RF Video Shoot Interview with George “The Animal” Steele


This was filmed in either late 2007 or early 2008

The interview was conducted by Rob Feinstein

It runs at two hours and three minutes long

 

Steele starts off by staying in character then asks Rob if he wants to talk to “Jim Myers,” he can talk normal. He then says he did not care about wrestling at all while growing up. He was teaching for $4,300 a year with a wife and two children and played semi-pro football for $100 a game. He also bounced at a bar with his friend, who was a huge wrestling fan. George goes on to say he got drunk with his friend they called a promoter at 2:30am saying they wanted to be wrestlers. This promoter was Bert Ruby in Detroit and they saw him the next day and said that his son is currently the lawyer for Barry Bonds. Steele said he knew nothing at all about wrestling then was asked to take his shirt off and he thought the guy was a “switch hitter” and he started tugging at his chest hair and thought it was great.

 

Steele was sent somewhere in Virginia to train and was never smartened up to anything. After going in the ring, they smartened him up to the business a bit as Steele said he became turned off and thought it was disrespecting athletics but stuck with it and said he learned the most from riding in cars from town-to-town with veterans who would critique his matches and how its much better than today where you learn at a school run by a guy who wrestled just a handful of matches.

 

He said his first match was against Klondike Bill, who was an old veteran at the time. Ruby told Steele it was a “halfway shoot” match as he had no idea what that meant. They were both exhausted and wrapped it up quicker than it was supposed to be.

 

We get a story of how the business was back then as Steele said Louis Papineau died after the match and Johnny Gates, an old-time jobber, asked if they could drag him out to the ring so he could get a pin.

 

His first character was a student, as Steele tells us a gimmick is something you use to hit someone with and not a character. His manager was Gary Hart, who George says is one of the greatest of all-time.

 

Steele said he was wrestling in the Summer and would go back to teaching in the Fall and had no intention of leaving the Detroit area. Ruby told Steele he would always have a safe haven in Detroit if he went out on the road and did not leave Detroit until four years later when Bruno Sammartino came in to work Bulldog Brower. The next night, Steele worked a match in the main event that got over great and two weeks later Bruno asked if he would work against him in Pittsburgh. They did some angles and got the first sellout their and said it was an easy flight so he went back to teaching in the Fall. Sheik said that Bruno was complaining that he was stiff as Steele said Bruno himself was stiff but that he also would show him the books to him and got great payoffs as Steele’s biggest payoff from the Sheik was like $75. However, word got back to Bruno that Steele was complaining about the payoffs. Bruno called Steele up six months later and said he recommended him to Vince McMahon in the WWWF but they started yelling at each other because of the Sheik trying to split them up but it ended up bonding them instead.

 

He talks about wrestlers today and how they are all great athletes but do not get a chance to work and grow as performers, citing how cutting long promos and having “debates” in the ring is just garbage as you have to learn how to get heat in the ring.

 

Johnny DeFazio came up with the “Steele” last name in Pittsburgh as it was a steel city. He first suggested Jim Steele but someone else said he should switch to George and he liked that. The called him George “The Bruiser” Steele in New York but Steele hated that so he thought “The Animal” was a better fit.

 

Steele puts over Bill Miller as a great person and a legitimate tough guy. He also said Miller’s wife saved his son’s life after his son fell into a pool at a young age.

 

He said that the turnbuckle eating happened in Pittsburgh. The green tongue also started in Pittsburgh as he had a few drinks before the TV tapings and did not want the promoter to know (Bruno had left) and put some Clorets in his mouth and his tongue was green. He said the switchboards lit up and fans eventually started showing up with green tongues.

 

Steele talks about his students recognizing him from wrestling as he would always tell them his name was Jim Myers then ask them if they thought he was that ugly. Steele would also try to take the kids’ wrestling magazines if he saw them in his classroom as he talks about how they would all play off each other.

 

He tells a story about working against Pedro Morales at a spot show. They started the match and Steele grabbed Pedro in a wristlock. Steele told Pedro to hit him but did not realize Pedro was left handed and Steele was holding his left arm. Steele kept telling Pedro to hit him then said to “ring his bell” and the referee ring the bell and the match was over. Apparently, agent Arnold Skaaland left the building early and told Vince the match went great but in reality the fans were pissed and the promoter wanted his money back.

 

He talks about a great worker is someone who can stay on top of a territory for 30 years as if you are keep moving around it means you are not drawing at that place anymore. Steele said he had no reason to go anywhere else after New York as he made big money in the Summer then went back to teaching after that.

 

Steele says he learned about the psychology of promoters from sitting on the toilet. He tells a story of being in the bathroom when first starting out in Detroit and heard the guy training him complained about his payoff to the promoter, who decided to take some of the students payoffs and give it to him. Steele went to the promoter and told him about getting less and how it doesnt make sense and after that was not booked for a month and learned you needed leverage. He then said later on in New York, Vince Sr. and Vince Jr. where in the bathroom and Vince Jr. asked his dad why they kept bringing Steele in for all that money. Vince Sr. said it was they sold out when using Steele for three months then he went back to teaching and they didnt have to worry about him wrestling elsewhere of giving him monthly payoffs like others who would be loaned out to other territories as Steele says to always keep your feet up when in the bathroom stall after saying he had leverage with the McMahon’s after hearing that conversation.

 

He talks about how Capt. Lou Albano told him he was getting the title in 1977 but it was done purposely to throw people off as Superstar Billy Graham was getting the belt. Steele also said they had Graham win the title in Baltimore because business was down there and Vince was fearful a riot could break out somewhere else if Bruno lost.

 

Rob asks him about several workers. Steele said that Bob Backlund looked like “Howdy Doody” but thought he was one of the greatest champions of all-time as he would sell out then Backlund and Bruno Sammartino needed the belt as the could not draw without them. He said the Grand Wizard was a great guy and his first manager in New York. He then is asked about Mr. Fuji and talks about reversing a rib on him as Fuji almost left the territory after no one would speak to him.

 

Steele now talks about how you do not sell tickets during the match, you sell them after the match.

 

In 1984, Steele said his career was pretty much over and at the last MSG show Vince Sr. was alive for was told by him he would no longer be needed as he was older as Vince Sr. had tears in his eyes. However, Vince Jr. called him up later on and had an idea for him to switch to a babyface. Steele said he agreed and at the end it worked out great financially even if he was past his prime.

 

Steele said Vince Jr. was like his dad at first but had to change as the WWF grew to a big corporation. He likes and respects him and says he has “balls.”

 

He said the drug scene was strong in the 80’s as you needed to do things to survive. He talks about working 87 days in a row at one point and became hooked on sleeping pills while dabbling a little bit in cocaine. Steele then talks about guys doing everything they can to make it from town-to-town so they can provide for their families.

 

Steele is asked about some more guys in the WWF during this time period. He liked Roddy Piper then tells a story of how Piper got mad at him for biting open the turnbuckles and exposing how it was filled with stuffing because he would run people’s heading into them. He said Piper’s work as average but he was a great talker. Steele said that Rick Martel was someone who was a great worker in the ring. He talks about working with the Iron Sheik and how he accidentally knocked out his two front teeth as he said Sheik & Volkoff would put their hands up way too high and as a result the legs of the chair hit him in the mouth. He talks about Randy Savage being a great worker and while he was insanely paranoid over Elizabeth, they both got along.

 

He talks about knowing when the wrestling business changed and that was Butcher Vachon’s wedding from “Tuesday Night Titans” and the wedding reception at actual booze. Steele said that he put his arm around Vince and asked if he was going to air this and he said yes and three weeks later WWF became #1 on the USA Network programming.

 

Steele tells that Ernie Roth was the one who taught Vince Jr. the business. He then said Vince Sr. told him to try and get some heat off of his son so Steele brought him around the other wrestlers after the shows. They were all in a hotel room, several heels and faces as they were drinking and playing cards when one of the wrestlers brought in some guy, who said he knew it was all a show and at that time Vince grabbed him and was going to toss him through off the second floor balcony on to the cars until Ken Patera held him back as Steele said that was when Vince got respect from the wrestlers. Steele also said that Vince wanted to be one of the boys but learned he had to be the boss instead.

 

He said that Junkyard Dog, Tito Santana, and himself always liked to stir things up in the locker room. Steele also liked the Honky Tonk Man and Jake Roberts, saying he had fun with Jake for a while. He was a bit surprised when Harley Race came to the WWF as Steele talks about the rumors he was going to shoot on people but Steele said in reality, Harley is like a puppy although he is still very tough.

 

Steele tells us the story of how the Mine doll was created. He said Hillbilly Jim always traveled alone and brought him a stuffed, dead cat named Earl. Steele asked him to use Earl one night and had it behind his back for an interview with Gene Okerlund and started yelling “Earl” and pulled it out at the end. Vince pulled him aside and told Steele and told him since he sold the hell out of that they should come up with a toy for him as Vince wanted Steele to think one up. Steele said he came up with the “Mine” name because that is what kids yell when they fight over a toy. Steele said he was too old to bump at that point so he would tie the doll to the ropes and sell it when his opponent kicked or hit the doll.

 

He had to retire due to Crohn’s Disease and he did not want to become an agent because he felt he was one of the boys and agents had to be stooges. Steele also said he told Vince he does not want to be a “yes man” as Vince told him he wanted Steele in that role because he was a straight-shooter. Steele finally agreed and had to handle the money end of things as he was dyslexic and was short $1,000 his first night. After a few months of that he became a head agent.

 

Steele joked he got his role in the film “Ed Wood” due to his tremendous acting abilities. He said Tim Burton picked him as he resembled Tor Johnson and had a blast shooting the film.

 

After getting let go as an agent, Steele became upset as he felt Vince owed him a phone call. Jim Ross was the one who called him with the news as Steele said Vince was very emotional and has trouble making calls like that.

 

On wrestling today, Steele said it changed from what it was but its still a multi-million dollar business so he’s not sure there is anything wrong with it today.

 

His favorite opponents where Bruno, Backlund, Savage, and Adrian Adonis, someone Steele said had a great mind for the business. Steele’s favorite places to wrestle where New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.

 

The interview closes with Steele thanking his fans.

 

Final Thoughts: This was an enjoyable interview. Steele has a great mind for the business and gave a lot of insight here. He also told several good stories too and more than I covered here. He is also someone who is not bitter at all and seems happy with how his career played out. I thought this was a great interview as you learned about the business a lot.

Overall, I recommend this interview. Steele is a great interview subject and his 1986 WWE Timeline from Kayfabe Commentaries something else I highly recommend to everyone.

You can purchase this interview on DVD for $20 or download a digital copy for $14.99. You can also view the trailer for this interview below.