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WWE's 'Mean' Gene Okerlund Dead at 76 Tributes Pour In

1/2/2019 7:51 AM PST

WWE Legend Mean Gene Okerlund Dead at 76, Tributes Pour In

Breaking News

10:45 AM PT -- We're told Okerlund passed away early Wednesday morning. Cause of death is still unclear. Working on it. 

8:59 AM PT -- We just spoke with Diamond Dallas Page who praised Okerlund as one of the greatest people in the industry. 

Page got emotional as he reflected on Okerlund's life and says he will be missed by all. 

"Mean" Gene Okerlund -- the most famous announcer in the history of pro wrestling -- has died, WWE has confirmed. He was 76.

Vince McMahon's company issued a statement saying, "WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer Gene Okerlund, the most recognizable interviewer in sports-entertainment history, has passed away at age 76."

Hulk Hogan also commented ... saying, "Mean Gene I love you my brother."

Unclear how he died, but Okerlund had health problems dating back years. He had 2 kidney transplants -- the first one in 1995 and the second in 2004. 

Okerlund started as a radio DJ back in Nebraska before taking a job with the American Wrestling Association in 1970. 

He moved to WWF in the early '80s and WRESTLED -- famously pinning Mr. Fuji in a tag team match with Hulk Hogan in 1984. 

Okerlund was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006 by Hulk Hogan.

Among his many highlights, Okerlund sang the national anthem at Wrestlemania I back in 1985.

His interviews were legendary -- standing face to face with guys like Andre the Giant, Ultimate Warrior, Ricky Steamboat and others ... and getting the best out of these guys.

He was beloved in wrestling circles for decades. In fact, he served as the best man at The Iron Sheik's wedding!

As for his nickname, Jesse "The Body" Ventura is credited with the name "Mean" Gene. 

The tributes from WWE stars are already pouring in ... 

Ric Flair -- One Of My Closest Friends Since 1972 Until This Very Sad Day In 2019. Not Only The Greatest Voice And Personality In The History Of Announcing, But A Man Who Touched Everyone’s Life Who Were Fortunate Enough To Know Him. Rest In Peace Knowing No One Will Ever Replace You.

Seth Rollins -- Super bummed about Mean Gene. Literally JUST sat down last week to do an interview about his legacy. He was the most iconic backstage interviewer in wrestling history in my opinion. #RIPMeanGene

Charlotte Flair -- Goodbye, old friend. Thank you for the memories

Stephanie McMahon -- Gene Okerlund was an incredibly rare talent. He made everything and everyone better. #ThankYouMeanGene for all the incredible memories. Our condolences to his family and loved ones.

Ted DiBiase -- WWE universe has lost one of its greatest announcers and truly one of the nicest guys you’d ever know. “Mean” Gene Okerlund, RIP my friend

Stone Cold Steve Austin -- "Just heard Mean Gene Okerlund has passed away. As an interviewer, pitch man, announcer, or host, he was untouchable. Simply the best. Total professional with quick wit, sarcasm, humor, and that golden voice."

Triple H -- "A voice and sound track to an entire era of our industry. 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."

Big E -- "Mean Gene was the voice of millions of childhoods. Mine certainly. An honor to meet him. Condolences to his family."

Mustafa Ali -- "The voice of my youth. Condolences to his friends and family."

Ligero -- "Extremely sad news to hear of the unfortunate passing of Mean Gene Okerlund. One of the most iconic interviewers and personalities of my childhood, and one of the very best in the business."

Charles Robinson (famous WWE ref) -- "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."

Bully Ray -- "RIP “Mean” Gene. Thanks for the memories and being a Gentleman. God Bless."

Kevin Owens -- Mean Gene was universally loved by everyone I’ve met that knew him.

Very few people can say that their work will forever be appreciated and remembered. Very few can legitimately claim to be legends in their field.

Those things can undoubtedly be said about him.

Matt Hardy -- RIP to an absolute legend of our industry, @TheGeneOkerlund. "Mean Gene" was incredible in many roles, as he wore many hats throughout his iconic career in pro wrestling. My thoughts are with his family & friends today.

Kurt Angle -- Very seldom does an interviewer become just as popular, and at times even more popular than the superstars he/she interviews. Gene Okerlund was that person. Im saddened to hear of Gene’s passing. It was an honor to know you Gene!

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