NZ Today - - ON BOOKS - Ge­orge “The An­i­mal” Steele w/ Jim Evans Tri­umph Books

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.

Si­mon Sweet­man

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