Matt Taven has done almost everything there is to do in Ring of Honor. He is a Grand Slam Champion holding every title he can hold there, as well as winning titles all around the world. He’s also a former World Champion and is a part of one of Ring of Honor’s most distinctive factions, The Kingdom. Alongside his brothers in arms, TK O’Ryan and Vinny Marseglia, he broke onto my radar and now, is one of the biggest mouthpieces in the company.
Having won the title at MSG for G1 Supercard, Taven went on to be a fighting champion, taking on stiff competition in the forms of Flip Gordon, PCO, and Jeff Cobb. It wouldn’t be until he faced Rush at Death Before Dishonor that he would eventually lose his title. Now he is preparing to grace our shores for ROH’s UK tour, taking on one of our most prestigious stars, Joe Hendry.
SteelChair had a chance to talk one on one with Matt Taven where we discussed his future, his thoughts on ROH, his love of UK wrestling crowds, and most importantly, the analytics of a purple nurple.
For the uninitiated, who is Matt Taven?
Matt Taven is the now, unfortunately, former Ring of Honor World Champion but one of the only men in ROH history to be a Grand Slam Champion, winning titles in CMLL, New Japan and Ring of Honor. He makes Melvins realise he is the king every single day, and he is the leader of the Kingdom. I’MMMMMM Matt Taven.
You just hinted on something I really wanted to know about. Where did the Melvins insult actually come from?
Well, I mean honestly, it was just one of those things I used to call my friends growing up, playing video games against each other, and talking trash. Melvins or a Melvin is a word for wedgie, as I knew it. So just calling someone a Melvin was just a sign of disrespect and a friendly one at that as a young teen. It was always something that stuck. Then one day I was like, you know what, I’m gonna bring that to TV and just start calling everyone a Melvin. It’s one of those things that, if you do it in real life and you think that it fits who you are on TV, then you go for it. It’s gonna work, and it’s just one of those things that’s stuck.
It’s definitely one of the more unique insults I’ve heard.
Well, I try to make sure that when you call someone a Melvin, it kinda throws them off guard in the first place. It makes them look at themselves like “who me?” So it’s a keeper for sure.
One of the other unique things about you is the fact you’re the only wrestler I’ve ever seen use a nipple cripple in a wrestling match. I believe it’s called the purple nurple over there?
I mean, especially for the Kingdom since our go-to uniform has purple in it. It’s definitely a purple nurple. It’s one of the most effective things throughout time. You use the purple nurple on you know your cousins, your little brothers, whatever the case may be. It’s not like people’s nipples have gotten stronger over time. They stay the same sensitivity or the same sensitive spot that they’ve always been since childhood, so I’m not going to be the one to shy away from that. Absolutely not.
I have never thought of it that way. That is probably the most analytical thing I’ve heard about a schoolyard, prank/mean trick thing…
Hey, if you want me to break down the analytics on a purple nurple, then I could do that all day.
As long as you don’t perform it on me in person, then, by all means, go ahead.
We can talk about different angles of twisting, different pressures of the pinch, you know there’s many different techniques when it comes to a nurple.
So you mentioned you were former ROH Champion, but you actually won it at what is probably one of their biggest events ever, in Madison Square Garden. In probably the most brutal match on the card, the ladder match. How did you ever prepare for something like that?
I grew up a giant wrestling fan. I watched so many ladder matches through the years, and so many of the people I idolise like Bret Hart, Shawn Michaels, Rob Van Dam, Jeff Hardy, you always picture yourself in these situations, in these types of matches you’ve watched your idols perform in over the years. So, I think like mentally, this was something, as a kid, I’d visualised probably a million times. I mean here he comes out, at Madison Square Gardens, taking the title off of the ceiling of the most famous arena in the world. That’s every childhood dream you can think of. So for me, it was like wow, this is exactly what you’ve always pictured your life to be. If there was going to be anyone prepared for a moment like this, it should be you because this is what you’ve been visualising happening for so long.
As far as the physicality, I mean it’s one you know you have to put your body on the line. Just hope you can come out on the other side unscathed and successful at the same time. Within the first couple of the minutes of that match, I do a dive to the outside where Jay Lethal and Marty are both holding a ladder, and I do my dive and hit that ladder and it hit my forearm in such a way that I was unsure if I had broken my forearm literally minutes into the biggest match of my career. So it was one of those things that I had to know, going in, that my body was going to get beat up, and it might be one of those situations where you have to fight through some pain. It’s gonna be apparent, and it’s going to happen in a match like that.
It even struck the audience as I remember a fan in the front row getting hit with an X (two crossed ladders)
Yeah. Sometimes if you’re near ringside, you might be part of the action. Luckily, he was unscathed, and he was allowed to come backstage afterwards. I was able to meet him and say hi to him. Funnily enough, after the match, I’m there, it’s a big moment for myself, I had just won the world title, and here this guy is. I just say, “Hey buddy, you alright? You doing okay out there? I saw the ladder come your way out there.” And he just looked at me and said, “what, are we friends now?” I was unsure what he was talking about, and I just looked at him, so he goes, “In Florida, you called me a Melvin and stuck your gum to my face.” Could that moment be any more perfect? Here I am, just won the world title, and the first person I see who I try to enjoy this moment with, tells me I’d stuck my gum on his forehead and called him a Melvin the last time we saw each other. I laughed to myself, and it may have made that moment even more special. I mean, it really justified my life’s goals at that moment, right?
What is Matt Taven’s future? You lost the title, so I can only assume you’ll want to get it back?
Well, there’s always a rematch clause. But the other thing is that I’ve prided myself on accomplishing every goal and setting records wherever and being the most prestigious person, not just champion but most prestigious person on the Ring of Honor roster. Some guys have held the title more times than me, the number I was always searching for was the most consecutive days, and most days with the title total, in general. So be it Samoa Joe or Jay Lethal, those records are still in the mind of Matt Taven. I’m not gonna stop anytime soon because I feel my reign as champion ended prematurely. That there’s still a lot to do and a lot to prove being the ROH world champion.
It’s funny you should use the word prestigious because when you travel to my neck of the woods, the UK, you’ll be taking on the UK’s most prestigious one, Joe Hendry. Are you looking forward to that?
I don’t know, I keep looking at this match, and thinking of two different things. The first thing I get a kick out of Joe Hendry. Anyone that is going to come out there and sing his own theme song is the kind of man after my own heart. That’s the kind of brashness that makes champions. On the other hand, who the hell is Joe Hendry to come in, and already have a t-shirt saying world champion on it. He calls himself the Prestigious One and thinks he’s at the top of the food chain. I have been in ROH for seven years. Started at the absolute bottom, won the Top Prospect Tournament, won every single title that ROH has. I have earned the right to call myself world champion. Not some guy that is singing, clapping, waving his hands back and forth. I mean, I dig Joe Hendry as much as the next person, but I think it’s time for him to have a bit of a reality check.
So, it’s safe to say things are going to get physical between you two then?
I mean, if it comes to it. Joe should know better, and he should sign a little autograph, I’ll laugh, he’ll laugh, and then he lies on his back in the middle of the ring. Then we’ll go grab a pint or something. If Joe thinks that the former Ring of Honor World Champion, the Grand Slam Champion, Matt Taven is going to be a guy that’s gonna elevate his career, well then, he’s got another thing coming.
Well, I’m even more excited for that match now. The other thing I’ve noticed, lately, especially through your Instagram is that you’ve picked up a new follower. The Kingdom appears to be being stalked at the moment.
Yeah. I mean, it’s something that I’m not unfamiliar with. I’ve had plenty of ladies stalk me throughout the years, and I’m hoping this is the same scenario, but I doubt that whoever knocked out TK and Vinny is probably not a female or not one of my ex-girlfriends, so I’m assuming it’s someone I’m not expecting. It’s one of those strange things where TK has been nursing an injury for quite a long time, and you jump a guy like that from behind, you put him on the shelf. Obviously, you show you’re a coward. Now you’re taking videos of me in the locker room and me in a social setting. It feels weird to me because no one in Ring of Honor would do that because everyone in Ring of Honor is a pretty stand up person as a man in their own right. They can fight their own fights; they don’t necessarily need to jump people from behind. So, I’m scratching my head, trying to think who the hell would have the guts to do this and then be lurking around and stalking, videotaping me without me noticing. I mean, it’s a tough thing because I don’t have many suspects, and I’m questioning everyone, which is making me a tiny bit paranoid. It’s not the most ideal stalking situation I’ve ever been in.
I think Vinny put it best, though, as he said, “I’ve done way worse than this, it’s going to take more than a video camera to scare me.”
Could it get any more honest than that? Vinny, who sleeps with knives and all other horror memorabilia around his bed, taking a couple of videos of us isn’t really going to deter us too much.
Speaking of, do the Kingdom have any big plans for the upcoming ROH shows? Any names on the list that you want to take?
We will not be all together for the UK, unfortunately. It’ll just be me making the journey over there but like you said, Joe Hendry is a man that’s coming into ROH with a lot of steam behind him and his name but is going to find out really quick why Matt Taven was the ROH World Champion and is going to be ROH World Champion once again. But once we get back to the States, I was very serious when I said this Kingdom will rise again. Some of the best times I’ve ever had in my career were being six-man champs with two of my best friends. Hitting the road and kicking ass and taking names like we always have. So, I want to be the world champion once again, at the same time, I want to succeed with my two buddies, and that’s my immediate focus.
You’ve just re-signed with ROH, what keeps you coming back? What makes ROH special?
I will be in ROH for the foreseeable future. Like I said when I announced I’d be staying when I first came here, and you still see this throughout wrestling, no matter what company you look at, you can see ROH’s fingerprints on that company in any way, shape or form. From the guys that are there mostly, and I always felt this was where the evolution of wrestling was taking place, where the most innovative stuff was taking place, ROH was one of those places where they had their thumb on the pulse of wrestling. Obviously, with shifts in the roster, in the past year, ROH definitely had to go through a bit of a transition phase as we’ve done in the past. We’ve always been able to rebound, recover and get back to being the best wrestling on the planet and that moniker that we use, I don’t think is just for a t-shirt or a catchphrase, I think it was created off the truth, and it still reigns true today. So, I wanna be a part of Ring of Honor’s regrowth and its continued growth. To be there for its resurgence into the future because I take pride in this company. They were the first company to give me a chance, and I’m a loyal guy through and through, and I don’t forget where I came from. I’m excited to see what happens in the future, not just for myself but for ROH as a whole.
And do you see this increased breaking into the UK as a way of helping that transition? Of keeping the company going?
Oh, without a doubt. A big part of that is that we call ourselves the best wrestling on the planet, not just in the states, not just here and there. We’re seeing such an influx of talent from all over the world, especially now with the Rush’s and Bandido’s and Mark Haskins, Joe Hendry, Marty’s already been there. This roster represents the world so well, so it’s the place where you find the best of all these talents. You can find them at ROH. For me personally, going to more and more places and just getting in front of the people and showing them what ROH is all about.
For me, nothing is like an ROH live experience. Going out, having people witness ROH live, is going to do nothing but help the brand. England is one of the hottest places, especially for independent wrestling. I think ROH has that independent wrestling feel to it when it comes to the style inside the ring and something the hot independents in England have based their style on and vice versa. So it’s a clashing of styles, of learning all these different styles and taking the best from all these different areas and displaying it on a world stage. That’s what ROH does.
So is it safe to say you like the British wrestling crowds?
There is nothing like a good song and dance and the British wrestling crowds definitely know a little bit of pre-gaming whether it’s indulging in some spirits or a pint then getting in there and enjoying themselves which is something I always give the American fans a little bit of a hard time about the fact they sometimes take the joy away from something that they love. You know we’re all here as wrestling fans in one facet or another, and when you go to a crowd that is singing songs, that’s having a good time, that just wants to be entertained, as a wrestler it enhances your game, it takes you to the next level, it makes you go just that bit harder, be that much better. There’s nothing like a British crowd to bring out the fun atmosphere and to bring out the positivity in wrestling.
I appreciate the compliments to my crowds.
We appreciate it.
So, you just said it yourself, anyone who goes to a wrestling show be it as a wrestler, fan, whatever, is a wrestling fan. It seems we’ve hit this new boom in wrestling. With this new shift in the wrestling landscape, do you think now is one of the best times to be a wrestling fan?
Without a doubt, I’ve been a wrestling fan my whole life. I became a wrestling fan while ‘Hulkamania’ was running wild, and saw the Monday night wars and here we are now in a great time for wrestling. With not just all the wrestling we see on TV and all the major markets but the fact that with your phone, you can open it up and see wrestling from all around the world. You can see what’s happening in Arena Mexico, you can see an independent in Australia, and you can see all the independents in the UK, you can get highlights from WWE or ROH or any of the other companies that are running that day. It’s an amazing thing. We’re so exposed to so many different things that even if wrestling fans, crowds or wrestling bubble may be as big as it was during the Monday night wars in the 90s, and hopefully we’ll get back there but in the meantime, how accessible the wrestling products are and all the different products are, is something that for wrestling fans, this could be one of the best times to be a fan as you could get anything at any time for anywhere. So it is an exciting time to be a fan because there is so much different content out there.
That’s damn good. I hadn’t even considered accessibility. Which is funny because I travel sometimes for holidays and stuff, and I’ll just pull out my phone and use the Fite app or the network.
Same with me.
… and you can just catch up at the touch of a button.
Of course. And even if you don’t have the time to catch everything, but you’re in an airport, and you can see the gifs or the highlights of some show and make sure you’re catching up with everything. There are times like Wrestlemania weekend where there’s just so many shows going on. It’s crazy how much content that is there, that you can watch or go to live. And that’s just an awesome time to be a wrestling fan because of technology.
Absolutely, I’m still catching up with shows from Wrestlemania weekend. Fite TV will say, have you watched this, and I’ll be like, “oh no, another one.”
That’s the thing. Sometimes I think the biggest problem is there’s almost too much stuff to watch. Someone will be like, “Oh, did you see this? Oh, no, I’m getting to that. I swear, I’ll watch it.” But it’s a good problem to have.
Definitely, you’d rather have too much than too little. Lastly, there’s always one question that I’d like to ask. Who is your dream opponent? Who is the person you are yet to face, who you really want to face? Both active and inactive, a person of all time.
Growing up as a huge Bret Hart fan and Shawn Michaels fan, that would be my definite pick. For most guys that grew up a fan during my time, it’s probably one of those two guys. So much of our styles are taken from those guys, so many doors opened up from the guys who weren’t necessarily 6 ft 7, 300 lbs, but more Shawn Michaels who was more 6ft but goes out there and dazzles you with his athleticism and his storytelling. It’s inspirational for most of us that are wrestling these days. So that would be my pick for all time.
As far as a guy who’s still active, another guy that is in that same vein in my mind as far as my fandom and someone I emulated. I even based a lot of my style and career decisions off of. That’s Chris Jericho. I grew up a huge Chris Jericho fan, I loved his story of him travelling all around the world and taking all these different styles and really moulding them into who he is today as a wrestler and he’s a huge reason why I did things like go down to Arena Mexico, hearing his story about the passion of the fans down there was one of the reasons I jumped at the opportunity and have continued to go back down there because he was absolutely right. It is such an incredible experience and such an incredible place. So that would be my top pick for a wrestler that is still active.
Some very nice choices. Should we start building to the Taven/Jericho dream match?
I was trying to get it done last year on the cruise. Maybe if Jericho wants to bring ROH guys on the cruise again, I would love to. I’m assuming that in the middle of the ocean, our contracts are null and void. So maybe we can get it in international waters where anything is possible.
King of ROH vs King of AEW.
I’d pay to see that.
Would you just like to remind the readers who you are again?
Of course, I am the grand slam champion, the man who is curing Melvin-Itus all over the world. I’m the man, the myth, the legend, I’MMMMMMMM MATT TAVEN.
Images courtesy of RING OF HONOR/Ian Storck.