George Steele is a wrestler who is remembered different by fans depending on when they followed the sport of kings. Fans of the '60s and '70s remember Steele as a bloodthirsty villain who was a very real threat to the championship of Bruno Sammartino. This version of Steele spoke in a '60s beatnik lingo and is very well remembered in my hometown of Pittsburgh, "The Steel City," where George "received" his last name.
As the WWF went national and Steele got older, the character that fans my age and younger remember came into play. This George Steele, after giving up his villainous ways, was a furry bear of a man with a childlike innocence and very limited vocabulary. For all the naysayers, the character still drew money and is fondly remembered.
"The Animal" is among my earliest wrestling memories. His hair-covered body, green tongue, and want for Miss Elizabeth defined the George Steele of the mid-1980's. It was a character that kids could get behind. As we know, that was the name of the game in the WWF of the era.
Although George became a WWF agent after his in-ring career there wore down, he also become notable on the independent scene. All it took to please the audience was the chasing of an opponent, the chewing of a turnbuckle pad, and a few bellows of "YOU!" to the crowd. It was an act that sustained.
It's hard to believe now, but there was a time when I thought that I'd never get to meet George "The Animal" Steele. I was well into attending conventions and the sort, but George just wasn't being booked. All told he seemed happy in Florida and his health issues had already been public knowledge. Thankfully I was wrong and can't even remember the total number of times that I did get to meet up with the green-tongued grappler. He may have spoke articulately in these appearances, but he always let a bit of "The Animal" shine through.
Through wrestling, his teaching and coaching career, and even acting, George Steele will always be remembered. The days of "eating" a turnbuckle pad may be over, but who will ever look at one and not think of ol' George?
George "The Animal" Steele