George Steele
By: Tom Nealon | Categories: HiLo Heroes

george steele

High school science teacher and coach by trade, George “The Animal” Steele (William James Myers, born 1937) took up wrestling in the late 1960s to make some extra cash. He developed his green-tongued, hairy-backed wild heel character for years but only really came into his own in the early 1980s after he ditched his elocutionary skills in favor of his now famous “Duhhh, dahhhh”s and started working the turnbuckle over like it was a piece of jerky. In a time when wrestling seemed to want to double down on predictable plot arcs, George was a much needed angry ball of face-eating uncertainty. In a suddenly tall and shiny world of wrestling, a world of body oil, sit-ups and carefully shaved pecs, George was fat, stooped and furry. Amid the grand proclamations and verbose hubris of faces and heels alike, George was a grunting, sub-verbal, loose-limbed gesticulator. He was the very embodiment of a long lost age of wrestling that never really existed: when men wrestled bears and crocodiles for food, their fight-flight responses so conflated and hair-triggered that victory, survival, and humiliation were all smashed up against each other. Watching him fight Hulk Hogan during their famous 1984 title match is like watching a pack of hungry lemurs assemble a roomful of Ikea furniture. “The Animal could just as easily dismember him… he may not be here to try and win the title,” said Mean Gene Okerlund, leaving unstated what we were all thinking: The Animal may be there for dinner.

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WRESTLERS as HILO HEROES: Hulk Hogan | Giant Haystacks | The Iron Sheik | The Rock | George “The Animal” Steele | King Kong Bundy | Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka | Junkyard Dog

On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Kool DJ Herc, Tristan Tzara, Kingsley Amis, Merce Cunningham.

READ MORE about members of the Anti-Anti-Utopian Generation (1934-43).

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Tom Nealon runs the online rare bookshop Pazzo Books specializing in early printed books, cookery and literature. In his spare time he works on barbecue techniques in the test pit in his backyard. He can be found at pazzobooks.com and @pazzobooks on twitter.