ROH star Matt Taven is enjoying a reunion run with the recently returning Mike Bennett. The two were staples of the iconic Ring of Honor stable The Kingdom, and have penned themselves “The OGK” since reforming.
Before re-introducing that stable, Taven reigned as ROH Champion for 174 days. Taven captured the title at the famous G1 Supercard event in Madison Square Garden and held the title throughout 2019, before dropping it to RUSH that fall.
Speaking with Love Wrestling, Taven detailed how he wants his World Title run to be remembered.
“Well, I guess it would have to depend on who you ask,” Taven said. “I’ve never been loved by the internet community, which, it is what it is at this point. But I always felt like – you know, I joke to other people in the locker room I’m the Rodney Dangerfield of wrestling: ‘I get no respect!’ And I feel like a great artist, those people that go back and watch it now, it’s hard to see any holes in it. I took a lot of pride being the champion at that time.”
Taven’s big win came months after the formation of AEW, which saw ROH main eventers like the Young Bucks, Christopher Daniels, Frankie Kazarian, and Cody Rhodes leave for the new company. Taven says the big exodus wasn’t a surprise to him, and actually made him crave that top spot that much more.
“I mean, we knew what was coming,” Taven said. “You know, half the roster had left on the last day of the year before, and there’s only a couple of people that really would want to have that spot because it’s not the best one to have, knowing what’s coming down the pipe. But that’s why I’m – that’s what drives me as a competitor. You know what I mean? Not only have I been a wrestling fan my entire life, but I’ve been an athlete, someone who’s been involved in some sort of sport my entire life, and someone who’s just has a competitive nature. If we’re gonna play Monopoly, I will go all 16 hours until I win.
“You’re the banker, you’ve been cheating this entire time! One or the other is going to happen. That competitive spirit in me is like, ‘Let’s do this.’ I’ll take the heat, I’ll throw it on my shoulders. Let’s go forward and I’ll take the punches. And, when you go back and you watch, you know, I think me and Volador Jr, me and Tracy Williams, me and Flip, me, Jay Lethal and Kenny King in New York. I’m sure I’m missing a bunch of that later. Even I like the Alex Shelley match.There’s so many. I mean, there was just match after match after match. And, you know, every single month I’m putting out these videos, this new promo, having a new match with another person. Maybe I’m biased, maybe it’s me. I don’t know. But I daresay anyone wants to go back and watch it, it’s something that I’m very proud of, and I truly believe will be looked back at fondly. When we get to look back at it with a little clearer heads with retrospect.”
ROH is no stranger to seeing top talent depart for greener pastures. Names like Kevin Steen, El Generico, and Adam Cole all individually left for NXT, which left gaps in the ROH roster that were immediately filled. This “prove it” mentality is what Taven says makes ROH so strong.
“That’s what made Ring of Honor and still makes Ring of Honor so good, is that we look around the locker room, and I go, ‘Damn, he’s really good. I got to step my game up.’ You know what I mean?” Taven said. “It was that way when I first got in there, and I probably wasn’t ready for that. But, you know, you’ve got the Kevin Steens and the Roderick Strongs, and the Briscoes that are still there, and Jay Lethal, and Adam Cole, and it’s like, ‘Oh, man, I gotta – these are thick, these are rough waters to swim in, and I’ve got to stay afloat.’ I think that that hasalways been a feeling: a competitive, a good competitiveness in the Ring of Honor locker room has always been there. I think if there’s anything that’s different now, it’s more of a team competitive. It’s, ‘Alright. Maybe if people doubt us, let’s show them if they tune in that they’re looking very foolish for ever doubting us.’
“And we’re very supportive of one another now, but at the same time, man, I was watching the episode last night and it’s like, you got Shane Taylor and Dragon Lee and Gresham and Lethal and Kenny and Rush and you’re like, you start doing push-ups. You’re like, ‘I gotta do something to keep up with everyone!’ That’s a competitive spirit that I think has always been in Ring of Honor, and I think it’s always been the reason why Ring of Honor has been such an innovative force in the wrestling world.”
Taven has been tagging with Mike Bennett since the Miracle made his return to ROH this past fall. Speaking on their Kingdom reunion, Taven says he’s very grateful to be working with Bennett once again.
“It’s amazing. I mean, it’s so cool to think that life can come full circle sometimes,” Taven said. “And I can’t tell you how weird of a feeling it was when, you know, I [blew] out my ACL and he [went] to TNA and it’s like, the world just spins around out of nowhere. We had a two-year run where we’re here and there and all of a sudden, boom, bang, all of a sudden it exploded. That’s something that you’re like, ‘Holy moly, am I going to be able to come back without Mike? Am I going to be able to do this and that?’ And now we’re back together as totally different people, but the same guys at the same time, if that makes any sense. Like we’re different wrestlers, we’re such different wrestlers.
“But you know, Mike is the kind of guy that you don’t see in person for a year, and then you’re making the same dumb jokes that you made eight years in the past as soon as you see each other. So it’s one of those things where we both have the same kind of outlook on wrestling. I just love the fact that we get to wrestle. And the fact that now we get to travel again with your best friend is like – it’s hard to pick a better situation. We’re very excited. Obviously, we haven’t been able to do all the things that we have been talking about for the last five years, obviously, with the pandemic going on, and me currently entangled with another friend Vincent.But, it’s been one of those things where it’s like, we have this plan, we want to get back to the dominance that we had before. We know we’re still gonna get there at some point, but at least we have each other now, even though we haven’t really gotten our hooks into the tag divisions as much as we would like to at this point.”
While most know him as the leader of the Kingdom or the former ROH World Champion, Matt Taven has a comedic side to him that he rarely brings out in the form of “Sexual Taven.”
“Sexual Taven came from a mix of a couple of things. When my hair was longer and I let it really free flow, I would have a Kenny G-ish look, which I heard a lot,” Taven said. “Which, you know, kind of went up my ass sideways sometimes. But then, you know, I started to get in the groove of it and I would start doing a like little saxophone kind of pantomime to just make people laugh because they would say I look like Kenny G. But the Sexual Taven story comes from – I don’t even know if I’ve ever told this story. This is a hilarious story. I was at Eddie Edwards’ wedding. I know his family, yadda yadda, and his brother was just kind of like asking me like ‘oh, who are you talking to,’ or what I was doing or something, and I was like, ‘oh, no one. Someone just asked me like a question.’ He’s like, ‘I don’t know. Just everything you do just comes off so…sexual.’ I was like ‘what?!’ For the rest of the weekend, the joke was Sexual Taven.
“So, I don’t know what made me do it for the first time – I think it was at Beyond Wrestling.I started doing the saxophone thing, and it just felt like the name of that should be Sexual Taven. And, also, I’m pretty sure Eddie’s brother was there at that time probably screaming it, so that probably helped the rest of the crowd pick up on what I was doing. But man, when I got hurt and had knee surgery, thank goodness I could just go out and be Sexual Taven while I couldn’t wrestle! I’m pretty sure there’s a segment for Beyond Wrestling called In the Sack with Sexual Taven and that has over a million views on YouTube. So you know, it’s probably one of the funnier things I’ve ever done. Probably not my – you know, I won’t go back and have that as my film reel of my ‘here’s my depth as a character.’ I think that’s a very good shallow baseline one, but always a good laugh for everyone in the crowd!”