Matt Taven made all the classified “Melvin” skeptics bow down inside a sold-out Madison Square Garden. A grueling ladder match concluded in April with The Kingdom leader being crowned Ring of Honor world champion at the G1 Supercard. Friends and family who supported the anointed title holder on his more than a decade journey witnessed the historical moment in New York City. Two months later, Taven is still coming to grips with the awe-inspiring experience.
“It wasn’t until the drive back to Boston that I kind of like, ‘Oh my God, I just headlined Madison Square Garden and won the world title,’” the 34-year-old recalled. “It’s such a whirlwind that it doesn’t matter if it’s a celebration here or there, you kind of don’t take it in until you have a chance to be by yourself and realize what just happened.”
Taven has since rededicated himself, taking his role as the face of a company very seriously. He finds winning the coveted accolade is one thing. Maintaining it and putting himself up there with past great champions is another.
“It’s one of those things where you work so hard for something that it almost feels like at Madison Square Garden you should ride off into the sunset and that should be the end of the story,” he said. “Then you realize your work just began. You realize things are going to get tougher from here on out. I do put that challenge on my back. We are obviously at a transition time with everything going on in wrestling.
“To be the champ at this point and to be one of the longest tenured guys in the company, it automatically puts you in a leadership position, but one that I’ve always felt I would be ready for when the situation arose. One that I feel pride in being the Ring of Honor world champion. I think our locker room is fantastic and full of fantastic talent. So, to put that on my shoulders and represent this company is something I’m very prideful in.”
For the top star, there is a sense everyone on the roster has something to prove. A competitive spirit reverberating backstage. Speaking like a true ambassador, he encourages everyone to check out the product in person or on television to feel it for themselves.
“The locker room we have right now can hold up with any era or decade of previous locker rooms,” Taven said. “It’s one of those things where there are guys who have been here for a while, guys that are new. Everyone has that refreshed chip on their shoulder because there is a lot of buzz in wrestling in general right now. We want our fair share of it.
"We believe this locker room is as good as it’s been in years. We can talk all we want and could probably get a headline, but honestly tune into Best in the World.
“…Ring of Honor has been through its ups and downs and a million different people coming and going. It has continued to go on the path it has and continued to grow to a bigger audience. It knows what it’s doing. We are in this position for a reason.”
Taven believes ROH has always been a fan-friendly product. Although there have been instances at live events for not only his company but across the board where members of the audience can take things a little too far. Still he believes for the most part wrestlers and wrestling fans know how to act responsibly.
“I think my character and my career has been heavily influenced by fan participation and interactions,” he said. “We live in a world today where it seems like you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. I always come back to why tear down anything. Why try to bring down something you enjoy? If you want to come to a show and have a good time, cheer, boo and do what you want, have a great time. You’re an adult and know where the line is. That is what builds wrestling. That’s what makes people happy to go to these shows.
“Now when things cross the line, that’s where things go south. I think it’s on all of us to make sure we come to these shows, come to wrestling for the enjoyment of wrestling. I think that goes to negativity whether fans want to go on social media or try to hijack a show with chants.
"I’m always so confused why anyone would want to take away from the enjoyment of something they are obviously invested in and into. I would never go to a concert and try to ruin everyone else’s time or ruin the performance. It just seems counterintuitive of my enjoyment.”
Taven finds pleasure in wrestling and passing on knowledge to the next generation. He was able to do that though the XWA Wrestling Kingdom Training Facility in Rhode Island alongside friend and current WWE superstar Mike Bennett. Despite obvious lack of TV time Bennett and wife Maria have been getting for that organization, he doesn’t have a preference where they continue their careers.
“I would like to see Mike anywhere makes him happy,” Taven said. “This is a business where no matter what company you are working for, it takes a lot out of you. It’s a hard one, nonetheless. Whatever makes Mike and Maria happy. Whenever I see them, they seem like they’re having a good time. That’s the place I’d like Mike to be wherever he decides to do it.”
As for Taven, he is focused on making the most of his title reign. A big test comes in the form of Jeff Cobb at Best in the World. The current king of ROH is not ready to give up the throne just yet.
“This is clash of styles and one of the most interesting matches. Jeff Cobb is a guy that has come into Ring of Honor and remained undefeated. He has been unbelievably impressive, but I’ve scratched and clawed my way to the Ring of Honor world title,” Taven said.
“Over my dead body is Jeff Cobb going to think that he can come in here and take something I’ve worked the last 11 years for. I know I’m in for a battle. He is an Olympic athlete. At the same time, you put a rat in the corner, and it will do anything to survive.
"At Best in the World, I’ll show everyone why I’m the Ring of Honor world champion and continue to be the Ring of Honor world champion.”
ROH Best in the World, Friday, June 28, 9/8c, live on Pay-Per-View, HonorClub and the FITE TV. For more information, visit www.ROHWrestling.com.
Catch episodes of the weekly TV show weekends on Sinclair stations, Sundays 10/9c on Charge!, Mondays 7/6c on FITE TV and via HonorClub.