Detroit native, wrestler George 'The Animal' Steele dies

The Detroit News

Detroit native and famed wrestling heel George "The Animal" Steele died Thursday, according to the WWE. He was 79.

Steele, whose real name was William James "Jim"  Myers, grew up in Madison Heights and played football at Michigan State before a knee injury curtailed his career.

He earned a master's degree from Central Michigan and went on to teach and coach wrestling and football at Madison High in Madison Heights.

On the professional wrestling circuit, Steele started in the late 1960s under the moniker The Student, wearing a mask as not to reveal his identity as a teacher and coach. He was managed by Gary Hart.

He rose to prominence as George "The Animal" Steele in the East Coast's World Wrestling Federation, but made several appearances in Detroit during Big Time Wrestling's heyday in the 1970s and '80s at Cobo Arena.

His trademark gimmick included chewing off the ring's turnbuckle padding as well executing his sheer brute strength.

He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995.

Myers also had a screen appearance in "Ed Wood," portraying Tor Johnson, a Swedish wrestler turned actor.

He was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 1988 and had his colon removed in 2002, according to a New York Daily News report. He had entered hospice care last week.

Myers is survived by his wife of 60 years Pat and three children.