The WWE is a worldwide entertainment industry that sells out arenas not only throughout North America but in continents like Europe and the Middle East as well. The WWE is also a publicly traded company and in February, CNN Money reported that the company was worth almost $3 billion. The idea is that people love the WWE because of the rich characters and the storylines that they get involved in. With that in mind, the company needs big names to sell their product to the fans, and those names are paid quite well for their work, with Forbes reporting that the average WWE superstar makes $500,000 a year.
However, not all WWE superstars are paid equally and there are many that are not paid fairly at all. The Mirror revealed the pay for most of the WWE superstars in 2017 and there were some surprising numbers. While there is money that the article did not mention — such as merchandising fees and other options for WWE superstars to make money outside of their wrestling deals — there are some big-time WWE superstars that make much less than lesser counterparts, and some wrestlers that make way too much money for what they give back to the product. Here is a look at 10 WWE stars who aren’t paid fairly and 10 who make a little too much.
20 THE USOS – TOO LOW
The Usos have been one of the most consistently great tag teams in the WWE for years. It makes sense because it runs in their family. From the days of the Wild Samoans (their uncles Afa and Sika) to the Samoan Swat Team (their dad Rikishi and cousin Samu), the Samoan dynasty has always ruled the world of tag team wrestling. The Usos have even won five tag team titles in their eight years with the company. However, that success has not led to a lot financially, and there might be a reason for that.
Due to no fault of their own, in the eight years that The Usos have been in the WWE, they appeared on the pre-show of WrestleMania five times, missed out completely a sixth time and actually wrestled in their first match on the regular card at WrestleMania 34 this year — where they lost. According to the report from 2017, The Usos only made a reported $250,000 each, which combined was actually $50,000 less than what R-Truth was reportedly paid by himself. For a team that has reinvented themselves and continues to put on great matches every time they step in the ring, they deserve much more — both in money and opportunities at WrestleMania events.
19 DEAN AMBROSE – TOO MUCH
However, while the expectations were high, things did not work out like the WWE hoped.
Dean Ambrose looked to be a huge star — maybe the next Rowdy Roddy Piper or Jake “The Snake” Roberts. Instead, the WWE kept him a babyface and had him work in comedy sketches while trying to keep his hard-edged wrestling style. He was still a top star but was nowhere near the level of those around him, and it seemed he was wrestling lazy over the last year of his full-time status, including a very lackluster match against Brock Lesnar at WrestleMania 32. He has been out of action since the end of 2017, making his salary of a reported $2 million a year seem just a tad too much.
18 MATT HARDY – TOO LOW
When the WWE brought back Matt Hardy and his brother Jeff Hardy, it was clear that over their history, Jeff was the more bankable star but things had changed in recent years. Matt Hardy reinvented himself in TNA Impact Wrestling as Broken Matt Hardy and had brought Impact their highest ratings in years. Jeff, meanwhile, was a side act for the entire gimmick. It should also be noted that while Matt was working hard through the years, Jeff had proven to be unpredictable and got into trouble at the most inopportune times.
When the WWE signed the brothers to return to the company, they ignored the Broken Matt gimmick despite fans chanting “delete” at every event. It wasn’t until Impact Wrestling finally threw in the towel and allowed the WWE to use the gimmick that Matt became “Woken” Matt and started a feud with Bray Wyatt while Jeff was injured and out of action. With this said, it might come as a surprise to fans who have fallen in love with Matt to know that he only made a reported $650,000 — less than his brother Jeff Hardy in 2017, despite Matt wrestling the entire year while Jeff went on the injured list in September.
17 JEFF HARDY – TOO MUCH
While Matt Hardy has finally woken and started a successful championship tag team reign with Bray Wyatt, the WWE still has more faith in Jeff Hardy when it comes to fan interest and financial stakes. While Matt made a reported $650,000 in 2017, the WWE reportedly paid Jeff Hardy a cool $1 million. While that seems high, it makes even less sense when looking at the past actions of the two brothers.
Jeff Hardy left the WWE in 2009 after suffering numerous injuries, so that the company could allow him to heal up. Hardy then signed with TNA Impact Wrestling and debuted there in January 2010. He got in a lot of trouble in Impact Wrestling when a match with Sting had to end early because — as Hardy admitted later — he was too intoxicated to wrestle. He got into a bad motorcycle accident while under his Impact Wrestling contract as well. For years, Hardy was not allowed to leave the country due to his criminal record and was arrested already once this year for an alleged DWI. With all that said, Hardy returned after his most recent injury and immediately won the United States title, ensuring that his pay would remain at a high level.
16 ASUKA – TOO LOW
When it comes to WWE superstars who are not paid fairly, there are a lot of women on the list. When Ronda Rousey signed with the WWE this year, her reported contract was for $1.5 million a year — which makes sense as she brings a lot of fans to the company from her days in the UFC. However, over the last few years, the WWE has done everything they can to prove to fans that the women of the company are on even ground with the men. They did this by allowing the women to compete in matches that the men all competed in for years. Money in the Bank, Hell in a Cell, Last Man Standing, and even an All-Women’s Royal Rumble have proven that the women can do everything the men can do — and in some cases, even better.
The one area where the women don’t always match the men is pay.
Rhyno, a veteran used mostly to put people over due to his experience, makes a reported $500,000 in salary. Asuka, the most dominating female in the company makes a reported $250,000. When Shinsuke Nakamura signed with the WWE, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter reported that he was getting WWE main event headliner money, proving the pay discrepancy compared to Asuka, who signed on around the same time.
15 JINDER MAHAL – TOO MUCH
Forget about Roman Reigns — Jinder Mahal might be the most controversial wrestler in the WWE right now. At one time, Mahal was nothing more than a jobber, a member of a joke group called 3-Man Band whose leader was Heath Slater. Mahal left the WWE and tried to remake his career in the indies and then came back jacked up and bigger than ever before. With the increased muscular physique, he started out still a low-card guy who just took part in some skits with Rusev before making the movie to SmackDown Live. It was there that the WWE used Jinder as a poster boy for the fact that SmackDown was the “land of opportunity.”
Jinder Mahal went from a jobber to a world champion in record time. There are some people who believe that the only reason the WWE made Mahal the world champion was to sell the product to the Middle East, where the company has been pushing their business to grow. Problem is that Mahal plays a Punjabi wrestler but is Canadian by birth. With that said, the world title push was lucrative for Mahal, who made a reported $900,000 in 2017 — more than names like Chris Jericho, Matt Hardy and Sami Zayn.
14 BECKY LYNCH – TOO LOW
When Lynch moved to SmackDown Live, it looked like she was ready to step out of their shadows and finally prove herself. She did for a short time but SmackDown has never focused much on one woman for long and she dropped down again. Despite this, Lynch gets a huge crowd pop every time she comes to the ring, always puts on great matches and remains one of the most consistently over babyfaces in the women’s division. However, despite all that, she is another victim of the WWE underpaying their women’s wrestlers. She reportedly made $250,000 in 2017, which is equal to a fellow SmackDown Live women’s superstar in Asuka but far below male competitors, making even less than lower level talents like Bo Dallas, Heath Slater and Fandango.
13 RANDY ORTON – TOO MUCH
When talking about people getting paid unfairly — whether it is too high or too low — it gets a little argumentative when discussing superstars who have over a decade of experience to bring to the table. That is the case for Randy Orton, who has been on the WWE main roster since 2002. He was, at the time, the youngest world champion in WWE history and has won more world titles over his career (13) than anyone other than “Nature Boy” Ric Flair (16), John Cena (16) and Triple H (14). However, in 2017 Orton signed a new deal with the WWE that allowed him to put in limited appearances.
Despite the fewer actual wrestling appearances every year, Randy Orton still reportedly made $4.5 million.
The only men who made more money than Orton for wrestling in the WWE were Brock Lesnar, John Cena and Roman Reigns. This came despite Orton starting to slow down in the ring and the fans starting to pay more attention to fresher talent along the way. With this said, the pay was likely partially because of his long tenure with the company and he does still wrestle on a regular basis — when he isn’t injured.
12 CESARO – TOO LOW
When it comes to the tag teams of the WWE, they often pay the two partners similar pay rates. The Usos both reportedly make a low $250,000 each. The three members of New Day reportedly make the same amount of money. This is likely because their jobs in the WWE is as a team. When it comes to The Bar, the two men started out as singles stars feuding with each other before teaming up as one of the most dominant teams on Monday Night Raw. Likely because of that, there is a huge pay discrepancy between the two superstars that make up The Bar.
As far as Sheamus is concerned, he is a former world champion and was feuding for that world title as recently as 2015. However, one year later, he was teaming with Cesaro and the two became World Tag Team Champions. Now in their third year as a tag team, it seems strange to see that Sheamus is making a reported $1 million a year while his partner Cesaro is only making a reported $500,000. The two do almost the exact same amount of work and fight almost identical opponents, but Cesaro makes reportedly half of what Sheamus does.
11 SIN CARA – TOO MUCH
In 2011, Mexican superstar Mistico signed a contract to join the WWE and took on the name Sin Cara. In 2014, he left the company and started a behind-the-scenes feud concerning who owned the character of Sin Cara. That ended up being the WWE, who then handed the character to an NXT superstar named Hunico. That is who has portrayed Sin Cara since that time, although he has never been seen as much on television as the former Sin Cara.
The biggest moment for the new Sin Cara came when he formed a tag team called Lucha Dragons with fellow Mexican superstar Kalisto. However, there were problems along the way and after some behind-the-scenes fights with both Simon Gotch and Chris Jericho came to light, the WWE took action and ordered him to take anger management classes. Since that time, Sin Cara makes very few random appearances on WWE television — mostly in losing efforts. Kalisto has since moved to 205 Live, where he started a new Luchadore group with Gran Metalik and Lince Dorado and he won the Cruiserweight title in 2017. With that said, Kalisto makes $350,000 wrestling full-time on 205 Live while Sin Cara reportedly made $700,000 in 2017 for doing very little of note.
10 NATALYA – TOO LOW
When it comes to second-generation stars, the success level varies. For every Randy Orton or Uso, there is a Bo Dallas or Curtis Axel. However, one star that has made a name for herself in the WWE is the daughter of Jim “The Anvil” Neidhart — Natalya. Through her WWE career, third-generation star Natalya has won two Women’s Championships — once when it was still the Divas title and once on SmackDown Live. While other women have held the title longer and more times, Natalya remains one of the most respected locker room veterans in the women’s division.
Despite the respect, and her longevity in the WWE, Natalya only made a reported $300,000 in 2017. That kept her on pace with some bigger names in the women’s division like Brie Bella and Mickie James, but well below the male wrestlers who are on her level when it comes to a WWE career. It is par for course for the women of the WWE. While he has won more titles over his career, Goldust wrestles on a part-time basis at best and still makes a reported $100,000 more than Natalya. Even low-level talents like Heath Slater and Fandango make more than the niece of Bret “The Hitman” Hart.
9 R-TRUTH – TOO MUCH
It turned out that R-Truth had suffered an arm injury when wrestling Elias at a house show and had surgery. He made his return at WrestleMania 34 in the Andre the Giant Battle Royal, was next mentioned in the Superstar Shake-Up, and then showed up in one or two backstage segments. He has held a few minor titles in the WWE but nothing in recent years. Despite that, the WWE reportedly paid R-Truth $550,000 in 2017, more than all three members of New Day and Cesaro. It just seems strange to pay someone who is never around to wrestle that much money over full-time stars that compete for titles and are top-selling merchandise movers.
8 THE NEW DAY – TOO LOW
Arguably, the most successful tag team in the WWE for the past few years is New Day. When the three men were put together, it faced fan backlash. Kofi Kingston had been a mid-card star for years. Big E was a former NXT champion that debuted on the main roster as the bodyguard of Dolph Ziggler. Xavier Woods was a minor star that had a nice career before entering the WWE and needed something fresh to push him to the top.
After getting past the original push that fans dismissed, something happened and New Day suddenly took off.
However, while Kofi Kingston has been in the WWE for 11 years and has held 14 different titles over his career, the WWE reportedly pays all three members of New Day as a team $500,000 each. The New Day has held four tag team titles and hold the record for the longest tag team title reign in history — eclipsing that of Demolition. Despite all this success and even the tenure of Kofi Kingston, they make less than names like Luke Harper and Erick Rowan, as well as Sin Cara. If the upcoming rumored singles push for Big E happens, one wonders if they will still make equal money.
7 DOLPH ZIGGLER – TOO MUCH
When it comes to Dolph Ziggler’s contract, that is a situation that allegedly recently changed. When the pay report came out in 2017, Ziggler reportedly made $1 million a year, but his contract was about to expire in 2018. The question was what Ziggler wanted to do next. He was, at one time, the next big thing in the WWE when he won his first World Championship from Alberto Del Rio, but that went south fast due to strange booking and injury issues. Since then, he has been a solid talent with amazing in-ring skills who never wins many matches and never changes up his character enough to pull his way back to the top. Was he still worth $1 million a year for his current worth to the company?
There were rumors that Ziggler agreed to stick with the WWE for a new deal worth $1.5 million, giving him the raise to keep him with the company. Shortly after that, Ziggler moved to Monday Night Raw as part of the WWE Superstar-Shakeup and then started a tag team with Drew McIntyre. Dolph Ziggler has since come out and said that the new contract details are inaccurate and he won’t tell anyone the details when he does sign a new deal with the company.
6 SASHA BANKS – TOO LOW
Before the WWE signed Ronda Rousey to the main roster in 2018 for a reported $1.5 million, the only other female performer in the company to break a million was Stephanie McMahon at $1.7 million. But that was not just about her role as a wrestler — which rarely happens — but as a performer in general, which included work as the acting authority figure on Monday Night Raw. With that said, TheSportster reported at the time that while McMahon made that much money, someone like Sasha Banks was paid around $225,000 in 2017.
That has to be highly disappointing for fans of the WWE women’s revolution, which started off with Charlotte Flair, Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch all getting called up from NXT at the same time. As a matter of fact, it was Banks and Flair who really revolutionized the women’s division. They fought in a Hell in a Cell match, main-evented Monday Night Raw, competed in an Iron Man match and had a falls-count-anywhere match — all firsts for women. Banks has also won the Raw women’s title four times, yet made less than almost every male star on the roster. With everything she did for the women, it seems her pay is very low in comparison.
5 THE UNDERTAKER – TOO MUCH
The claim that The Undertaker is overpaid will surely bring arguments from both sides. The Undertaker is the longest-lasting WWE superstar in the history of the promotion, debuting in 1990 and never leaving the company. Over those 28 years, Undertaker won seven World Titles and seven Tag Team Titles. He remains to this day the most iconic professional wrestler in the history of the industry. After all that time and all the work he has put into his character and the company — Undertaker possibly deserves a high payday more than any other wrestler in the company.
According to the reports, Undertaker makes $2.5 million a year.
As for the arguments that Undertaker makes too much, there is one thing to say that really hammers that home. Outside of rare occurrences, Undertaker typically only wrestles one match a year. While that match is at WrestleMania and it is one of the top matches that fans look forward to every year, making $2.5 million to wrestle in one match seems steep. This year, Undertaker didn’t even show up on Monday Night Raw to promote the match, although he did make up for it by competing at the Greatest Royal Rumble in Saudi Arabia.
4 CHARLOTTE FLAIR – TOO LOW
There have been a number of women on this list, proving that the WWE has a long way to go when it comes to putting the women on the same level as the men. That is most evident when looking at Charlotte Flair, the true face of the WWE women’s division. While Sasha Banks and Becky Lynch helped kickstart the women’s revolution and Sasha took part in some of the history-making matches along the way, it is Flair that the WWE has placed all their momentum behind. That is why Charlotte was the highest paid full-time female wrestler in the company — until Ronda Rousey signed with the promotion.
However, despite being the highest paid woman in the WWE outside of Rousey, she only made a reported $550,000 in 2017. Charlotte has won the Divas Championship once, changed it into the Women’s Championship to prove a point, and then held the Monday Night Raw Women’s Championship four times and the SmackDown Live Women’s Championship once. Despite being the most successful woman in the company right now, Charlotte makes less than Rusev, Finn Balor, Jinder Mahal and Kane. With Rousey signing for $1.5 million, one wonders if Charlotte can build up to that amount before long.
3 ROMAN REIGNS – TOO MUCH
The WWE has wanted Roman Reigns to be their biggest star and the face of the company for years now. They have pushed him to the moon and the fans have rejected him every step of the way. It wasn’t supposed to be like this, as fans loved Roman when he was in The Shield. However, once the WWE pushed him over Daniel Bryan, the more vocal fans refused to accept him, reigning boos on him everytime he tried to push his way to the top. Despite being in the main event of four consecutive WrestleMania shows, Roman Reigns lost two of them (once to Brock Lesnar and once to Seth Rollins) and fans still boo him.
However, Reigns has one thing going for him. Kids love him and he has a large female fan base as well. It is similar to John Cena but without the respect that the men who boo Cena still begrudgingly give him. However, while Roman Reigns can’t get over with the majority of the vocal fans, the WWE still pays him like a superstar. The only two men who reportedly make more than Reigns in the WWE are Brock Lesnar and John Cena and Roman has done nothing compared to those two men to warrant the reported $4.3 million a year.
2 BRAUN STROWMAN – TOO LOW
When it comes to the reported salary of Braun Strowman, there is a good chance that he receives much more money in 2018. According to the reports, Strowman’s salary for 2017 was only $300,000. That seems almost crazy when looking at where Strowman sits in the WWE right now. In January 2017, Strowman got his first chance ever at a World Championship and won by disqualification against Kevin Owens. He then feuded with Roman Reigns, and while he did lose once to Reigns, he dominated that feud and the fans cheered Braun the entire time. Strowman got another title match in August and another in September.
In 2018, Braun Strowman is still one of the top stars in the company.
He finally got his WrestleMania moment when he won the Tag Team Championships with a child as his partner. While the WWE still seems to want Roman Reigns to be the biggest star in the company, Braun Strowman gets universal cheers every time out and is the first real monster that the WWE has built in years. His pay in 2017 was ridiculously low and that won’t remain the norm if he continues his upward rise and maintains his level of popularity.
1 BROCK LESNAR – TOO MUCH
Even before Brock Lesnar signed a new deal in 2018 with the WWE, most fans felt he was highly overpaid. According to reports, Lesnar received $6.5 million from the WWE and had extremely limited appearances in his date, which meant the WWE had to ration him out to the fans through the year or they would have to pay a huge penalty to get him to show up for the Road to WrestleMania. That was second to only John Cena — the true face of the WWE — who made $10 million.
However, right before WrestleMania 34, just when it looked like Roman Reigns was going to finally conquer The Beast, Lesnar signed a new deal and the WWE shut down Reigns’ push once again. The new deal isn’t even one of those giant yearly contracts. Instead, the new Brock Lesnar contract is a per-appearance deal that pays a reported $500,000 per match and $100,000 for every television appearance, as well as six-percent of his merchandise sales. The flip side is that Lesnar is one of the biggest draws in the WWE and adding him to a show builds the attendance and ratings, making him worth a lot of money, but at the end of the day, Lesnar makes more for one match than many WWE stars make for an entire year.
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