Long before "the Animal" Batista or Road Warrior Animal, there was another wrestler with that moniker. George 'the Animal' Steele. And he's this week's freak of the week.
The first time I remember seeing George was on an old WWF show back in the summer of 1983. This was before I was a fulltime fan of wrestling, and everything was still "real" to me. I was 10 years old at the time and remember being freaked out by the Animal. He had a green tongue, bald head, and covered with hair on his torso. He was a monster back then. He didn't do a whole lot of talking, he just tore his opponent apart in the ring. If I remember correctly it was either Mr. Fuji or Classy Freddy Blassie was managing him at the time. He truly was an animal.
George was a heel most of his time in the WWF. Then in 1985, shortly after the first Wrestlemania, George was teaming with tag team champions Iron Sheik and Nikola Volkoff against Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham, and Mike Rotunda on Saturday Night's Main Event. George was left alone in the ring. His partners wouldn't tag him, and Steamboat ended up rolling him up for the pin. Of course Sheik and Volkoff were upset and attacked the Animal after the match. Capt. Lou Albano, who was managing Windham and Rotunda at the time, came into the ring and helped George. The two were then paired up.
I remember the old skits on Tuesday Night Titans where George went through therapy to become "normal." But it never seemed to work. George did become a kinder, gentler wrestler. He was still tough as a $2 steak (sorry JR), but he almost became a cartoon character. This was of course during the rock 'n' wrestling era where the WWF was marketing to kids.
When Albano retired in 1986, George received "help" from a stuffed critter he called "Mine." See the photo above to understand more of this. During his run as a babyface, George feuded with Macho Man Randy Savage for Elizabeth's hand. I remember one match on SNME that if George won, he'd "get" Elizabeth. Of course he lost, and his poor heart remained broken.
Besides the green tongue and the stuffed animal, George was also known for his crazy walk/dance motions in the ring. Almost like a primate moving around. And after his matches he would tear open the turnbuckle and "eat" the stuffing inside.
George is a WWE Hall of Famer and now retired. I remember being somewhat disappointed when I saw him in a commercial and he wasn't as wild and crazy as he was in the ring. He was a real person afterall.
The character though went from being a crazed lunatic to a lovable human teddy bear. That seems to be the trend in wrestling. Turning these violent guys into cuddly creatures. Makes them more marketable I suppose.
So let's rip open a turnbuckle and salute this week's freak, the original animal. "MINE!"