“Mean” Gene Okerlund, the longtime broadcaster for WWE has died. He was 76 years old. WWE revealed the news of Okerlund’s death on Wednesday but did not say how he died or when.
Okerlund, who was given his nickname by the sport’s star-turned-former Minnesota Gov., Jesse “The Body” Ventura, who got his start at Omaha radio station KOIL before moving to Minneapolis, where he worked for a local TV station.
In 1970, he segued to wrestling, serving as a fill-in for announcer Marty O’Neill at the American Wrestling Association before becoming O’Neill’s permanent replacement several years later. He left the AWA in 1983 to join the World Wrestling Federation (later renamed the WWE), where he interviewed such stars as Hulk Hogan, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and The Ultimate Warrior. Okerlund also hosted WWF shows including All-American Wrestling and Tuesday Night Titans.
In January, Okerlund made a special appearance on the 25th-anniversary edition of Raw and interviewed AJ Styles.
After WWE bought WCW in 2001, Okerlund returned to the company as a jack of all trades and announced the Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania X-Seven alongside fellow Hall of Famer Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. He also was a cast member on WWE Network’s reality show Legends’ House in 2014 and two years later signed on as the narrator of the channel’s animated series WWE Story Time.
While he didn’t appear regularly on weekly programming, Okerlund showed up sporadically and acted as a host and narrator for many WWE side projects, including DVDs and WWE Network content.
More recently, Okerlund was among the stars on the WWE Network reality series Legends’ House, which aired in 2014 and featured other WWE Hall of Famers, including “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. His contributions were celebrated in 2006 when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
Okerlund was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006 by Hogan, who tweeted: “Mean Gene I love you my brother” upon news of his death.
Other celebrities have shared their support as well.
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. https://t.co/9ddj6372eE
— Triple H (@TripleH) January 2, 2019
RIP MY BROTHER GENE MEAN. YOU PUT ME OVER LIKE NOBODY. I LOVE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY SINCE THE MINNESOTA. GIVE MY BROTHER NIKOLAI BUG HUG. GOD BLESS YOU. CAMERA MAN ZOOM IT. pic.twitter.com/5k0VRXbKMI
— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) January 2, 2019