WWE legend, George “The Animal” Steele has died from suspected kidney failure. According to Variety, the WWE Hall of Fame star, whose real name is William James Myers, had major kidney surgery in December 2015 and has been in and out of hospice care since April 2016. He was 79.
George Steele, ‘The Animal’ Wrestler and Mild-Mannered Teacher, Dies at 79 https://t.co/wzcFaJdNt4
— The New York Times (@nytimes) February 18, 2017
During the kidney surgery in December, Steele “flatlined.” Even though he was resuscitated, he never fully recovered after that. In May 2016, his family confirmed that the WWE legend was “dealing with some serious health issues.” They did not provide any details until a few weeks later when George Steel recounted his ordeal, saying he had “major kidney surgery” at the Mayo Clinic and “completely flatlined” during the procedure. His daughter, Felicia corroborated what her father said, revealing in a Facebook post, “They had to stop the surgery because of my dad’s breathing.”
Steele, whose wrestling career cannoned off in 1967, tweeted that he was at peace following his harrowing ordeal, adding that he could see a “glimmer of light at the end of the dark tunnel.” The WWE hall of famer went on to thank his fans for their benevolent thoughts and prayers.
Jim Myers "George Steele" had a masters degree & was a long time football player/coach & Michigan state champion wrestling coach. pic.twitter.com/4ARX1xrMLV
— Old Wrestling Pics (@OldWrestlingPic) February 17, 2017
A suggestion that his health challenges had taken a turn for the worst was when Steele’s wife told fellow WWE legend Bob Backlund that George “The Animal” Steele would not be returning home from the hospital. The fellow Hall of Famer had confirmed this in a Facebook post.
“I called George the Animal Steel yesterday. His wife answered the phone. I asked if Mr. Steel was there. She said he was not at home. Then she said who are you. I told her my name and she said that he may not come this time. As tears slowly came to my eyes. I told her that everyone loved GEORGE THE ANIMAL STEEL. HOPE.”
However, the legendary wrestler passed on, with Vince McMahon leading tributes for the legendary wrestler on Twitter.
— Vince McMahon (@VinceMcMahon) February 17, 2017
George “The Animal” Steele was born in Detroit in 1937. He earned bachelor and master degrees from Central Michigan University. He went on to coach amateur wrestling and football but eventually turned to the world of pro wrestling to supplement his income. The Detroit native went by the name “The Student” in his early days to hide his identity.
He eventually became a full-time wrestler when Vince McMahon started Wrestlemania. When “The Student” got his big break on television, he switched his name to George Steele, earning the nickname “The Animal” for his portrayal of a wild animal with a green tongue, with a penchant for tearing up the turnbuckle with his teeth. Steele was one of the most famous wrestlers in the 1980s.
According to Ewrestling News, Steele played a villain for over 20 years managed by Classy Freddie Blassie, Mr. Fuji, The Grand Wizard and Captain Lou Albano. His headline events against wrestlers Pedro Morales, Sammartino, and Bob Backlund saw him come close to clinching the WWE Championship on a host of occasions. However, “The Animal” sees his fight with Randy Savage as the most memorable. The former amateur pro coach recalled it was a long fight that was fun, highly professional, and tough.
— The Lethal Dose (@LethalDoseLive) February 17, 2017
Steele retired in 1988 after he found out he had Crohn’s disease. However, he revealed that he had no regrets and owed the WWE his life for making him overcome the disease.
“With Crohns Disease, they don’t know the cause of it, they said there’s no cure. I’m totally cured. I think being very active, I was able to overcome the illness, I owe a lot to the WWF, I owe my life to the WWF, they have been good to me and my family.”
R.I.P. George Steele.
Long wrestling career aside, I loved him as Tor Johnson in Ed Wood. pic.twitter.com/xX10tD9Rqn
— Maffew A & G Ohio (@Maffewgregg) February 17, 2017
“The Animal” came out of retirement in the late 1990s and was inducted into the professional wrestling Hall of Fame in 2005. He appeared on Monday Night Raw in 2010. Outside the ring, the wrestler made his film debut in Tim Burton’s 1994 movie Ed Wood where he played a Swede wrestler turned actor. His other film credits include Blowfish and Small Town Conspiracy.
[Featured Image by George Napolitano/MediaPunch/IPX/AP Images]