More sad news from the world of pro wrestling today as Jim Myers, better known as WWE Hall of Famer George ‘The Animal’ Steele, has reportedly passed away at age 79. The news of Steele’s condition was first shared on Eric Simms of ESS Promotions’ Facebook page, and an update on Thursday evening mentioned that the WWF legend had been moved to hospice care. On Friday, both he and Hulk Hogan first tweeted news of Steele’s passing, as well as a family friend who posted on Facebook. The news was later confirmed by WWE.
Debuting way back in 1967, George Steele gained notoriety and popularity as “The Animal,” a hairy, green-tongued human monster that ate turnbuckle pads, became infatuated with female valets like Miss Elizabeth, and carried around a bald My Pet Monster that looked like him. His highest profile matches included challenging ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage for the Intercontinental Championship at WrestleMania 2, as well as being ring-side for one of the greatest matches of all-time, Savage vs. Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat at WrestleMania 3.
Despite retiring in 1988 and being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995, Steele’s career continued throughout the 90s and well into the 2000s. The Animal teamed with Taka Michinoku (of all people) on a 1997 episode of Raw, returned as part of The Oddities in 1998, and even competed in a match against Jeff Jarrett on WCW Monday Nitro in 2000. His most recent appearance on WWE TV happened in 2010, when he showed up to “Old School Raw” and helped Kofi Kingston defeat David Otunga.
Steele was a true star of pop culture, becoming a reference on Seinfeld (to explain one of Jerry’s girlfriends’ “man hands”) and appearing as wrestler-turned-actor Tor Johnson in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood. The Animal will certainly be missed. If you aren’t familiar with his work, we’ve included a few choice videos to show you how important a man can be by eating some green food coloring and pretending to eat foam padding. Rest in power, Animal.