Matt Taven is the current Ring of Honor world champion and he puts that title on the line at Death Before Dishonor this Saturday against one of the hottest stars in Ring of Honor Wrestling today in Rush.
While there are a lot of fans online who don’t give Taven respect, the man has worked his butt off to reach this level in his career. He started out wrestling in Ring of Honor the same time as current NXT Champion Adam Cole.
Just like Cole, Taven worked his way up with the TV title and then the tag team titles, and finally the world title. He is now on top of the world and has no problem going out and proving day in and day out that he deserves this top spot in Ring of Honor, no matter what the Melvins have to say about it.
Matt Taven took the time to talk to Shawn S. Lealos about his rise to the top of Ring of Honor, his match at Death Before Dishonor against Rush, what he sees in his future, and his thoughts on the current professional wrestling scene.
Shawn S. Lealos: I’d like to start off talking a little bit about your progression in Ring of Honor. When I first started watching you, you were coming out with Truth Martini as your manager, doing a lot of the talking. Now you’ve reached the point where you’re the man doing the talking for other people in The Kingdom. Tell me a little bit about your progress to becoming a top man yourself.
Matt Taven: Well, I think at the time, I was so hungry to be in Ring of Honor. I was so new as a wrestler, in general, that it takes a little bit before you find your own voice. Before you really are comfortable in your own skin, especially in a company like Ring of Honor where so much is expected of you because of the guys that have come in and out of it. Obviously, still, in this company are just some of the best wrestlers in the world. So, it’s just a big expectation coming in.
I always look back and kind of laugh, because I wish I could do that whole hoopla time over again, with the person that I know I am now. And I just know that I would have so much more fun with it. Because at the time, you know, I was so nervous and kind of just wanted to make like a splash in Ring of Honor and had something to prove.
You really don’t have a chance to kind of enjoy what’s going on. And that was such a fun-loving group. And it’s such a cool dynamic that I think that if I was to do it all over again, it would be an absolute blast.
But something that happened to me personally when I was hurt was just a lot of introspection of, you know why? Why do people not know Matt Taven’s voice? And it was mostly because I hadn’t really forced it down people’s throats. And it was one of those things where, when I knew coming back from injury, people were going to hear my voice.
From day one of coming back from knee surgery and reforming The Kingdom, I made sure that I told myself, ‘From here on out, you’re going to talk until someone tells you to shut up, and then you’re going to continue talking and you’re going to continue to run your mouth until you have nothing left to say.’
And it’s something that I’ve really stuck to my guns ever since. And I believe is a big factor for the success I’ve seen since. But, another huge evolution for me, which is coming back from Mexico last year at Death Before Dishonor — the hair match and having a new look. And it’s a big kind of test of your will. It’s like okay, people knew you looking this one way and kind of doing this thing. And now you’re going to kind of flip the script on them.
Do you have enough confidence to succeed with an entirely different look and sort of a somewhat different persona? It was one of those things where again, I was like, well, I’m going to make sure that people get this because they’re going to hear my voice and I’m just not going to shut the hell up about it. And I think it’s what’s really led me to the world title.
Shawn: Looking back on 2013, you were feuding with Lethal six years ago. You and Adam Cole were both coming up and making your name. Now, Adam Cole is NXT champion and you’re the Ring of Honor champion. You guys are the leads of your company. It’s almost like you and that younger generation have all stepped up and said, it’s our time now. How does it feel for you to finally be the man who Ring of Honor says: “we trust you to be the face of our company.”
Taven: I mean, it’s something that I’m sure I will appreciate more when it’s done. Because at the moment, you never feel like I’ve done it, I’ve done all that I’ve wanted to do. And for me, I always look for a way to prove myself or look for some motivation and look for someone that doesn’t believe and try to convert them into a believer. And so, it’s one of those things where and I truly believe it’s the same way with Cole.
I know personally from talking to him, he’s driven the same way. We haven’t done anything yet. You know, I mean, we might be the champions of our company, but like we’re giant wrestling fans and we know all about longevity and legacy and the people that we’ve looked up to. You have to be able to not just be the world champion but to stay on top for long periods of time and I’m sure he’s striving for the same thing and it’s what I’m definitely striving for as well.
But you know, me and Cole, it’s a funny story. We literally started wrestling a month apart from one another with our first matches and it’s nice to kind of look across the island see your good buddy doing well while you’re succeeding at the same time.
Shawn: When you and Jay Lethal were fighting six years ago for the TV title, did you ever see you guys doing a one-hour world title draw six years down the line?
Taven: You know, it was one of those things where, six years ago, being in the ring with Jay Lethal, I knew that it brought out the best of me and made me a better wrestler. So if someone told me, hey, when you’re about to breakthrough in Ring of Honor, the top guy world title picture, when you’re about to break through, you’re going to have to pick some guy to do a 60 minute Broadway with, I probably would have told you that Jay Lethal would be that pick.
Whether it’s a month ago or six years ago, I always kind of get that feeling anytime I think I could get in the ring with Jay Lethal, I gotta bring my very best because of this guy across the ring for me. He’s one of the best in the world. And he’s been that way for a long time. And if I need to prove myself, there’s no better guy to prove myself against
Shawn: You’ve been in Ring of Honor for six years now. You’re about to wrestle Rush who’s been in wrestling for a little bit longer than you have. But he’s new to Ring of Honor. How do you look at this match, coming up at Death Before Dishonor between you and Rush for the world title with him being new, and you being the Ring of Honor veteran?
Taven: Well, I kind of think that Rush needs to kind of send me a fruit basket and thank me for being the man that that got him notoriety in the United States. You know, three years ago, when I went down to Mexico for the first time, Rush is one of those guys that I found myself in a feud with, in a foreign land where I didn’t speak the language. All of a sudden, you know, I find myself with this guy who I can’t seem to get away from.
We’re in matches with each other all the time, and this rivalry formed. And I truly believe that, you know, me going down there and the American audience, the Ring of Honor audience that I brought with me, is what got Ring of Honor officials enamored with Rush. All the success that he had really should be attributed to me. And you know, whatever contract you signed with Ring of Honor, I probably should have got a percentage of it, like an agent. Because truly, without Matt Taven going down to Mexico and getting in the ring with Rush, he wouldn’t have this opportunity today.
But the thing about the title match coming up in Vegas is that this is my Kingdom. You know what I mean? This is my home turf and I’ve gone down to Mexico, and I’ve gone toe to toe with Rush time and time again. And I showed him that I do not fear him at all. And he might be new to Ring of Honor. But even in a short time, he’s seen that I’m the hardest working champion in this company’s history. I’ve defended this belt against everyone. I’ve ended undefeated streaks against people that did not think that I could.
Rush is going to be just another guy on the long list of wrestlers that have gone down to Matt Taven.
Shawn: It seems like in today’s wrestling world, there’s a lot of negativity online. You’ve been there for a long time. You won all the titles working your way to the top, but it still seems to be hard for Matt Taven to get respect from the keyboard warriors online. What does it take for Matt Taven to prove to everyone, “I belong here, I deserve this spot.”
Taven: I think like great artists, I’ll be appreciated more when I’m gone. But I’ve personally made it a vendetta to call out these keyboard cowboys, these Melvins. Anytime I’ve gotten a chance to have a face-to-face altercation with any of these guys, I just literally melt them into nothing there.
I would hate if I was a guy that lived in my mom’s basement and never achieved anything in my entire life. So, I kind of get that. But I think that just kind of the society that we live in, you know what I mean? We talked about like outrage culture and cancel culture. People are just looking for ways to tear down someone that constantly succeeds. And you know, being one of those guys that never went to the internet and said like “hey, let’s be friends. I care about your opinion.”
You know, never gave any of these Melvin’s the time of day. I can understand why they constantly tried to tear me down but at the same time, it hasn’t stopped me from succeeding one bit. I won every single title in real honor. I’ve won titles in New Japan, CMLL, I’ve won the World Title at Madison Square Garden, so if it means that a couple of guys with weird neckbeards don’t like me then so be it.
Shawn: Other wrestlers have called you one of the hardest workers in Ring of Honor, someone who’s always working out, someone who’s always trying to better themselves. There’s been a huge turnover in Ring of Honor over the last year. Who do you see coming up that could be the next Matt Taven — someone who’s working their butt off trying to be the best they can be and is ready to make that breakthrough.
Taven: You know, I obviously will go to the guys around the in the Kingdom – Vinny Marseglia and TK O’Ryan, but that’s obviously a personal bias because I could see the hard work that they put it on a daily basis. But you know, a guy that I think doesn’t get the credit that he deserves — and it’s a guy that is always in the ring trying to better himself and always just looking for a way to get out there and to break through into that top guy contendership-land is Jonathan Gresham.
You know, a guy that can wrestle circles around anyone. He’s been around the world he’s a guy that, maybe his height has held him back, but it’s one of those things where his pure talent that is undeniable once he gets in the ring. People need to start realizing that.
Shawn: The Final Battle Ring of Honor world title contender tournament is coming up. Who do you see in that tournament that you would like to win that you want to face next for your world title?
Taven: You know it’s a weird thing. The more things change, the more they stay the same and you fight so hard to get past a guy like Jay lethal and then once you win the World Title you’re like, I want Jay Lethal to come here and step up to my throne and challenge me for the World Title.
I thought that that was gonna happen in New York and then it got changed to a triple threat with Kenny King, so I still never got that. I came back and defeated the bully that used to run this yard and now it’s mine. So, like I feel like there’s still one more Matt Taven-Jay Lethal match that needs to happen. And you know, if it happens at Final Battle, what better way to write the ending to that story.
Shawn: A lot of guys you’ve worked with moved on. Mike Bennett in the WWE, AEW starting up. A lot of people online are choosing sides, like we want this company to succeed. We want this to fail. But are you wrestlers cheering for each other? Are you cheering for every company to succeed? Because it seems like if everyone succeeds, it’ll make wrestling better in general.
Taven: Absolutely, zero percent like the fans. The fans that are choosing sides are childish and naive at best. Because we know from being wrestling fans ourselves, when wrestling is at its best, it’s when everyone’s succeeding. What brings out the best in people is competition. If people are enjoying all these different products, now you have more opportunities to see it.
So whether it’s like the late ‘80s where the NWA was still doing its thing and Hulkamania was running wild, or obviously the Monday Night Wars, you know, if everyone’s succeeding it does nothing but good things for wrestlers wrestling and the whole wrestling industry and the world in general. So, we’re all rooting for one another.
Ring of Honor Death Before Dishonor airs on PPV and Ring of Honor Honor Club on Friday, September 27 at 9/8c.