WWE’s Big Contract Superstars & Budget Cuts to Keep an Eye On

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Every week lately, there are new firings in WWE. It’s been going on for nearly 2 years, with each round feeling like it has to be the last one. Then, another major release happens. Another department is gutted. Someone else leaves. The cycle continues and we’re left wondering why this is happening at all, let alone so frequently and at such a high volume.

There is one and only bit of information that has ever come out about this: budget cuts.

Whether true or not—or somewhere in the middle—if we take this at face value, it’s well past time to panic if you’re a WWE Superstar who is making a lot of money.

Ric Flair and JoJo Offerman were reported today to have been let go among the midst, while Adam Cole is a likely loss in the coming weeks, along with the major drop of Bray Wyatt the other day.

This got me thinking. Based on previous reports of salaries, who else could be considered a target for WWE to drop if they’re looking to liquidate the roster and cut all the big earners?

Note: Before it’s even suggested, this is by no means me wishing releases upon anyone here. If it were up to me, we wouldn’t have been reporting on any of these firings for the past 2 years because I don’t like seeing people lose their jobs. This is just a pundit’s perspective of how things might go down from WWE’s thought processes and predictions based on track records and patterns.

The Most Recent Salary Reports

WWE doesn’t exactly lay out all of its financials for the public on a weekly basis to let everyone know the ins and outs of all the contracts. Therefore, the most recent rundown of salaries I could find are from 2020, but should still be applicable to this conversation, as it’s doubtful much has changed on any drastic terms.

Brock Lesnar: $12 million
John Cena: $8.5 million
Roman Reigns: $5 million
Randy Orton: $4.5 million
AJ Styles: $3.6 million
Seth Rollins: $3 million
The Undertaker: $2.5 million
The Miz: $2.5 million
Kevin Owens: $2 million
Dolph Ziggler: $1.5 million
Ronda Rousey: $1.5 million
Becky Lynch: $1 million
Sheamus: $1 million
Jeff Hardy: $1 million
Bray Wyatt: $1 million
Jinder Mahal: $900,000
Kane: $900,000
Big Show: $850,000
Samoa Joe: $800,000
Charlotte Flair: $550,000
Nikki Bella: $350,000
Alexa Bliss: $350,000
Mickie James: $300,000
Brie Bella: $300,000
Natalya: $300,000
Sasha Banks: $250,000
Asuka: $250,000
Dana Brooke: $200,000
Bayley: $200,000
Lana: $200,000
Naomi: $180,000
Carmella: $120,000
Nia Jax: $100,000
Sonya Deville: $100,000
Mandy Rose: $80,000
Ruby Riott: $80,000
Tamina: $80,000
Liv Morgan: $80,000

Already Gone

Brock Lesnar is the top of the list and he’s no longer under contract. That’s a massive save for the company, but we can always assume they’re trying to negotiate how to get him back, since that’s what WWE does. No matter what’s going on, they view Lesnar as the saving grace who is worth the money.

The Undertaker may be on a different deal at this point, since he’s retired. We simply don’t know.

Ronda Rousey is gone. There’s over a million saved.

Bray Wyatt just got the axe. That’s another million.

Kane could also be under a different contract, for all we know. It’s doubtful he’s making nearly a million dollars for popping up on Most Wanted Treasures and a few guest spots here and there.

No more Big Show, as he’s in AEW.

WWE released Samoa Joe, then brought him back. I doubt they brought him back at the same price or higher.

The Bella Twins are unknown entities. Maybe they’re still under the same contract, renegotiated something or aren’t involved at all.

Mickie James is gone. Another $300k saved. Same for Lana at $200k and Ruby Riott at $80k.

Many people aren’t listed here that we’ve learned about after the fact, like Braun Strowman being around the million dollar range.

What Does That Mean?

If you’re looking for a pattern, the only thing I can see is the obvious that if someone is a big enough star to make tons of money, but WWE feels they’ve stagnated and aren’t worth that investment anymore, they’re a prime target. Likewise, the littler things add up, so someone on the lower end isn’t safe just because they’re not a big earner.

For instance, Ruby Riott was only 80k. However, they clearly didn’t value her at that level. She didn’t have to be 300k like Mickie James to be gone, but James had clout behind her for her original contract.

This is why you’d see a guy like Curtis Axel, who was unlikely to be making a million dollars a year, but was likely viewed as not worth his $250k or whatever he might have been making (250 was the number reported in 2019).

Who is Safe?

The short answer is “nobody” at this point. Theoretically speaking, WWE adopted a philosophy years ago that has been echoed in tons of statements: Nobody is bigger than WWE. The draw is WWE as a company, not any particular Superstar like it used to be with Hulk Hogan and Steve Austin.

Whether that’s right or wrong is up for interpretation and analysis. I, like many others, think it’s a half truth. WWE as an entity is bigger than any one star, for sure, but without those stars, WWE’s status in pop culture wanes. Ratings went up with Stone Cold and they’re certainly not that high now, are they?

Roman Reigns is about the closest thing to a safe zone. Randy Orton is likely safe, but you never really know, as he’s in that very top range and WWE might think he’s past his prime.

I would think Becky Lynch is likely safe, as they know they had something there. Charlotte Flair is definitely safe, earning nearly half Lynch’s amount and being the golden child.

Who is in Danger?

AJ Styles – He knows his worth and that he’s someone New Japan and AEW and Impact would snatch up in a heartbeat. $3.6 million is a big chunk of change and he has buddies in other promotions, while having frustrations with WWE based on The Good Brothers and the Twitch streaming problems.

Seth Rollins – It seems crazy, but if you’re looking for people who have grown stagnant, he’s up there on that list. The Messiah isn’t as hot as it once was and he’s making $3 million. I don’t think he’s gone any time soon, but stranger things have happened.

Kevin Owens – Frankly, I think he’s a guarantee to be gone soon. He’s definitely grown stagnant with his babyface character, he doesn’t fit the typical mold of a WWE Superstar from Vince’s perspective, he peaked years ago (unfortunately) and WWE doesn’t seem to understand how great he is. This is a guy that could have been a 6x world champion by now and one of the biggest heels in decades, but they ruined him in favor of putting the belt on Goldberg so he could drop it to Brock. Owens never recovered and for $2 million, sooner or later, I think he gets the boot or walks on his own accord.

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