Yesterday we reported that there had been a backstage meeting at the WWE Performance Centre where NXT talent was told by Canyon Ceman, WWE's Senior Director of Talent Development, that they would continue to be paid no more than their downside guarantees and would not receive bonuses for appearing at the sold out NXT Takeover: Brooklyn special or future major events like NXT's upcoming tour of the UK.
In an update to my story, although I mentioned that WWE pays the road expenses (i.e., covers the cost of food, hotel rooms and rental car hire) of NXT performers when they appear on events outside the state of Florida, I should have emphasised that the company does not pay those particular expenses for main roster talent.
The company deserves to be praised for this policy of covering road expenses with regards to NXT performers. However, in my personal opinion, WWE should also do the same for their main roster stars, like most other major sports leagues and highly rated cable television shows.
It should also be noted that the popularity of NXT has led to WWE producing merchandise for the brand's top stars, such as T-shirts, photo plaques and action figures, and that they do receive royalties from these sales, although it is unknown whether the percentages they receive are comparable to what similarly pushed acts on the main roster get.
NXT's leading performers will also appear on the next WWE videogame, WWE 2K16, when it is released next month, and they will also receive royalties from sales of this game.
Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com, the source of our original story, has done a follow-up report which paints WWE's hardline stance in a more favourable light, including claiming that some NXT talent recently received pay rises:
"Over the course of the last several days as I researched the story, I learned and confirmed that over the course of this past summer, WWE upgraded a number of top NXT talents so that they are now making six figure downsides. So, at least the upper-tier of the NXT roster are already making a salary commensurate with their worth to the brand."
I'd expect "six figure downsides" means $100,000 a year or not much more than that, and I'm not sure I'd immediately jump to the conclusion that is fair pay (more about that later). However, it is most certainly welcome to hear that WWE have restructured some NXT contracts to more closely reflect their value to the company.
Johnson also went into more detail about the costs of running and operating the WWE Performance Centre, which was the reason Ceman cited as to why the company couldn't afford to hand out bonuses for special NXT events that draw large gates comparable to a main roster house show. These expenses include:
- Salaries for all the backstage wrestling personnel including the NXT trainers like Adam Pearce, Billy Gunn, Matt Bloom, Norman Smiley, Robbie Brookside, Sara Del Rey, Steve Keirn and Terry Taylor, their talent scouts like Gerald Brisco and William Regal, their creative team, etc.
- The cost of "providing state-of-the-art fitness and nutritional experts to the developmental roster as well as a medical staff, professional and financial development help as well as things like language courses and tuition reimbursement for talents also trying to continue or finish their education."
- Don't forget that air-conditioning, heating and providing running water to such a large facility can't be cheap either!
But the big picture is that WWE pays a much lower percentage of their revenue to its talent than other major sports leagues/teams (although to be fair at least some of that differential can be explained by the overheads of WWE's corporate structure, which dwarfs that of similarly valued sports properties). Indeed, Dave Meltzer made this very point in this week's Wrestling Observer Newsletter when discussing the UFC's dismissive reaction to attempts by the Culinary Workers Union to encourage MMA fighters to unionise:
"But WWE pays talent overall considerably less, by percentage, than real sports, so UFC people being compared to WWE people really just compares them with another underpaid group."
Thus, even with the recent contract restructuring of some NXT performers, it is still valid to question whether it is fair or not that performers on the NXT Takeover: Brooklyn special, which is believed to have grossed around $700,000 in revenue for WWE, did not receive a financial bonus for that overwhelming fiscal success for the company's coffers.
Update: Just to clarify, WWE pays for the air travel of all their talent, both those on the main roster and those in NXT. Other road expenses are only covered for NXT wrestlers when they perform on NXT/WWE events outside the state of Florida.