Hearing the news of the passing of wrestling legend and WWE Hall of Famer, George “The Animal” Steele hits close to my home and heart. He was one of the first in wrestling, regardless of reputation or experience, to treat me with dignity, make an effort to teach me, to make me better and make me feel I was on the same level as him, even if I were “just a ring announcer,” 19 years of age with not a clue in the world.
When I was young, heck, even to this day, I’m the first to volunteer to make sure people have rides to and from venues, especially veterans and legends. To me, it is and always will be a golden opportunity to have organic conversations, to learn and grow that you just can’t force to happen in other situations. And I spent a LOT of car time in my formative years with “The Animal,” or as I was more fortunate to get to know in time, Jim, aka Mr. Myers.
Whether it was touring Ontario with the HWF or killing time in old stomping grounds with the PWF in Lansing, MI or random towns with the infamous “AWA Superstars,” he never took for granted that I made myself available to make sure he was treated with proper respect. And I sure as heck will never take for granted that he gave me much guidance though the filters of both George AND Jim.
What a lot of folks might not know is Jim was a fighter and a survivor. His health faced extreme issues for decades. He shared a lot of his struggles and his wins and his faith from those battles with me as we toured around indie wrestling obscurity. I always appreciated and remembered his thoughts and perspectives.
Somewhere around 2001, I had a coworker at my regular job with Midwest retailer Meijer facing hard times. A dear friend’s husband had become ill, very quickly falling into later stages of cancer. Though not much could be done to fight the evil disease, I thought they could use a friend. So I called up my friend, “The Animal.” I told him the situation and he reached out to this family who he’d never met to offer a friendly ear and ideas for things that brought comfort to him with his health struggles.
Jim called Jerry, my co-worker’s husband, every few days for what would end up being the rest of Jerry’s life. Jim went out of his way to help bring joy and perspective to people he had never met. All it took was asking the question, and he was more than happy to oblige.
It wasn’t about ticket sales or autographs. I’m not entirely sure Jerry even knew who “The Animal” was. It was simply a wonderful man trying to bring comfort to people who were facing their life’s biggest challenge.
And that is what I’ll always remember about the man behind “The Animal.” Seeing him care so intently about “some announcer kid” to spend hours on end talking shop, and giving his time and efforts to a struggling couple in Battle Creek, MI who he’d never met to help cope with illness and the inevitable outcomes.
He didn’t do it for the money. He didn’t do it for the fame. He did it to be a nice guy, and I’ll never forget that.
Rest well, Mr. Myers. You’ll always be among the elite I consider a “wrestling dad.”