Professional wrestler George “The Animal” Steele passed away on February 16, 2017. He died in hospice care due to kidney failure. Steele was 79 years old.
The wild, unpredictable wrestler was established as both a villain and hero among wrestling fans. He was known for using the cross face chicken wing, full nelson, power slam, shoulder breaker, suplex slam, and finishing moves like the jumping splash and elevated hammerlock.
Born on April 16, 1937 in Detroit, he was raised in Madison Heights, MI. While in high school he was a diverse athlete, playing baseball, basketball, football, and running track. In 1956 he went to Michigan State University, earning a Bachelor of Science Degree, then before becoming a professional wrestler he earned a Master’s Degree from Central Michigan University.
Steele was a high school teacher and wrestling coach in the Detroit area. During this time, he took on more work by getting into promotions, and became a wrestler, protecting his privacy by wearing a mask and going by the name the Student.
His first World Wrestling Federation appearance was in 1967 in Pittsburgh. Early appearances quickly led to a rivalry with champion Bruno Sammartino and for almost 20 years he appeared as a villain.
His notable main events were against Sammartino, Pedro Morales, and Bob Backlund and he was managed by WWE hall of famers like The Grand Wizard, “Classy” Freddie Blassie, Capt. Lou Albano, and Mr. Fuji.
In 1985 he became part of the WWE world, which had a heavy impact on his career. He transitioned from being one of the most hated wrestlers to a lovable figure. After he retired he was still feared among wrestlers and beloved among the fans.