Many members of the WWE Hall of Fame are perhaps best known for their ability in the ring and the amount of championships they have won. The obvious exceptions are the managers—the likes of Bobby Heenan and Jimmy Hart spring to mind. However, for a guy who is best remembered with a microphone in his hand, they don't come much bigger than Gene Okerlund.
The fact it was Hulk Hogan who inducted Okerlund into the Hall of Fame perhaps signifies what a contribution he made to the company over such a long period. Still a sporadic announcer for the WWE, Okerlund's career has been filled with some pretty big moments. Let's take a look at some of the highlights.
The Early WWF Years
Okerlund actually began his announcing career on the radio before becoming the permanent announcer for the American Wrestling Association in the early 1980s. It was from there that he got his big move to the WWF.
In his early years with the company he would host shows like Tuesday Night Titans, but he wasn't adverse to stepping in the ring, too. He acted as ringside cheerleader for lifelong friend Hogan in a match against Mr. Fuji and George Steele, but was accidentally tagged in after the referee misinterpreted a Hogan high five for a tag. He even managed to get the win, as Okerlund pinned Mr. Fuji.
He also has a pretty special moment in the history of WrestleMania. On March 31, 1985, the WWF hosted WrestleMania for the very first time. "Mean Gene" was the guy who sang "The Star-Spangled Banner," which is a pretty notable moment in WrestleMania history if you ask me.
Perhaps Okerlund's most famous moment in his early years with the WWF came for the wrong reasons, though. It was SummerSlam 1989, and Okerlund was booked to do an interview with Intercontinental champion Rick Rude and his manager Bobby Heenan prior to Rude's match with The Ultimate Warrior.
However, the planned backdrop for the interview inexplicably fell backwards, causing mayhem backstage. The interview set was quickly cut to ringside, and Okerlund was mocked by color commentator Jesse Ventura as a "troublemaker."
After an impressive nine years fronting up the WWF on camera, Okerlund chose to jump ship and head to WCW in 1993.
The WCW Years
Okerlund would remain with WCW until they were swallowed up and purchased by Vince McMahon in March of 2001, but Okerlund had plenty of notable moments with the company.
There is a pretty infamous moment which is plastered all over the Internet, when a slip of the tongue during an interview with Booker T caused him to be known for the wrong reasons.
Okerlund still stepped into the ring sporadically, though, despite him being very much an announcer and interviewer. His two in-ring appearances with WCW came in 2000, as he started a rivalry with the new Nitro announcer Mark Madden. Okerlund and Buff Bagwell took on Chris Kanyon and Madden, but they came up short.
That led to an eventual rematch the week after, and this time Okerlund picked up the win in a one-on-one match. It certainly wasn't the best match you're ever likely to see, but it was nice to see such a legendary figure like "Mean Gene" step in the ring.
Return to WWF/E
One of my favorite WrestleMania shows is probably WrestleMania X-7, and it was one of the first times I ever got to see Okerlund commentate (even if it was in the Gimmick Battle Royal). It was a pretty good effort from most of the legends in the match, and Okerlund and Bobby Heenan made it a bit more enjoyable on commentary.
After years and years of interviewing some of the biggest names in the history of pro wrestling, Okerlund finally got his reward in 2006. He was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame by his close friend—and one of the guys who he drew some big interviews with—Hulk Hogan.
He would repay the favor by inducting Howard Finkel three years later, another announcer and friend of his. Despite his appearances becoming more and more sporadic over the years, it didn't stop him from stepping into the ring one last time in 2012.
At a time when Daniel Bryan was far from over with the WWE fans, he and Alberto Del Rio teamed up to take on Sheamus and "Mean Gene" in a bizarre tag lineup. Perhaps even more bizarrely, Okerlund and Sheamus won.
He's still much loved by millions of wrestling fans all over the globe. Plenty grew up with the vocal tones of "Mean Gene" Okerlund every week, and plenty more are being treated to his legendary cameos every year on Old School Raw.
When many think of wrestling legends, they immediately think of only those who competed week after week. While he may not have the status of a Hulk Hogan or a Bret Hart, Gene Okerlund is a valued part of wrestling history.