Friday, February 17, 2017

George "The Animal" Steele, 1937 - 2017

I am terribly saddened to hear of the passing of George "The Animal" Steele. He died today, just shy of his 80th birthday, leaving behind three children and his wife of 61 years, Pat.

[The Animal, with his doll, Mine!]

Those who have never enjoyed professional wrestling may think this is some sort of joke, but I assure you it isn't. George "The Animal" Steele was a wonderful performer, one of my all-time favorites, and definitely one of the more fascinating characters in that field of entertainment.

His real name was Jim Myers. Outside of the ring, he was a school teacher at Madison High School in Michigan. As a matter of fact, he earned a bachelor of science from Michigan State and then a master's from Central Michigan. This man who looked for all the world as though he might be the missing link was actually highly intelligent.

His work in the ring was unique. Blessed as he was with a thick pelt of back and chest hair, and affecting a shaven head, he played the part of a menacing imbecile. His career began as a heel (the bad guy) and he challenged the babyfaces (good guys) as a super-strong neanderthal without any morality. He would chew on the ring turnbuckles and spit out the padding, baring them to use as a weapon against his opponents, driving their heads into the exposed metal. He would often use a "foreign object" - a piece of metal or wood - to gouge his opposition, then - when the referee tried to inspect his body for a weapon - he would climb up the ropes, face the audience, and stick the weapon IN HIS MOUTH so everyone in the audience could see it but the referee, inspecting his trunks, could not. This never failed to crack me up. It was genius stuff.

As you can see from the photo, he sported a GREEN tongue. The effect was achieved, so I hear, from eating Clorets before each match. To those who bought the act as real, it was further evidence of his being a freakish subhuman.

His interviews were full of "Duh-Da! YOU! You GO!" and other utterances as would befit a moronic beast. They were absolutely hilarious to anyone who knew that he was, in fact, a school teacher.
Later in his ring life, he was turned into a fan favorite. Children especially adored his antics. He was a gigantic hairy child, to them. He began coming to the ring carrying the doll seen above. When an interviewer asked him the doll's name, The Animal said, "MINE! MINE!", as though he were afraid someone was going to steal his doll, and that became the doll's name - Mine.

Whenever I had the opportunity to see a show with him in it, he never disappointed. I attending a house show (non-televised show) in the town of Randolph, Massachusetts. It was a very small arena, and the show was a benefit for the local Boy Scouts, as I recall. The Animal was the headliner, facing former WWF champion (and bad guy, because this was the early 1980s and he was a Russian) Ivan Koloff. Most of the match took place outside of the ring. The Animal was all over the place, getting to just about every seating area in that small gym, and giving all of the paying customers their money's worth. He especially made the evening for the younger fans, getting to see this huge friendly hairy child up-close-and-personal.

One other thing of note: The Animal was a devout Christian. I am, too, so found this especially amusing, considering his act. He looked like a murderer but he was - by all accounts - a real gentleman when not putting on his act.

I guess that's about it. I wanted to say something because he was one of my favorites of all-time.

Requiem En Pace, Animal.

Here's a clip of him in action, when he was a heel, against that goody-goody Hulk Hogan. You know who I was rooting for.

Soon, with more better turnbuckle stuffing.


joeh said...

He always put on a good show!

messymimi said...

#2 Son and Little Girl when through a time when they both loved to watch wrestling, and in the bit i saw it was obvious these people were serious about entertaining their audiences and most of them were very smart while playing dumb. He sounds like he was a champion as a person and as an entertainer/wrestler. My condolences to his family and fans.

Ami said...

Great story.
But I kept thinking of being married 61 years and how impossible it would be to go on after that.

Jackie said...

Thank you for sharing this video. I am amazed at how hard these entertainers worked to bring joy to their fans. Great show men!
I'm sorry about the passing of Mr. Myers ("The Animal")....but I know that he is now rejoicing in the eternal presence of the Lord. Condolences to his family and to his fans.

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

Thanks, Sully

Shammickite said...

Loved that video! I haven't watched wresting for years, in fact I don't think it's on the telly any more. They both put on a great show!! Loved the commentary too, so dramatic.

Suldog said...

Thank you all for the kind comments.

Amazing coincidence - I mentioned here having seen George "The Animal" Steele wrestle Ivan Koloff in a match I attended. Ivan Koloff just passed away, too, one day after Mr. Steele.