#10 – Mick Foley (Net Worth: $15 Million)
On a list of wrestlers who have taken the most abuse, Mick Foley would probably be at the top of the list. Having lost part of an ear and several teeth, Mick Foley has put his body through the wringer. Foley spent time wrestling all over the world, but his most notable run came when he was in the WWE. Foley had three different characters within the company, playing Mankind, Cactus Jack, and Dude Love.
Foley was a fan favorite because of his likeable appeal, even if he didn’t have the look of many other wrestlers of the period. The “Hardcore Legend” is still busy these days, but not in wrestling; he is working in the stand-up comedy circuit and an accomplished author. Foley has had a couple of best-selling children’s books that have netted him a fortune, proving you can’t really judge a book by its cover.
#9 – “The Undertaker” Mark Calaway (Net Worth: $16 Million)
Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, pro wrestlers were given gimmicks of people that had everyday jobs; there was a dentist, a barber, a trash man, and even a worker with the Internal Revenue Service. One of the gimmicks of the “glory” days of wrestling was that of “The Undertaker,” the mysterious giant that didn’t talk and popped out of tombstones with a blank, intimidating gaze; a far cry from the boring and morbid reality of the actual occupation.
Calaway has been in the WWE ever since 1990, all under the same name, but his gimmick changed a couple of times during his career including coming back to life (did we mention he was considered dead?), and then “dying” again: the epitome of realism. You don’t see the 50 year old wrestle much these days, but Calaway has been making annual appearances at Wrestlemania, where he had a streak of 21 wins at the event before losing to Brock Lesnar in an unforgettable Wrestlemania moment.
#8 – Shawn Michaels (Net Worth: $17 Million)
Shawn Michaels was born Michael Shawn Hickenbottom, but it was rearranged to better fit a wrestling persona. Michaels made his debut in the WWE all the way back in 1987 when he was just 21 years old, becoming a part of the Rockers tag team with Marty Jannetty. During the down years in between the Hulk Hogan era and the Attitude Era, Michaels was a headliner bringing in a fortune for himself and the company.
To prevent Michaels from defecting over to the WCW like other top wrestlers in WWE at the time, Vince McMahon gave Shawn Michaels a sizable monetary incentive to stick around. Michaels still works with the company in a small capacity, but he has not been involved in a singles match since he was defeated by the Undertaker at Wrestlemania. Only time will tell if he will bring sexy back to the WWE
#7 – Chris Jericho (Net Worth: $18 Million)
Chris Jericho (who was born as Chris Irvine) is the only wrestler on our list from the Great White North of Canada. Jericho became a big name during his WCW days as a solid wrestler and an incredibly entertaining microphone personality. Jericho hopped over to the WWE before the walls of WCW were broken down and was immediately thrust into the main event.
Jericho was one of the few wrestlers that found long term success after coming over from the WCW, and is still making appearances for the company. Jericho also has a successful autobiography to his name, and is the lead singer of the internationally successful rock band Fozzy. You can also listen to his podcast each week, which has been quite successful thanks to substantial revenue from advertisers. Maybe someday Jericho will actually buy a decent haircut.
#6 – “Big Show” Paul Wight (Net Worth: $20 Million)
These days, you can hear chants of “Please retire!” being hurled from the crowd towards the 43 year old Paul Wight, but the giant probably can’t hear you all the way down there; if you were making as much money as he was, you probably wouldn’t give any hecklers a second thought anyway. Wight was known as “The Giant” during his days with the WCW, but Vince McMahon changed it when he came to the WWE, as not to confuse him with Andre the Giant.
Wight became “The Big Show” upon his WWE debut and was dubbed the largest athlete in the world. Wight has had a long run in wrestling, with a career that has spanned 20 years. Wight has also been involved with a few movies and television productions to help him earn extra fame and fortune, and he’s been pretty frugal with his money, but never his appetite.
#5 – Kurt Angle (Net Worth: $20 Million)
The only professional wrestler involved in actual wrestling after college in his career, is Kurt Angle. Angle won gold at the 1996 Olympics in heavyweight wrestling “with a broken freakin’ neck,” and he is sure to let everyone know about that. Angle then got into pro wrestling, where he went fairly unnoticed in ECW and the NWA before being signed in 1998 by the WWE.
Angle debuted with the company the next year after training and quickly got a big push from the writers as an American hero that preached the three I’s of “Intensity, Integrity and Intelligence.” Angle also played a heel (bad guy), which was ironic considering his finisher was a modified ankle lock, character that was very memorable before shipping off to TNA and becoming the highest paid wrestler with their company. You still suck, though, Kurt.
#4 – “Triple H” Paul Levesque (Net Worth: $25 Million)
It’s hard to believe the guy that debuted more than 20 years ago with an awful name like “Terra Ryzing,” would still be a big time name in the WWE. Levesque worked with the WCW for a brief time before coming back to the WWE with another gimmick of Hunter Hearst Helmsley, a blueblood New Englander who looked down on the fans.
Thankfully, Levesque’s character was repackaged into the “Cerebral Assassin” known as Triple H, and he ended up meeting the love of his life, who just happened to be the boss’s daughter, Stephanie McMahon; the two have been married for over a decade, and Triple H is now the COO of the company with a salary of $1.5 million per year. Triple H went from “terrorizing,” to assassinating, to corporate America: the natural pedigree of a businessman.
#3 – John Cena (Net Worth: $35 Million)
The biggest name in wrestling right now is the current United States Champion, John Cena. Cena debuted in the WWE in 2002 in a singles match against Kurt Angle, in which he nearly won. Cena became a fan favorite and adopted the gimmick of a white rapper who would trash talk his opponents before going toe-to-toe with them in a clear homage to Muhammad Ali.
#2 – “Stone Cold” Steve Austin (Net Worth: $45 Million)
John Cena might be the franchise player now in the WWE, but he’s not even close to the amount of popularity that “Stone Cold” Steve Austin had as the main man with the company. Austin bounced around for a while between different wrestling organizations before his “Stone Cold” gimmick caught on like wildfire after the 1997 King of the Ring Tournament.
Austin has been working as an actor for nearly 20 years in addition to his wrestling career, and also hosts television shows for multiple networks. Austin also has the most successful podcast in sports right now, conducting hard hitting interviews with the biggest names in wrestling. From Austin 3:16 to the iconic phrase, “Hell Yeah!,” Austin created an incredibly marketable persona and the amount of merchandise that Austin was able to sell in the late 1990s was ridiculous, and he’s still banking off his image to this day
And #1 is…
You probably weren’t very surprised to see that the richest wrestler in history is also one of the highest grossing actors in Hollywood of the last decade. Johnson’s father was a professional wrestler, so he got a fast track to the WWE once his football playing days at the University of Miami were finished. Johnson started off wrestling with an unpopular Hawaiian gimmick that never caught on, but when he became a trash talking member of “The Nation of Domination,” he had captured the people’s attention and the “most electrifying superstar” was born.
Johnson then turned face (good guy character), and became “The People’s Champion.” His catchphrases and mannerisms transcended into mainstream culture, so Johnson gave up wrestling full-time to pursue his acting career, in a decision that has created a Hollywood icon and made “The Rock” very wealthy. Johnson still comes back to the WWE from time to time, and has fought John Cena in two recent Wrestlemania matches. At this rate, Johnson has a long way to fall before he ever hits rock bottom, and he would probably land on a pile of cash, anyway.