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Wine, cheese and Fit Finlay

jvarsallone@MiamiHerald.com

David Fit Finlay is like a fine wine or a select piece of cheddar cheese. He simply gets better with age.

Finlay, 49, is one of the top stars on the WWE roster.

When pondering wrestlers who made an impact over the long haul, Finlay does not come to mind, but he should.

Andre, Flair, Hogan, Mascaras and Taker spent many years entertaining fans.

Not to say Finlay is on par with them, but he has lasting power nationally and internationally, and that's not an easy thing to do, especially in a depleted overall industry.

Finlay celebrates his 34th year in the business, spending most of it overseas, which is probably the reason for the snub.

''I'm really proud to be in this business that long,'' Finlay said. ``I'm a third generation wrestler. I've been everywhere, done everything, not done everything I wanted to, but I've lasted a long time.

``There's not a lot of people in this business who have been around as long as I've been. I've traveled the world, and it's been a tremendous, tremendous journey.''

Finlay's journey began in 1974 in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. He moved to Britain in 1978 and wrestled for various companies.

''I was wrestling everyday of my life,'' Finlay said. ``Over in Europe on Saturday afternoon at 4 o'clock, World of Sport [ITV], that was the big thing. It was Dickey Davies, Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, Rollerball Rocco, Mick McManus and Fit Finlay.''

Finlay battled former WCW and WWE talent Dave Taylor in England. He wrestled in Austria and Germany for the Catch Wrestling Association.

''I was on a different circuit in a different world,'' he said. ``You may think I was a big fish in a small pond, but now I'm in the big pond [WWE], and I'm becoming a shark.''

Finlay ventured to America, joining WCW from 1996-2000. He landed a job with WWE, working as a road agent and training female wrestlers.

''For six years, I trained all the girls,'' he said. ``I got into their heads, found out who they were, and I improved them.''

Like boxing great George Foreman and basketball legend Michael Jordan, he decided to make a comeback at an older age, 45, in 2004 with WWE.

Earning the nickname Fit for a reason, Finlay remained in excellent condition. He proved his worth again in the ring and on the mic, with even more fan reaction. The angry, mean Irishman loved to fight, and crowds loved to boo him.

A former WCW TV champ and WWE U.S. title holder, Finlay helped stopped Bobby Lashley's unbeaten streak in Lashley's match against JBL. Finlay elevated his game, becoming an integral part of the SmackDown! roster while wielding a shillelagh which he often uses as a weapon.

Jeers turned to cheers when Finlay admitted the popular Hornswoggle was his son instead of Mr. McMahon's flesh and blood. He saved his Lil Bastard from the crushing hands of The Great Khali. Seeing how things spin in WWE, Finlay, in an effort to avenge a beating of his son, battled JBL in a Belfast Brawl at WrestleMania 24 in Orlando.

''I've known JBL and he's known me probably more than anyone else in this circuit,'' Finlay said. ``We wrestled in Europe together. We've known each other for 20 years. I've watched him. He's watched me. We know each other's style. I know what it takes to knock him down. Likewise, he knows what it takes to knock me down.''

JBL said: ``The last time I had wrestled Finlay was 15 years ago in Hanover, Germany, and my tooth is still missing. That's true.

``I got it knocked out recently at the Royal Rumble, the cap that was put on, and I started to put it back in. I thought I'd better wait til Monday [after WrestleMania] at least. Just to make sure.''

Finlay has also worked with Batista, Boogeyman, King Booker, John Cena, Matt Hardy, Kane, Mr. Kennedy, Jamie Knoble, Rey Mysterio and William Regal.

WrestleMania 24 marked Finlay's third consecutive WrestleMania, his first two being Money in the Bank ladder matches. Not bad for a tough guy who is 49.

• WWE Hall of Fame

``You can only get so many prominent stars, and there's a lot of roots in this business. I think it's more emotional for people in the business or who have been in it a long time and gone though the hardships and the letdown of not having birthdays and anniversaries and Christmases and Easters and Thanksgivings. We miss all that with our family. We sacrifice.

``You watch guys who have been in this business 20 years. Our families sacrificed. My family has sacrificed for something I like. We get paid well for it but not always. When I first started wrestling, my first money for wrestling was the equivalent of $6. After about 10 years, it went up to $20. You know what. I loved it.

``They, who love it, are the ones who keep going, and they're the ones who last. Someone go $20. I'm not doing that. The ones who go through it, from the $6 to the $20 to the $50 to the $100 to the $1,000s, they last.

``My kids, until they know when it is, we celebrated birthdays whenever we were home together. My wife and I, before the kids were born, celebrated two birthdays together; anniversaries, we'd call each other.

``I'd been in countries and phoned home, sat on the edge of a bed, tears dripping down my face because it was a special day, and we weren't together. My kids are 5, 7 and 14, and they're all my kids, and they're all my wife's kids. My wife had cancer when our first child was 3. That's why the gap in ages. We've stayed together, and we've sacrificed for each other.

``My wife sacrificed for me, I for her, and my kids for all of us. Everybody who gets up there at the Hall of Fame and you listen to all the stories, you hear the same story, sacrifice, depriving each other of something but making the most of it when we're together.

• Finlay in WWE's Hall of Fame

``I think that I will be, but I'm not ready to be there. I'm still active. I'm probably the oldest guy on the freaking roster.''

• Ric Flair retirement

``Ric Flair has had a 36-year career, tremendous. I would love to go out on a higher note than Ric Flair because I think Ric held on too long. My opinion.''

• Veteran start

Ric Flair and Finlay drew No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the WWE Royal Rumble in 2007.

• WWE divas

''We've got tremendous girls right now,'' Finlay said. ``We've got Beth Phoenix who in my opinion is the more dominant female of the whole [WWE] girl division. There's Beth and Victoria. Ashley's got the guts. I've seen her go through a lot of stuff, a lot of injuries, but she picks herself up and keeps going, and that's what it's all about. Keep going.''

• Seeing yourself on a video game

''It's an awesome experience. It's tremendous,'' Finlay said. 'After 34 years in the business, the biggest thrill I get is watching my kids playing these video games, and they're going, `Oh, daddy, you're there.' That's is the most thrilling thing to me is my kids getting a thrill out of the dolls and the T-shirts and the video games. The video games are awesome.''

 

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