasn’t been featured ever since. Once again, you can pencil Marie in as a major contract bust and nothing but a liability to the company at this point, specifically looking at her in-ring work thus far in her career.
6 The Ascension
The lackluster run of the Ascension on the main roster just proved how little of a strangle hold Triple H has on roster members once they make it past NXT. Under Hunter’s watch, The Ascension was dominating the division and became one of the greatest Tag Teams to ever come out of the developmental branch. It seemed like they were destined for success really quickly on the company’s main programs.
That however was not the case and it proved that perhaps Vince does not see eye to eye with Triple H when it comes to certain talent. Others also blame Kevin Dunn for this, who is also very hands-on with the WWE product and has clashed with Triple H several times in the past. Nonetheless, the point is the tag team has flopped and they no longer look worthy of a WWE contract given their work in 2016. For 2017, the duo might be better off hitting the Indie scene and resurfacing their brand value which seems to have been lost since joining the main roster.
5 The Vaudevillains
Speaking of failed NXT Tag Teams, The Vaudevillains flopped worse than the previous entrants on the list. Unlike The Ascension, this Tag Team joined the main roster with absolutely no momentum whatsoever. They were dominating the NXT tag scene, only to drop the titles and proceed to lose several matches in a row. Once that was up, the WWE rewarded their lackluster momentum with a call-up to the main roster and as you can imagine, they flopped big time.
Since the brand extension, the team has actually done worse somehow over on SmackDown losing time and time again. The only thing the team made headlines for in 2016 was a backstage brawl between Simon Gotch and Sin Cara. When that’s pretty much all you’re remembered for in 2016, you know you’ve flopped pretty badly. Look for 2017 to potentially be the final contract year for the two.
Like some of the other veterans on the list, Goldust is getting paid a steep amount of dough because of his past accomplishments with the company. Looking back at 2016, Runnels was like the others on the list who rarely appeared for the WWE. He did appear on occasion alongside R-Truth providing the program with some comedic relief. His participation on the show has been valuable from time to time, particularly in a tag division lacking depth, but at the end of the day, his body of work does not warrant his massive contract.
At the age of 47, 2017 might be the final year for Goldust as an active performer. Given his status in the company and the legacy his father left behind, you can expect the veteran to join the company behind the scenes in some capacity. Looking at his ring work for many, many years, you’d expect the WWE to use his knowledge as a road agent for the young talents the company currently employs.
3 David Otunga
Not sure what’s more baffling here; the WWE still paying Otunga, or the fact that he’s getting paid as an announcer for WWE SmackDown.
No disrespect to Otunga, but he just hasn’t fit the bill in his new role. Oftentimes, the poor guy can’t even get a word in for the first 30 minutes of a show. Fans have also voiced their criticisms on certain instances; one example saw fans ridicule David for not finishing a story he was telling during an episode of SmackDown. Things are getting quite drastic in the commentary booth as the company decided to add a fourth member into the mix, Tom Phillips. Some believe the WWE is training the new commentator to replace Otunga, no matter what the case might be, it looks like something needs to be done with SmackDown’s commentary crew.
Being under contract since 2009, you’d argue this was one of his very worst years just because of his constant involvement in the ears of wrestling fans all over the world.
What could have been the best WWE contract going into 2016, turned into the absolute worst waste of money and potential for the company. For the most part of 2016, Paige has been away from the WWE missing out on all the talent currently involved in the women’s division. After getting drafted to Raw, many believed that Paige and the WWE were clicking the reset button, but that was not the case. Paige would end up leaving due to injury and it was later announced that she was suspended for violating the Wellness Policy.
To make matters worse, she’s touring the Indie scene away from the company alongside Alberto Del Rio, who quit the WWE in 2016. Recovering from her neck injury, many hope that Paige could put the 2016 disaster behind her and start fresh for 2017. For now, the WWE views her contract as one of the absolute worse given her potential and lack of work during the year.
1 Brock Lesnar
Ending The Undertaker’s illustrious streak in 2014, Brock Lesnar became the hottest commodity in the entire WWE. The company swiftly pounced on his momentum and it led Lesnar to becoming one of the most dominant champions in WWE history. In his peak throughout 2014 and 2015, he truly was must-see television. Rightfully so, the WWE went all-in on Brock and signed the wrestler to a massive deal which included a limited schedule and private travel accommodations.
It’s now safe to say that Lesnar has lost that luster and it was apparent in 2016. By no means did Brock look worthy of his six million dollar status given his work for the year. Lesnar looked lazy in most bouts repeating the same sequence of moves. His worst showing was against Dean Ambrose at WrestleMania in a match that really had absolutely nothing to it. Ambrose blamed Lensar for his lack of involvement when discussing the match proceedings. Ultimately, Lesnar’s most memorable moment was an 86-second squash loss to Goldberg. With that in mind, his year was most certainly a bust and not worthy of his large contract.