Joey Matthews: A Prospect Turned Stooge
Fourteen years ago, Joey Matthews was a top prospect for the fledging promotion Extreme Championship Wrestling. For the final handful of months that ECW existed, Matthews provided a spark to the tag team scene with partner Christian York. Their rise in the company was clear, but never was able to become a reality with the company going out of business in January 2001.
A year later Matthews started to compete for the startup company Ring of Honor. While Joey wouldn’t accomplish much for the company, he was back in the spotlight. Matthews really found his niche and got pushed hard in the Philadelphia based company Pro-Pain Pro Wrestling (3PW) where he competed from 2002 to late 2004.
While with 3PW, Matthews was presented as the top heel in the company and briefly led a stable involving Matt Striker and Rob Eckos (aka Robbie E in TNA). Matthews would be put into matches against top independent wrestlers Low Ki, AJ Styles and Jerry Lynn. Matthews surprised many by not only holding his own in the ring with these stars, but coming out the winner as well.
On April 17th, 2004, Matthews was able to achieve the biggest win of his career when he won the 3PW Heavyweight Championship from Raven, who was a main event star for TNA. Matthews held the championship for four months before losing the title to Christopher Daniels. By the end of the year, Matthews would be gone from the independents and training to become a character on national television.
By the end of 2004, Matthews was signed by the WWE, officially, and worked for the development company Ohio Valley Wrestling. He formed a tag team with Tough Enough winner John Henngian known as MNM. They would have a female manager named Melina. Their gimmick was that as guys who were famous and were led to the ring with a bunch of paparazzi. The team caught fire quickly as they won the OVW Southern Tag Team Championships on November 14th , 2004. They held the championships until January 19th, 2005 where they lost to the Thrillseekers in what was a highly popular feud.
It wouldn’t take long for the team to be called up to the Smackdown brand for the WWE. The group made their debut shortly after WrestleMania 21 and won the WWE Tag Team Championships in their debut match defeating Eddie Guerrero and Rey Mysterio. Matthews stock in the company and in wrestling had never been higher.
At the time, Matthews was seen as the veteran leading the rookie Nitro. It makes me wonder how far Johnny Nitro would have really gone without Joey Matthews.
They’d lose the titles to the new Legion of Doom in July, but regained them in October only to lose again to Batista and Rey Mysterio in December. Two weeks later, MNM won the belts for the third time in eight months. Their third and final reign would be their longest reign. Brian Kendrick and Paul London dethroned MNM on May 21st 2006 to start their historic title reign that would last three hundred and thirty one days.
Anyway, back to Matthews. The downward spiral for Matthews came to public light after the loss as Nitro and Melina turned on him to go to RAW and start a singles career. Matthews had actually been suspended for a failed wellness test.
Six months later, Matthews returned for a brief MNM reunion but suffered a career altering injury at Armageddon 2006 when a ladder literally smashed Joey’s face. The injury caused Matthews to develop an addiction to pain killers and would lose his job by March 2007 thanks to an intervention by his boss, Vince McMahon.
Despite the injury and losing a high paying job, Matthews stayed busy on the independents. He briefly reformed his tag team with longtime friend Christian York losing to the Motor City Machine Guns at an AAW event on September 29th, 2007. During the time, Matthews had wrestled matches with the likes of Alex Shelley, Brother Runt, Tyler Black (Seth Rollins) and Too Cold Scorpio.
I personally followed his time during the Scorpio feud which was taking place in Pro Wrestling Unplugged. Matthews wasn’t able to claim the PWU Heavyweight Championship from Scorpio but was presented as a top heel. His work was recognized and was hired by Ring of Honor a second time.
Matthews joined ROH’s top heel faction the Age of the Fall for a brief time but was the jobber of the group. Shortly after, Matthews retired from professional wrestling.
That retirement lasted two years before returning to the WWE to be part of the Straight Edge Society that was led by CM Punk. Matthews was put under a mask when he made his debut at Extreme Rules on April 25th, 2010. He was unmasked by Big Show on July 23rd.
After suffering a torn pectoral muscle, Matthews would be off television until recently when he became a security guy for the Authority along with Jamie Noble. Matthews is essentially a modern day stooge.
I felt the felt the need to show people that Matthews is a rather talented performer who was at one point the hottest act in WWE. Yeah, MNM was that good.
I’ve noticed more and more that fans are ripping on Matthews and Noble. I’d imagine they are more casual fans than diehards. I mean, to try and say that Noble isn’t talented, that’s just ridiculous statement.
Matthews talent and ability seems to have become a forgotten about by many wrestling fans. The once top prospect is much more than a stooge, it’s just a matter of the WWE wanting to allow Matthews to shine one last time.