According to a number of sources, old school pro wrestling legend George "The Animal" Steele has passed away of kidney failure. He was 79 years old. "The Animal" (real name, William Myers) was well known in the professional wrestling community for being one of the first to adopt an outlandish, over-the-top, on-screen character and become a superstar.
Several fellow wrestlers took to social media to express their condolences, including Hulk Hogan. "George 'the Animal' Steele, RIP my brother, only love, only grateful," Hogan tweeted on Friday. Several other wrestlers, past and present, paid their respects to the icon, including Tommy Dreamer, Kurt Angle, and current WWE Chief Operating Officer Triple H (real name, Paul Levesque), who wrote, "George Steele was a one of a kind performer who could make fans smile or boo...and his competitors laugh or cry."
George"the Animal"Steel,RIP my brother,only love,only grateful. HH— Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan) February 17, 2017
George Steele was a one of a kind performer who could make fans smile or boo...and his competitors laugh or cry...— Triple H (@TripleH) February 17, 2017
I feared him as a kid. 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— Tommy Dreamer (@THETOMMYDREAMER) February 17, 2017
Born and raised in Detroit, Steele was a became a football player at Michigan State University, where he earned a bachelor's of science degree. Later, Steele went on to earn a master's degree in education from Central Michigan University. He then went on to become a teacher and high school football and wrestling coach at Madison Heights High School in Michigan.
Steele didn't actually become a professional wrestler until 1967 at the age of 30, a decision he made in order to supplement his income. In the early years of his career, Steele wrestled in a mask under the ring name "The Student", though he didn't become a household name until the pro wrestling boom of the 1980s. It was during this period that Steele dropped the mask and changed his ring name to George Steele.
During this time, Steele became known as "The Animal" due to his wild-man actions, incredibly hairy torso, and signature green tongue. Often, Steele used his teeth to tear the stuffing out of random object including stuffed animals and, most famously, the corner turnbuckle pads. To this day, wrestlers and fans alike credit Steele's high-energy character for revolutionizing the professional wrestling industry and redefining the concept of a professional wrestling character.
After his retirement from full-time wrestling in 1988, Steele starred in several film projects, including Tim Burton's Ed Wood, and a number of shorts such as 1997's Blowfish and 2003's "Small Town Conspiracy. Steele also continued to make sporadic WWE appearances until 2010. His iconic career was recognized when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995.