Many celebrities and athletes are called legends. The term is thrown around way too often. However, few people earned that title more than ring announcer Howard Finkel. We lost him today at age 69. The cause of death was not announced, but in 2018 Finkel was slowed by a serious stroke.
He was hired by the World Wide Wrestling Federation more than four decades ago. In fact, he became the company’s first employee. WWE Chairman and CEO Vince McMahon confirmed this on twitter today. Kids growing up in the 1980s and 90s were fans of the WWF. It became WWE in 2002 following an agreement with the World Wildlife Fund.
Howard was much more than a ring announcer. He came up with the name for Wrestlemania, and was affectionately known as a walking encyclopedia for his terrific memory. WFAN’s Maggie Gray described him as the soundtrack of our childhood. She mentioned him voicing an introduction for Jimmy Traina’s podcast. He also recorded an introduction for Frank Isola that was played on WFAN. “The Fink” can be seen on youtube doing introductions for a wedding party. Other WFAN personalities have been talking about their interactions with Howard over the years. He was definitely a major part of so many lives.
I grew up watching Finkel on television, and also attended events at MSG when he was working. In the last 10-15 years I have spent countless hours watching wrestling from my youth. Howard is almost always there. He was a big Mets and Jets fan. Finding out that Howard enjoyed listening to WFAN was exciting for me. Obviously that was something I could relate to. Also, it made me think that Howard actually might know who I was!
The Jets were a playoff team in 2010. That season technically finished in early 2011. Their regular season concluded on January 2. I assumed they would be playing on NBC against Indianapolis the following Saturday, but wanted confirmation. Howard Finkel confirmed it. I tweeted to him asking how he knew that for sure, and he answered me. Howard followed media members who covered the Jets. He was locked in. I had not been on twitter for very long at the time.
NBC then announced that the Jets-Colts game would indeed be Saturday night on NBC a few minutes after that. Finding out for sure was good so I could tell my friend, but getting a tweet from Howard was definitely a thrill. He loved wrestling and sports. Howard was one of us, and we wanted to be him.
RIP Howard. Heaven must have needed you to introduce some really big matches.