Thursday, January 3, 2019

R.I.P.: Gene Okerlund, WWE Signature Voice

'Mean Gene' Okerlund
"Mean" Gene Okerlund, who went toe-to-toe with some of wrestling's most popular figures as its signature voice during the 1980s, has died at age 76, World Wrestling Enertainment announced on its website Wednesday morning.

The cause of death was not immediately known.

Okerlund, a Sarasota resident, earned the nickname "Mean" Gene from fellow announcer Jesse "The Body" Ventura during their time together in the new defunct American Wrestling Alliance before Okerlund made the move to the more prominent WWE (then known as the World Wrestling Federation) in 1984.

Okerlund's witty, sometimes-serious and sometimes-irreverent interviews with such stars as Hulk Hogan, Randy "Macho Man" Savage and Andre the Giant entertained viewers while helping propel the WWE into the entertainment mainstream during the 1980s.

He studied broadcast journalism at the University of Nebraska Lincoln, Okerlund, a Cornhusker, landed a job as a disc jockey at KOIL, a popular radio station in Omaha. Okerlund would later move to Minneapolis working for a local television station working in the front office.

Okerlund left the radio industry for a position at the American Wrestling Association (AWA) in 1970, where he occasionally filled in for ailing ring announcer and interviewer Marty O'Neill, eventually becoming O'Neill's permanent replacement by the end of the decade.

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