Mean Gene Okerlund Death – Accidental Fall
1942-2019 (Age 76)
He was so good at his job that he made it look so easy. After all, how difficult can it be to hold a microphone while a wrestler or manager cuts a promo? Yet as anyone who’s watched other interviewers can see, it’s far more difficult than it looks.
Gene Okerlund worked in Verne Gagne’s American Wrestling Association (AWA) for many years, interviewing wrestlers and also commentating during matches. However, it was his work as an interviewer where he excelled. The man nicknamed “Mean” Gene raised interviews to an art form, becoming wrestling’s greatest stick man including his time in the AWA, WWF, and WCW.
Born Eugene Okerlund, the man who would become synonymous with wrestling promos began his broadcast career working for Omaha radio station KOIL before jumping to a local Minneapolis TV station. However, in 1970, Okerlund changed course, beginning a career-defining role as one of wrestling’s most prominent non-wrestling personalities (but as we’ll see soon, he managed to step into the ring on one special occasion) when he joined the AWA. Okerlund was hired as the fill-in announcer for the AWA’s Marty O’Neill, eventually taking over for O’Neill a few years later.[adinserter block=”1″]
Like many AWA stars, Okerlund rose to superstardom when he left Verne Gagne’s promotion for Vince McMahon’s WWF. AWA star Jesse “The Body” Ventura nicknamed him “Mean” Gene during their time in the AWA, but it was in the WWF where “Mean” Gene became a household name.
McMahon’s plans for national expansion required many components and Gene Okerlund’s interview skills were a vital one. Okerlund could help the most marble-mouthed wrestlers sound passable while he enhanced the work of wrestlers and managers with the gift of gab.
Longtime fans have their favorite “Mean” Gene moments ranging from his foray into the ring alongside Hulk Hogan to battle the diabolical duo of Mr. Fuji and George “The Animal” Steele (Okerlund scored the pin on Fuji for those keeping track), his singing the national anthem at the inaugural WrestleMania, his singing “Tutti Fruitti” on The Wrestling Album, and his appearances at special events such as The Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania XVII, his appearance on the WWE Network’s Legends House, or his 2018 interview of A.J. Styles during the RAW 25th Anniversary show.
Okerlund’s skills were evident whenever he interviewed a wrestler, with fans having their favorite memories. Whether it was Hulk Hogan beginning his interviews with Okerlund by saying, “Well you know ‘Mean’ Gene,” Jake “The Snake” Roberts nearly scaring Okerlund to death while “Mean” Gene interviewed Jake and Damien in a shower, or the hilarious interviews featuring the Four Horsemen in WCW where Woman flirted and flustered him while he tried to maintain his composure, no one did it like “Mean” Gene.
Okerlund knew how to tell a story without making himself the center of the interview. Something as simple as a raised eyebrow told the audience not to believe a heel during a promo while a solemn look could reinforce that a babyface meant business while vowing revenge.[adinserter block=”1″]
“Mean” Gene Okerlund made things look easy.
Indeed, his skills would see him inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006, the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 2016, and the Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2016.
Mean Gene Okerlund Death
Gene Okerlund died on January 2, 2019. He was 76.
According to The New York Post, the legendary announcer was plagued by health problems including two kidney transplants, one in 1995 and another in 2004.
Gene’s son, Todd Okerlund, told TMZ that in the weeks prior to his father’s passing, Gene had broken multiple ribs after suffering a fall at his home. Four days prior to his death he was moved to a nursing home.
Early on Wednesday, January 2, 2019, Okerlund had trouble breathing and was rushed to a Sarasota hospital. Sadly, he wouldn’t make it. Okerlund passed with his wife Jeanne by his side.
Gene Okerlund is survived by his wife and two children.
What are your favorite memories of “Mean” Gene Okerlund? Leave a comment below.