WWE- WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer Gene Okerlund, the most recognizable interviewer in sports-entertainment history, has passed away at age 76.
In his early days, “Mean Gene”, as he was named by fellow Minnesotan, Jesse “The Body” Ventura first came to prominence by interviewing the greatest stars of the AWA, including Ventura, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and Hulk Hogan. In 1984, Okerlund made the move to WWE where he became a staple on national cable television by continuing to interview the biggest names in sports-entertainment like Hogan, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior and many more.
Okerlund branched out from interviewing by providing ringside commentary and hosting several shows, including All-American Wrestling, Tuesday Night Titans, Wrestling Challenge and Prime Time Wrestling. Announcing wasn’t all that Okerlund could do with a microphone, as his distinct voice sung the National Anthem at the first WrestleMania in 1985. Later that year, Okerlund would sing “Tutti Frutti” on WWE’s The Wrestling Album.
In 1993, Okerlund joined WCW as lead interviewer where he continued to interview many of the legends he had worked with in the AWA and WWE as well as WCW stalwarts, Sting, Diamond Dallas Page, Goldberg and others.
In 2001, Okerlund returned to WWE to call the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania 17 along with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan and continued to appear on WWE television programming, including being a cast member on WWE Network’s Legends’ House.
WWE extends its condolences to Okerlund’s family, friends and fans.
If you grew up a professional wrestling fan, odds are, “Mean” Gene Okerlund was a staple of your childhood. His voice was unmistakable, his interviewing style was one-of-a-kind, and simply put, he was the best at what he did. Gene brought the best out of everyone opposite him, whether it be great promos like Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, “The Million Dollar Man” Ted Dibiase, and Ric Flair, or…less than great promos, like Sid Vicious, Ahmed Johnson, and Lex Luger.
Many times, he was the voice of the fans, most notably (in my opinion) when interviewing Hulk Hogan just moments after he dropped the leg on Randy Savage, turning his back on Hulkamaniacs everywhere…
Below I’ve included a few great moments from the career of Okerlund that I felt epitomize the character he was, but just know, there are literally countless others out there as well.
Gene’s legacy will live on forever through the WWE Network, as well, where you could see his work across the WWF, WCW, AAW, and multiple other promotions an entire era, and I’m glad that is so. Okerlund was, and is a man I truly admire.
My condolences to Gene’s family, friends, and those like myself, his fans.