MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The upper Midwest has lost a sports broadcasting legend.

“Mean Gene” Okerlund passed away at the age of 76. Okerlund — who was given his nickname by Jesse Ventura — began as a ring-side commentator with the AWA in the Twin Cities.

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In 1984, he moved on to the WWE and eventually the WCW. The consummate interviewer, Okerlund knew how to get a reaction.

The South Dakota native was a radio and sales rep-turned commentator saw his career flourish in the 80s, thanks in part to his association with collogue and friend Hulk Hogan, who helped induct him into the WWE Hall of Fame.

Okerlund was also friends with wrestling legend and Twin Cities native Greg Gagne. The two were great friends.

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Gene Okerlund (credit: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for WWE)

“He was phenomenal. He was one of the best, if not the best,” Gagne said.

“Mean Gene” had acquired a following on his own, firing up audiences and igniting the sport.

“He was honest, he was credible, believable, and when he sold it, when he signed off on it, you know, people knew this was the real deal coming up and they better get their tickets,” Gagne said.

Gagne says Okerlund was a nice guy who balanced comedy with respect, going to great lengths for the sport he loved, and a sport that clearly loved him.

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Gagne says he is not sure how Okerlund passed away, but says he had several kidney transplants. Okerlund had a cabin on Big Sandy Lake, and was living in Fort Myers.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield