WWE is going all out to prevents its top stars from leaving the company.
Over the course of the last year or so, WWE has re-signed a number of its biggest names, including Daniel Bryan and Roman Reigns. Now, fans have a better idea of just how much those stars might be making. According to the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter (h/t Wrestling Inc), Braun Strowman and AJ Styles both signed new deals with an annual downside guarantee of more than $1 million, with “The Monster Among Men” reportedly inking a four-year deal worth $1.2 million per yer year and “The Phenomenal One” making “significantly more” on his new deal than his previous one. The crazy part? They aren’t alone:
“There are exceptions, but usually the top downside number that WWE offers is $1 million. It was also noted that WWE United States Champion AJ Styles recently signed for significantly more, because of AEW. There are other talents who have guarantees above the $1 million threshold, because they knew how to negotiate, WWE knew they could go elsewhere and make money, and because WWE feels they were valuable enough.”
Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson-now part of The O.C. but previously an overlooked tag team who rarely even appeared on TV-reportedly each re-signed for a whopping $700,000 per year after initially rejecting deals worth $500,000 million annually. The lucrative contracts for “The Good Brothers” are just the tip of the iceberg, though, as WWE has offered similar big money deals even to seldom seen lower card stars like Mike and Maria Kanellis, who are each raking in $500,000 per year despite getting a very limited amount of TV time.
The blockbuster deals offered to all the aforementioned stars, even Strowman and Styles, represent a marked change from the way WWE once did business. As noted by Wrestling Inc, in the past most of WWE’s top stars earned a downside guarantee of no more than $1 million, including Triple H, who has received that amount despite a favorable schedule as an on-screen and in-ring performer. WWE began to break that mold when it started relying so heavily on part-timers like Brock Lesnar, who has earned “seven figures” for at least one individual match, and The Undertaker, who inked what essentially amounts to a lifetime deal earlier this year that he “couldn’t refuse.” In 2018, WWE’s highest paid wrestler not named Lesnar or John Cena was Roman Reigns, who, according to FORBES, earned an estimated $4.3 million. Much of those earnings comes from things like merchandise sales and live event payouts, which FORBES says varies greatly depending upon your spot on the card.
Times, they are a-changin’, though.
Thanks to the rise of All Elite Wrestling, the continuation of Impact Wrestling and the success of New Japan Pro-Wrestling, the competition for top talent is the fiercest it’s been in nearly two decades, and every WWE star-no matter his spot on the card-knows it. Even Edge, who has been retired for eight years and likely won’t ever be cleared to wrestle again, was able to use negotiations with AEW to leverage a substantial contract out of WWE. So, if a retired in-ring performer can do that, we can only imagine how much money WWE’s biggest stars will be able to get moving forward, especially after AEW impressed with a huge audience for its first episode of Dynamite on TNT and likely has WWE officials scrambling to ensure that the upstart company doesn’t gain any more momentum.
It’s no wonder why Edge isn’t the only major name who’s teased a jump to AEW, with stars like The Revival and even Randy Orton using a possible move to AEW to set themselves up for a significantly better offer from WWE in the near future. Sasha Banks is another major star who was recently able to parlay her dissatisfaction with her spot in WWE to a new deal as the increased competition from AEW and-to a lesser extent, NJPW, ROH and Impact-has sent WWE into panic mode. When AEW was able to lure away top acts like Chris Jericho and Dean Ambrose (a.k.a. Jon Moxley), that demonstrated that WWE isn’t the be-all end-all of pro wrestling the way it once was, which explains why Strowman and Styles, who was also targeted by AEW, were able to jump well over the $1 million-per-year mark with their new deals.
That’s a sign of what competition can do for pro wrestling’s superstars, especially main eventers but also lower card performers who are now set to make as much as top acts once did. The trend is likely to continue, too, as there are plenty of major WWE names who have deals that expire within the next year or so, including Orton, The Revival, Lesnar, Luke Harper, The Hardy Boyz and Rey Mysterio. It’s no wonder why many of those stars-in addition to names like Rusev and Shinsuke Nakamura, who have been linked to possible WWE exits-have suddenly gotten renewed pushes on TV.
WWE doesn’t want anyone leaving, and if that means backing up the Brinks truck to prevent them from doing so, then so be it.