In an industry like pro wrestling, where over-the-top characters are the foundation, All Elite Wrestling’s Orange Cassidy stands out because he’s so nonchalant. While other wrestlers need special arena lighting and grandiose attires to stand out, Cassidy simply wears a denim jacket, jeans, and sunglasses. He usually wears a T-shirt of himself wearing a T-shirt of himself.
His signature move isn’t an aggressive submission hold or an unforgiving slam. Instead, he puts his hands in his pockets and delivers a series of kicks to his opponents’ shins that are so lethargic, you might assume Cassidy was doing a chore he really didn’t want to do.
He taunts with the laziest thumbs up. He cares so little, that his thumb doesn’t even stand up. It just hovers above his knuckles ever so slightly. If you’re looking to interview him, you’re lucky if you get one word answers. He has one facial expression under those shades: disinterest.
He doesn’t do much, which is why wrestling fans love him. Cassidy can appear sitting down looking like a Weekend at Bernie’s redux and crowds will cheer for him louder than any other person on the AEW roster. Those kicks he gives his opponents are met with enthusiastic uproar. The fans don’t treat them as light taps to the shin. To them, they’re the most brutal strikes they’ve ever seen.
There’s no a better example of his popularity than during a segment featuring two tag teams in a heated backstage fight that includes someone going through a table and another jumping from the top of a forklift. The fans enjoyed the spots, but the reactions pale in comparison to when a bathroom door is inadvertently broken into revealing Cassidy standing there, unbothered and doing literally nothing. The crowd erupted.
Cassidy is fun to watch because so he’s so carefree, but also because of the way he plays with the inner workings of pro wrestling as a whole. Enjoying pro wrestling can be much bigger than a match in a ring.
There’s the distinction between the performer and their gimmick, or character. It’s 2020 and fans know when someone is simply playing a role, but Cassidy is so entrenched in not caring that it doesn’t matter. At the risk of sounding redundant, Orange Cassidy is Orange Cassidy and nothing else. It harkens back to when the majority of wrestling fans still thought the characters and backstories were authentic, though this is a modern and absurd iteration of that.
He also plays with the idea of how wrestling moves are experienced by fans. Fans can enjoy acrobatic flips and technical holds or they can examine them with great detail, focusing on how well they were performed and how they add to the overall storytelling of a match. This analysis can turn into something that’s taken way too seriously. Cassidy is the remedy to that. He physically does so little in comparison to everyone else that it’s difficult to overanalyze. With that simplicity, Cassidy convinces the fans to suspend their disbelief just a bit more to get in on the joke — and they become fans of his in the process. What’s left is just enjoyment.
But more importantly, Cassidy speaks to fans because he taps into the exhaustion that comes with living in a non-stop world. Fatigue happens to everyone, whether it’s through working a job, going to school, or raising a family. And we’re often convinced we can’t take a moment to breathe because our tasks aren’t done. But Cassidy shows we don’t always have to move at the same pace as everyone else.
Like the world, pro wrestling can be intense and immersive, and Cassidy plays the role of foil in that dynamic. The ability to maneuver in the laziness and the naïveté has made cultural icons out of Sanrio’s Gudetama and more recently The Mandalorian’s the child (Baby Yoda). For AEW fans, Cassidy is the pro wrestling byproduct of those same elements.
But that doesn’t mean Cassidy can’t or won’t wrestle with the intensity the others in the pro wrestling world. He’s more than capable of doing so, but this works just right.