Tony Khan Recalls Defending Orange Cassidy After Jim Ross Said The Gimmick Was Stupid
Cassidy has become one of AEW’s biggest stars
Orange Cassidy is one of AEW’s most popular stars, with the laidback slacker’s approach to wrestling unlike anything in any other major promotion.
Cassidy’s act is divisive, and during an appearance on Busted Open Radio, AEW President Tony Khan revealed that it was also divisive backstage in the company:
“A lot of people were critical of him, some of the smartest people in the wrestling business were really critical and still are to some extent of him, is Orange Cassidy, who is the big Face of the Revolution Ladder Match this weekend and has been - it’s just a fact, whether people like it or not, he’s been one of the biggest ratings draws in our company and in terms of selling merchandise and online engagement for streaming. He is one of the most important people and I don’t think anybody expected that going in and I didn’t expect that going in but I could see he was getting over and one of the things I think I’m strong at is course correcting because I’m not always right and I do try and stay engaged with the fans and pay attention to what moves the needle with them… he does numbers and people might not like it but it’s a fact and he consistently has,” said Khan.
Of all the dissenting voices against Cassidy’s gimmick, one major voice speaking against it in AEW was Jim Ross:
“In the production meeting, I don’t think I’ve told this story before, I don’t know if either one of them would mind but I’ll just be honest with you guys in the spirit of doing a lot of interviews on the road to Revolution and you guys are the guys I always talk to. We were in the production meeting the first year and JR not under his breath, said something about how stupid the whole thing was in the first year and in front of everyone because Jim called me out in front of the entire room so I said back to him, ‘Jim, this is getting over and it’s doing ratings every time and we’ve barely scratched the surface on what the guy can do and he’s actually a really good wrestler and I think you should give him a chance and talk to him because he actually is a very intelligent wrestling person once you get to know him and we have barely scratched the surface on what this guy can do, trust me.’
“A lot of people might not like it but frankly, he has become one of our big stars and that is probably the best example of somebody what I thought they could do coming in because really I thought he was gonna be like a manager mostly coming in. Once I realised how gifted he actually is, I had no idea Orange Cassidy was Fire Ant (in Chikara) when I first met him. When I realised that was the same guy and he is a great pro wrestler, then that’s when I came up with the idea to let’s hide that for six-to-eight months and not show anyone all the stuff you can do until the first Revolution and that’s when you make your debut in your first real match and that’s when you show people you can really wrestle…”
JR has shared his thoughts on Orange Cassidy, admitting his initial instincts on the character were wrong:
“Number one, Orange Cassidy is different” JR said on Grilling JR in 2020. “He is marketing himself differently. He’s got a different in-ring style. What he did in the match [against PAC], under his presentation rules. Hands in his pockets taking it easy. Chilling, you know, being cool. [It] was nothing short of extraordinary how this guy does what he does with his hands in his pockets. It is amazing to me.” Ross added, “He’s a stud man, he’s got it. So I feel badly for those criticising because they’re basing it on size only or that he’s got a different presentation that they haven’t seen. That’s not really fair to the talent. I admit when I first saw Cassidy, my old school self said ‘it’s never gonna get over stupid.’ And I was wrong. I don’t mind admitting I’m wrong when I’m wrong, and I was wrong on Orange Cassidy, he’s a fine guy. He’s a good Pro, and he’s got a different act.”