Legendary professional wrestling commentator “Mean Gene” Okerlund has died at the age of 76.
In a statement announcing his passing, the WWE described Okerlund as “the most recognizable interviewer in sports-entertainment history.” He began his career as a ring-side reporter for the AWA, interviewing early wrestling stars including Hulk Hogan, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan, and Jesse “The Body” Ventura. It was Ventura who gave Okerlund his nickname of “Mean Gene”.
Following his move to the WWE (then known as WWF) in 1984, Okerlund became a prominent presence on cable television. Not only did he serve as WWE’s top interviewer, he also hosted programs including All American Wrestling and Tuesday Night Titans.
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Though he largely stayed out of the ring, Okerlund did have one victory to his name. In 1984, he and Hulk Hogan squared off Mr. Fuji and George Steele in a tag-team match. The plan called for Okerlund to stay on the apron and act as cheerleader, but after he was accidentally tagged in, he managed to pin Mr. Fuji for the win. A year later, Okerlund returned to the ring — this time to sing the National Anthem at the first-ever WrestleMania in 1985.
Following an eight-year stint at WCW beginning in 1993, Okerlund returned to WWE to much fanfare. He remained with the company for the remainder of his career, making regular appearances at WrestleMania and hosting archival programs such as WWE Madison Square Garden Classics and WWE Network’s Legends’ House. In 2006, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.