STUDENT OF THE GAME
By Ryan K. Boman, Editor in Chief
It doesn’t take very long to realize that Ian Riccaboni is a smart guy.
The 30-year-old, bespectacled play by play man is a graduate of New York University, and had a highly successful Philadelphia sports blog prior to becoming a part of the wrestling industry. He covered the Phillies, started doing some public access television, and even made an appearance on MTV during his freshman year of college.
That early exposure led him to an encounter with The Blue Meanie and later, Monster Factory owner Danny Cage. Before long, Riccaboni was being schooled in all aspects of the game, from the basics on the mat all the way to breaking down and assembling the ring. Over time, as his wrestling regimen provided some on the job training, Riccaboni found himself in Ring of Honor.
“I was told right away that there were no guarantees” Riccaboni said in an exclusive interview with TheGorillaPosition.com this week. “But, I was told over time, if you’re reliable, and if you’re someone that’s coachable, there might be a place we can use you.”
Since becoming the voice of Ring of Honor seven months ago, he has quickly established himself as the cool, intelligent soundtrack of a company that is seemingly always on the rise. As a kid on the east coast, Riccaboni was only 15 when ROH began running their first shows in Philly. A lifelong wrestling fan, he was immediately hooked.
At the genesis of his ROH tenure, Riccaboni said that former lead announcer Kevin Kelly was a great help as both a friend and mentor, and that he leaned on the veteran’s experience during his days on the learning curve.
“I can’t say enough positive things about Kevin as a mentor” Riccaboni said. “There’s very few people who have accomplished what he has, in terms of being a wrestling broadcaster.”
“At first, you’re kind of starstruck because he’s a guy you’ve seen on TV for so long,” he continued. “For the better part of 12 years, I had seen Kevin on television, and I thought he was a great announcer.”
“If I sent him tapes from the Monster Factory, or tapes of our Future of Honor shows, he always had some great pointers, some great tips, and he always took his time to give me specific, guided feedback that really helped me develop.”
Since Kelly’s departure, Riccaboni says that the support he has received has been fantastic, especially from one of his regular broadcast partners, Colt Cabana.
“Colt might be my favorite guy in Ring of Honor,” he said. “He’s definitely the funniest, definitely sometimes the wackiest, and he might be the smartest guy in Ring of Honor. He makes you feel comfortable”
“I’ll never forget, right before we went on the air for the 15th anniversary, I think he could sense I was tight, that I was nervous. I was doing my first pay per view with the company.”
“He reached over and grabbed my neck, like a mama lion would do for a lion cub, and he massaged it and told me: ‘everything’s going to be alright, kid'”, Riccaboni said. “Just then, the lights went down, the sound came on, and we were ready to go. I’ll never forget that.”
As Ring of Honor continues to bring in talent from all over the world, Riccaboni says it can sometimes be challenging keeping up with the vast array of moves that the wrestlers perform. ROH has long been known as one of the more innovative companies in terms of grappling, and Riccaboni likes to do some studying to be ready for show time.
“You have to be prepared, and thankfully we get some advance notice of moves that they are going to do in the ring,” he said. “Anytime there’s a new wrestler announced, you take your time, you watch some of his stuff: You hit YouTube. You hit wikipedia; you hit the profight data base. And, you just really try to get to know them, inside and out.”
The young broadcaster’s maturation process seems to also fall right in line with the groundbreaking Philly promotion he works for. Now in business for a generation, Ring of Honor continues to inch more and more into the mainstream spotlight and has a well-deserved reputation for launching careers.
“I really like what we’ve done as a company in terms of growth. We’ve progressively been adding top tier talent, we’ve built our relationships with CMLL and New Japan. They are all really calculated moves… that when added up over time, it’s really allowed Ring of Honor to grow.”
“I really like the approach. Slow and steady, but constantly growing.”
As far as his own future, Riccaboni says that he will continue to try and become the best announcer he can be.
“I think in the immediate future, what’s really critical, is that I continue to get better,” Riccaboni said. “I want to really take all the elements and find my voice, and make sure that it’s inviting.”
“Where people feel like they are part of something,” he continued. “That they are watching something that’s inclusive of their wrestling fandom. I think that’s the biggest goal for me.”