Over the course of the last week, WWE's 2016 talent earnings have slowly come out. Most list with few details of how and why. Below is a list of WWE top earning talent and how they reached the top of the list.
Randy Orton 1.93 million
Orton made 1.6 million in pay based on contract, shows, and bonuses as well as another just over 300k in royalties and merchandise sales.
Seth Rollins 2.05 million
With Rollins out of action for 5 months of the year, it hurt his total pay, however with his 2.05 million, Rollins earned a majority with the number of shows he main evented, which was four. Rollins also had a new base contract increase in the spring. Had Rollins not been injured, it is safe to say he would have broken the 3.2 million range.
The Undertaker 2.08 million
Undertaker's base pay was the second highest in the company, only behind Brock Lesnar. Taker's base pay was 1.75 million plus royalties and merchandise.
AJ Styles 2.42 million
Styles worked every main show he could have in 2016 and was a main staple of the blue brand main eventing over 65% of the blue brand's house shows and PPVs. 181 shows in total for the Phenomenal One. Styles' base salary was less than half of his total earnings the rest came with the show bonuses listed above as well as merchandise.
Dean Ambrose 2.7 million
This is a 75% pay increase over the previous year and this man earned every penny working an alarming 194 shows last year for the WWE which was 7% more than the next closest worker which was Styles. Ambrose made the vast majority of his money main eventing so many shows for the blue brand, along with his bonus and merchandise.
Roman Reigns 3.5 million
Contrary to what many want to tell you that Reigns earned a ton of this on merchandise sales, that is simply not the case! A large chunk of the income that Reigns received was for main eventing Wrestlemania 32. In addition to that, Reigns had a new contract take effect in the spring which catapulted his base pay much higher than most. Seven PPVs of 2016, Reigns participated in the main event. This number is truly astonishing based on the few he did not featuring Brock, and Reigns was second from the top. This is where Reigns made his coin for the calendar year of 2016.
The 2 top talent performers as you will notice (I am simply not including Shane nor Hunter on this list) are doing very...very well for themselves.
John Cena 8.05 Million
The consummate professional and the face of WWE for a decade, in the terms of his earnings, had a down year. Yes, 8 million is a down year for Mr. YOU CANT SEE ME! We couldn't see Cena for 5 months of the year, as he was out of action for the WWE. Cena was the highest grossing merchandise seller, a spot very few have battled him for for over a decade. Cena also had many outside projects along with a clothing line at Kmart, a failed athletic line through WWE, the Total Divas, and Total Bellas money. Cena was down over 20% from the previous year, however, he not only should be back on track this year but should trump the 2016 earnings.
Brock Lesnar 12 million
The Beast not only took home the bacon but the whole farm in 2016. Lesnar has a 3.25% revenue share on shows he main events, which is where his bonus kicker hits. On top of this, and his crazy yearly deal he receives from WWE, which is north of 5 million a year, Lesnar earned 2.5 million for his destruction of Mark Hunt at UFC 200. Later Lesnar would have to pay back 10%. Lesnar also has his own sponsorship deals, which no one else has, and moved 15% more merchandise in 2016 vs 2015.
The big takeaways we should all see on this is first of all for Styles to already be that high on the list just shows how much the investment in him has paid off for the company. Secondly, it's miraculous that Ambrose was able to work not only 194 shows but main event over 60% of them! It's a testament to him on staying healthy on that schedule. When looking back on this list and predicting 2017, what can we look for? Well, Reigns, who has already main evented WrestleMania, can cement his spot in the top eight, even if he took the rest of the year off. I see Kevin Owens reaching the top 10 in 2017, along with Finn Balor, if he can stay healthy. His merchandise and new contract will elevate him high on the list. Bray Wyatt also would not shock me, as, for the first 3 months of the year, he was already WWE Champion, stayed healthy, and is still in the main event picture, however, merchandise is what is hurting him there.
To give you an idea of the global impact some of these contracts have on professional wrestling, NJPW's Mr. 5 Star himself Okada made just north of 2.2 million in 2016 and was the only New Japan talent that earned over 1.5 million on the year.