Friday, February 17, 2017

RIP George "The Animal" Steele

The turnbuckle-eating icon has passed away
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George "The Animal" Steele, wrestling legend, has passed away at the age of 79. He had been battling serious if undisclosed health issues recently, and earlier in the week was moved to hospice care. He is survived by his wife, Pat Myers, and their three children. Steele was a devoutly open practicing Christian who had great love for college sports, especially for his alma mater, Michigan State.

Steele broke into the business in Michigan, and was soon discovered by Bruno Sammartino, who gave him entry into the then-World Wide Wrestling Federation (what would become today WWE). He found fame as a primally-driven wild-man character. With head shaven bald and tongue painted green, Steele found success as a top heel in the WWWF in the '70s and early '80s. His signature behaviors included incomprehensible speech and literally biting and tearing apart turnbuckle pads. He would later segue into a more fan-favorite role as he feuded with the "Macho Man" Randy Savage over an unrequited crush he had on Miss Elizabeth, which would end up being a major component of the famous WrestleMania III match between Savage and Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat. Steele retired in 1988 due to Crohn's Disease, although he would make spot appearances in WWE, World Championship Wrestling, and even TNA afterwards. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995.

Steele portrayed a drooling Neanderthal-esque menace, but all who knew him claimed he was a real sweetheart. He was also far more eloquent than his in-ring character let on. Steele's presence in the wrestling world was both warm and mammoth. His presence outside of wrestling, mainly in the feature film Ed Wood as Tor Johnson was large and welcome as well. May he rest in peace and power.