In the history of pro wrestling, there have been world champions that people just simply did not like. And not always because they were a well-played heel. But just simply despised by an audience that they cannot watch the show, or they roll their eyes. Much like anytime Baron Corbin is on WWE TV. The hate is real, no matter the company. Whether it is Brock Lesnar as Universal Champion, Jay White as IWGP Heavyweight Champion, or a plethora of former WWE Champions, there’s just guys people hate seeing as a champion because they want a company to succeed and feel they aren’t worthy. Step in, Matt Taven.
Matt Taven is the current ROH World Champion. And with that distinction, he is also Wrestling’s Most Hated World Champion. Ring of Honor has seemingly fallen from the grace that it has experienced for many years, most specifically the years of having The Elite as their main act on each show. Following the huge Madison Square Garden show, they crowned their new champion to help lead them into the new era of ROH. That new champion was Matt Taven who was high above the ring, on top of a ladder standing over Jay Lethal and Marty Scurll. Believability may be the reason people do not see Taven as the right choice for ROH World Champion, but he did all he could to get to the top of the mountain.
Matt Taven: Before Honor (2009 to 2012)
Matt Taven has officially made Ring of Honor his Kingdom and that leads to plenty of eye rolls by wrestling fans, but the time he has put it to get to this point should have him more respected than he currently is. Wrestling’s most hated world champion began his career all the way back in 2008 with much of his first few years coming with Top Rope Promotions and Northeast Wrestling. Taven, a New England native, wrestled many of his early years trying to improve his craft with Top Rope and Northeast which were based near home for him, as well as Chaotic Wrestling from 2011 to 2014 before signing with Ring of Honor for much of his time that has led to today.
Fans may not know, but Matt Taven actually had his first match inside a Ring of Honor ring in 2009, despite winning ROH’s Top Prospect Tournament in 2013. While dark matches, he competed at ROH Never Say Die and Validation in May of 2009 losing his first and winning a tag team match the next day.
Before getting to ROH full-time, he would compete in NWA on Fire which would include his first championship win when he teamed with Julian Starr to win the NWA On Fire Tag Team Championships. In March of 2010, he would win his first singles championship as part of Northeast Wrestling, winning the NEW Heavyweight Championship in a Five Way Elimination match with the likes of Mike Bennett and the defending champion Paul London in the fold. He would hold the championship for 559 days. This would be his longest reign of his career with any title, coming close in 2014 with his second NEW Heavyweight Championship reign that lasted 512 days. Fast forward to August of 2011, he would win his first of two Top Rope Promotion Heavyweight Titles. It would be in 2012 when Taven would get the opportunity to try out for ROH, finding his home.
Signing with ROH and Winning the Top Prospect Tournament (2012 and 2013)
Following his tryout, Taven slowly but surely became a regular on Ring of Honor television in 2012. He would compete in eight matches for the brand that year before being entered into the Top Prospect Tournament that he would go on to win. The tournament had some of the more notable names in wrestling today, like Hangman Page, Silas Young, and ACH (aka Jordan Myles in NXT). Taven won the tournament, defeating TaDarius Thomas with the help of his new manager Truth Martini, at the beginning of 2013 and showed Ring of Honor that they could place plenty of trust in him to move forward in the future.
First Championship Run in Ring of Honor
For winning the big tournament, he was awarded an ROH World Television Championship match against Adam Cole (BAY BAY) at ROH’s 11th Anniversary Show. Matt Taven quickly established himself as a top guy in Ring of Honor when he would defeat Adam Cole to become the ROH World Television Champion. While it was with the help of Martini hitting Cole in the back and allowing Taven to hit the Climax finish to win the title.
Taven would continue to beat the likes of Adam Cole, Matt Hardy, Mark Briscoe, and Jay Lethal as he would hold the title for 287 days. He defended the championship successfully 15 times, which is the single most defenses for a single reign of the Television title. He would lose it at the end of 2013 when Tommaso Ciampa would defeat him at Final Battle. When it comes to Taven’s first full year in ROH, it his hard to get much better than that. Seems as though a first year like this makes his current reign as the World Champion almost expected.
Matt Taven: Joining The Kingdom (2014-2016)
The unwarranted hate for Matt Taven continuous to this day and many may be able to date that hate back to his addition to The Kingdom in 2014. For those who may be reading this and not know about The Kingdom prior to Taven’s current group, this was The Kingdom ran by the one and only Adam Cole. Taven joined The Kingdom when he returned from hiatus on the September 27th, 2014 tapings of ROH TV. He went on hiatus when he announced he would not be re-signing with ROH and wanted to move on. Instead, because this is pro wrestling, he swerved everyone to ultimately join The Kingdom and find himself the partner of his dreams in Mike Bennett.
When he joined The Kingdom, Taven transitioned to become a tag team performer with Bennett, as Maria Kanellis served as their manager. The duo really exemplified their talents as a team when they entered NJPW’s World Tag League 2014 Tournament. This would be Taven’s first opportunity to go over to Japan and alongside Bennett, they proved to be rather successful. Their time there would help them quietly establish themselves as a team to really look out for and would even get an IWGP Tag Team Title match in early 2015.
It would be at NJPW’s Invasion Attack on April 5th, 2015 in Tokyo when they would challenge Bullet Club’s Doc Gallows and Karl Anderson for their IWGP Tag Team Titles. They would shock everyone and defeat the champions to win their first tag team gold together in Japan. Unfortunately for them, they would hold them for 91 days before losing it back to that same duo at Dominion in their very first defense.
It would just be two months before they captured their second pair of tag team titles, this time the ROH World Tag Team Championships. They would win them from The Addiction, Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian. It was a three-way at ROH All-Star Extravaganza VII on September 18th in a match that also featured The Young Bucks. They would successfully defend them twice, once against The Addiction and another against reDRagon (Bobby Fish and Kyle O’Reilly) before facing War Machine (Hanson and Rowe) at Final Battle 2015, a match they would lose the titles and really be the last time Bennett and Taven teamed.
A Kingdom Falters Then Injury (2016)
Matt Taven and Mike Bennett were special in the history of ROH but ended prematurely when Bennett and Kanellis could not reach a deal with ROH and moved on after Final Battle. Taven was injured in that match to put him on the shelf for much of 2016. The injuries were almost everything you could think of as he tore his ACL and ruptured a lateral meniscus in his leg.
With Taven on the shelf and Bennett went, the first edition of The Kingdom was officially ended when he returned to ROH TV on March 28th, 2016 with crutches in hand to inform Adam Cole that he was officially out of The Kingdom and when Taven returns, he would fully rebuild The Kingdom in his image.
Matt Taven: This is my Kingdom (Late 2016 to Present)
Everyone’s favorite wrestler, Matt Taven of course, returned to ROH on September 18th, 2016, a year to the day he and Mike Bennett won the ROH titles, to announce that he was going to return and compete for the then-new ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Championships in the tournament with his new Kingdom.
Before returning to action for ROH, he would make his CMLL debut, wrestling nine matches in the month of September for them before making his ROH return with his Kingdom. In his first eight matches, he competed in tag team action as he prepared to enter the Six-Man title picture in ROH. In his final CMLL appearance of the year on September 23rd, he was defeated by Rush in a Best Two out of Three Falls match.
When he returned to ROH, Taven would have Vinny Marseglia and TK O’Ryan by his side to form the new Kingdom, that one that you know today. In the first round of the Six-Man Tournament, The Kingdom would beat Bullet Club, who was made up of Adam Cole and The Young Bucks. Full circle almost for Taven there, as he managed to defeat the former leader of The Kingdom, Adam Cole, in his first bout with his own image of The Kingdom. They would go all the way to Final Battle 2016 in the finals, where they would become the first-ever ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Champions by defeating Jay White, KUSHIDA, and Lio Rush.
All was going well for The Kingdom before injury struck. TK O’Ryan broke his leg and they were forced to defend their Six-Man Tag Titles with Silas Young filling in for O’Ryan on March 11th of 2017. They would lose the titles to the team of Bully Ray and The Briscoes, which would truly begin “The Kingdom Conspiracy”.
The Kingdom Conspiracy (2017 to April 6th, 2019: ROH/NJPW G1 Supercard)
The hate towards Matt Taven more than likely stem from “The Kingdom Conspiracy” more than anything else. The conspiracy that Taven took to heart because his Kingdom was not getting the opportunities they had earned and deserved. In his only two ROH World Title opportunities to this point, outside interference became a factor and he was robbed of winning that championship. At the War of the Worlds 2017 tour, he got the shot against the champion Christopher Daniels and Frankie Kazarian interfered to screw him out of only his second shot which only added to the anger of Taven.
With 2018 on the horizon, Matt Taven was going to show the world that he deserved the Ring of Honor spotlight. Performing for both ROH and CMLL almost exclusively, he had a banner year for the most part in 2018. He captured the World Historic Welterweight Championship in CMLL in a huge match against Volodor Jr. Taven would begin his rivalry with Cody Rhodes that many can remember from a year ago. From stealing Cody’s actual “Ring of Honor” to matches and matches between each other, it was a competitive rivalry, to say the least. Cody was fresh off his run as ROH World Champion and Taven was done with Ring of Honor taking care of Cody Rhodes rather than someone like him who has given his body for that company. So instead of complaining, he went for Cody himself in hopes of sniffing out the Conspiracy.
Cody would defeat Taven in their first two singles matches before Taven managed to win the rivalry by beating him at Masters of Craft 2018 in a First Blood matchup. Some may not know that while Taven was busy with Cody in ROH, he was competing in CMLL still and won the NWA World Historic Welterweight Title before losing it later in the year. Back to ROH, Taven and The Kingdom got a shot at the Six-Man Titles once again in Taven’s backyard of Lowell, MA at War of the Worlds 2018 on May 9th. They defeated SoCal Uncensored and held the titles for 73 days before losing them to Cody and the Bucks.
The match that would set off Matt Taven for the final time would be the ROH World Championship, Four Corner Survival match on June 30th. That would be the match that Taven had a clear three count and the referee would be distracted. Leading Taven to be screwed out of the championship yet again and Jay Lethal would win the title instead. It would not be just weeks after that The Kingdom would lose their titles and Taven would set his eyes on proving to ROH he was the true ROH World Champion.
At Death Before Dishonor XVI in September, The Kingdom would assault Lethal and Taven would show the world his purple version of the ROH World Championship, which sent plenty off, but he knew in his heart he was the true champion. As 2018 ended, Taven would be on the road to capture an opportunity at ROH World Title and would even win the Six-Man Titles one more time with The Kingdom at Survival for the Fittest.
Finally, 2019 would be here and ROH would become Matt Taven’s Kingdom. Taven would wrestle Jay Lethal to a 60-minute draw at the ROH 17th Anniversary Show in March, allowing him to be placed in the ROH World Championship match at the G1 Supercard. There is where Taven would finally, win the ROH World Championship following six years of commitment to the company as he climbed to the top of the ladder in the biggest show in ROH’s history. The Conspiracy was finally over, and Matt Taven was ROH World Champion.
This now has led him to be the most hated World Champion in Pro Wrestling today and it seems Taven is perfectly fine with that. What may hurt people even more as he is ROH’s second-ever Grand Slam Champion. Now this Saturday, he defends his championship against Jay Lethal at Manhattan Mayhem. Then he returns home to Massachusetts to team with The Kingdom at Mass Hysteria. He has been living his dream, from throwing out the first pitch this week at Fenway Park before the Boston Red Sox game to simply being the top guy of Ring of Honor as their world champion.
Hating or not believing in Matt Taven as world champion is anyone’s opinion to have. But the time he has put in makes it the perfect time for ROH to have taken this chance with a company man like Taven. If that makes him Wrestling’s Most Hated World Champion, so be it.
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