Ian Riccaboni isn't just the voice of Ring of Honor. He is also a big part of its heart, helping spearhead community outreach and create awareness for important causes. The broadcaster is often joined by the likes of regular ringside partners Colt Cabana and Caprice Coleman, as well as Women of Honor champ Kelly Klein for book readings to promote literacy, fundraisers for hurricane victims in Puerto Rico or numerous hospital visits. For Riccaboni, the charitable growth stems from the realization that as the company gets bigger, they have an obligation to give back in the markets they perform.
"Everything we do goes back to the support we have from the office and support we have from each other," he said. "Like-minded individuals that are genuinely interested in helping the communities we live in and go to."
Riccaboni finds the most joy in meeting not only children, but the teachers, nurses and doctors who make a difference in these young lives. He also takes pride in knowing no matter what they organize, the ROH roster is right there to donate their time.
"I can look up and down the roster and everybody from Bully Ray, who deep down inside is a teddy bear, to the world champion Matt Taven has been along with us to these visits and to these school readings and classroom visits," he said. "It has been a pretty neat opportunity."
It's even more special for the Allentown native to lend a hand in his hometown. His latest effort is the selling of a new "Happy Wrestling" t-shirt starting during Pride Month with money raised going to the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center. The inspiration for Riccaboni came out of an online discussion on the frustration companies, corporations and brands were profiting on the pride flag. Selling items with no indication the money generated would go to any organization. He thought the his signature signoff would be a perfect offshoot for a t-shirt that can do some good.
"In Allentown some of my LGBT friends are aware and can vouch for the center," he said. "And we've been asked why we haven't included the [specific place] in the post. Simply because you don't want to name organizations without their permission. We don't want to imply they are involved in this fundraising effort. But I can assure you that the proceeds from the shirt will go to that organization. That's going to be something I handle, and my call as well."
The positive ROH ambassador credits management with seeing the idea to realization in quick fashion. Going from sending the idea in at 1 a.m. to getting a design, approval and on the website for sale within the afternoon. Riccaboni is aware of some online including wrestler Parrow who question how the company can release such a shirt without LGBTQ representation. He responded to the strong advocate on social media to explain that is not the case with ROH.
"In various roles and positions I've had throughout my life, there has been an opportunity to learn what it means to be a good ally to the LGBT community," Riccaboni said. "I identify as a straight man. And with that comes privileges and things that are not afforded to folks who have to live with something that makes them feel different. I've never had to personally confront the feelings and emotions that are associated with being LGBTQ, non-binary, etc., anything on the spectrum of identity.
"For me, trying to be the best ally I could be, I've really tried to educate myself on how I can help others and can learn more about sexual identity. From the things I've learned, it's not always in the person's best interest to identify with the LGBTQ, non-binary etc. or the person's best wishes to reveal that identity. What I have to say to Parrow and anyone else that chooses to say that the representation of LGBT athletes on Ring of Honor is nonexistent. There is more to the story.
"I know right now we have an environment where Ring of Honor, the revelation of the identity to the locker room would not prove harmful to their position in the company nor it should. Over the years we've had a tremendous amounts of LGBT athletes and support. I think back to Madison Square Garden we had a former world champion Dalton Castle come out on a float with the pride flag adorned on it.
"Many times, Dalton Castle has come out in the pride flag. We've had competitors where the pride flag on their gear. It's not something we are hiding in plain sight. It's something our athletes have the freedom of expression to do and that they are not afraid to do. Personal identity that is uniquely inherent. That's something I can't and personally will not out the identity of those in Ring of Honor. But I can assure Parrow and those who may challenge the assertion that Ring of Honor has no representation, that it's not true at this time."
Riccaboni knows there have been incidents in Ring of Honor's past to learn from. Nobody or no company is perfect, but at the same time he believes there is progress.
"It's important for not only myself but others to make Ring of Honor a place where not only all fans feel safe, but wrestlers feel safe to be who they are," Riccaboni said. "It has been a place where there has been personal growth and personal development. Some of those incidents in the past, which were great learnings, know a lot of us take to heart and really think about when we are with Ring of Honor. So the [charitable efforts and outreach] is also giving us the opportunity to reflect on those past transgressions and to help grow as people. And do our part to expand the accessibility of Ring of Honor to everybody."
Fans can purchase the Pride Month "Happy Wrestling" online at the ROH Pro Shop.
Riccaboni's full interview with Wrestling Inc was included as part of a recent episode of our WINCLY podcast. It can be heard via the embedded audio player at the bottom of this post.