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It was an emotional Monday night for those working and those in attendance for the latest edition of the WWE's Monday Night Raw. This was the first installment set after the death of pro wrestling legend "Mean" Gene Okerlund, and fellow icon Hulk Hogan returned to Raw for the first time since 2015 to deliver a tribute to his friend and colleague of many years. You can check it out below!
To properly keep the focus on "Mean" Gene Okerlund here, that tribute was something the consummate professional would have probably loved. The segment started off touchingly with the WWE's traditional 10-bell salute, which led directly into the opening of "Real American," the signature theme song of one Hulk Hogan. True to form, the mustachioed Hulkster came out decked out in his red and yellow gear, with a "Mean Gene-o-Mania" shirt. But once he got on the mic, the schtick was put on hold.
With the kind of genuine emotion and grief that rarely makes it into the squared circle, Hulk Hogan copped to wearing his full costume because it's what an entertainer like "Mean" Gene Okerlund would have wanted, and the wrestler's voice started to break as he talked about being in the ring again without the iconic announcer. Thankfully for Hogan, the fans started up a "Thank you, 'Mean' Gene" chant that allowed him to compose himself for the next glorious bit.
Popping his yellow sunglasses back on, Hulk Hogan jumped back into character for a hell of a rousing hypothesis about how "Mean" Gene is spending his afterlife. He namechecked WWE superstars that have passed on over the years, in the context of a heavenly tag-team match where "Macho Man" Randy Savage and The Ultimate Warrior take on "Rowdy" Roddy Piper and Mr. Perfect. Naturally, Andre the Giant is the special referee, with Gorilla Monsoon and Bobby "The Brain" Heenan arguing at the table.
Naturally, the segment ended with the question that keeps everyone up at night, 'Whatcha gonna do when Mean Gene-o-Mania runs wild on you, brother?" Mic drop.
This tribute, for as heartwarming and emotionally gratifying as it was, did not go without its share of criticism. The night's taping marked the first time Hulk Hogan appeared on a primetime TV WWE program since he was ousted for his recorded use of racial slurs back in the summer of 2015. (He'd previously returned to TV for the Crown Jewel pay-per-view event back in November.)
There was definitely some blowback from the fandom when it was previously announced that Hulk Hogan would be appearing on Raw, six months after being allowed back into the company and its Hall of Fame. The crowd did not sound universally warm when he first came out, either. Thankfully, though, audience members remained genial for "Mean" Gene's sake, and Hogan's mournful disposition possibly made it easier for some to sympathize with.
Below, you can take a look at the video tribute the WWE put together in honor of "Mean" Gene Okerlund.
For now, we're still mourning the loss of "Mean" Gene Okerlund, but that won't stop the WWE from its weekly airings. Find it every Monday night on USA at 8:00 p.m. ET. Dont' forget about all the other great shows hitting the 2019 midseason TV schedule, too.