Eugene Arthur Okerlund (December 19, 1942 – January 2, 2019), better known by his ring name “Mean” Gene Okerlund, was an American professional wrestling interviewer, announcer and wrestler.
SCROLL DOWN FOR UPDATE … Despite health problems, Gene Okerlund was “considered the friendliest person in the game”
Bleacher Report – Legendary WWE interviewer “Mean” Gene Okerlund has died at the age of 76, WWE.com announced Wednesday.
Okerlund joined WWE in 1984 after spending nearly 15 years in the AWA.
He remained with WWE from 1984-1993 and then worked for WCW from 1993-2001 and became the most notable interviewer in professional wrestling history in the process.
His contributions were celebrated in 2006 when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.
After WWE bought WCW in 2001, Okerlund returned to the company as a jack of all trades and announced the gimmick battle royal at WrestleMania X-Seven alongside fellow Hall of Famer Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.
While he didn’t appear regularly on weekly programming, Okerlund showed up sporadically and acted as a host and narrator for many WWE side projects, including DVDs and WWE Network content. We Say Goodbye To A WWE Legend
More recently, Okerlund was among the stars on the WWE Network reality series Legends’ House, which aired in 2014 and featured other WWE Hall of Famers, including “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. Read more.
Despite health problems, Gene Okerlund was “considered the friendliest person in the game”
“Mean” Gene Okerlund, was an American professional wrestling interviewer, announcer and wrestler.
He was best known for his work in the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling. Gene was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006 by Hulk Hogan.
He was eventually signed to a lifetime contract with WWE and worked for promotional programs, mostly WWE Network programming and, occasionally, the TV series.
Forming a band in his high school days, “Gene Carroll & The Shades” were based out of Sisseton, South Dakota, recording a single in 1959 “Red Devil / Do You Remember” (M&L 1001). A second single was released in 1962 “Is It Ever Gonna Happen / Holly” (Wausau C-1100) as “Gene Carroll”.
They played parties throughout the Midwest and the Dakotas, and in 2009 were inducted into the South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association’s Hall of Fame.
In his AWA days, Okerlund was given the nickname “Mean Gene” by Jesse “The Body” Ventura – an irony, considering that throughout the years many wrestlers and promotion staff considered Okerlund the friendliest person in the game.
Okerlund was close friends with Hulk Hogan, The Iron Sheik and the late Bobby Heenan. Okerlund served as best man at the Iron Sheik’s wedding.
His name has been associated with fast food concept, Mean Gene’s Burgers, the brainchild of food-distributor Orion Food Systems (headed by two of Okerlund’s nephews), which appeared on college campuses including Duke University and West Virginia University, as well as Mean Gene’s Pizza, a chain of pizzerias located within bowling alleys.
Mean Genes’s Burgers locations are also located at select overseas US Navy base eatery locations (e.g. United States Fleet Activities Yokosuka). These are owned by Hot Stuff Foods, which was headed by two of his nephews.
Early in 2006, Okerlund and Hot Stuff split. Okerlund and one of the nephews were planning to start their own food company on the brands, but Hot Stuff sued, claiming they had “Mean Gene” trademarked. Okerlund lost, with the judge saying that Okerlund can’t use the name “Mean Gene” for his new food company. Okerlund succeeded in canceling the trademark registrations held by Orion, but remained enjoined from competing with Orion for the remainder of his life.
Okerlund had been married to his wife Jeanne since March 27, 1964 and had two grown children. Gene’s son Todd starred on the University of Minnesota ice hockey team from 1983 to 1987. Todd played on the 1988 United States Olympics team that competed in Calgary. He played four games with the NHL’s New York Islanders. A chronic knee injury ultimately forced his early retirement.
On March 31, 1985 Okerlund became the first person to sing the National Anthem at WrestleMania doing so at WrestleMania I.
Okerlund (who was a heavy drinker for the majority of his adult life) had two kidney transplants, his first in 1995 and his second in 2004, one of which he received from his wife.
Okerlund was a resident of Osprey, Florida.
Okerlund died on the morning of January 2, 2019, at the age of 76 in a Sarasota, Florida hospital. This was later confirmed on WWE social media and its official website later that day.