George “The Animal” Steele Talks New Book, Relationship w/ Vince McMahon, WrestleMania III

Chris Cash

WWE Hall of Famer George "The Animal" Steele joined Busted Open with Doug Mortman and Mike Riker. You can hear Busted Open on Sirius 92, XM 208 and on the app on Sports Zone. They sent us these highlights from the interview:
 
What inspired him to write his autobiography "Animal": "Well, wrestling was very, very good to me and my family. But the book, the book really is wrestling. I think I give some good insight on wrestling. But it's also an insight on my life. I open up some wounds that I probably could have done, well, without doing. But if the book helps anyone that's having a learning disability, a health problem, financial problem, it's all in there. So I just hope that it can really help somebody, if anything else."
His struggles with dyslexia and the methods there were to rehabilitate it many years ago: "There was absolutely none. Zero. Nobody had an idea what it was. People that were dyslexic back then was just dumb, sit in the back of the room and be quiet. Especially if you're bigger than everybody else, now you're big, dumb, sit in the back of the room and be quiet."
 
His relationships with Vince McMahon, Sr. and Vince McMahon, Jr.: "Vince Sr. was one of the most honest, respectable people I've ever been around. Next to a father figure, he was it. I broke down and cried when I heard he died. We were very close. Whenever I came in, I would usually ride with him and Vince Jr. and Ernie Rob, who was the wizard of oz. The grand wizard of wrestling which is a wizard of oz. And we would sit and chat. I think the reason that Vince Sr. took a liking to me was because I was not just another wrestler but I was a teacher and a coach and was involved in other sports. One of our rides, the Washington Redskins signed a little guy by the name of Andre the Giant, to play football. And they wanted to use him in a cartoonish way to put him in the middle of the field on field goals and extra points and stand up and try to block em like he was, you know the guy hanging on the Empire State building, the gorilla hanging on there, swatting at things. That's kind of what it was like, how they wanted to use him. And I told Vince Sr. I wouldn't do that. Because of my football background, they know if you put a guy standing in front of me, swatting at extra points and field goals, I would take his knee out. It be very vulnerable. And the Redskins, I think wanted to use it as a gimmick, a good publicity stunt for wrestling too. But they never did it. And I think that was a good call. Those kinds of things are what we talked about when I was writing. Back then the business was a family type, out of the backroom type business.
 
"When Vince Jr. took over, things were changing drastically in the business world. So wrestling became part of the corporate world. Which changed everything. I was an agent after I quit wrestling and I really found it was all passing me by, I gotta be honest. As a corporate world, wrestlers were signing contracts so they become part of the company. We used to be—we never signed contracts. We were free agents. We had nothing except the payday of that show. And by the same token, we had a thing called kayfabe. And if somebody was doing something that would destroy our business in any way since it was our business, as individual wrestlers, that person would not last very long. He would probably get hurt in the ring, he'd get beat up a little bit, he would not be around very long. When it became a corporate world, it became more of a side contracts, not your business and I think a lot of the old school respect was lost. Vince Jr. didn't destroy kayfabe, the contracts did. The times did. It could've been Vince, it could've been any one of the promoters at any one of the areas. It could've been WCW, anyone. When they went to contracts in the WCW, kayfabe was out the window. That happened across the board when guys started getting on contracts. I can remember the British Bulldogs. You remember they had a dog by the name of Matilda? And Matilda they would take her to the ring and she chase the bad guys. Ok, going into the arena the bulldogs didn't like Matilda and the heels was the ones who brought her into the arena in front of everybody. That's breaking kayfabe. And they're using the dog to do it, but what can I say? But again, it was all passing me by. It was a totally different respect for the business. Not saying disrespect. Just a totally different business. I get asked a lot about the way it used to be and how much better it is now or how much better it was back then than it is now. And again, I don't see it that way. I see that I was fortunate to be part of laying a great foundation for a great business. Vince McMahon Jr. is a great business man. A great promoter and a great marketer. In the '80s, the WWF were making more money on their merchandise than they were in the NFL. That's huge. That's really huge."
 
WWE now trying to please everyone and not succeeding by leaning towards being a family friendly product: "I don't want to go quite that far with it because again they got a great following. What Vince Jr. did, and I remember Vince Jr. and Bruno Sammartino doing commentary together. And Bruno would refer to it as the world's champion and Vince McMahon Jr. would say no, it's the WWF champion. And they use to argue over that. Well what Vince Jr. was doing, he was setting up the brand. Now let's look at wrestling from the way it is today. And this is not a knock. Cause I'll talk about the athletes in a minute. Wrestling today, is like the circus coming to town. Instead of calling it the circus, they call it the WWE is coming to town. Whose wrestling is not always that important. It's the brand name that is important now. Which is what I think is going on. They got everything you could have in the circus. They got their wrestlers—people ask and they go oh you guys were better than they are. No they're better athletes than we were. Big time. You're never going to see George Steele get on the top rope and do three flips. That ain't going to happen. But we were tougher. Of course we had to be. It was a different business. I think that Madison Square Garden is a good example. How many times do they come to Madison Square Garden now over the course of a year? Maybe two or three times. That's like the circus coming to town. Am I not right? Ok when I was wrestling and Bruno, Bobby Backland and Pedro Morales and everybody else in that era, we were in the Garden every three weeks. And selling it out. Why don't they come every three weeks now? They probably couldn't because it's a different business. Totally different business."
 
If Randy Savage/ Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania III is one of the greatest matches of all-time: "You're talking to the wrong guy. I'll tell you why. I lived about 18 miles from the Silverdome. Do you think for one second that George "The Animal" Steele at that big event wanted to be standing in somebody's corner? No way, Jose. I wanted to be–I wanted to have a match. I didn't care with who. It could've been with Vince. I didn't care but I'd rather have been in a match than standing in a corner in my backyard. Does that make sense? So now when I watch the match. They had been talking this match for three weeks. I was sick of it. Because I don't talk matches. It was probably the greatest match of all time for the fans. The only thing I liked about the match I got to stand across the ring and look at Elizabeth. People are always asking me why I was so smitten over Elizabeth. Its very simple. I've been married to my wife for 58 years. She is a beauty and she's wonderful and she does not like to do windows. I was trying to get a window washer."
Have a news tip? Attended an event and want to send a live report? Submit it now!