At this point, just about every wrestling fan alive is well aware World Championship Wrestling, for all its successes on television, was an absolute mess behind the scenes. There were points in time when Ted Turner’s attempt at entering the wrestling business was truly the top sports entertainment franchise in the world, making money hand over fist and destroying Vince McMahon’s WWE Universe. However, for every great accomplishment WCW achieved, there were two massive failures that just didn’t make any sense. Nine times out of ten, the worst mistakes involved wasting veritable mountains of cash.
With the strain professional wrestlers put on their bodies, it could be argued they all deserve to be paid quite well for their services. That said, there has to be a limit to this, and main event wrestlers should logically get remunerated a whole lot better than a mere jobber. For whatever reason, this wasn’t always the case in WCW. Obviously, the Hulk Hogan’s and Sting’s of the world were indeed making more money than the Ernest Miller’s and The Barbarian’s, but the divide was a lot closer than fans might expect.
It’s hardly our place to decide the exact figure these wrestlers all deserved to make, but it seems reasonable to look at some of their paychecks and question what the hell Eric Bischoff and company were thinking. Even if you think they deserved what they were making, you’ll definitely be jealous of these numbers. Keep reading to learn about 20 wrestlers WCW was paying way too much money.
20 “Mr. Hole-in-One” Barry Darsow Could Golf Or Wrestle
With all due respect, there was most certainly a point in Barry Darsow’s career when he deserved the money WCW was paying him. In fact, there were a few of them, as Darsow is a rare performer who achieved decent success under two very diverse gimmicks. First, he was the Russian sympathizer Krusher Khruschev in the NWA, followed by an even more popular stint as Smash of Demolition in WWE.
Unfortunately, when Darsow returned to WCW in the mid '90s, he didn’t have any more partners to make up for his weaknesses.
Worse than that, WCW gave him some truly ridiculous gimmicks, first as the indistinct heel Blacktop Bully, then the baffling golf enthusiast “Mr. Hole-in-One.” Granted, WCW wasn’t exactly trying to make him a star with these roles, simply putting another memorable jobber on the roster. The thing is, they weren’t paying Darsow jobber money, but rather a contract that gave him over six figures in both ’98 and ‘99.
19 Fake Sting Was A Highly Priced Impostor
Before anyone gets confused, we’re not talking about the real Sting, who was one of the highest paid stars in WCW, and deservedly so. Then again, the only people in the world who ever confused the real and fake Stings were WCW announcers, so that disclaimer probably wasn’t necessary. In any event, the point is that for the most part, the Fake Sting’s only role in WCW was to stand around and paint his face similarly to the true Icon.
He only wrestled in extremely short matches, and the crowd reacted to him the opposite as they did Steve Borden, which is to say they were completely silent.
Initially, Fake Sting only earned about $34,000 for this gig, and even that seems a little high. By the time WCW was sending him to Japan to keep up the charade, though, he was making $130-140,000 per year, which is just an absurdly high paycheck for average cosplay.
18 High Voltage Had No Electricity
Okay, so being two people, it’s almost reasonable that Kenny Kaos and Robbie Rage made around $300,000 each over the course of careers that lasted roughly 5 years. The weird thing is they both made half of their earnings in 1999 aloneafter the team broke up, and neither of them went on to win a single match on Nitro, Thunder, or Pay-Per-View as solo stars. Oddly enough, Kaos did briefly hold the WCW Tag Team Championships with Rick Steiner, albeit in an absurd joke of a title reign that saw them stripped of the belts almost instantly.
While that happened in 1998, it wasn’t exactly the sort of thing that should have earned him and his original partner $150,000 each the next year, especially as they basically disappeared from the scene once they started making the big bucks.
Gotta give Kaos credit for recognizing his fortune, though, as he retired the same year he made his biggest payday.
17 Glacier Kept His Bank Account Warm
Appearing in a wash of bright blue lights with fake, glowing snow falling from the ceiling, Glacier was without a doubt one of the coolest wrestlers in WCW. Unfortunately, this chilly atmosphere didn’t exactly set WCW on fire, as the wrestler beneath the mask just wasn’t all that good. It’s telling that Glacier almost never earned a single title shot in the company, nor was he a common sight on Pay-Per-View.
Despite this, Glacier made $150,000 per year from ’97 to ’99, and shockingly, this was only the tip of the iceberg.
Since the company new the guy’s look was everything, they had to go all out producing it, with the spectacular light show set up costing in the neighborhood of $400,000. That’s not all, as Glacier’s ornate armor was another $35,000, and even running the production rig cost another $10,000 each time he hit the ring. Altogether, this easily makes Glacier one of the most overpriced wrestlers in history.
16 The Barbarian's Paycheck Was Barbaric
In one of the most heavily criticized matches in early WCW history, perennial midcarder The Barbarian challenged Ron Simmons for the WCW World Championship at Halloween Havoc 1992. Rather than learn from their mistakes and never work with Barbarian again, WCW hired the guy back a mere four years later and started paying him more than ever before. On the plus side, they stopped pushing him into main events, relegating him to a minor role as Men’s partner in The Faces of Fear and a member of Jimmy Hart’s First Family.
That said, these low level positions hardly deserved more than $150,000 per year that Barbarian’s contract entailed him.
In fairness to the guy, he actually did wrestle on Nitro and Thunder quite regularly, but he only earned a small number of (again, heavily criticized) title shots, so it doesn’t make sense he was making a champion’s salary.
15 Horace Hogan's Uncle Got Him Paid
Even someone who has never seen a single Horace Hogan match could probably guess what it was that lead to WCW paying him a pretty hefty contract. For all we know, Hulk Hogan himself wrote his nephew’s deal the same day he brought the kid into Eric Bischoff’s office. Granted, it’s not like Horace Hogan was a complete unknown at that time, having already wet his feet in the industry working for Frontier Martial-Arts Wrestling in Japan for several years.
Unfortunately, whatever success Horace found overseas did not translate to America, even as he started standing next to his legendary uncle in the New World Order.
Horace’s only appearances in the spotlight were downright dreadful, as he’s one of the reason Hulk’s bomb against The Warrior at Halloween Havoc 1998 was such a mess. The kid never came anywhere near his uncle’s success beyond that, but through name value alone, he made $220,000 in 1999 alone, and close to it in the surrounding years.
14 The Disciple's Name Says It All
Think being Hulk Hogan’s nephew is a pretty good gig? Try being his best friend. Call him Brutus Beefcake, The Booty Man, Brother Bruti, the Man with No Name, The Disciple, or simply Ed Leslie, one man has been standing by Hogan’s side since well before either of them were famous. As a reward for his decades of loyalty, Hogan made sure his Disciple earned a very nice contract in WCW — even when he didn’t appear onscreen for an entire year.
You read that right: Leslie didn’t appear on television a single time in 1997, and WCW still paid him $150,000.
He started showing up again the next year as The Disciple, Hogan’s new bodyguard, with his pay grade bouncing up to $180,000. It’s not like he was wrestling, though, as he literally just stood next to Hogan and held his belt most of the time. Considering what Hulk did for Leslie in getting him this job, it’s amazing their friendship ever fell apart.
13 Tank Abbott Got A Knock-Out Deal
The first thing readers need to realize about Tank Abbott is how little time he spent in the company compared to the others on this list. Most wrestlers making half a million or more from WCW did so over the course of several years — Abbott did it in one. A former UFC fighter of moderate fame, Abbott was originally intended as a legitimate threat to Goldberg. It makes sense they’d pay a theoretical celebrity the big bucks, but Abbott was no Mike Tyson, let alone a David Arquette, making his hefty price tag confusing. There’s also the issue that WCW was in it for the long haul with Abbott, intending him to stick around for quite a while in contrast to those other stars.
Indeed, Abbott stayed in the company for almost all of 2000, getting paid better than three quarters of the roster, and how did WCW have him earn it?
By dancing around like a goofball to the music of 3 Count. It was funny, but $625,000 funny? Not quite.
12 Sonny Oono Managed To Make Thousands
If one were to ask Sonny Oono, the ever-excitable manager wouldn’t belong on this list. In fact, Oono might create his own list, detailing all the employees of WCW who were grossly underpaid due to racial discrimination. That particular lawsuit is mostly beyond the scope of this list, but we’ll simply say Eric Bischoff’s assertion race had nothing to do with it, and Oono just wasn’t that good, sounds pretty legit.
Granted, at one point, Oono was also an international liaison and the company’s official translator of sorts, helping do business with all Japanese talent, but $100,000 a year is over twice what an average interpreter makes, and Oono’s talents in wrestling weren’t worth the difference.
That’s especially true in ’98 and ’99 when he was making closer to $200,000. Surprisingly, Oono nonetheless got WCW to settle the discrimination case out of court, and these figures are merely a fraction of the total money he received in the deal.
11 Mike Rotunda Could Afford A Trip to Wall Street
A veteran performer of the 1980s, there was perhaps a point in Mike Rotunda’s career when he deserved the $150,000 per year WCW paid him. Of course, no one in wrestling is better acquainted with their finances, so the former Irwin R. Shyster would probably ask for just a little bit more anyway to offset the taxman. Maybe that was the logic he used to keep earning six figures while firmly within the twilight of his career.
The only reason Eric Bischoff even re-hired Rotunda in the late ‘90s was to stick it to Vince McMahon, stealing a former WWE star to slightly flesh out the ranks of the nWo.
WCW didn’t even bother using Rotunda that often, having him wrestle less than 10 matches total for the company between ’98 and ’99, nonetheless continuing to pay him. In today’s world of WWE legends contracts, this may make some sort of sense, but Rotunda was getting paid specifically to wrestle, and since WCW wasn’t having him do that, there’s really no logic to it.
10 Brian Knobbs Wasn't Too Nasty For Cash
As one half of the Nasty Boys with Jerry Sags, Brian Knobbs is another wrestler who may have earned his paycheck at a certain point in time. Like so many others, though, WCW completely mistimed Knobbs’s expiration date, continuing to pay the blonde punk close to $200,000 per year even after he went solo. Truth be told, the Nasty Boys weren’t even that good as a duo except for rare occasions.
They never had much of a presence on the microphone, and their matches fell apart almost instantly if they had to do anything more complex than punching.
When Sags suffered a career-ending injury, fans hoped the scourge of the Nasties was over, only for Knobbs to reappear on his own in the hardcore division, more disgustingly gross than over before, both literally and figuratively. For whatever reason, maybe a friendship with Hulk Hogan, maybe because he had no reason to leave with that sort of paycheck, Knobbs stuck around and kept getting paid almost until the end.
9 Hugh Morrus Laughed All The Way To The Bank
Giggling down the aisle for the first half of his career, Hugh Morrus was at least one of the more memorable jobbers in WCW. Then again, he was still absolutely just a jobber, making it outright shocking he was paid $100,000 in ’95 and ’96. The only fact more surprising is that Morrus’s paychecks kept getting bigger, until he was making a cool quarter million by 2000. Not that there was any noted improvement inside the ring, unless you consider low grade sex puns worth a six figure pay raise, as his only notable career move was changing his name from Hugh Morrus to General E. Rection.
Granted, Rection also got a significant push, twice holding the WCW United States Champion, but the catch would be that virtually none of the WCW audience actually wanted to see this.
Morrus’s only memorable moment before then was being Goldberg’s first victim, a role that didn’t deserve his paycheck or a huge promotion. It was WCW, though, so he got them both.
8 Ernest Miller Needed To Call His Banker
Go ahead and call The Cat’s mama — chances are even Mrs. Miller would have to admit WCW was overpaying her boy when they gave him $300,000 a year. Once a respected kickboxer, Ernest Miller only became a wrestler through an unrelated business association with Eric Bischoff, a noted fan of karate and martial arts. Unfortunately, Miller’s skills didn’t quite translate to the wrestling ring. While a charismatic showman, The Cat just couldn’t piece together a match no matter his opponent, forcing him into comedy roles that kept him out of the ring.
In fairness, Miller didn’t make that much money until 1999, when his salary skyrocketed from $50,000 to the above figure.
Of course, that really doesn’t make sense, as WCW should’ve realized by then he wasn’t worth the investment. Briefly making Miller the company’s onscreen commissioner may have justified the cost just a little bit, but there were plenty other options would could have done it better, for less.
7 Meng Was Paid To Remain Peaceful
One the one hand, Meng’s massive contract actually makes more sense than most others on this list. Given the sensationalist stories about the guy, it’s safe to assume that if he asked WCW for money, the company would give it to him simply as a precautionary measure. Eric Bischoff once claimed he genuinely too scared to fire Meng at one point, so it’s entirely believable the Samoan monster also intimidated his way into nearly a million dollars.
On top of that, when Meng first entered the company, he was treated like a pretty big deal, arguably deserving more than $150,000 per year deal he was offered.
However, it was only a few years before Meng was just a background character, rarely appearing on Pay-Per-View or even in televised title matches. Granted, he wasn’t quite a jobber, but he definitely wasn’t a winner either, so continuing to pay him the same money as when he was feuding Sting didn’t make that much sense.
6 Bryan Clark's Paycheck Will Inspire Wrath
Believe it or not, the millions of dollars WCW spent on Glacier didn’t even amount to the costliest mistake of the Blood Runs Cold angle. One of the other wrestlers involved in the ordeal was even worse, and his name was Bryan Clark. Originally known as Wrath, Clark started as a Goldberg-esque unstoppable monster, only to get squashed by Kevin Nash and turn into a glorified jobber.
For these modest efforts, he was given from $100,000 to $175,000 each year. His paycheck only ballooned from there, as WCW eventually decided to give Wrath an even bigger role, reverting to his real name as one half of the tag team KroniK with Brian Adams.
Although Clark showed absolutely no improvement in the ring, this pairing somehow became popular enough to win the WCW Tag Team Championships twice. Was it popular enough for him to earn $215,000 per year, though? Probably not, especially since his contract was already set in stone before he lucked out with the team.
5 Jim Duggan Was Paid For Patriotism
In all fairness to Jim Duggan, he was one of the most popular wrestlers of the 1980s, and his ability to draw a “USA” chant is truly unrivalled. Unfortunately, Duggan’s actual ability to piece together a wrestling match started to wane in the early ‘90s, years before WCW even hired the guy. Nonetheless, basing Hacksaw’s value on his past star power, as WCW was want to do, the company felt it was reasonable to pay him close to $200,000 per year. Had this been the case in Duggan’s first year, followed by a pay cut or his dismissal, it would almost make sense.
That’s not what happened, though. Instead, WCW kept Duggan around to the bitter end, using him in increasingly pointless and stupid angles until they ran out of business, all the while giving him money he hadn’t deserved in decades.
To his credit, Duggan still wrestled a whole lot, but few fans wanted to see him do it once the chanting was over.
4 Alex Wright Danced All Over His Fortune
Now that these amounts are getting into the millions of dollars, the names are understandably increasing in fame and fortune. For that reason, “Das Wunderkind” Alex Wright could easily be the most shocking entry on the whole list. To this day, it’s hard to understand what exactly WCW saw in the guy.
While Wright was a decent talent and had potential, WCW signed him basically sight unseen, making $130,000 a year contract seem a bit much, especially as it kept ballooning year after year despite the fact he never rose up the card.
Wright did win some gold in WCW, including the Cruiserweight, Tag Team, and Television Championships, but none of them justified the fact he was making close to $400,000 per year by 2000. That’s the sort of money only top stars were earning at the time, and Wright was still a Dancing Fool with Disco Inferno. There’s really no question why WWE never bought out his contract.
3 Stevie Ray Didn't Bring The Heat
From day one, the only reason Stevie Ray had a wrestling career was his brother, Booker T. It didn’t matter that Stevie himself was completely lost inside the squared circle, because his look and intimidation factor alone evened out the tag team that made the two famous, Harlem Heat. When Booker T was starting out, it made sense WCW would want to keep him happy and employ Stevie as well, and the fact they were partners meant they needed to get paid relatively equally.
Once Booker started breaking out as a solo star, though, Stevie was outright useless, but his contract meant he still earned from $250,000 to $600,000 a year.
Stevie did get in the ring a whole lot, wrestling in matches that were always so bad they killed the show, forcing WCW to stick him in the commentator’s booth to ride out his contract. Unfortunately, he was even worse at that role, and the checks were cashing all the same. At least it got Booker to stick around.
2 Rick Steiner Barked His Way To Millions
The scariest thing about Rick Steiner’s final contract with WCW is that it was poised to make this number double within another year or two.
For many years, the Dog Faced Gremlin was making a reasonable salary for his level in the company, earning a little over $300,000 per year. In some respects, this was even a bit low, as he was a top challenger to the New World Order for some of this time.
Near the end of WCW, though, Steiner started getting really, really bad, both in terms of his penchant for injuring people and the fact his storylines on TV were outrageously stupid. Because of his name and the fact his brother was a top star, though, WCW stuck to their word and increased Steiner’s contract to $600,000 a year in 2000, with an increase up to $750,000 promised for the following year. That all adds up to way too much money for a wrestler with no charisma who few fans cared about anymore, not to mention the fact he was just getting paid to send his coworkers to the hospital.
1 “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan Had All The Benefits in the World
All right, so if there’s anyone in WCW who deserved millions of dollars for putting the company on the map, it was Hulk Hogan. Before the Hulkster came along, WCW was already on its last legs, and within two years, the death of Hulkamania and the rise of the nWo made it the biggest wrestling company in the world. Then again, it was just about five years later Hogan also directly contributed to WCW dying as well, so there was obviously a limit to his power. That’s not even why he’s on this list, though.
The real issue with Hogan’s paycheck wasn’t the collective $13 million he made in appearance fees, but rather the outrageous benefits his contract offered. The main issue at hand is the clause that gave Hogan a whopping 25% of money made through ticket sales on every show he appeared on, incalculably inflating his overall payment.
No one wrestler deserves a quarter of the company’s profits, yet that’s essentially what WCW was giving Hogan, making him overpaid no matter what he did.