The world of wrestling has people and faces that fans of the show hold with them and remember for the rest of their lives. It could be the toughest grapplers, the most outrageous guys that fans see, it could be the craziest monsters. And for some fans, there are the voices that people remember. One of those voices passed away with the passing of “Mean” Gene Okerlund at the age of 76.
“Mean” Gene started his days in the Minnesota based American Wrestling Association in the early 70s where he was a ring announcer, filling in for an aging Marty O’Neill. Soon he replaced Marty as the ring announcer and was conducting interviews at ringside for the AWA’s shows. He unique and unthreatening look as a short balding man in a suit along with his trademark mustache made him a fixture on the AWA shows until 1983 when he, like many others, were bright into the World Wrestling Federation.
His WWF run was originally as a play by play announcer but soon transition back to his more familiar role, only with a bigger budget in the WWF. He often conducted television interviews and also interviews during the WWF’s televised Arena shows at Madison Square Garden, The Boston Garden, The Philadelphia Spectrum and a number of other location. He was a big presence when the WWF put on their Pay-Per-View shows interviewing wrestlers and other personalities until he left the company in 1993. He then went to rival World Championship Wrestling where he was the interviewer for them until the company closed in 2001.
Gene rejoined the WWE (the former WWF) and made appearances on DVDs as well as the Saturday Night show Confidential. He occasionally appeared on bigger show like Wrestlemania and the Royal Rumble in backstage skits and brief appearances in comedy Gags. He appeared on the reality show Legend’s House for the WWE Network and was inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame in 2006.
Gene often was the butt of jokes that he was really cheap and did not pay the bill and often bummed rides from people during his career. Some of his most memorable moments were when thins went off kilter a bit, especially when interview real fans he often would reply with “Are you ribbing me?” which is wrestling talk for “Are you kidding?”. Probably the most well know moment when things went wrong, was in 1989 when during the WWF Pay per view Summerslam when the WWF aired the wrong video of an interview. Instead, it aired an outtake of the video where the sign in the background falls over, it was meat with Gene dropping an F-Bomb.
Obviously, there is swearing in this so watch at your discretion
Some of the wrestlers enjoyed being interviewed by Oakland. The Iron Sheik would usually refer to Okerlund as “Gene Mean”
Ric Flair has his own ways of talking to Okerlund and coined the nickname of “Mean BY GAWWWD Gene”
Okerlund’s Son, Todd was a player on the 1988 Olympic Ice Hockey team for the United States and had a brief NHL carer but knee injuries ended that only after a few games.
For me personally, Gene was synonymous with the Pro Wr4estling interviewer. He was shorter than most of the guys he was interviewing and the site of the balding, mustachioed, man in the suits was something that made wrestling a big part of my life when I was growing up.
He is going to be missed.