Gene Okerlund

Gene Okerlund
Gene Okerlund
Ring name(s) "Mean" Gene Okerlund
Billed height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)[1]
Billed weight 165 lb (75 kg)[1]
Born November 29, 1942 (1942-11-29) (age 68)
Robbinsdale, Minnesota[1]
Resides Sarasota, Florida
Debut 1974[1]

Eugene "Mean Gene" Okerlund (born November 29, 1942)[2] is a semi-retired American professional wrestling interviewer and announcer. He is best known for his work in the World Wrestling Federation and World Championship Wrestling. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006 by Hulk Hogan. He is currently signed to lifetime employment with WWE and works for promotional programs mostly for television shows on WWE Classics On Demand and occasionally makes special appearances.


Professional career

American Wrestling Association

He left the radio industry for a position at the American Wrestling Association (AWA) in the early 1970s, 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.

World Wrestling Federation


He would stay with the AWA until the end of 1983, when he was one of many AWA personnel to join the expanding World Wrestling Federation (WWF). He would stay with the WWF for nine years as their top interviewer, and was host of such WWF shows as All-American Wrestling and Tuesday Night Titans.

In 1984, Okerlund and Hulk Hogan faced Mr. Fuji and George Steele in Minneapolis. He was supposed to stay on the apron and let Hogan fight, but when Hogan gave him a high-5, the referee mistook it for a tag. Okerlund had to go in, but before his opponent touched him, he quickly got out of the way and tagged Hogan back in. The result: Okerlund pinned Mr. Fuji for the victory.

He sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the first WrestleMania.

On November 12, 1985, Okerlund, along with Hulk Hogan, Bobby Heenan, Ricky Steamboat, Davey Boy Smith, Corporal Kirchner, Dynamite Kid and Big John Studd, appeared on The A-Team.

Okerlund was also part of one of the most infamous bloopers in pro wrestling history at WWF SummerSlam 1989. Okerlund was set to interview WWF Intercontinental Champion Rick Rude and Rude's manager Bobby Heenan prior to Rude's title defense against The Ultimate Warrior when the SummerSlam backdrop fell backwards. The shot of the SummerSlam backdrop falling can be seen in the video induction of Mean Gene at the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006. An off-camera Vince McMahon could be heard saying "Nice glue", followed by a startled Okerlund yelling "Fuck it!", among other heated words with no audio. The cameras immediately cut away to a live shot of the crowd, with play-by-play announcer Tony Schiavone and color commentator Jesse "The Body" Ventura attempting to restore order. After a short while, Okerlund's interview with Rude and Heenan went as planned. According to a shoot interview with Okerlund, conducted by RF Video, the SummerSlam 1989 blooper was actually taped beforehand. Okerlund explained that the wrong tape was aired during the live broadcast. Meanwhile, a frantic Vince McMahon was on a headset instructing Jesse Ventura to cover for Okerlund. Ventura instead made fun of Okerlund's on-air gaffe and jokingly regarded Okerlund as a "troublemaker".

World Championship Wrestling


After SummerSlam 1993, he left the WWF, stating in an RF shoot interview, that although he probably could've re-negotiated a new contract with the WWF, he was never actually offered one, thus opting to become an interviewer for World Championship Wrestling (WCW). His contract expired with WCW and he was off television for a couple of months in the fall of 1996. Mike Tenay took over Special Interviews and the Pay Per View Reports. After that, he was with WCW until it was sold on March 26, 2001 to the WWF.

During an interview with Booker T, Stevie Ray, and Sister Sherri at Spring Stampede 1997, Okerlund was talking about a clique when Booker T went on a rant in which he accidentally called Hulk Hogan a "nigger".[3]

Always considered a neutral commentator throughout his career, he was given a "dirty old man" gimmick by Vince Russo in WCW, where he would stare at the breasts of the women he interviewed and would lust after WCW interviewer/announcer Pamela Paulshock.

Due to a neck injury he suffered in WWE/WWF during his first stint there, he couldn't take any punishment from wrestlers to further angles or characters, as it is common practice for wrestlers to "rough up" announcers to do so. The best[citation needed] example of this is when he was about to be the recipient of a "Cutter" move from Chris Kanyon, only for the camera to cut away. By the time the camera shifted its way back to his position he was already down, indicating he didn't really take the move. Okerlund did however get in the ring twice in WCW. The first would be in mid-2000 when he and Buff Bagwell would face Chris Kanyon and fellow announcer Mark Madden. Bagwell and Okerlund would win that match up. However, Madden wanted Okerlund back in the ring the next week in a one on one match-up. The two would wrestle again and Okerlund would win the match.

World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment


Gene in the Hall of Fame.

Okerlund then returned to WWF (renamed WWE in 2002), as his first post-WCW assignment for the company was as a commentator for the Gimmick Battle Royal during WrestleMania X-Seven on April 1, 2001, along with Bobby "The Brain" Heenan. He would go on to host WWE Confidential in 2002, which lasted for two years. Today, Okerlund still makes occasional WWE appearances.

Gene also hosts WWE Madison Square Garden Classics, a weekly series, airing on the MSG Network, featuring classic WWE matches that took place at Madison Square Garden from the last four decades. He's also the host for the WWE Classics On Demand Hall of Fame section, which takes a look at a different WWE Hall of Famer each month.

Okerlund was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame[4] on April 1, 2006 in Chicago, Illinois by Hulk Hogan. During his Hall of Fame acceptance speech, he quoted a Bobby Knight speech and requested to be buried face down upon his death so his critics can "Kiss my ass".

In June 2008, Okerlund began hosting WWE Vintage Collection, a program which showcases archive footage from the extensive WWE video library.

On April 4, 2009, the night before the 25th anniversary of WrestleMania, Okerlund inducted longtime WWE ring announcer Howard Finkel into the WWE Hall of Fame.

On the June 7, 2010, edition of Raw, Okerlund appeared to help save Quinton Jackson, who was being held hostage by Ted Dibiase, Jr., Virgil, Irwin R. Schyster, and Roddy Piper.

Okerlund conducted the interviews on the three-hour "Old School" episode of Raw on November 15, 2010, where he interviewed John Cena, Randy Orton, members of The Nexus and Mae Young in similar fashion as to how interviews were done in the 1980s. Okerlund also appeared in a few Old School merchandising segments, promoting WWE's new Old School merchandise line. Okerlund made an appearance at Wrestlemania XXVII in a segment with The Rock and Pee-wee Herman.[5]

Personal life

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.

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 his alma mater West Virginia University, as well as a chain of pizzerias located within bowling alleys, Mean Gene's Pizza. 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 remains enjoined from competing with Orion.

Okerlund, like WWE owner Vince McMahon, is against smoking and once famously told an off-screen production member to "put that cigarette out" during a post Royal Rumble interview with Ric Flair.

Okerlund has been married to his wife Jeanne since March 27, 1964 and has 2 grown children. Gene's son Todd starred on the University of Minnesota ice hockey team from 1983 to 1987. Todd played in 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.

In 2004, Okerlund received a kidney transplant, and fully recovered from the operation.

In his interviews, Okerlund would often refer to numerous celebrities as his "Close, personal, long-time friend."

Championships and accomplishments


External links

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