Michigan-Raised Pro Wrestler George ‘The Animal’ Steele Dies at 79
The WWE announced Friday that Detroit-born professional wrestler George 'The Animal' Steele has died at age 79.
According to the Detroit News, Steele grew up in Madison Heights and played football at Michigan State. A knee injury cut short his football career. He went on to earn a master's degree from Central Michigan University and to teach and coach football at Madison High in Madison Heights.
It was during this time in the late 60s that Steele got into pro-wrestling. He went by "The Student" and wore a mask to protect his identity as a teacher and coach.
Eventually Steele became "The Animal" and was known for much of his career as a villain. That changed in 1985, when, according to the WWE
Steele was embraced by the WWE Universe and changed the course of his career. After The Iron Sheik and Nikolai Volkoff abandoned him during a match, Steele fell back under the tutelage of the then-beloved Albano. His transformation was remarkable, as one of the most hated men in the sport became one of its most loveable figures. Long after his in-ring retirement and WWE Hall of Fame induction, George “The Animal” Steele’s name still evoked terror for one generation of WWE fans and warm smiles for another."
Steele was inducted into the the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995.
The Detroit News reports that Steele was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 1988 and had his colon removed in 2002, and had entered hospice care last week.