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George “The Animal” Steele, the iconic World Wrestling Entertainment Hall of Fame wrestler, passed away Thursday night at the age of 79, the WWE announced on Friday. Steele reportedly died from kidney failure and had been in and out of hospice care for nearly a year, according to TMZ.

Born William James Myers, the Michigan native received his undergraduate degree from Michigan State and master’s from Central Michigan.

Steele joined the WWE in 1967 after briefly playing football in the short-lived United Football League. Steele feuded with champion Bruno Sammartino before developing the green-tongue, turnbuckle-eating, hairy “Animal” heel gimmick he was best known for.

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Steele would have a babyface run in the WWE in the mid-1980s and feuded with the “Macho Man” Randy Savage over the admiration of Miss Elizabeth, Savage’s on-screen valet and actual wife.

Steele would retire from wrestling full-time in 1988 due to Crohn’s Disease. The chronic illness forced Steele to have his colon removed in 2002.

He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 1995 and made sporadic appearances for the company following his retirement.



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