I got the text message while approaching O'Hare International air port for my flight from Chicago to Toronto. I stared at my phone for few seconds trying to suss out exactly what I was seeing and what it meant. To most wrestling fans, it would be have been a novel piece of information. To me however, it was both exciting and frightening. "WE HAVE THE FINK!".
Disbelief at what I was seeing (and no for those who would be justifiably concerned, I wasn't driving) that one word has only one meaning. He is the voice. The only voice of WWE for my entire life. Howard Finkel. We wanted to make a splash at the Sports Expo, and Finkel is always fondly remembered by fans around the world so this was sensational news for Niagara wrestling fans. But for me, it was both gift and cost.
As the Crossfire ring announcer, it's obvious I would have studied Finkel. There is also the Buffer Brothers of Boxing (Michael), and UFC (Bruce). There is was Joey Lemon from HBO After dark Boxing. But respectfully to all the others, Finkel was the first to break the mold and became the first house hold name of announcers. And so my admiration for the voice swelled, but so to did my anxiety as I felt my own style would be critiqued and history would soon pall over me by the looming shadow of the Finks legacy.
I've met and chatted up wrestlings best and notorious over the years, but I had never crossed paths with Finkel. And when I was finally standing with him and he was introducing himself to all of us at the Expo, I could not find anything profound and meaningful to say! Aside from the customary salutations aside, I sat by him for hours watching him greet fans at the expo with sincerity, kindness, enthusiasm, and respect. His professionalism was astoundingly a close second in terms of "Wow" factor only to his first and foremost apparent trait; passion. His passion for everything he does.
In a room overflowing with ego, Howard Finkel was passionate about the opportunity to be with the fans. To be with people. Unlike the vast majority of sports figures there, it wasn't about him or what he had accomplished. It was about the fans. I learned by proxy and through osmosis just being by him more than I could ever have hoped. The voice he used was a wonderful tool not just used exclusively to dispense information. It was his expression of passion.
And so it was refreshing and inspiring watching Mr. Finkel. He as candid, honest and humble and everything he said had a positive spin on it. Everyone who spoke with him or was spoken to came away feeling better about their day, their situation, or themselves. So what does your truly take away from this experience? Let's find out May 25th when I step though the ropes and turn the microphone on.
My Howard Finkel autographed picture.