The new year certainly isn’t getting off to a very good start for professional wrestling fans as a true legend was lost. It was reported on Tuesday, January 2, 2019, that the iconic “Mean” Gene Okerlund had passed away. He was one of the most well-known and highly recognized interviewers in all of professional sports, but most certainly in the world of wrestling and certainly in WWE.
Gene Okerlund was 76-years-old.
The official website of WWE reported the news on Tuesday morning, and almost immediately, social media began grieving the great loss. For anyone who has watched wrestling longer than even 10 years, you’re more than likely well aware of who the man known lovingly as “Mean” Gene actually is.
It’s not entirely sure how Okerlund died or what his cause of death actually is at this time, but he had been dealing with numerous health issues in past years.
Back in 1995, Okerlund had his first kidney transplant and had a second one in 2004. There hasn’t been much word regarding his health since that time, but Okerlund has only been seen sparingly in the last decade or so for projects on the WWE Network and random appearances on the weekly TV shows.
UPDATE at 11:30 p.m. ET on January 2, 2018
Wrestling Inc. reported that Okerlund actually had three kidney transplants during his life, and that obviously had an effect on his health.
Okerlund passed away at a hospital in Sarasota, Florida, and his son said that his father had recently suffered a fall which contributed to his death as he as “it just kind of went from bad to worse.”
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WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer Gene Okerlund, the most recognizable interviewer in sports-entertainment history, has passed away at age 76. https://t.co/DyPiEiVLoV
— WWE (@WWE) January 2, 2019
For anyone who watched WWE and WCW in the ’80s and ’90s, they had no choice but to see Gene Okerlund on their screens. Whether it was back-and-forth banter with Jesse “The Body” Ventura or his playful and fun interviews with Hulk Hogan, Okerlund always had a huge presence despite his small stature.
Ventura is actually the man who came up with the “Mean” nickname for Gene Okerlund.
It was in 2006 that “Mean” Gene Okerlund was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by his good friend Hulk Hogan. It was a spot that was so incredibly overdue and it’s hard to imagine many others who deserved it more than he did.
As soon as word of Okerlund’s death started making the social media rounds, many WWE superstars and other wrestling personalities began reacting and remembering him.
RIP “Mean” Gene. Thanks for the memories and being a Gentleman.
God Bless. ???? pic.twitter.com/AJn3HsY7Am
— Bully Ray (@bullyray5150) January 2, 2019
Mean Gene was the voice of millions of childhoods. Mine certainly. An honor to meet him. Condolences to his family. pic.twitter.com/krsMtbeNIl
— Florida Man (@WWEBigE) January 2, 2019
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
Mean Gene I love you my brother HH
— Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan) January 2, 2019
Okerlund first entered the world of professional wrestling back in 1970 when he joined the American Wrestling Association. In 1984, he signed with WWF/WWE and he remained with them until 1993 when he went over to WCW and he stayed there until their closing in 2001.
There was the rare occasion he jumped into the ring for a match or two, but his iconic interviews are what he was always known for. It’s also hard for fans to forget about his amazing interactions with the late Bobby “The Brain” Heenan who passed away in September of last year.
“Mean” Gene Okerlund was already a legend in the world of professional wrestling, and many say that his nickname wasn’t very fitting of him. If you ask anyone who ever knew him, they would tell you that he didn’t have a mean bone in his body, but that’s just the way he was to everyone.
So far, 2019 isn’t off to the greatest of starts for WWE and all wrestling fans due to Okerlund’s death, but at least there are plenty of ways to go back and enjoy all of his work.