WWE is saddened to learn that Howard Finkel has passed away at age 69.
When considering the greatest ring announcers in the history of sports and sports-entertainment, you’d be hard-pressed to name one better than Howard Finkel. A native of Newark, NJ, “The Fink” — a label that had been attached affectionately to Howard over the years — made his ring announcing debut at Madison Square Garden in 1977 for WWE’s predecessor, WWWF.
By 1979, Finkel was the full-time ring announcer for WWWF, and when WWE was established in 1980, The Fink became the first — and eventually longest-serving — employee. Finkel’s distinctive voice was instantly recognizable, and for more than two decades Superstars such as The Ultimate Warrior, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and more would have a title victory marked by The Fink’s signature call, “and NNNEEEWWW World Champion!”
Despite being a ring announcer, Finkel didn’t shy away from in-ring competition in certain circumstances. In 1995, he battled his longtime rival Harvey Wippleman in a Tuxedo Match on RAW and later helped X-Pac shave Jeff Jarrett’s head in a Hair vs. Hair Match at SummerSlam 1998.
In addition to his legendary tenure as a ring announcer, The Fink was an indispensable resource inside the WWE offices for his vast knowledge of sports-entertainment history. Well respected by current Superstars, WWE Legends and Hall of Famers, Finkel’s encyclopedic memory and kindness made him beloved among his colleagues. The Fink was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on April 4, 2009.
WWE extends its condolences to Finkel’s family, friends and fans.
Howard Finkel was one of the best ring announcers of all time. More than being a “voice”, he was an entertainer and accompanied generations of wrestling fans with this unique talent that is to make people be a real part of the show. Finkel was the WWE’s first employee after having been first hired in 1975 by Vince McMahon Sr. for what was then known as the WWWF. Finkel debuted as a ring announcer at Madison Square Garden on January 17, 1977. By 1979, he had become the organization’s lead ring announcer for their biggest events. Finkel became the first employee of the WWF on April 1, 1980, and had been the longest-lasting employee until his passing.
Throughout his career, Finkel’s distinctive voice was sometimes used in the title sequence for the company’s various television programs. Finkel’s signature call was his announcement of a new champion following a title change, in which he would place extra emphasis on the word “new”, in order to draw the greatest reaction from the crowd. Finkel came up with the event name WrestleMania, as well as Ricky Steamboat’s “Dragon” nickname. In 1984, Finkel became WWF’s lead ring announcer for television tapings and he had also played a part in the talent relations and creative departments during the early days of the WWF.
On January 19, 1987, Finkel was presented a plaque by Gene Okerlund, commemorating ten years of announcing at Madison Square Garden. In 1993, at the Roman-themed WrestleMania IX, Finkel was introduced in a toga as Finkus Maximus. In 1995, Finkel took a seven-month hiatus from ring announcing on PPVs and Television broadcasts, but not at house shows. Finkel returned to full-time ring announcing at Royal Rumble 1996.
As an announcer, Finkel occasionally became part of the company’s storylines. In November 1990, Finkel played a tangential role in Curt Hennig defeating Kerry Von Erich to win the WWF Intercontinental Championship after he accepted a bribe from Ted DiBiase. DiBiase would eventually help Hennig to win the title by hitting Von Erich with the championship belt and afterwards taunted Von Erich over his defeat. He began a feud with manager Dr. Harvey Wippleman in 1992, who would regularly complain about Finkel’s announcing. In 1992, Finkel was attacked by Wippleman’s wrestler Kamala, at WrestleMania X Wippleman berated Finkel and tore off part of the announcer’s tuxedo, who finally retaliated by pushing the manager to the ground. This led to Finkel’s first match on January 9, 1995, on Monday Night RAW, he won a tuxedo match over Wippleman, by stripping him to his underwear.
Finkel became involved in a feud between X-Pac and Jeff Jarrett when Jarrett shaved the already near-bald Finkel’s head. This feud culminated in a Hair versus Hair Match at SummerSlam 1998, with Finkel in the corner of X-Pac. X-Pac won the match and Finkel assisted him in cutting Jarrett’s hair. In August 1999, Finkel became a lackey of Chris Jericho who encouraged Finkel to attack SmackDown announcer Tony Chimel and take back his place as lead announcer. Finkel ran down the aisle, shoving Chimel and ordering him to step aside. Ken Shamrock, Curtis Hughes and The Acolytes got involved in the feud. On an August 2002 episode of RAW, Finkel turned heel and began a brief feud with RAW ring announcer Lilian Garcia over the lead spot, before both were attacked by 3-Minute Warning. The following week, Garcia defeated Finkel in an evening gown/tuxedo match with help from Trish Stratus and Stacy Keibler.
By 2000, Howard Finkel had taken a lighter schedule with the additions of Lilian Garcia and Tony Chimel to RAW and SmackDown, respectively, but he still announced for some of the WWF/E’s pay-per-view events. By 2006, Finkel was rarely heard from even at pay-per-views. However, he regularly announced at house shows and would introduce the WWE Hall of Fame inductees at WrestleMania. Finkel himself was inducted on April 4, 2009, by “Mean” Gene Okerlund. Finkel’s current television appearances are sporadic, at major pay-per-views and occasional episodes of Raw and SmackDown. Finkel appeared at every WrestleMania from 1985 to 2016. Finkel stated his favourite (and career-defining) accomplishment was announcing at WrestleMania III, in front of over 93,000 fans.
Finkel would continue to appear sporadically on TV during special episodes, like the 1,000th episode of RAW in 2012. On January 22, 2018, at the 25th anniversary of Monday Night RAW, Finkel was the announcer to introduce The Undertaker, although it was a recording due to him being unable to attend the event. In recent years, he had been working in a backstage role for WWE.
The Fink was the voice of some of the best moments in wrestling not only for the fans but also for the wrestlers. Tonight, the whole wrestling business, whatever the company and whoever the wrestler, is celebrating the life of a man who knew how to make things real, just with his unique voice and his huge smile. Thank you, Mr. Finkel…
All pics courtesy of WWE