He will be calling the matches on Friday night at the 2300 Arena
By Joe Mason
Ian Riccaboni didn’t expect any fanfare. Especially not from his students.
Riccaboni, an adjunct professor at Holy Family, had just been promoted to lead commentator for Ring of Honor, a professional wrestling organization, and when he arrived at class, he had a group of his students waiting to say “atta boy!”
“I really didn’t expect it, I didn’t even know how many of them knew what I was doing,” said Riccaboni, who teaches introduction to media in sport during the spring semester. “It was really nice, there were about five of them who came up and said congratulations. I love teaching at Holy Family because when I was in school, I went to (New York University) and (University of Pennsylvania) and when I was there, I loved having teachers who were working in some form of the industry because you felt like you were going to get secrets or tips. Now I love teaching because I’m working on my dream job, and I’m able to help the students get in position to get their dream job.”
Make no mistake about it, Riccaboni has his dream job.
The lifelong wrestling fan who attended matches in Allentown while growing up is calling matches in the second-biggest wrestling federation in the United States.
Last weekend, he called four nights of professional wrestling when Ring of Honor went on a tour that included stops in Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Dayton, Ohio, and capped off with an internet pay per view in Chicago, where Riccaboni called the matches in front of Ring of Honor’s second-largest crowd of all time. All four shows were sellouts.
On Friday night, Riccaboni will bring his commentary skills to the 2300 Arena in South Philadelphia when Ring of Honor returns to its roots for a national television taping. Four episodes of the show will be taped and shown on stations across the country.
According to Riccaboni, it should be an action-packed night of wrestling.
“A big part of what makes this so great is where we are as a company,” said Riccaboni, who resides in Glenside, but plans on moving home to Allentown in the near future. “This year, we had the Hardys come to Ring of Honor, then Bully Ray came in, now Cody is here. And it’s great that they’re here because they’re stars, but they’re here because this is the destination. That says a lot about Ring of Honor that Bully Ray and Cody wanted to come here.”
Wrestlers like Ring of Honor champion Cody, the son of wrestling legend Dusty Rhodes, and the massively popular tag team the Young Bucks are among the most exciting acts in professional wrestling. And while they do moves few others can do, Riccaboni provides the soundtrack by calling the action and explaining the importance of every match.
People watch wrestling because they want to see what’s happening, but guys like Riccaboni are the pitchmen who let people know what to care about.
Riccaboni skyrocketed to the big chair at Ring of Honor, but he certainly worked his way up to it.
He started out as a part-time performer, doing well in an audition, and was given a chance to call Future of Honor matches, which featured the young stars of the promotion, and the Woman of Honor series, which featured lady wrestlers.
“Kevin Kelly was the Ring of Honor announcer and he was my mentor, he helped me so much and really went out of his way to help me,” Riccaboni said. “I’ve been lucky that I’ve had a lot of people help me. And one thing I try to do is I always let the excitement come through. I get excited doing this job because it’s something I love.”
While wrestling is one of his passions, Riccaboni has many other interests.
One of them is music.
Growing up, he played the oboe and the viola. He then graduated to the bass guitar, which opened up many doors for him.
It also got him some strange looks in the Ring of Honor locker room.
“I did a TV show with MtvU 10 years ago, it was MtvU’s Best Music on Campus,” Riccaboni recalled. “And Cheeseburger is a very good friend of mine, he saw a picture of a T-shirt that had my picture on it and he asked where he could get one. I said I had a few in dusty boxes and he could have one, so I gave one to him, Will Ferrara, LSG and Tim Hughes were wearing them. One day, Christopher Daniels sees them and asks me why I have T-shirts made. I would wonder the same thing, why does a backup announcer have a T-shirt, but I told them it was from years ago.”
Not that long ago, it would have been odd to see a wrestling fan wearing a Riccaboni shirt, but now he’s a household name.
But he wants more. And he wants more with Ring of Honor.
“I just want us to keep moving in the direction we’re going,” Riccaboni said. “We aren’t on cable, we are the only wrestling promotion that you can watch on TV with an antenna. We’re growing all the time. We’re doing big things, we’re on pay per view, we’re selling out buildings, but we want to keep growing.”
He also wants his family to keep growing.
Riccaboni, 30, might be the famous one in his family, but he’s quick to point out all his wife, Sarah, has done for his career. He also has an 11-month-old son, Zach.
“He’s not playing baseball or wrestling yet, but he loves music,” Riccaboni said. “He loves his drums and guitar, which definitely excites my dad.”
He’ll also be excited to watch his son continue his dream job this weekend.
The 2300 Arena was formerly known as the ECW Arena, a historic place for wrestling fans.
“When I started, I just hoped to call one match there,” Riccaboni said. “I’ve called a lot of matches there, TV tapings, I’ve called world championship matches. It’s such a great arena for wrestling.
“It’s also great because the Blue Meanie, who really helped me get into this, made his name there. He’s invited to every Ring of Honor event, and just seeing him in the building is very special to me.”
And while Riccaboni’s future will be heavy on the wrestling, there’s a chance he could move to his other passion, baseball.
He helped pen a book, The 100 Greatest Phillies of All Time. Perhaps someday he’ll call balls and strikes along with pinfalls and submissions.
“I’m very happy with what I’m doing,” Riccaboni said. “I’ve done a Phillies podcast with Steve Corino, who is now with another company, and that did very well. I’d love to call baseball with him, but right now it’s wrestling and I’m having a great time with that.”
For tickets to Friday’s show, visit rohwrestling.com