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'The greatest ring announcer of all time': WWE Hall of Fame legend Howard Finkel dies age 69

'The greatest ring announcer of all time': WWE Hall of Fame legend Howard Finkel dies age 69
Legendary WWE announcer and Hall of Fame inductee Howard Finkel, nicknamed 'The Fink' has died at the age of 69, the company has confirmed.

Finkel, who was the first-ever permanent staff member of the WWE (then the WWWF), joined the company as a ring announcer in 1979 and his booming voice quickly became synonymous with the professional wrestling outfit throughout the 1980s.

His famous 'And new!' declaration following a title change became one of the WWE's most immediately recognizable phrases and became an integral part of the company's 'Rock n' Wrestling' era, in which names like Hulk Hogan and the Ultimate Warrior graduated from carnival attractions to become household names.

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Finkel remained in his role as ring announcer until the 2000s before he moved to a part-time position, while primarily working for the WWE in a behind-the-scenes capacity. His contribution to professional wrestling was enshrined in the WWE Hall of Fame in 2009.

He became so intrinsically linked to the organization that his voice was every bit as recognizable to fans as those of the company's top in-ring talents, and he was involved with the WWE's marquee event WrestleMania from its very inception. He even claimed to have recommended the title of the flagship show to Vince McMahon more than three decades ago.

He was not quite as well-known for his athleticism but did compete in several matches throughout his tenure with WWE, beating manager Harvey Wippleman in a so-called 'Tuxedo Match' in 1999, and losing an 'Evening Gown' match to fellow announcer Lillian Garcia three years later.

Such was Finkel's reputation as a crucial component of the WWE's rise over the years that several of the industry's top names took to social media upon learning of his death to pay tribute to one of wrestling's true icons, including the likes of Hulk Hogan, Matt Hardy and others.

Finkel was most recently seen on our screens during a 2014 series featured on the WWE Network called 'Legends' House' in which he shared a real-life house with fellow veterans of the pro wrestling business 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper, 'Mean' Gene Okerlund and Jimmy Hart.

A statement released by WWE described Finkel as an "indispensable resource" throughout the company's formative years.

"When considering the greatest ring announcers in the history of sports and sports-entertainment, you’d be hard-pressed to name one better than Howard Finkel," a message post on the WWE reads. "A native of Newark, NJ, “The Fink” — a label that had been attached affectionately to Howard over the years — made his ring announcing debut at Madison Square Garden in 1977 for WWE’s predecessor, WWWF.

"By 1979, Finkel was the full-time ring announcer for WWWF, and when WWE was established in 1980, The Fink became the first — and eventually longest-serving — employee. Finkel’s distinctive voice was instantly recognizable, and for more than two decades Superstars such as The Ultimate Warrior, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and more would have a title victory marked by The Fink’s signature call, “and NNNEEEWWW World Champion!

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"Despite being a ring announcer, Finkel didn’t shy away from in-ring competition in certain circumstances. In 1995, he battled his longtime rival Harvey Wippleman in a Tuxedo Match on Raw, and later helped X-Pac shave Jeff Jarrett’s head in a Hair vs. Hair Match at SummerSlam 1998.

"In addition to his legendary tenure as a ring announcer, The Fink was an indispensable resource inside the WWE offices for his vast knowledge of sports-entertainment history. Well respected by current Superstars, WWE Legends and Hall of Famers, Finkel’s encyclopedic memory and kindness made him beloved among his colleagues. The Fink was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame on April 4, 2009.

"WWE extends its condolences to Finkel’s family, friends and fans."