Pulling Down The Big Bucks

Westchester County Weekly – August 2, 2001
By Chris Kanaracus

In terms of talent expenditures, WWFE is sitting on highly favorable financial ground, especially during a soft economy; the salary structure in a wrestling organization is nothing like the bloated payroll of a professional sports team.

The company’s biggest stars, such as the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, receive a paid, yearly guarantee in the low millions, plus additional fees from merchandise, arena admissions and pay-per-view sales. Some estimates place the annual income of stars like Austin near $10 million. Big bucks, for sure, but if business slows, the company isn’t affected much.

Lower-level stars also receive a so-called “downside” guarantee, but a considerably smaller one: perhaps $250,000. Finally, non-contracted wrestlers, often less experienced workers or aging veterans, work on a night-by-night basis as “enhancement talent” or “jobbers”: fall guys-cum-punching bags for bigger stars to pound out an impressive victory with.

This de facto caste system is effective in keeping individuals in line, and for rewarding those who excel. But when you couple it with the WWF’s current monopoly on the American wrestling business, the system is practically infallible. In the past, stars would regularly threaten to leave one company for the other come contract time, using the leverage to score better deals.

That can happen no more, at least until another large promotion turns up. And that’s no certainty.

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