The life of an up-and-coming professional wrestler can be rather difficult.
The allure of being a star in the wrestling business, with thousands — and for some millions — of dollars in the bank and adoring fans around the world is easy to succumb to.
But before any of the adulation or money comes, a burgeoning talent must pay a lot of dues first.
Paying dues includes setting up and breaking down rings, intense training sessions, and long car rides all for very little pay.
As tough as it is to become an actual wrestler in the industry, it may be even tougher for the announcers.
Sure, announcers aren't taking the physical toll that the wrestlers do, but on any given independent wrestling show in the country, there could be a dozen men stepping between those ropes in hopes of taking another step toward stardom.
But there's usually only one ring announcer. If the show is being recorded either live or to be released at a later date, there are typically just two men calling the action, making the chances of making it as a successful announcer possibly even slimmer than making it as a successful wrestler.
It's purely a numbers game, but it's a game that Ian Riccaboni is willing to play. In fact, he's dreamed of playing this game since he was a child.
Riccaboni's name may sound familiar to Phillies fans, as he is a correspondent for Phillies Nation. But as much as he loves the game that takes place on the diamond, he has just much for the sport that takes place in a 20x20 ring.
When he's not covering the Boys of Summer, Riccaboni is chasing his wrestling dreams with Ring of Honor by way of The Monster Factory in Paulsboro, N.J.
Riccaboni will attempt to make some more headway in the wrestling business, as he will take part in Ring of Honor's show at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia Saturday.
The Lehigh Valley — specifically Allentown, Pa. — is the home to many wrestlers, including Billy Kidman and The Nasty Boys; was the former home to many WWE television tapings; and is the current home to The Wild Samoans' wrestling school.
It is also the place where Riccaboni fell in love with wrestling. As a child, Riccaboni's mother would take him to wrestling events that came to the area, including one time where she took her then 11-year-old son to an Extreme Championship Wrestling event, unaware of the level of violence the shows usually have.
Let's just say the experience wasn't quite as pleasant as she thought it would be.
"She took me to one ECW show and we had to leave after Sandman's match, which I think was only the third match because it was a little too violent for her," Riccaboni said during an interview with philly.com. "She was a manager at the McDonald's on South Fourth Street in Allentown and the kids that she managed had hyped up that ECW was real. WWF and WCW were fake, but that this ECW stuff is real so be careful with taking your son there. I remember Sandman bled and that was it. We had to go."
Fortunately for Riccaboni, his mother's decision to leave an ECW show early didn't douse his love of the sport.
But he didn't give any serious thought to turning his love of wrestling into a career until he began interviewing famous Phillie fans for Phillies Nation. Among those famous fans was Brian Heffron, better known to wrestling fans as The Blue Meanie.
Heffron suggested that the interview take place inside a wrestling ring an invited Riccaboni to Paulsboro, N.J., the home of The Monster Factory.
Riccaboni told Heffron about his love of professional wrestling and asked the owner of The Monster Factory, Danny Cage, how could a friend of his get involved with the school?
The only thing was that Riccaboni had no such friend. He was really asking for himself.
Cage played along, and told Riccaboni that his "friend" would have to show up to the school on a regular basis to work on his craft.
Riccaboni didn't take Cage up on his offer until about a month later, when he finally mustered up the courage to pull Cage's card out of his wallet and called him.
When Riccaboni placed the call, Cage instantly knew that the friend was indeed Riccaboni himself and invited him out to the facility.
Riccaboni may have paid a fixed amount to be taught the ins and outs of wrestling announcing at The Monster Factory, but said that the lessons he learned there were invaluable.
"I can't say enough positive things about Danny Cage, about Blue Meanie, about Bill Wiles, about QT Marshall," Riccaboni said. "They've been so selfless with their time, not only with me, but with the wrestlers as well."
"They're there long after they have to be," he added. "They're there literally hours after training is supposed to end. They're there literally hours before training is supposed to start. They're available through email, through Facebook. If you want to talk wrestling, those are the guys to talk to."
As part of a membership to The Monster Factory, students have access to some of the best minds in the industry that come to the school and run seminars. Most of these seminars are geared toward the wrestlers, but in May 2014, former WWE and current Ring of Honor announcer Kevin Kelly held one.
"It was a really great camp and we did a lot of promo work and things like that," Riccaboni said. "I was able to step in front of Kevin Kelly and just do my thing."
"I remember we got through all of the wrestlers and he said, 'Hey smiling guy in the suit, why don't you come up here and sell me some tickets,'" Riccaboni added. "It was maybe the most nerve-wracking minute of my life, but I got up and I cut a promo about the events that was happening that night."
Riccaboni said that he didn't breathe during the promo because he was so nervous, but Kelly liked what he saw from him. However, since there are so few spots for announcers in wrestling, Kelly couldn't quite offer him a full-time job right off the bat. Instead, Kelly offered Riccaboni a nice consolation prize.
"After the show, Kevin said, 'We don't have a spot for you, but if you come to our shows, if you show your face and the folks get to know you, you can try to create a spot,'" Riccaboni said. "That's what I've been trying to do."
"I think that's one of the things I've learned about wrestling is that 99 percent of it is preparation, showing up and kind of taking a chance on yourself," he added. "Even when there's not a clear opportunity, be prepared, for if the opportunity comes, you're ready."
Riccaboni was then invited to the Ring of Honor dojo located in Bristol, Pa. and spent close to 10 hours in a room working on promos with Kelly.
Riccaboni made a good impression on Kelly, and it has since helped him become a regular contributor for Ring of Honor, filling in whenever the promotion needs him to.
Although Riccaboni is still in the infancy stages of attaining of his dream of working in the wrestling business, he is relishing in the opportunity to showcase his value.