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(SD)-R.I.P. "Mean Gene" Okerlund, WWE Interviewer And SD Native

By: John Axtell Posted at: 01/03/2019 02:17 PM
OSPREY, Fla. (AP) - Eugene "Mean Gene" Okerlund, whose deadpan interviews of pro wrestling superstars such as "Macho Man" Randy Savage, The Ultimate Warrior, and Hulk Hogan made him a ring fixture in his own right, has died.

      A native of Sisseton, South Dakota, Okerlund went on to earn a journalism degree from the University of Nebraska.  

       His son, Tor Okerlund, told The Associated Press that his father died early Wednesday at a hospital in Sarasota, Florida, near his home in Osprey, with his wife of 54 years, Jeanne, by his side. He was 76.

      Tor Okerlund said his father, who had received three kidney transplants, fell a few weeks ago "and it just kind of went from bad to worse."

      Okerlund was known for his natty attire and mustache, but it was wrestler Jesse "The Body" Ventura, who later became Governor of Minnesota, who dubbed him "Mean Gene." Ventura calls Okerlund "the best at what he did, the best straight man interviewer in wrestling history."
 
      Mean Gene started as an interviewer in the American Wrestling Association in 1970, then  in 1984 moved to the WWF - World Wrestling Federation - where he hosted such shows as Tuesday Night Titans and All-American Wrestling.

     He left WWF when his contract expired in 1993 and signed with the rival WCW - World Championship Wrestling - and stayed there until WCW was bought out by the WWF, which later changed its name to World Wrestling Entertainment - WWE - to avoid copyright issues with the World Wildlife Fund.

     Okerlund was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006 and his final appearance for it was last January on the 25th anniversary episode of Raw.

       His name was also associated with fast food. Mean Gene's Burgers was the brainchild of a food distributorship headed by two of his nephews and had a franchise in Valentine for several years, and Mean Gene's Pizza.

      Both were owned by Hot Stuff Foods, headed by two of his nephews, but both names disappeared after a 2006 dispute when Okerlund and one of his nephews announced plans to start their own food company

      Hot Stuff sued, claiming they had "Mean Gene" trademarked, and won with the judge saying that Okerlund couldn't use the name "Mean Gene" for his new company. He succeeded in canceling the trademark registrations, but was barred from using them himself.


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