I checked my phone this morning and saw messages of “RIP” and “Surprised he was only 76.” in Slack. I figured Bernie Sanders had passed away (he’s 77 for the record). When I saw the name I had misidentified – that of WWE Hall of Famer “Mean” Gene Okerlund – I got a sinking feeling in my stomach:

Mean Gene was a stalwart in my childhood years, not for his work with then-World Wrestling Federation (now World Wrestling Entertainment), rather with their biggest competitor, World Championship Wrestling. As a little kid, I was drawn to the company’s superhero (Goldberg) and the villainous nWo; plus, I wasn’t allowed to watch the edgier WWE. Mean Gene had a way about him. Even as WCW devolved into pointless dreck, Mean Gene brought some class to the joint. How many guys do you think could keep up with Ric Flair stripping down to his boxers? –


Like any wrestling fan, I’ve taken advantage of YouTube and the WWE Network to go back and appreciate the matches and pageantry leading up to pay-per-views from before my time. This one, also shown in the HBO Documentary “Andre The Giant”, was classic Okerlund: setting up a rising star in the AWA with the gravitas of a true professional, while mixing in some humor, after the jump:

Former and current WWE superstars and announcers took to Twitter to express their respect:

Coggin had some thoughts on the loss of Mean Gene:

To this day I still find myself saying “Well let me tell you something, Mean Gene!” If you watched professional wrestling in the 80s and 90s you’re very familiar with the sight of Gene Okerlund holding a microphone up to an enraged wrestler or trading barbs with his longtime friend and color announcer Bobby “The Brain” Heenan. One of the good guys passed away today. Hopefully he and Randy Savage can rib each other about their crooked facial hair in heaven. Take a few minutes today if you were a fan to relive some of his best moments on YouTube. You will be missed, Gene.

The aforementioned clip:

He will certainly be missed.