​George Steele Discusses The Inspiration For His Green Tongue, Biting The Turnbuckles, & More

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In an interview with the Two Man Power Trip Of Wrestling podcast, George “The Animal” Steele spoke about the origins of his green tongue, chewing turnbuckles and more. Here are highlights:

On the origins of the infamous green tongue: “Today the WWE sits down and come up with all these ideas and different gimmicks and they didn’t do that back then. I had a couple of drinks at a TV taping and I didn’t want the promoter to know it, so I put some Clorets in my mouth and went on television. Now back in the late 60s – early 70s, color TV had just come out, so here I come out there looking like a clown with a green tongue and I didn’t even know it was green, I was just trying to get rid of the breath and about 3 months later I said I wanted to try the green tongue thing again but just for my own laughs. When I did it again, the place went nuts and the next day had signs all over the place with green tongues hanging out so from then on I had the very best breath in wrestling.”

On the biting of the turnbuckles: “In Pittsburg back in 1967, they would give away different gifts to get fans to come to the TV shows and on this one particular time they gave away these small little couch pillows. They had probably given away about 250 of them. One of the ladies in the crowed had gotten mad at me and threw her pillow at me. So I get the pillow in the ring and what am I going to do with it? I can throw it back and then have 250 pillows then coming back at me or I can take a bite out of it. So I take a bite out of it and it tore and popped because it was so packed with the stuffing, it just exploded so I started throwing the stuffing in the air and it was sticking in my hair like an abominable snowman, then I took the pillow wrapped it around my opponents head and started choking him. It was Bruno’s (Sammartino) wrestling “cousin” Tony Marino that said maybe you should start tearing the turnbuckles and everybody laughed. Two or three weeks later I go and fight (Chief Jay) Strongbow and even though it’s hard to have a boring match with Strongbow the people just weren’t reacting to this match. I looked at the turnbuckle pad and I went over took a bite out of it and it tore really easy and started rubbing his eyes with that and for a very flat match, we had a riot. So the two things that I am known for the green tongue and the turnbuckles and they both happened by accident.”

On working with Bruno Sammartino: “The whole WWWF promotion was about Bruno Sammartino, everything else was secondary. Bruno was such a different kind of talent because he was over so strong. I’ve worked on shows with Hulk Hogan who was over pretty strong worldwide but nothing like what Bruno was in New York, Philadelphia, Boston and the whole Northeast. I was the heel so I would go to the ring first so the people would go crazy and he would wait and start to come down and he was watching. Just about every time he was ready to come down, the crowd would calm down and they would start to make his announcement, so I would start to work the crowd again. Bruno was in such great shape and worked so hard that you had to be in shape to keep up with him.”


On the feeling of the crowd during a match with Bruno: “Fans in Madison Square Garden would rush the aisles and try to kill you because they loved him so much. I still have a picture of 15-20 of New York’s finest Police surrounding me just to get me to and from the ring. They just loved him so much. People in New York were trying to kill me. Wrestling back then was always pre-determined and we always knew who was going to win but we didn’t know how we were going to get there. None of this dance stuff like they have now where everything is so choreographed. We actually wrestled until we felt like it was time for the finish and our matches would last anywhere between 30-45 minutes with an hour time limit. Everything was real so when you are going that long and tough and you are actually doing wrestling it’s very believable.”


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