'Mean' Gene Okerlund, WWE legend, dies at 76

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Wednesday, January 2, 2019
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Gene Okerlund, one of the most recognizable voices in the world of pro wrestling, has passed away.

Mean Gene Okerlund, one of the most recognizable voices in the world of pro wrestling, has passed away. He was 76.

Okerlund, who was given the nickname 'Mean Gene' by Jesse 'The Body' Ventura, began his career in the American Wrestling Association (AWA).

He joined the World Wrestling Federation, now WWE, in 1984.

There, he would interview wrestling greats like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, the Ultimate Warrior, and Randy 'Macho Man' Savage.

Beyond backstage interviews, Okerlund also provided commentary for many WWE matches and also sang the National Anthem at the first WrestleMania in 1985. He even got in the ring teaming with Hogan in a wrestling tag match.

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In this Feb. 10, 2012 file photo, actor Max von Sydow poses at the International Film Festival Berlinale, in Berlin. (AP Photo/Gero Breloer, File)
AP Photo/Gero Breloer, File

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In 1993, Okerlund left WWE to join World Championship Wrestling where he would interview wrestlers such as Goldberg, Sting, and Booker T.

He returned to WWE in 2001 where he hosted television programs and starred in a reality show.

He was inducted in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006.

"WWE extends its condolences to Okerlund's family, friends and fans," the company said in a statement.

Friends and colleagues are sharing their memories of Okerlund on social media.

WWE's Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon said, "Gene Okerlund was an incredibly rare talent. He made everything and everyone better. #ThankYouMeanGene for all the incredible memories. Our condolences to his family and loved ones."

WWE Hall of Famer 'Stone Cold' Steve Austin said, "Just heard Mean Gene Okerlund has passed away. As an interviewer, pitch man, announcer, or host, he was untouchable. Simply the best. Total professional with quick wit, sarcasm, humor, and that golden voice. Condolences to his friends and family."

WWE's Executive Vice President, Talent, Live Events & Creative Paul "Triple H" Levesque said, "A voice and sound track to an entire era of our industry. He was the star of some of @WWE's most memorable segments. "Mean Gene" was beloved by all who got to work with him. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time."

One of the men Okerlund interviewed multiple times throughout his career, the "Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase said, "WWE universe has lost one of its greatest announcers and truly one of the nicest guys you'd ever know. "Mean" Gene Okerlund, RIP my friend."

And WWE Superstar Charlotte Flair, the daughter of Hall of Famer Ric Flair, said, "Goodbye, old friend. Thank you for the memories."