One of the most iconic faces, and voices, in WWE history is undoubtedly Howard ‘The Fink’ Finkel. In today’s piece, Brian takes a look at The Fink’s legendary tenure with the WWE – from the days of Vince McMahon Sr. to the present day.
There is no doubt about it, WWE Hall of Famer Howard ‘The Fink’ Finkel was one of the truly best ring announcers of all time. Perhaps it was because I grew up watching the World Wrestling Federation as a kid in the 1980s, but to me, Finkel set the standard. He treated every single wrestler on the card as if they were equally essential to the show. It didn’t matter if they were in the main event or opening the show, Finkel gave each wrestler their time to shine.
As great as he was as a ring announcer, Howard Finkel has been an integral part of the national and global growth of the WWE. Finkel got his start in pro wrestling while being an usher at the old New Haven Coliseum in the early 1970’s. He suggested to the building manager that the WWWF should advertise on a UHF station from Long Island that came through crystal clear on New Haven television. The manager talked to Vince McMahon Jr and told him of his employee’s idea and Vince Jr. thanked him.
The advertising worked well for the next New Haven Coliseum show and Vince Jr asked to meet the unknown usher to thank him personally. Howard Finkel took the opportunity to sell himself to Vince Jr. that Finkel took broadcasting classes in college and would love an opportunity to someday work for the WWWF. As a debt of gratitude, Vince Jr. immediately called up his father Vince McMahon Sr. and convinced his dad to give Finkel a shot at ring announcing. Vince Sr. agreed to give the young Finkel an opportunity and in 1975 he made his debut as a ring announcer in Worcester, Massachusetts.
He gradually worked some smaller shows until the then Madison Square Garden ring announcer Jack Lee retired. Another ring announcer named Bob Freed took over but was very tall and almost eclipsed all the wrestlers themselves. Needing a new ring announcer Vince Jr. once again convinced his father to give Finkel an opportunity and on January 17th, 1976, he made his ring announcing debut at MSG.
In February of 1980, Vince McMahon Jr. purchased the World Wide Wrestling Federation from his father. On April 1st, 1980 Vince McMahon’s first official hire was none other than Howard Finkel. Howard’s duties in the younger Vince’s promotion was grass roots advertising. Finkel would make calls to a plethora of arenas, gymnasiums and businesses to advertise the World Wrestling Federation when they came to a certain town. Finkel would also schmooze potential clients by giving them merchandise, tickets etc.
By 1984, Vince Jr was looking to put on a “supershow” that would launch the WWF into mainstream recognition. After months of planning and booking, a name was all that was left to be decided. Howard Finkel remembering the absolute madness of the Beatles show at Shea Stadium in Queens, New York 20 years earlier in 1964 suggested that this show be called ‘Wrestlemania.’ The rest, of course, is WWE history.
Howard Finkel was also instrumental in giving Ricky Steamboat the nickname of the “Dragon.” Steamboat, who was an Asian-American, resembled Bruce Lee a bit so Finkel nicknamed him “the Dragon” as in ‘Enter the Dragon’ or Return of the Dragon. Aside from his duties as lead ring announcer, the Fink worked behind the scenes in scouting new talent. This was way before the WWE had a corporate title of Executive of Talent Relations that have been held by the likes of John Laurinaitis, Jim Ross and Triple H.
According to The HonkyTonk Man, Finkel was the man responsible for introducing Vince McMahon to a wrestler named ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage. Finkel apparently scouted him while he was wrestling in Memphis and was able to convince Vince Jr. to sign him and his new bride Miss Elizabeth.
It wasn’t all wine and roses for the Fink, being an outsider or non-wrestler, the talent would constantly rib him unmercifully. They would steal or destroy his property or have him do countless retakes doing taped promos. The late Paul Bearer recalled seeing Fink several times in tears over the way he was treated by the wrestlers that he helped make a name for.
Overall, however, there was no mistaking the great power of Howard’s voice and how he could connect with an audience. They way he was so descriptive in his naming of wrestlers, even going as far as putting a little latin accent on the Spanish wrestlers like Jose Luis Rivera etc. The way he would announce a brand new champion being crowned by temporarily pausing and then shouting: “And NEEEEW World Wrestling Federation Champion” Howard Finkel was to me a class to himself.
His final active in ring announce job came in 2011 at Madison Square Garden when he did the announcements for the CM Punk/Alberto Del Rio WWE title match at the Survivor Series. He has since resigned from that post, but still makes the announcements for the WWE’s Hall of Fame Classes at every Wrestlemania. In Fact, Howard Finkel is the ONLY man or woman for that matter to be on screen for every single Wrestlemania to date. Take that streak Undertaker!
Currently, Finkel is working behind the scenes and behind a keyboard working for the WWE.com website. He is the longest tenured employee of the WWE and in 2009 was deservingly inducted into the WWE’s Hall of Fame.
A true legend in WWE history.