Celebrity guest appearances. Hefty wrestler salaries. An M&A deal with a rival promotion. A state-of-the-art training facility.
Those are just some of the things that cost World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. WWE less — and in some cases a lot less — than the sum of money that the company's longtime honcho, Vince McMahon, allegedly paid women to keep allegations of sexual misconduct a secret.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, McMahon spent more than $12 million in exchange for the silence of four former WWE employees.
In one claim, McMahon, 76, allegedly coerced a woman into performing oral sex. He subsequently fired her after she rejected further advances and paid her $7.5 million as part of a nondisclosure agreement.
In another case, McMahon paid $3 million to a former female employee with whom he allegedly had an affair. Another former WWE contractor received roughly $1 million; McMahon sent the woman unsolicited nude photos and allegedly sexually harassed her in the workplace.
For a breakdown of the allegations, see: WWE CEO Paid $12M In Hush Money To Former Female Employees
An internal investigation began last month, and McMahon — who in past WWE storyline has dubbed himself "the Genetic Jackhammer" — announced that he would step down as chairman and CEO of the company (although it’s been reported that this is actually a front).
While this story develops, we thought we'd put into perspective just how far all that hush money could've gone in the world of sports entertainment. Here's a list of 10 WWE-related things that were far less expensive than the total cost of McMahon's creepy behavior:
10. Cena's 2022 salary
Make-A-Wish Foundation record-holder John Cena is arguably the most popular and beloved WWE superstar of all time. He's also a busy movie star. So, his annual pay is money well spent for WWE. According to The Mirror, Cena earned $8.5 million from WWE last year. That's 29% less than what McMahon paid in exchange for women's silence.
9. Trump vs. McMahon in The Battle of the Billionaires
Former U.S. President Donald Trump pulled in $4 million for his WrestleMania program in 2007, which included a hair vs. hair match against McMahon. The fee reportedly went entirely to Trump's charity, the "Donald J. Trump Foundation," which was later dissolved due to what New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood called a "shocking pattern of illegality."
8. The Gate At WrestleMania X8
The 2002 event had a record-breaking Toronto SkyDome attendance of more than 68,000 attendees. It generated a huge $3.9 million in gate receipts. The main event featured Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) facing off against a returning Hulk Hogan.
7. Iron Mike's Guest Appearance At WrestleMania
WWE tapped boxing champion Mike Tyson — one of the most popular athletes on the planet in 1998 — to appear as a "guest enforcer" at WrestleMania XIV for roughly $3.5 million. This was a big deal for the promotion at the time, earning WWE plenty of mainstream attention. McMahon had done a similar booking at the very first WrestleMania in 1985, when guest Muhammad Ali showed up and, like Tyson, took a heel wrestler down with a knockout punch.
6. Buying Out Rival WCW
World Championship Wrestling (WCW) was a promotion started by billionaire Ted Turner. There was a time when the company's Monday night flagship show ran opposite WWE's Monday night show, and consistently bested McMahon in ratings. Fears of being put out of business lingered until WCW ultimately tanked due to mismanagement. With just $2.5 million, McMahon had taken over his greatest rival in 2001.
5. The WWE Performance Center
The $3.5 million facility in Orlando, Florida spans 26,000 square feet. The massive project was spearheaded by McMahon's son-in-law, WWE executive vice president Paul Levesque (the wrestler Triple H). It's where all of WWE's up-and-coming stars train before being elevated to live TV. The center also served as a venue for WWE to continue airing shows when U.S. arenas were shut down due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
4. Money Mayweather's Guest Appearance
Floyd Mayweather, like Tyson and Ali, also spent time in a WWE ring. The undefeated boxing champion appeared at a WrestleMania event in a match against the "Big Show" Paul Wight, and earned $2 million-plus for the effort.
3. Proceeds to Susan G. Komen in 2012
In 2012, the Susan G. Komen organization and WWE launched a partnership. Each October since then, the WWE generates awareness and funds for the fight against breast cancer. In that first year, the partnership generated nearly $1 million in charitable proceeds. McMahon spent more than 12 times that amount to cover up his alleged misconduct against women.
2. André the Giant's WrestleMania III Bonus.
The peak of the 1980s wrestling boom came when Hulk Hogan clashed with André the Giant at the Pontiac Silverdome in 1987. In order for this to take place, André, who was afflicted with acromegaly, would have to alleviate his excruciating back pain with a high-risk surgery, which — according to McMahon — the late wrestler didn't want to do. McMahon convinced him to have the surgery and, in return, paid him and Hogan $750,000 each. But McMahon paid André an additional $250,000 for his troubles in headlining the event, which was billed as the "biggest" in sports-entertainment history.
1. WWE Ice Cream Bars.
Perhaps one of the more priceless things WWE fans enjoyed over the years was the company's brand of ice cream bars. These were simply vanilla ice cream, sandwiched between a layer of solid chocolate and a cookie, all held together on a stick. Each cookie featured a design of one of the company's biggest stars. These days, the latest iteration is a Good Humor bar featuring the likeness of today's stars (i.e. Roman Reigns). But fans have been petitioning for a revival of the original version of yesteryear, which sold for about $3.00 each off ice cream trucks.
Editor's note: Benzinga did not adjust the dollar amounts for inflation.
Photo of Vince McMahon courtesy of the official Mr. McMahon Facebook page.
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