Wrestling INC. President Raj Giri was recently a guest on Ryback’s podcast, Conversation with the Big Guy. During this interview, Ryback spoke about pay issues within WWE.
One area where many expect WWE Superstars to make money is through merchandise. Ryback noted that the split that performers receive is horrible.
“The numbers are in the contract and the numbers are completely screwed up, the numbers are horrible,” said Ryback. “Now, outside of someone like Brock that negotiated a better deal and owns his name, trademarks, different things and was able to negotiate a better deal, 90 percent of the talent does not have the power to negotiate a better deal. And, they keep them in a position where they don’t have any negotiating power. If you do question your percentages, they will just pick someone else.
“The thing is a $30 t-shirt they are selling, you’re making a dollar or under a dollar a shirt, somewhere in that vicinity. Wrestlers, as independent contractors should be able to negotiate. WWE will say anyone can negotiate, I can tell you first hand that if you do that, you’re not going to make any money and you’re not going to be used. So, everybody signs the contract and just goes along with it because that is what everyone else has done.”
Besides the alleged lack of negotiating power, WWE talent are also required to pay for hotel rooms and rental cars, unless they are a part of the NXT roster or have recently been called up.
“One of the reasons they say they do that is to ease the expenses of the new talent, to get them adjusted to life on the road,” Ryback stated. “It’s kind of a way to trick your talent. It’s not just NXT, that has been around for a long time. When we came up in Nexus we all had that. When I came back as Ryback, I didn’t have that. It’s a way to not show talent the evil side of what their expenses are going to be. Then when they renegotiate a contract, the talent doesn’t have an idea how much that money is going to be and what that is going to cost them. So, they don’t negotiate for a higher contract. They Just look and go ‘Woah, I’m making this right now and I’m going to get $60 thousand more.’ That $60 thousand is going to go to your expenses. There is always a rhyme and a reason to everything they do there and that is one of them.”
Recent main roster addition Lars Sullivan found out first-hand that actions have consequences. Sullivan was fined $100 thousand for past racially insensitive comments on social media. Ryback sees ulterior motives behind the fine.
“You cannot condone that behavior. But WWE was aware of that behavior beforehand,” said Ryback. “Here is why I tell people raising awareness is so key with their sponsors. Because they will listen to sponsors and TV networks. They were aware of the comments beforehand. But they were like ‘Oh, we can make money off this guy’ but now they are getting a little bit of backlash to do something extreme.
“It is unfortunate for Lars, I’m not defending him at all. He probably shouldn’t even be there with everything going on mentally and how that place is, WWE that’s great you’re going to fine him, but that money best not be going back to the WWE. I would publicly like to see them pick a charity, maybe something in a mental health capacity, social media behavior, something that will benefit other people from him learning this lesson, rather than them just keeping this money. I do not know if they have made mention of that or not. But I would hope as a company, if you fine this talent, you sure as hell do something good with the money.”
Yet another way WWE Superstars have seen a decrease in pay is through reduction of pay-per-view bonuses or points. Because of the network, the breakdown for pay from big events is not made available to the talents.
“They held a meeting for that (when the network first started) and pay went down drastically,” Ryback admitted. “Eventually, it went back up but we were told payouts were going to be based of previous years pay-per-views or previous years. Those numbers were not made available to the talent. You were not given any numbers to reference it off, you have no idea what the network is doing. It is something I brought up as well.”
WrestleMania is usually the biggest payday of the year for WWE talents. However, that pay change change drastically over a year.
“My first WrestleMania against Mark Henry I was paid $70-$74 thousand range, which by far was my highest payday for a single wrestling match,” Ryback said. “I just remember I was in the main event right off the bat and my paydays were, what I considered anyway, to be great. But, I had nothing to compare it to. The next year in the tag with RybAxel (first WrestleMania on the network) I believe I made $35 thousand, it was my lowest pay-per-view pay of the year and I was never told why.”
Giri’s conversation with Ryback on Conversations with The Big Guy was included in today’s episode of our WINCLY podcast. The full audio can be heard via the embedded player at the bottom of this post. In it Ryback discusses on why things might change for WWE talent when Triple H takes over from Vince McMahon, wrestlers not having benefits and more.