ATLANTA — For the record, the defense of the Ring of Honor World tag team championships by OGK — Matt Taven and Mike Bennett — in the National Wrestling Alliance was arranged before ROH announced that the company was going on hiatus after Final Battle on December 11.

Sitting down backstage with at the Georgia Public Broadcasting center in Atlanta, where the NWA was shooting four days of television, December 3-6, it was evident that, regardless of what happens in the future — including at Final Battle where the ROH tag titles are on the line against the Briscoes — it’s evident that Taven and Bennett will remain pals.

Capturing their unique friendship is best done by just offering up a transcript of their free-wheeling conversation.

It started off my discussing what looked like blood on the table, which may or may not have been blood from an angle Sal Rinauro did during an NWA Powerrr taping. That was a starting off point, since Rinauro had been an ROH guy years ago.

OLIVER: But that’s the nature of the business, isn’t it? That you meet people along the way, coming up, coming down.

TAVEN: Sideways.

OLIVER: And you’ve just gotta be nice to everybody, right?

TAVEN: A lesson that is hard to grasp when you’re younger, because you’re like, ‘Get out of my way!’

BENNETT: ‘Move it!’

TAVEN: And when you’re my age, you’re like, ‘Oh, was I a dick?’ I hope I was okay.

BENNETT: I hope I wasn’t mean. I think it’s you constantly hear people tell you, ‘Be kind to people on your way up because you’ll need them on your way down.’ And like, I don’t think anything has come to fruition more than that over the past two years for me, because it’s like you get fired twice in two years. But it really is people like Matt and then like Delirious, the booker of Ring of Honor was a first person who sent me a DM — just just a kissy face after I got released from WWE. And it was like one of those things where, only in wrestling does that make sense. But I took that as like, ‘I got you.’ It’s one of those things like I was always cool with Delirious and cool with everybody, because I always was taught to treat everyone the same. And then when s— hits the fan, it’s like, they’re there to catch me. And it’s so true. It really is.

TAVEN: It was like, ‘Mike, how you guys doing?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘All right. When do you want to come in?’

BENNETT: Yeah, exactly.

OLIVER: Was that sort of how you got here too?

TAVEN: This is more of like connections that we made along the way. You know, Billy [Corgan] had done stuff with Ring of Honor. Obviously Billy and Mike had done stuff. I’m the biggest Billy Corgan fan of all time. I don’t think he knows this though.

BENNETT: He explained it to me all last night in the hotel.

TAVEN: I’m giving a Behind the Music of The Smashing Pumpkins.

BENNETT: And I’m like, ‘You’re like diehard Smashing Pumpkins?’ And he’s like, ‘Oh, you have no idea.’

TAVEN: I’m like a dog that wants to run like off leash every time I see Billy Corgan and I’m trying to maintain my composure.

OLIVER: That’s part of celebrity, isn’t it? There’s people that feel like that around you.

TAVEN: Pffft. By God, if anyone does, I’d be like, why? But not even that. Of course you meet a bunch of people, you meet your idols along the way. Sometimes they say don’t met your idols.

BENNETT: And sometimes it’s true.

TAVEN: Of course, but I can vividly remember the first Smashing Pumpkins album. Some people are like, ‘It’s like the first time I heard the Beatles.’ When I first heard The Smashing Pumpkins like, ‘Okay, I understand what I like about music.’ And then you meet him, and he’s such …

BENNETT: He’s awesome.

TAVEN: He’s every bit as cool as you ever imagined he would be. And you’re like, ‘Okay, how do I get that cool?’ Yeah. No more arms in my jackets anymore.

OLIVER: What I love is that he really does love wrestling. I’ve met him at the Cauliflower Alley Club, so he feels like he’s part of the business.

BENNETT: That’s what we loved about him at Impact — maybe it was TNA at the time, I don’t remember — but it was one of those things where, like when all this crap was hitting the fan — and I don’t want to say anything negative about anybody, because like everyone was really fighting back then — but like, the whole locker room was kind of being pulled towards Billy because of how much he loved wrestling and how much he respected us. He always used to say, ‘The biggest asset of TNA right now is the locker room” and we were all just like, we knew how much he loved it, we knew how much he cared about us. We would all gravitate towards him. And that’s like when we could come here, I was like, I know, by being at Impact what Billy’s mind is for wrestling. You have to respect that and love it. He loves it like we love it.

TAVEN: He loves wrestling so much that I’ve never talked to him about music and I want to desperately, but I know that’s not what he wants to talk about. He wants to talk wrestling. So I like just slotted in every once in a while, like the Chris Farley show, ‘Remember that time you did that? It was awesome.’ I don’t even have a question.

BENNETT: I’m usually like, ‘Alright, man, we’ve gotta plan this match. Come on, stop it. You’re irritating the boss.’

TAVEN: I’m like, ‘Look at him. No, he’s so tall.’

OLIVER: So how does this locker room, since it’s your first NWA time, compare to Ring of Honor’s locker room? Are they similar?

TAVEN: You know, it’s weird because like, you wonder what other locker rooms are going to be like because, me personally, I’ve been Ring of Honor for 10 years. It became this family and you knew what you’re getting into every time. And then we came here and I didn’t really know what we were jumping into, but this locker room is so good that I feel like I’m right back home. It feels like nothing’s really changed, it’s just the faces have changed a little bit. But I think the mentality and just how everyone here supports one another, is what makes it feel like Ring of Honor.

BENNETT: Yeah, it’s definitely that cohesive unit feeling, and that feeling at WWE, you get zero trust. Ring of Honor and here? We get all the trust. … Like I said, Billy knew at Impact that it was the talent that was the asset. And that’s the vibe you get here. It’s like, ‘No, you’re not replaceable. It’s not it’s not like we can just plug Wrestler A in your spot. You are here for a reason.’ And like that’s very similar to how Ring of Honor was.

TAVEN: Definitely.

OLIVER: And you’re working with new agents, so that’s been kind of interesting? You pick some different brains?

TAVEN: Well, it’s funny, because Mike’s worked with a lot of the agents here. But at the same time, it’s like Simon Diamond, Raven, and Homicide. I’m like, ‘You want to talk about your matches?’

BENNETT: Yeah, exactly. I was lucky enough to work with with with Simon Diamond over at Impact and he was one of my favorite agents over there. He was the one who emailed me and I was like, ‘What? We’re back again? This is amazing.’ I would hang out with him and Al Snow at catering, and they were like an old married couple bickering. They’d always look at me, and I’m like, ‘Can you guys just get married and be done with it?’ But Homicide, I’ve known forever, and I’ve wrestled Homicide — so just the respect I have for him. And Raven? That was the first time I’ve ever met him was last night, and he was our agent. It’s cool. To me, as a guy who grew up watching Raven and doing all this cool stuff, sometimes I take a step back, and I’m like, ‘This is cool. This is really neat.’

TAVEN: I don’t think Simon appreciates every time if I asked him if he has a problem or not. He’s like, ‘Alright, I get it. You’re a fan.’ ‘But can you say it one more time?’

BENNETT: Put your hand on your chin.

TAVEN: When you critique me, do the pose.

BENNETT: Let me think about it.

OLIVER: [NWA World champion] Trevor [Murdoch] brought over the belt and put it in front of Madusa and looked around, and said, ‘There’s no garbages here, right?

TAVEN: Yeah, exactly. Yes. I love it.

OLIVER: There’s all these little things that happen back behind the scenes that the fans don’t see. The Forbidden Doors is the term used these days, but it sort of explains how you guys are continuing on as Ring of Honor champions. Here you are in the NWA. The world is full of opportunities now with the hiatus.

TAVEN: Definitely. I mean, even before everything kind of came down the pipe at Ring of Honor, we had this set up, and that was because of the Ring of Honor/NWA relationship and how both companies really felt like crossing talent over would be the best for not only them, but like the guys and girls. It’s something that obviously we were able to take advantage of at the right time. And now we’re fortunate to be here because of it. But hopefully, more Ring of Honor guys we will see here in the NWA.

BENNETT: I don’t know, I think it’s one of those things where it’s really sad what’s going on with Ring of Honor, like the elephant in the room. It sucks. And we can not admit that it sucks. But I’m an optimist. And I try to be an optimist. And I try to find silver linings in anything and I say this to Matt all the time.

TAVEN: Because I’m not an optimist.

BENNETT: It’s one of those things, Ring of Honor’s going on a hiatus or whatever the hell’s going to happen, nobody knows. But also I say to Matt, like, ‘We’re in a great position. Ring of Honor has put us in a great position, we’re going to go kill it with the Briscoes. Then we get to come here and be at NWA. then who the hell knows where else we can go because the world is wide open. I feel like, with what we’ve been able to do over the years, it gives us a slight edge. And it’s like really cool to see like, we could go win the tag belts here and then go show up in Impact or New Japan, because the world is wide open. And who the hell knows, maybe we keep the Ring of Honor World Tag Team Titles and we’re just going to defend them wherever we go. It’s just wide open and I think it’s really cool to see. Something’s going to come of this, and I think something big is gonna happen, I think but I’m an optimist, so I always say there’s got to be a silver lining.

TAVEN: I just call Mike and I say, ‘Talk me down.’ I need help right now.

OLIVER: But you guys can see yourself staying together and keep tagging.

TAVEN: It’s it’s one of those things where five years apart didn’t take a moment away from our continuity.


TAVEN: He talks talks about Hunter [Hunter Johnston, aka Delirious] DMing him and we were kind of plotting for the last five years for this moment. So it was like, ‘Okay, let’s get right back on the horse. ,

BENNETT: But I don’t think either of us are naïve in the fact that we both went off and did our own things …

TAVEN: Of course.

BENNETT: … as singles. I always say, I consider The Kingdom like The Avengers. We come together when we need each other to go kill the tag team scene and then Maria will show up and whatever. But Matt’s a former Ring of Honor World champ. I’m not going to be like, ‘We have to do this and you’re not going to go be a champ.’ He had a singles match tonight.

ROH World champion Matt Taven.

TAVEN: CMLL champ, let’s not forget.

BENNETT: 24/7 champion if we’re going to throw everything in …

TAVEN: X Division.

BENNETT: X Division. But it’s one of those things where like, he did the tag match, and we’re both going to root each other on because we support each other. We’re family. If he goes on and becomes AEW World champion, NWA Champion, I’ll be right back there when he comes through the curtain to cheer him on. I know the feeling’s mutual and then when we need to be tag champs, we’ll go kill it that way. That’s just how we operate.

OLIVER: You’re facing the Briscoes at Final Battle which may or may not be the final Ring of Honor show. We don’t know that, and it’s out of our hands, everybody’s hands really. But is there a better opponent that better defines Ring of Honor than the Briscoes?

TAVEN: The Briscoes are Ring of Honor. You open up page one, it’s the Briscoes, you open up the last page, it’s the Briscoes. So it’s one of those things where I feel honored, no pun intended, that this is the way that it could be the end. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I would be disappointed if it wasn’t OGK and the Briscoes. We always bring out the absolute best in one another. Like me and Michael always talked about it. There’s an animal rage that comes over us.

BENNETT: It’s ridiculous.

TAVEN: When we’re across the ring from the Briscoes. I mean, right here in Atlanta, it was me, Mike, Maria and Cole until eight in the morning. We literally almost missed my flight because I was getting six staples in my head from a match with the Briscoes. The whole Kingdom’s sleeping in the waiting room on top of one another.

BENNETT: We went to IHOP or Denny’s while he was still bloody, way before he got stiches.

TAVEN: My brains popping out of my skull and I’m like, ‘No, I’ll have the skillet.’

BENNETT: ‘Is he okay? ‘He’s fine. Don’t worry about it. We’re going to take care of him.’

TAVEN: Nothing encapsulates the kind of camaraderie that we have with one another more because, like, we’ll always be there for one another. And it’s like when we see each other, it’s like nothing’s ever changed. So for what could be the end, you look at it as a mixed bag. Could this open up other doors where more pieces of The Kingdom come back together? Could this be the end? I don’t know. I know we’ll always stick together. If this is the end, there’s no other team I would pick besides the Briscoes.

BENNETT: They’re the Briscoes, they’re day one, team one, they are Ring of Honor. And what they did for me and Taven, it’s one of those things.

TAVEN: They put us on the map.

The Kingdom (Michael Bennett and Matt Taven) with Maria Kanellis at Final Battle 2015. Photo by George Tahinos,

BENNETT: Yeah, they put us on the map, and I feel like I’d be remised if I didn’t say this too, though. Maria always gives the Briscoes credit for giving her credibility too. Because at the time, she was the stupid diva coming to Ring of Honor and she was trying to change that perception to legitimate manager Maria Kanellis. The Briscoes gave her that platform to treat her like a legitimate threat. And here’s these two redneck badass boys from Sandy Fork, Delaware, giving Maria Kanellis the respect of like, ‘Oh s—, this girl’s nothing to f— with.’ Pardon my language. It’s one of those things where like she says, there’s exact moment she was in the ring, I think it was Tennessee, she was in the ring cutting a promo over Jay Briscoe after we laid him out. She talks about ‘Jay Briscoe laying down and allowing me to stand over him was a moment I’ll never forget.’ That’s what they did for us and that’s the Briscoes I want people to remember. If this was my last match ever, I’d be okay with it, because it’s the Briscoes, Ring of Honor, Final Battle. There’s nothing better.

OLIVER: It’s funny though, because we associate them so much with Ring of Honor, and then to see them go out and get the GCW tag belts, it just feels weird.

BENNETT: It’s a totally different landscape.

TAVEN: I think they’ll always wear the ROH banner on their backs, but the Briscoe Brothers are one of the most talented teams ever, of all time, period. So the fact that they’re getting out there is no surprise because, who wouldn’t want the Briscoes on their show?

BENNETT: They’re the best.

OLIVER: So going forward, you guys are outside of Ring of Honor, you’re ready to go off and do your own merch and all that kind of stuff. That’s part of the business. The hustle changes when you’re not under the umbrella.

TAVEN: It’s so funny, but at the same time, it’s not anything new for me and Mike. Mike and I met on the independents in the Northeast, hustling, selling T-shirts selling 8x10s, counting every dollar. I remember one time we were trying to get to an indie show, and thank God there was a hill that the building was at the bottom of, because we would have not made it, because we were about to run out of gas. Those are the times you remember more than anything. You’re eating tuna fish sandwiches, and just trying to make sure you can pay rent or whatever the case may be. So when we get thrown back in the situation, you’ve just got to get back on that horse and now we’re older and wiser and we kind of know the game a little bit more and we know how to take every moment and make the most of it. And that’s kind of what we’re starting to do right now. I mean, obviously it’s a change of pace, but at the same time, not anything that we’re fearful of, for sure.

BENNETT: In like a weird, a weird way getting fired twice, the first time prepared me for the second time. And it’s one of those things where, because a lot of the guys at Ring of Honor did the indies, they feel like now they’re going to be thrown back in and they’re starting back at square one. And I try to tell people, ‘You’re not going to start at square one, you’ve already built the foundation and your foundation is solid.’ So when we start, we have no foundation. So we build that foundation. But you build that foundation, now you’re in this beautiful house, the house crumbles that foundation, you don’t go back down to the dirt, you stay at that foundation and build again and then build again. And I try to tell people that, ‘You’re smarter, you’re wiser, you’re more experienced, you have a name to yourself, you have now elevated yourself to a different level.’ So yes, you fall back to the indie, but you’re at a higher tier, if that makes sense. You can now build up. It’s not, ‘Oh, crap, we fell down. We’ve got to start all over again.’ It’s now take all those tools that we had from Ring of Honor, WWE, Impact, New Japan, and go out there. And I think it makes it less scary is this time. It makes it less of the unknown, because you’re like, ‘Alright, I know this stuff.’

OLIVER: So I was talking to the medic [at the venue for the NWA taping] at some point and he’d never been into the wrestling scene at all. ‘What is this? he asked me. And I was trying to explain everything to him. I tried using a baseball analogy…

TAVEN: One hell of a weekend for him to start. Holy moly.

OLIVER: Until tonight, I think this is the first blood he’s seen. But it’s like, it’s not the major leagues here, but it’s not Triple A ball.


OLIVER: There’s guys who’ve been in the big leagues, and there’s guys who are going to be in the big leagues. And yet, this is like a huge happy family, like the team in Bull Durham with all the fans, everyone goes home happy.

BENNETT: It’s definitely the vibe here, too. I think that’s what I like the most about it. It’s like you said, it’s not like we’re all selling out 20,000 [seat] arenas here, but we’re also not selling out a flea market either. And it’s this idea that if you can find that balance and be happy with your work, when you don’t have to give up your creativity, I think that’s what this place represents. And that was what Ring of Honor always represented

TAVEN: Another baseball reference. It’s like if you build it, they’ll come.

BENNETT: Exactly.

TAVEN: Who knows what this could end up being, and they’re building something that’s so cool and unique. It’s like, ‘Hey, I kind of want to see where this goes.’

BENNETT: And it’s it’s one of those things, too, with legitimate stars. I hate this idea that everyone is always like, ‘They’re just-released WWE guys.’ No, they released them because they didn’t know what to do with them, because they’re idiots and stupid. Like, I’m sorry, but it’s true.

TAVEN: For the record, I didn’t say that.

BENNETT: Taven didn’t say it, Mike Bennett said it. You quote it, ‘Mike Bennett said WWE is dumb and stupid.’ You see these guys be successful, and it’s like, they are stars. They just need the opportunity to be the stars,

OLIVER: Or in some cases, they built it themselves. So I’m sitting here with Matt Cardona, he did his YouTube thing, and all of a sudden he’s noticed, and then you get pushed down.


The Dirty Sexy Boys are JTG and Dirty Dango.

OLIVER: And Fandango is the same thing. You can see him be more himself out there tonight.

TAVEN: So dirty. So dirty out there.

OLIVER: You want to know where that’s going, maybe not all the way.

TAVEN: I will watch every moment of that, that’s for sure.

BENNETT: And I think at the end of the day, at least for me, it’s like, you’ve got to be happy doing this job, because it’s taxing and it kills you, and it destroys you. You’re gone and you’re on the road. You’ve just got to be happy. This isn’t like, ‘Oh, I’m going to go and work a retail job.’ We are physically killing our bodies. I got to the point, where like I ask myself  ‘Why am I doing it if I’m not happy?’ It doesn’t make sense. I could go make the same money somewhere else and not be crippled, you know? So you’ve got to be happy doing it.

TAVEN: Such is life.

OLIVER: Right. And some of the guys here have regular jobs. That’s the NWA, right?


OLIVER: For every Jennacide who has a real job and does this on weekends…

Jennacide … proving robots work too.

TAVEN: Does she really? I thought she was a robot. Does she wear that face paint at work? Because I would love itif I ever went to any job and someone was wearing that awesome of face paint, I’d be like, ‘I’m staying. If casual Friday’s like this, I’ll stay.’

OLIVER: There’s a mix, right?

BENNETT: Yeah, absolutely. Again, it’s finding your happiness and finding your balance and what works for you.

TAVEN: And happiness is subjective for everyone. You know what I mean? People think you have to get to this point to be happy, and it’s like, I know so many people that have gotten to that point and are completely miserable.

OLIVER: For the record, Mike raised his hand.

TAVEN: For the record, not me.

BENNETT: Not Taven, Mike Bennett raised his hand.

TAVEN: Cut that, cut that.

OLIVER: It’s going to be awesome seeing what happens on Final Battle, who shows up. That’s part of it, the mystery.

BENNETT: Always.

OLIVER: The whole length of Ring of Honor being around and because there’s a forbidden door. You really could have CM Punk show up.


OLIVER: You just don’t know and I’m sure they haven’t told you everything.

BENNETT: Pfft. No.

TAVEN: They don’t tell me anything.

BENNETT: Yeah, we don’t know anything.

OLIVER: It’s Saturday, right?

BENNETT: The 11th.

TAVEN: Did I get my flight yet? Just kidding.

BENNETT: Are we even going?

TAVEN: Am I here, or I am there?

BENNETT: I think it’ll be an awesome show. It’s so bittersweet because it’s Final Battle. It’s going to be in front of fans. You know all eyes are going to be on Ring of Honor that night, so it’s going to be rocking and rolling. And you’re like, the Briscoes, Final Battle, we’re going go kill it, but then you’re just like, uh…

TAVEN: I see it as a big New Year’s party. Like, we’re gonna celebrate the end of this stuff in the past? And who knows what the next year might come — and you never know who shows up a New Year’s party.

BENNETT: Exactly.

TAVEN: Homebodies come out of the woodwork.

BENNETT: Just sing, ‘Should auld acquaintance be forgot…’

TAVEN: I’m sure there’ll be laughs, there’ll be tears, probably maybe some blood — hopefully not me. I kind of feel like I got all my tears out already, and I’m going into Final Battle as a big celebration of just everything Ring of Honor has ever done for me.

OLIVER: Trust is what you need out there in the ring.

BENNETT: Absolutely.

TAVEN: 1,000 percent.

BENNETT: It’s an important thing who you tell your story too or who you tell your emotions to.

TAVEN: Of course.

BENNETT: You trust them to tell people how you’re feeling.

TAVEN: Sometimes, you’ll do these and then you’ll see the headline on the article. Like, ‘That’s not what I said.’ Say it in context.

BENNETT: I just saw an article today, someone was like, ‘Mike Bennett shoots on Triple H.’ That was the interview I said all nice things about Triple H.’

TAVEN: You were shooting.

BENNETT: I was like, ‘He was always wonderful to me and like respected me.’ I loved him.

TAVEN: ‘Mike Bennett says nice things about Triple H,’ no one clicks on that one.

BENNETT: No one’s clicking on that one.

OLIVER: It’s the way of the “media” business, and “media” is in quotes, because half of them who run those articles aren’t trained or anything. I’ve been doing this 35 years, went to journalism school, I’ve done 17 books and stuff. So some know what they’re doing?

TAVEN: I don’t think I’ve read that many books. I’m kidding. Cut that, cut that, cut that.

BENNETT: Mike Bennett said he didn’t read that many books.

TAVEN: I repeat.

OLIVER: I’m here partly because I’m doing Madusa’s book, because she’d never done this producing, agenting thing before.

TAVEN: You wouldn’t be able to tell.

BENNETT: Yeah, she’s good at it.

TAVEN: She’s got a great grasp of it.

OLIVER: But she was a little worried that she wouldn’t be accepted and this and that. She’s also kind of the world’s changed, that men listen to women more.

BENNETT: Hell yeah.

TAVEN: Especially badass ones that could probably beat the hell out of us.

BENNETT: I mean, I don’t remember ever a time when Maria mentioned a spot in the match or anything where the guys didn’t listen to her, or didn’t respect her. And I think that was another growing experience that Maria was like, ‘This is why I like Ring of Honor’ — like the Briscoes would listen. She would willingly offer herself to get superkicked or to get Styles Clashed.

TAVEN: She took a super a triple super kick one time in Philly. I was like, ‘That’s it, it’s over. We’ll have to go right to the hospital.’

BENNETT: She’s still kicking.

TAVEN: She’s still kicking. You can’t stop her. She’s a mom. She’s like, ‘I can do anything.’

BENNETT: With perfect hair.

TAVEN: Aw, so jealous.

OLIVER: Well, guys, this has been awesome. It’s way better to do it in person. It’s way better than on the phone..

BENNETT: Yes, absolutely.

TAVEN: Definitely. I think my jokes come out and land better.

BENNETT: So much better. On the phone, Taven’s like, ‘Why aren’t you laughing?’

TAVEN: Yeah, I’m like, ‘You alright?’ I wrote down a bunch of stuff I was gonna hit you with, so buckle up.

OLIVER: You can see the way you guys get alone.

BENNETT: We’re best buddies, like legit and I tell everyone that — we’re best friends, we’re brothers.

TAVEN: We always say how like, we’ve never been in a real fight with one another. We’ve disagreed.

BENNETT: Yeah, strongly.

TAVEN: Yeah, but we’ve never been in an actual fight. We’re like, ‘Alright, I get it.’

BENNETT: ‘All right, whatever.’

TAVEN: ‘Yeah, I think maybe this…’

BENNETT: Or it just goes, ‘I don’t agree. But f—, whatever.’

TAVEN: ‘Whatever, want to get food?’

BENNETT: There’s never like this, ‘Oh, we hate each other.’

TAVEN: It’s weird. I hope that never happens.

BENNETT: I hope it stays that way. We’ve just got to take periodic five-year breaks and we’ll be good.

TAVEN: Geez, I don’t know if I have that many five-year breaks left in me.

OLIVER: It’s the idea that you come back to where people were before. Fandango was saying he used to live with Mike Knox. Little things like that.

BENNETT: I’ve known Fandango since I was 16 years old. We used to wrestle in New England together. When I got to WWE, he was the first person, he ran out of the locker room, saw Maria and was like, ‘Hi, Maria, is your husband here?’ Because I hadn’t seen him in like 10 years. And then to see him on the indies now is like amazing.

TAVEN: It’s so funny. Dango was just getting signed as I was getting into the New England indy scene. And then when he saw me doing extra work at WWE, he was like, ‘Matt Taven, huh?’ It was like, ‘What? He knows me?’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, I still keep track of everything going on up there.’ I was like, ‘Want to talk about about everything cool I’m doing?’

OLIVER: ‘Put me over.’

TAVEN: He put me over.

OLIVER: My favorite one was, I came off the elevator at the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame induction weekend, at the hotel, and Bruno Sammartino goes, ‘Hey, Greg.’

BENNETT: Yeah, that’s the best right? ‘You know my name?’

TAVEN: You’re like, today’s the last day. Not gonna top this one. I’ve hit the pinnacle.’

BENNETT: The first time I met Edge, he was at a wrestling convention I was at and I was like, ‘I gotta go say hi to him.’ I was like, ‘Hey, I’m Mike.’ And he’s like, ‘So, you’re the one who thinks about my theme song every time you give a spear!’ And I was like, ‘Oooooh my God.’ But then he’s the coolest dude and we just became buddies. I’m like, ‘What is life?’

TAVEN: Yeah, I wasn’t jealous about that at all.

OLIVER: I have a notepad at home it says, ‘Sexton Hardcastle, could be good if roof was higher.’ So I watched him in a bar.

TAVEN: That’s amazing. ‘Could be good if roof was higher.’ Aw, hat’s the best description ever. A lot of potential, low roofs, cut his legs off under him.

OLIVER: He was always a tall guy. So I’ve known him a long time.

BENNETT: He’s just the nicest.

TAVEN: The name Sexton needs to come back.


TAVEN: Sexton Hardcastle was …

OLIVER: Thug Life, with Christian and Rhino and Bill Skullion. They have this little manager up in Detroit called Handsome Johnny Bradford. And he’s deaf.

Thug Life, clockwise from top left, Joe Legend, Handsome Johnny Bradford, Sexton Hardcastle, Christian Cage, Rhino Richards.


OLIVER: Yeah, the manager’s deaf.

TAVEN: Whoa, I need to see that.

BENNETT: Yeah, absolutely.

TAVEN: I know they brought them all together, but they should have brought the whole package.

OLIVER: This is a a great business. Thanks for a great interview.

BENNETT: Absolutely.

TAVEN: Thank you, man, anytime.

BENNETT: Thanks for caring what we have to say. I’m always amazed people are like, ‘I want to hear your story.’ I’m like, ‘Me? Why?’

TAVEN: Who cares. Like, I haven’t eaten all day.

OLIVER: You haven’t had any food?

TAVEN: Yeah. I had one slice of pizza and then yelled at my stomach for being so chubby. It’s like, ‘What have you done?’

OLIVER: Oh, man, I left and there’s a barbecue place — it’s not open tonight because I asked …

TAVEN: Way to rub it in.

BENNETT: How dare you? How dare you, sir.

OLIVER: It was spectacular.

TAVEN: The best barbecue I’ve ever had was in Atlanta.

BENNETT: Was that the is that the Ring of Honor stop. Remember the Ring of Honor stop?

TAVEN: That place was good, too. There was a hole in the wall that me and Dalton [Castle] found, and I was like, ‘This is better than anything I’ve had.’

BENNETT: I remember one, there was like a hole in the wall somewhere where you guys tried to get me to go and I was like, I don’t like barbecue. Tommaso I thought it was going to kill me. ‘What?’ I like it now, but I was young and stupid.

TAVEN: We had to get Mike out of his like normal eating habits.

BENNETT: I was so sheltered as a kid.

TOP PHOTO: Mike Bennett and Matt Taven on December 5, 2021, backstage at the NWA Powerrr tapings. Photo by Greg Oliver