Some sad news hit today when The New York Daily News reported that WWE professional wrestling icon George “The Animal” Steele died after a short stay in hospice. Steele, whose real name was Jim Myers, was 79 at the time of his death.
The rumors started floating around yesterday when former WWE champion Bob Backlund went onto Facebook and said he had called the wife of George Steele and asked about the wrestler. Backlund said that she told him that George was back in the hospice and might not be coming home this time.
Fox Sports reported in 2016 that George “The Animal” Steele was battling “serious health challenges” and posted a series of tweets where Steele said that he is at peace with whatever happened and that he had faith in God’s plan for him.
Eric Simms, a longtime wrestling agent, said that George Steele went into hospice care on Thursday. He had suffered through a number of ailments over his life including Crohn’s disease in 1988, and he had his colon removed in 2002.
Most wrestling fans remember George “The Animal” Steele from his days in the WWE when they were kicking off the Hulk Hogan Rock ‘n’ Wrestling era. He would often chew off the cover of a turnbuckle post and then throw the stuffing at his opponents.
However, his career started years before that. George “The Animal” Steele got his start in professional wrestling back in the late ’60s and quickly became a villain, feuding with beloved champion Bruno Sammartino in the WWWF. His gimmick portrayed a wild man who acted crazy in the ring.
Interestingly, while his gimmick had him as a wild man who was unable to communicate normally, he was actually a teacher before he started wrestling and was very articulate and smart, making his character in the ring even that much more interesting.
By the time the ’80s came around, fans started to warm to George “The Animal” Steele and began to cheer him. He remained the wild man but started to act kinder towards kids and became a full-on face in the Hulk Hogan era.
It was at this time that George Steele enjoyed his most memorable and popular feud. Steele became storyline infatuated with Miss Elizabeth, the manager of “Macho Man” Randy Savage. The main gimmick for Savage at the time was his intense jealousy for anyone paying attention to Miss Elizabeth, so the two began feuding.
The feud culminated in a match between Randy Savage and Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, with George Steele serving as a second to Steamboat in his corner for the match. George Steele wrestled in a battle royal in WrestleMania IV but then had to retire a short time later due to his Crohn’s disease.
In 1994, George “The Animal” Steele got a chance to appear in a major movie as well when he starred in the Tim Burton movie Ed Wood. That movie was about the career and life of Ed Wood, an infamous film director that some consider the worst of all time.
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George Steele starred as Tor Johnson, a legendary professional wrestler who appeared in one of Ed Wood’s most infamous movies, Plan 9 From Outer Space.
Many people have spoken out about their love of George “The Animal” Steele since his death, including Hulk Hogan, who tweeted that Steele was a “brother” and sent his love and gratitude.
[Featured Image by WWE]