HEYDORN’S TAKE: Orange Cassidy is AEW’s most successful first-year achievement

BY ZACK HEYDORN, PWTORCH COLUMNIST (@zheydorntorch)

Orange Cassidy (photo courtesy AEW)

SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...

Ok, let me make sure I get this right. I’m writing … or maybe I’m not. Don’t care. The sunglasses are on … I’m leaning back in the chair … barely touching the keyboard as I gently and lazily type these sentences. Yeah … this is sooooooo cool.

Did I get it? Hell yeah I did! That’s how Orange Cassidy would write, correct? Nailed it! Look, he certainly wouldn’t have celebrated like that but hey, it’s 2020 and it’s the little things, right?

Orange Cassidy is a unique entity in the 2020 landscape of wrestling. He’s a fine wine that needs time to breathe in order to be fully appreciated. He’s also potently charismatic and attention grabbing. Most of all? He’s AEW’s most successful first-year achievement.

Orange Cassidy cut his teeth and developed his current gimmick on wrestling’s independent circuit. The diehards enjoyed his act for the novelty it brought to one-off wrestling shows, but questions surrounded that gimmick and its ceiling on a weekly television show.

With slight alterations, Cassidy developed the act to fit its new environment. He’s still a fine wine. The more you watch him, the more you understand the act — what he’s going for, the engagement he creates, and entertainment he provides. The potent charisma? That’s an entirely different story.

The root of the Cassidy act is just that – charisma. It takes confidence, commitment to the character, and also an innate personality trait that attracts attention. That trait gives the gimmick a chance. To the casual wrestling fans that I regularly subject to monthly PPV watches and countless minutes of wrestling discussion, Cassidy stands out. They ask questions about him and then engage. Instantly.

This is why AEW has something. A new act that appeals to both the diehard fans and new ones simultaneously? It’s the magic formula and one that wrestling companies constantly chase like a mirage in a desert. You’ve reached the blurry fountain, AEW, now drink.

Orange Cassidy isn’t your traditional wrestling star. He’s not 6’6” and isn’t a goliath of a human being from a muscle perspective either. Cassidy certainly isn’t a guy that you’d look at as he walked through the airport and say, “I wonder who he is?” Quite the opposite, actually, as he looks like a guy that probably handed you your coffee at Starbucks.

Cassidy is different, which is why he’s appealing. Wrestling fans want new. They want good, but they also want to watch a product that looks as if it has evolved into to modern times. Since John Cena left, the WWE has attempted to put guys like The Fiend, Seth Rollins, and Roman Reigns on the marquee as key top stars, but neither has moved the needle for the company in the traditional way of adding eyeballs. The Fiend, Rollins, and Reigns are incredibly strong acts, but it just might be that they didn’t click like their predecessors because they were too much like them.

Enter Cassidy. Fans respond to him, he drives numbers, and also is marketable for TNT and AEW outside the wrestling bubble, as we’ve already seen in various commercial roles. Orange Cassidy is different, but maybe that’s what wrestling’s next big star needs to be.

Throughout AEW’s inaugural year of Dynamite, Cassidy has shown significant range with his in-ring ability. At the start he was a one-note, comedic, sideshow figure that played second fiddle to the Best Friends. He’d hit his goof spots but stay there for the entirety of the match. Now, he has depth. Cassidy has shown skill in firing up as a babyface for offense, while also selling in an effective sympathetic way that puts heat on the heels. Because of that he’s able to tell stories successfully that the audience can invest in and get behind.

So, you did it AEW. It’s been quite the year even if you take out the COVID-19 era, but Orange Cassidy stands tall as the most important asset you created. Now you need to feed him. To stand atop the company, Cassidy needs a long story arc that takes him from where he is today to the top of the company with the championship belt around his waist. The audience is waiting for the ride, and now is the time to take them on it.

The bottom line is, Orange Cassidy is a star. You run with stars – or in the case of Cassidy, you slothfully walk with stars. Either way, AEW, get moving.


NOW CHECK OUT HEYDORN’S PREVIOUS TAKE: ROH’s Pure Championship tournament not just a palette cleanser

2 Comments on HEYDORN’S TAKE: Orange Cassidy is AEW’s most successful first-year achievement

  1. The more I watch the act the more I tire of it and the more I loathe seeing it. Cassidy is, more than anything, the act that is making me QUIT watching AEW. I deliberately did not watch AEW’s anniversary show BECAUSE he was getting yet another high profile match.

  2. I question whether Orange Cassidy is that much of a success. He was already a cult favorite when AEW started, and the latest TV ratings do not show that featuring him draws in the numbers.

    AEW’s first year has shown that the new company can have a successful TV program, but NOT a spectacularly successful one. You can blame the pandemic, or WWE counter-programming with NXT on USA, or the election. But ratings are not supporting that AEW can achieve the success that wrestling used to get on cable. And before you say that is true of any genre program, look how 90 Day Fiancé was able to rocket out of nowhere to the top of the charts in the same conditions as AEW.

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