Ranking the 20 Wealthiest Professional Wrestlers
We all know that pro wrestling can be a lucrative business. Sure, some of the most talented guys in the industry earn next to nothing on the independent circuit, but the big leagues are where the real money is made.
Personally, I am always interested to see how much money the biggest stars earn from their careers in the squared circle, and this article will give you the low-down.
According to an article from Celebrity Net Worth, these are the twenty wealthiest professional wrestlers in the world as of September 2012.
Note: Rankings are based on all available information including salary, real estate, royalties and endorsements. Results include hypothetical deductions for taxes, lifestyle and agent fees.
20. CM Punk ($7.5 Million)
After years of perfecting his craft in the independent leagues, CM Punk finally made it onto WWE television in 2006 and has not looked back since. One of the industry's top talents, Punk has made a tidy sum during his time with the company.
Now unquestionably the company's second-biggest full-time star, "The Voice of the Voiceless" renegotiated his contract with greatly improved terms in 2010, and will no doubt feature higher up the list in years to come.
19. Kevin Nash ($8 Million)
Big-money contracts with WCW, WWE and TNA since the mid-'90s have ensured Kevin Nash has more than an adequate retirement fund.
Despite being a limited in-ring worker (and an even worse behind-the-scenes talent), "Big Sexy" has had a knack for securing himself the best financial terms possible over the years. Additional acting roles throughout his career have also boosted his income.
18. Rey Mysterio ($8.5 Million)
Quite possibly history's most popular "lucha" wrestler in the United States, Rey Mysterio signed a big-money contract with the WWE in 2002 after five successful years as a midcard draw in WCW.
Making himself a mainstay at the top of the card over the years, "The Master of the 619" has added to his fortune through royalties from his popular line of official WWE merchandise.
17. JBL ($9 Million)
No disrespect intended, but "The Wrestling God" would not have earned anywhere this amount from just his in-ring endeavors.
However, a series of shrewd financial investments, a best-selling book on financial planning and a nationally syndicated radio show ensured that JBL was right to pursue outside business ventures.
There were rumors a couple of years ago that he was worth up to $20 million, but it seems as though the current global financial crisis has put an end to that.
16. Batista ($10 Million)
Batista was only a presence on WWE television for eight years, but a spell as one of the company's top stars between 2005 and 2010 made sure he was lavishly rewarded.
One of the lucky few to receive a guaranteed seven-figure salary during his years at the top, "The Animal" has only added to his bank balance in the years since his departure by moving into acting and mixed martial arts.
15. Goldberg ($12 Million)
Despite having a career that lasted only seven short years between 1997 and 2004, Goldberg was one of the biggest names in the industry for almost the entire duration. Upon completing one of the fastest rises to the top that the business had ever seen, he was rewarded with a monster push and the reaped the subsequent financial rewards.
Following his disappointing one-year stint with the WWE, Goldberg has fronted a series of television shows to supplement his income, and is still collecting the royalties from a lucrative, if very short, career.
14. Brock Lesnar ($12.5 Million)
Currently signed to a $5 million, one-year deal with the WWE, Brock Lesnar has earned millions after proving his talents as one of the toughest athletes in the world.
Following his short first run with the WWE between 2002 and 2004, Lesnar went on to become one of the biggest names in mixed martial arts, becoming UFC Champion and earning millions in income from hugely successful pay-per-views.
With his current contract up for negotiation in a few months it will be interesting to see Lesnar's next move, because he certainly doesn't need the money.
13. Sting ($13 Million)
A star synonymous with WCW, Sting was one of the highest-paid talents on the roster for the majority of his time with the company between 1987 and 2001.
Earlier in the decade, his colorful persona was a merchandising smash for the company, and upon his return as the black-and-white character in 1996, his merchandise generated huge amounts of income from the coveted young male demographic.
Maintaining a solid business relationship with the WWE, Sting still collects the royalties from his successful WCW tenure while also continuing to compete at age 53 under a bumper deal with TNA.
12. Edge ($14 Million)
A hugely successful 15-year run with the WWE saw Edge become one of the biggest stars in the business between 2005 and his unfortunate retirement in 2011.
On top of his ever-increasing WWE salary, the "Rated-R Superstar" banked serious extra cash from numerous high-profile pay-per-view bonuses, as well as royalties from merchandise featuring his instantly recognizable image.
Clearly enjoying his retirement by staying away from the wrestling business for the most part, Edge is more than comfortable enough to never work again.
11. Bret Hart ($14 Million)
Bret Hart was one of the most well-paid and popular stars in the industry throughout the 1990s, and he signed a hugely lucrative contract with WCW, joining the company after the infamous Montreal Screwjob. In fact, "The Hitman" signed an unprecedented 20-year contract with the WWF in 1996, only to jump ship the following year.
Rewarded lavishly for his consistent efforts in the ring, "The Excellence of Execution" was one of the highest-paid stars in both of the major organizations he competed in. A hugely successful autobiography and a best-selling DVD ensure that "The Hitman'" continues to profit from his legendary career more than a decade after his retirement.
10. Mick Foley ($15 Million)
One of the most unlikely millionaires in wrestling history, Mick Foley has carved out an impressive fortune for a man many doubted would ever make it to the big leagues. Earning a high six-figure salary throughout most of his WWE tenure, it was outside interests that would generate the big bucks.
A hugely successful series of autobiographies and children's books have made the "Hardcore Icon" a millionaire many times over, and have boosted his earnings considerably. Mrs. Foley's baby boy has certainly done well for himself.
9. The Undertaker ($16 Million)
After three decades at the top of the world's biggest wrestling company, it is no surprise that The Undertaker is one of the 10 richest stars in the business.
Over 20 years of being one of the highest-paid talents in the company has certainly paid dividends, not to mention 20 high-profile Wrestlemania payoffs on top of the millions no doubt earned from merchandise royalties.
Outside of the ring, "The Deadman" has also invested shrewdly in a number of real estate deals that have earned him a tidy sum.
8. Shawn Michaels ($17 Million)
One of the greatest of all time, Shawn Michaels has earned the majority of his income as one of the top stars in the business during his two separate runs with the WWE between 1988 and 2010.
One of the highest-paid talents in the company during his career, "The Heartbreak Kid" was also one of the industry's most popular individuals, ensuring he made serious bank from DVD and merchandising deals.
"The Showstopper" gave his all in the ring every night, and deserves the vast financial rewards he accumulated over an illustrious career.
7. Chris Jericho ($18 Million)
Despite earning a massive amount of money thanks to his in-ring prowess, it is interests outside of the ring that have seen Chris Jericho increase his personal wealth.
In addition to a best-selling autobiography, Y2J has also earned extra income from album and touring royalties from his band Fozzy, as well as appearing on numerous television shows, including Dancing with the Stars.
It is these extracurricular activities that have seen Jericho grow his personal fortune, on top of his status as one of the WWE's highest-paid talents.
6. Kurt Angle ($20 Million)
The only Olympic gold medal winner in professional wrestling history, Kurt Angle was already a wealthy man long before he made his WWF debut in 1999.
A highly decorated career that saw the "Olympic Hero" cement his status as one of the all-time greats also awarded him great financial success. One of the top earners throughout his seven-year WWE tenure, Angle is also currently one of the highest-paid talents on the TNA roster.
A move into acting in recent years, as well as continued royalties from his in-ring exploits, will see his wealth continue to rise in coming years even as his career begins to wind down.
5. Triple H ($25 Million)
Triple H will no doubt be a whole lot wealthier the day he inherits the WWE, but at the moment, his corporate salary has seen him build on the riches gathered during a highly successful career.
One of the company's top stars over the past decade, "The Game" was the leader of merchandise machine D-Generation X during the height of the Attitude Era, and was one of the highest earners on the roster throughout the 2000s.
Extra income from a bodybuilding book, DVD and merchandise royalties boosted his wealth, and his high-profile role as executive vice president of Talent and Live Events will see the "Cerebral Assassin" continue to increase his personal fortune through the coming years.
4. The Big Show ($30 Million)
Surprisingly high on the list, The Big Show signed a 10-year contract with the WWF in February 1999 that guaranteed him at least $1 million year, and throughout that time, he grew his fortune through merchandising royalties and pay-per-view bonus payments.
After renegotiating his contract, "The World's Largest Athlete" still collects a high six-figure salary from the company. Already a millionaire in his 20s thanks to a lucrative status as a top draw in WCW, Big Show's numerous film and television appearances over the years have further supplemented his already healthy bank balance.
3. John Cena ($35 Million)
The face of the WWE since the middle of the past decade, John Cena is currently the company's top merchandise-seller by some distance, and is also the highest paid full-time talent.
Thanks to his popularity with the younger demographic, Cena's merchandise sells at an incredible rate, which is why WWE is constantly changing his attire, and sees him pocket a hefty amount of royalty money.
His exploits in the music, film and television industries have also earned the Cenation leader a great deal of extra income, and there is no doubt he will remain the industry's top earner for a few more years at the very least.
2. Steve Austin ($45 Million)
Although not a poor man by any means. Steve Austin could no doubt only dream of the wealth he would accumulate as the biggest star in the business during the most successful period in wrestling history.
Following the promo that sold a million t-shirts at the 1996 King of the Ring, Austin became the face of the WWF and sold more merchandise than any other star since the peak of Hulkamania.
Earning well over $5 million per year at the height of his popularity, Austin was the highest-paid star in the business by some distance, even before taking into account royalties from other wrestling-related projects.
Since his retirement in 2003, Austin continues to build his personal fortune with a succession of action-oriented acting roles.
1. The Rock ($70 Million)
Since ending his full-time wrestling schedule in 2003 to pursue an acting career, The Rock has since dropped his in-ring moniker and become one of the most in-demand actors in Hollywood, frequently earning upwards of $10 million per movie.
Also one of the top earners in the business during his time with the WWE, "The People's Champion" was paid a record $5 million for his debut acting role in The Mummy Returns, and has seen his career go from strength to strength ever since. On top of this, "The Great One" still earns a hefty amount of royalties from his status as one of wrestling's most popular performers.
Miles ahead of the competition, The Rock will remain the wealthiest professional wrestler for some time thanks to his popularity both in the ring and onscreen.
So there it is, the list of the 20 wealthiest professional wrestlers.
I don't think anybody will be surprised to see The Rock top the list, but there are some notable omissions. Personally, I thought Randy Orton would figure somewhere due to his lucrative years at the top of today's WWE, and no doubt legends Hulk Hogan and Ric Flair would have been included were it not for their respective messy divorces.
Let me hear your opinion;
Are you surprised at the figures?
Is there someone you thought would be on the list that isn't?
As always, sound off in the comments below.