George “The Animal” Steele
Class of 1995
The Original Animal; 1980’s Comedy Character
Hall of Fame Rating
5 out of 10
George the Animal Steele comes from a time period where wrestling as we understand it today, didn’t exist. The majority of an average late 60s/70s match, especially in the WWWF, was brawling and rest holds…for a really long time. Take this match below, Steele showcases his ability to walk around and cheat in a twelve minute match that just calls for fast forwarding.
Now it is clear that George the Animal Steele, even for his time, couldn’t actually wrestle. He had almost no athleticism and no moves. That’s why he is the first gimmick induction. (our theme for the next few months!) George in the 1980s ( the gimmick ) became the thing he was known for. Before the 1980s, he really wasn’t anything spectacular.
George Steele ostensibly was a a part time wrestler. He had a regular job which was his main career. He only performed during the summer months as a part time job. There is no such thing of that today and this a product of the territory system. This is anomoly. Can you imagine if Jesse Ventura was a chef full time?
This goes against the heart of everything we hear about professional wrestling even in the territory times. You hear stories of wrestler after wrestler playing the role of journeyman and traveling around where ever the could get booked. The interview below details the life of Jim Myers, gym teacher and football coach. This is the man we know as George the Animal Steele.
Steele instead went to work, maintained a normal life and when other teachers would vacation or staycation….
…he would go to another more absurd work. A work which while a “work” was considered to be a legitmate sport in the up until the mid 1980s, so to cover his tracks he would flat out lie to his co-workers. He would tell students that George Steele wasn’t him, but sure looked a lot like them and everyone believed him. Oh the 70s.
From his debut in 1960s to the early 1980s, George Steele barely appeared. He was living the life of an attraction player, without the attraction element. He would come in, wrestle one feud ( Bruno or Chief Jay Strongbow) and then leave. Also due to his limited availability, he never ventured outside of the Detroit area except to once and a while go to the WWWF for a feud. He went whereever would pay him for a short time. Something RVD does today…Perhaps he is following the Animal’s footsteps or autobiography….
This all changed in the early 1980s. George Steele by 1983 had become a fairly regular performer in the ring. While there is no record of exactly why that is, it is possible that Vince JR. was unwilling to work with someone in such a limited way as his father was during the 70s.
Full time George Steele jumped from manager to manager (Blassie, Wizard, Johnny V, Hart, Albano) during his short feuds mostly due to the character he portrayed. He was a madman, a person who not only needed a mouth piece but also a handler. He was a wild samoan but from Detroit.
In 1984, George Steele did something which he had never done before. He got over. With a quick face turn, Steele began the what was both the end of his career and the beginning of what he will always be known for and why he is in the Hall of Fame.
He became the cartoon character version of George The Animal Steele. Steele played the face and the butt of the joke through 85-86, feuding for the IC championship while being “made smart” again on Tuesday Night Titans (which is now on the WWE Network! )
Cartoon character George Steele ate turnbuckles and caried a MINE doll with him. These two elements are what he is known the best. It is why he is memorable. He was unique ( and beloved for a very short period of time, but it was an important period of time. He was lucky, very lucky.
Because of this short period of time, George Steele is not just a barely remembered part time wrestler (of which I am sure there are others, but I can’t come up with an active example- anyone who does, please leave in comments below), he is a gimmick of a man. And quite well spoken in real life. I’d suggest watching his shoot interviews to hear a man who just might be one of the most down to earth functional former wrestlers (probably that double life thing)
The class of 1995 was the second class in the history of the WWE Hall of Fame and it was hurt by its limitations. In 1995, the WWF was just one of two main wrestling organizations and had a limited pool they could draw from. Only important WWE stars who were A. not angry at them (Sammartino, Graham) or B. not working for the competition, were eligible. This is also the time period when the WWF ignored all of wrestling history that wasn’t the WWF’s. WCW in its own Hall of Fame (yes they had a Hall of Fame) did not suffer from that limitation. (WWE.com has all the WCW inductions on their site- here’s the Crusher- http://www.wwe.com/videos/wcw-hall-of-fame-the-crusher-26117580)
So, while 1995 was filled with some big names (Pedro Morales- who didn’t attend- the only living inductee in history to do so) With big names like Bruno Sammartino or Billy Graham not wanting induction, we are instead given Ivan Putski or George Steele, both of whom could have waited.
Steele’s inclusion in 1995 can be simplified down to one simple factor:
What great luck!
Opens Door For?
Junkyard Dog and Ko Ko B. Ware, Comedy cartoon character who the fans like but really never amounted to much for than that.
Reasons this shouldn’t have happened.
This is George Steele’s signature move.