‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund: Bruce Prichard Shares His Memories

Mean Gene Okerlund

Photo by Bob Levey/WireImage

Hosts Bruce Prichard and Conrad Thompson are back with yet another episode of the hit Something to Wrestle podcast. This time the pair came together to honor late great WWE Hall of Famer ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund. The legendary wrestling announcer passed away on January 2nd at the age of 76. Prichard opened up about his friendship with Okerlund and shared many cherished memories. Highlights appear below and on the next page.

 

(Transcription Credit: Michael McClead, WrestleZone)

 

On Hulk Hogan Getting The ‘Mean Gene’ Moniker Over:

It worked really well for Gene all those years. I think Jesse [Ventura] really did him a favor by giving him that moniker: ‘Mean’ Gene. Overall, when you look at the person that probably got that over the credit has to go to Hulk Hogan because Hulk is the one that made it universal in, ‘Mean Gene, let me tell you something brother.’ People do interviews and they start to go into whatever impersonation they want to do…it’s so easy. It rolls off the tongue and made a hell of a career for Gene Okerlund.

 

On Okerlund Being So Closely Associated With Hulk Hogan:

I think that it’s because Gene was the guy standing next to Hulk Hogan for all those years. Gene helped Hulk Hogan, as much as Hulk helped Gene. He was the pitchman. He was the guy that was presenting Hulk Hogan and Hulkamania from the AWA and then seemingly came over with Hulk to the WWF, so it was a package in a lot of respects. They’re just very identifiable with each other.

 

On Gene Okerlund’s Relationship With Bobby Heenan:

First of all, they worked together and they were friends outside of wrestling. Going all the way back to Minneapolis, Bobby and Gene were very close friends and then in later years they both lived outside of Tampa, Florida and they were very close. Their wives were close, their families were close, and it was a friendship just garnered over many years, being in the same business and being able to share the same ups and downs of the wrestling business.

 

On Gene Okerlund’s Legacy As An Interviewer & Announcer:

Gene Okerlund was able to define that role in every company that he was from AWA, to WWF, to WCW. Gene was the mold. Gene was what everybody aspired to be.

 

On Okerlund’s ‘Infamous’ Billy Martin Vignette:

I think the most infamous was the Billy Marin vignettes that they shot out in San Diego, where Gene shows up to work with Billy Martin and Billy is sitting there at the bar absolutely trashed and Gene’s trying to get something out of him, but Gene relished those moments. Gene relished taking the impossible and making something out of it, but that was probably his favorite going, ‘I walk in and this guy is sitting at the bar hammered three sheets to the win. What the hell am I supposed to do with this guy? Just turn the Godd*mn camera on, let’s go.’ That was Gene, ‘Get her done, let’s go. I’ll do it for them.’ I think Gene kind of relished working with those folks and he was again, that conduit to the other side [mainstream celebrities].

 

Prichard On Okerlund’s Penchant For Singing:

[Conrad Thompson brings up that Okerlund sang the National Anthem at WrestleMania I] Gene loved to sing. Gene was one of those guys at a party when they would play piano that Gene would be right next to the piano player singing songs: absolute classic. He did it at Vince [McMahon] Christmas parties. When the guy would sit down at the piano, Gene would be at the other end singing songs. You’d be at a bar somewhere and they would have a piano and somebody would have a piano and Gene would sing. He was absolutely great, multi-talented.

 

On Mean Gene Appearing On WWF Albums:

On The Wrestling Album Gene did Tutti Frutti. On Piledriver, which is the second album, Gene actually did Rock ‘N Roll Hoochie Coo. My friend Joel Watts, who came up with WWF with me produced the video for that and that’s when I actually got to meet and work with Rick Derringer, which was one of the coolest things ever for a 24 year old to be sitting there with Rick Derringer and Rick Derringer playing guitar in slow motion. Just the coolest sh*t. Being around Gene Okerlund and him doing that was crazy because he’s telling Derringer what to do on certain things and it was just classic because again Rick Derringer is a rock n’ roll god….and it was really nice to see Okerlund collaborating with Derringer and Derringer taking the time to speak with me.

 

On Mean Gene’s Barbara Bush Joke:

I get a phone call one day from Vince. You know, we had 8 hours of television every single week – brand new programming every week, and I didn’t watch every single edition of every single show that came out. On one of the versions of All American Wrestling, Gene apparently did one where he was like, ‘Yeah, how you doing there George? How’s Barbara? Alright. Yes, yes. The bush.’ Something like that, I don’t know exactly what it was, but it was ‘Barbara’ and ‘bush’ in the same bit and the network went f*cking ballistic, absolutely ballistic that Gene Okerlund was allegedly talking about Barbara Bush’s bush is what they said and so on and so forth. It was Gene being Gene just doing his double entendre stuff that he got in a little trouble with.

 

On Gene Helping Young Talent:

[Gene handled it] with class. Gene was the first one to lend a hand. He wasn’t fearful of his job. He wasn’t one – like a lot of old timer’s when new talent comes in they get very fearful and protective of their spot. Gene looked at Sean Mooney as an opportunity: more free time for Gene, more time for Gene to do other things. He was there to help Sean every way that he possibly could. From everything I could tell from the outside looking in, it was a great relationship and I relied on Gene to do that and to help the younger talent and these guys get through some of this sh*t and he never failed.

There’s more on the next page including Prichard’s heartwarming last moments with the late Gene Okerlund.