Updated: Mar 18
If this is your first SMF, please read the "Styles Make Fights" introductory post, to be sure you understand our premise, then come right back and join us!
Last week I made a claim that I didn't think was all that bold: I called Hangman Adam Page the favorite against the Machine Brian Cage, by a fairly large margin. That match didn't turn out like I expected, and the time has come to eat my words.
I said that the Hangman had a more robust and flexible strategy. I should have also pointed out that Cage doesn't have the proven stamina for the deep water of a long fight. While Adam Page's average match length in losses are about 50% longer than his wins, Cage's are more like 300% longer!
In the color commentary on Cage's match on AEW Dark the night before, Cage's coach, Taz, claimed that he had seen a hole in Page's game and had a strategy to take advantage. In retrospect, more like he recognized the hole in his own man's game, and came up with a strategy to compensate for it:
With a vicious four-on-one beatdown before the bell, the match began with Cage basically fresh and Page already having taken as much damage as if he had already been through half a match, nullifying Page's advantage in conditioning and having less muscle mass to carry through a longer match.
Some will claim that Cage could've credibly gotten a win over Page without Team Taz ganging up on him. I hope you can see why I remain unconvinced of that.
This week we have a match that's being called Blood & Guts, a five-on-five war in two rings encased in steel. I can't wait to see it, but when it comes to my dataset and methods, it is well outside of my remit. After two weeks of an embarrassment of riches in terms of singles contests, this week there is only Cody vs QT, which I have no interest in, statistically or strategically. So instead of a match preview, this edition let's take a deeper dive into the matches of one competitor, who I feel is unjustly claimed to be a one-trick-pony: Orange Cassidy.
Orange Cassidy, a Freshly Squeezed SMF Retrospective
Some claim that Orange Cassidy is a "special attraction" because the nature of his gimmick doesn't lend itself to regular matches. The argument is: why does this notoriously "lazy" man fight so much? And aren't all his matches the same?
On AEW Dark: Elevation, Paul Wight does an excellent job of explaining Orange Cassidy. It's not that he is actually lazy-- he uses misdirection, like a stage magician, to ensure that his opponents' attention is where he wants it to be. Like most any pro wrestler, he has a fundamental, go-to strategy-- in his case, provoking overzealousness and taking advantage when his opponent over-reaches. But how that plays out is always going to be different, based on the differences in opponents and circumstances.
Although the majority of OC's offense is aerial, the glue that holds his strategy together are his mind games and counters, which he uses in concert to put his opponent on the back foot and set up for his flying maneuvers.
Below is a comparison of Orange Cassidy's offense mix and strategy against wrestlers with winning records on the left, and against those with losing records on the right. Against less challenging opponents, he works more grapple-throws into his repertoire, and --counterintuitively-- actually ropes a dope even more! This may simply be an artifact of the matches simply being shorter on average.
Cassidy's debut in singles was fundamentally the perfect OC Match. Without the benefit of scouting, PAC was nonetheless able to find a way to win, but en route to that victory, he was hardly able to touch the Freshly Squeezed One.
Rey Fenix came out on top in his match, and got the satisfaction of beating up on OC. But in the early goings of the match, Cassidy gave a bravura demonstration of how timing and guile can be used to trump raw speed.
In this breakout three-match series, Jericho set out to--and succeeded --in bringing out a different side of Orange Cassidy. In OC's own terms: he tried this time! What that meant for his offense mix was incorporating significant striking for the first time-- and in the match-2 victory, even dominating the offense!
Although OC did not get a win over the TNT champion, Brodie Lee was not able to make quick work of him, as he had intended. Orange Cassidy demonstrated here that his tricks are every bit as effective in opposition to power as against speed, which he would go on to utilize more effectively against the likes of Will Hobbs later on.
Although he took the L in the end, Kip was one of the first to frustrate OC's tricks and stratagems in the early going, using his speed to catch rather than futilely charge at the trickster. As well scouted as Kip seemed to have him, he wasn't able to keep a step ahead for long.
Cassidy's most recent bout was a battle of competing mind games and taunts. Penta may be Orange's first opponent whose game is just as psychological as his own. The feeling-out process of attempted and denied taunts went on quite a while before a single offensive maneuver was even attempted. Using the pocket to block the arm breaker may very well be the apotheosis of Orange Cassidy.
Undoubtedly, Orange Cassidy has a formula, but that formula has endless permutations and variations, and I don't see it getting stale for me any time soon.