This was one crazy night. BRUNO vs PEDRO at Shea Stadium for WWWF title. The match went one hour and was getting boring. the field was wet and plywood was laid as a path to get to the ring. Police were there in huge numbers. Mr McMahon ask if I thought I could make it to the ring to add a little life to the boring match. I said yes and GORILLA MONSOON bet $100 that I would not make it. I made it to the ring and tripped BRUNO before New York’s finest got to me. They tore up the field getting me back to the dugout. Yes that was real.
BAD GEORGE STEELE acting like THE ANIMAL.
This was the first night that George “The Animal” Steele took total control of the body that we shared. It all most got our ass killed.
I had already fought Bruno Sammartino The WWWF Champion once that year. They had tried to stop that match because I had a few drops of blood on my bald head. If I would have had as much hair on my head as I had on my body the referee would not have seen the blood. I was in the middle of whaling on Bruno ass when the referee chose to stop the match. I was screaming this is bull shit,I had Bruno right where I wanted him. “You Italian referees are always protecting your Wop champion”. I went in for the kill I attack Bruno with my foreign object Bruno caught me in the mid section with a stiff boot and my taped weapon went flying. The stupid referee saw that I was in trouble so he waved the match to continue. There was so much excitment that match was continuing that there were Italians running up and down the isles. I thought wow one of those greasy jerks are going to fall out of the balcony tonight. They always went wild when there Italian Superman was in control but, I have got to tell you that they took that excitment to a whole new level this night.
The genus of Vince McMahon Senior had advertised this match between Sammartino and George ‘The Animal’ Steele as a spectacular; a special, no time limit stipulation bout in wrestling’s East Coast Mecca, New York’s Madison Square. The great fans of the Big Apple were really getting their monies worth tonight. I was committed to it.
There was a eleven o’clock curfew in those days. It was ten fifteen. The fans had just had the biggest pop that I had ever had with Bruno in the Madison Square Gardens. The problem was; we had Forty five more minutes to go.
So I cut off Bruno’s assault came to a with a crotch that sent him down like a wounded gladiator ready to be fed to the Lions. I don’t mean the Detroit Lions. I put the boots to the fallen champion. Every fan in the Gardens saw it when I got my foreign object back from Bruno. That is everyone but the referee. The fan were now really participating in the wild match now. They were running to ringside screaming to the referee that I had regained my weapon.
Time was flying by now I had the wild fans right where I wanted them. In the palms of my hands. I never had to use the foreign object. All I needed to do was have the threat of it. Bruno and The Animal were exchanging holds and every time that Bruno would come out on top I would simply reach for the foreign object and here these wild fans would come screaming in broken English. They truly loved Bruno and hated The Animal.
At about the ten forty five mark I finely went to my foreign object. There was so much fan heat on my foreign object that I did not even need to use it. As I went to use my weapon Bruno block it caught me with a shot to the jaw that sent my trustee weapon flying and forced me to bump the referee. Bruno scooped up my taped tool. The referee did see that naturally. Bruno knock me all over the ring with my own foreign object. The fan were going nuts. I could not believe it. The fans were blowing the roof off. I thought they had gone to a new height earlier when the referee had waved the match to continue. This was truly a level that I was not sure I would ever see again.
Bruno beat me like a redheaded stepchild. The Bruno beat on me the more fans loved it. Bruno had his adrenalin going he threw me into the with such a force that I came like a rocket. This was my chance I would give Bruno a flying tackle and knock him on his ass and take control. Bruno sidestepped me and caught me full force of my foreign object in my throat. My feet pasted under my body and I landed on the back of my head and shoulders. I was knocked dizzy. I did not see it but Bruno turned and tossed my foreign object to his manager Arnold Skaaland.
I was a beaten man and Italians were ready for a great victory. They had lost all of there wars in the history of their great country. So I believe Bruno’s wins in Madison Square Gardens had a real significance to them.
They were all chanting like they were about to win the World cup in soccer. They want that victory so bad that they could taste it.
The Animal had other plans. I rolled out of the ring to recuperate. In those days we were allowed a twenty count on the floor and a ten count on the ring apron. Took about a eighteen count as I frantically tried to get the referee to search Bruno for my foreign object. The fans were a little slow but they pickup on the idea that I was stalling. They did not want to get robbed out of another victory. As the referee got Bruno back to a neutral I came in the ring and as Bruno rushed me I dove through the ropes and back to the safety of the floor. I was totally exhausted. I looked at the clock it said ten fifty three. Seven more minutes before curfew. I sucked as the referee got Bruno back to his neutral one more time. The clock was running. I went through the ropes and rushed Bruno like a wild boar. Thought that I might surprise him and catch him off guard. It almost worked as I rushed Bruno he caught me with of the quickest arm drags that I had ever seen but I was up like a cat and rushed the champ the second time and again he caught me in another arm drag as he came up I finely caught him in a single leg and he went down. Bruno put his free leg on my chest and with all of his super strength pushed me with a unbelievable force to the ropes and I again came back like a rocket Bruno monkey flipped be and I was back on the floor.
I had shot my wad. I looked at the clock and I could not believe there was still four more minutes to go. I took a nineteen count and rolled in the ring on one side of the post around the post and back to the safety of the floor. The fans started throwing things and spiting at me. The second time I used this great maneuver the fans started throwing everything that was not tied down. My manager The Grand Wizard move as far a way from me as possible. He was still getting drenched in beer. When the opportunity came The Grand Wizard made his escape to the safety of the locker room.
The stall to win or tie gets heat in every sport. This was wild. As the clock ticked away and it became more apparent that The Animal was a big chicken shit that was going to rob their Champion of his much deserved victory. This drove the fans nuts. When the bell finely rang New Yolks finest surround me they had their clubs out and their hard hats as they rushed me to the safety of the locker room.
The Locker Room
I was really exhausted and was struggling to get my boots off. Vince McMahon Senior came in to the locker room with a giant smile on his face. Vince said that was a great show. I looked through my tired exhausted eyes and said; what? Vince that was one fantastic match. I said was it really? Vince said yes it was great.
You see I had just used ring psychology to sell tickets now I was using locker room psychology to insure a better payoff. Before I graduated from Burt Ruby to the next level. Burt had told me that after a main event if I could get the promoter to complement me three times chances were that I would get a better pay off.
As Bruno walked by he said “why did you get the juices so early”. I said it just felt right. Vince said it sure to workout great. I thought WOW that is four times. This might be a super pay off.
The truth is the Gardens had new digital clocks. I was not use to digital clocks. In my twisted dyslexic mind I saw 10:15 as fifteen minutes to go. If I would have told the truth I would have looked as a dummy. In stead I was thought of as a brilliant, psychologist and great worker.
It really was all about posturing.
The plan was to have a return match in a cage. This way the fans could have the satisfaction of seeing The Animal locked in the cage with no escape. In the fans mind this would be the end of George Steele once and for all.
The problem was the powers to be at MSG and the state athletic commission did not want to have cage match. At that time there never had been a cage match in the Big Apple. So I had come up with a back up plan. If we could not get a ok for cage match we then put in stipulations for a money cage.
Black Jack Lanza was waiting. He looked me over, smirked and shook his head. “Sounds like you got a lot of heat out there tonight, George. What’s that, blood or ketchup?”
Lanza and I had decided to share a taxicab to the airport and catch a Northwest Airlines flight that stopped in Detroit before going on to his home in Minneapolis. We were glad we could spend the rest of the weekend with our families.
After I showered and changed, police officers and Garden security people walked us to the regular exit. One man opened the door, looked out, then quickly shut it again. “Uh-oh. No way out from here, fellows,” he said. “There’s at least a thousand angry people waiting out there – in the rain.”
The little security detail led us down to the Felt Forum where the closed circuit television system allowed the over-flow crowd to watch the matches. The room, which could hold four thousand people, had been ransacked: furniture in shambles, the large screen TV a gooey mess, food scraps and wrappers scattered everywhere.
An officer cracked open the door an inch, looked out, and whistled through his teeth. “I don’t believe it,” he said over his shoulder. “There’s got to be another thousand people waiting here. Better call for back-up. Those guys are really pissed at you, George. We can’t get to a cab from here, that’s for damned sure.”
The security task force guided us to the Eighth Avenue exit, then halted while one peered outside. “Unbelievable,” he said. “There’s a crowd waiting here, too. Let’s head for Penn station.”
We reversed our steps and went to the Pennsylvania Railroad Station where Lanza and I were finally put into a taxicab. One of the security people leaned toward the driver. “Take these guys to Kennedy airport. Lock the doors and don’t stop. If you do, you’ll probably wish you’d never been born.”
The cab driver nodded, turned onto a private drive and pulled up behind a throng of wrestling fans that had just come from behind the Garden.
Someone peered inside, recognized me and yelled, “There he is! There he is! Let’s get the SOB!”
People pointed and shouted, the crowd swung around and came toward us. A larger group heard the commotion and stepped around the corner in time to see us. The two groups merged into a screaming and cursing mob.
We were on a one-way street and were forced to turn. Lanza and I glanced around and realized we were directly behind the main arena crowd and caught inside a taxicab that was in back of a truck that had stopped for a traffic signal.
In less than a minute, between three and five hundred people surrounded us; there could have been more, but it was too dark to tell. Furious, they started banging their fists against the cab. Half-crazed with revenge, they were cursing and shrieking and rocking the cab so violently that the tires on one side lifted off the asphalt.
Frightened, the cabby gasped and began yelling. “Oh, my God, we’re going to get killed. Who are you two guys, anyway?”
One of us had to do something to stop the ugly scene. I flung open the door, jumped out, shoved my hand into my trousers pocket and acted as if I had a gun. “Get back! Get back, all of you or I’ll shoot!”
They scattered. Within seconds, they realized I wasn’t armed and got riled up even more, swearing and throwing things at me and the cab. More people ran around the corner and joined the group, its number grew by the minute.
Objects began pelting me and the car, so I jumped back inside and slammed the door. We were still stuck behind the truck, but the signal had finally changed to green.
“Go! Go! Go!,” Lanza and I both shouted.
The truck sputtered and stalled.
The mob cheered as it surged toward us.
We were trapped.
Scared out of his wits, the cabby fumbled with the handle, trying to open his door. Lanza and I yelled at him to stay inside, but he struggled to open the door and escape.
I punched a hole through the cab’s plastic barrier and grabbed him around the neck to get his attention. “If you get out, we won’t have a driver,” I said, shaking him. “We’d be dead meat!”
“Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you,” Lanza said.
I glanced at Lanza, wondering how he could make such a promise when we couldn’t even guarantee our own safety.
The mob descended upon us like starved hounds, brutally shoving each other against the cab to get closer. Wild-eyed, their rain-splattered faces were distorted with rage as they screamed curses about me, my parentage and my mother.
Suddenly, the crowd became organized and focused on one goal: to stop our getaway. Someone shouted cadence and they began to shake the car in perfect rhythm, jostling us back and forth in the back seat and causing the terrified driver to grab his radio and shriek for the dispatcher to send help.
This time, the tires on one side easily lifted off the asphalt. It would tip over in a few seconds.
“Drive under the truck!” Lanza screamed at the cabby. “Ram this piece of junk under the truck’s rear bumper!”
Panic-stricken, the driver gunned it and crashed into the truck, ramming the hood under the bumper as people stumbled out of the way. Metal grated as the hood crumbled and wedged beneath the bumper just enough to keep us from being flipped over.
Lanza’s quick thinking probably saved our lives, but we were still not moving and still surrounded by the Champ’s livid fans.
People began hitting the cab with whatever they had or could find and the back window shattered, either from being beaten with umbrellas or bricks; who knows what they had picked up along Manhattan’s streets and gutters.
The traffic signal turned green, the stalled truck restarted its engine and lumbered forward. A bizarre parade crept down West 33rd Street: a smoke belching truck followed by a battered taxicab followed by a screeching mob. Kennedy airport, only 18 miles away, seemed on the dark side of the moon.
We relaxed a little when the driver turned onto 8th Avenue and no one had banged on our windows for half a block. We were finally heading toward safety at the airport.
As we approached West 34th Street, we saw that the usual heavy Saturday night cross-town traffic blocked the street. Half a dozen fanatics caught up with us and jogged alongside, pounding on the fenders and roof with every step and demanding that I be turned over to the pack for disposal.
“Where’s the cops?” our nervous driver muttered. “They’re never around when you want and in your face when you don’t.” He leaned on the horn and tried to weave around as many vehicles as possible.
We had almost reached West 35th Street when I glanced out the broken rear window. The shocking scene behind us was something right out of an old Hollywood movie. I nudged Lanza to take to take a look. It seemed as though the entire mob was plowing its way through the bumper-to-bumper traffic like a gang of pirates swarming over a ship, running around trucks and cars and sliding over the hoods to reach us.
Lanza stared out the window, groaned, then pounded on the barrier. “Move this thing any way you can, driver. They’re still coming.”
We were chased like that for four long, traffic-snarled blocks, narrowly escaping each time.
“Look at what’s happened to my cab,” the driver shouted over his shoulder. “It’s your fault that it’s a wreak.”
“We did not do anything except try to save our own butts – and yours, too,” I replied. “Just keep driving so we can make our flight. We’ll take care of everything.”
Upset, the cab driver grumbled about the damage to his vehicle all the way to Kennedy. When we finally reached the airport, Lanza and I each tossed him a $10 tip, hurried to the gate and barely made our flight.
During the flight home, I recalled a recent conversation with someone who had tried to convince me that professional wrestling was only entertainment, that every move was rehearsed until flawless, that the spilled blood was never real. What a waste of time that talk had been. I knew the truth and had the scars to prove them wrong. Devoted fans of the sport had just made it abundantly clear, again, that wrestling could turn into deadly serious business – in and out of the ring.
The flight also gave me time to remember why I had gotten involved in professional wrestling, how my life had been split into two different worlds and how I was struggling to survive them both.
Tuesday I returned for the TV shoot at the old Philadelphia Arena on Walnut Street. I loved working that old building. It is funny the business seemed to changing as the old arena were being replaced by the shiny new buildings that started popping up all over the country. Lets get past the nostalgia and with the business at hand.
Mr. McMahon called me in the office twenty minutes. Vince Sr. was very disappointed. He want a cage match in MSG between his champion Bruno Sammartino and George The Animal Steele. It would have been a first. I really wanted that match also. It was getting close my time to return to my other world teaching and coaching. I would have a opportunity to put Bruno over in a spectacular way and get out of town. I could see those grease balls running up and the isles in victory.
I had had suggested the money cage as a back to a real cage match. So now it was time to come up with the stipulations and Mr. McMahon was placing the ball in my court. It was right court since it was The Animal that had to make the match work.
If either wrestler went on the apron it was a $200 fine. If ether wrestler went on the floor it was $500 it was a Fine.
Needless to say the return Money Cage match sold out New York’s, Madison Square the following month. I still ask myself was it worth the risk? We could have done big business without placing ourselves in harms way.
A few years later the New York State Athletic Commission gave their OK to a championship gage match between Bruno and Ivan Koloff.
Vince McMahon Senior had advertised this match between Sammartino and George ‘The Animal’ Steele would be spectacular; a special, no time limit stipulation bout in wrestling’s East Coast Mecca, New York’s Madison Square Garden. It was Sammartino’s stronghold, and his devoted fans never welcomed villains like me.
‘The Italian Superman’ always packed the Garden, but McMahon and I wanted to be sure we had a sold-out arena for the rematch. The Garden disallowed cage matches then, but I had an idea: an invisible “money cage.” When either of us went onto the apron, it would cost us a $100 fine; if either of us went to the floor, it would be $500. We imagined that whenever I stepped out of the ropes, the crowd would count my fines like some giant human cash register. Wow! What a rematch that would make.
Our plan sounded great. Money would keep me in the ring. It would be a beautiful piece of work – we thought.
Some funny stories.
I was wrestling at the Mecca MSG in the late 70s. The ringside fans were really getting on THE ANIMAL’s case. I dove through the ropes and was on the floor like I was going after all those New Yorkers. Boy did those tough New Yorkers scatter. That is all but this one second row gal that was standing on her chair. She fainted and some fans caught her as she was falling backward. Once more I was back in the ring with my face in the turnbuckle laughing.
I was wrestling a TV match in the old Philadelphia Arena in the early 70’s and it was one of those wild nights. Pantsuits were in style for the ladies. There was a very large well dressed black woman at ringside. She was wearing a purple metallic pantsuit and was getting all over THE ANIMALS case. THE ANIMAL acted like he was going through the ropes after her. THE ANIMAL stepped half way through the ropes and yelled YOU. The crouch area of the nice pantsuit started turning colors. The purple pantsuit was turning a dark purple. THE ANIMAL quickly realized the the well dressed large black lady had just pissed herself. THE ANIMAL was on camera and had to think quick. THE ANIMAL did not want to get caught on camera laughing in a wild match so I put my face in a turnbuckle pad and started gnawing.
Some wrestler would argue with a fan in the front row. I would go 15 rows deep to argue with someone who was heckling The Animal. I loved to watch the fans scatter from the Fear Factor. I was known to chase people completely out of the building.
The next Boston Garden show was October 4, 1969 and George Steele was booked to wrestle Walter Killer Kowalski. Before this match took place the old master Walter Killer Kowalski called me a side and said lets not fight for the heat out there tonight. Walter said “if the fans favor you George just lay back a little and I will be the heel and if the fans favor The Killer I will lay back just a little and George Steele will be the heel”. Walter said “there is no sense in us fighting for the heat”.
It was unbelievable The killer went out first and the Boston fans went wild cheering Walter Killer Kowalski it was like a Bruno Sammartino entrance. When George Steele the fans went crazy the heat was there. This match turned into a war. We fought in the ring, out of the ring through the crowd all the way up to the balcony. We had a thirty-five minute war. We were both counted out but we continued fight all of the way back to the locker the fans loved it. A return match to be fought in the cage was announced immediately following our match and the Boston Gardens erupted.