To the dismay of the worldwide wrestling community, WWE announced this week that "Mean" Gene Okerlund died at the age of 76. Okerlund has an extensive legacy of interviews and backstage segments that span the course of nearly 50 years and he is included in the WWE and Professional Wrestling Hall of Fames.
Earlier this week, WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair was a guest on Busted Open Radio and spent the majority of his interview going in-depth on his relationship with Okerlund. Flair would later explain that no announcer has since replicated Okerlund's success because the current WWE announcers aren't being given the same time and opportunities that previous announcers had.
Multiple of Okerlund's most well-known interviews were with Flair. The two men had a chemistry that played off one another and it helped elevate both of their characters, giving the WWE Universe moments that are often still replayed and talked about. Flair reflected on his history with Okerlund, calling him a great guy and remembering how they would seek out one another's company no matter the event they were attending.
"I've been reluctant to talk to a lot of people because I'm not sure if that's appropriate yet—for me to start talking about all the fun we've had," Flair said. "Bubba's known me forever, he knows that whatever I have done in my life, I've had fun. Let's just say I've had more fun on strictly a social level. We contributed to each other's health issues, let's put it like that. But we had — God — so much fun. And not just fun, but quality time. And even when I wasn't with Gene, if he was at a Comic Con or a signing, or whatever, we just always got together. WrestleMania, the most important thing for me, aside from the stuff with my daughter as of recent, was Wendy and I finding Gene and enjoying each other socially. Tremendous relationship, great guy."
Flair went on to explain exactly why he thinks Okerlund is the best in-ring announcer in the history of professional wrestling. Flair believes that an interview between him and Okerlund would steal the show just as often as if Flair were to wrestle at an event.
"It's not even arguable as to whether or not he's the best in-ring announcer," Flair said. "I don't mean like Jim Ross at calling the matches, but if a guy didn't have 'it,' or if a guy got lost, or if the crowd wasn't reacting, Gene could save a promo. He could bring wit and humor to it, he could articulate, he was extremely intelligent and loved. If I knew I had a two minute or three minute interview, which back in the old days, we got that kind of time, I knew the show was mine. I didn't have to wrestle if I had three minutes in the ring with Gene Okerlund to have fun with the crowd or entertain them. I just can't say enough about him."
Flair also mentioned why he thinks no one has been able to replicate the character and success that Okerlund has, saying that current WWE announcers aren't given the same lengthy interviews or opportunities that interviewers had in Okerlund's prime.
"It's not a rap on anybody today, but you're just not going to find someone like him," Flair said. "I just haven't seen anybody, even if we don't talk about the announcing or the roles people like that play enough. We used to focus on people like Gordon Solie, and Gene, and Jim Ross, and now it's because the role doesn't seem to be as important; And it's not because the guys aren't good, it's just that they aren't featured. Gene was a featured part of every show in my opinion."
Flair once again reiterated how unparalleled the career of Okerlund was.
"He'll always be remembered, to me, as the most entertaining guy outside of the wrestlers themselves. Ever," Flair emphasized. "In the history of the business, nobody even close."
You can watch the full interview in the video above.
If you use any of the quotes in this article, please credit Busted Open Radio with an H/T to Wrestling Inc. for the transcription.