In an industry known for backstage politics and stories of life on the road, we never heard anything bad about George “The Animal” Steele. That’s certainly not changing after news of his passing at age 79 hit the web earlier today.
Those who knew & worked with him over his long career in pro wrestling are remembering him on social media .
Here’s a sampling:
...I worked with him a lot when I first got to @WWE and was able to learn so much. My condolences to his family. pic.twitter.com/wKbo1WCnzb— Triple H (@TripleH) February 17, 2017
George"the Animal"Steel,RIP my brother,only love,only grateful. HH— Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan) February 17, 2017
Got the privilege of traveling the world with George 'The Animal' Steele and enjoyed every minute of it. RIP my friend. pic.twitter.com/UnbhTaY9Qt— John Layfield (@JCLayfield) February 17, 2017
Sad to hear the passing of old friend & fellow @WWE HOFER George "The Animal" Steele at age 79.— Jim Ross (@JRsBBQ) February 17, 2017
The @michiganstateu grad was good man.
Very sad.A very nice https://t.co/0tFKFstXIj https://t.co/jIAwfuLUPe— William Regal (@RealKingRegal) February 17, 2017
I feared him as a kid.— Tommy Dreamer (@THETOMMYDREAMER) February 17, 2017
I cheered him as a teenager
I became friends w/him as an adult
Never be another like
George the Animal Steele pic.twitter.com/TdrIfod68i
I had the pleasure of meeting the great George "The Animal" Steele not just a kind man but a true ICON of our industry. #RIPGeorgeSteele— TAZ (@OfficialTAZ) February 17, 2017
I just read the sad news that George The Animal Steele passed away. Thank you for giving me so many wonderful childhood memories ❤RIP— Gail Kim-Irvine (@gailkimITSME) February 17, 2017
Condolences go out to the Jim Myers family. George "The Animal" Steele was a fantastic guy and first class gentleman. RIP— Honky Tonk Man® (@OfficialHTM) February 17, 2017
Heard about George "The Animal" Steele today. As a kid, he made my tongue turn green just like his... #GeorgeTheAnimalSteele @WWE— Curtis Axel (@RealCurtisAxel) February 17, 2017
Sorry to hear of the passing of George "The Animal" Steele--top star, great guy, had some fun car trips/talks with him in the 90's. #RIP— Jim Cornette (@TheJimCornette) February 17, 2017
Gracious, Classy, Warm and Kind. Thanks for all you did to entertain us George "The Animal" Steele. RIP— Byron Saxton (@ByronSaxton) February 17, 2017
God Bless. George "The Animal" Steele. A friend over the years. RIP— Hacksaw Jim Duggan (@OfficialHacksaw) February 17, 2017
I loved the Color of his tongue but more so I loved him as a person and a mentor. Rip George the Animal Steele pic.twitter.com/3FV6VIX5o5— Virgil (@TheRealVirgil) February 17, 2017
RIP George "The Animal" Steele. #WWE— Mauro Ranallo (@mauroranallo) February 17, 2017
RIP George "The Animal" Steele. He made the gimmick truly believable and larger than life when I was a kid. It was pro wrestling magic.— Gabe Sapolsky (@BookItGabe) February 17, 2017
REST IN PEACE GEORGE THE ANIMAL STEELE. YOU WERE ALWAYS THE INTELLIGENT BROTHER I LOVE YOU pic.twitter.com/4yQ1YyzyJ2— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) February 17, 2017
The wrestling world lost one of the best today and I lost a good friend. RIP George"the animal" Steele. My prayers are with his family. pic.twitter.com/2b5ITY5Q7l— Ted DiBiase (@MDMTedDiBiase) February 17, 2017
And, summing it all up with a story of just why he was so loved and respected, WWE producer/agent Adam Pearce (from his Facebook):
I'm incredibly saddened to learn of the passing of George "The Animal" Steele.
When I first started in wrestling, I often worked for a promoter named Dale Gagner. On one occasion many years ago, I was booked for him in Elgin, Illinois. This occasion became notable to me for a couple of different reasons.
I was booked early on the card against a very green but very talented newcomer to the scene, someone we all were sure would do very well for himself down the road. As the "veteran" of the match (I'd been a promising babyface for less than 5 years at this point), I was charged with putting the match together and then leading my lesser-experienced opponent through it.
Needless to say, as many young performers often do, I wanted to have the "match of the night" and stuffed 10-pounds into the proverbial 5-pound bag. In short, we tried to do way too much in the match. And as a result, as often happens, I hurt myself. Bad.
I'd come to find that I blew my left shoulder out the back completely: torn rotator cuff, torn labrum, torn everything. I'd soon after have surgery and doctors would put everything back where it belonged, but in that moment, I thought I was done. I'd finished the match but had no control of my left arm. Couldn't lift it, couldn't move it, couldn't do anything with it. Couldn't even pull my pants up on that side.
I never blamed my opponent, as it wasn't his fault. I take the blame fully for trying to do too much and not being skilled enough to compensate for our combined shades of green in the ring. Obviously, I went on and had a career that I'm proud of, and one the thankfully endures, and my opponent indeed went on to make us all proud and do quite well for himself. His name?
While that night is certainly memorable to me due to what I just described, it becomes tenfold because of what happened after.
See, I wasn't only booked to perform on the event. As a young wrestler (with a car), I was also tabbed to serve as an airport runner for the real stars of the show. And I did it dutifully. They used to call it "paying dues".
Among those I was responsible for driving to the airport was George "The Animal" Steele.
I don't remember who George worked with that night, and I don't remember watching it, but I vividly remember our interaction after the show as I drove us toward the airport in my baby blue 1990 Buick Century.
"How's the shoulder, son?"
"I'll be ok, sir."
"I watched you lift your left hand to the wheel with your right and you wince every time we roll over a bump. You're not ok."
I was full of shit and he knew it. I was in pain and scared and didn't have insurance and could barely keep from crying.
"Pull over, son, please let me drive."
And so we went. Me, the kid without an arm or a clue, being driven to some airport by the legend who was catching the plane.
I remember the way he talked to me as he drove. He spoke softly and sure, like a wise grandfather imparting his wisdom and experiences from years of service. And he was so kind. I could tell that he cared about my situation in that moment, asking the right questions and giving whatever advice he thought would help me. I really felt like he felt the need to teach me.
I'm sure glad he did.
He didn't know me from Adam, but here he was doing my job for me AND doing his best to smarten me up at the same time. When we got to the airport, he gave me gas money(!) and asked if there was anyone he should call for me or if there was anything else he could do. I told him no, that I'd be ok, and I thanked him. As he left, he gave me his business card and asked me to let him know when I got home safe.
I never did.
Years later, I saw him at a Cauliflower Alley Club convention and reintroduced myself. We had a nice conversation about that night and I thanked him for looking after me the way he did.
"You'll be there to help someone someday. I'm glad I was there to help you."
I am too, sir. I am too.
Godspeed, George Steele. Thank you for your kindness.