Why Chris Jericho Is the Perfect Person to Elevate Orange Cassidy

Photo courtesy of AEW

The first time we saw Orange Cassidy in an All Elite Wrestling ring, he stood across from hardcore legend Tommy Dreamer in the promotion’s inaugural Casino Battle Royale.

Dreamer has bled, sweat and breathed the wrestling business for decades, eating chair shots to the head and plunging through tables with reckless abandon. He and a crew of misfit outlaws built Extreme Championship Wrestling in the 1990s, an unusual promotion in a very unusual industry.

But even he had never experienced anything quite like Cassidy.

Hands ever in pocket, sunglasses seemingly glued to his head and acid-washed jeans as his only ring gear, Cassidy laid into a modern icon with his trademark leg kicks. “Sloth-like” is how the announcers described them, coming not at half speed but quarter speed at best, crowd reacting to each one like it was a fight-ending blow. 

Dreamer smirked, knocked Cassidy down, dismissing him from mind. But, hands still in pocket, Cassidy kipped-up to an even louder roar than before.

From the very beginning, the AEW audience was all in on Orange Cassidy.

His popularity was unquestionable from the start—week after week, event after event, Cassidy’s presence was met with the kind of crowd response normally reserved for main event stars. Despite criticism from wrestling’s vocal old-school fanatics, it was obvious AEW had something special on their hands. 

Questions were met with monosyllabic grunts, his iconic thumbs-up never quite making it all the way up to a vertical position. His expression rarely changed, no matter the circumstances.

For whatever reason, perhaps because he was so different from the verbose, performative extroverts who normally populate a wrestling television show, Cassidy just worked. He was laid back to the point of nearly being legally dead, an unengagable slacker in the era of endless social media sharing. He loves his friends, loves his sunglasses and merely endures everything else.

While his popularity was evident to anyone with ears, just what to do with him was a trickier proposition. Cassidy is capable of incredible feats of athleticism, flying around the ring with hands in his pockets, casually doing wresting spots difficult under the best circumstances.

Doubt the level of difficulty? Put on your favorite pair of old jeans, insert your hands deep in the pockets, lay down and attempt to get up off the floor. 

When you’re done laughing at yourself, you’ll have an idea for what kind of athlete Cassidy is. But those fun moments are hard to put into the context of a wrestling match, especially one in AEW where the emphasis is on the in-ring action. As a result, the promotion has focused on using him as a tag-along for Best Friends, a solid mid-card tag team decidedly less popular than their second. 

It’s taken AEW some time to solve this puzzle, but the answer should have been obvious from the start. When in doubt, dial up Chris Jericho

So far in his AEW tenure, he has dominated the main event scene, blew everyone away on commentary the very first time he tried it and even elevated Pineapple Pete out of the pack of enhancement talent by deciding to feud with the independent stalwart, essentially in his spare time. 

If anyone can help figure out how to take Cassidy’s amazing popularity and harness it in a meaningful way, it’s Jericho. The two will meet at Fyter Fest in July in a singles match—and we’re already seeing a side of Cassidy we’ve never seen before. Blending comedy with serious wrestling action is difficult.

Luckily for AEW, Le Champion is one of the best to ever do it, seamlessly transitioning between the two emotions, sometimes during the same appearance. He will understand what makes Cassidy work with the crowd and also do his best to help him shift gears when it’s time for the lethargic babyface to pick things up a notch or 12.

Photo courtesy of AEW

At Double or Nothing last year, Cassidy was an opening act and Jericho the main event, a living legend helping to establish a new brand. Just over a year later, the two are set to square off in what might be wrestling’s first-ever “blood-orange” feud.

And you know what? It doesn’t even feel weird. At this point, Cassidy feels undeniable. With Jericho’s help, AEW might just have a truly unique babyface on their hands, a transformative character capable of both going viral and appeasing the promotion’s faithful fans.

Is the Orange Cassidy era upon us? I give the idea one enthusiastic thumb halfway up.

Jonathan Snowden covers Combat Sports for Bleacher Report 

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