Famed wrestling personality ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund dead at 76

"Mean" Gene Okerlund. (Courtesy: WWE, Getty Images)

One of the most recognizable names and faces in wrestling history has passed away.

Noted backstage interviewer “Mean” Gene Okerlund died Wednesday, World Wrestling Entertainment announced. He was 76.

Okerlund’s cause of death was not disclosed, although he twice underwent surgery for a kidney transplant in his life — one in 1995 and the other in 2004.

Okerlund first rose to prominence in professional wrestling working as an interviewer and ring announcer in Verne Gagne’s AWA promotion. Pro wrestler Jesse “The Body” Ventura is credited with giving Okerlund the “Mean Gene” moniker while in the AWA.

Okerlund worked in the AWA from 1970 until 1984 when he left to join the WWE (then the World Wrestling Federation). There he became part of wrestling’s cultural zeitgeist thanks to interviews with colorful characters like “Macho Man” Randy Savage, Hulk Hogan, and Bobby “The Brain” Heenan.

He jumped ship to World Championship Wrestling in 1993, where he would remain until the promotion closed in March 2001. He returned to the WWE a month later to call the Gimmick Battle Royal alongside Bobby Heenan at Wrestlemania X-7.

Okerlund was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in April 2006.

In an interesting bit of Wrestlemania trivia, Okerlund sang the national anthem at the inaugural event in 1985.

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