Wrestling Legend George “The Animal” Steele Dies
Pro wrestler George Steele has died at 79, according to The New York Times. World Wrestling Entertainment made the announcement Feb. 17, although they did not state the cause of death or report his survivors. Steele had spent time in hospice, according to wrestling agent Eric Simms on Feb. 16.
Steele was born William James Myers April 16, 1937. The Madison Heights, Michigan native grew to wrestling fame during the 1970s and 1980s. He was known in the wrestling world by the persona the Animal and famed as a wild, unpredictable villain in the sport. He was also infamous for pulling out the padding in the ring corners and using it to stuff his mouth.
Steele began his career with World Wrestling Entertainment, then called the World Wrestling Federation, in 1967. The ring pitted him against Bruno Sammartino, who would become a rival for Steele.
Although as the Animal, Steele was a hated villain, his role changed after a match in 1985 made him an underdog, when Steele’s partners betrayed him.
When he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease later in the 1980s, Steele retired. After that, he became a motivational and spiritual speaker, as well as promoted awareness of Crohn’s, the New York Times reports.
Steele holds a place in the WWE Hall of Fame since 1995, along with some of the wrestlers who mentored him. Among those is “Mr. Fuji” Henry Fujiwara.
Steele also appeared in promotions for sports and entertainment.
Although Steele carried a vicious persona in wrestling, according to WWE chairman Vince McMahon, he was kind in real life. Despite a dyslexia diagnosis, he had a Central Michigan University master’s degree. Steele coached football, wrestling, and track, and taught in a Michigan high school in Madison Heights during his wrestling career. The Michigan High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame inducted him in 1996 for 28 years of coaching.