WWE reported this morning (Feb. 17) that Hall of Famer George “The Animal” Steele (real name William James Myers) passed away. He was 79 years old.
No specifics have been released on cause of death, but just yesterday, Wrestling agent Eric Simms wrote on his Facebook page that Steele was in hospice receiving end of life care.
The Detroit native was inducted into WWE’s Hall of Fame back in 1995. A high school teacher and wrestling coach, he started wrestling (under a mask) in the 1960s to supplement his income, and ended up gaining popularity as a heel working against WWWF champion Bruno Sammartino and others.
In the Rock ‘n’ Wrestling boom of the 80s, he became a beloved babyface working with Captain Lou Albana against The Iron Sheik & Nikolai Volkoff and worked a long program with Randy “Macho Man” Savage based around his being smitten with and protective of Miss Elizabeth.
Steele was retired by 1990 after a brief stint as a road agent, but made occassional appearances for WWE and other promotions. He last appeared on Raw in 2010.
He also has a brief turn in Hollywood, playing a wrestler-turned-actor in Tim Burton’s 1994 film, Ed Wood.
On behalf of pre-teen Sean (who was known to try and tear up his pillows like The Animal bit apart turnbuckles) and the many fans he entertained over the years, I’d like to send out belated thanks to Steele, and thoughts & prayers to the family & friends he leaves behind, on behalf of the entire Cageside Seats community.