"Mean" Gene Okerlund, WWE Hall of Famer, is dead at 76

By Andrea Park

/ CBS News

WWE Hall of Famer "Mean" Gene Okerlund, who for years interviewed wrestling icons from Hulk Hogan to the Iron Sheikh, has died. He was 76.

WWE said in a statement that it is "saddened" to learn about the announcer and host's death, and extended its condolences to his family, friends and fans. No further details were provided about his death.

Okerlund got his "Mean Gene" moniker from fellow Minnesotan Jesse Ventura. He first made his name by doing interviews for the American Wrestling Association before he moved to the WWE in 1984. Okerlund was known for his "tough questions," says the WWE, and his interviews with WWE superstars, especially Hogan.

Hogan, who was known for saying to Okerlund, "Well you know something, 'Mean' Gene!" paid tribute to him on Twitter, saying, "Mean Gene I love you my brother."

Mean Gene I love you my brother HH

— Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan) January 2, 2019

As Okerlund's star rose, he started to provide ringside commentary and host shows, including "All-American Wrestling," "Tuesday Night Titans," "Wrestling Challenge" and "Prime Time Wrestling." He even sang the National Anthem at the first WrestleMania in 1985.

Okerlund left the WWE in 1993 for the WCW before returning to the WWE in 2001. He marked his return by calling the "Gimmick Battle Royal at WrestleMania 17." Recently, Okerlund appeared on "Raw 25," which celebrated the 25th anniversary of "WWE Raw." Okerlund was also a cast member on WWE Networks' "Legends' House."

WWE stars, past and present, remembered Okerlund on social media.

Just heard Mean Gene Okerlund has passed away. As an interviewer, pitch man, announcer, or host, he was untouchable. Simply the best. Total professional with quick wit, sarcasm, humor, and that golden voice.
Condolences to his friends and family.

— Steve Austin (@steveaustinBSR) 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

RIP “Mean” Gene. Thanks for the memories and being a Gentleman.

God Bless. 🙏 pic.twitter.com/AJn3HsY7Am

— Bully Ray (@bullyray5150) January 2, 2019

💔 Legend https://t.co/iAT7I1UnkL

— $asha Banks (@SashaBanksWWE) 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

Of the very few regrets I harbor in my career, one was never getting to scream "Mean Gene" when answering the queries of a man who presence was larger than life and ingrained in the better memories of my childhood.
RIP Mean Gene.
My condolences to the Okerlund family.

— Samoa Joe (@SamoaJoe) January 2, 2019

WWE universe has lost one of its greatest announcers and truly one of the nicest guys you’d ever know. “Mean” Gene Okerlund, RIP my friend pic.twitter.com/u3bS6pePmY

— Ted DiBiase (@MDMTedDiBiase) January 2, 2019

I MAKE THE GENE MEAN LAUGH SO HARD HERE HE TELL ME I MAKE HIM CRY. HE HELP ME WHEN I DONT REMEMBER THE JABRONIS NAMES I WRESTLE. I LOVE YOU BROTHER. https://t.co/YFnuEWVFn6 pic.twitter.com/YvgpApVeTE

— The Iron Sheik (@the_ironsheik) January 2, 2019

First published on January 2, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Andrea Park

Andrea is an entertainment producer at CBSNews.com

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