Kevin Kelly Opens Up About Backstage Fallout With AEW Announcer

Veteran wrestling commentator Kevin Kelly was "All Elite" for less than a year, signing in June 2023 and leaving in March 2024 amid tensions with fellow announcer Ian Riccaboni. Kelly was able to shed some light on the situation during a recent Facebook live stream hosted by "K & S WrestleFest."


"The part that bothers me so much is that I thought we were friends," Kelly said. "And if he would've called me, we could've talked about it. 'Hey Kevin, listen, you're really pissing me off.'... even if he just called me and said 'F you, I hate you, I never want to see you again,' at least I would know where I stood ... but instead, the way that he went about it painted me with a nasty brush and it was done on purpose so that the fans would turn against me." Kelly said he and Riccaboni started out as friends after he first took Riccaboni under his wing and gave him opportunities in ROH. "[But] when Joey Mercury left, I found out that Ian was kind of — as Dennis Coralluzzo used to say — putting the mouth on me, Ian was, in the office, after I was gone," Kelly said.


Despite some early signs of friction, both men found their way to AEW, where things only got worse. Kelly believes some of their deepening rift may have been politically motivated, as Kelly may have shared too many of his right-wing views. He also thinks Riccaboni may have been hurt by feedback Kelly once gave him to avoid wearing a cowboy hat on television. "He's sitting right next to Jim Ross," Kelly recalled. "Because, guess what ... you're gonna get heat with J.R. if you're wearing a cowboy hat sitting next to him at the announce desk. Whether he says it's okay or not, that doesn't matter ... Ian got upset about that, give me a break."