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The Fink on being a part of history

November 28, 2010

The first interview I conducted for the WWE Championship book wasn’t with a former titleholder, believe it or not. Instead, I went directly to the walking sports-entertainment encyclopedia, WWE Hall of Famer Howard Finkel. (Incidentally, you could get the book version of the Encyclopedia here.) I knew that The Fink’s wealth of knowledge would kick me off in the right direction.

Howard was gracious enough to give me several hours of his day to talk about the project. Unfortunately, only portions of what we spoke about wound up in the WWE Championship book. Luckily for Fink fans everywhere, however, here is a large portion of the transcript. No, it’s not the entire transcript … some of that will remain between us.

What does it mean to you to announce a new WWE Champion?
It’s the greatest feeling in the world knowing full well that you are putting your stamp from an announcer’s standpoint on something that the fans will remember. It’s gratifying for me … It’s gratifying to me to have the talent afterward tell me what a great feeling it is for them to hear me announce them as champion. I get a great satisfaction out of doing it. There is nothing like it. You get a sense that you are a part of something that is monumental in the industry and it’s a signature. I’ve been commended on it; I’ve been praised on it. And it’s a good feeling.

I really get emotional about it. When it happens, I think to myself “Here we go … make it good.” And when I make that announcement and I hear the people say “NEEEEWWW” along with me … I know the spotlight is on the Superstars, but internally I’m letting out a very proud “YES!” If that doesn’t tell you about pride …

Do you miss it?
I can’t say that I miss it because I still ring announce on a selected basis. However, when I hear other people try to announce “NEW” as I do … well, I just believe I’ve done it better than anybody else … imitation is the sincerest form or flattery.

Any announcements stand out more than the rest?
I have two benchmarks … I was off Broadway in 1976. I made my Madison Square Garden debut on January 17, 1977… that I take in the grand scheme of things as the initial launch date of my ring announcing career. I was still a work in progress back then because I was still learning the inflection… the highs the lows… how you play on people’s emotions… Just the projection and inflection of your voice. So when Backlund beat Superstar Billy Graham in ’78, that was an accomplishment, but I didn’t really have that zest of the word new… and even in 1984 when Hogan beat Sheik in MSG, I didn’t feel that my zest and my taking that three letter word and making it a 103 letters was there. That developed over time. But Hogan beating the Iron Sheik was terrific. There’s no real moment that stands out over other announcements.

How did the crowds changed after Hogan won the title?
I would say that Hogan’s ascension to the championship was just one spoke in a wheel that was being driven by Mr. McMahon. I liken it back to 1951 when Bobby Thompson hit a home run off Ralph Branca of the Brooklyn Dodgers, who lost to the Giants in a playoff game. They call that the “shot heard ‘round the world” … the shot heard around the world as far as I’m concerned was on January 23, 1984, when Hogan defeated the Iron Sheik. That’s when it all began as far as I’m concerned.

Wrestling fans will always be wrestling fans, but this allowed us to branch out into another mainstream part of entertainment… rock ‘n’ wrestling. It was just not going to be rasslin’ anymore. We were sports-entertainment. More families came to the arenas. More kids. I have a belief in my mind that to a lot of people believe wrestling was invented on the night Hulk Hogan dropped the leg on the Iron Sheik… Anything before that doesn’t exist, which is a shame, because it does. But I’m not gonna quibble or complain about that. But the night Hulk Hogan dropped the leg on the Sheik, that opened a whole new avenue… we became a worldwide entity that one night.

What were your thoughts of Andre the Giant’s reign?
I never thought that Andre needed the title. When I first came into the business, wrestling was comprised of territories. Andre was the kind of individual who would go place to place. That all changed when the new era began. I thought he could stand alone on his merits.

Why is Pedro Morales not normally mentioned among the greatest champs of all time?
They didn’t know him. He won in 1971. People don’t talk about him because they don’t know.

Why was he so great? Because the key was that the people believed in him. That is one of the things that is so pertinent. That’s a lost art in today’s sports-entertainment, but he was able to make people believe him. Ethnicity also played a big part. Pedro, as a Puerto Rican in the Northeast, was god. I was a fan back then and I would attend a lot of shows and there were always a lot of Puerto Ricans in attendance. I’m not saying that’s the whole reason, but Pedro had the believability. He also had another lost art – the interview. He used to talk about the live events coming to your town … we don’t do that any more. Pedro would come and say “you know what, Vince McMahon, I have a lot of support in Springfield (or whatever the next town was) and I need you fans to come out and support me.” And then all of a sudden, here’s the ethnicity—he did a 180 and spoke in Spanish for a few minutes. If that didn’t sell tickets to that segment of the audience then nothing will. So that was one of the keys. People like he and Bruno had that support.

Do you believe Superstar Billy Graham was ahead of his time?
Billy Graham was indeed ahead of his time. He came in here with all guns a blazing. He was flamboyant, charismatic, we’ve never seen the likes of this individual before … tie dye, Ali mannerisms… Your mouthpiece can be your ticket to ride. If you had the natural god-given ability to speak, that was what it was all about it. Billy Graham epitomized that, and there was nobody like him at all.

Greatest WWE Champion of all time?
My definition of a champion is a guy who has everything going for him… a guy who can employ good psychology inside the squared circle, the ability to play to the crowd, the ability to be technically gifted and the ability to use the most important part of his repertoire, his mouth. It’s hard to say; there are so many that have represented the championship well, but my choice is Bret Hart.

Order the WWE Championship book here |  And you should follow me on Twitter

  1. paul permalink

    are you the kevin sullivan from wcw? or are you the kevin sullivan who works on re-action?

  2. Great interview with Fink. I really liked it.

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