Ian Riccaboni Talks Taking Over For Kevin Kelly As ROH Announcer, ROH Growth, Bonding with Cabana

Ring of Honor announcer Ian Riccaboni recently appeared on Interactive Wrestling Radio, and below are some interview highlights:

On taking over from Kevin Kelly as lead ROH announcer:

“Kevin is super talented. He’s been a friend and a mentor. He’s been somebody I’ve really looked up to. Sometimes he’d tell me to be quiet when I’d tell him how old I was when he was working with Brian Pillman and “Stone Cold.” He’s a pro’s pro. One of the only guys to participate in WrestleMania, Wrestle Kingdom, and Final Battle. I knew the stakes were pretty high when I accepted the position. I’m just glad that we have the support system that we have.”

On his start in journalism with Major League Baseball:

“That was something that, coming out of college, you want to do something that you went to school for. I was lucky enough to meet a guy named Pat Gowen who is now a local Emmy Award winning anchor for CBS 3 in Philadelphia. And, a guy called Corey Seidman… I mad met them online through Twitter and through visiting PhilliesNation.com which had been an established website. I had gotten the opportunity to write for them. In the first year, we were USA Today’s #1 Baseball BLog in the country which was a nice feather in our cap. And then, from there, I had a friend who had worked for Conan O’Brien and he was looking to continue his dream his well as a stand up comedian. He had created a public access show called Hump Night with Chris Fried. It was a really fun local show. Made some good connections at Service Electric. So, after I had joined the Phillies blog, we started to do some video blogs. They were pretty decent and high quality. I said, “Hey, why don’t we take these to Service Electric and see if we can get on the air with these?” Sure enough, we did. Through that, I was able to meet pretty much anybody and everybody from that Phillies run. My favorite of which being Cole Hamels – Such a great athlete but also so generous with his time. And then, Carlos Ruiz and the recently passed Roy Halladay who was a great guy to be around and speak to. It was a great time to be around baseball and be around those guys. It was really cool to be around baseball which was always my first love.”

On entering wrestling:

“Those opportunities, oddly enough, lead me to professional wrestling. I was interviewing famous Phillies fans including the Blue Meanie and Mark Summers. The Blue Meanie, of course, lead me to the Monster Factory which lead me to all the madness that is happening now. (laughs) The Blue Meanie has a lot to do with it. He doesn’t like to take credit. But, he is the one that brought me to the Monster Factory. He is the one who instilled the confidence in me to ask those questions and to go down this route.”

On transitioning from baseball to wrestling:

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“We transitioned from baseball to wrestling pretty quick! (laughs) For a while, for about 3 years, I did both and even put out a book, “The 100 Greatest Phillies of All Time”.

On his tryout with Ring of Honor:

“Ring of Honor, at that time, was not looking for announcers. They were looking for folks to come in for the Top Prospects tournament which was coming up in about 5 months. Out of the first camp I went to, Punishment Martinez who is now in Ring of Honor, Donovan Dijak who is currently in (WWE) NXT, Dalton Castle came out of that camp as well. A number of guys you’ve seen on RIng of Honor throughout the years came out of that camp which is kind of crazy. (laughs) The Ring of Honor camps are certainly a great place for wrestlers to be seen and to get yourself out there. In Kevin’s (Kelly) own words, they weren’t looking for announcers at that time. But, they had other projects in mind. They had Future of Honor in mind. They had Women of Honor in mind. And so, if someone presented themselves to them for one of the newer projects, they were going to give it serious consideration. For a while there, there was a guy named Matt Ryan, he and I had become sort of a team for some of those events. It was weird. My first tryout was interviewing Bobby Fish in front of our Executive Producer and Cary Silkin who, of course, owned Ring of Honor from 2004 until 2011. My second tryout was with Adam Cole. That was nerve-racking. The very next day, through necessity, I called Future of Honor 2 in Laurel, DE. And then from there, I’d get a match here and there until January 2016 when I started getting to call some of the DVD and VOD events. In February 2016, I got the news that Kevin would be leaving and there’d be an opportunity to be the lead announcer.”

On his vast array of broadcast partners in a short time in ROH:

“I’ve had so many good partners. Right out of the gate, my first partner for a full event was Steve Corino. Steve and I get along very, very well. He’s a huge Phillies fan. We still text all the time – NEVER about wrestling, always about baseball. He said, “Just relax and have a good time!” That was the best advice anybody could have given me. I ended up calling the Bullet Club send off including AJ Styles’ last appearance. I called a lot of things of that magnitude in kind of a back-up quarterback role. From there, I worked with BJ Whitmer a lot as well as Nigel McGuinness for our first 2 Women of Honor specials. Nigel, I really enjoyed calling matches with as he gave the perspective of a fighter. It is kind of like different flavors of ice cream! With Kevin (Kelly), I was able to learn some of the different production cues. But, my favorite, and I am biased, has to be Colt Cabana. (laughs).”

On his bonding experience with broadcast partner Colt Cabana:

“Colt was always somebody that I really looked up to. He was somebody who did it his own way, found his own path. Somebody who, when one door closed, he kicked open two more. Colt is somebody who has made movies, he’s got one of the most successful podcasts out there. Just someone who is genuinely funny, a genuine guy. I’m really lucky to have partnered with. The first event we did together, it was myself, Kevin, and Colt at the ROH 15th Anniversary. I hadn’t really talked much to Colt let alone called anything with him. So, we kind of felt out this weird chemistry as it was happening. About a month later, we were in Baltimore. Kevin (Kelly) couldn’t make that event. It was just Colt and myself. We were eating seafood and Colt asked me, “So, who do I have to talk to to do this full time?” (laughs) Once I got the buy in from him, I got even more confident. Colt is somebody who really made me feel at ease the way Steve (Corino) did. He’s been around wrestling almost 20 years now which is crazy because he’s only, I think, 37. He’s someone who has his finger on the pulse of pop culture. He’s someone who has a lot of insight having been in Ring of Honor for so, so long. His first match (in ROH) was in December of 2002, the year that RIng of Honor launched. He’s someone that does his research. It may look like we’re having fun out there because we are! But, before the show begins, we’re going over the matches and the history behind them.”

On his favorite memory so far in wrestling:

“I think my favorite memory would be my first time on pay per view. It was in 2016 and I called Steve Corino and BJ Whitmer’s Fight Without Honor. It was my first time live. I remember being backstage, I almost couldn’t breathe. I felt like somebody stepped on my lungs. I was just so excited. I remember Kevin getting me through it. That was probably my favorite because it was my first and I remember the feeling and the excitement. More recently, there have been so many things… AJ Styles’ send off. Adam Cole’s last match (in Ring of Honor). Somebody who is so important. Calling Bobby Fish’s last match, Bobby is a good friend.”

On the growth of ROH:

“We had the largest card ever back in April at the Supercard of Honor. Sometimes, you know, if you pay attention to what is said on the Internet, A lot are supportive, some aren’t. We’re in the midst of the highest attended year in Ring of Honor history. We’re in the midst of the biggest event in Ring of Honor history (Final Battle)…. Calling the Hardy’s against the Young Bucks in a ladder match in front of the largest crowd of Ring of Honor history with my wife and, at the time, my 6 month old son right there. That was just incredible.”

On if ROH is now the #2 Company in the World:

“Number 2 in the world is tricky. With our partners New Japan Pro Wrestling and CMLL, CMLL being the world’s oldest wrestling promotion, they’re big as well and it is such a treat to be partnered with New Japan and CMLL. With all deference to them, I think New Japan has a little more reach. CMLL does it 7 nights a week when they do tours. Those organizations may be bigger. But, I think Ring of Honor has found a great groove in the United States. I think we might be the second largest in the United States. We got there because of smart management. We have gotten there from incremental growth. We haven’t tried to rush anything. We haven’t tried to artificially grow faster. Although Cody has signed the largest deal in Ring of Honor history, it has been lucrative for us as well because of the merchandise he sells and the money he brings in. There have been others who made made giant leaps before. The idea of going head to head with WWE… There is only one organization that has gone on cable TV and stayed there for 30 years. So, they deserve all the credit in the world. But, I think Ring of Honor, we provide something that is different. I liken it to music – I’m a big music fan. I’d much rather go see Elvis Costello than Justin Timberlake. Justin Timberlake is amazing. But, Elvis Costello has a little bit more soul, a little more passion, and a little more authenticity than some of the over-produced elements that someone like Justin Timberlake would have on his show.”

On the upcoming Final Battle PPV:

“This Final Battle is going to be amazing and here is why. Over the course of the past year, a lot has been said about a lot of talent from Ring of Honor might be moving on and there were a lot of question marks about how we would replace that talent, where we would go, or what we might do. Over the course of this year, not only did RIng of Honor replace that talent but we’ve established some new stars through their hard work. This year’s Final Battle, it really is Ring of Honor’s signature event. THere is no better way to celebrate that than with some original ROH talent.” He continues, “The top of the card really says it all. We have Jay Lethal versus Marty Scurll and in the main event, Dalton Castle versus Cody. I couldn’t think of better representatives of what Ring of Honor is and where we’re going than those 4 men.”

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