“Mean Gene” Okerlund, who was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006 by Hulk Hogan, worked as a wrestling announcer since the 1970s.
Okerlund spent a decade at the American Wrestling Federation before moving to the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) in 1984, where he was the first person to sing the National Anthem at Wrestlemania I in 1985.
Okerlund moved to World Championship Wrestling (WCW) in 1993 before returning to the WWE in 2001 when it bought WCW.
Okerlund is survived by his wife Jeanne, who he married in 1964, and their two children.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Okerlund Was a Radio Broadcaster Before Becoming a Wrestling Announcer
Okerlund, who studied broadcast journalism at the University of Nebraska, started out as a disc jockey on the Omaha radio station KOIL, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Okerlund, a native of South Dakota, later moved to a local television station in Minneapolis, Minnesota before joining the American Wrestling Association.
Okerlund joined the AWA in 1970, where future Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura dubbed him “Mean Gene,” a nickname that stuck forever. Mean Gene began as an occasional replacement for ring announcer Marty O’Neill before permanently replacing him.
Okerlund worked at the AWA until 1983, when he moved to Vince McMahon’s WWF, which later became the WWE.
2. ‘Mean Gene’ Worked For The WWE & WCW for Nearly 4 Decades
Okerlund joined the WWF in 1984 and served as the host of shows like “All-American Wrestling” and “Tuesday Night Titans” for nine years, while also serving as the company’s main interviewer backstage. Acting as a straight man to the wrestlers’ colorful characters, his interviews helped define the WWF and its personalities.
Okerlund moved to Ted Turner’s World Championship Wrestling after his contract expired and he was not offered a new one. He claimed at the time of the signing that he hadn’t been speaking to McMahon for several years.
Okerlund remained at WCW on-and-off until 2001, when the company was sold to the WWF before it changed its name to the WWE.
Okerlund took on a much smaller role at the WWE, hosting the short-running WWE Confidential and WWE Madison Square Garden Classics, as well as numerous WWE archive shows on its network.
In 2014, he became a cast member on the WWE Network’s reality show “Legends’ House.”
His final WWE appearance was on January 22, 2018, when he interviewed AJ Styles on the 25th-anniversary episode of “Raw.”
3. ‘Mean Gene’ Okerlund Was Inducted Into The WWE Hall of Fame in 2006
Okerlund was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by Hulk Hogan in 2006.
He later inducted Mr. T into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2014.
During his acceptance speech, Okerlund said, “When I die, I want to be buried face down, so that all those critics can kiss my ass.”
4. Okerlund Was Married to His Wife For Over 50 Years
Okerlund married his wife Jeanne on March 27, 1964. The couple lived in Osprey, Florida at the time of Okerlund’s death.
Okerlund had two kidney transplants, in 1995 and in 2004, one of which he received from his wife.
The couple has two adult sons, including Todd Okerlund, who was a hockey star at the University of Minnesota. Todd went on to play on the 1988 United States Olympics team in Calgary. His NHL career was limited to just four games for the New York Islanders after a nagging knee injury forced him to leave the game.
5. Wrestlers Paid Tribute to ‘Mean Gene’ on Twitter
Wrestlers from several generations of the WWE and WCW over the last four decades paid tribute to Okerlund after the WWE confirmed his passing on Wednesday.