Welcome to another Finkel de Mayo… Let’s begin…
Having lived my life as a Finkel, I can tell you there is no better nickname than Finkus Maximus. It takes the half-dorky, half-comical nature of the surname Finkel and turns it right around.
Unlike Finkel, which rhymes with ‘tinkle’ and slams the ‘ink’ right into the ‘l’, Finkus takes the ‘k’ in the name and rather than saddling it with a soft lolling of the tongue, uses the hard ‘ck’ sound as a launching pad to Roman glory in the spirit of Julius and Augustus.
By pairing it with Maximus…well… that’s just about the best the letters ‘Fink’ can hope for.
The first time I heard the nickname Finkus Maximus was on April 4th, 1993 and dammit if I wasn’t instantly and profoundly excited.
But alas, the nickname was not said to me.
It was bestowed upon the only famous Finkel I had ever known to that point, the late, great, Hall of Fame WWE legend, Howard Finkel.
Finkel was the ring announcer for Wrestlemania IX on that early April day and since the event was held at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, there was a Greco-Roman theme, thus, the nickname.
Finkel, AKA, ‘The Fink’, began working with Vince J. McMahon (the Vince McMahon you know’s dad) all the way back in 1975 and he debuted as a ring announcer at Madison Square Garden in 1977.
If you grew up as a wrestling fan back when the WWE was actually the WWF and if you came of age in sports and entertainment when names like Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant, Randy “Macho Man” Savage and the Ultimate Warrior ruled the squared circle’s universe, then you heard Finkel’s voice at almost every large event.
If a wrestler lost their title defense, Finkel was the guy who announced the upcoming reign of the victor with his classic line, “and NEWWWWWW heavyweight champion….”
For many, he was the voice of wrestling and by all accounts he was an awesome guy and of course, he’s a Finkel, so he has been at the top of my list to interview for a Finkel de Mayo special since I started this whole thing. I delayed reaching out the last couple of years because I had heard he was sick and I didn’t want to bother him.
Unfortunately, he passed away on April 16th of this year at the age of 69.
The WWE universe was devastated and for about three days straight wrestlers and fans alike were posting whatever pictures they had of themselves with The Fink on social media.
I never met the man and I was bummed because I always felt like he’d be one of the best people for a Finkel de Mayo feature ever. He always allowed himself to be in on a joke, the butt of a joke or even create the joke. I mean, he once wore a hairpiece in front of a live audience to draw a reaction.
On the night I referenced earlier, when he was introduced as Finkus Maximus for Wrestlemania IX, he came out dressed in a toga.
The man had a sense of humor and the truth is, I’m surprised that our paths never crossed.
I spent almost ten years writing for Men’s Fitness and Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines and I did a ton of cover stories and features on wrestlers for them. I also went to a bunch of WWE events and photo shoots.
I interviewed Triple H and Batista and Brock Lesnar and plenty of divas and I don’t bring this up to name drop, but to say that almost everyone who I met and interviewed, from the biggest names to the heels you never heard of, they all asked me if I was related to Howard once they heard my last name.
Of course, I’d say ‘no’, then they’d tell me how great he was and that we should meet.
I just figured one day we would.
With his passing, I wanted to dedicate this year’s Finkel de Mayo to him.
After all, the made up holiday’s entire point is to celebrate the accomplishments of Finkels the world over…and few accomplished more with the last name than he did.
In order to properly assess his legacy, I enlisted the help of Scott Fishman, a wrestling writer I’ve followed on Twitter since I signed up who has contributed to The Miami Herald, TV Insider, and Wrestling Inc. among others.
One of the rumors that I had always heard about Finkel is that he was the man responsible for the name Wrestlemania. Fishman pointed me to the podcast episode of Something To Wrestle by Bruce Prichard and Conrad Thompson where they talked about Finkel’s legacy after he died.
The results confirmed what I had always heard.
The beloved yearly Super Bowl of wrestling did not have a name and was very close to being called the Colossal Tussle…when Finkel swooped in with the mania name, and history was made. (He also announced the first Wrestlemania, as well as a huge chunk of them over the years).
So add that to the list of global Finkel accomplishments:
A Finkel is responsible for Wrestlemania.
He is also the man behind one of my favorite wrestler nicknames of all time: Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat.
Finkel was the first official WWE employee and he often had a special relationship with people he signed, like Chris Jericho.
“I think for Jericho and others Howard was one of the first people to welcome a new signing to the WWE,” Fishman wrote me. “If you look on Instagram, you’ll see a photo of Zack Ryder and Curt Hawkins when Howard last visited an event. I know he meant a lot to them not only as lifelong fans but also because he was such a friendly presence. Lilian Garcia of course speaks highly of him and how he helped her get situated. He is the voice on The Miz and John Morrison’s “Dirt Sheet,” so there is a connection there. He also helped on the digital end, so I think he helped push through some projects maybe to help wrestlers.”
When it came to helping wrestlers, he was game for almost anything in the name of entertainment, including his famous “Tuxedo Match” against wrestling manager Dr. Harvey Wippleman. Wrestlers often took delight in instigating matches between fellow announcers and Finkel feuded with SmackDown announcer Tony Chimel to take back the “lead” announcer job at the behest of Jericho.
One time he even lost in an “Evening Gown/Tuxedo Match” to fellow announcer Lilian Garcia, who had help from Trish Stratus and Stacy Keibler.
Three women versus one Finkel is too much to ask of any Finkel, as all Finkel men know.
Over the last fifteen years, Finkel had less of a role with the WWE and took a much lighter schedule. While I’ve recently started watching Raw and SmackDown somewhat regularly again with my son, the last time I watched anything with Finkel was when he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009 by one of my favorite WWE personalities, “Mean” Gene Okerlund.
I watched several interviews of Finkel for this article and in all of them he comes off humble and grateful for his career and how it turned out…but he also says several times that he knows he earned it, which he did.
Class and confidence, that’s the Finkel way.
RIP, Howard Finkel… One of the greats… And certainly one of the great Finkels.
Enjoy your Finkel de Mayo, everyone.
Here is the WWE’s tribute to Howard Finkel if you’d like to watch it:
If you’re feeling especially festive about this year’s FdM, then you might want to read my features from past years:
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Jon Finkel is the award-winning author of The Life of Dad, Jocks In Chief, The Athlete, Heart Over Height, “Mean” Joe Greene , The ‘Greatest Stars of the NBA’ Series and other books about sports, fatherhood, fitness and more. His work has been endorsed by Spike Lee, Tony Dungy, Jerry Jones, Mark Cuban and Chef Robert Irvine. He is the co-host of the Life of Dad Show podcast and Lunch Break Facebook Live Show, and he’s written for GQ, Men’s Health, Yahoo! Sports, The New York Times and dozens of other national publications.