The world of professional wrestling is mourning the loss of Gene Okerlund, a Hall of Fame legend who has died at the age of 76, WWE.com announced Wednesday.
The legendary sports and entertainment interviewer known as “Mean Gene” is being remembered by wrestling greats like Hulk Hogan, The Iron Sheik and Triple H after nearly 35 years with World Wrestling Entertainment.
WWE analyst Justin Labar told InsideEdition.com Okerlund was known for his positive relationship with not only wrestlers, but also executives of WWE, despite his intimidating nickname.
His most famous relationship was with Hulk Hogan, who coined the phrase, “Let me tell you something, Mean Gene,” during an interview. Many experts consider Okerlund a contributor to Hogan's fame.
“It almost became part of the show,” Labar said. “You look forward not just to hearing what Hulk Hogan was going to say, and then the flexing and the ripping of the shirt, but you were just looking forward to hearing him say ‘Big Mean Gene.’"
Thanks to recognition among his fans, Labar explained Okerlund quickly became “the standard of pro wrestling announcers,” and continues to be recognized through his retirement.
“A trait that made him famous was probably again just his ability to communicate with the audience,” Labar explained. “He was just such a warm figure. And then again he could be so colorful and funny at the drop of a hat.”
Okerlund, originally from South Dakota, began his career with WWE in 1984, after working with the American Wrestling Association (AWA) for 15 years. He moved on to interviewing for World Championship Wrestling (WCW), from 1993 to 2001, before returning to WWE.
He quickly became synonymous with the entertainment empire, appearing on different WWE projects in addition to its weekly programming.