In observance of Halloween I was curious to know who or what frightened our readers the most as youngsters. I went into the ol’ memory bank and I resurfaced with someone that I had repressed for awhile. I was so terrified of this individual that whenever he was in the area I made sure that I didn’t wander too far from the house.
Okay, okay you can stop laughing. No one freaked me out more than George “The Animal” Steele. I’m not talking about the lovable 1990′s character that had feelings for “Macho Man” Randy Savage’s squeeze the late Miss Elizabeth. I’m talking about the man who terrorized the WWWF and WWF in the mid to late 70′s and early 80′s (Pre-Hulkamania).
Under the tuteledge of “Classy” Freddie Blassie Steele was a threat to then-Champion Bob Backlund’s title and my bladder anytime he popped up on the screen. The green tongue, the body spasms and the fact that he couldn’t speak had me on edge. It didn’t help that his spin was that he had escaped from a mental institution or was either signed out by Blassie to cripple Backlund. In one promo for a steele cage match in Philadelphia, Steele was in a straight jacket yelling, “Backlund!”.
Well, that was all this seven year old could take, that night before I went to bed praying that Backlund survived that match with Steele.
Another Steele moment that I’ll never forget was a match where Steele was a going against a young jobber (Think Rocky King of NWA Wrestling fame) and Steele dislocated this kid’s shoulder executing his signature move, the flying hammerlock. Once the referee saw that Steele’s opponent was minus one wing he called for the bell.
In the mid 80′s as wrestling became more of a family-oriented entity, Steele became a star, a sympathetic figure turning face (good guy) and becoming marketable with his own dolls, t-shirts and the like. The shocker for me came when it was revealed that this overly hairy, tongue waging, turnbuckle chomping lunatic was a professor at the University of Michigan and was no more than a great actor.
And this kid bought it - hook, line and sinker.