Gene Okerlund, the voice of a generation of pro wrestling fans, died on Wednesday.
Okerlund was an iconic interviewer who broke into the wrestling business with the AWA before gaining fame as the interviewer during the heydey of Hulkamania in the WWF and then in WCW during the nWo years. Okerlund was 76.
“A voice and soundtrack to an entire era of our industry. He was the star of some of WWE’s most memorable segments,” WWE executive vice president Paul Levesque said on Twitter. “‘Mean Gene’ was beloved by all who got to work with him. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”
Okerlund held the microphone for Hogan, Roddy Piper, Randy Savage, Andre the Giant and many more. He stood in the ring in 1996 as trash rained upon Hogan, Kevin Nash, and Scott Hall after Hogan turned on Savage at Bash at the Beach ’96 and was revealed as the leader of the nWo.
“This is what you’ll get if you hang around the likes of this man Hall, and this man Nash,” Okerlund told Hogan, in an iconic moment that has been replayed for decades.
“Mean Gene, as far as I’m concerned,” Hogan responded, “the trash in this ring represents all these people out here.”
And the heel turn was complete.
After WCW closed in 2001, Okerlund would later return to WWE where he took part in many projects, including hosting the short-lived WWE Confidential program, as well as working on projects for the WWE Network. Okerlund was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006.
In a statement on its website, WWE called Okerlund, “the most recognizable interviewer in sports-entertainment history.”
“Gene Okerlund was always a consummate pro. His iconic voice, personality, and talent helped so many superstars climb to the top. I am deeply saddened by his passing,” said WWE’s Shane McMahon.
“Just heard Mean Gene Okerlund has passed away,” added “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. “As an interviewer, pitchman, announcer, or host, he was untouchable. Simply the best. Total professional with quick wit, sarcasm, humor, and that golden voice.”