Jim Myers played George “The Animal” Steele, prowrestler and actor. In real life Myers struggled with dyslexia, in the ring he ripped open turnbuckles with his teeth, engaged in comical but still sometimes vicious, always ugly, brawling.
Myers battled with Crohn’s Disease too but in fact almost everything about Myers is unknown until you read this book because The Animal was a character who never spoke. A stuttered “mine” now and then, plenty of wordless grunting but no real speech. A clever way to hide inside the character, to leave your personal life outside of the ring.
Myers started wrestling as a part-time gig, working as a teacher and football coach. He was big and burly and a former athlete and he toured America in the weekends and holidays making cash on the side, taking a term out now and then to work on the craft, to hone his in-ring skills.
He worked hard across the 1960s and 1970s and lived through the golden era of wrestling across the 1970s and 1980s. In the mid-to-late 1980s, as the green-tongued, turnbuckle-chewing Animal who wasn’t a heel but threw chairs, sometimes even at the audience, he took the full-time pay-check since wrestling was paying so well. Here he established himself as a lovable rogue and he writes well in telling the story of his angle with Macho Man Randy Savage, Animal besotted with Miss Elizabeth. Heck, the best wrestling angles were always the simple ones.
The Animal was a bit-part player in pro-wrestling but such a colourful character – so memorable – that his story is interesting. Particularly because to hear him tell it he was just an ordinary, average guy, one who put his abnormally hairy body and bald head to use outside of working a regular job.
Myers also has a bit part – as George “The Animal” Steel as Tor Johnson – in the Tim Burton-helmed Ed Wood biopic. There’s a funny chapter where Animal selfeffacingly discusses the payday he and his wife thought they’d hit; they hoped to move out to Hollywood and have a huge career on the back of this film.
Wrestling biographies are rush-jobs in most cases, put together with the help of a competent-hack sports writer; covering the essentials, providing a little insight and some stories of the outside-the-ring normality that is so at odds with this bafflingly absurd lifestyle/job.
But I enjoyed this yarn. It was fun to journey back as I flipped through these pages, dragging my old life alongside me, as I always have and will.