After a successful 2019 that included a ROH World Championship win in the co-main event of the G1 Supercard show at Madison Square Garden, Matt Taven began his 2020 by successfully having knee surgery during the COVID-19 pandemic. Taven recently returned to in-ring competition after months away from ROH and he faced his former ‘Kingdom’ stable-mate Vincent.
Taven is regaining his rhythm in the ring again and is comfortable doing so as he has been with Ring of Honor for the greater portion of his in-ring career. Taven joined the company in 2009 and has been there through trying injuries, changes in management and the roster. When I spoke with Taven, we discussed his tenure with ROH thus far and why after so many years, he is still opting to remain loyal to the company and stick with them.
“I mean, there’s absolutely no doubt. About five years ago? Time is flying by. Yeah, so the ‘Final Battle’ 2015, which was actually me and Mike Bennett’s last match as a team together, I blow out my ACL, rupture my meniscus, tear the other meniscus and Mike ends up leaving to TNA during that time because our contracts were both up, and for me, it was terrifying. I didn’t know what was gonna happen, I was about to be a free agent but [I] have no way to wrestle. I still had — my first doctor told me it’d be two years before I’d be in the ring again. I was like, ‘Okay,’” Matt said sarcastically. “But I knew I had probably about nine months before I’d be back in the ring and my contract expired a month or two after the initial injuries so, it was an extremely scary time and for Ring of Honor to show that much faith in me, offer me something and not just offer me something but say, ‘We know you’re gonna come back better than ever and we want you to be a part of this company,’ really kind of — five years later, it’s still in the front of my mind when I think of my loyalty to Ring of Honor. But man, I was just telling someone the other day, my first match in Ring of Honor, it was at a gymnasium and I probably was sleeping on a hotel floor afterwards and I’ve seen us go through everything from being on HDNet and finally on TV to the Sinclair [Broadcasting] thing to finally having pay-per-view, all the way to Madison Square Garden so [it’s] not just how they treated me makes me loyal but there’s a since of pride to think like, I’ve been here for that long that this is almost kinda becoming my baby and I have this sense of — there’s such a huge part of me that I’m kinda synonymous with Ring of Honor at this point.”
The revamped version of The Kingdom included Matt Taven, Vincent and TK O’Ryan. Prior to that trio, The Kingdom consisted of Taven, Adam Cole, Mike Bennett, Maria Kanellis-Bennett and at one period, Matt Hardy. During his time teaming with Bennett, Taven and the former Mike Kanellis won the ROH World Tag Team Titles and are former IWGP Tag Team Champions. Mike Bennett is currently working with the United Wrestling Network on their ‘Prime Time Live’ shows but on the topic of he and Taven possibly reuniting, Taven said it is an idea that often comes up when he and Bennett communicate.
Taven added that he’s open to the idea and they’re both just waiting on the right time for it to happen.
“It’s one of those things I feel like has been talked about every month since five years ago, and mostly talked about via text message between me and Mike. Contracts come up and things get talked about and you’re like, ‘Oh, we could do this, we could do that’ and it’s always in the back of our minds of getting the band back together and I think there’s so much more that goes into it. Not just as a team but Mike was one of the first guys in wrestling in general, in my wrestling life that I kinda really latched onto and became friends with. Me and Mike are the same age but I started wrestling when I was 23 and Mike started wrestling when he was 15, so he had an eight-year advantage on me and so I kind of always looked up to him and needed him for advice and to show me the way. At the same time, we’re peas in a pod because we’re the same age so, I have this weird friendship but to another level because he was definitely my big brother growing up in the wrestling world for the first couple of years so, whenever anyone says, ‘Would you wanna get back together with Mike Bennett?’ It’s like of course I’d wanna hang out with my best friend all the time and go around the world so, it’s one of those things where… the stars need to align obviously, but we’re hoping one day they do. Unfortunately, the pandemic has not helped any of these things but, with the amount of protocols that you have to go through at Ring of Honor, it’s kinda a tough time to [be] bringing talent back in and it’s so many…
Of course [it could conflict with Mike Bennett’s other dates] and obviously me and Bennett could do something internationally because I’m under an exclusive contract here in the States but, you can’t go anywhere internationally in the middle of a pandemic. To me, it will always be something I think both of us think about and I think we’re always kinda waiting on the time to be right. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like it will happen immediately like I would like it to but hopefully one day, we can make sure that our last match together isn’t the one where I blow out my ACL.”
In 2016, Matt Taven began working in CMLL through ROH’s partnership with the company. In March of 2018, he became the NWA World Historic Welterweight Champion and dropped the title in August of that year to Volador Jr. Taven and Volador worked with one another quite often in Mexico and when Volador would come to ROH for the War of the Worlds tours. Taven spoke highly of Volador, CMLL and the atmosphere at events that are held inside Arena Mexico.
“I completely agree with you [that Volador Jr. isn’t praised enough]. There’s so many guys down in CMLL that are just not appreciated enough because they get a chance to kind of bust out, whether it’s the War of the Worlds tour on Ring of Honor or the Fantastica Mania or whatever at New Japan and like, at the same time, I wish that the Arena Mexico shows could break into the U.S. a little bit more because it’s so — unbelievable talent. Volador Jr., he kills it every night down there. Ultimo Guerrero, Titán is unbelievable down there. There’s just so — Soberano Jr. down there is great. There’s so many guys, [Bárbaro] Cavernario. I learned so much about myself down there and I always thought to myself like, ‘Man, these guys, if people started tuning into Friday nights in Mexico City, these guys would be huge stars in the States’ because the style of wrestling down there is a little bit different but there’s no doubt that the entertainment, the athleticism, just the overall performance and production that CMLL brings would translate unbelievably in the States and it’s one of the reasons why I’m so happy Ring of Honor has a relationship with them and we’re able to do stuff like put the Anniversary show and the Grand Prix on the HonorClub because like you said, Volador Jr. is underrated and I’ve had some matches with him in Arena Mexico that are some of my favorites of all-time. I was never — they don’t throw money into the ring in the States and I was not ready for the first time that happened and you know, it’s one of those crazy feelings. You’re lying in the ring after a match and all of a sudden — it usually hurts at first because you’ll get pegged. The first time it happened, I actually lost a match against Ultimo Guerrero and I was on the ground and all of a sudden, ding. I started getting wacked in the head with coins and I thought people were throwing trash at me, and I was like, ‘Oh no, what’s going on?’ And someone was like, ‘Oh, everyone loves the match, everyone loves the match’ and I was like, ‘This is kind of a weird way to show [me].’ Throw the dollars, throw the dollars. But, there’s nothing like a Friday night in Arena Mexico and if you’re one of those crazy wrestling fans that has to be like, ‘Oh, I have to see a show at Tokyo Dome, I have to see a show at Madison Square.’ Arena Mexico should be at the top of that list because there is zero that will ever compare to the atmosphere of Arena Mexico.”
Prior to the likes of Cody, The Young Bucks, Hangman Page and others departing from Ring of Honor to form All Elite Wrestling, Matt Taven along with The Kingdom wrestled Bullet Club and The Elite quite often for the greater part of two years. Although the same match would take place on quite a number of occasions, Taven thoroughly enjoyed all of it and added that The Kingdom may have not gotten their just due for their contributions to that rivalry.
“Some fantastic times with wrestling The Elite or The Bucks or Bullet Club or whatever version of the trio there was. Two stand out in particular and honestly, it was a good two years of us headlining every show with The Bucks and not to sound — to complain about it at all and I’m not, but I feel like maybe The Kingdom didn’t get their just due. We understand that everyone loves The Young Bucks, but they’re out there dancing with someone and for two years, we were out there killing it with The Bucks and wrestling today, and I’ve told The Young Bucks this in person but wrestling today is completely different because of them. They legit changed the world. As much as that’s on a t-shirt, it’s so true and I personally owe so much to them. They were great guys, helped us out tremendously in Ring of Honor.”
In the Fall of 2019 during an ROH TV taping in Las Vegas, Matt Taven announced that he had re-signed with the company. Taven was near the end of his contract and I asked him about some of the deciding factors that led to him making the choice to re-up with Ring of Honor.
“Well we talked about the fact that they were so good to me, the last time I had surgery. They had such faith in me and also, I’m not deaf or blind, I knew that Ring of Honor had hit that hard time that we knew was coming when The Elite and S.C.U. and the roster was really gonna split with the creation of AEW and so I had this sense of pride to me. I was like, ‘I don’t want to leave now. I don’t want to leave when I know we’re gonna come back up and I wanna be a part of that resurgence.’ I have so much pride in Ring of Honor. I’ve been here since our first — the first time we were on iPPV, real pay-per-view. I’ve been around for all of that so, there’s definitely a part of it that feels like it’s kind of my baby or I’m part of this pillar of this company and I love that. I appreciate the amount of faith Ring of Honor’s had in me over the years and again, with wrestling, they are always talking about, ‘What about this? What about that?’ So it’s always just up in the air, but when I sat down with ROH, really, the loyalty that they’ve shown me over the years was the biggest factor and they told me they want Matt Taven to be a big part of the future here, and I knew going in to probably the last meeting of negotiations, I already kind of in my heart wanted to stay. So they made it very easy for me by just saying, ‘We want you to be here and we see you as a big part of the future’ and so, to have that stability at home, to know that this place will always have my back and I will always have it and I don’t kind of have to question what might happen to Matt Taven if I go here or there is something I don’t really think you can put a price tag on or anything like that and granted, Ring of Honor has really built a great group of people and have taken care of them during the pandemic like I said and really just built this loyalty around the office and just a groundswell from the talent of like, ‘Yeah, they’ve done so much for us, we’re loyal to them and now we need to really amp up this momentum that Ring of Honor’s rebuilding.’”
Matt Taven’s return to Ring of Honor can be watched on ROHWrestling.com via HonorClub. The full interview with Taven can be watched on the player at the top of this article or on the Andrew Thompson Interviews YouTube channel.