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Gene Okerlund
March 30, 1998
by RichInKC


RichInKC: What wrestlers do you prefer to watch? Do you have any favorites of your own?

Gene: Well, you know what, I look for the consummate showman, somebody that can entertain with athletic ability with good wrestling philosophy that hits the hot button of a fan who has paid $15 or $20 to sit in the third or fourth row to eat a hot dog and have a cold beer and look for some of his troubles in life to be erased by this entertainment vehicle.

You can take a look at the guys, who I find terribly terribly exciting, the Mexican luchadores and guys like Malenko - a great technician, and a Benoit who is sensational. You've got to take a look at guys like Savage, Hogan, Sting, Luger, and, of course, the Nature Boy Ric Flair. My word, he is the best of all worlds. The guy's got it all. Unfortunately, he is getting a little long in the tooth and I think we may be seeing the back side of his career, but it's been a great one and I still think he's got a few years left in him.

RichInKC: Let's talk about your previous employer, the WWF as opposed to your current employer, WCW. How would you compare the two, having worked for both?

Gene: Well, of course, that is a different time and era. One thing that I think McMahon brought to the table was the glitz and showbiz he brought to wrestling which had been virtually non-existent before that. Oh, you can go back to Gorgeous George with the robes and the long flaxen blonde hair, a very flamboyant guy, but you never saw some of the things you see in professional wrestling today. I would say McMahon brought that to the table, however, somewhere along the line, he lost it and went back hardcore with a lot of cowboys and things. I see WCW today, with such deep pockets, that they can give you virtually everything: from the luchadores like Rey, Juventud, Konan who never slow down to the big boys of the nWo like Hall, Nash, Hogan and that group to guys like Sting, Diamond Dallas Page and Lex Luger. You really have a wide variety of styles and you put it all together. I think the real testament to this is that the television numbers are through the roof. We peaked this month on Monday Nitro with the highest rating ever of a 6.3 rating and a 9.8 share, which is astronomical and through the ceiling.

RichInKC: That's close to twice what Leno does in any given night.

Gene: Exactly. What a good comparison.

RichInKC: Some people may not realize it, but it seems like wrestling is back to becoming mainstream like it was in the 80s.

Gene: Yeah, I see that. I was in a very upscale Marriot hotel the other night. There were a lot of suits there who had their ladies with them and we had Nitro on in the lounge. I was surprised that these guys could rattle off names and storylines and everything. I am sure all of them made six figures plus, but they were really knowledgeable. It's not just the beer and T-shirt crowd, it's not just kids, it's not just guys eighteen to thirty four, it's a lot of people over the whole socio-economic spectrum, it is now mainstream.