“Mean Gene” Okerlund, one of the most iconic announcers in pro wrestling history, passed away Wednesday at the age of 76.
Nicknamed “Mean Gene” by longtime colleague and fellow Minnesotan Jesse Ventura, Okerlund left the radio industry in 1970 and signed on with the Minneapolis-based American Wrestling Association.
After 13 years working for the Verne Gagne-led AWA, Okerlund joined Vince McMahon’s rapidly expanding WWE (then WWF) in 1983 and served as the company’s lead locker-room interviewer. A staple on national television, Okerlund also provided ringside commentary and hosted several shows, including All-American Wrestling, Tuesday Night Titans, Wrestling Challenge and Prime Time Wrestling.
Okerlund left WWE for WCW in 1993. He would return to WWE in 2001 to call the Gimmick Battle Royal at Wrestlemania 17 along with Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.
Okerlund, who had two kidney transplants, his first in 1995 and his second in 2004, was inducted by Hulk Hogan into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006.
“A voice and soundtrack to an entire era of our industry,” WWE executive Paul “Triple H” Levesque posted on Twitter. “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.”