“Mean” Gene Okerlund, Voice Of Pro Wrestling’s Golden Era, Dead At 76
“Mean” Gene Okerlund, perhaps the most recognizable non-wrestler of the business’ explosive Golden Era, has passed away at the age of 76.
Eugene Arthur Okerlund was born in a small town in South Dakota in December of 1942, and got his start in the broadcasting world working for a radio station out of Omaha, Nebraska. Shortly before turning 30 he made the jump to professional wrestling, working his way up through Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association, based out of Minneapolis.
Now a veteran behind the microphone, Okerlund was one of the many stars to move to the World Wrestling Federation in the mid-1980s, where he quickly became the company’s top backstage interviewer. As far as mainstream popularity goes, the dry, often sarcastic announcer was involved with so many of the business’ most legendary moments, alongside virtually every icon of his time, that he himself became one of those recognizable icons.
Apart from an 8-year stint in World Championship Wrestling until their close in 2001, “Mean” Gene would spend the rest of his life under the employ of the WWE. He confidently returned home to call the infamous Gimmick Battle Royale at WrestleMania X-Seven, and has been used in sparring, usually one-off appearances ever since.
Okerlund was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006, with none other than Hulk Hogan giving his introduction speech. He appeared as a character on the WWE Network reality series Legends House in 2016, the same year he was inducted into the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame, as well as the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame, and made his very last appearance for the company earlier this year at the 25th Anniversary of WWE RAW, interviewing then-world champion AJ Styles.
Gene was a transcendent figure in this business, and one with the incredibly rare quality that few ever had a bad thing to say about him. On a personal note, in the few times I have been fortune enough to come across Mr. Okerlund over the last decade or so, he has been nothing but friendly and a true pro — always willing to share a story (often without being asked) with a smile on his face.
In the immortal words of the Hulkster: “let me tell you something, Mean Gene!” On behalf of the millions of kids who grew up watching you on television, standing next to our heroes throughout the most incredible moments this business has ever seen — thank you for making our childhood an even more magical time.
Thank you for the interviews, for often being the “Ying” to the great Bobby Heenan’s “Yang”, and for convincing many of us all that Earthquake really did cripple Hulk Hogan all those years ago. Rest in peace, “Mean” Gene Okerlund.
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