Obituary: Howard Finkel (1950-2020)

WWE announced on their website and through social media that Howard Finkel, the golden voice known as “The Fink” to many longtime fans, passed away today at age 69.

Finkel worked the WWWF starting in 1975 and was the first full-time employee in the territory hired by Vincent J. McMahon.  Starting in 1980, he expanded his vocal talents to include introducing TV shows and video releases.  It wasn’t until 1984, though, that Finkel became the lead ring announcer in the WWF, a role held for the better part of 18 years.  He was more than a ring announcer, though; he was an idea man, not only coining the term “WrestleMania” but seeing Ricky Steamboat’s vague Bruce Lee resemblance and martial arts skills and nicknaming him “The Dragon”.

Throughout most of his career, Finkel was simply a voice, but a signature one.  His basso profundo became the signature sound associated with the Golden Era of the WWF, including appearances at most WrestleManias.  One thing Finkel always recognized was that a title change was, in kayfabe terms, a big deal.  His emphasis on the word “NEW” has become so well known other ring announcers mimic it to this day.  (He also loved to emphasize “ONE fall!” at the end of announcements, another one that has become practically a meme in today’s wrestling society.)

Not that Finkel was just a background character; there would be times he was allowed to be an important part of the story.  The first memorable one was in 1991, when Ted DiBiase paid him to take the night off.  It turns out DiBiase’s plan was to cost Kerry Von Erich the Intercontinental Title back to Mr. Perfect (a side effect of the DiBiase/Dusty Rhodes feud; Von Erich had taken exception to the Rhodes family being called dumb Texans and attacked DiBiase on the Brother Love show).  Soon after was his most famous animosity, as Harvey Whippleman took a displeasure to Finkel’s announcing style (and the feeling was mutual).  It culminated in WrestleMania X, when a toupee-wearing Fink (don’t ask) knocked out Whippleman moments before Earthquake crushed his client Adam Bomb.

The Attitude Era would see a return of Finkel as more than just a man with a mic.  Jeff Jarrett, embracing his arrogant bully side, took off a few locks of (what was left of) Finkel’s hair to send a statement to his then-rival X-Pac.  When X-Pac in turn beat Jarrett in their lucha de apuesta, Jarrett’s hair had to be cut down; Finkel assisted the degenerate in cutting Jarrett’s long locks and giving him his now-signature flat top.

Inevitably, because this was the Attitude Era, Finkel would act heelish.  The first time came in 1999, when he became Chris Jericho’s sidekick and fall guy in Jericho’s first feud against Ken Shamrock.  One of the more memorable moments was when Jericho convinced Finkel to distract Shamrock while dressed as the Ultimate Warrior.  (Things didn’t go well for Howard that night.)  Later, in 2002, he became offended that Lilian Garcia would attempt to take his place on Raw and adopted a more sexist stance on the replacement.  Garcia, with Trish Stratus’s help, defeated Finkel in a Tuxedo/Gown match and left him in his underwear.

Backstage, Finkel enjoyed a role as the WWE’s chief statistician.  His knowledge of the company’s history was so in-depth that WWE had an online show “Out-Think the Fink” to see if anyone could stump him on WWE knowledge.  In addition to this, Finkel appeared in other online series such as “Legends’ House” and as the off-screen announcer for “The Edge and Christian Show (That Reeks of Awesomeness)”, plus regular appearances on “The JBL and Cole Show”.

Finkel was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009; the Observer inducted him in 2018.  Finkel was involved in one way or another for the first 32 WrestleManias, but stated his favorite professional moment was being in the ring for WrestleMania III and the battle between Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant.  His final announcement was at Raw’s 25th anniversary, albeit pre-recorded, when he brought The Undertaker out to the crowd.

We here in the wrestling universe send our thoughts and prayers to Finkel’s family and friends.

Information for this obituary from Wikipedia.