At long last, Matt Taven rules The Kingdom, and he isn’t about to give up the throne.
Taven seized the Ring of Honor (ROH) world professional wresting title during a G1 Supercard, triple-threat ladder match at sold-out Madison Square Garden in New York City in April.
“I told ROH before I was the champion, ‘Put this company on my back, and I will show you exactly why Matt Tavin has been the top guy in ROH for years now. I’m up to the challenge 110 percent,’” he said. “I’m pretty confident … as champion I am here to stay.”
Taven, 34, one of the most decorated competitors in Ring of Honor history, has withstood the latest challenges to keep the coveted belt. The king and his court – a villainous cast of pro wrestlers formed in Taven’s own image with Vinny Marseglia and TK O’Ryan – invade the accesso ShoWare Center on Saturday, June 1.
The ROH State of the Art card begins at 7 p.m. at ShoWare. It mark’s the company’s first visit to the Pacific Northwest, an area rich in pro wrestling tradition, stretching back to the territory days of the 1960s and ’70s when legendary promoter Don Owen brought in such stars as “Rowdy” Roddy Piper, Jimmy “Superfly” Snuka, “Playboy” Buddy Rose and Lonnie “Moondog” Mayne.
Taven – known as The Romantic Touch or The Chaotic Idol in pro wrestling rings – looks forward to his first visit to Kent. He admits he doesn’t necessarily know what to expect when he steps into an unfamiliar ring in front of a new crowd. Taven is scheduled to defend his title against “Hot Sauce” Tracy Williams, whom he has never faced.
“It’s always a challenge, and it’s one of those things that kinda gets you up,” he said. “It’s like, ‘We’ll see what tonight is like, see how this crowd is … let’s see if I have my dancing shoes on tonight.’ It keeps everything fresh and continues to give you new challenges.
“We don’t know how they are going to react to certain things,” Taven said of his improvisational ways, in and out of the ring, in front of spectators. “You’ve got to change on your feet and go with whatever they might be feeling. You’ve got to be able to change and alter your performance with what the crowd is feeding you.”
Whether people believe pro wrestler is genuinely real or not, the sport is a big show that continues to bring prime-time entertainment to the masses. Pro bouts attract throngs of devoted fans who pack arenas throughout the country on any given night.
The New Hampshire-born Taven grew up a fan of the rough-and-tumble sport since he was 6 and has dedicated his life to it.
When he isn’t in a ring, either in the U.S. or abroad, Taven retreats to his hometown, Boston. He and tag-team partner Michael Bennett operate a wrestling school in Rhode Island.
“There’s nothing else I can picture myself doing in this world, so I’m looking to do it until the wheels fall off,” said Taven, who made his pro debut in 2008 and joined ROH nine years ago.
Taven’s work in the pro ring is extensive. He pulled off the ROH grand slam, owning the company’s world, television, tag team and six-man tag team titles. The also is one of only a few wrestlers who have won championships in Japan and Mexico.
The rigors of a year-round schedule brings bodily punishment to the 6-foot-2, 219-pound Taven. Knee surgery interrupted his string of big wins and disappointing losses. Bumps and bruises are part of the game.
“It’s one of those things you wouldn’t trade for the world, especially when you go up to a new place like Kent,” Taven said. “You kinda forget about all these little aches and pains as soon as you go through the curtain and you see all those lights.”
Being the world champion means wearing a bull’s-eye on the back.
So far in his title defenses, Taven has scored pinfall victories over Flip Gordon, Mark Haskins and the previously undefeated PCO – each ending controversially, of course.
“The work just begins when you’re the champion,” said Taven, whose signature moves include a running knee strike to a seated opponent and a spin kick. “I’ve been put through the ringer.”
Wrestling brings out the best and the worst in Taven.
“I’ve had a short temper my entire life and it’s gotten me into some trouble,” he said “But I figured out how to use it my advantage. I was pushed for so long by ROH and almost held down that it brought out that temper I’ve been holding back for so long, and it has brought me to the world title.”
Tickets range from $30 to $100. Purchase tickets at accessoshowarecenter.com or the ShoWare Center Box Office, 625 W. James St.
Following the Kent show, Ring of Honor performs Sunday, June 2 at Portland State University’s Viking Pavilion in Oregon.