Pro wrestling will never be the same. Today names old and new are in mourning for iconic WWE announcer «Mean» Gene Okerlund. The WWE announced early Wednesday that the man who for so long owned the mic was dead, age 76.
Anyone who ever followed wrestling for any length of time saw Okerlund at work. In an obituary the WWE put it best, writing that he was «the most recognizable interviewer in sports-entertainment history.»
Big names like Hulk Hogan, who inducted Okerlund into the WWE Hall of Fame, and the Iron Sheik-the announcer was the best man at his wedding-quickly chimed in with expressions of sadness.
Okerlund began his career in radio as a DJ at a station in Omaha, Newbraska. By 1970 he had found his calling as a wrestling commentator, according to TMZ.
«Mean» Gene Okerlund; Hulk Hogan
His star began to rise in the 1980s. By the time he was hired by the WWE, he was a well-known name among various regional wrestling federations. His peculiar talent may have been-in addition to his instantly recognizable voice–handling every interview with stars like «Macho Man» Randy Savage or the Ultimate Warrior (see below) with utmost seriousness, no matter how badly things went off the rails. This clip of his interview with the Warrior is a perfect example.
Okerlund was such a constant it’s hard to imagine professional wrestling without him. Wrestlers and managers alike felt the same grief as Hulk Hogan and the Iron Sheik, tweeting about their regard for him.
Professional wrestling as a sport, as entertainment, is here to stay. But it will be a while before it recovers from losing a voice like «Mean» Gene Okerlund’s. RIP.