The first WWF live event I ever attended featured Jimmy Snuka vs. George "The Animal" Steele.
Both have passed away now.
That night George scared the kids lining up to see the wrestlers so bad, that kids were tripping over chairs fleeing for their lives. I was one of those kids, laughing gleefully playing my part in the act, all the while running.
George Steele was a terrifying heel.
William Myers was a teacher.
He was a High school wrestling coach, who like many others dipped his toes into pro wrestling to help supplement his income during the summer. Funny thing, one of the reasons the Animal was constantly fresh was because during his entire career up until 85 he wrestled only in summer's. He was still a teacher. Every so often he would do a Japan tour as well.
His career began as a "scientific" heel with manager Gary Hart at his side, known as "The Student". He was trained by Gino Brito.
He mainly worked for The Sheik's "Big Time" Wrestling Promotion early on. He worked against the legendary Don Leo Jonathan. But very early into his wrestling career he caught the attention of Bruno Sammartino who noticed him on a house show in 1966 and contacted him on behalf of the WWWF. He would go on to spend 90% of his career working for them.
In the WWF he kept his scientific heel character but this time worked as George Steele. He was not "the Animal" yet....His chief feuds were with Bruno, and Strongbow.
But as time went, at some point during one of George's off season school year's he had an idea and transformed into his WWWF "The Animal" character for the next summer. It had to have been 68 or 69', I am not sure exactly sure what year that was, but at this point he was managed by The Grand Wizard and formed a team and friendship with Killer Kowalski. He had a hot angle in 69 where they did a heel vs heel feud. The two turned on each other and the next week they were booked for Boston.
They sold out the Boston Garden and just to give you an idea as to how "over" Steele was a heel, that night they cheered Kowalski like mad.
Over the summers he was managed by pretty much a who's who list of WWE managers, Grand Wizard, Classy Freddie Blassie, Lou Albano, and finally Mr Fugi.
So that's how life was for "The Animal". He was a summer WWWF heel, who always came back hot.
He would start the summer in a program with whatever manager they wanted him with, against whoever was the top baby at the time and by the end of the summer he was helping put the up and coming faces over.
He spent some of his summers, particularly in 73 and 77 doing some shows for Big Time, as "The Student" again, and working for the St Louis wrestling club briefly as George Steele. He got a title shot against Morales in 74.
He also worked over in Japan for Baba in 1974, he had a pretty quick rise to fame in the business due to his look, size, and ability. He even got a Main Event against Baba.
He feuded with Bruno again in 75' and 77' also working with Ivan Putski, Jay Strongbow
In 1979 he spent the whole summer working for New Japan.
I believe he took 1980, and 82 off entirely but he might have been over in Japan.
By 1981 George had an extensive feud with Backlund. In 83 he again feuded with Backlund
In 1984 He got a few shots (at least 5) at Hogan on House shows. He was managed by Mr Fugi at this time.
This means George Steele had title shots on Main Events against....Bruno, Pedro Morales, Bob Backlund, and Hulk Hogan.....impressive.
In 1985 George Steele turned into the lovable character he would perform as for the rest of his career and was able to make enough money that he went full time from 85-87. He turned face during a 6 man match when Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik abandoned him to face Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham and Mike Rotundo by himself. I had forgotten this until today when I was reading some of his memoirs. I thought his face turn involved Savage. I was mistaken.
He made his most famous face run with Randy Savage in 1986 when he had the Beauty and the Beast gimmick involving the late great Miss Elizabeth. This led to his involvement in WM3 as the corner man for Steamboat in possibly the greatest wrestling match of a generation. To millions of fans who grew up in the Hogan era, this is his most famous run.
For the rest of his career in the WWF George played the good natured cartoonish face. Never again a real Main Event caliber force but a good solid draw. He had some memorable moments including skits on TNT, and his spots with the British Bulldogs. Not to mention his "Mine" doll.
Of course he had his Hollywood moment as well playing Tor Johnson in "Ed Wood".
He retired in 88 due to complications with Crohn's disease, but continued to work with the WWF/WWE for years to come.
So here's to the late William Meyers, and the late Animal Steele RIP.