WWE is the biggest wrestling promotion in the world. Led by the charge of Vince McMahon, the sport has produced superstars for decades. But great success comes with controversy, and not everything behind the scenes is as squeaky clean as it appears to audiences. These are all the backstage secrets that WWE would prefer you didn’t know.
Fake Crowd Noise Is Used
Always looking to add as much excitement to a match as it can, WWE regularly uses fake crowd noise to pump up the volume.
At various points, the promotion has even used this fake noise to drown out boos, making certain wrestlers seem more popular with the fans than they really are.
Talent Must Be On-Site, Whether They Perform Or Not
In the early days of WWE, wrestling talent wasn’t required to be backstage during shows if they weren’t scheduled to perform. At some point, Vince McMahon changed his mind, and now requires all his talent to be on-site.
In some cases, this makes sense, especially if someone needs to be replaced because of a last-minute injury. In other cases, it seems like an excessive ask.
Wrestlers Share Rooms To Save Money
One way wrestlers save money while on the road is by sharing hotels rooms. It might not sound glamorous, but it can be necessary if you are a new face in the promotion.
The minimum salary a lower card star can get paid is $76,000, so finding ways to spend less money on the road really is smart at the start.
Bullying Is An Issue
Even though WWE has tried in the last several years to be more family-friendly, one aspect of the old days the promotion has not been able to escape has been bullying.
One long-standing personality, John Layfield, is even rumored to have dug into fellow announcer Mauro Ranallo so much that he left the company.
Wrestlers Are Legally Considered “Independent Contractors”
Much how WWE prefers to save money on travel expenses, the promotion also likes to do the same with employee benefits. When a wrestler signs with the promotion, they sign on as an independent contractor.
The contract not only gives WWE exclusive rights to their talent but also makes it so that wrestlers have to pay for their own benefits.
WWE Doesn’t Cover All The Costs Of Travel
Working your way up in WWE requires wrestlers to pay out-of-pocket expenses for travel. The promotion will cover basic airfare fees, but most other expenses wrestlers have to cover themselves.
That means ground travel, meals, and hotels all come from money earned in the ring. Maybe this is why so many stars eventually try to transition to film acting once they’re big enough.
Most Of A Wrestler’s Week Is Spent On The Road
The life of a wrestler is grueling. As part of a traveling live show, a majority of a star’s schedule is on the road.
For some stars that means spending a minimum of four days a week on the road. For others that number can inflate to five or six. And don’t ask about overseas events and travel.
There Are Certain Words Announcers Cannot Use
WWE is Vince McMahon’s baby. From the bottom to the top, he has complete control over every aspect, including what kind of language announcers can use.
Known words that McMahon has banned include “DQ,” “belt,” “hospital,” and “talent.” And while we’re sure some of these words sneak in every now and then, McMahon is never happy when they do.
Not All Rivalries Are Faked
Most in-ring rivalries that fans watched are purely for entertainment value, but that doesn’t mean the two stars like each other in real life.
Batista and Booker T famously disagreed in real life, even getting into one major brawl backstage. The animosity they shared toward each other also made their fights in the ring even more intense.
McMahon Can Connect Announcers’ Earpieces
Making matters more frustrating for announcers is that Vince McMahon has a direct line into their earpieces. If they say or do something he doesn’t like, he doesn’t have to wait until after the show to yell at them.
Can you imagine being in the middle of a call and having to keep your composure while your boss yells at you directly in your ear?
Winners Get Paid More Despite Predetermined Outcomes
Normally, no one would bat an eye that a player who wins a match in a sport would get paid more than who they beat. But remember, WWE scripts its matches, meaning the winner is predetermined.
Still, the promotion argues that the winner of the matches should still get paid more because they are “contributing” more to the company’s success.
Undercard Wrestlers Struggle To Get By
Making it to the WWE as a main event wrestler guarantees a minimum yearly salary of $100,000, which sounds like plenty of money to live off – until you add in everything the promotion makes you pay for yourself.
After travel, food, and gear come out of your paycheck, you then have to remember to set money aside for taxes as an independent contractor.
Wrestlers Get Charged For Out Of Promotion Projects
Any talent still under contract with WWE when they begin their career in Hollywood has to pay a portion of their paychecks back to the promotion.
As independent contractors, their extra work means they are taking time, and therefore profits, away from the promotion. WWE gets a percentage of their salaries to make up for that.
Questionable Behavior Isn’t Always… Questioned
Famous names from WWE’s past unsurprisingly haven’t always been the best behaved. From the well-known exploits of the Fabulous Moolah to the history of off-color comments of the Ultimate Warrior, sometimes it’s easier for the promotion to look the other way.
In recent years, the promotion has been more sensitive about social issues but has still maintained celebrating the legacies of some of its more questionable former stars.
Performance Enhancing Policies Vary From Wrestler To Wrestler
Not every talent under contract with WWE is treated equally. That is especially true when it comes to the promotion’s performance-enhancing substance policies.
Most notably Brock Lesnar at one point was suspended from UFC while being allowed to continue with WWE after testing positive. The promotion said that he was exempt from suspension because he was only a “part-time” employee.
The Ladies Of WWE Get Paid Less Than Their Male Counterparts
To say there is a pay gap in WWE between its female and male talent is an understatement. Public filings by the company showed that the top women in the promotion top out around $500,000 a year.
Now compare that to the top male talent in the company, who earn millions yearly.
Backstage Politics Will Get You Fired
Just like any job, if you rub your coworkers the wrong way in WWE, it could cost you your contract. Getting the boot is even more likely if you get on the bad side of the promotion’s biggest stars.
One famous example is Ken Anderson. He was a wrestler on the rise when he became a real-life pest to both John Cena and Randy Orton.
Stay Injured Too Long And You’ll Get Cut Without Compensation
Another cost-cutting tactic by WWE comes in the form of injury clauses – which are typically not included in wrestler’s contracts. Get injured in the ring, and the promotion will pay for your surgery and rehab, of course.
If you can’t return to the ring in six weeks, though, WWE can cut you loose, no strings attached (unless you’re one of the bigger stars, like Triple H).
Dawn Marie Was Fired After Filing For Maternity Leave
In 2005, WWE crossed a line with fans when the promotion released Dawn Marie from her contract after she filed for maternity leave. She was one of their most popular talents at the time.
Marie sued WWE for wrongful termination, and in 2007, the two sides settled for an undisclosed amount of money out of court.
They Don’t Take Holidays Off
The entertainment industry is unique in that schedules can conflict with holidays. If WWE needs a wrestler to work on Christmas, that is exactly what’s going to happen – no exceptions.
Those who do have to show up for Christmas are welcomed with a backstage party, and it’s the one time of year hotel and travel are all paid for.