The pay scale for wrestlers in WWE is very confusing when you look at the year-end figures. Many wrestlers have complained about the pay being unfair. Professional athletes typically get paid in terms of their value to the franchise. The NBA just raised their salary cap allowing their talent to get paid higher than ever. James Harden just received a contract worth $228 million over the course of four years for being a top ten player. A role player like Otto Porter Jr. signed a four-year contract for $106 million. Most WWE stars sadly don’t get their piece of the pie in terms of what the company makes off their work.
Ryback complained about the discrepancy in pay between the wrestlers in a blog post trashing WWE before his contract expired. Others feel this way with certain talents being dramatically underpaid in comparison to the top names. Fans have this perception that everyone on television is making seven figures every year. In reality, only a select few top stars reach that level. Various reports in recent years have come out regarding the amount of money certain wrestlers make, including the highest paid stars via Forbes. We will take a look at eight wrestlers that are currently overpaid along with seven that should be making more.
15 Overpaid: Randy Orton
The aging Randy Orton is still one of the most heavily featured wrestlers on WWE television. Orton, however, has fallen behind the majority of top wrestlers in terms of generating interest. The match Orton had with Bray Wyatt at WrestleMania 33 completely bombed and showed where he currently is. WWE even made a shocking title change of having Jinder Mahal end Orton’s reign as the WWE Champion on SmackDown Live. Orton no longer has the drawing power or entertainment value he did many years ago.
It was reported that Orton made just under $2 million in 2016. Despite the regression, Orton is still a top player in terms of pay. The lackluster main eventer has stated he hopes to wrestle for another decade and the money he makes is the main reason why. Orton likely makes more than his rivals, Mahal and Wyatt, do combined. Figures like this make you scratch your head thinking about how WWE can’t pay everyone on the roster big money if they can afford $2 million for Orton.
14 Deserves More: Sasha Banks
WWE likes to portray the women’s movement over the past two years as creating equality on the main roster. The women are finally getting opportunities equal to the men such as match time and match stipulations. While the approach is tremendous, the fact that not one woman on the WWE roster made the Forbes reveal of the highest paid stars is depressing.
Sasha Banks has made history over the past year in various ways. The first women’s PPV main event and first women’s Hell in a Cell match were both the same match featuring Banks as the face against Charlotte Flair. Banks is one of the top merchandise sellers on WWE Shop along with the strong fan interest at live shows every week. If WWE was being completely honest about their intentions to create equality for all performers, Banks would be on the list of talent making seven figures.
13 Overpaid: Dolph Ziggler
Many of the top WWE stars get financial perks that come from appearing in main events and having world title reigns. Others have to depend on their base salary with minimal help coming from their success or merchandise numbers. Dolph Ziggler fits into the latter, as someone that negotiated a great contract for him. The annual salary for Ziggler is reported to be $900,000 making him fall just under the $1 million mark.
A world title reign or huge push into the main event scene could see him become one of the wealthiest stars in WWE. Instead, Ziggler remains one of the highest paid midcarders. The lack of a purpose for Ziggler has seen him become among the most irrelevant wrestlers on the roster today. Ziggler doesn’t even have a match expected for the upcoming Battleground PPV. Even with a brand split, Ziggler is struggling to get television time. There’s no way that is worth $900,000, but Ziggler seems to have a tremendous agent.
12 Deserves More: Bray Wyatt
The highest paid lists that showcase the richest stars of each year usually show us the main eventers. One top name that does not appear to make as much as the guys he wrestles is Bray Wyatt. WWE often places Wyatt into feuds with the top faces before losing the big match to them all. Still, Bray is portrayed as a top heel and the lack of a spot next to the top faces on the pay scale just doesn’t add up.
A few wrestlers who suffered injuries over the past year ended up making more money than Wyatt, which makes it even more insulting. Don’t get me wrong, Wyatt likely still makes great money in the mid-to-high six figures, but he is underpaid compared to the wrestlers in the same tier as him on the card. Hopefully the pay for Bray has increased in recent months with his recent WWE Championship reign and top level match at WrestleMania 33.
11 Overpaid: Big Show
A trend on both sides of the pay scale in WWE appears to follow age. The older veterans that have been around for years get larger contracts based off work from a long time ago. Younger wrestlers who have only been in the company for a few years have a lower salary that they have to work up with. This is shown with Big Show being one of the highest paid stars in the company.
Big Show has a salary of $1.3 million to get him in the rare seven figure club. WWE doesn’t even use him on television much. Can you remember the last long term Big Show storyline on WWE television? You’re a better fan than most if you can. The veteran is clearly being taken care of for his loyalty to WWE. Big Show may not appear on television, but you can see him on live events typically knocking opponents out. Life is sweet when you’re making over a million bucks to throw two or three punches per week.
10 Deserves More: Roman Reigns
This may be a controversial pick much like anything is regarding Roman Reigns. The polarizing superstar is making great money as one of the highest paid wrestlers in the world. Reigns made $3.5 million at the end of last year in his most recent financial reveal. No one can complain about making that much money for doing something they love, but Reigns' figure was smaller than a few other top names.
Roman reportedly made less than half of what John Cena did and about a third of Brock Lesnar’s salary. Factor that in, Reigns is indeed the most popular full-time wrestler despite fans booing him at shows and the numbers just don’t add up. Reigns should be making money comparable to Cena and Lesnar if WWE truly believes he is “the guy.” No one has wrestled in more main events on live events and high level PPV matches over the past couple of years.
9 Overpaid: Sheamus
The current position of Sheamus on Raw is being the less impressive wrestler in a tag team with partner Cesaro. WWE has tried to make Sheamus a top star on numerous occasions over the past few years but nothing has worked. It appears impossible to get fans to buy into Sheamus as a world title level competitor. WWE eventually placed him and Cesaro in the tag team because creative had nothing else for them.
The decision to make them a team has been great with both men now actually having a role on the show rather than wrestling pointless matches for no reason. It's still, however, shocking that Sheamus apparently makes $1.1 million per year on his base salary. The contract likely was signed back when WWE still had hopes of him being a main eventer. Cesaro likely makes half of what Sheamus does to make the figures look worse.
8 Deserves More: Finn Balor
Finn Balor is one of the most popular new stars in WWE following a long run in NXT. WWE made Balor the first ever Universal Champion for good reason before the unfortunate luck of an injury ended his title reign in less than one day. Balor is now back and still gets great reactions from the crowd despite being out of the title picture for the time being.
WWE loves the “demon” character Finn uses for big matches with his body paint and elaborate entrance. There are countless forms of merchandise for Balor ranging from action figures to Funko Pop vinyls to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles crossover toys. If someone is that popular enough to warrant all these items, he likely should be treated as a top star. Finn is making a comfortable living by any means, but he needs to be on the highest paid lists sooner than later given his value.
7 Overpaid: Dean Ambrose
The work ethic of Dean Ambrose has led to him having a great career in WWE. No one has wrestled more matches over the past couple of years than Ambrose. The live events typically see part-timers not on the card and top stars occasionally take off days. Ambrose shows up every weekend and that is the main reason he is one of the highest paid stars. WWE paid Ambrose an estimate of $2.7 million in 2016 at the end of the year.
Ambrose raked in a lot of perks from his title reign and main events. WWE still trusts Ambrose to perform in high level matches on the live events, but his television push has dwindled in recent months. It appears the company agrees he is overpaid with rumors of him being in the proverbial doghouse. Ambrose is apparently considered “lazy” and “complacent” by WWE management right now. The opportunities to make nearly $3 million will likely no longer be there.
6 Deserves More: New Day
New Day has become one of the most popular acts in WWE today. The trio helped rejuvenate the tag team picture over the past few years. Kofi Kingston, Xavier Woods, and Big E all worked perfectly together in bringing fun to the product along with great matches. The trio as a tag team unit broke the WWE record for the longest tag team title reign of all time. You would assume such success along with massive merchandise numbers would lead to making the highest paid stars. It didn’t.
None of the three members seemed to make over seven figures but likely fell in the high six figures. New Day was popular enough to have dozens of t-shirts, collector Funko Pop figures, and their own damn cereal. What more can you do to make the seven figures club? Kingston, Woods and Big E are clearly underpaid when comparing their salaries to the other top names.
5 Overpaid: Kane
Another veteran to make the highest paid stars list is Kane. WWE clearly appreciates Kane for being loyal to the company over twenty years. Before the Kane character was even created, Kane remained insistent on working towards a WWE career rather than trying to move to WCW after his runs as Fake Diesel and Isaac Yankem failed. WWE has respected all he has given to them by paying him a salary of $1.5 million.
The sad fact is Kane is not even around anymore and barely appeared last year. Kane’s most recent run on television featured him just hitting his offense on his opponent and leaving the ring within minutes. Now, he is solely focused on running for Mayor of Knox County, Tennessee. WWE is reportedly still paying him as he steps away from the ring. Kane will more than likely return at some point before officially retiring but remains highly overpaid.
4 Deserves More: Daniel Bryan
The fact that Daniel Bryan is no longer wrestling for WWE and just appears once per week as the General Manager of SmackDown Live means he has fallen back to his base salary. Wrestlers get the perks of having merchandise and bonuses for main event matches. Bryan just shows up to talk for a few segments which is why he isn’t getting paid huge money.
However, Bryan is one of the main reasons SmackDown has been such a success following the brand split. The crowd goes wild for his entrance and he provides an aspect of fun to the overall atmosphere that carries over into the show. Bryan also still believes he can wrestle and likely will for other promotions when his WWE contract ends. The company should pay him more if they want to keep him away from the ring. Everything he gives them in adding momentum to the SmackDown brand is more than worth it.
3 Overpaid: Shane McMahon
Wrestling fans love Shane McMahon for his attitude of putting it all on the line in the rare matches he wrestles in. Shane returned to WWE back in early 2016 as a talent. The son of Vince McMahon likely has a lot of input that is respected, but he is not running the company backstage. Shane is specifically there to be the Commissioner of SmackDown Live and wrestle a couple of times per year.
This makes it all the more ridiculous that Shane rakes in $2.2 million for his work. The McMahon family clearly takes care of their own when it comes to the check book. Shane makes more money than all but seven wrestlers on the roster. You have to believe this annoys the talent that is told there’s no money for a raise. McMahon has only wrestled three matches since returning to the company in the seventeen months. There’s no argument that Shane is highly overpaid and should be taking a pay cut.
2 Deserves More: Charlotte Flair
The wrestler that seems the most underpaid given the evidence of salaries is Charlotte Flair. WWE has made Charlotte the face of their branding in making the women’s revolution a credible concept. The second generation Flair has been a part of almost every major history making match on the main roster in the women’s division since coming up from NXT. Charlotte defeated Sasha Banks in both the first Hell in a Cell women’s match and the first women’s Iron Man Match on the main roster.
Most importantly, Flair has reached the success of appearing equal to the men. Charlotte being in a main event match on any show is accepted and respected. WWE had to hit a home run with who they selected to lead this movement. Flair has hit a grand slam. The fact that Charlotte isn’t a top ten highest paid wrestler in WWE is a complete joke considering all she has accomplished.
1 Overpaid: Brock Lesnar
Brock Lesnar is the most overpaid wrestler on the roster looking at how much money he made in 2016. The massive contract of Lesnar, along with perks, added up to a staggering $12 million. Lesnar made more money than a large percentage of the roster combined. The cushy part-time schedule only sees him wrestle on television a handful of times per year. Brock negotiated the contract of a lifetime due to his reputation as a top draw.
You have to wonder just how much Lesnar brings to the table in that respect. There are no noticeable changes in television ratings or WWE Network subscriptions when Brock is on the show. What exactly is WWE getting that is worth one of the biggest contracts in company history? Lesnar has fallen into a slump as well with most of his recent work being mediocre at best. Brock's contract is clearly among the worst decisions WWE has recently made.
Sources: Forbes, TheSportster
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