The knee injury that put Matt Taven on the shelf for most of 2016 led to contemplation and renewed motivation. During this period the 32-year-old wondered if how long he’d be out, as well as what he’d do when he returned. One doctor told Taven it might take two years until he made it back into the ring. Through drive the Ring of Honor performer returned by the fall of last year.
“I was pretty determined to get back as soon as possible,” he said.
“Ring of Honor, I was under contract, and they took care of me the whole time. I was in no rush, but I was in a personal rush to get back because I am so antsy to get there. I love doing this. I want to succeed more than anything and want to make sure people know how good Matt Taven is. So, I feel like when I came back I had a lot to prove. I wanted to show I could come back from a big injury and that I was going to grow, and I was ready to take Ring of Honor over.”
With Mike Bennett and Maria Kanellis no longer with the company, Taven felt it was time to build a new version of The Kingdom. Only this incarnation would have him in the throne; the centerpiece. When looking for talent to join his group he turned to those he had a connection with in TK O’Ryan and Vinny Marseglia.
“I think this version is very similar to the last one just because it was a natural chemistry,” he said.
“It was something you can’t fake in a lab and slap together. Me, Adam [Cole], Mike and Maria are as close as can be friend-wise. We would travel together and do everything together. When Adam was out of surgery, he would come spend a week at my house. We are always on the phone together. Me and Mike run a school to this day, so we see each other all the time. But in the background while all this has been going on Vinny has been a guy that has been extremely close to me and Mike since the beginning for years now.
“TK was a guy me and Mike took interest in because he came from our school and a former athlete. We saw a lot of promise with him. So, it’s one of those things where everything went down, these guys were already in the background ready. It was a very easy transition from one to the other. I think they complement the group and work well together. That realism of chemistry and friendship and the natural view of the group, you can tell these guys want to be together. Me, Vinny and TK are inseparable as friends as well. I see these guys more than I maybe see my girlfriend or anyone else. It’s just one of those things if I had to choose anyone in the world, I’d probably have the same guys. It works.”
The trio experienced immediate success by becoming the first ROH six-man tag team champions. Taven remains inspired creatively to have The Kingdom stand out from a presentation standpoint.
“Ring of Honor has been on the rise. I literally thought back to my first pay-per-views here. I was on the first Ring of Honor pay-per-views that weren’t just an internet pay-per-view,” he said.
“Then to see where we are now and the headway we are going. WWE is trying to go right at us in a sense on house shows, and that’s for a reason. We are making waves, and we are the future. I couldn’t be happier to be a part of this rise in Ring of Honor. As far as the production of the Kingdom, I really wanted to start taking a hands-on approach as far as presentation. Vinny is a creative guy. TK is a creative guy.
There is input from all three of us. We are really pushing to make things happen. The production here is crazy. When we tell them little suggestions and they would send stuff back to us thinking, ‘This is better than I thought.’ It’s a great team here. At the same time, we take great pride in The Kingdom. It’s more than a name for us. The Kingdom is almost like our family. A family last name. For us, it’s the Kingdom. Our wrestling school is called the Wrestling Kingdom. Everything we do we involve The Kingdom in it. It’s one of those things where we built this thing up so big that we have to keep it going. We have to keep living up to it. I think we are doing a good job.”
Even while moving forward, Taven maintains strong ties to the past. He is proud of past partners and their recent success. At the top of the list right now is Bennett, who recently made his struggles and recovery from an addiction to painkillers public.
“The toughest thing to do is acknowledge your own faults and actually look in the mirror and say, ‘This is what is going on,’” Taven said.
“It’s hard for me because at some point you second guess yourself. You think, ‘Did I see something here or a sign there?’, or, ‘I should have done more.’ But when it comes down to it, all you can do is be there for him. I talk to Mike almost on a daily basis. We’ve been through so much. It’s one of those things that we have always known were there for one another. I’m just happy that he has come to this realization and is making steps to make his life better. That’s all I want for my friends is for them to be happy. He has a baby on the way. I literally just talked to him yesterday. He is in Italy right now. He is having a great time. The best part about it is he is clean, he is healthy and couldn’t be happier. So, I’m happy for him.”
With The Kingdom cementing their place in ROH, competition is at an all-time high. The company is gearing up for Final Battle, its biggest show of the year. On the card, Taven is scheduled to face the international sensation Will Ospreay. The multi-champion approaches the match as another step on the road to a major goal, which is to win the one piece of gold that has eluded him.
“For the next year I want that Ring of Honor world title,” Taven said.
“In the immediate future, we have Final Battle coming up. It’s going to make waves. I think it’s a big spot for the two of us to showcase ourselves. He is a young up-and-coming guy. I’ve been here for a little bit, but there is a drive in me that I don’t’ think people appreciate me as much as they should. That will be something that always drives me and always push me to do better. Ospreay is a hell of an athlete. Though there is no doubt in my mind that I am a million times better than Wil Ospreay, and I can’t wait to show the world that.
Ring of Honor television can be seen in syndication through Sinclair Broadcast Group affiliates, online and Sundays, 10/9c, CHARGE! TV.