Gene Okerland Tribute: The Shameful Training Video

Today, the world of pro wrestling lost one of its greatest voices as "Mean Gene" Okerland passed away at 76. If you're like me, and grew up watching professional wrestling in the 1980s, Okerland was always there. He was a slightly nerdy, but cool presenter -- one who you suspected was completely in on the joke, but never really broke the fourth-wall. He was one of wrestling's best straight-men, whether he was trying to contain Nick Bockwinkel and Bobby Heenan in the AWA or comprehend Randy Savage's madness in the WWF or project shock at the antics of the NWO in WCW.

There are a lot of great Okerland moments -- his singing of the National Anthem, his profane ranting during that SummerSlam, basically every interview he ever did -- but as a tribute to him, I wanted to comment on my favorite Okerland moment: his training video with Hulk Hogan prior to their 1984 tag-team match against George "The Animal" Steele and Mr. Fuji. As a tribute to Okerland, I've highlighted the moments here that have endured me to this video -- and given some jokey comments as well. This is Wrestling Shame after all.

  • Our video begins in Gene's kitchen. And let's just say even by 1984 standards, it's pretty hideous. That yellow and brown wallpaper is particularly egregious. Also, those cabinets need to go too. Thankfully, Rick and I's renovation budget is $130,000.

  • Hulk then offers to make Gene breakfast by cracking a bunch of eggs a la that scene from Rocky. One of the more interesting things I've read recently was a piece over at Slate about the history of this practice. In short, it's not really a good idea. And who said Wrestling Shame didn't care about its readers? The more you know kids!

  • Also, I love how the glasses Gene provides are ice cream sundae dishes. Respect. 

  • We then see Hogan and Okerland jogging around a park in the Twin Cities area, and both of them look horrible. Maybe jogging during the middle of the day wasn't the brightest idea. Nor was eating raw eggs.

  • Let's pause for a moment to point out that this entire video is set in the Twin Cities, which was the homebase of the AWA -- the very organization that Okerland and Hogan left in 1984. That's not at all by accident of course, and shows the pettiness of the McMahon family has a long history.

  • The Minnesotans in this video fall into two camps: the first are the crowds that line the jogging paths and cheer on Gene and Hulk. They are really annoying. The second, and by far more interesting, are the people who appear to be oblivious they are being filmed. They either run by Mean Gene or walk by Hogan without so much as a glance toward either man. These are my people. 

  • While I emphasize with Gene's desire for sustenance, a beer and a brat? Come on Gene. I've lived in Milwaukee for over a decade, and I hate to break this to everyone but brats are really overrated. Drink some water sir.

  • Wait -- has anyone had any liquids at any point in this video?

  • The entire second day of training consists of a body-building montage. Fun fact: every film made from 1981 to 1993 featured a training montage. 

  • "Hulk Hogan is about as big as Prince and the Purple Rain." Sorry Gene. Only Prince is as big as Prince.

  • Also, why is Gene mad that Hulk is at his place at 6am. He was there at 5:30 am the other day. Also, is Hulk breaking-into Gene's place? If Gene gave Hulk a key, then it's Gene's fault at this point. 

  • We then get another training montage of Hulk and Gene, this time running up the steps of the Met Center in Bloomington. Gene's wearing of a North Stars t-shirt made him the chubbiest person to wear that logo since Gump Worsley.

  • On Day Four of training, Hulk makes Gene do the wheelbarrow up 30-odd flights of stairs. I'm really starting to question Hulk's training methods here you guys. 

  • And finally, we get a series of Rocky homages: running up the steps, jumping at the top of the steps, awkwardly hugging, and posing like statues. We then get perhaps the most disturbing selfie in human history. It will be in your dreams tonight.
My jokes aside, this is my favorite Okerland moment. It's cheesy, it's silly, it's funny, and charming. And I'm glad we all got to see his best. Rest in peace Gene. 

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