Very Dear, Long Time, Close, Personal Icon Submitted by LoneLee on 01/07/2019 at 12:53 PM
Picture it. I'm at work January 2nd, before anyone else gets there in the wee hours of the morning. It's my job to disassemble and store equipment and such things from the holiday parties that are still set up in the gym. There I see a mic stand complete with microphone secured atop. The mind that I have automatically turns any situation into something wrestling related, even if there's no such influence around me. That's just how my mind works. Without a second thought I grab the unplugged mic, lean into an imaginary camera shot, and without missing a beat even despite the fact of being half-asleep, go into my best Mean Gene Okerlund. "*soft tone* I'll tell you all the news that they don't want you to hear and that I can't say on the air, *raise tone* on the WCW Hotline! At ONE nine-hundred NINEOHNINE...ninety-nine hundred. That number again, ONE nine-hundred NINEOHNINE...ninety-nine hundred. A buck forty-nine a minute, kids get your parent's permission" (The latter I never did.) At this point I was engaged into character and scowered the room for a potential guest. To my excitement I noticed a life-size Santa pirched on a throne. "Switching gears just a little bit, I want to welcome one of my very dear, long time, close, personal friends. He is the FOURTEEN TIME WCW World Heavyweight champion, he is the NATURE BOY RIC FLAIR!!" I exclaimed with a whirling of my free hand as Gene often did.
It's moment like these that help me escape the every day grind of life. And it's moments like the one that followed several minutes later that reminds me how cruel it can be at the same time. One of my Twitter family tagged me in a post with a headline saying we had lost Mean Gene...not even an hour after I gave my best rendention to an imaginary audience in an empty gym. Just think about that. Why on that day did i choose to do that impression at that very moment? Who am I, right? I'm not anyone to have the right in feeling that his energy was channeled through me. No, it's much greater than that. He was channeled through all of us.
With a career that spanned different eras and different decades through every major promotion, Mean Gene was a fixture for backstage and in-ring promos. His quick wit, dry humor, and euphonious voice were what set him apart from the rest. Honestly, there isn't anything I can say about him that hasn't already been said by all of his peers and fans. He set the bar for what announcer should aspire to be. And that's what he did for me at a young age. Not as announcer but knowing that a small guy had a place in the business with their best gifts. In Gene's case, his intelligence and untouchable charisma. Knowing that he was a small guy compared to these mammoth men, he would enhance their promos in between breaths add to their words, sometimes helping the lesser talented guys through a stumbling spiel. Even without a word, a simple raising of an eyebrow at a questionable statement from a heel or curl of his mouth beneath his trademark mustache, trying to hide his amusement could say so much. Gene proved to me that a small guy can have such a big impact on the business even outside of the ring.
I said it in my first Tweet after his passing and I'll say it again. I can't even think of any great promos from the 80s and 90s that didn't have Mean Gene Okerlund holding the stick. Another one gone from my era and this one hurts. Gene was one I was hopeful to meet one day but unfortunately never came to fruition. Even though i never did, I feel like he was part of my household for so many years. Has anyone ever noticed a random man wherever you are, a co-worker or stranger with a Cul-de-sac hairstyle and mustache then automatically remark "Hey he has a Mean Gene look?" If that sounds mean, then I'm sorry but that's the impact he had. Gene was such an icon and he will never be forgotten in more ways than one.
Just wanted to share my story and comments with anyone who reads this. Now, as I finish typing this teary-eyed and continuously glancing at my Mean Gene LJN figure, I'll sign off for now. And Mr. Okerlund, thanks for always bringing us the scoop!