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Orange Cassidy Finally Has His Moment

Elsewhere, Rey Mysterio arrives on ‘SmackDown,’ Pentagón Jr. and Villano IV battle mask vs. mask, and we get a live lucha report!

AEW/WWE/AAA/Ringer illustration

There’s more great pro wrestling in 2022 than we know what to do with. So The Ringer brings you a regular cheat sheet with the three best matches of the past week—one from WWE, one from AEW, and one from the rest of the immense wrestling world.

Pac vs. Orange Cassidy

AEW Dynamite, October 12

AEW paid off a multiyear story line and gave Orange Cassidy his signature title win in the main event of the first AEW show in Canada. Pac and Cassidy had been feuding off and on since 2020, and the feud flared up in the past several months, especially after Pac attacked Cassidy with a hammer.

Cassidy and Pac was a big bells-and-whistles main event that also delivered a real “moment” when Cassidy won the AEW All-Atlantic Championship. AEW belt bloat is a real thing; they have eight AEW titles (the AEW World Championship, the AEW TNT Championship, the AEW Women’s World Championship, the AEW TBS Championship, the All-Atlantic title, FTW Championship, AEW World Tag Team Championship, and the AEW World Trios Championship), six additional ROH titles, which are functionally AEW titles at this moment (the ROH World Championship, ROH World Television Championship, ROH Pure Championship, ROH Women’s World Championship, ROH World Tag Team Championship, and the ROH World Six-Man Tag Team Championship), in addition to belts from other promotions which get defended in AEW (the AAA World Mixed Tag Team Championship, the IWGP Tag Team Championship, and the AAA World Tag Team Championship). While that is silly, the titles do a nice job of adding importance to big moments. The AEW All-Atlantic title doesn’t have much of a legacy at this point, but it still felt like a real thing to see Orange Cassidy hoist the belt above his head at the end of the night.

There are few wrestlers I have done a more complete 180 on than Orange Cassidy. During his initial success on the indie scene, I didn’t like him. His “King of Sloth Style” gimmick would often force his opponents to play along, selling his soft kicks and moving in slow motion, leaning into their dumber instincts. The entire presentation was a big winky joke about how dumb pro wrestling is. That isn’t some profound point; everyone knows wrestling is kind of dumb if you think about it too much. The art isn’t in pointing that out, it is in transcending it and delivering something compelling within its parameters. AEW Orange Cassidy is doing a lot of the same spots, but instead of making fun of wrestling, he is using them to flummox his opponents. It works great in contrast to Pac, who may be one of the most self-serious wrestlers around; he’s a menacing, snarl-faced troll who doesn’t find a single thing funny about Orange and his bullshit. Treating Pac like a joke is a great way to put him on the wrong foot. You could see it in the opening moments when he took out Orange quickly and then jammed Cassidy’s hands into his pockets and threw weak kicks at him while screaming “This is what you like!” at the crowd. That led to an Orange dropkick and kip up, all while keeping the hands in the pockets; an incredible display of body control and balance. Orange sent Pac to the floor and dove on him only to see his tope caught and turned into a violent Falcon Arrow on the floor that looked like it broke Cassidy into pieces.

I am probably a low voter on Pac as a wrestler; he has an outsize reputation that is based on his tremendous athleticism, but he has a tendency to drag his matches to a halt by wandering around and killing time. There was some “paint dry Pac” in this match—he didn’t do anything particularly interesting after that huge Falcon Arrow, and there were lots of unnecessary arguing with the ref and walking around ringside, looking for a hammer. However, Cassidy is so good at timing his big moments that, when paired with Pac’s incredible ability at taking offense, it totally outweighed Pac’s bad instincts. There were two huge diving DDTs by Cassidy, which Pac sold like his body was seizing up from drinking strychnine. The series of Superman-style Orange Punches which ended up winning him the title were definitely accentuated by Pac doing his best “Wile E. Coyote being flattened by a boulder” impersonation. Fired-up, emotional Orange Cassidy is always so effective; his gimmick is all about diffidence, so when he breaks out of his shell, it makes the moment even bigger. He has turned into one of the most compelling performers in AEW, and I am looking forward to seeing what he can do with a title belt.

Rey Mysterio vs. Sheamus vs. Ricochet vs. Solo Sikoa

WWE SmackDown, October 14

This was a four-way match for a shot at Gunther’s Intercontinental title, and in many ways served as a bit of a reset after Extreme Rules. Much to my chagrin, it appears that the Brawling Brutes and Imperium feud will not continue, as this match seems to set up a Brutes vs. Bloodline feud. (That should be great, too, but I would obviously prefer to see Imperium and Brutes fight forever.) The match also welcomed Rey Mysterio to SmackDown, set him up against Gunther, and more notably separated him from his son Dominik, pressing the pause button on that feud.

The match was unsurprisingly excellent—you give wrestlers this talented a nice chunk of time and great things can happen. Sikoa is the newcomer of the group, and I really like what the company has done with his character. He is a little meaner and a little more stoic than his brothers and cousin. He is the “don’t fuck with him” guy in the crew; he won’t talk shit or start trouble, but if things go south, he’s the last guy you want to see stand up from his bar stool.

The match started with Sikoa trying to tackle Ricochet out of the ring, only to get shrugged to the floor and hit with a pescado. We then got Rey and Sheamus facing off “for the first time ever on TV” (despite what Michael Cole said, they actually wrestled each other a number of times in the early 2010s), and their interactions were pretty great. Sheamus and Rey are both babyfaces now, but I would love to get at least one singles match between the two before Rey hangs it up, which at this point could still be years from now. (Rey is a guy who people thought might have to retire in the late ’90s, and yet he is still chugging along.) The match had a veteran bruiser in Sheamus and a veteran flyer in Mysterio matching up with their younger-generation equivalents in Ricochet and Sikoa (although Ricochet is a sneakily-old 34, and Sikoa is approaching 30). I am a bruiser fan at heart, and my favorite parts of this match were when Sikoa and Sheamus were throwing hands; it wasn’t exactly Gunther vs. Sheamus, but a perfectly fine store-brand version of it. At one point, Sheamus dove off the top rope and drove the point of his knee right into Sikoa’s kidneys; later, Sikoa was able to hit a nasty short headbutt, only to get his jaw jacked with a jumping knee. Sheamus then put on the cloverleaf, which led to the Bloodline running out, quickly followed by the Brawling Brutes, and the subsequent melee between the factions took both Sheamus and Sikoa out of the match. That left Rey and Ricochet to rekindle their Lucha Underground feud, and after some back and forth, Rey was able to turn a headscissors into a piledriver, hit the 619, and take the match home.

There is a lot to unpack regarding where this match leads. The Bloodline vs. the Brawling Brutes should be great; the Usos had a great tag match against Ridge and Butch a couple of weeks ago, but Sheamus vs. Roman Reigns will be interesting. Those two haven’t had a singles feud in the past half-decade and at 44 years old, Sheamus is as over now as he has ever been. This twist on the Mysterio saga is even more interesting; I think most people assumed that WWE would be moving rather quickly into a Rey vs. Dominik family feud, but earlier in the night Rey told Triple H that he would rather quit than fight his son. Putting Rey on SmackDown and giving him a program with Gunther is a nice twist. Rey is maybe the greatest David wrestler ever, and Gunther is a hell of a Goliath; can’t wait to see what they can do with each other as well as any Rey vs. Imperium matches used to set it up. This also allows Dominik to swim on his own for a bit—his character work since turning heel has been stellar, and there is a lot of juice left in his relationship with Rhea Ripley and Judgment Day. Let Rey and Dominik simmer on different stoves for a while, and when you inevitably bring them back together for a big feud, you’ve given them a chance to marinate and improve the final dish. Built right, Dominik fighting his father for the family mask could be a top ’Mania match, and it is smart booking to keep them siloed a bit until you build toward that.

Villano IV vs. Pentagón Jr.

AAA Triplemanía XXX: Mexico City, October 15

It is very rare that an athlete or an artist gets to end their career in a way that they deserve. As many Super Bowls as Tom Brady has won, it looks like his final season is going to be on a mediocre Bucs team that will struggle to make the playoffs. Marlon Brando’s last couple of films included playing the Swede in Free Money, a Thomas Haden Church and Charlie Sheen heist film, and the voice of Mrs. Sour in the animated Big Bug Man. Sometimes the fall is worse than the climb.

Villano IV has had an iconic career. He was part of the Villanos trios team (with Villano III and Villano V) which had many legendary matches, including an all-timer of a feud with the Brazo family. At the age of 57, he is closing out his career on top. He had two iconic brawls on the two previous Triplemanía shows this year (against LA Park and Psycho Clown), and then dropped his mask in the main event of the final Triplemanía XXX match in a sangre-soaked war with Pentagón Jr. That is how you close a curtain.

Pentagón has become a big star in the U.S. in the past five years. He was a standout in Lucha Underground, Impact World champion, and part of the core group of wrestlers at the beginning of AEW (along with his brother, Rey Fénix). His effort can wax and wane—he has gotten over enough that he can get by just posing and shouting catchphrases. Not here, though; he got the honor of taking Villano IV’s mask and was there to show and prove. Villano IV came to the ring with his last living brother (Villano V) and his son and nephews, Mendoza family rolling deep. Pentagón had his own elaborate entrance with headressed fire dancers and a rapper performing his theme song.

Villano met him at the entranceway and got it started, backdropping Pentagón and DDTing him on the ramp, throwing him into the ring, ripping at his mask, and opening him up with sharp-knuckled punches. He threw these incredible combos in the corner, mixing in hard body shots with short uppercuts and hooks. Penta was able to get a bit of the upper hand back in the ring, kicking Villano IV to the floor and hitting a huge Tope con Hilo which wiped out both Villano IV and his even older brother Villano V. Penta then began smashing Villano IV’s head into the ring post, opening up his grody scar tissue, and raising some welts (which you could see well when he was unmasked). There was some iconic brawling on the floor, with them just unloading on each other with punches and Villano IV getting the first knockdown with two kidney shots, only for Pentagón to get back up and drop him with two rights to the ear.

The match returned to the ring and Pentagón got a couple of big near-falls with a Death Valley Driver through a board and a gallbladder-squashing double stomp. Penta attempted a jumping destroyer, but Villano turned it into an Octopus Hold, which he rolled into a cradle, the same pinning combination that Villano V used to win Blue Panther’s mask. Moments later, Penta got Villano up in the Atlantida backbreaker, the same move that cost Villano III his mask at the turn of the century. Villano seemed to tap, but the ref didn’t see it and Penta dropped the hold thinking he had won, leaving him vulnerable to getting shoulder blocked through a table. After another punch exchange, Penta hit two of his armbreakers, but he still couldn’t pin Villano.

Villano IV was able to block a high kick and grab a desperation ankle lock, and he pulled Penta away from the ropes and really cinched it in. This time, Penta did the fake tap on Villano IV’s side while the ref’s view was blocked, causing Villano to let go, thinking he’d won. Penta then tried for the tirabuzón roll-up, but when that was only a two, he hit a violent running punt to Villano’s head and a final armbreaker for the win and the mask.

Villano removed the mask to show his battered and bruised visage, and talked about what that mask had meant to the Mendozas before crying in the arms of his family. Nothing in wrestling is as emotionally resonant as a great luchador removing his mask and ending his persona.

There is a high bar for Triplemanía wager matches—from Konnan taking Jake Roberts’s hair to LA Park defeating AAA’s La Parka for the right to the name to Psycho Clown winning the iconic mask of Dr. Wagner Jr., it has always been one of the highlights of the year. Both Pentagón and Villano IV added their names to the book of legends and delivered a match worthy of closing out Triplemanía XXX.

Extra-Credit Match: Aussie Open vs. FTR

NJPW Royal Quest II, October 1

One of the great things about being a pro wrestling fan in 2022 is the speed in which footage becomes available. When I started getting into tape trading in the 1990s, everything that wasn’t WCW or WWF would take weeks to filter out to you; now most great wrestling is streamed live or available almost immediately. Sometimes, however, footage does take a bit longer to be released. I see this column as providing an ongoing survey of the best wrestling of the year, so if something truly elite takes a while to float out into the either, I will review it when it drops as an extra-credit match.

FTR is having an all-timer of a year as a tag team, although, oddly, their truly top-tier stuff is coming outside of their home promotion, AEW. Here they defended their IWGP tag titles against the current Strong Openweight Tag Team champions Aussie Open. This match was held in England, which was something of a home game for Aussie Open, who spent much of their career wrestling in the British indies.

One of the issues I have had with Mark Davis in the past is that he doesn’t hit as hard as it looks like he should hit; fortunately, that was very much not an issue here, as he sliced open Dax Harwood’s chest with a chop in the opening minutes of the match, only for Dax to respond with some nasty shots of his own. The match had two long, really well-done “babyface in peril” sections, with Cash Wheeler getting cut off and worked over for a long time (featuring Aussie Open using a lot of creative ways to stop the tag) until Dax was finally able to break out and get into the ring. Dax was also cut off later in the match after his eyebrow had been split open and he was dripping blood, a wound that Aussie Open focused on. Davis got cut badly as well from a hard high kick by Dax and there was a great visual when they were both on their knees bleeding badly and exchanging hard shots. That was followed by Cash and Dax putting both Davis and Fletcher in sharpshooters and Fletcher stopping Davis from tapping by grabbing his hand and then firing up his partner by slapping him in the face.

FTR was working from behind for most of the match, but they always seemed to escape the final shot that would take them down. They worked the match like a basketball team that knows its opponent’s plays, finding counters for their Assisted Iconoslam and the Corealis before they could be applied. The Corealis counter was especially cool, with Cash just running in the middle and upending Dax before he could get spiked. That led directly to Fletcher getting knocked out of the ring and FTR hitting stereo drop-downs and leapfrogs, disorienting Davis and leading him right into a huge Big Rig for the win. Great match, living up to the hype it was getting a couple of weeks ago from people watching it live. I have enjoyed the FTR matches against the Embassy in the past couple of weeks, but AEW should really carve out 25 minutes on TV or pay-per-view and let FTR do their thing; they are really operating at a whole different level.

Bonus Live Match: LA Park vs. DMT Azul

ATANGANA, October 16

There is a burgeoning lucha scene in the Denver area. I have been to shows by four separate promotions in my five years here, often with fly-ins from big lucha stars. The IWC Legacy promotion had been advertising a first-time matchup between Psycho Clown and LA Park, a match that could main event a Triplemanía, and instead was happening in a Westminster, Colorado, industrial park.

Well, it’s indie wrestling, so unsurprisingly there was a no-show, with Psycho Clown sending in a video claiming that a contract with the upcoming Marvel-AAA show forbid him from wrestling in the U.S. (I think; my Spanish is rudimentary at best.) If that is true, it will have repercussions on the U.S. promotions that have been using AAA wrestlers like Arez and Black Taurus, who you would assume would be involved in the Marvel deal (although it is just as likely it was just an excuse for the no-show).

The promotion rallied with a super entertaining show, including a stellar tag title match between El Hijo de LA Park, LA Park Jr., Dragón Bane, and Alpha Wolf. The main event was a super-fun live spectacle; Azul is a pretty large step down from Psycho Clown, but he knows how to work an LA Park match. Azul came in carrying a blue smoke bomb that filled the venue with smoke and set off a fire alarm; it totally added to the atmosphere as the blaring alarm and smoke lent an apocalyptic feel to the brawling, with the alarm serving the same role that Ice Cube and Dr. Dre’s “Natural Born Killaz” does during a New Jack match. There were hard belt and chair shots, some nonsense with a heel ref who got paid off well, and even a huge tope with the 56-year-old, 300(ish)-pound LA Park flying through the air like a Buick thrown by the Incredible Hulk. Live lucha is the best, and Park has the aura of a total superstar. He is back in a month for a rival promotion teaming with Pagano against Rush and La Bestia del Ring, and I will be in the house for sure.

Phil Schneider is a cofounder of the Death Valley Driver Video Review, a writer on the Segunda Caida blog, host of The Way of the Blade podcast, and the author of Way of the Blade: 100 of the Greatest Bloody Matches in Wrestling History, which is available on Amazon. He is on Twitter at @philaschneider.