The Orange New Deal

Orange Cassidy
Credit: All Elite Wrestling/James Musselwhite

The world of professional wrestling has long been filled with superathletes, intimidating monsters, and energetic characters that seemingly leap off of our screens and capture our imagination. This array of vibrant and colorful costumes, fire & brimstone intensity on the mic, and larger than life personas make up the bread and butter of what is at heart a spectacle-based industry. Yet, if you’ve tuned into AEW Dynamite recently, there may be another type of competitor that’s caught your eye.

A seemingly weighed-down redhead in sunglasses and blue jeans with a matching denim jacket, he rolls into the ring under the bottom rope as if he resents the effort wrestling requires. Someone who is completely indifferent to the whirlwind of fists and fury surrounding him. Someone who meanders to the ring and counters his opponents’ righteous intensity with apathy and nonchalance that run just as deep. Someone who can’t be bothered to get too worked up by anything going on – hell, he can’t even be bothered to raise his thumb all the way up to the cheering crowd.

That someone goes by the name Orange Cassidy.

“The King of Sloth Style,” as he’s come to be known, Orange Cassidy has captivated both new and long-time fans with his too-cool-for-this antics since his AEW debut in 2019. And yet, we’ve seen him also display athletic marvels and get his hand raised at the end. In 2020 he’s been the key to several Best Friends victories, and has even pinned AEW greats like the Inner Circle’s Proud & Powerful. This walking contradiction is now about to face his biggest test to date as he heads for July’s Fyter Fest supercard to face the iconic Chris Jericho. As we stand here today, Cassidy is pound for pound one of the most purely entertaining wrestlers on the AEW roster. This upcoming match will provide him with a national spotlight to showcase why. As you’ll soon see, he’s gotten there by daring to be different.

Orange Cassidy nearly cripples Nick Jackson and Matt Jackson with these devestating superkicks #AEWDynamite

Posted by All Elite Wrestling on Friday, October 25, 2019

The first thing you need to know about Orange Cassidy is that that difference in tone and character is far from an accident. Spending his first years under a mask playing Fire Ant in Chikara, Cassidy worked closely with several people who would remain involved in his career, such as AEW running mate Chuck Taylor. As he gained experience, he began to stretch outside the long-running characters and story of Chikara and started stepping out on his own. He worked around several independent federations under his current name but without his now-famous disposition. He found himself one of many similarly athletic, and similarly generic, high fliers making the rounds. It reached a point where he wondered if success was in the cards for him at all.

“I was trying to be this cool indie wrestler and do all the cool moves,” he remarked to documentarian Ken Johnson about this time in his career. He took a step back and decided that if he wanted to make it, then he had to add another layer to his craft in order to stand out and connect with the crowd. “You know, I could do cool moonsaults, but there [were] other people doing moonsaults better than me.” He chose to focus on his favorite things about wrestling – characters, ongoing schticks, those things that make these souped up soap operas even more ecstatic. He ran with the idea that if he could lean into that and radiate how much fun he was having in the ring, there was a good chance “the people watching me are having fun too.”

OC as Chikara’s Fire Ant
Credit: Chikara

He was right. The connection began growing immediately once he upped the denim in his wardrobe while taking everything else (exertions, verboseness, thumb height) down multiple notches. With all the intensity and firebreathing on display nightly in the wrestling world, how on Earth did this guy take off – someone Cassidy himself described to Johnson as “a wrestler who doesn’t want to wrestle”? If he’s not super into being in this fight, why do we invest in it? What do people see and feel in this act, and why is it worth him sharing the ring with a legend?

I can tell you what I see: myself, you, and on a primal level everyone we know. Orange Cassidy feeds off and gives life to the impulses that exist in all of us – working only as hard as you have to, not giving a damn about anything you don’t need to, and walking around like you’re on nobody’s time but your own. We can’t all give into those thoughts every day, but it’s so easy to smile and be envious of someone who can. We’re able to feel like we’re one with them even if just for the 20 minutes they’re on our TV, or as we cheer from the crowd as you watch. During that time we’re ALL Kings and Queens of Sloth Style, and life can damn well wait for us to catch up – an infectious and universal notion. In this light, Orange Cassidy simultaneously appeals to the audience and enrages his opponents which neatly fulfills his job description.

But unlike some of the fun tricksters of wrestling’s past, it’s notable that for Orange Cassidy the fun doesn’t stop between bells. He doesn’t suddenly become a fire-breathing suplex machine once the action starts, which matters because it completely breaks up the standard match formula that people are used to. Change like this can be disorienting, but it can also take you to new places where you encounter sights never before seen. Watching Orange Cassidy wrestle, I legitimately have no idea what’s going to happen – while still comfortably knowing that it will leave me with a smile. That is a rare feeling in today’s age of spoilers and death-by-a-thousand-analyses, and every one of his matches is better for it.

No hands, dirty shoes, aerial service
Credit: Scott Lesh / All Elite Wrestling

In today’s world of gifs and social media summaries, it may seem like the best of Orange Cassidy can be found in short bursts of action. You see a funny bit, you laugh, job done, experience over. Right? Well, not exactly. If you leave here knowing one thing, it’s that Orange Cassidy can flat out GO. His agility allows him to either keep his distance or, when pressed, break out fantastic whirling dervish DDTs and cross-bodies launched halfway across the ring. He’ll even fly straight out of that ring (hands-in-pockets, duh) and hurl himself right into anyone in his way.

That these bursts of ring-crashing, dive-bombing energy come after we’ve been lulled with laughter for several minutes, thinking in vain that we know how the rest will go, makes them all the more exciting. Indeed, when faced with his disarming antics, his opponents often lose themselves to their own frustration over slow kicks, half raised thumbs, or his humorous appeals to the crowd. Then those sudden bursts of energy seem to come out of nowhere, making them extremely successful when catching his opponents off guard. Last Wednesday night was a perfect example, where OC managed to get the drop on the legend Chris Jericho and knock him senseless with a Superman punch.

The whiplash effect that’s produced doesn’t make the action feel less real, but instead makes Cassidy an unlikely stand-in for a classic character trope. He becomes the man pushed too far, forced to use means he didn’t know he had in him in order to win the day. It’s not every day another man hits you in the face with a sack of oranges, which is enough to push anyone past a breaking point. It just so happens that in the case of Orange Cassidy, the things he’d rather not do unless necessary include “running” and “giving a care.” Then when he does re-inject levity, it always services the flow of the match.

As we approach Fyter Fest with Orange Cassidy and Chris Jericho, the question remains: What will Orange Cassidy look like in that kind of environment, against that level of opponent? What might he do to be effective while still being himself? Luckily we’ve had a sampling of it before. At AEW Revolution earlier this year, Cassidy and PAC stole the show and got the biggest reactions of the night. So what about their conflict worked so well?

After their initial banter (including a classic exchange of PAC giving the limp shin kicks right back to OC), Cassidy helped things pick up by giving PAC a reason to flip his lid at just the right moment. After Cassidy rolled out of the ring to avoid his offense, PAC wasted no time tossing him right back in. Using minimal effort on his part, he tires his opponent by leading him on a relentless chase. Everyone got a kick out of Cassidy’s “sloth style”, and then got a surprise as he launched a sudden aerial attack hitting PAC and launching him into the barricade. The audience was still so high on the humor that the pace change was not jarring; everyone was sucked right back into the conflict because the excitement had not waned in between – living proof that wrestling can be fun without losing any of the stakes.

These kinds of exchanges are what allow Orange Cassidy to tailor himself to suit any audience, whether they’re new fans checking out amusing YouTube clips or wrestling diehards watching 25-minute matches weekly. It’s a strength, not a weakness; a feature, not a bug. What does this all mean in the near future? It means we are in for one incredible ride. If anyone in the world can stand across from Orange Cassidy and match him shot-for-shot, bit-for-bit, and flesh out the character pieces along the way, it’s Le Champion.

Orange Cassidy has enchanted fans by putting the focus squarely on having the most fun possible in a match no matter what form that takes. Whether we’re laughing at his slow moving hijinks, or thrilled by his meteoric bursts of speed, Orange Cassidy brings pure joy and excitement to every moment he spends in front of our eyes. That, more than anything, is what we all originally were looking for when we first turned our sets to the squared circle early in life. AEW is now capitalizing on this connection between Orange Cassidy and the fans, as he’s being set up on a feature spot with one of the greatest to ever step in the ring. He has given us some tastes along the way that indicate he is up to the task of this big a stage, and at Fyter Fest he can prove it for good.

As the spotlight intensifies more and more, his and our future turn an ever-brightening shade of Orange. Don’t worry, he’s got a seemingly endless supply of shades to go around.

AEW Fyter Fest will run from 8pm – 10pm Eastern time on both 7/1/20 and 7/8/20 on TNT in the US and via Fite TV internationally.