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WWE: George "The Animal" Steele

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posted on Jun, 27 2004 @ 01:10 PM
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His very name still evokes terror, on one hand, and sympathy on the other. Of all the unusual people that have plied their trade in WWE, perhaps no one was stranger than George "The Animal" Steele. With his trademark green tongue, hairy torso and penchant for eating turnbuckles, Steele captured the spotlight without ever winning a major WWE title. There was never anyone like him before or since.

Steele first came to WWE in the late 1960s and was managed over the years by the Grand Wizard, "Classy" Freddie Blassie, Capt. Lou Albano, Mr. Fuji and even Johnny Valentine. He had classic rivalries with Bruno Sammartino, Gorilla Monsoon, Pedro Morales and Bob Backlund. In 1984, Steele re-hired Albano and ended his rulebreaking ways. His transformation was remarkable, as one of the most hated men in the sport became one of its most beloved figures.

His style was unique, to say the least. Like a true animal, he was virtually impossible to contain. At times, his various managers were able to control him, but for the most part, Steele did whatever he pleased. He clawed at opponents, bit them, and used just about every illegal maneuver ever concocted. His most devastating hold, however, was his vaunted Flying Hammerlock, which could separate an opponent's shoulder in mere seconds. The looks of pain on his foes faces when he applied the hold remain among the most indelible impressions in the mat game's history.

In a sport where speaking skills sometimes overshadow athletic ability, it's a testament to Steele that he had such an impact without talking. This is not to say that he didn't use his mouth, of course. When he wasn't biting his opponents, he could often be seen eating turnbuckles, much to the amusement of the fans. His opponents would then be summarily tossed headfirst into the exposed steel bolt that secured the ropes to the ring post.

In 1986, just when many thought Steele's career might be winding down, he once again rose to prominence. He developed a crush on Miss Elizabeth and feuded with her charge "Macho Man" Randy Savage, eventually costing him the Intercontinental Champion-ship in his classic bout with Ricky "The Dragon" Steamboat at WrestleMania III.

"The Animal" had one last run in WWE during the "Attitude" era of the late 1990s, when he came out of retirement to be a part of the Oddities a fitting return if ever there was one.

Since Steele left WWE, his legend has only grown. Today, there are few grapplers who have such an unorthodox persona, and Steele's talents are appreciated more than ever. He remains one of the most recognizable men outside sports entertainment, and he is the standard bearer for all the monsters who have ever set foot in a wrestling ring.

WWE Hall of fame




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