Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Hulk Hogan’s Final WCW Contract From 1998 Surfaces Online

My friend Chris Harrington and I have made a habit out of trying to mine publicly available documents (usually from lawsuits) for interesting pro wrestling historical information. In Chris’s case, being the “Wrestlenomics” guy, he tends to favor anything with financial information. In looking through the docket of one of the racial discrimination lawsuits against WCW, he happened to buy a copy of a filing that turned out to have Hulk Hogan’s 11998 contract (his last one) with WCW. So he posted it to Scribd last night and it’s gotten some attention at places like Reddit.

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At times there has been speculation that Hogan didn’t earn as much as some people said. Clearly, that’s not the case, as it looks like on a percentage basis, he was the highest paid wrestler in the history of the business even if Steve Austin made more money in his best years. The contract reveals the following terms:

– It was a four year deal lasting from May 29, 1998 to May 28, 2002. So when he went to WWE in February 2002, WWE only had to buy out the last three months of the contract.

– Hogan got a $2 million signing bonus.

– Each year, Hogan was to appear on six WCW pay-per-view events, for which  he’d be paid $675,000 each or 15% of “domestic PPV cable sales received by WCW for each event,” whichever was greater. So he was guaranteed $4.05 million annually in PPV payoffs alone. He was advanced $1.35 million every four months.

– “Incentive compensation” bonuses would be received for PPVs that did a 1.5% buy rate or better in different tiers, ranging from $250,000 for a 1.5 to a 1.79 all the way up to $1.75 million for a 3.5 buy rate or greater. In practice, he only got bonused on this contract for Bash at the Beach in July 1998, which drew a 1.5 buy rate for Hogan and Dennis Rodman vs. Diamond Dallas Page and Karl Malone. If the same incentives were in effect on his previous deal, he made a $375,000 bonus for the 1.9 buy rate that Starrcade ’97 (the famous Hogan vs. Sting match) drew.

– Payoffs for Monday Nitro and Thursday Thunder appearances were $25,000 or 25% “of the gross (after tax)  arena ticket revenues,” whichever was greater, For exampled, as far as shows on this contract go, this means he made: $226,582.50 for the match at the Georgia Dome where he dropped the WCW World Heavyweight Championship to Bill Goldberg and $232,683.75 for the “Finger Poke of Doom” off WCW’s all-time record gate of $930,735.

– “Bollea will appear and perform at sixteen {16) mutually agreed upon WCW “Television Tapings” during each calendar year of the Term. Bollea’s appearance and/or Participation at such tapings shall be at no additional cost to WCW.” Presumably that means any non-Nitr0/Thunder tapings.

– “Bollea will appear and perform at a reasonable number of non-televised house shows as reasonably requested by WCW,” which was, in practice, not often. Hogan got 25% of the gross with no guaranteed dollar amount, so he generally picked occasional major market house shows to work on. For international dates, there was a “mutual option” where either Hogan or WCW could propose terms that the other side had no obligation to accept.

– All of these terms were outlined as being for years one through three, with Hogan getting a $100,000 consulting fee in year four. “In the event that Bollea provides any wrestling services in Year Four” he was paid the according to the same terms. Perhaps he intended to retire, but in year four, WCW existed only as the Universal Wrestling Corporation (WWE bought the WCW assets including trademarks but not the company itself) to fulfill contracts and deal with outstanding lawsuits.

– WCW got exclusive rights to Hogan’s likeness and other intellectual property “only in the business of professional wrestling.” This included WCW’s involvement with motorsports like NASCAR and Monster Trucks. Hogan had the right to approve all merchandise, and he retained the ability to use his intellectual property “in connection with non-wrestling related merchandising and licensing including, but not limited to, pasta, pasta restaurants, sandwiches, sun tan oil, health drink mixers, vitamins and merchandise related to Bollea’s movies, television movies and non-wrestling television appearances.”

– Hogan received 50% of the net profits for all merchandise sold directly by WCW incorporating his name, likeness, or character. If he was featured in conjunction with other wrestlers, he got 50% of WCW’s share of the net profits. For licensed merchandise, he got 50% of “the Actual License Fees (as herein defined) received by WCW from the licensing of ‘Hulk Hogan’ or Bollea’s name, likeness or character.”

– According to other pay documentation from the WCW discrimination lawsuits:

For licensing, Hogan made $111,946 in 1998, $832,988 in 1999, and $447,805 in 2000. For WCW-direct merchandise, he made $40,147 in 1998, $20,846 in 1999, and $41,916 in 2000. Keep in mind he didn’t work on any WCW shows after Bash at the Beach in July 2000, the show where he walked out after Vince Russo double-crossed him on a promo.

– Ever notice how Hogan wore NWO t-shirts everywhere back in the day? There was a good reason for that: He got a $20,000/month promotional fee for promoting the NWO. That said, “in no event will Bollea’s annual promotional fee as herein provided be less than twenty-five percent (25%) of WCWs Net Receipts and Actual License Fees […] for generic non-talent specific NWO merchandise.”

– Other WCW payroll documents from the racial discrimination lawsuits show Hogan as making $3,635,969 payroll in the calendar year of 1998 and $3,756,228 payroll in the calendar year of 1999. It’s been said that some of Hogan’s pay was shifted to other divisions of Turner Broadcasting, and that appears to be the case, as we know he made more than that in pay-per-view payoffs alone each year. Presumably,Turner Home Entertainment, which handled WCW PPV events, paid the PPV payoffs to Hogan, with the “payroll” being what he made for TV and house show appearances.

– Hogan would get 100% of the net revenues if WCW launched a Hogan-themed 900 number hotline. On the opposite end of the spectrum, he made nothing from magazine or videotape sales. The latter is surprising, as even though WCW primarily focused on the rental market, there was still money to be made, and they made a big retail push during this contract with “Superstar Series” releases that included a a Hogan video.

– The contract was contingent upon WCW receiving an agreement from Marvel Comics (who owned the “Hulk Hogan” name at the time) and “Bollea’s submission to a drug test pursuant to WCWs Substance Abuse Policy, which Bollea agrees he has received and reviewed, and a finding based on such test indicating that Bollea is not currently using any illegal drugs, steroids or other substances prohibited by WCW.”

For whatever it is or isn’t worth: The contract was executed in May, a month where Hogan, not wanting to be associated with falling ratings, always took himself off TV because Nitro was moved around by the NBA playoffs on TNT. He didn’t appear on any WCW events between May 11th and June 1st.

– “When required to travel for WCW as contemplated hereunder, Bollea will receive first-class air travel, first-class suite hotel accommodations, limousine transportation and One Hundred Seventy-Five Dollars ($175.00) per diem.” In other words, officially he had no road expenses other than food and still got a $175.00 stipend each day he was on the road. In practice, the food was likely covered much of the time, to boot, since he mostly worked TV and PPV shows, which were catered.

– Finally, there’s the infamous “complete creative control” clause, which actually reads like this: “Bollea shall have approval over the outcomes of  all wrestling matches in which he appears, wrestles, and performs, such approval not to be unreasonably withheld.” When Russo double crossed him on that promo, one court ruled that because it was not the “outcome of a wrestling match,” the clause wasn’t violated. Hogan successfully appealed because the clause is worthless if the match result can be effectively undone in a promo.

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