After five years apart, Matt Taven and Mike Bennett are back together in Ring of Honor and ready to pick up where they left off.
Matt Taven and Mike Bennett’s reunion in Ring of Honor is one of the most uplifting stories in pro wrestling today.
The pair first teamed together in 2014 and have enjoyed considerable success. They are former New Japan IWGP tag champions, as well as Ring of Honor tag champs, traveling countless miles on the road together since their debut match as a team nearly seven years ago. And the past now meets the present as Taven and Bennett, known together as The OGK, challenge ROH tag champs Rhett Titus and Tracy Williams on this weekend’s edition of ROH Wrestling.
Before Bennett’s return to Ring of Honor in 2020, he and Taven hadn’t teamed up since 2015. The two grew even closer in their time apart, developing a nuanced sense of appreciation for one another in an industry where performers are not always afforded the opportunity to work with someone they respect, trust and admire.
“We’re extremely confident in what we can do together, and we get to show that in the match this weekend,” Taven says. “This is the beginning of our chance to flourish together. We’ve been waiting for this for five years. We’re two totally different people now, so it’s hard not to imagine what we can do together now that we’ve had all these different experiences on our own.”
The two took extremely different paths during their separate journeys. A torn ACL in December 2015 put Taven’s career in jeopardy but he recovered and returned with a vengeance. He had success with CMLL in Mexico and ultimately became the Ring of Honor champion at the heralded Madison Square Garden show in 2019.
The situation was entirely different for Bennett, who signed with TNA, making his debut in 2016 alongside his wife Maria Kanellis. He then joined WWE the following year under the name Mike Kanellis. His three years in WWE were not what he imagined, failing to meet the high standards he set for his career. Since his exit from WWE, Bennett has dedicated himself to proving that he remains an elite performer in the ring, which is on display when tagging with Taven.
“Mike’s been through so much,” Taven says. “He’s found a way to turn negatives into positives, and he’s so happy to be in Ring of Honor. He’s used everything that didn’t go his way to motivate himself. Mike’s himself again, and to me, that’s very inspiring.”
Taven and Bennett have a chance to showcase the type of wrestling present in Ring of Honor with their tag match against Titus and Williams. Titus has been a part of ROH for over a decade, and he is putting forth the most compelling work of his career. This is further amplified working beside Williams, one of the premier wrestlers currently performing in the industry. In addition to wrestling for the titles, Taven notes that this match is a chance to further enhance the meaning behind the tag team championship.
“This is a match I’m so proud of. It’s great wrestling and captures our personalities,” Taven says. “Mike is re-establishing his identity and showing why he’s one of the best wrestlers on the planet, and this is a great opportunity to define himself again as a wrestler.
“And the backbone of Ring of Honor is built on guys like Rhett Titus. He’s at the absolute best he’s ever been. His in-ring work is so unbelievably good. And Tracy is one of those guys that doesn’t have to say a word. He lets his art speak for itself, and he’s an unbelievable performer. I wish his TV title run was a little longer, but something tells me he’ll be a two-time champ before too long. We’ve never wrestled this team before, and you’re going to see the evolution of all four of us in the ring.”
Taven is now entering his prime. He will eventually accept a rematch for the ROH title, which he has yet to receive since dropping the title to Rush in September 2019. He is also on the inaugural card for the new Federación Wrestling promotion, which will have its debut show next month in Mexico. And while his feud with Vincent and The Righteous persists, Taven is grateful to once again place his name beside Bennett’s in the tag team ranks of professional wrestling.
“We have a lot to prove,” Taven says. “Both personally and professionally, I believe in Mike Bennett. He is one of the best wrestlers in the world, and this match is going to be a big eye-opener. This weekend, people will see that Mike Bennett is back.”
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Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.