George 'The Animal' Steele Talks Being Upset With WrestleMania III, Randy Savage, Vince, His Gimmick
What inspired him to write his autobiography "Animal": "Well, wrestling was very, very good to me and my family. But the book, the book really is wrestling. I think I give some good insight on wrestling. But it's also an insight on my life. I open up some wounds that I probably could have done, well, without doing. But if the book helps anyone that's having a learning disability, a health problem, financial problem, it's all in there. So I just hope that it can really help somebody, if anything else."
His struggles with dyslexia and the methods there were to rehabilitate it many years ago: "There was absolutely none. Zero. Nobody had an idea what it was. People that were dyslexic back then was just dumb, sit in the back of the room and be quiet. Especially if you're bigger than everybody else, now you're big, dumb, sit in the back of the room and be quiet."
How hard it was to lead a double life of being a teacher and a wrestler: "Oh that was… that wasn't hard at all! My lifestyle because of the dyslexia and later on getting into a few street fights and so on, kind of opened up the door for that. Then when I got to Michigan State and they found out I wasn't as dumb as they thought I was in high school and grade school, things started to blossom in that direction. And then as I grew as a wrestler in the WWWF and later on the WWF, my confidence grew which made me a better teacher and coach and better person probably. So it all kind of glued together. And the neat thing about it back then everything in the wrestling business was in territories. So when George Steele was wrestling in New York or in the North East, they didn't know that back in Michigan. Back in Michigan he was wearing a mask and was a student. So you know the students really never knew what was going on. Occasionally, a student from the North East would move into the Madison Heights area and I'd see people gathered around him. And I knew what was coming. He'd have a program and say there he is. So they'd come to me and say is that you? You're a wrestler, you're George Steele. And I'd simply look at it and say do you really think I'm that ugly?"
How George "The Animal" Steele came about: "Well, the name is. I was wrestling around Michigan with a mask on. I was spotted and taken into Pittsburgh. And they didn't want me to use my mask. I did not want to use my real name because of the teaching and coaching. So Johnny DeFazio, one of the guys there said well this is the steel city, let's call him Jim Steele. I didn't like the Jim, somebody else said George. So George Steele is only about 46 years old now. So that's how I got the name. And then the character. You know now-a-days they have a creation team that develops talent. Everything that happened with me happened by accident. One of the things I'm always asked about is why did you have a fetish for turnbuckles? For lack of a better way of saying it. And what happened there, this is back in the black and white TV days in '67. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania they had their wrestling promotion in a studio, channel 11 studio. And they would put plywood around the outside of the ring, sit people in front of it. Now the plywood was painted black and they had faces on it so it made the crowd look bigger. I mean we're talking about old, old wrestling. Vince (McMahon) would die if they did that today. They would give away a gift now and then to get fans to come there for the promotion. This particular Saturday afternoon, they gave away couch pillows. Satin couch pillows from the '60s, packed real tight.