As ROH Television Champion Matt Taven focuses on his next title defense against Mark Briscoe at Border Wars this coming Saturday in Toronto, he can't help but think about the long journey that it has taken to get to this point.
"My first match with Ring of Honor was in 2009. I had a couple of dark matches at that time. And then 2010, I had a couple more matches, and in 2011, I had a couple more. And to be honest, it got really frustrating, because I wanted to have the spot that I have now. I felt like in 2011, especially after the Mike Mondo match, that that would be my time, and I would be picked up on the roster full-time. Following the Mike Mondo match, I had a good match with Tommaso Ciampa, and it seemed like I just fell into this role of having competitive TV matches, but not getting any full-time offer," Taven said. "In 2009/2010, I was happy to be a part of everything, but in 2011, I was like, 'Why am I not a part of more?' But I guess everything works out for a reason. I'm very happy with the spot that I have now, and I think that if I was put in before, like in 2011, that it might not have worked out as well."
After nearly three years of hard work, dedication and patience, Taven finally earned an ROH contract in 2012. And with each match, he continues to prove that this is definitely where he belongs.
"Because of my experience beforehand, I was very comfortable with just jumping into things. I kind of came back into the Ring of Honor spotlight as one of the top prospects to win the TV Title. A lot of people were really shocked by it. I felt like I belonged there, just because of the amount of time that it took me," Taven said. "I felt like it was a long time coming, so when it finally came, I was ready for it. Ring of Honor has always been about keeping it fresh and bringing in the top indie stars, and giving them a platform to display their skills on. Guys like myself, TaDarius Thomas and ACH are just the next batch to do what the people before us have done."
It seems like there has been a changing of the guard in Ring of Honor lately, with all the fresh faces being pushed into the spotlight. Now that he has a championship around his waist, Taven might be the leader of this new breed. But that might also mean that more is expected of him. Needless to say, the pressure is on.
"I always kind of assumed that when I got a permanent spot, that I would become so much better; it's impossible not to. Especially because of all the other guys wrestling before you (on the card), you don't want to be the one who drops the ball. I watch Eddie Edwards, and I'm just astonished; I don't even know how he does it sometimes. Just watching all these guys who are in the locker room, like the Lethals or the Elgins, I keep thinking to myself that I could be there. It's a friendly competition, and when someone's watching the DVDs, you don't want to be the match that they fast forward through," Taven said. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, he came in and won the TV Title so quickly,' but I feel like I still have to go out and earn it every night. Every day, I still need to prove myself, and I still need to prove why I am the Television Champion. For the next few months, I want to prove that I'm the greatest Television Champion ever, and I want to be able to go after that World Championship."
After defeating Adam Cole
at the 11th anniversary show to win the TV Title, Taven put himself in an enviable position, as he joins an elite group of guys who have held that title. Including Taven, there have only been seven Television Champions in the promotion's history.
"You take a guy like El Generico, who's one of the greatest babyfaces of all time. And I've already talked about my appreciation for Eddie Edwards. And then there's Jay Lethal and also guys like Mike Bennett and Tomasso Ciampa, who have never actually held the title, but were still in that mix. Being in the same category as those guys is an extreme honor to me. I kind of look at it like, 'You're on the same platform that these guys were on, but now you really need to step up your game to follow in their footsteps,'" Taven said. "The belt is more of a motivation that you need to step it up, because everyone else who has had it has proven themselves, and if you don't do the same thing, you've had every opportunity that you can get, so it's your fault that you dropped the ball. This was something that's been put on me, and I'm very grateful for it, but now I need to prove myself, and then I can move on to other things as well."
Everything seems to be happening so fast for Taven, as he earned an ROH contract, received a big push and won the Television Title all within a year. But perhaps the icing on the cake was when Truth Martini joined him as his manager.
"I met Truth in 2010. I'm good friends with Mike Bennett and we always go down to OVW before the tapings and train. Truth Martini would always come down weeks before the tapings, and we hit it off instantly. I was just astonished by how this guy, in a matter of moments, would just be able to change my perspective on wrestling," Taven said. "He's a great guy to get to pick his brain. When the idea was pitched of putting the two of us together, I immediately thought that that's the best way to bring me in, because there are so many good wrestlers in Ring of Honor, that to just throw a guy into the midst of things, the fans won't appreciate it, because they have these guys that they've been watching, who have worked their butts off, and now they would have to throw them on the back burner for this new kid. But pairing me with Truth Martini instantly gave me credibility. Because Truth is so established, by that proxy, I'm now sort of in that mix as well. I was surprised that Truth wanted to be paired up with me, so I guess I must have made an impression on him. But I've wanted to team up with Truth as badly as anyone."
With Border Wars around the corner, Taven will certainly have an opportunity to prove himself. And there might not be a better person to have to prove himself to than ROH veteran, Mark Briscoe.
"The crowd is really amazing in Toronto. And going against Mark Briscoe, who I'm sure is going to get cheered, which means that I am probably going to get booed out of the place, which is the best thing for me as well," he said.
If Taven is able to knock off Briscoe on Saturday, then he might be remembered for years to come. But until then, he's just sitting back and enjoying the ride.
Border Wars happens on Saturday, May 4 at the Ted Reeve Arena in Toronto. Bell time is 7:30 p.m., but it is also available on iPPV. In addition, there is a TV taping on Sunday May 5 at that same arena, with a bell time of 2 p.m.
Ring of Honor website
Blaine van der Griend is all set for Border Wars.