The huge pay of WWE's biggest stars

John Cena. Photo / Getty Images.
John Cena. Photo / Getty Images.

HOW much would you have to be paid to jump into the squared circle?

If we assume that, say, John Cena or Big Show or Roman Reigns is waiting in the other corner, it's going to take a pretty tidy sum to get us into the ring. At least a million dollars, right?

For the WWE's highest-paid superstars - those who have to climb between the ropes on a weekly basis and deal with all the pain and travel - the answer is obviously quite a bit more. According to a recent report by Forbes, those top stars are compensated fairly well, relative to the general population.

"The details of that wrestler pay are notoriously hard to come by, and even a year ago, when we provided a breakdown of how WWE's booking contracts work, we could shed very little light on exactly how much wrestlers are paid," Forbes' Chris Smith wrote.

"No longer. Over the last year we've pored over court documents, SEC filings and WWE's booking contracts and spent hours speaking with industry sources, allowing us to construct the first ever Forbes list of WWE's Highest-Paid Wrestlers."

Here are the 10 biggest WWE payouts for 2015, via Forbes:

1. John Cena - $9.5 million*
2. Brock Lesnar - $6.0 million
3. Triple H - $2.8 million
4. Randy Orton - $2.7 million
5. Seth Rollins - $2.4 million
6. Roman Reigns - $2.1 million
7. Undertaker - $2.0 million
8. Big Show - $1.5 million
9. Kane - $1.3 million
10. Dean Ambrose - $1.1 million

*All figures in USD

That's a total of $31.4 million reportedly paid to the top WWE talent from a combination of salary, bonuses and merchandise sales.

Just less than half of that figure (49.4 per cent) went to Cena and Lesnar combined.

Meanwhile, Undertaker, Big Show, Kane and Ambrose all make less than Hulk Hogan reportedly received in a signing bonus when he jumped ship from then-WWF to WCW back in 1994 - and that doesn't include the Hulkster's reported cut in PPV sales and rights to use his likeness to sell pasta and suntan oil.

The top five current stars - Cena, Lesnar, Triple H, Orton and Rollins - earn a combined $23.4 million. Not too bad. Not shabby at all, in fact. Except that Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, for comparison, will reportedly make $23.5 million for the 2015-16 season, his final in the NBA. Roll back the clock to last year, and the disparity is even greater.

Bryant pocketed over $30 million in 2014-15, nearly as much as the entire WWE top 10 combined. And that number doesn't include Kobe's merchandise and endorsement deals.
Yes, Kobe made more to host his retirement tour than those WWE stars earned by beating the snot out of each other.

And the trend holds true in other major sports. 10 MLB stars will reportedly earn more in 2016 than the top 5 WWE stars combined last year; four NFL players are reportedly owed more than $25 million in cash for the upcoming season.

It's worth pointing out, however, that WWE's gross revenue lags behind the major sports. WWE reported revenue of $658 million for 2015, compared to $5.2 billion for the NBA. On the other hand, being an NBA star is nowhere near as physically punishing as wrestling.

Bryant doesn't have to worry about taking a steel chair to the head from D'Angelo Russell or having Roy Hibbert piledrive him through the centre court logo. Probably.

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