By Dedra Cordle, Columbus Messenger
Trik Nasty struggled to rise.
After an exhaustive battle with his opponent that featured the use of aluminum folding chairs, the wrestler ambled to his knees to try to locate his foe and finish him off.
As he got his bearings, two boot-cladded feet sliced through the air and met the back of his head. He was down for the count.
Having a long-standing rivalry with his opponent, Trik Nasty should have remembered who he was up against. Then again, “Darkstar” Matt Taylor has always been underestimated.
Matt Taylor’s rise to independent wrestling fame started at age 3 when he was prowling through the hallways of his westside home, waiting to ambush his unsuspecting family.
“I’ve known I wanted to be a wrestler since I became a little sturdier on the ground,” said Taylor, whose given name is Matt Romans.
Encouraged by his dad and older brother Justin, Romans grew up studying the moves and styles of iconic wrestlers of the WWE. While he imagined joining their ranks once he got older, it was a chance glimpse that brought him into the wrestling world much sooner than he once believed.
As he was watching public access television one day, a commercial promoting the International Wrestling Alliance (IWA) passed through his line of vision. Upon discovering that one of their facilities was nearby, he begged his parents to enroll him in their training academy. He was 13.
“In hindsight, that was way too young to be doing this,” he said laughing.
For the first few months at the academy, Romans learned the basics of the sport, which essentially meant he spent hours upon hours learning the proper way to fall down.
“We had to get that right before we could move onto the next step,” he said.
After mastering the art of falling down and some more beginner moves, he made his debut during one of their kid’s shows at 14. Though no footage is thought to exist of this match, he said he can remember the encompassing feeling of fear.
“I was a nervous wreck,” he said.
Despite his nerves getting the best of him, he did manage to make an impression on the adults who also trained at the academy.
“He was a natural,” said Donnie Hoover, a former wrestler who co-founded the Columbus-based organization, New Ohio Wrestling (NOW). “He really understood the sport and knew what it was all about.”
With a few matches under his belt, Romans said he contemplated joining the Franklin Heights High School wrestling team to incorporate some of that style into his ring performances. He ultimately decided against it.
“I was getting paid a little bit of money to wrestle at that point so I just walked away,” he said. “Now that I know learning that style would be beneficial to any wrestler, it was a stupid decision to make.”
Still, he started to excel at that stage and eventually joined the independent wrestling ranks after graduating in 2005 from the South-Western Career Academy.
Being a new face onto the regional scene, Romans was constantly underestimated by his older, more experienced opponents. He quickly cultivated a reputation for his determination to punish those who overlooked him.
“I was very obsessed with being the best,” he said.
Throughout the years, Romans has made his mark in the world of wrestling with his fierce, high-flying style. Hoover said even though his skill is what brings in the crowds to events, it is his personality in and out of the ring that makes him one of the greats.
“He’s a great athlete, a great kid and a great locker room leader,” he said.
Though wrestling has taken Romans to many locations throughout the Midwest region, he had never performed before a home crowd. But that changed on July 15 at the NOW 5 event in Grove City.
As a championship title holder in the Ohio Championship Wrestling organization, Romans is a marked man. The fact that he was going to be the main event in front of his current hometown just made the need to beat him even greater.
After an earlier ambush, Romans lay prone on the mat after being superplexed from the top rope onto a stack of aluminum folding chair. As his opponent swaggered around the ring, mocking the crowd of Darkstar supporters, Romans made a move to gain the upper hand.
Upon delivering a blow to Trik Nasty, he climbed onto the top rope and glanced at the crowd. He saw his brother, his sister-in-law, his sons, his partner and his friends cheering him on. He saw a group of strangers smiling, whistling and encouraging him to defeat his trash-talking opponent.
As he glanced back into the ring, he saw his long-time foe struggling to rise. He launched himself through the air, feet first. He never did care to be underestimated.