One of the best things about modern wrestling, and in particular in present-day AEW, is the pure variety of matches that we can now bear witness to. Giant terrifying neanderthal vs fun-size hero? Done. Librarian vs Mexican-inspired dinosaur? Done. And with Chris Jericho and Orange Cassidy, perhaps the least likely match-up of them all.
Chris Jericho. First ever WWF Undisputed Champion. First ever AEW World Champion. Three time WWE World Heavyweight Champion. Nine times WWE Intercontinental Champion. WrestleMania Headliner. 2019 Wrestling Observer Newsletter Wrestler of the Year. A wrestling polymath, revered by pretty much everyone in the game as a legend.
And Orange Cassidy. Basically a man-sloth that wears denim.
On paper it initially looked completely ludicrous, particularly as the story built out of AEW’s disastrous attempts to court viewers by giving us a completely unnecessary dose of Iron Mike Tyson. But in the weeks building up to this showdown, Freshly Squeezed vs Le Champion had been crafted magnificently with Cassidy taking a harrowing beating at the hands of the Inner Circle, before seemingly getting the upper hand simply by resting in Jericho’s general vicinity and causing him to lose his marbles at the commentary desk.
This story was immediately highlighted as Orange emerged wearing a blood-stained t-shirt, a grim memento of his savage beating a few weeks back, and then proceeded to remove all the vestiges of his ‘not trying’ persona before he even reached the ring. Even Best Friends were sent to the back, a decision that our relaxed hero probably came to regret when Jericho was able to rely on his good friends Santana, Ortiz and Floyd the bat later on in the match.
But before all of those shenanigans, Cassidy started the match in the ascendancy. Baiting Jericho in with the hands in pockets pose, he delivered a headbutt, a superb dropkick and then a selection of brutal punches and attacks on the outside to immediately remind us that when he gets going, Orange Cassidy is a brilliant wrestler.
Sadly, and perhaps predictably, the numbers game eventually caught up to Orange when Ortiz used the madball to tenderise his lower back, allowing Jericho to begin a prolonged period of offence. Le Champion consistently focussed on his nemesis’ back delivering stinging shots both within the ropes and on the outside, including an impressive vertical suplex and a particularly nasty looking moment where Cassidy was dropped spine-first onto the barricade.
In amongst this physical torture, Jericho also continued to jaw at Cassidy, with his massive victory in terms of taunts (13-4) perhaps explaining why the leader of the Inner Circle ended up so far behind in terms of strikes at the end of the match. It didn’t seem to matter however with Jericho quickly shutting down the few hope spots that Cassidy was able to generate and even finding time to lock his opponent in an abdominal stretch, beautifully highlighting the old v new school dynamic which the two had leaned heavily on in recent weeks.
Even Aubrey Edwards giving Jericho a swift kick in the arms (ref attacks are another stat that needs to be added Craig) didn’t seem to greatly help the Freshly Squeezed one, but finally Cassidy was able to get into the match. As Jericho cruelly punched Orange in the ear that he had decimated previously in their rivalry, Cassidy powered up with a number of punches and a pitch perfect head-scissors leading to what was probably my highlight of the entire two nights of Fyter-Fest.
With Jericho wobbling, Orange reaches for the sky and puts his hands in his pockets. We all know where this is going right? One mini-punt to the shin, followed by two more, followed by the ‘superkick’. But this time, following the love-taps on the shin, instead of a similarly lazy follow up, Cassidy instead delivers one of the more picture-perfect superkicks square on Le Champion’s jaw. If there had been a crowd they would have popped massively. I certainly did at home whilst drunk on the sofa.
Not content with possibly the greatest wrestling moment of the decade so far (that’s just to wind-up the Cassidy haters) Orange follows it up with a top rope ‘splash’ (more of an exaggerated fall), an epic somersaulting corkscrewing leap to the outside and then an inch-perfect diving DDT, all leaving the former AEW champion in a heap.
Yet again though, the Inner Cirlce pay dividends, this time splashing OC in the face with some OJ, before Jerico breaks out Floyd and then delivers a codebreaker to seemingly end the match.
But no! Showing the sort of tenacity that I genuinely think could make him the biggest face in wrestling, Cassidy kicks out and, whilst Trent and Chucky clean house on the outside, crunches Jericho with a Michinoku Driver, a lovely Stundog Millionaire and a beautiful swinging DDT. We get the nearest of near falls (and huge credit to Aubrey here for making the count whilst lying in a pool of orange juice...a true pro), but distressingly, it isn't quite enough.
Jericho has one more move in his locker, and as Cassidy sets up for his superman punch, Jericho counters with the Judas Effect. It is currently the most lethal finisher in professional wrestling (not bad for an elbow) and as with everyone before, it is too much for Orange Cassidy.
I do fully understand why some people might not like Orange Cassidy and his gimmick. It’s certainly not for those of a traditional grappling inclination. But this was, quite simply, a great match, that even his greatest detractors must surely accept shows he is an impressive performer. Le Champion thunders on and will continue to be a face of AEW in the immediate future. But in Orange Cassidy, AEW have someone that the fans adore. And when he can put on a match like this, who can bloody blame them.