Whether it was chewing the padding off the turnbuckle before smashing his opponents face into it off showing off his green tongue to the audience, George “The Animal” Steele was a consummate performer in world of rasslin’ entertainment.
Born William James Myers in Detroit in 1937, George went on to a master’s degree from Central Michigan University and became a teacher, amateur wrestling coach, and football coach at Madison High School in Madison Heights, Michigan. His work in High School sport would eventually make him a member of the Michigan Coaches Hall of Fame.
He began wrestling in the 1960s in the Detroit circuit under the stage name “The Student.” He wore a mask to protect his identity due to his day gig. After being scouted by Bruno Sammartino, he became part of the World Wrestling Federation line up in 1967. Sammartino liked George’s style and persona as a wild man with incredible strength but wasn’t into the mask or the name he was using. His new name would be taken from a rival high school’s wresting coach.
While George had many rivals in the ring, his most famous adversary was probably “Macho Man” Randy Savage during the mid 80′s when the Animal became smitten with Savage’s valet, Miss Elizabeth.
Following a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease he retired from the ring in 1988 but continued to make an occasional appearance on WWF cards into the 2000′s. Those who didn’t know George from wresting may also recognize him for his role in Tim Burton’s 1994 film Ed Wood where he played the role of another old school wrestler Tor Johnson. Coincidentally, George was often mistaken for Tor early in his career.
George “The Animal” Steel died in hospice care due to kidney failure on February 16, 2017 . He was 79 years old. He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Pat, and two sons and a daughter.