George ‘The Animal’ Steele dies at 79 after colorful life & career

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The green-tongued turnbuckle eater is gone.

George “The Animal” Steele, a veteran professional wrestler whose career ended during the 1980s peak of the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) and was known for his appetite for mayhem has died. He was 79.

Born Jim Myers, he was a multi-sport star in high school and a football player for (and graduate of) Michigan State. He also earned a master’s degree before he turned to professional wrestling in the 1960s — all this while also working as a high school teacher and coach the entire time. (He’s also a member of the state’s football coaches hall of Fame.)

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A member of the WWE Hall of Fame, his “Animal” persona was one of few words, basic fighting and, in later years, an adoration for stuffed animals and “Macho Man” Randy Savage‘s wife, Elizabeth — all while having a taste for tearing open turnbuckle pads with his teeth while rocking a green tongue for extra effect. He was 0-for-2 as a competitor at WrestleMania, the WWE’s signature event, but played a prominent role in one of the greatest matches in its history, Savage’s match against Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat at WrestleMania III.

He appears on nearly 150 different wrestling cards despite his in-ring career ending in 1988. Of those, more than 40 are certified autographs coming in 2012 Leaf Originals, 2015 Topps WWE and 2014 Leaf Pop Century. 

His earliest cards — “Rookie Cards” per se — are in the 1985 Topps and 1985 O-Pee-Chee sets where he appears on a number of cards in both sets.

After wrestling, he also worked as an actor at times with a role in Tim Burton‘s Ed Wood and a handful of other roles adding even more to a colorful life. But it was the basics of education that he had said were the highlights, not the in-ring drama he was known for.

“I had two positions in life — one as a wrestler, and one as a teacher and coach,” he told C&G Newspapers in 2012. “And the one most important to me was being a teacher and a coach. It wasn’t the glow and glitter of Madison Square Garden or anywhere else. I loved football fields and wrestling mats and gym class, talking to kids. Because of my learning disabilities and problems I had, a lot of kids would come to my office, not athletes but kids, looking for counseling, to talk about their problems.”

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