Longtime pro wrestling personality "Mean" Gene Okerlund has died, World Wrestling Entertainment announced on Wednesday.
The native of Sisseton, SD was 76.
Starting his career as a radio DJ in Omaha, NE, Okerlund moved to Minneapolis in 1970 and joined Verne Gagne's American Wrestling Association where he served as a ring announcer and backstage interviewer.
In 1984, he jumped to the World Wrestling Federation where he achieved international fame as their lead presenter and backstage interviewer. Always deadpan, Okerlund developed chemistry with a number of foils, including Bobby "The Brain" Heenan and Jesse "The Body" Ventura.
After nearly a decade with the WWF, Okerlund joined Ted Turner's World Championship Wrestling in 1993 where he served in a similar capacity. In 2000, upon the arrival of new head writer Vince Russo, Okerlund was given a lecherous old man gimmick. Where he was previously an impartial personality, Okerlund began lusting over WCW's female talent.
Okerlund returned to the WWE in 2002 and made sporadic appearances for the company over the last two decades. He also served as host for a number of anthology programs on the WWE Network. His last televised appearance for the company came on the 25th anniversary of Monday Night RAW on January 22, 2018 when he interview AJ Styles.
Okerlund was interviewed for HBO's Andre the Giant documentary that aired last spring.
Tributes from the wrestling world have poured in on social media.
"A voice and sountrack to entire era of our industry," wrote WWE executive VP Paul "Triple H" Levesque. "He was the star of some of WWE's most memorable segments. 'Mean Gene' was beloved by all who got to work with him. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time."
"The voice of my youth," wrote SmackDown star Mustafa Ali. "Condolences to his friends and family."
"This one stings," wrote SCU member Frankie Kazarian. "RIP 'Mean' Gene Okerlund. As a young fan, he was the only backstage interviewer that mattered. He is the man with the golden voice who is SO synonymous with the culture of pro wrestling. I'm fortunate to have met and shared a beverage with him. Godspeed, sir."
Okerlund is survived by his wife, Jeanne, and two adult sons.
His son, Todd, was a member of the United States hockey team at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary. He went on to play four games with the New York Islanders later that year.