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Gene Okerlund
March 30, 1998
by RichInKC


RichInKC: The first thing I would like to ask you is, since a lot of fans out there probably aren't familiar with your past in the sport of professional wrestling, could you tell us a little about how you got your start and where you have worked over the past several years?

Gene: My start actually took place while I was selling television time up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The television station carried professional wrestling and the guy that happened to be the announcer, they only had one announcer then, not like today where we have fifteen of them. But the guy was out for one reason or another, I thought he might have been sick or had a heart attack. It was a live show, and I filled in and that kind of worked right out of the shoot even though I didn't know a great deal about holds and moves and things like that. I did know the personalities, and interviews were a big part of the business back then.

RichInKC: What federations have you worked for in your career?

Gene: That first one happened to be the American Wrestling Association where Diamond Dallas Page spent a considerable amount of time in the early developmental stages of his career working under the tutelage of Vern Gagne. I was there from 1971 to 1983. In late 1983, I moved to work with Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation. The big gun there (laughs) because I came along with him was none other than Hulk Hogan.

RichInKC: A lot of people aren't aware that Hulk Hogan was a big name before showing up in the WWF. Had you followed his career prior to that time?

Gene: Well, actually, he really made it in the WWF. He was very hot in the American Wrestling Association. Back in those days, before cable television, everything was restricted to local area. They didn't have the kind of cable penetration we have today with seventy percent of the people being able to get cable. He came of the movie, in 1979, Rocky III with Stallone, Mr. T, and that group. He immediately got into professional wrestling, which he had dabbled in a little bit before. It didn't take people, especially those with a key eye for talent, to see that this guy had something a little extra special.

RichInKC: Love him or hate him, there is no way you can question the impact he has made on the sport. Do you see anyone on the horizon who has the opportunity to make that same impact?

Gene: You know, it is very tough to tell. You take a look at guys in the last few years that have come up, DDP is a good example of that. I think one guy that is working right now under the tutelage of Diamond Dallas Page is Bill Goldberg, and I see a lot of magic in this guy, a lot of charisma. Even though he hasn't talked a lot, I like what I see in the ring and I like the way the fans respond to him. There is going to be a lot of new talent coming up. There's so much wrestling on television right now that we've got to develop talent to feed the frenzy, so to speak.