A Sad Goodbye To 'Mean' Gene Okerlund
A part of my childhood was taken away. I felt my stomach drop once news broke of the passing of wrestling announcer 'Mean' Gene Okerlund, who died at the age of 76 - only a few weeks after celebrating a birthday. Death awaits us all, but I wasn't prepared for this.
As fans of 1980s wrestling can attest, 'Mean' Gene played a key role on WWF (now WWE) television, interviewing in-ring legends (adding great banter with the late 'Macho Man' Randy Savage and using priceless facial expressions during segments with the Ultimate Warrior - I'd advise anyone to punch the footage up on YouTube), reporting breaking news, providing top-notch professionalism, commonly giving wrestling a feel of realism (in an era where we didn't know any better). Before making the leap to Vince McMahon's WWF in 1984, Okerlund was a key contributor to A.W.A. television throughout the 1970s. It's where he'd develop a distinct chemistry with Hulk Hogan, before trickling over to the WWF at the start of the 'Rock n Roll Era' of the mid-80s. Their legendary backstage interviews became must-see-TV, as Hogan stared into the camera with enough intensity to persuade millions of fans that his upcoming bout was worth the price on Pay-Per-View.
As a wide-eyed six year-old who worshiped the land of superheroes and villains, I knew Okerlund was a class act. I'd experience a moment of anxiety anytime a "bad guy" threatened him during an adrenaline-fueled interview, yelling at the top of my lungs: "Hey, don't talk to 'Mean' Gene like that!" I was supposed to react that way. Wrestling used to have its way with our emotions; the good 'ol days.
The business has lost many greats over the years; through the law of life, that number will continue to grow, but 'Mean' Gene will always hold a special place in my heart. Thank you for the memories.
'Mean' Gene Okerlund and 'Macho Man' Randy Savage
(courtesy of my old wrestling figures - which you can read more about here)