Whenever Superstars make the transition from NXT to the main roster, a new contract usually accompanies them. That was the case recently for the members of Retribution (minus Mustafa Ali) as every other member of the group signed new deals worth $250,000 a year over three years.
On the surface, that is a huge increase for a wrestler who was promoted from NXT. But Ryback explained why there are more costs associated with being on the main roster on “Ryback TV Shooting Blanks Wrestling Report With Raj Giri.“
“The formula was if you were in development before you were traveling all the time, they would pay for your hotel and rental car for the first maybe three to six months so you don’t get an idea of the expenses. So, you really don’t understand how the road expenses are,” said Ryback. “Then, what they would do is offer you a new deal in that period. A lot of times, it was $150,000. It went up to $250 [thousand], somewhere in that range.
“What guys don’t realize, though, is they look at money and go, ‘Oh my God, that’s more than I make doing this.’ They sign that and then, they start paying for their hotels and rental cars. That’s why you see everybody riding together. It’s because they can’t afford to get their own.
“That money doesn’t go as nearly as far, but now, if you’re not traveling and you don’t have the rental cars and hotels five nights a week, your road expenses, food, and airports go down tremendously. So, you can stretch that money out a little better, but it’s not… you can make more than that in regular jobs.”
Ryback spent a couple of years in WWE’s developmental territories before his six-year stint on the main roster. He was asked how many times he renewed his contract while in WWE.
“Well, I always did three-year deals. It was Nexus as well and I was on developmental, still, with Nexus. I stayed on that one with my injury. They just kept me on that, where I went in a hole and I owed them all this money. When I came back, they weren’t paying me,” revealed Ryback. I was working off the money I was paid when I was injured for a year-and-a-half.
“Then, we re-did the contract as Ryback once, and then, two was when I walked out. That was for another three-year deal on that, but I’ve signed multiple contracts over the years because of developmental or the two different stints in developmental. So, I think there have been four or five in total. Maybe four and then, the fifth one was where I turned it down and walked out.”
WWE Superstars may be contractors and not employees, but they do get the benefit of raises as their tenure builds within the company. Ryback was asked if the downside on his contract increased over time and he said it did, but WWE also used a negotiating strategy by putting a title on him when it came time to renew his deal.
“Yeah, that was where I walked out on. They put the IC Title on me and literally, that week, brought me in to negotiate my contract. Literally, they do things for a reason. The money was super low. I think it was a $50,000 a year raise from what I was already at,” stated Ryback.
“We went back and forth on figures and whatever it was ? it ended up being $1.65 million for three years. That wasn’t horrible, but I wanted way more still. That was when they wanted to sign over everything I already trademarked. I said no because I knew what I was getting already and I wanted to do the supplements and the feedmemore.com. That’s where I quit talking and walked out.”
Beyond whatever amount a Superstar signs for, there are opportunities to earn more through merchandise sales and video games. Ryback discussed how that works and how WWE takes advantage of talent with their system.
“All kind of lines with that. The guys that out-earn it are usually the guys that were on the pay-per-views every month. That’s where you start out-earning that, but the problem is if you’re not on your money? the problem is they got everybody pigeonholed there. If you try to negotiate, you’re deemed an a**hole. In no other industry this happens. If you say, ‘I need this amount’, they push you aside and if you speak up too soon, they go, ‘We’ll just plug this guy in’ because it’s all about the brand,” stated Ryback.
“From a business standpoint, it’s great. You got the system now, but you’re treating the people who made the system that way not good. That’s not allowed for making megastars.”
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Shooting Blanks Wrestling Report with Ryback and Raj Giri with a h/t to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.
Mehdy Labriny contributed to this article.