wrestling / TV Reports

411’s “Let Me Tell You Something Mean Gene” Report

January 15, 2019 | Posted by Robert Leighty Jr.
"Mean" Gene Okerlund

411’s “Let Me Tell You Something Mean Gene” Report

-Original Air Date: 01/14/19

-Another Network Special and this one takes a look at the life of WWE Hall of Famer, “Mean” Gene Okerlund. As I have mentioned before I grew up in the 80s and it was Hulk Hogan that made me a pro-wrestling fan since I was 3 years old. “Mean” Gene was a big part of that era obviously and he was always a welcome addition on the screen and was simply the best interview man the business has ever seen.

-We start with Mania III and Mary Hart interviewing Okerlund and he says the energy comes from interviewing the Superstars. We get a montage of highlights and talking heads putting Gene over big time as you would expect. Hogan calls Gene not just an announcer, but one of the boys.

-Gene tells us that he was born Dec 19, 1942 in South Dakota. He says he became a fan of wrestling in his mid teens and would sneak off to the local armory with a six pack to watch the shows. He was always captivated by the interviews. He puts over that interviews were an easy way to identify good and bad.

-Gene started out as a radio DJ and he was given the name, Gene Leader. Some great photos of Gene is those days are shown. Al Derusha is the one that mentioned Gene to Verne Gagne and that is how he got his start. We get some good footage of Gene interviewing people in the AWA.

-Okerlund says all his background paid off as he knew how to think on his feet and ad-lib. The classics are shown including Gene wearing Andre’s jacket. Bob Costas even shows up on this special and puts over how awesome Okerlund is. We get a rare interview of Okerlund with Ric Flair in the AWA caught me off guard even though I know Flair was part of the AWA.

-Hogan talks about his first interviews with Gene and how he wouldn’t show his face to the camera. Gene mentions that Hogan was still raw at the time and we see some early, rough promos from Hogan. He learned to follow Gene’s lead and then they would go out after the shows and have some beers.

-They discuss where the name “Mean” Gene came from and as most know it came from Jesse Ventura, but Gene admits that Hogan is the one that drove it into the ground.

-Gene tells the story of how Hogan called him up and said that he was heading to New York and he wanted Gene to come along as well. Hogan pins The Iron Shiek and the business changes forever. Another montage of Gene doing interviews with WWE icons from that mid 80s era.

-Gene talks about how wrestling became mainstream and he was now interviewing movie stars, music artists, and other celebrities. This all culminated with WrestleMania where Gene sang the National Anthem. He says someone didn’t show up and he got called into duty at the last second.

-HHH talks about how important Gene was to that era and we see the famous Mania III moment were Gene announces the attendance of 93,173. HHH mentions that Gene could go from the straight wrestling guy to playing any other role you wanted.

-We see some of the comedy moments from his career and the quick wit he had. Rollins mentions how Gene had a personality and could play off anyone.

-Awesomeness here as we get a section devoted to Gene and Randy Savage including them working out promos before the director tells them action. Rollins talks about how the energy was different when Savage was with Gene. Cena is a fan of the “cream rises to the top” promo.  Gene says he loved working with Savage and he loved working with Elizabeth. Smart man!

-They show more highlights of the comedy moments and naturally they show the infamous video where he is trying to interview Rude and the SummerSlam sign falls down on live TV. “Put that cigarette” out is also included and so is the disaster that was The Goobledygooker. Gene calls it the toughest assignment he has ever had. It was one of the few times in his career where he was lost and he was trying to make the best of it.

-HHH puts over all the things Gene did with Bobby Heenan. They show outtakes with Gene and the guys cracking up which is tremendous to see.

-Gene talks about his entire career in the WWE and how he felt he grew every year. He was getting restless towards the end of his first run and he told Vince it was time for him to move on. He hugged Vince, told him thank you and called him a brother. His last day brought a tear to his eye because he worked so hard and it meant so much to him.

-The move was made to WCW and HHH calls the move a big time shift. He not only helped WCW in front of the camera, but also behind the camera. He talks about how people point to Hogan and Savage leaving for WCW, but Gene started that shift. Hogan says Gene gave everyone in WCW credibility.

-Hogan’s heel turn is shown and Gene talks about getting hit in the head with a full beer can. He says that if you are going to pay for a beer, you may as well drink some of it first. Gene’s role in that moment at Bash at the Beach can’t be understated as he was perfect out there.

-Charlotte talks about knowing Gene practically her who life and we get a montage of all the crazy Flair moments in WCW with Gene including striping to his boxers. Classic!

-Gene always knew in the back of his mind that he would one day come back home to the WWE. By 2001, WCW was bought by the WWE and Gene made his return at Mania X-Seven for The Gimmick Battle Royal. Gene and Bobby looked like they were having the time of their lives out there that night. Gene mentions that the only reason Shiek won was because he couldn’t take the bump over the top rope.

-In 2006 Gene gets the call from Vince that he was going to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. He was the first announcer ever put in the WWE Hall and Gene says he didn’t know how big it was until he experienced it. Naturally, Hogan got the honor of inducting Gene.

-Cole says that everyone loved seeing Gene back and HHH puts over that Gene loved being around the business.

-With the launch of the WWE Network, they introduced Legends’ House and Gene says it was an interesting month of his life. He says if it wasn’t for Patterson, he wouldn’t have made it the entire month.

-Cena says that even after 45 years, Gene never lost a step. He goes on to say that Gene was able to create a wonderful persona that he could showcase for 45 years. Gene was always wanting to work and HHH says that even up to the end, Gene was working on shows for the Network (Storytime, Edge and Christian Show).

-Sad time now as we cover the death of Gene. Tweets from wrestlers pop up all over the screen and Gene’s death even made ESPN’s Pardon The Interruption where he was wished a melancholy happy trails by Tony and Mike. Hogan cuts his amazing promo on RAW for his friend and then the amazing video package they played starts to kick in and someone in my house must be cutting onions.

-All the talking heads talk about Gene’s lust for life and how everyone couldn’t help, but have fun with him. HHH puts over his ability to be a straight man and then a comedy guy that could excel at both. Cole says he would not be in the WWE if it wasn’t for Gene. AJ marks out over being interviewed by Gene at RAW 25 and he is happy he got to do that one time in his career. Charlotte calls him a member of the family and it’s crazy that she watched him interview his dad for so many years and then she got to work with him as well.

-We get a few more outtakes with Hogan and then we close with Gene saying “wrestling has meant everything to me. Good life.”

-In memory of Gene Okerlund: 1942-2019

-A great walk down memory lane and a great way to remember one of the greatest entertainers in pro-wrestling of all time. As it was mentioned, his death was covered on various ESPN shows and a lot of big time sports writers and commentators put over Gene as one of the first sideline reporters. It can’t be stated enough how important Gene was to the business and how he played his role to perfection. Go watch as many Gene segments as you can and you will see him guide people and keep them on track while never making the interview about himself. Just a wonderful man and sadly another piece of my childhood gone. Rest in Peace Mr. Okerlund!