ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - As a professional wrestler, Jumpin’ Jim Brunzell spent 27 years in the ring. Now, one of the voices that was the soundtrack to his grappling career has gone quiet.
World Wrestling Entertainment announced Wednesday longtime announcer “Mean” Gene Okerlund passed away at age 76.
"It’s sad,” said Brunzell. “When you look, he was such a mainstay in the AWA and WWF He was a bonafide superstar in his own right."
Brunzell met Gene Okerlund when he became the announcer for the American Wrestling Association in the Twin Cities in the early ‘70s, interviewing wrestlers like Andre the Giant, Hulk Hogan and Jesse Ventura.
Brunzell says with his booming pipes, on-air charisma and unflappable attitude, Okerlund went on to become the voice of professional wrestling when it exploded into an international phenomenon during the ‘80s and ‘90s.
"I think the fact he was so natural,” said Brunzell. “He could talk to you like we are talking right now and he'd be interviewing you. He could sense if a guy was having trouble with his interview and he would like of guide him along."
Brunzell says he stayed in touch with Okerlund after wrestling. They would meet up a couple times a year in Venice, Florida where Okerlund lived.
Even though Okerlund was nicknamed "Mean" Gene by Venutura, Brunzell says off camera he was anything but.
"He was warm, personable,” said Brunzell. “He cared about you. There was nothing artificial about Gene. He was a likeable person. So many friends."
In his book, "Matlands: True Stories from the Wrestling Road," Brunzell called Okerlund the true superstar of the WWF. He says he’ll remember his friend as a legendary performer history will go to the mat for.
"He was one-of-a-kind,” he said. “He set the bar very high and a lot of people have copied him, but none had duplicated."