Hulk Hogan: 5 Interesting Facts About His 1998 WCW Contract
Hulk Hogan's 1998 contract with World Championship Wrestling shows that The Hulkster was making big money to lead one of wrestling's most popular factions, the nWo.
Insane gobs of money, to be precise.
The contract, posted on Reddit (Warning: Link contains NSFW language) this week following its discovery by Indeed Wrestling's Chris Harrington, ran from May 1998 through May 2002 and offered Hogan generous bonuses, expansive control and unprecedented earning potential.
It's just the latest news on Hogan in recent months, all for reasons the former world champion would probably rather not talk about.
In July, WWE terminated its contract with Hogan after a recording surfaced of him making racist comments (h/t Rolling Stone). At the time, Hogan was part of WWE's resurrected Tough Enough reality series, acting as a judge along with Daniel Bryan and Paige.
To add insult to injury, the company where Hogan made his name began wiping said name and image from any and all promotional materials (h/t the Washington Post).
Plus, let's not forget that Hogan blamed Gawker for leaking the racist recordings, the same company Hogan is suing for $100 million over the 2012 release of a sex tape featuring the wrestling legend and the wife of radio personality "Bubba the Love Sponge Clem."
Suffice it to say, the revelation of a contract showing just how far the fall from grace has been for Hogan is the last thing the wrestling great needs to help repair his public image.
What follows are some of the more interesting facts about Hulk Hogan's 1998 contract with WCW.
5. WCW Wanted Hulk Hogan on Your Luggage
You'd expect sports entertainment companies such as WCW and WWE to try and corner the market on merchandise.
From toys to T-shirts, video games to trading cards, both WCW owner Ted Turner and WWE CEO Vince McMahon put their stars' faces on anything that could be sold. From the nWo to D-Generation X, kids scooped up everything they could.
The Hogan contract shows just how broad that merchandising reach was. Some of the more interesting items: rolling luggage, themed restaurants, convenience stores and cookie jars.
To get those merchandising rights, the companies were willing to pay Hogan a king's ransom.
The net receipts from any merchandise featuring Hogan's likeness were split 50-50 between WCW and Hogan. Items that featured Hogan along with other wrestlers also netted Hogan additional monies. The man even got a cool $20,000 a month for promoting the nWo while wrestling, during photo shoots and for television interviews.
Yes: Hulk Hogan got $20,000 a month for wearing his own merchandise.
4. Hogan's Creative-Control Clause
It's long been known, but to see it in black and white is quite remarkable.
Section 11, Paragraph E: "[Hogan] shall have approval over the outcome of all wrestling matches in which he appears, wrestles and performs, such approval not to be reasonably withheld."
Hulk Hogan answered to no man in WCW, whether he wrestled on TV, at house shows or during pay-per-views. This clause not only led to some of the most infamous booking decisions in pro wrestling history (Fingerpoke of Doom, anyone?), but it also became a major plot point in WCW programming at Bash at the Beach 2000—the event that would be Hogan's curtain call with the company.
The interesting thing is that for a man who held creative control, his televised match record wasn't so impressive.
According to ProFightDB, Hogan compiled a record of 18-17-9 from the start of his 1998 WCW contract until he left the company in 2000. Granted, many of those losses were via disqualification when the nWo disrupted matches.
It didn't matter to Hogan, though. Not only did he have control, he got paid a lot of money for all those matches. Hogan's contract paid him 25 percent of gross ticket revenues for every episode of Nitro and Thunder he appeared at and wrestled on, with a caveat that he be paid no less than $25,000 for each of those episodes.
3. Hulk Hogan's Autograph Was Worth a Cool $2 Million
That wasn't the entirety of Hulk Hogan's 1998 WCW contract, or even the performance bonuses The Hulkster could walk away with depending on TV ratings and ticket sales.
Nope, that's the amount of money WCW gave Hogan just for signing on the dotted line.
Hogan, the most recognizable figure in professional wrestling throughout the 1980s and 1990s, had decided to re-up with WCW after four years with the company. He was a known commodity, and WCW had been on a roll, beating WWF in the ratings.
But a $2 million signing bonus? That was nearly the same amount of money Hogan had earned the previous two years with the company, according to internal documents from WCW (h/t Harrington).
Today, of course, you can get Hogan's autograph for quite a bit less than $2 million.
2. Marvel Literally Owned Hulk Hogan
Another strange-but-true fact about Hulk Hogan: He didn't even own his own ring name until recent years.
According to Comic Book Resources, the dispute goes back to 1979 when Hogan made his debut with the WWF, wrestling under the name "The Incredible Hulk Hogan."
That didn't make the people at Marvel Comics happy. So Vince McMahon Sr. struck a deal with Marvel to license the Hulk name. That arrangement remained intact for the next 25 years, as any wrestling promotion that wanted to employ Hogan had to also deal with Marvel.
Hogan's 1998 contract with WCW explicitly stated in Section 10, Paragraph A, that the contract was contingent on getting this approval from Marvel.
The naming-rights issue caused plenty of headaches for all parties. Marvel even memorialized it on the pages of Marvel Comics Presents #45, a 1988 comic which featured Marvel's Incredible Hulk defending his name against wrestling's Hulk Hogan inside the squared circle.
In 2005, Hogan purchased the rights to the Hulk Hogan name from Marvel directly.
1. Hulk Hogan Might Have Earned Up to $16 Million from PPVs
Pay-per-view money is the big money in the wrestling world, and Hogan got a very large piece of that pie in the late 1990s. What makes this part of the contract interesting is that there is conflicting data regarding Hogan's actual compensation.
First, the WCW contract guaranteed Hogan a minimum of $675,000 for every pay-per-view Hogan appeared in. No matter what else happened, that money was Hogan's.
Between the start of the contract and the end of Hogan's run with WCW (2000), Hogan appeared in 15 pay-per-view events for WCW. Based on that number alone, Hogan should have walked away with at least $10.125 million in guaranteed money. No chump change there.
Second, Hogan's actual compensation was tied to cable sales of the events and buy rates. The contract states that the wrestling legend would receive 15 percent of WCW's pay-per-view revenues if that amount exceeded the minimum guarantee in the contract. Simply put: The more people bought the event, the more Hogan could make.
It's a complicated formula made more complicated by the fact that hard information on WCW's buy rates is fleeting. But Harrington's website, Indeed Wrestling, does provide estimated buy rates for these events.
Assuming WCW received half of PPV revenue—a traditional model that WWE has used with companies, according to The Motley Fool—and charged $29.95 (the going rate for WCW pay-per-views near the end of its tenure), Hogan might have walked away with another $4 million to $6 million in pay-per-view compensation.
That would mean WCW would have paid Hogan between $14 million and $16 million for being in the main event at WCW pay-per-views over the course of the contract.
Then there's the third part of this story, which makes things even more confusing. According to WCW payroll documents, Hogan never made anywhere near that kind of money.
The documents, released as part of a racial discrimination lawsuit filed against the wrestling promotion, show Hogan was on the payroll for approximately $9 million between 1998 and 2000. Compensation for merchandising and licensing rights are listed separately (h/t Harrington).
So who's to believe? In a March 2015 article on WWE wrestler pay, Forbes staff writer Chris Smith wrote, "The details of a wrestler’s pay are ultimately difficult to determine even with a copy of his contract and WWE’s public financial information."
Whatever the amount, Hogan walked out on the deal following WCW Bash at the Beach in 2000, laughing all the way to the bank.