WWE has gone through many periods in the company’s history. They have offered big contracts before and there was a time when the roster was loaded with $1 million contracts. Jim Ross remembers that time very well.
While taking a trip down memory lane on Grilling JR, the WWE Hall of Famer discussed the process of bringing in a guy like Chris Jericho. The roster was a much different place at that time and they had multiple $1 million contracts going to younger guys.
“It was secret only from the standpoint that we wanted to keep the official romancing off the radar. If we can bring him in, and bring him in as a surprise, it would be even better for him, and that’s what happened in Chicago with that countdown clock.
I didn’t know what to expect when we met. I knew that the groundwork had been laid. Vince was just fine with the meeting we had in Tampa. I wanted to sit down and ask Chris, ‘What did you think of the meeting? How can we make this work? What can we do to get you on the team? What do you need, because I’ll tell you I can’t pay you what they’re (WCW) is offering. There’s no way in hell. We can sit here and talk all day long. We can have breakfast, lunch, and dinner here, and it’s not going to change.’ The issue is that the offer we gave him was a lot of money. $450K is a good starting salary. I thought we were being very fair.
The key component of that was convincing him that our incentive program, in other words, getting paid on the house, old school, commission so to speak, payoff, was real. Without naming names, I gave him some illustrations of, this guy has a $300,000 downside, but last year, he made $1.8 million. At one time, we had 20-something guys on our roster that were making over a million. That’s incredible. They got that million dollar number by productivity. They sold tickets, PPVs, and merchandise. I think that was part of the only hurdle we had to overcome that it was really a true payoff system.
We had a great meeting, he, Jerry (Brisco) and I. He was a fan of the Briscos and a student of the game. We both loved him. We both thought he can work heel or babyface. I love the fact that he was durable. It was a great meeting. Soon thereafter, guess what? We signed him. When his contract was over, and he didn’t renew there at WCW, we closed the deal very quickly.”
WWE is in cost cutting mode right now. They’re not shy to lay down huge money on a deal if they want someone bad enough, but that doesn’t mean the entire roster is getting that love. WWE’s policy on salary caps might have changed a bit, but they were certainly able to ink Chris Jericho to a deal all those years ago. Little did Vince McMahon realize, but Jericho would someday lead an entirely different company to battle against him eventually.
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