Former WWE Superstar, Ryback, has detailed the negotiation policy of World Wrestling Entertainment when a talent’s contract is set to expire.
It’s common knowledge that WWE will offer a roster member more money both when they’re promoted from NXT to the main roster and when they’re main roster deal is set to expire – as long as it’s someone they’re interested in keeping – in order to tie them down to the company long-term.
Now, the controversial Ryback has taken to the specially titled ‘Ryback TV Shooting Blanks Wrestling Report With Raj Giri’ to talk about the type of negotiations a WWE performer enters when they’re plucked from the black and gold brand and then again when their contract is set to expire:
“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. 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 $250,000 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.”
Beginning life as Skip Sheffield in Nexus before being re-branded as the hungry Ryback on WWE’s main roster, ‘The Big Guy’ talked about how many contracts he was offered during his time with the company:
“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. 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.
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. 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.”
Finally, the former WWE Intercontinental Champion talked about how royalties from other media, such as wrestling video games and merchandise sales worked:
“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.
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.”
While only a mid-card talent, Ryback’s release from WWE made headlines when the talent was said to have been sent home from the company in May 2016 over what, at the time, was described as a contractual dispute when he failed to compete in a Battle Royal that he had been advertised for.
Despite the talent stating that he had chosen to walk away due to the lack of equal pay, WWE officially released the star in August 2016 even though Ryback himself had prematurely announced his departure three days earlier.
Credit for the interview: Shooting Blanks Wrestling Report with Ryback and Raj Giri
h/t for the transcription: Wrestling Inc.