In the latest edition of The Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer posted some numbers Jesse Ventura’s lawsuit against the WWE and discovered some major differences in how announcers were paid during the late-1980s and early-1990s.
Ventura transitioned to becoming a color commentator after he retired from wrestling. He was the first real “heel” commentator in a time where most announcers, including Vince McMahon, had openly favored the babyfaces. Despite his popularity, Ventura wasn’t paid as much as other WWE personalities.
As an announcer, Jesse Ventura earned $133,317 in 1987, $142,902 in 1988, $181,914 in 1989 and $128,468 in 1990. Once Ventura started working for WCW, he was at the $300,000 a year level.
Gorilla Monsoon earned $262,712 in 1987, $228,800 in 1988, $231,611 in 1989 and $231,611 in 1990, but his deal included his front office duties as well as prelim money from all house shows.
Another popular commentator was the recently-deceased Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, who performed as a manager as well. But Heenan’s double-duty didn’t really create a bump in his pay as he earned less than Monsoon in 1987 and 1988.
Bobby Heenan made $195,864 in 1987, $206,590 in 1988, $235,755 in 1989 and $240,000 in 1990. Heenan’s deal was for both managing and announcing. He signed a contract with a $275,000 guarantee starting in 1991.
The announcer who earned the most during that time was “Mean” Gene Okerlund, who routinely traveled more than the other commentators. Okerlund’s popularity also continued rising thanks to his interactions with Hulk Hogan. Okerlund earned $367,923 in 1987, $324,975 in 1988, $309,639 in 1989 and $330,539 in 1990. Meltzer noted that he earned more because of the guarantee he received when he jumped to WWE with Hulk Hogan in 1983, as well as because he would travel a lot more than the other announcers other than Heenan because he would be on the road each week to do localized market interviews with talent.
Source: Wrestling Observer Newsletter
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