The WWE did not comment as to what caused Okerlund’s death, but TMZ reports he had health problems for several years, including two kidney transplants in 1995 and 2004.
Okerlund made his WWE debut in 1984, and was a staple of their programming until 1993, when he left to join World Championship Wrestling, WCW. Okerlund returned to the WWE in 2001, and remained a recurring presence.
According to the WWE, Okerlund branched out from interviewing by providing ringside commentary and hosting several shows, including All-American Wrestling, Tuesday Night Titans, Wrestling Challenge and Prime Time Wrestling.
Okerlund was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006.
Tributes to Okerlund began pouring in within minutes of the announcement of his death:
Mean Gene I love you my brother HH— Hulk Hogan (@HulkHogan) January 2, 2019
Extremely sad news to hear of the unfortunate passing of Mean Gene Okerlund. One of the most iconic interviewers and personalities of my childhood, and one of the very best in the business.
Rest In Peace Gene.— Ligero (@Ligero1) January 2, 2019