A few days ago, the wrestling world was noticeably agasp when they heard Randy Orton was in talks with All Elite Wrestling about jumping to them when his WWE deal expired. No one could understand why he’d talk to them when he’s been synonymous with World Wrestling Entertainment.
He’s a WWE legacy as well, with a WWE Hall of Fame father in “Cowboy” Bob Orton. He’s been around WWE for his entire life. To go to AEW would be insane, right? Well, not exactly. In fact, if Randy Orton was in talks with All Elite Wrestling, it would be smart of him.
Most could not understand it, but it makes sense at the end of the day. The reasons for this are numerous, but the biggest is due to how WWE has treated Orton monetarily. Over the years, Orton has not made the type of money other stars in the company have made.
In fact, out of all the top stars of the previous era, Orton has made less per year than every single one of them. The reason for this had to do with his unlucky timing of deal signing.
The WWE Contracts Randy Orton Has Signed Have Not Been Great
Brock Lesnar notably makes around $5 million a year to be available for what amounts to 3 weeks’ worth of dates spread out through the year. John Cena has been making around $10 million per year before his movie deals were factored in. Then you have Triple H who has a $3 million per year talent contract, and now makes good money as an executive in the company.
This is not including what Chris Jericho, Batista, The Undertaker, Edge, and various others made per year. Nor does it include the money they made on their merchandise or outside WWE ventures.
No one is saying that these men didn’t deserve the money they made. However, Randy Orton more than most has not been paid on the same level. The reason truly is a timing issue.
Years ago, Randy Orton signed a 10-year deal with WWE. Very few people ever sign deals this long. To some, this seemed like great job security with Orton guaranteed to be paid for the next 10 years. They’d even have to buy him out of they wanted to release him,
The money he made wasn’t bad either. At the time, it was among the better per year numbers. It has been reported that it was around $1.5 million before his merchandise cut or bonuses were factored in. Though the exact amount was debated.
This is technically not bad money, however, there is a reason people don’t often sign 10-year deals regardless of their age. All you have to do is look at the world of sports to see why this is such an idiotic thing to do.
Talent Must Factor-In Inflation And Success, But Randy Orton Didn’t
One of the most common things discussed in the world of sports has to do with something called the “collective bargaining agreement.” Unlike in WWE or in professional wrestling period, most professional leagues have a “players association” of some type.
Basically, they have something known as a “union.” These unions are formed to make sure athletes are treated fairly. In the world of Major League Baseball, they even have an option for arbitration from an outside agency to settle issues with owners and athletes regarding contracts.
Unions have also been incredibly useful in getting the salary cap to increase. The CBA in the NBA, for instance, managed to get an increase. This allowed basketball players to make stupidly high money. Steph Curry, for one, was offered a 5-year extension worth over $200 Million.
The MLB, NHL, and NFL also increased their salary cap over the years too.
Why is this a part of Randy Orton’s struggle? Well, first off, WWE does not have a Player’s Association or a Wrestler’s Association. They have no one fighting for the wrestlers to make more money other than their agents if they even have one.
When Orton signed a 10-year deal, he did not factor in WWE’s television money or the other success they had. Most sign 2 or 3-year deals at the most. The reason they do it is because they can get more per year once that last year expires.
This might be due to their popularity gaining, as well as WWE’s normal concept of offering more per year to people with each continued contract.
Orton did not factor in television contracts, which are normally signed for 5 years. WWE increased its TV revenue with each deal they signed. Essentially, Randy Orton missed out on all of these increases per year.
It’s Likely Worse When It Happens Twice
When Randy Orton’s deal finally came up a few years back, he wanted to be sure to get his money. However, he also wanted to get a better schedule. Orton has one of the best and most sought after road schedules for veterans in the WWE today in fact.
Even the likes of AJ Styles, who has earned more money per year for sure, wants to get the “Randy Orton schedule” as it’s come to be called in WWE.
Orton even bought a bus with his big new deal. This allowed travel across the mainland United States much easier. Orton would still work the big tours in The United Kingdom, Mexico, and throughout Europe among other places.
Randy Orton would be around a lot, so he’d essentially be the most full-time part-timer in the WWE. Obviously, Orton is still young enough to handle a big full-time schedule. However, with all of his injuries in his career on top of the fact he’s spent over 15 years in the business, he earned a lighter schedule.
Yet when he signed this great new deal years ago, there wasn’t an All Elite Wrestling and WWE had not signed their big TV contract.
For those unaware, WWE made a lot of money on their new American TV deals. WWE RAW will stay on USA Network, with WWE making more money than they did with both WWE RAW and WWE SmackDown Live both on NBC Universal networks.
The big deal came with FOX who offered over $200 million per year over the next 5 years starting in October of 2019. WWE’s new deal with NBCU just went into effect this month, meaning they have more money to offer. This on top of WWE stock being at the highest it has ever been since going public nearly 20 years ago.
This led to Orton eventually deciding not to finish out his 10-year deal. He ended up re-signing a deal with WWE that restarted his contract. By 2017, he had signed a new contract.
Randy Orton made his new contract before those TV deals were announced. While he was paid a lot more and has a much better schedule, his deal would be much higher had he negotiated now. Interestingly, his new deal expires in 2020.
Randy Orton Will Not Be Screwed Over A Third Time
They say the third time is the charm, and Randy Orton is trying to make it a reality. His current deal is up next year, but it’s uncertain a beaten-up Orton could get paid what he feels he’s worth.
Unlike some of the other highest paid workers, Orton has a major issue: he has a lot of kids.
When Randy Orton had his first daughter, it was a game changer for him and his life. While the marriage to her mother did not work out, Orton has taken care of her as best one could. Orton eventually decided to move on and remarry, but she came with a lot of kids of her own.
Orton then had another child with his new wife. However, this only created another mouth to feed. Overall, he has five children. Two are his and the others are his step-children. He seems to love them as much as the others, which is good to see.
Orton obviously wants to make as much money as he can now because he does not know how long he’ll be able to wrestle. He’s trying to stay healthy with the bus, but there is no guarantee he’ll be able to wrestle well into his 40s, nor does it seem he wants to.
By using a red herring to sort of put the rumor out of an AEW contract negotiation, he’ll force WWE to take this seriously. While officials for AEW have claimed they are not talking with Orton due to his deal with WWE still having well over a year left, that doesn’t matter.
It’s the prospect that he could, in theory, jump to All Elite Wrestling if they offered him a lot of money. Randy Orton is first and foremost a businessman here. He knows he can play both companies against each other eventually, allowing him to make more money in the end.
If it results in Randy getting the money, he feels he deserves, and enough for him and his family to live comfortably when he’s retired, that is a big deal for him.
Why is Randy Orton part of rumors regarding AEW? Because he or his agent likely put them out there to force the hand of WWE to offer him insanely high money. Maybe he’ll finally get the money he so richly deserved years ago.