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A Sad Week in WWE; Howard Finkel and Job Losses – by Mike Sanchez

In the midst of the worldwide problems we have right now, I’ve been actively trying to seek out good news stories to cheer myself and my family up while we begin another 3 weeks of lockdown in the UK. It doesn’t do your mental health any benefit by reading everything to do with the ‘C’ word on social media or the news, so I, like many others, try to see the good in the world right now if only to escape from the sadness and worry all around for a few moments. Last week I wrote how WWE provided that escape when they continued on with Wrestlemania, and it was great to leave reality for a few hours. However this week, even WWE was the source of some sad news.

Firstly, I want to talk about the passing of Howard Finkel. I was particularly moved by this as Howard Finkel’s voice is entrenched in all my childhood memories of professional wrestling. Back when I was watching the old WWF in my youth and teens, the Fink’s voice was a huge part of the show, even if I didn’t know it back then. I guess it was a subconscious connection with past memories of wrestling that made it more personal and sad. Those of you who are around my age (late 30’s) and above will have watched the pre Attitude Era of WWE and the larger than life characters like Hogan, Savage, Warrior etc. all in their prime. Howard Finkel was a massive part of the shows, with his voice booming the famous ‘and NEW World Wrestling Federation Champion…’. Every time I think back to that era of my childhood, and watching wrestling, I hear his voice clear as day.

Fink was a mainstay of the WWE and hugely popular, even when he retired. He was the first non-wrestling personality to be inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Now I know that many take the HoF with a pinch of salt, but I think his inclusion in 2009 was a show of appreciation for his immense talent and popularity.

The reaction from wrestlers and fans across the globe at his passing is heartfelt and touching, especially the one below from Vickie Guerrero, which sums up what a genuine, caring man he was. Their sincere condolences coupled with small tales of how he impacted their lives shows he was a great man inside and outside of the ring. He was compassionate, kind, smart, considerate and above all, a fan at heart. Sometimes the words ‘legend’, ‘greatest’ and ‘best’ are bandied about on a whim, but I doubt anyone would argue that Howard Finkel was all of those in his career. Nobody could come close to him. He was and forever will be the voice of wrestling. God bless Howard Finkel.

More sad news came this week when WWE released quite a few employees from the company, including some big names like The Revival, Kurt Angle and Rusev. I’ve watched lots of their reaction videos on the subject on Twitter and though the disappointment is clear in their faces and voices, many see this as a chance to move onto something else and are trying to stay positive, which must be applauded. I’m not going to say WWE have made huge mistakes in releasing all these guys/girls, because at the end of the day they were all business decisions and sometimes life can be cruel. Are they talented? Sure, and it’s not like they were all sitting on their asses collecting paychecks, they were on the road, training, learning and trying their best to further their WWE careers. It would be remiss of me to even suggest they weren’t doing so.

I’ve seen some commentators say that WWE should’ve fired some of the talent on bigger contracts or trimmed down the high-earners like Brock Lesnar. To this I have to say I disagree. Brock Lesnar may be on a huge contract, but that’s not his fault. WWE choose to pay him a lot because, and wait for it, he’s the biggest star on the show. Like it or not, Brock is a once in a lifetime talent that WWE must keep. Recently, the Rock was asked about who were the biggest names in wrestling. His answer, carefully structured, I thought, focused on one particular issue when it comes to professional wrestling. The only thing you need to do for a promoter in wrestling is to draw money. Sure, you can be talented, charismatic, a freak of nature, but if you can’t draw money or sell tickets then you’re no good. The Rock knew this and said that’s why he would argue that Stone Cold Steve Austin, Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan etc. would be considered big stars purely because they sold tickets and PPVs. Brock Lesnar is in that category because he is a draw, plain and simple.

I understand that WWE needed to save money, and tough choices needed to be made, but that’s just business. For me, I was sad to see the talent who I think never had an opportunity to show what they could do leave. The likes of Sarah Logan, who was cast as a Viking-esqe member of the Riott Squad. Aiden English had his tag team run with Simon Goch cut short (due to Goch’s departure) then tried to get over as the singing announcer of Rusev. EC3 promised much but never got the chance to deliver. Drake Maverick, who posted an emotional video on Twitter, was another who I think should’ve been used better.

For the more established names, I guess the creative department had just run out of ideas for them although I must admit the release of Luke Gallows and Karl Anderson caught be by surprise. With AJ Styles staying high on the card, I really thought they would stay. They have had success to be fair, so I hope they can carry on in another company. Perhaps some had just run their course and it was just their time like Rusev. Some had been part of tag teams or factions and just not achieved the levels of success as their friends; Erick Rowan, and Curt Hawkins come to mind.

Given that two members of 3MB have gone on to hold major titles, perhaps it was only a matter of time before the third member of that group, Heath Slater, did the same. Unfortunately, we won’t find out for the foreseeable future. Slater’s video on the subject gave me heart in that he feels fire in his belly once more and will push on to new things. He’s got kids, dammit. Best of luck to everyone.

All that being said, it’s important to remember that in WWE and around the world, that things will get better. We will overcome and come out of the other end of this. And when we do, don’t be surprised if some of the talents make a triumphant return to WWE and make their mark. I sincerely hope they do as I think professional wrestling is needed right now as the escape from reality.

Take care and stay safe. Mike S.