By Kevin Eck
Matt Taven and Kelly Klein both scored the biggest victory of their careers under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden before a sellout crowd at G1 Supercard last month.
When Taven pulled down the ROH World Championship belt to win the Triple Threat Ladder Match for the title, and Klein pinned Japanese superstar Mayu Iwatani to become the first two-time Women of Honor World Champion, they both earned their place in history and silenced their critics.
And that’s where the similarities between the ROH World Champion and the WOH World Champion end. Seven weeks removed from G1 Supercard, Taven has done nothing but tarnish his reign, while Klein has proved to be a champion in every sense of the word.
Taven’s Underhanded Tactics Are Overshadowing His Talent
Taven has taken the low road is all three of his title defenses, and that’s a real shame because there’s no denying that he is vastly talented.
The list of opponents Taven defeated over the past year and a half prior to winning the title reads like a who’s who of the top stars in the sport. It includes Jay Lethal, Cody, Jay White, Dalton Castle and Will Ospreay.
Taven further cemented his status as one of the best wrestlers in the world by going a full 60 minutes with then-ROH World Champion Lethal at ROH’s 17th Anniversary show in March. With that performance, anyone not taking Taven seriously because of his silly conspiracy theories and fake title belt had to admit that he was world champion material. Taven winning the ROH World Title at G1 Supercard and becoming just the second Grand Slam champion in ROH history almost seemed inevitable.
However, since capturing the title and finally earning the right to call himself the real world champion, Taven has once again given plenty of ammunition to the naysayers.
On paper, his reign thus far appears to be an overwhelming success. In his title defenses, Taven has scored pinfall victories over Flip Gordon, Mark Haskins and the previously undefeated PCO. But anyone who has watched those matches knows all of them ended in controversy.
Taven relied on a tried and true tactic (more like tired and true, actually) to defeat Gordon, as Vinny Marseglia hid under the ring and released his red balloons to distract Gordon right when the challenger had all the momentum.
Against Haskins, Taven took advantage of a distraction from Bully Ray to deliver a low blow, which made Haskins vulnerable to Taven’s Climax finishing move. Taven stooped to a new low against PCO, as he resorted to taking Marseglia’s ax and a metal spike to PCO’s one good eye to save his title.
#ROHWOTW TORONTO RECAP!
WATCH @shane216taylor BECOME THE NEW @ringofhonor WORLD TELEVISION CHAMPION!
PLUS... #ROH WORLD CHAMPION @MattTaven vs @PCOisNotHuman!!
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— ROH Wrestling (@ringofhonor) May 16, 2019
Something good did come as a result of those matches, however. The ROH Board of Directors has banned Kingdom members Marseglia and TK O’Ryan from ringside during all of Taven’s title defenses going forward.
Not only will that restore integrity to the title, but it forces Taven to rely on his considerable in-ring ability rather than taking the easy way out. Taven has shown that he has the talent to be ROH World Champion. Now he will have to prove that he’s truly worthy of the honor.
Klein Is Putting The Honor In Women Of Honor
When Klein won the WOH World Title the first time, in a four-way elimination match at Final Battle in December, she couldn’t possibly have been more impressive. Klein pinned Karen Q, Madison Rayne and inaugural champion Sumie Sakai in succession to end Sakai’s 251-day reign.
Klein, who was arrogant as she was dominant, figured to be champion for a long time. Less than two months later, however, Klein lost the title to Iwatani. And then she lost her rematch with Iwatani a month after that.
It was after the second loss to Iwatani that Klein underwent a noticeable transformation. For the first time, we saw her begin to doubt herself. She questioned if she was really as good as she thought she was.
Klein knew that if she didn’t beat Iwatani for the title at G1 Supercard, it would be a long time before she got another championship opportunity. Rather than vowing to win by any means necessary, however, Klein wanted to defeat Iwatani in honorable fashion.
That’s why Klein sent her team, Camp Klein, to the back before the opening bell sounded. Klein had used interference from her team members to win matches in the past, but she wanted Iwatani -- and everyone watching -- to know that she was sincere about doing it on her own.
It wasn’t a swerve to lull Iwatani into a false sense of security. There were no other tricks up Klein’s sleeve. She won because she was the better woman that night.
— Women of Honor (@Women_of_Honor) May 3, 2019
Klein clearly is taking her responsibilities as the face of the women’s division and a role model seriously. She has made it clear that she will defend the title against anyone who wants an opportunity, and she will defend the integrity of the women’s division against anyone -- The Allure, specifically -- who try to undermine it.
Moreover, her arrogance has been replaced by confidence, and glaring at her opponent before the opening bell and refusing to adhere to the Code of Honor has been replaced by Klein extending her hand to her opponent before and after the match.
In other words, Kelly Klein is exactly the type of champion Matt Taven should aspire to be.
Kevin Eck is a veteran pro wrestling journalist who has worked for The Baltimore Sun, WWE and WCW before joining ROHWrestling.com.