Gene Okerlund

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Gene Okerlund
Mene Gene Okerlund.jpg
Okerlund in April 2009
Birth nameEugene Arthur Okerlund
Born (1942-12-19) December 19, 1942 (age 75)
Sisseton, South Dakota, United States[1]
ResidenceSarasota, Florida, United States
Alma materUniversity of Nebraska
Jeanne Okerlund (m. 1964)
Children2; including Todd
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s)Gene Okerlund
Billed height5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)[2]
Billed weight212 lb (96 kg)[2]

Eugene Arthur Okerlund (born December 19, 1942)[3] also known by his ring name "Mean" Gene Okerlund, is a semi-retired American professional wrestling interviewer, announcer and wrestler. 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 a lifetime contract with WWE and works for promotional programs, mostly WWE Network programming and occasionally TV. He is the co-host of Vintage Collection.

Professional career[edit]

Early career[edit]

After studying broadcast journalism, Okerlund landed a job as a disc jockey at KOIL, a popular radio station in Omaha, Nebraska. Okerlund would later move to Minneapolis working for a local television station working in the front office.[4]

American Wrestling Association (1974–1984)[edit]

Okerlund 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 (1984–1993)[edit]

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 five, 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.

On March 31, 1985 Okerlund became the first person to sing the National Anthem at WrestleMania doing so at WrestleMania I.

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 Heavyweight Champion "Ravishing" 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. Okerlund then turned around and said, "Fuck it," along with some other words with no audio. The cameras then cut away to a live shot of the crowd, with play-by-play announcer Tony Schiavone and color commentator Jesse 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."

Okerlund also made another unscripted gaffe when on live TV near the end of the 1992 Royal Rumble PPV he, while doing his interview, famously turned towards someone off-camera and said "Put that cigarette out!", then went right on with his announcement.

World Championship Wrestling (1993–2001)[edit]

Okerlund appeared at SummerSlam 1993 and made his final WWF appearance on the September 18, 1993 edition of Superstars. He then left the WWF entirely when his contract expired. He stated in an RF shoot interview, that although he probably could've re-negotiated a new contract, he was never actually offered one, thus opting to become an interviewer for World Championship Wrestling (WCW). He claimed at the time of his hiring with WCW that he had not been on speaking terms with McMahon for the past few years he was working in the WWF. He debuted on the November 6, 1993 edition of WCW Saturday Night. Three years later, his contract expired with WCW and he was off television for two months in the fall of 1996. His final appearance was at WCW Fall Brawl on Sunday 09/15/1996. He returned on Monday 11/11/1996 on WCW Monday Nitro. Okerlund had reached out to the WWF once again to be re-hired but they passed on him. 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 involved in another infamous botch when Booker T accidentally shouted out during an interview: "Hulk Hogan, we comin' for you, nigga!" (with Booker T noticeably immediately regretting his use of the epithet and Sherri trying to hold back laughter after the error).[5]

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 make inappropriate, lustful comments toward WCW interviewer/announcer Pamela Paulshock.

Okerlund wrestled twice in WCW. The first was in mid-2000 when he and Buff Bagwell faced Chris Kanyon and fellow announcer Mark Madden, with Bagwell and Okerlund winning. However, Madden wanted Okerlund back in the ring the next week in a one on one match-up. The two did wrestle again and Okerlund won the match with the assistance of Pamela Paulshock.

Return to WWF/E (2001–present)[edit]

Gene in the Hall of Fame

Okerlund then returned to the 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 on April 1, 2006[6] by Hulk Hogan.[7] During his 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.

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.[8]

On April 10, 2012, during the WWE Smackdown: Blast from the Past, Okerlund teamed with World Heavyweight Champion Sheamus, in a winning effort, against the team of Daniel Bryan and Alberto Del Rio.

On the December 17, 2012 edition of WWE Raw, Gene Okerlund appeared alongside Jim Ross and Ricky The Dragon Steamboat to announce the winner of the Slammy Award for Match of the Year.

On March 4, 2013, Okerlund appeared at the second Old School Raw for Mae Young's 90th birthday party which was interrupted later by CM Punk.

On January 7, 2014, Okerlund made an appearance at the third Old School Raw, in which he made references to the premium rate "wrestling hotlines" of the 1980s and 1990s.

Okerlund inducted Mr. T into the WWE Hall of Fame on April 6, 2014.

From April to June 2014, Okerlund was a regular cast member on the WWE Network original reality show Legends' House.

In November 2016, Okerlund became the narrator for the WWE Network original animated series WWE Story Time.

On January 22, 2018, Okerlund appeared on the 25th anniversary episode of Raw to interview A.J. Styles.

Other media[edit]

Okerlund was one of the professional wrestling legends on the WWE Network's show "Legends House".[9]

Okerlund appeared as a "Celebrity Prognosticator" on ESPN Radio's The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz on November 27, 2013.[10]

In 2018, Okerlund appeared in a Mountain Dew Kickstart commercial featuring Kevin Hart who during the commercial semi-impersonated Randy Savage.

Personal life[edit]

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.[11]

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 is close friends with Bobby Heenan, Hulk Hogan and The Iron Sheik. 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 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 has been married to his wife Jeanne since March 27, 1964 and has 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.

Okerlund has had two kidney transplants, his first in 1995 and his second in 2004, one of which he received from his wife.

He spends most of his time in Sarasota, Florida.

Awards and accomplishments[edit]


  1. ^ [ Prime Time with Sean Mooney, "Episode 21 with Gene Okerlund" (6:00)
  2. ^ a b c "OWW – Gene Okerlund Bio". Online World of Wrestling. Archived from the original on 2007-12-12. Retrieved 2007-12-07.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Spring Stampede 1997".
  6. ^ "WWE – Gene Okerlund profile". Retrieved 2011-03-29.
  7. ^ Shields, Brian; Sullivan, Kevin (2009). WWE Encyclopedia. DK. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-7566-4190-0.
  8. ^ Caldwell, James (2011-04-03). "CALDWELL'S WWE WRESTLEMANIA 27 PPV RESULTS 4/3: Complete "virtual time" coverage of live PPV – Rock hosting, Cena-Miz, Taker-Hunter for The Streak". Pro Wrestling Torch. Retrieved 2011-04-03.
  9. ^ "Legends' House Finale: Pat Patterson's big moment".
  10. ^ "Lebatard_5-12-15- Part 2".
  11. ^ "Inductee - The South Dakota Rock and Roll Music Association". Retrieved 2018-06-07.
  12. ^ "PROFESSIONAL WRESTLING HALL OF FAME MOVING FROM UPSTATE NEW YORK TO TEXAS". PWInsider. November 20, 2015. Retrieved 2015-11-20.
  13. ^ Meltzer, Dave (November 30, 2016). "December 5, 2016 Wrestling Observer Newsletter: Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame with 4 inductees". Wrestling Observer Newsletter. Retrieved December 1, 2016.

External links[edit]