Sami Zayn has had a huge 2023 so far, having taken on Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship as well as winning the Undisputed Tag Team Championships in the Night One main event of WrestleMania 39 alongside Kevin Owens.
However, long before joining WWE, Zayn was one of the top stars on the independent scene in the US. During an appearance on Whisky Ginger, Zayn explained how he worked his way up in terms of the paydays he was receiving.
“I used to write down all the money I would make. It wasn’t like a book-keeping, for tax purposes type thing. It was just, ‘I did this match on this date for this company and I got paid (this much).’
“I remember then that pay went from $20 to $50. ‘Woah.’ The first time I got offered $100, I was like, ‘I’m getting $100 to go to the States? To wrestle?!?!?’
“The first year, I think it was 2008, I’m six years into the business, and I’m making $20,000 a year. ‘That’s it. I don’t need another job. This is my living now.’
“I’ve been very lucky in a lot of ways. 20, 30, 40 the next year. Over time, it’s just gone up, which is great. It continues to go up, thankfully.”
Sami Zayn took a massive pay cut when he joined WWE
After a decade on the indy scene, Zayn signed with WWE in 2013, despite the move coming with a high financial price in the short term. While he made $100,000 in the year before he signed, his developmental contract was for less than half that at $39,000.
“When I signed for WWE, I actually took a pay cut. You’re signing for WWE, it’s like the opportunity to make money, in a sense. I think my last year on the independents, I’m throwing all these numbers out willy nilly, but whatever.
“I think it was, at the time, right after I left the independents, the independents kind of blew up where guys are suddenly making six figures who are just starting to make good names for themselves.
“There was a big Indie Boom right after I left. I think my last year on the independents, I made somewhere around $100,000. I signed my first WWE contract for $39,000.”
Zayn explained that he knew he would need to “take it on the chin” because in the longer term he would make it up.
“It’s developmental now, but eventually, you’ll make good money, which is what happened. I wasn’t too near-sighted about it, thinking, ‘Oh, I’m worth so much more.’ You kind of understand when to take it on the chin and when you’ll make it up.
“All this to say, I got pretty lucky in wrestling, even when I signed with WWE, even though I had already been working for ten or 11 years, they put me through the developmental program, and I did very well, very quickly.
“Within about eight months, which was unheard of at the time because they usually take two or three years before they start sending you to do stuff. Within about eight months, they started sending me on the road to do road loops.
“At that point, maybe it is 50 grand a year. That first check came in for that road loop, it was like six or seven grand. I had this lightbulb moment, ‘Oh my God, that’s right, I’m here to make money.’
“I know it sounds cliche, ‘when you enjoy what you do, you never work a day in your life.’ Money is not why I do it. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy having it versus not having it.”
Zayn’s feud with The Bloodline continued at Backlash as he and Owens teamed up with Matt Riddle to take on The Usos and Solo Sikoa.
Tensions within The Bloodline erupted and saw Sikoa tempted to attack Jey Uso. however, he came to his senses and downed Riddle with a Samoan Spike to take the victory instead.
H/T to Fightful for the above transcription.