Former wrestler George “The Animal” Steele has died, World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. confirmed via Twitter Friday morning.
Steele, born William James Myers, wanted to protect his anonymity when he went into wrestling in the 1960s. He originally wore a mask and called himself “The Student.” After he was recruited by the World Wide Wrestling Federation, he came up with his new ring name while in Pittsburgh, the “Steel City.”
Steele was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995, after a wrestling career spanning more than two decades, from 1967 to 1988. He was known for “his green tongue, hairy torso and insatiable appetite for turnbuckle pads,” according to a WWE statement.
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But Steele was also highly educated — he played football for Michigan State and went on to get his master’s degree at Central Michigan University. Before becoming a professional wrestler, he taught at a high school in Madison Heights, Michigan.
Steele was famous for his buffoon-ish "Duh-da-dahh" gimmick on-air, though he also took pride in his ability to speak eloquently. He even dabbled in Hollywood, taking on the role of Tor Johnson for director Tim Burton’s 1994 film, “Ed Wood.”
In punk rock band Half Japanese’s song, “George Steele,” the lyrics honor the former wrestler: “There's a man who I admire, a man who set his hair on fire."
“Steele was one of the wildest and most unpredictable Superstars in sports-entertainment history,” WWE wrote in a statement, which offered condolences to Steele’s family, friends and fans.