By Sean Pendergast

At its apex in the late 90’s, World Championship Wrestling (WCW), owned by Ted Turner and his broadcasting empire, was the most profitable wrestling promotion in the history of the sport to that point. In their best year, 1998, WCW generated $200 million in revenue and $55 million in profits. In the wrestling world, looking at WCW’s balance sheet was like staring at a real live unicorn — how could this be? A wrestling promotion printing tens of millions of dollars!

Turner’s money machine, though, led by WCW President and on screen heel Eric Bischoff, turned out to be built on quicksand. The very thing that allowed it to create the star laden roster that drove the company to the top — massive, guaranteed big money contracts to aging superstars — turned out to be the very thing that consumed it from the inside and eventually imploded it.

At its nadir, in the final days of WCW in early 2001, the company was losing millions and was eventually purchased for pennies (like, literally two pennies probably) on the dollar by Vince McMahon’s WWE for a couple million bucks, which basically gave McMahon the rights to WCW’s tape library (hours and hours of which, ironically, had been dedicated to gloating over beating McMahon back in the late 90’s glory days) and the rights to the performers still under contract.

McMahon’s deal to buy WCW was such a sweetheart deal that he could choose which contracts he was absorbing into his company and which ones were left behind for Turner (well, Time Warner, at that point) to fulfill. The unfortunate side effect of McMahon’s being choosy about which players came into WWE from WCW was the WCW Invasion angle we were all waiting for was watered down with no Nash, Hall, Flair, Hogan, Bischoff, Goldberg, or Sting (all of whom wound up coming in anyway within a year or two, except for Sting who took another decade or so).

That said, thanks to a WCW Contract Summary document that surfaced on the internet recently (submitted as part of the Sonny Onoo racial discrimination lawsuit against WCW), you can kind of see why McMahon may have been so skittish about signing some of these guys. Also, you can see why WCW was slurped into a vacuum of red ink within three years of its peak.

You can view the document right here…..

Now, here is your roll call of all the guaranteed annual millionaires on the WCW contract summary,

1. Hulk Hogan (Terry Bollea), undisclosed

Hogan’s deal is the only one on the sheet where there is no detail provided, presumably because a) we all just assume he’s the highest paid performer and b) the amounts are so obscene that they’d embarrass even the biggest WCW honks out there (if there are any WCW honks still in existence)….

2. Bill Goldberg, $2.5 million (3 years remaining)

3. Bret Hart, $2.5 million (2 years remaining)

These two are linked by more than just their identical bloated salaries. Goldberg also ended Hart’s career with this kick to the head….

So there’s that.

4. Sting (Steve Borden), $1.5 million (2 years remaining)

The best was when Sting got paid seven figures for hanging out in the rafters for an entire year painted up like The Crow. Oddly enough, WCW made more money off of Sting’s doing that than anything he did in the ring.

5T. Scott Hall, $1.45 million (2 years remaining)

5T. Kevin Nash, $1.45 million (2 years remaining)

These two are attached at the hip, having been crucial players in the angle that turned the business on its ear in 1996 (“New World Order”)….

It was also the control handed to Nash in the creative department in 1999 that was a key reason the product deteriorated as badly as it did by 2000.

7. Lex Luger, $1.4 million (2 years remaining)

Lex Luger’s signature move — getting a “HOLY @$%#&!!” moment in his first day in the promotion…..

….and then being an expensive hump for the next five years

8. Diamond Dallas Page (Page Falkenburg), $1.25 million (2 years remaining)

Nothing bad to say about Page. Hard worker, good locker room guy, brought in money. It does help being Eric Bischoff’s next door neighbor, though.

Other utterly ridiculous WCW contracts (amounts are annual)….

1. Tank Abbott (David Abbott), $650,000 (2 years remaining)

Abbott was thought to be one of the toughest legit fighters in the world, and a decent foil for Goldberg. Within months, he was rendered to being “dancing fool” fodder for a comedy gimmick act…

2. Konnan (Charles Ashenoff), $570,000 (2 years remaining)

Konnan had some really cool catchphrases he’d spew before a match. Everybody sang along…. then he’d have to wrestle. Too bad.

3. Marcus Bagwell, $400,000 (1 year remaining)

Bagwell is probably best known for having one of the first matches on WWE television under the “WCW” banner. He and Booker T got booed out of the building on Monday Night RAW….and it wasn’t Booker’s fault… behold, Buff’s first and last WWE appearance:

4. Jerry Flynn (William J. Brenneman), $150,000 (3 years remaining)

I don’t think I remember Jerry Flynn winning a match ever. $150K is good money for a true jobber. This is like the janitor having a corner office.

5. Captain Rection (William DeMott), $250,000 (2 years remaining)

I don’t even know if this contract was that bad compared to the others on this list, I just found it funny that there was an official document floating around a large corporation where the name “Captain Rection” was listed.

6. Sid Vicious (Sid Eudy), $850,000 (2 years remaining)

Sid was making nearly a million dollars a year in WCW. His tenure there can best be summed up in two videos. This one….

….and this one (WARNING: GROSS)

Oh dear.

7. Disco Inferno (Glenn Gilberti), $300,000 (2 years remaining)

Yawn.

8. Billy Kidman (Peter Gruner), $325,000 (2 years remaining)

Double yawn.

9. Ron and Don Harris, $130,000 each (2 years remaining)

Identical twins (who suck) with totally identical contracts are funny.

10. Elizabeth (Elizabeth Hulette), $150,000 (1 year remaining)

$150K to stand there and be Lex Luger’s girlfriend pays well, but for Liz it did not end well. Sad story, man.

11. Jeff Jarrett, $275,000 plus bonuses galore (2 years remaining)

Jarrett has the distinction of being the only star during the Monday Night wars to leave WWE not once, but TWICE and still not get a contract that was even in the top 20 best paying deals in WCW. Jarrett blows.

12. Mike Jones, a/k/a “Virgil”, $150,000 (2 years remaining)

Poor Jones is probably best known now for being a meme on Deadspin for his sparsely attended autograph appearances, which draw more flies than they do people.

13. Ms. Hancock (Stacy Keibler), $15,000 plus appearances

This was the rare bargain on the WCW payroll. Keibler wound up being one of the rare cases of someone who found far greater fame outside of wrestling than in wrestling, peaking with her being George Clooney’s designated piece of tail for a few months.

14. Shane Douglas (Troy Martin), $350,000 (2 years remaining)

It’s always awesome when a scrub like Douglas has a PPV bonus in his contract, as if any person has ever bought a PPV because it included the talents of one Shane Douglas.

15. Ernest “The Cat” Miller, $400,000 (2 years remaining)

Being Bischoff’s next door neighbor pays pretty well (see: DDP), but being Bischoff’s kid’s karate teacher is not far behind.

16. Steiner Brothers, $750,000 each (1 year remaining)

One of these was a good deal, one wasn’t so good. Scott became a breakout star, Rick….is Rick still alive?

17. Ralphus (John Riker), $78,000 plus $750 events fee

That had to be super motivating for the undercard enhancement guys when this dude was making more than they were….

Also, Ralphus made $750 per appearance… which means Ralphus had APPEARANCES! Back in 1999, I would’ve totally paid $750 to have him at my birthday party.

18. Dustin Rhodes (Dustin Runnels), $600,000 (2 years remaining)

I guess WCW didn’t realize that this didn’t include the Goldust gimmick….

19. Roddy Piper (Rodrick Toombs), $750,000 (2 years remaining)

Piper is my favorite of all time. $750,000 was absurd.

20. Berlyn (Alex Wright), $395,000 (1 year remaining) 

And finally, nearly 400 grand for this…..

R.I.P. WCW

Listen to Sean Pendergast weekdays 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on “The Triple Threat” and follow him on Twitter @SeanTPendergast.

Sean Pendergast

Comments (3)
  1. Sweet god, I stumbled across this article looking up some information on Kevin Nash’s WCW contract. This has to be one of the worst articles I’ve ever read. Incorrect information, improper grammar (“literally”), unnecessary bashing certain wrestlers/talents with his own opinion. While some of the contract being given were ridiculous, there are plenty that are just and yet the writer seems to even think those are ridiculous. (If you don’t think Roddy Piper deserved $750k/year, I’m not sure what to say).

    I’m truly curious if this was A) written by someone who used to be a casual fan and saw the opportunity at an easy article, B) the work of a WWF/WWE fanboy, who ate up the spoonfuls of revisionist history bologna that WWE has produced on how “terrible” WCW was. (It was pretty terrible at times, but not at the extent the write is portraying the wrestlers/talents values) or C) a mixture of both A & B, which is what I’d bet my money on.

    I truly hope that anyone else that sees this article and does not have much knowledge on any of the wrestlers mentioned, takes the author’s opinions as a grain of salt and do research elsewhere to make a proper judgement on the wrestlers/talents referenced.

    I wonder if all those huge pops, t-shirt sales, quarter-hour ratings boosts, and diamond cutter hand gestures in the crowd were because Diamond Dallas Page lived next to Eric Bischoff?

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