AEW International Champion Orange Cassidy has proven he was never lazy; he was prioritizing what he valued, saving his energy, and having fun being himself until he found something worth fighting for. In doing so, he points to a new path to success that eschews the norms of wrestling, and even of work itself.
Orange Cassidy is perhaps the most unlikely champion in the history of the sport of professional wrestling. He walks to the ring in jeans, his signature denim jacket, and a T-shirt, with a Titantron graphic with rough sketches on a plain white background filled with crossed-out typos, and barely noticeable pyro that you might miss if you blinked, then rolls into the ring and casually does a thumbs up. He hits his opponents with miniature kicks that barely tap their legs, mini-slaps them, and puts his hands in his pockets, doing a variety of wrestling moves while his hands remain in his pockets. He even resists his opponents removing his hands from his pockets. Cassidy often accepts matches, even title matches, with few or no words and doesn’t cut fiery promos touting his successes or his ability. He is the exact opposite of what you’d believe to be a workhorse, and his actions would seem to some to deliberately mock the hard, aggressive work you’d expect in the sport. However, his record very much shows him to be one, holding the AEW International Championship (formerly the All-Atlantic Championship) for over 252 days with one of the most successful championship records of any champion in AEW, fighting on TV just about every week, and very much beloved by fans, who even come to shows dressed up as him. He has proven his doubters wrong with a far longer than expected title run and exceptional in-ring work. While Cassidy has built a movement of fans, there has been a movement of workers deciding to likewise eschew the norms of their professions and of the workplace overall, a movement that has also seen unexpected staying power.
Recently, against the tide of hustle culture, the glorification of overwork, and the so-called “grindset,” many have come to resist the push to continually work harder. The term “quiet quitting,” meaning only doing the bare minimum of required work, has been all over the news and workers resist calls to return to the office after working from home. This is even as the longtime political news cycle mainstay of incessant accusations against marginalized populations in particular of being “lazy” and mooching off of assistance, has been redoubled after the pandemic and the perception of excessive public assistance provided through pandemic aid programs. Every other (bad) employer has been screaming the line “nobody wants to work anymore” and many straight up call their workers and those who refuse to work for them lazy. But now, the unspeakable has happened: the entire concept of laziness has come under criticism by a growing number of people online, and even some psychologists agree. Dr. Devon Price argues in his book “Laziness Does Not Exist” that laziness is a “lie” that has been used to make people feel “unworthy” and not believe in their intrinsic value, and it should really be taken as a sign from “our bodies and our minds that something is not working.” This lie has been proliferated in an accusatory manner in particular toward younger individuals who have faced multiple major economic crises and increasing stressors of all kinds, drastically compounded by poor quality jobs, with only 40% of Americans saying they have a “good job” according to a Gallup poll, and with the dominant model of working harder to deliver a better economic outcome failing, they’ve decided they want something different.
Things have been “not working” with work so much so that even the modern idea of work itself has been put under question by many, with the growth of the subreddit r/antiwork and others online. Many have realized that the trappings of employment and professionalism are purposeless, irrelevant, or even that their entire jobs themselves are a waste of time, as the late anthropologist David Graeber would call them, “Bulls**t Jobs.” As much as the business pundits want to make the idea of entirely reimagining work to make it less oppressive or rejecting its current form entirely seem like a modern phenomenon of lazy Millennials, ideas all the way up to abolishing what we know as “work” have existed for decades and even longer. In fact, not even the cries that “nobody wants to work anymore” in relation to young people are new. It is simply that now with a greater level of intellectual openness, the ability to be worked, to suspend disbelief and be entertained by possibility, as we wrestling fans know full well how to do, this idea may have found its moment. We have seen, both through Orange Cassidy’s International Championship run, and through the post-pandemic period of economic strength, that giving the people what they want and letting people be who they are, even removing the burden of doing what has been seen as “work,” leads them to contribute and succeed without compromise.
Establishment corporate leaders and politicians have pushed back against this allegedly fanciful notion with appeals to morality, claims of economic destruction at the hands of unproductive workers, arguments about the value of those workers who don’t fully submit to excessive work culture, and now threats of job losses to those who have reduced the burden of their work (without lessening productivity) by working from home successfully through the pandemic. Politicians have attempted to pull back America’s already paltry safety net, claiming that you shouldn’t be paid from the taxes of hard workers to lay on the couch. Financial expert Dave Ramsey claims that Millennials who live at home are coddled and misusing their current financial victory. Everyone from pundits to financial experts to members of Congress has been trying to use a system of threats and mocking to get people to “stop being lazy.” But these attempts have been as ineffective as Orange Cassidy’s opponents have been in getting him to drop his championship. Workers have seen their greatest economic success in decades and have become champions by doing things their own way while enjoying their lives, and they are holding onto it far more tightly than you’d expect from “lazy people.” They know now they can still win while prioritizing their family and their Best Friends. Going the extra mile for a promotion or to appease some stereotype just doesn’t seem worth it when the people in power don’t like you and won’t reward you anyway. But this new-found ability to have the freedom to be yourself and be financially stable while doing so is worth the world to them.
Saying “Whatever” To The Naysayers
Likewise, Cassidy has long been criticized by traditionalists in the sport who believe his laziness and antics are a mockery of professional wrestling, in spite of having solid technical wrestling expertise and athleticism displayed repeatedly in the ring. But Cassidy and the workers who now know their value both say “whatever” and carry on with what they know to be right. They don’t even need a “bidding war of 2024,” they will simply keep working from home even after return to office mandates, taking their breaks, leaving on time, and knowing their value still shows. They fight to keep their hands in their pockets and rest when they want, then deliver devastating punches when they need to. And the fans and the public in general cheer on, over and against the dissent of the powerful.
These people who have been deemed lazy have actually now been given positions economically and in employment that they feel proud of and can care about, are now fighting harder than ever. Despite the claims of those like Elon Musk who say their remote workers were “pretend(ing) to work,” those working from home are more productive and cost-efficient, even often working outside working hours. Likewise, even as Orange Cassidy and his mini-kicks of pretending to fight are mocked, he shows his fighting record above and beyond any other champion in AEW today. With 24 successful defenses, he is more of a fighting champion than World Champion MJF, who constantly goes out and touts how strong, tough, talented, and valuable he is while rarely wrestling. Cassidy chooses a more quiet form of confidence, accepting challenges from even the toughest opponents super casually, sans the “20 minute talking segments” Sammy Guevara has criticized MJF for, even when trying to signal strength doing so with few words. He prefers to show rather than tell; Cassidy has fought through injury, including to the hand he uses for his signature finishing move the “Orange Punch,” and time and time again has come through when it was least expected, leaving fans at the edge of their seat, wondering if he could still keep it up, and using a far more intense match style as of late. Today’s workers are too fighting back in unexpected ways with a rising tide of unionization and collective labor action, even in white-collar jobs that have never been unionized before, along with the more slack-style, unorganized strike that comes from merely leaving and refusing to accept poor working conditions and pay. This sloth style strike I’d argue is the closest thing we’ve had to a general strike in recent history.
Somehow in spite of being lazy and weak, these workers demeaned “laying around” at home either working from home or seeking for an opportunity that actually pays are seen as the greatest threat to our economy and blamed for inflation, and a man who goes around with his hands in his pockets a threat to the sanctity of wrestling. This appears a contradiction, weak people being such a huge threat, but I believe the mockery and teasing of “lazy” workers and our “lazy” wrestler are a sign of their strong potential, even if they do not know it yet. Their opponents would not be fighting back as hard if they were not capable of creating change and victory. I have described this as the “Repressed Warrior Paradox” in relation to activists on my podcast. Staying trained and ready for the right moment is key and something Cassidy has clearly shown. He has kept his energy in reserve so he can go all out at the right moment, and keeping the International Championship is that moment.
As such, Cassidy’s pattern has been to “awaken” fully when he cares and has something to care about. You can even see this pattern and promos in years prior, such as his “debate” with Chris Jericho where he barely spoke until the issue of climate change was raised, where he gave an eloquent statement befitting of any politician. And now the same has happened in the ring with the International Championship. Given the seemingly unexpected nature of his transition to a higher intensity, his opponents will underestimate him and be caught off-guard. He has now increasingly adopted more aggressive styles he has not used in the past, line with other top AEW wrestlers, as opposed to his typical pattern of shifting between his sloth-style and a technical form of wrestling, creating an even harder change of pace for opponents to catch up to. His low-key presence has created an underestimation of his abilities that is perhaps one of Cassidy’s best strategic advantages.
Being able to move from a repressed state and a continuing cycle of defeat, wherein your failures are proving your doubters right, you must not give up and learn to fight while being in the right environment that nurtures what you have to offer. The welcome reception of the AEW fan base and the creative freedom of AEW have offered this to him, something that perhaps could not have happened in any other major promotion. Under a bad boss, and without the support of others, he may have quietly drifted backwards, away into a corner as he often did, hands still firmly placed in pockets, and backpack devoid of a championship. It is only in an environment that allows him to break from what has been described as the “disciplines” of the workplace, what in an office or factory would be “imposed work tempos, production quotas, punching-in and out,” but in the wrestling workplace would be standards for what makes a “proper” wrestling match, the acceptable range of wrestler aesthetics, and systems devised by legacy leaders, that he can create this success.
Even returning to pure capitalist terms, AEW has been rewarded with exceptional matches, engaged fans, and added merchandise sales as a result of embracing Orange’s way. His methods are unquestionably effective, giving a rebuttal to critics, even from the economic angle they always resort to, as he is reportedly ranked as a top merchandise seller for the company. Companies across sectors are rewarded with a broader talent pool, more perspectives that add unique value, and more when embracing remote workers and people who may need more breaks or work in a less conventional way, whether disabled or otherwise. By allowing people space to recover and become themselves, our society overall gains productivity, creativity, adds unexpected success stories to its free marketplace, and embraces our values, instead of only valuing people for their output under a narrow definition of “work.”
Laziness as a Mental Performance Hack
Many in AEW have shared their struggles with mental health issues, which is often mistaken for “laziness.” Cassidy has not made any statements as such. However, unlike some of these others in AEW, he does not appear to either get emotionally affected by feelings of unworthiness or seek to mask his insecurities with bravado. An apparent paragon of stability in chaotic times for AEW, he has not found himself in any vortexes of backstage controversy, as how could one have beef with one who has so few words you could “beef” against, ostensibly saving his energy for banger matches. This act of refraining from such matters is part of his alternative strategy to continue to perform without conforming to the traditional attitudes of a champion wrestler or even those of his colleagues. This is in line with many who choose to work from home partially because they do not like the “office culture” of gossip. Further, many with mental health issues or disabilities have now also found that they cannot overwork themselves any longer and chosen strategies to remain within their energy level, or “spoons,” while maintaining a high quality of work in competitive and professional employment positions.
Though I have spoken much here about the virtues of fighting for something, even against a perceived lack of ability, I have personally needed to learn how trying less can be more. One writer has even adopted a mantra as such based on Orange Cassidy. My psychologist uses biofeedback as part of my therapy (biofeedback and its more brain-specific variant neurofeedback have been the most effective forms of therapy I’ve ever tried) and he introduced me to a new technique where my hand temperature is monitored to see how stressed I am. (I’m still somewhat skeptical.) Normally, when doing neurofeedback, you’re supposed to focus intensely while remaining calm and deeply breathing, and by focusing your brain waves improve on the screen in front of you. But here, after many minutes of being frustrated while trying to seem calm, he had to explain to me that the harder I try to focus the worse I would get. In my business, I am likewise trying to get better at not feeling the need to seem busy all the time and reducing unnecessary busy work, which ultimately allows me to deliver better quality work for what matters most.
Orange also prioritized his values and distinctives in his journey to success, making sure to get his pockets in even the most serious matches, giving the people, and his Best Friends (even if there’s a little tension between them every once in a while), what they want. This is even against the pressure created by the loss of Wheeler Yuta from the Best Friends to the hustle driven, Joe Rogan and Huberman Lab-style life optimizers in the Blackpool Combat Club. Yuta cited the lack of seriousness and training in his decision to leave, but Orange stated that he wasn’t there to teach Yuta, but to be his “best friend.” However, Orange has chosen his own form of optimization. By avoiding the stress of caring about external pressures and avoiding unnecessary work of all kinds, Cassidy is able to perform more optimally in matches when it matters. If he was found with any productivity book, it would be “The 4-Hour Workweek.” He doesn’t sweat the small stuff, ever, and has made an art of improving his efficiency and decreasing his workload, all the way up to carrying his title in a backpack. The results speak for themselves.
Ready for a Break?
Dr. Price says, in an extremely simple way Orange would maybe put it too, that laziness is “a sign that you need a break.” Though Cassidy has shown a lot of pain, tribulation, and injury through the gauntlet of intense matches he has had as champion, he has not shown a resurgence of laziness nor has he taken a break. His continued stamina is a testament to the effectiveness of his methods. However, some have observed that since his injury he has perhaps stepped into the realm of overwork and that signal of resurgent laziness may be coming soon, or perhaps in a massive crash of burnout from going beyond what is authentically himself. It could also be that Cassidy has become addicted to his workhorse status. The idea of work becoming an addictive drug was ironically pointed out by Dave Ramsey-affiliated commentator Dr. John Delony, who explains that rest may actually become uncomfortable for someone in such a state. So Cassidy may now still be avoiding discomfort, just in a different way, not by avoiding work as he once did, but now finding he can only feel good and feel at rest inside by working harder than ever to defend his title. We will have to see at Forbidden Door, where he will defend the International Championship in a four-way match, or at some point thereafter, which path he goes down and if we can ever unpeel what has been going through his mind during this epic International Championship run. Will he succumb to the very burnout his approach was designed to avoid?
If we want to inspire excellent performance in the ring, or outside the ring, we need to give people something worth fighting for, whether a championship or great working conditions and pay. And we need to acknowledge that there are many unique paths to creating amazing work, including the path of denying the very idea of work itself and letting “whatever” flow out organically. The stereotypes of what a good worker, or a good wrestler, is should not get in the way of a new way to success, especially when it is proven to be just as or more effective than the hustle and aggressiveness of old. Even if he won’t say he’s better than you, Orange Cassidy may be happier than you, and the wrestling world now knows it.
Greyson Peltier is the host of The Fixerpunk Podcast, a podcast seeking to Bridge The Divide Between Personal and Social Change, a communications consultant specializing in social impact and political advocacy, and founder of consulting firm Off Speed Solutions. Peltier holds a BA in Political Science with honors from the University of Southern California, Associate’s degrees in Economics, Business Administration, and Social and Behavioral Sciences from Coastline College, and has been featured in media outlets like Vice, ESPN Radio KLAA, USA Radio Network, Sportskeeda, and Street Fight Radio.
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