By Gabriella Borter
Professional wrestling announcer Gene Okerlund, nicknamed "Mean Gene" for his verbal sparring with the gimmicky sport's muscled gladiators including Hulk Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage, died on Wednesday, World Wrestling Entertainment said. He was 76.
Okerlund launched his interviewing career at the American Wrestling Association in the 1970s and went on to work for the World Wrestling Federation, later renamed the WWE and World Championship Wrestling.
"WWE extends its condolences to Okerlund's family, friends and fans," the organization said on its website.
WWE officials did not respond immediately to queries over the circumstances of Okerlund's demise. Other representatives of Okerlund could not be reached for comment.
Dubbed "Mean Gene" by professional wrestler and interview subject Jesse "The Body" Ventura, Okerlund captivated a national audience with humor and sarcasm as he bantered with the biggest personalities on the world wrestling stage.
He debuted singing talent in the middle of his career when he sang the national anthem in 1985 at the first Wrestlemania, an annual star-studded wrestling competition.
Several professional wrestlers expressed their condolences on Twitter on Wednesday.
Hulk Hogan, one of the sport's best-known former champions, said on Twitter: "Mean Gene I love you my brother."
Hogan inducted Okerlund into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006.
(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum)