In professional wrestling, navigating the backstage culture has always been as challenging as the battles in the ring. The industry has evolved, but tales of veterans initiating newcomers with tough love are part of its folklore.
Harvey Wippleman, a former WWE star, recently opened up about his journey through these rituals in a candid interview on "Developmentally Speaking." Wippleman, known for his resilience and respectful demeanor, shared his experiences of being mistreated but maintaining respect for all, regardless of their stature in the industry.
He didn't hold back in his opinions about certain peers. "There are some guys, if you're a jerk, you're a jerk," he said, citing Vader and George Steele as examples. Despite acknowledging their contributions, he firmly stated, "Just because they died doesn't take away the fact they were jerks."
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This view isn't isolated.
Wippleman emphasized that neither Vader nor Steele were particularly liked within the wrestling community. History corroborates his viewpoint. Wrestling icon Jake Roberts had previously labeled Vader as a bully. Vader, known for his imposing presence, had notable altercations, including a fight with Paul Orndorff in WCW and disagreements with Will Ospreay before passing in 2018.
George Steele's legacy, however, paints a different picture. The WWE Hall of Famer, who passed away in 2017, is mainly remembered with fondness despite his on-screen role as a feared villain. His era was marked by wrestlers maintaining their character personas constantly, a practice that might have contributed to his complex reputation.
Interestingly, the wrestling industry has seen a shift in recent years. The once prevalent culture of 'tough love' is giving way to a more supportive and inclusive environment. Today's wrestlers often speak out about mental health and the importance of a positive backstage atmosphere, highlighting a significant cultural shift from the days of Steele and Vader.
This evolution reflects a broader change in societal attitudes toward workplace behavior and respect. As wrestling adapts and grows, stories like Wippleman's offer a glimpse into its colorful past, providing context for its current state and direction.