Of all the iconic superstars that have come and gone within the WWE, no one can ever truly compare to longtime ring announcer Howard Finkel, who for decades boasted one of the most recognizable voices in pro wrestling, and all of sports. Unfortunately, the time has come for The Fink's final exit music to hit the speakers, as he passed away this week at the age of 69.
Howard Finkel's death was announced by the WWE. At the time of this writing, though, no reports have been made about a potential cause of death.
The death is truly a monumental one for longtime pro wrestling fans, since Howard Finkel had the distinction of being the first employee within the WWE. He'd initially become a full-time announcer for the federation's predecessor, the WWWF (World Wide Wrestling Federation), back in 1979, just a year before the company became the WWF, which then changed to WWE years later. It was actually Vince McMahon Sr. who hired Finkel back in 1975.
Check out his big 1977 debut with the WWWF in the video below. Though his voice is a bit less assured than the one fans grew so accustomed used to, the promise was certainly there.
The vast majority of wrestling fans who watched through the 1980s and 1990s got to hear Howard Finkel perfect his announcing skills by calling to the ring some of the biggest legends in the sport. He announced matches for just about every TV show that the WWE had during that span, but was perhaps most notable for his work during each year's WrestleMania event. (Fun fact: Finkel was actually the person who suggested the name "WrestleMania" back before Vince McMahon helped turn PPV into a common household service.)
Of all the turns of phrase that wrestling announcers and commentators become known for over the years, Howard Finkel had a line that was on the same golden platter as Hulk Hogan's Hulkamania boasts, Steve Austin's "Austin 3:16" charge and fans smelling what The Rock is cooking. Viewers would almost hope for underdogs to beat out champions every time so that we could all hear Finkel say "The winner...AND NEEEEEEWWW champion..." That line definitely stands toe to toe with Michael Buffer's "Let's get ready to rumble!" and Bruce Buffer's "It's time!"
Check out the video below from slightly later in Howard Finkel's career.
Howard Finkel's career with the WWE slowed down in the 2000s, though that was after he had gone on and developed some of his actual wrestling skills in the ring. In 1995, Finkel dropped the mic and took on his rival Harvey Wippleman in a ridiculous tuxedo match. He later helped out D-Generation X at one point, too, and was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009.
Fans went berserk in 2011 when Howard Finkel showed up on 2011's Survivor Series as CM Punk's personal ring announcer, and he continued announcing WrestleManias until 2016. He had also apparently been working in a behind-the-scenes role at the WWE in recent years.
Understandably, lots of people from the world of pro wrestling took to social media to share their tributes to Howard Finkel's memory. First, we have legendary ringside announcer Jim Ross.
Next up we have the Hulkster himself, Hulk Hogan, who gave credit to Finkel for being a cheerleader to him during rough moments where he was butting heads with Vince McMahon.
Another example came from Stephanie McMahon, who indirectly referenced the WWE's recent mass firing/furloughing of a variety of on-screen talent.
It's not every company where microphone announcers end up gaining just as much celebrity status as other top earners, but Howard Finkel excelled in his job in a way that not everyone can. We here at CinemaBlend send our thoughts and condolences to The Fink's family and friends during their time of mourning.