Teacher of Mayhem
There was no fiercer competitor in the Pittsburgh area than George "The Animal" Steele. A graduate of Michigan State, Steele was a teacher before, and even during, his wrestling career. A constant gate attraction, Steele was renowned for his matches against WWWF champion Bruno Sammartino. Many fans remember him for his green tongue (it was a breath mint, for the record). Greg Mosorjak recently fired a number of questions at Steele, and here are his interesting answers.
How did you get into pro wrestling and who trained you?
I was looking for a part time job. I was not a wrestling. A friend talked me into calling the local promoter Burt Ruby. I was trained by Gino Brito.
I know you have stated no one helped you with your gimmick; it was all you. How did you come up with the gimmick and how did you invent your style?
First of all, I never considered my character a gimmick. Things just happened each year. When I would go back to teaching each fall I would tweak my character a little. If I ever get my book finished, this will become more clear.
When did you first came to the Pittsburgh territory, and who or what brought you there?
1967. — The first time I saw Bruno wrestle was in Detroit's Cobo Arena. Bruno had a entourage with him. I had never been on a card with a real world champion (yes, I was a mark but I did not know it). Bruno worked with Bulldog Brower that night. It was a weak match, but I was excited. Three weeks later, I got a call from [Pittsburgh promoter] Ace Freeman.
Were you put right in with Bruno, or did you work your way up through the ranks against DeFazio, Battman, Tony Parisi, etc.?
My first match in the Civic Arena was a tag match; Battman and Bruno versus Dr. Bill Miller and George Steele. My second, third and fourth were with Bruno.
In the summer of 1970, your brother came to Pittsburgh and worked under a hood as Professor X. Did you train him? Why did he leave the business?
Jack and had went to the gym to train a couple times. Jack had a wrestling background from his college days. Jack was a good worker, but Jack did not like working.
Your matches in Pittsburgh against Bruno were classics and often marathons in terms of time. How did you stay in shape back then wrestling a part-time schedule while teaching?
I did not do anything special. I always had great endurance; it came natural to me.
Tell me about your schedule of teaching and wrestling? Did your students ever know?
In Detroit and Michigan, I wrestled under the mask as The Student.
Besides Bruno, who were some of the leaders in the locker room in Pittsburgh?
Dr. Bill Miller, Johnny DeFazio and Lou Albano.
Who were some of the wrestlers you were close friends with back then and who did you travel with back then to the smaller towns like Johnstown, Altoona, Uniontown, etc.?
Lou Albano and Tony Altimore, Waldo von Erich, Joe Abby, Baron Scicluna, Frank Holtz, Frank Dorso, Bucky Palermo, Ace Freeman and Rudy Miller.
Any good road stories or locker room stories you can share with us?
So many that I don't where to start. Pittsburgh was very good to me. I believe that I was very good for Pittsburgh.
How were Ace Freeman and Rudy Miller to work for? Were payoffs good back then?
Ace Freeman and Rudy Miller were great. My first great payoff were in Pittsburgh.
Do you have one match that was most memorable from the Pittsburgh area?
The time the crazy state commissioner DQ'ed Bruno and started the riot.
I'd like to ask you about some of the key players back then in Pittsburgh and tell me about them. Bill Cardille the TV announcer?
Without Bill Cardille, there would have been no Channel 11 Studio Wrestling.
Waldo von Erich
Was a super star and a super guy.
Was over in the Civic Arena.
If Bruno was not the WWWF champion, Johnny DeFazio could have been. Johnny is a very smart man.
The wrestling cop. Another local that could have made it anywhere.
A very solid worker. The promoter that booked The Animal against Victor The Bear.
Is one of my very best friends in the wrestling business. Baron Scicluna is a real class guy.
Eric the Red
God Bless Eric the Red. This is the only wrestler that could drink with Andre.
The Sheik (Not really Pittsburgh, but you worked a lot for him in Detroit)
Was just one the greatest heels of all time and I was lucky to learn from The Sheik.
In those days Bruno was the greatest. I really had a ton of respect for Bruno Sammartino as a man.
We cannot talk about Pittsburgh Wrestling and not mention Ringside Rosy. She was the greatest and she was not part of the TV show.
Was Mr Pittsburgh.
You used the flying hammerlock back then. Is this a hold you came up with?
Ricky "The Crusher" Cortez used the flying hammerlock as a high spot. I just took it a step farther.
Did you like having a manager or did you prefer to go it alone? I know later in the WWWF you had Lou Albano.
As The Student, I had one of the greatest managers of all time, Gary Hart. When I came to Pittsburgh, I did all of my own talking, Daddio!
You were a master of using a foreign object and hiding it from the ref. Did a fan ever try to get the object from you as you were hiding it?
No, but Mad Dog Vachon threw it to the crowd once. I used the same foreign object for 37 years and I still have the same one.
Were you ever attacked by a fan, or should I say a non-fan?
The fans were afraid of THE ANIMAL. If the fans started to getting too rambunctious, I would chase them. I did have few lawsuits from fans that ran over each other.
What injuries did you suffer in the ring?
Nothing real serious; it was a work. I tore my biceps during a TV match.
Tell about your move to wrestling full time in the WWF?
By that time the business had changed and "The Animal" had changed. I had gone from bring one of the wildest heels in the history of the wrestling to a cartoon character. I love working heel but the cartoon character helped us improve our life style.
What are you up to now?
I have a very successful home-based business. I have turned my life over to the Lord. I spend on my message board "The Animal House." George Steele started his career in Pittsburgh and I am kind of back where I started. Arte Tedesco, a folk singer from Pittsburgh, is now my business manager. Arte Tedesco owns the Monkey Fist Production company. Do you smell what we have cooking?
Thanks to George Steele
— Greg Mosorjak