Legendary wrestling announcer “Mean” Gene Okerlund died at the age of 76, WWE confirmed Wednesday.
Okerlund was one of the most recognizable names in sports entertainment, with his career spanning the American Wrestling Association, World Championship Wrestling and World Wrestling Entertainment.
Okerlund rose to prominence interviewing stars such as Jesse “The Body” Ventura, “Macho Man” Randy Savage and Hulk Hogan. He would conduct backstage and in-ring interviews as well as provide commentary at the broadcast table.
Ventura gave Okerlund the moniker “Mean Gene,” though he was widely considered one of the friendliest people in the wrestling business.
Tributes began to pour in for Okerlund immediately after his death was announced.
“A voice and sound track to an entire era of our industry. He was the star of some of @WWE’s most memorable segments,” WWE Executive Vice President Paul Levesque, who goes by the name Triple H, wrote in a tweet. “'Mean Gene' was beloved by all who got to work with him. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.”
Longtime wrestling referee Charles Robinson wrote, “So sad to hear of the passing of one of the greatest voices in wrestling. Mean Gene you will be missed and we will continue to love you. What a true class act. I am very fortunate to work with you."
The Iron Sheik, whose real name is Hossein Vaziri, also paid tribute to Okerlund. The announcer was the best man at the former wrestler’s wedding.
“RIP MY BROTHER GENE MEAN. YOU PUT ME OVER LIKE NOBODY. I LOVE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY SINCE THE MINNESOTA. GIVE MY BROTHER NIKOLAI BUG HUG. GOD BLESS YOU. CAMERA MAN ZOOM IT,” he wrote. "I MAKE THE GENE MEAN LAUGH SO HARD HERE HE TELL ME I MAKE HIM CRY. HE HELP ME WHEN I DONT REMEMBER THE JABRONIS NAMES I WRESTLE. I LOVE YOU BROTHER."
It’s unclear how Okerlund died, but he had two kidney transplants in the past — one in 1995 and the other in 2004.