George “The Animal” Steele, the ’80s-era WWF pro wrestler known for his gloriously hairy body and turnbuckle-eating proclivities, has died. Wrestling Observer reports that Steele had been in hospice care and died Thursday night. He was 79.
Born William James Myers, Steele began his wrestling career in the late 1960s, playing a villainous character and feuding with the likes of Bruno Sammartino. His most famous run was during the ’80’s WWF boom period, by which time his character had evolved into a demented, caveman-like wild man. Steele was instantly recognizable for his furry body and green tongue, and his gimmick was to chew the cover off the corner turnbuckle as an explosion of loose padding filled his mouth, which Steele would use against his opponents.
His highest-profiled feud was with “The Macho Man” Randy Savage in 1986. In that storyline, Steele had developed a crush on Savage’s valet, Miss Elizabeth. It culminated in an Intercontinental championship match at Wrestlemania 2, a match Steele lost, but in which he kicked out—to the shock of those in attendance—Savage’s finishing maneuver, his top-rope elbow drop.
Steele retired from wrestling in 1988, but made a brief return a decade later during WWF’s Attitude Era.