Exclusive Interview With Matt Taven: '2019 Was The Best Year Of My Life'

By Kevin Eck

I caught up with former ROH World Champion Matt Taven to get his thoughts on winning ROH Wrestler of the Year and Match of the Year, his recovery from ankle surgery, his former friend Vincent, and more.

What does it mean to you to be voted ROH Wrestler of the Year by the fans?

Honestly, it’s a surprise and a very welcome one at that. Everyone knows I’ve had a long and storied history with fans loving me or hating me or loving to hate me, but after all my hard work this past year, to see it be recognized by being voted Wrestler of the Year by the fans truly is an accomplishment I put right up there with winning the World Title. Wrestler of the Year -- wow, thank you. It means the world to me. 

You've had your share of critics, but did you feel the tide start to turn in the ensuing months after you won the ROH World Title? It seemed even the fans who didn't necessarily like you gained respect for you.

Well, I still think I have a long way to go in my efforts to make everyone a believer, but I do think people started to realize that during the toughest period of this company’s history there was one man that held it together. There was one man that went out there every single night and made sure that if you spent your money on Ring of Honor you would get your money’s worth. I’m very proud of my title reign and the matches that I had against the variety of opponents put against me. I think history will look back on it fondly, will see the dedication I put into my craft and the pride that I have in this company.

The ladder match in which you won the title was voted Match of the Year. Can you reflect back on what that moment was like in front of a sellout crowd at Madison Square Garden?

Match of the Year as well, wow. It’s still hard to believe that it happened and that it’s now being recognized as the Match of the Year. The truth is that none of this -- MSG, title reign, Wrestler of the Year -- happens without [the 60-minute draw with Jay Lethal at] the Anniversary show in Las Vegas a month before.

But MSG still feels like a dream to me, still feels like a movie when I watch it, but there’s one picture, one scene, one moment that always sums up things for me. After winning the title, I look up at the screen and can see myself holding the ROH World Title and a giant banner that says “Madison Square Garden” behind me. At that moment there’s a smile that comes across my face that’s the most pure joyful happiness I’ve ever experienced.

The Matt Taven we saw at the beginning of 2019 was much different than the Matt Taven we saw at the end of the year in terms of attitude. Can you talk about how your mindset changed?

I think in life sometimes you fight so hard, sometimes the struggle seems like it will never end, that you develop this bitterness that almost defines you. When you are so wrapped up in trying to accomplish a goal that you feel has been robbed of you for so long, it’s hard to see the amount of support you have around you. After winning the title and seeing what it meant to not just me but so many other people, and especially after recent events with Vinnie, I am so appreciative of the ever-growing support that’s around me.

How difficult is to be sitting at home not competing as you recover from ankle surgery? Is there a timetable for your return?

Recovery is going good, but the hardest part is just not knowing. Currently I’m in a giant purple hard cast and cannot start physical therapy until it’s off. At that point there will be a clearer timeline for return, but in the meantime it’s just wait and see, which for someone who is ultra competitive like myself, is extremely hard to hear. But I’ve been watching everything very closely, as I plan to reclaim my spot at the top of the mountain as soon as I return from injury.

What are your thoughts on your former friend Vincent -- the man who put you on the shelf -- and his new entourage?

You mean balloon boy Vinnie? Yeah, every day that passes my hatred grows for him more and more. The more time I have to sit and realize little things, like the fact I confided in Vinnie months ago about my ankle bothering me. He knew I was running the risk every time I stepped in the ring of completely tearing the ligament and needing surgery. For him to be the reason why I am on the shelf right now is a tough pill to swallow, but he knows better than anyone that this is far, far from over. Isn’t it funny that the man that calls himself the “Horror King” has nightmares every night thinking about when I’m going to say, “I’mmmm Matt Taven, and I’m back.”

In closing, is there anything else you’d like to say to the fans?

Thank you. Thank you so much. Even with how it ended, 2019 was the best year of my life. It was because of all of you that 2019 was so great, and it’s because of all of you that I’ll be back in an ROH ring in 2020!