Everyone Is Talking Contracts, So Let’s Get After It
With Brock Lesnar being in the WrestleMania 38 main event and Cody Rhodes signing with WWE in the past two weeks, everyone is talking about contracts and what can be put into them. Well, it’s like anything else in the world. You are what you negotiate. If you don’t get it in writing then technically no promotion has to give it to you.
There can be all kinds of ways to be paid by the WWE and many wrestlers used to be paid differently with different amounts and percentages. However, what we are going to be talking about is just a basic WWE contract and its different sections covering things such as merchandise, photographs and their images. Remember this is only WWE. It is based on what my sources have told me. It is not any other company though some told me that the basics are the basics.
First Section: Bookings
Well, we need to start with first things first. Every wrestler needs to grant the WWE rights to book them for events, ticketed programs and TV rights. This section starts it. Remember wrestlers are treated in the WWE as independent contractors. Independent contractors book themselves, but once granted those rights then WWE can do it. Publicity functions and events along with merchandise are negotiated by the WWE for the wrestler with any third parties. Endorsements, personal appearances and personal non-rights events are also part of this section. For instance, Cricket Wireless is a third party that WWE negotiated on behalf of the wrestlers.
Second Section: Programs
This section appears to be standard language just granting WWE rights to film and photograph footage of the wrestlers both in the ring and out plus backstage. It also allows them to use the footage however they choose to use it.
Third Section: Intellectual Property
This section entitles WWE to a wrestler’s name, likeness, character, personality, costume/gear, and gestures. This can include a wrestler’s legal name during the contract or if the WWE has a trademark on it. This is how your favorite released wrestler can still be a WWE video game or can’t use their name at a different promotion.
Fourth Section: Merchandise
Wrestlers grant WWE the right to use their intellectual property to sell merchandise exclusive to WWE. Fans question all the time why WWE wrestlers can’t design their own shirts for instance like other wrestlers do. Well this part of their contract says they can’t. Their image can be put on anything from coasters to rugs. Wrestlers have to negotiate their percentages that they get from their merchandise. In the older days, they may have gotten 2%–5% while some now may get 8% and up.
Fifth Section: Exclusivity
All rights gave to WWE are exclusive to the promoter. If the wrestler wants to use anything in this contract such as their name then they must be granted the right by written consent. Wrestlers also must reimburse WWE for administration costs for these separate projects, products or productions.
Sixth Section: Term and Territory
This is basically just the length of the contract. Like right now, Brock Lesnar and Dolph Zigglar only sign one year contracts, but both have signed longer ones in the past. John Cena once signed a 7 year contract. Also, some of the wrestlers have signed contracts that would lengthen based on certain measurements not being met. Fans hear this as time added.
Seventh Section: Payments and Royalties
Wrestlers get a base salary. This is their guarantee or sometimes called a downside. It runs from $50,000 and up. A lot of wrestlers in the past were paid less in salary for more of a percentage on merchandise. Some wrestlers have negotiated a percentage of the gate and merchandise sales. These can be called payoffs. Here’s why Nick Khan in the past couple years is wanting to lower some of these. When you hear average salaries you need to stop like you do in any sport. Remember Brock can make around 10–12 million while Roman is making 5 million, so the lower salaries are low to bring this down. Some WWE wrestlers do make less than $100,000. That’s hard for some fans to believe since they think of wrestlers as celebrities that make over a million, but not all do.
Well this is all I wanted to do today was just talk about what a standard contract looks like. Later we may talk about certain contracts like Becky Lynch getting William & Morris to negotiate her contract after talking to The Rock. She got perks in this last contract that most wrestlers don’t even think about. Will this be the future of wrestling contracts?
Let me know what you think or if you have any questions, comments, problems or protests. Write to me at ProWrestlingOT@gmail.com or on Twitter @ProOvertime I’ll talk to you soon and hopefully I’ll see you down the road.