"Mean" Gene Okerlund -- the most famous announcer in the history of pro wrestling -- has died, WWE has confirmed. He was 76.
Vince McMahon's company issued a statement saying, "WWE is saddened to learn that WWE Hall of Famer Gene Okerlund, the most recognizable interviewer in sports-entertainment history, has passed away at age 76."
Hulk Hogan also commented ... saying, "Mean Gene I love you my brother."
Unclear how he died, but Okerlund had health problems dating back years. He had 2 kidney transplants -- the first one in 1995 and the second in 2004.
Okerlund started as a radio DJ back in Nebraska before taking a job with the American Wrestling Association in 1970.
He moved to WWF in the early '80s and WRESTLED -- famously pinning Mr. Fuji in a tag team match with Hulk Hogan in 1984.
Okerlund was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2006 by Hulk Hogan.
LAST TIME WE SAW HIM ...TMZSports.com
Among his many highlights, Okerlund sang the national anthem at Wrestlemania I back in 1985.
His interviews were legendary -- standing face to face with guys like Andre the Giant, Ultimate Warrior, Ricky Steamboat and others ... and getting the best out of these guys. He was beloved in wrestling circles for decades. In fact, he served as the best man at The Iron Sheik's wedding!
As for nickname, Jesse "The Body" Ventura is credited with the name "Mean" Gene.
The tributes from WWE stars are already pouring in ...
Stone Cold Steve Austin -- "Just heard Mean Gene Okerlund has passed away. As an interviewer, pitch man, announcer, or host, he was untouchable. Simply the best. Total professional with quick wit, sarcasm, humor, and that golden voice."
Triple H -- "A voice and sound track to an entire era of our industry. He was the star of some of @WWE’s most memorable segments. “Mean Gene” was beloved by all who got to work with him. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time."
Big E -- "Mean Gene was the voice of millions of childhoods. Mine certainly. An honor to meet him. Condolences to his family."
Mustafa Ali -- "The voice of my youth. Condolences to his friends and family."
Ligero -- "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."
Charles Robinson (famous WWE ref) -- "So sad to hear of the passing of one of the greatest voices in wrestling. Mean Gene you will be missed and we will continue to love you. What a true class act. I am very fortunate to work with you."
Bully Ray -- "RIP “Mean” Gene. Thanks for the memories and being a Gentleman. God Bless."