‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund is widely regarded as the greatest interviewer in professional wrestling history. His soothing voice and quick wit made him a joy to listen to, and he had great chemistry with the likes of Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage and Bobby Heenan. However, Okerlund was also one of the best men in the wrestling business. The nickname ‘Mean’ was ironic, as he was a gentleman off camera, but he always brought heat when he performed.
It’s hard to find someone who has something bad to say about Gene, just like Gene rarely said anything bad about anyone else. However, as there always are in life, Gene had some, as he would put it, “long-time close personal friends” and some people he was less fond of.
10 DISLIKED: Mark Madden
If you were a fan of WCW in the 1990s, you probably remember Gene’s hotline number: 1-900-909-9900. Gene would even get a live announcement for the hotline on most broadcasts, be it backstage or live in the arena. And while the hotline was Okerlund’s baby, he wasn’t the only one working on it.
Mark Madden was also part of the hotline team, and the two didn’t get along very well. Madden thought Okerlund’s sensationalist advances were false, while Okerlund did not appreciate Madden’s criticisms and digs at Gene’s age.
9 I LIKE: Hulk Hogan
Not surprisingly, the chemistry between Gene Okerlund and Hulk Hogan extended behind the scenes as well. Having met in the AWA, Hogan insisted on bringing Mean Gene to WWE, knowing that his on-screen chemistry would benefit him and the company. Turns out, in this case, Hogan was 100% right.
He would later also induct Mean Gene into the WWE Hall of Fame and paid tribute to his friend on an episode of Monday night rawshortly after Gene’s passing.
8 DISLIKED: Tony Schiavone
Bobby Heenan’s dislike of Tony Schiavone is well documented, so it’s no surprise that Bobby’s good friend Gene Okerlund wasn’t all that fond of Tony, either.
While Okerlund stated in a 2006 RF Video taping interview that he liked Tony as a person, he admitted that “Tony took care of Tony and in doing so had a tendency to bury people along the way.” So, it’s fair to say that Tony wasn’t Gene’s favorite buddy.
7 I LIKE: The Iron Sheikh
Mean Gene had good on-camera chemistry with most of the people he interviewed. He was also a good promoter and could get the most out of even an average talker or turn an interview around with his quick wit. One person that was difficult for Gene to control was The Iron Sheik.
His antics, mixed with his thick accent, caused Gene to break character on many occasions and created many now famous bloopers. What may be surprising is that the two got even better behind the camera. So much so, in fact, that Gene was best man for the sheikh’s wedding in 1976.
6 HE DID NOT LIKE: WCW Production
As mentioned above, Gene was easy to get along with, so it’s hard to find a lot of specific people Gene didn’t really like, so we expanded our definition a bit here to include the WCW production team. Of course, it wasn’t that Gene didn’t like the people on the team so much, it was just that he didn’t think they matched what he was used to in WWE.
In the aforementioned 2006 RF Video taping interview, he called the WCW production team “lousy,” “disorganized,” and “shoddy,” with no “preparation or direction,” which, to be fair, can be extended to WCW in general.
5 LIKED: Jesse Ventura
If you want to know how easy Gene was to get along with, imagine this: Gene had always had a good relationship with Hulk Hogan and Jesse Ventura, even after the two musclemen fell out.
Neither of them had anything against Gene and remained friends with Okerlund until his passing. Fun fact: Ventura was actually also the one who came up with the nickname “Mean” as a rib.
4 DISLIKED: Billy Robinson
Again, it’s hard to say if Gene really didn’t like Billy Robinson, but he did admit that he was scared of the British wrestler.
Gene described Robinson as “very explosive, very volatile” and admitted that he was afraid of him. And let’s be honest: who likes someone they’re afraid of?
3 I LIKE: André the Giant
André the Giant could be notoriously stubborn when it came to people: he either liked you or he didn’t. Given their mutual love of drinking and playing cards, it’s no surprise that the giant hit it off splendidly with Mean Gene.
The interviewer is said to have had one of the closest relationships anyone in wrestling had with Andre and Andre opened up to Gene on more than one occasion.
2 DISLIKED: Ultimate Warrior
There have been many people over the years who have recounted the difficulties in working with Ultimate Warrior, and Gene was no different.
He called Warrior the “most impossible guy” to work on interviews and even went so far as to say that he did not understand what Warrior was saying when they spoke privately on the phone. Okerlund also recalled that Warrior retained Vince McMahon for money before SummerSlam 1991. He said he couldn’t trust Warrior afterward and, in fairness to Gene, he was probably right.
1 LIKE: Bobby Heenan
Mean Gene and Bobby Heenan were arguably the best at their respective trades in pro wrestling history; Gene as an interviewer and Heenan as a manager. Heenan and Okerlund first met in Verne Gagne’s AWA and became instant friends. The two would succeed each other in WWE and then in WCW.
Equipped with a quick wit and a love of a good drink, the two men remained best friends until Bobby’s passing in 2017.