Editor’s note: Wrestling legend George “The Animal” Steele died this week at the age of 79. Our own Dave “The Groz” Grosby shares a personal story of his interactions with “The Animal” below.
During my 20s I worked on the radio in Sacramento, Calif. Once the NBA’s Kings came in the mid-80s, it meant an arena and of course other arena events – including professional wrestling.
Led by the emergence of Hulk Hogan, it was a big draw. The then-WWF (now WWE) did not have a cable TV presence like it does now, so it did a lot of live shows and hired local sportscasters to be their ring announcers. In Sacramento, that was me.
After doing the job every eight weeks for about a year or so, the arena promoter asked me a startling question.
“Would you like to take a wrestler home?”
He meant to his hotel, of course, and I said yes and wondered who it would be. He paused and said, “How about ‘The Animal?'”
George “The Animal” Steele was the headliner that night against Randy Savage and was one of the best known guys in the game. I couldn’t wait.
I picked him up outside and asked if he felt like having a drink, so off we went for me to show him off to my buddies (remember, no cell phones back then). We surprised everyone at my little neighborhood bar, had a lot of laughs, and I dropped him off at his hotel. A really great guy.
The next time the WWF was in town, no one asked if I wanted to take anyone home, so I left by myself figuring it was a one-shot deal. Boy, was I wrong.
The show after that, I was called over by the WWF’s guy in charge, which was always a former wrestler and in this case was “Chief” Jay Strongbow.
“Hey, kid,” he growled at me. “I hear ‘The Animal’ is upset with you.”
My jaw dropped.
“What? Why?” I stammered.
“Something about you not taking him out for a drink.”
I tried to explain, but the Chief cut me off.
“Listen kid, if he chases you, run, because if he catches you…”
“… he has to do something to you.”
I was thunderstruck and panic-stricken, because my rented tux shoes were slippery.
Steele was in the main event against Randy Savage again, so the whole show I wondered about my fate. I introduced the Macho Man first, then peered down the tunnel from the ring. That’s when I saw the horror of Steele running at full speed, then stopping to point at me and shout something that sounded like “YOU!”
I dropped and rolled out of the back of the ring and started to run around the ringside area. After one-half time around he was gaining rapidly and was absolutely going to catch me. Then Macho Man’s manager, Miss Elizabeth, came to my rescue. ‘The Animal’ character at that time had a ‘Beauty and the Beast’ thing going on with Elizabeth, and her presence made him stop chasing me.
Winded, I made my way backstage and watched the match. I even called the winner from back there rather then risk another trip to the ring.
When Steele walked out, he winked and said, ‘How about that drink?’ We went out again, and this time he scared my girlfriend’s mom off her bar stool when he stuck out his tongue at her. As always, it was painted green.
Like I said, a great guy.