- Pro Wrestling: The Top 10 Richest Wrestlers
- Excluded from the List: Vince McMahon and the McMahon Family:
- 10. Chris Jericho: Million
- 9. Big Show: Million
- 8. JBL: Million
- 7. John Cena: Million
- 6. Mick Foley: Million
- 5. Triple H: Million
- 4. Hulk Hogan: Million
- 3. Undertaker: Million
- 2. Stone Cold Steve Austin Million
- 1. The Rock: Million
- Is the WWE really making money?
- Why the WWE matters far more than you think
- Is the WWE making money?
- New Digital Entertainment or Old-Fashioned Show Business
- WWE Network Losing Subscribers
- Why WWE should Dump Cable
- Why WWE and Netflix or WWE and Amazon Need Each other
- Despite COVID-19, WWE Will Set Profit Records in 2020 If TV Fees Remain
- But what else encourages a higher estimate of WWE’s profitability?
Pro Wrestling: The Top 10 Richest Wrestlers
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We all love to watch and talk about wrestling, but when it comes down to it a lot of us wonder the same thing:
How much money do these guys actually make?
For this slide show, I researched wrestlers' net worth using Celebrity Net Worth.
For those of you who are not familiar with the site, it basically calculates how much money famous people are worth on the basis of tax returns, etc.
With that being said, let's take a look at the top 10 most valuable wrestlers.
Excluded from the List: Vince McMahon and the McMahon Family: $1 Billion
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- Mark A. Wallenfang/Getty Images
I'm excluding Mr. McMahon and his family because it is blatantly obvious that they would be No. 1 since they write the checks for WWE.
McMahon has undertaken a number of ventures in his career, including restaurants, bars, and even the XFL that have all become non-existent.
While WWE was worth more money in the late 90s and early 2000s, McMahon's fortune still continues to mount, as he is worth $1 billion.
10. Chris Jericho: $18 Million
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- Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Chris Jericho is well known for having diversified talents.
Well those diversified talents have made him a hell of a lot of money.
Jericho, in addition to the huge contract he signed with the WWE in 1999 and again in 2007, has written two New York Times best sellers, is the front man of a world-renowned rock band, and appeared on television shows Dancing with the Stars.
It seems the sky is the limit for Jericho, as he is making quite the name for himself in the general public, which will only open up more opportunities in the future.
9. Big Show: $20 Million
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The Big Show has been in professional wrestling for nearly two decades now, signing his contract with WWE in 1999.
He performed in a high profile match at WrestleMania with boxer Floyd Mayweather, which generated a huge pay day.
He also has starred in his own feature movie, Knucklehead, and has made a number of appearances in other movies.
The Big Show's career may be winding down, but at least he has all that money to fall back on.
8. JBL: $20 Million
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It's amazing to think that this guy started out as Justin “Hawk” Bradshaw and was near the bottom of the card.
With a number of gimmick changes, Bradshaw was able to transform himself into JBL, based off his real-life financial success.
He was able to become the WWE Champion, which put him in a number of high profile matches that led to major paydays.
He also frequents Fox News and has his own line of energy drinks.
JBL shows that diversification and perseverance both in and away from the ring can lead to financial success.
7. John Cena: $20 Million
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While the Big Show and JBL both have the same net worth currently, John Cena has the highest ceiling for the future.
He has not even been wrestling for a decade, yet clearly is the face of the WWE.
He has been in the main event at the past seven WrestleMania events and his merchandise flies off of the shelves.
Furthermore, he has made the jump into feature films 12 Rounds and The Marine that have generated substantial paydays.
Cena has the makings of being a huge star in Hollywood if he is able to take the route of Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock.
6. Mick Foley: $22 Million
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Formerly thought to only be the king of hardcore wrestling, Foley did a hell of a job turning himself into a legitimate draw.
While he had to risk his life and well-being to become successful, Foley is the personification of dedication.
Foley has written multiple New York Times best sellers, starred in several wrestling documentaries, and is involved in other mainstream media ventures.
While Foley works a considerably lighter schedule with TNA now, he still is earning money at a pace that should keep him comfortable for the rest of his life.
5. Triple H: $25 Million
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The heir to the throne.
Triple H will one day be worth a hell of a lot more than this, if he one day ascends to being the head of WWE as many predict.
He has been in wrestling for nearly 20 years now, which has given him substantial earning power; he has headlined WrestleMania numerous times and is a big money draw.
He also has transitioned into movies with The Chaperone and it was rumored for a while that he would play Thor in the feature movie about The Avengers.
10 years from now, Triple H will most ly be number one on the list, but for the time being he comes in at No. 5.
4. Hulk Hogan: $30 Million
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- Paul Kane/Getty Images
Hulk Hogan is arguably the biggest name ever created by WWE.
Nearly everyone in the world knows Hogan and his patented red and yellow boa.
Unfortunately for Hogan, he was the main superstar during the 1980s when huge money wasn't associated with wrestling.
While Hogan made substantial money in the 1990s and 2000s, his better days were behind him, which kept him from being No. 1 on the list.
It also doesn't help that Hogan's divorce took half of his money.
3. Undertaker: $34 Million
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Apparently, the Streak is worth more than you may think.
The Undertaker has been in WWE since 1991 and has dedicated his life to making it a huge success.
His biggest contribution to wrestling is that he has enormous drawing power, even when he doesn't have a championship belt, which is something that many people could not do.
While the Undertaker hasn't significantly transitioned into movies or other ventures, he has consistently drawn for 20 years, which more than offsets his other financial opportunities.
2. Stone Cold Steve Austin $40 Million
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Even though Austin hasn't wrestled in eight years, he still continues to bring in huge money.
Whether it be the number of appearances he still makes in WWE, the huge merchandise sales he generates, or the movies he stars in, such as The Expendables, Austin has multiple revenue streams that make him a very rich man.
Stone Cold was and still is one of the biggest draws in WWE history and helped usher in the Attitude Era, which made WWE an enormous amount of money.
Obviously, Austin got a significant share of the pie, as he is the second richest person active in wrestling.
1. The Rock: $65 Million
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Was there ever any doubt who would be No. 1?
The Rock was able to do what most current superstars hope they can do: transition his fame in WWE to mainstream movies.
The Rock has played the lead role in a number of movies, including Walking Tall, The Scorpion King, Gridiron Gang, The Tooth Fairy Faster, and the upcoming Fast Five.
He is a bona fide movie star, and say what you will about the Disney movies he has done, but the fact of the matter is, Disney pays, and they pay well.
With the Rock returning to wrestling and a huge pay day coming at WrestleMania 28, and his potential to be the next great action star in movies, the Rock could surpass $100 million in net worth sooner rather than later.
I hope you enjoyed the list, and make sure to check out Celebrity Net Worth for more famous people's net worth if you are curious.
Follow me on @BFlow82
Is the WWE really making money?
The World Wrestling Entertainment (NYSE: WWE) is both a wrestling venue and an interesting experiment in monetizing digital content.
The WWE is a fascinating company because it is one of the few publicly-traded organizations reliant on digital content for a large percentage of its profits. That means it is possible to partially track the progress of the WWE network digital venue through its financials.
That makes WWE a pretty good metric for other traditional entertainment companies that are trying to transition to digital-content providers. We might be seeing the future of companies as diverse as TV networks CBS (NYSE: CBS) and movie studios Lionsgate Entertainment Group (NYSE: LGF.A) at WWE.
Why the WWE matters far more than you think
Another intriguing aspect to WWE is that it is one of the few independent entertainment companies left. Most entertainment brands in today’s world, whether they be comic-book publishers, video game creators, or movie studios have long been subsidiaries of large conglomerates.
That gives those companies resources to survive, and the independence to experiment and lose money. Entertainment is the most experimental business of all, if one is in it he or she must be prepared to lose money.
The WWE is engaged in an effort to preserve a traditional entertainment some people regard as an art form; professional wrestling, by monetizing digital content. Vincent K. McMahon Jr’s little wrestling combine is a far more important company than most observers realize. Vince and his family are attempting to preserve and promote a traditional art form by going digital.
Is the WWE making money?
The question is the WWE making money, is a very important one. The current answer to that question is yes, WWE is making money, but not much money.
During 4th Quarter 2017, WWE reported revenues of $211.60 million, a gross profit of $93.40 million, an operating income of $26.91 million, and a net income of $4.81 million. So yes, it is profitable to make money by digitizing live wrestling matches.
Although it can be a struggle to maintain cash flow from such activities, the WWE reported a free cash flow of $44.57 million for 4th Quarter 2017. That provided cash and short-term investments of $297.44 million on December 31, 2017.
So yes, traditional entertainment venues can make some money by adding a digital channel. Yet, they still face the same struggle to pay traditional expenses, wrestler’s salaries, production costs for live shows etc., in a new world.
New Digital Entertainment or Old-Fashioned Show Business
The WWE can be seen as an amalgam of new-fangled digital entertainment and old-time show business. Yet it should be noted that there are strong similarities between old-fashioned show business and digital entertainment.
Traditional show business relied on the “gate” the daily receipts from ticket sales for revenue. Digital entertainment relies on subscriptions or purchases of views for revenues.
This is why companies WWE had such an easy time transitioning to digital entertainment and companies CBS are struggling with it. TV networks CBS relied on an advertising-driven business model; in which they gave their product away for free in hopes of generating enough ratings to attract ad revenue.
WWE relied on first sales of tickets to live shows and later pay-for-views to generate revenue. Today it relies on sales of subscriptions to its WWE network to make money. The advantages of this business model are that the WWE can generate cash flow without having to pander to advertisers.
The disadvantage is that the WWE is at the mercy of fans and their tastes. An inherent advantage is that WWE is more receptive to the fans’ wants. It has the freedom to change its programming to what the fans actually want in ways that traditional entertainment companies Disney (NYSE: DIS) cannot.
WWE Network Losing Subscribers
Retaining subscriptions is hard though, WWE’s subscription volume fell between September 30 and December 2017, Pro Wrestling Net reported.
The WWE Network had 1.471 million subscribers on 31 December 2017, and 1.507 million subscribers three months earlier on 30 September. Tellingly, the WWE’s subscriber base fell between 2016 and 2017. The WWE Network had 1.473 million subscribers on 31 December 2017.
The WWE has discovered that attracting subscribers is easy, retaining them is tough. One reason retaining subscribers is tough, is that WWE gives away large amounts of its product every week through the Smackdown and Raw shows on the USA Network.
Why WWE should Dump Cable
A smart strategy for WWE might be to eliminate one of those shows or cut their airtime. That is to make the WWE Network the one place where fans can find much of its programming.
Such a move would be a smart way to attract younger fans that do not watch traditional TV. One of the WWE’s most important demographics is Generation Z (those under 24 or 25 years of age).
In 2017, the average member of Generation Z watched just 14 hours of traditional TV, Visual Capitalist noted.
As recently as 2011 the average millennial those between now 24 and 35 watched 25 hours of traditional TV.
Why WWE and Netflix or WWE and Amazon Need Each other
Another Visual Capitalist statistic that Vince McMahon should take note of is this one, 61% of Millennials said Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) is their first choice for watching TV. That means WWE should cut back on cable production for Raw and Smackdown and start producing exclusive programs for venues Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu as well as WWE Network.
A smart move for WWE might be to start producing something the old WWE in your House that aired in the 1990s or Saturday’s Main Event for Amazon, Netflix, or Hulu. That is a card of four or five big matches that would air only through one of those venues.
One example of this might be a title match every week on Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Netflix, or Hulu.
A logical tie-in on Amazon would be an exclusive WWE event linked to an Amazon store selling WWE merchandise, including some exclusive items related to the event.
An intriguing possibility would be one-off matches or cards of wrestling built around a popular wrestler or tag team such as the Hardy Boyz, A.J. Styles, or John Cena.
Since Amazon is now selling UFC Fights, WWE should consider joining that platform. WWE certainly has the star power and promotional ability to make money off such a card. It should seriously consider such a move before rivals New Japan Pro Wrestling or Ring of Honor start doing the same thing.
The opportunities for WWE to make a lot of money if it goes beyond the WWE Network and Cable TV are there. The question investors need to ask is the McMahon family willing to make the move to new digital venues before somebody else does. Joining forces with Hulu, Amazon, or Netflix would be the next logical move for the WWE.
Despite COVID-19, WWE Will Set Profit Records in 2020 If TV Fees Remain
It’s evident my earlier estimate of WWE profitability was too low. I estimated that the company would record $121 million in operating income for 2020, in the scenario that there were no more live events for the rest of 2020.
After a more detailed estimate of WWE’s revenues and expenses, and with improved knowledge learned in the last several weeks, an operating income of $280 million (under the same, no-more-live-events-in-2020 scenario) is more ly.
Click to enlarge
Following the company’s Q1 earnings report, we now have a better idea of how much money is being saved by producing TV WWE’s Performance Center, versus running at sports arenas.
In this new model, I estimate the average quarterly expense related to producing Raw and Smackdown (Core Content Rights Fees) in the PC to be about $50 million per quarter (or $55 million in Q4 due to one additional episode of Raw and possible other rising costs).
To be more charitable to the possibility that WWE will be under financial hardship, this estimate of Raw, Smackdown, and NXT related expenses is somewhat aggressive.
Settling on $50 million per quarter in the Core Content Rights segment is aiming higher than WWE’s implied operating expenses for the similar Television segment from 2015 to 2017, a time when Raw and Smackdown were run weekly at arenas and when the segment possibly included expenses related to other parts of business including advertising and reality TV series. (See p. 3-4 of WWE’s 2017 Annual Report)
Implied segment expenses between 2015 and 2017 are derived from WWE’s previous reporting. The company’s reporting method at that time, disclosed segment revenues and segment operating income.
Deducing expenses therefore is simply a matter of subtracting the corresponding operating income from revenue in each instance.
(WWE changed its reporting method after the end of 2017 to report operating income for its three divisions [Media, Live Events, and Consumer Products], only.)
The results of this deductive math are below (with variances in the far right column to test how consistent results were over the quarters shown):
Data source: WWE Trending Schedules, 2015-2017 (via Wrestlenomics archive)
From 2015 to 2017, expenses in the Television segment were never higher than $40.8 million (Q3 2015).
Even though these expenses are from a time when WWE was running Raw and Smackdown at arenas, where it’s clearly more expensive than repeated tapings at the Performance Center, in the interest of being aggressive and in the interest of anticipating higher talent expenses and accounting for expenses related to NXT (which were ly accounted to the WWE Network segment in previous years), I chose to estimate a quarterly Core Content Rights Fees operating expense of at least $50 million per quarter in the remaining quarters of 2020.
Talent expenses since 2017 have ly increased substantially due to competition from All Elite Wrestling and others, and NXT costs are now included in the segment, but net expenses related to producing TV at the Performance Center are ly much lower due to avoiding costs associated with running Raw and Smackdown at sports arenas. TV expenses may also be lower thanks to a consolidated taping schedule and far less required load time for production equipment.
CEO Vince McMahon’s comments on the April 23 earnings conference call directly support the idea that the production of Raw and Smackdown at the Performance Center is much less expensive than running at an arena.
Well, I think that obviously the cost is nowhere near the differential in terms of a live event in an arena and what we’re doing – the Performance Center we hardly have to change anything. The trons are in one location in the stage, and in one location. So there’s not much at all moving anything in or moving anything outside. So that saves a lot of money.
WWE CEO Vince McMahon, WWE Q1 2020 Earnings Conference Call (April 23, 2020)
In this updated model I also anticipated somewhat lower expenses related to the WWE Network. A substantial portion of the expense related to the Network is from producing pay-per-view events. If there are no arena events for the rest of the year, those events will be less expensive to run at WWE’s own facilities.
in the previous model, I’m assuming there are no revenues after Q1 related to ticket sales or venue merchandise.
I modeled in some expenses however related to those areas throughout the year, possibly due to factors building holds and maintaining employees or infrastructure.
25% of 2019’s Live Event division expenses were calculated for corresponding 2020 quarters (Q2-Q4). wise for the Venue Merchandise segment within the Consumer Products division.
To determine WWE Network revenues, average paid subscribers were estimated to decline for the remainder of 2020 at a rate the Q1 year-over-year growth rates in domestic and international markets, separately, at -9% and -4%, respectively.
Year-over-year declines for Q2-Q4 in the eCommerce and Product Licensing segments were also extrapolated onto remaining quarters at the rate of the Q1 year-over-year growth rate of -9% and -18%, respectively.
Exceptionally, additional year-over-year losses in Q4 were anticipated, related to the cancellation of this year’s WWE 2K21 game, confirmed on the April 23 call, which ly would have released for sale in Q4.
This estimate anticipates no additional major live event in Saudi Arabia, which would have provided revenue of around $50 million in the Other segment within the Media division.
Also in that division, I’m estimating 10 episodes of Total Bellas in Q2, with an average revenue per episode of just under $1 million.
It’s assumed there are no additional new reality TV episodes in the year beyond Q2.
Modeled into the Advertising & Sponsorship segment is an anticipated growth in views (evident from early 2020 results), but a decrease in CPM, related to lower advertising demand. Also in this segment, -33% growth in on-air sponsorships is anticipated in Q2-Q4, due to lower ad demand as well.
But what else encourages a higher estimate of WWE’s profitability?
We also learned on the April 23 call, from interim CFO Frank Riddick, that WWE’s increase in rights payments from its second-most important TV market India, will go into effect beginning in Q2.
WWE recently completed a new five-year agreement with Sony in that market to broadcast WWE programming, which represents a 1.8x increase from the previous five-year term. The value of the new deal is believed to be an average of $50 million per year, ly escalating over the term.
The previous deal is believed to have been worth $28 million on average per year.
Although he declined not to give specific guidance, Riddick also affirmed that WWE expects the company to be profitable in Q2. That’s despite the absence of expected operating income (probably more than $15 million) related to Wrestlemania and its adjacent events and merchandise sales.
If you assume everything else equal, the cost reductions, yes [Q2] should be profitable.
WWE Interim CFO Frank Riddick, WWE Q1 2020 Earnings Call (April 23, 2020)
WWE’s TV rights fees are the key to the company’s finances during the COVID-19 crisis, and in general in this era. McMahon gave some reassurance that WWE’s TV partners are being supportive during this unusual time.
There was no indication or hint that fees might be cut for some reason.
Despite delivering TV shows without live audiences, TV partners so far seem happy to continue paying promised fees at a time when there’s little other new sports content available.
Our [TV] partners obviously are not doing as well as they would to, nor are we. But as far as the content is concerned, they totally get it… We have a really good relationship with [NBCUniversal and Fox]. And they have our backs, as we do theirs.
WWE CEO Vince McMahon, WWE Q1 2020 Earnings Conference Call (April 23, 2020)
As long as WWE’s expected contractual fees continue to be paid, it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which WWE is not profitable in 2020.
For the sake of exercise, and to consider to what extent April 15 cuts of employees and talent was economically necessary, if we were to be very pessimistic and wiped out all revenue in Q2, Q3, and Q4, except for TV rights (Core Content Rights Fees) and WWE Network, and still maintained all expenses in all segments, WWE gets to $168 million operating income for 2020, still ahead of 2019’s $116.5 million operating income.
A highly pessimistic exercise, removing all revenue sources Q2-Q4 except TV rights fees and WWE Network
(click to enlarge)
To be even more extreme, if every subscriber cancelled the WWE Network on April 1 (which is obviously not the case WWE’s post-Wrestlemania disclosure) and the company generated no revenue from Q2-Q4 in any segment except for Core Content Rights Fees, but kept on all segment expenses, total operating income for the year is still $44 million. It’s finally possible, in that unrealistic scenario, depending on interest, taxes, and other uncertain investment costs, net income could come in just under $0.
An extremely pessimistic exercise, removing all revenue Q2-Q4, except TV rights fees (click to enlarge)
To get an idea of how financially necessary the cost-cutting announced on April 15 was, none of the scenarios in this article try to account for the $4 million WWE said it will save as a result of layoffs, furloughs, talent releases, and cuts to executive compensation.
If the conditions of the cuts and furloughs were maintained through the rest of the year, $4 million in monthly savings over eight-and-a-half months comes to a total savings of $34 million for the full year. Those savings, not factored into the tables above, make it even more difficult to conceive of a money-losing 2020 for WWE.
Upon a more detailed analysis of WWE’s finances and additional knowledge gained since my previous estimate on March 31, it’s extremely ly WWE will be profitable in 2020. Unless TV partners cut or become unable to pay WWE’s escalating rights fees, which there’s no sign of yet, WWE will have a profitable year.
In fact, despite the effects of COVID-19, it’s ly WWE will report its highest operating income in company history (even when adjusting for inflation). Depending on less certain interest expenses, investments, and taxes, it’s quite possible, too, the company will break its annual net income record of $99.
6 million, set in 2018.