The WWE did not comment as to what caused Okerlund’s death, but TMZ reports he had health problems for several years, including two kidney transplants in 1995 and 2004.
Okerlund made his WWE debut in 1984, and was a staple of their programming until 1993, when he left to join World Championship Wrestling, WCW. Okerlund returned to the WWE in 2001, and remained a recurring presence.
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. https://t.co/DyPiEiVLoV— WWE (@WWE) January 2, 2019
According to the WWE, Okerlund branched out from interviewing by providing ringside commentary and hosting several shows, including All-American Wrestling, Tuesday Night Titans, Wrestling Challenge and Prime Time Wrestling.
Okerlund was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006.
Tributes to Okerlund began pouring in within minutes of the announcement of his death:
Mean Gene I love you my brother HH— Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan) January 2, 2019
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. https://t.co/9ddj6372eE— Triple H (@TripleH) January 2, 2019
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.
Rest In Peace Gene.— Ligero (@Ligero1) January 2, 2019
Spent time in WCW working with Gene Okerlund. He was a legend and the best ever at his job. Glad to share a magazine ad and the old hotline with that man. RIP Mean Gene. pic.twitter.com/qWTnrzM1W6— Jason Shaya (@Jason_Shaya) January 2, 2019