Howard Finkel

The Fink remembers the Coliseum
by Matt Duda

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – August 26, 2002 – After World Wrestling Entertainment holds the final event ever in the New Haven (Conn.) Coliseum tonight, perhaps nobody will feel sadder that Howard Finkel. Had the Coliseum never opened its doors in 1972, WWE’s most prominent ring announcer may never have become the company’s first employee.

Finkel, who worked mainly as an usher at the Coliseum, first met then-World Wide Wrestling Federation promoter Vince McMahon during a 1975 event in the building. That first meeting led to Howard becoming the first person hired by WWE.

“Back in 1975, the WWWF wrestling program did not air in Connecticut, but it aired on a UHF station in Long Island that did come into the New Haven area,” Finkel told “I began to badger the building director at that time -- his name was Loris Smith – to see what we could do. I told him I was a big wrestling fan and there’s no wrestling here but there’s wrestling out there. Loris called Vince McMahon and they talked about doing an event. Loris at that time said, ‘I have an individual who works for me as an usher that is an absolute nut for wrestling, and his name is Howard Finkel.’ Basically what happened after that is the WWWF came to New Haven and at that time Loris introduced me to Vince McMahon. That was in June of 1975. Little did I realize that that handshake I had with Vince would be the beginning of what has been the greatest ride one could ever take. That’s how I met Vince.”

The Howard/Vince connection is just one of several landmark events that took place in the hallowed Coliseum, but the Fink recalled some of his favorite memories of the building from his days as an usher there.

“The fondest memory I had was during an Elvis Presley concert and one of the jobs I had was in the backstage area by the door where the cars came in and out,” Finkel said. “Elvis arrived and I saw him close up, which was great in 1974. What was really cool was after the show he came back and he came close to me and acknowledged me with a head nod to open the door, and out he went. That’s a fond memory because it’s not every day that someone got the chance to mingle in some way, shape or form with Elvis Presley.

“I got to meet a lot of people in my time. Back in ’75 there was a concert and the featured band was Chicago. There was an opening act on that show, and when I got to the building to mark seats, the opening act was going through a sound check, which was a really cool thing to see.

I was up front and I was watching this young man perform. I got to say hello to him and told him good luck, and he said, ‘Thank you.’ That young man was Bruce Springsteen. So there’s some fond memories with rubbing elbows with some of the greats in entertainment.”

After accepting a full-time position with McMahon’s company in 1980, Finkel enjoyed every opportunity to return to his old stomping grounds. “Whenever we did come back to New Haven to perform at the Coliseum, it gave me a special satisfaction to be in front of the ‘hometown crowd,’ He said.” When I started ring announcing in ’76, you would see kids 5, 6, 7 years old. Then some 20 years later in the late 90’s when we would come back to New Haven these 5, 6, 7 year old kids are now 25, 26, 27, still big fans and still always needling me about those times back when they were kids. It’s amazing that their memories serve them well, and it makes me feel good.”

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