In the front row of Outlaw Wrestling on February 21 in Brooklyn, New York, a red-faced, middle-aged man screamed at the ring, frothing spit flying from his mouth.
“This is bullshit!” he yelled over and over, with a lividity so unconstrained it eventually prompted the in-ring performers to attempt to quell his rage.
The refrain that “kayfabe is dead” is a common complaint amongst more serious wrestling fans who bemoan the lack of “reality” in pro wrestling at the moment—so many stars have begun to openly acknowledge the artificiality inherent in their chosen medium. You wouldn’t know anything was fake, though, judging by the aggravation expressed by this audience member. What, exactly, was he so angry about?
This man’s ire was mostly directed at a dashingly good-looking performer named Orange Cassidy, a grappler who’s earned himself the moniker of the most enigmatic star in indie wrestling. Like Ryan Gosling’s inexorably cool character from Drive dropped unexpectedly into an episode of Looney Tunes, Cassidy’s bizarre postmodern gimmick is that he sort of doesn’t really care (maybe doesn’t even know?) that he’s in a fight.
Cassidy usually arrives in the ring with an aloof, hungover stumble, wearing ripped jeans, sunglasses and his own merch: awhite T-shirt featuring a picture of him wearing the same white T-shirt in a sort of sartorial mise en abyme. He rolls, in slow motion, under the bottom rope and then gives a barely detectable thumbs-up to the crowd, which always returns his gesture with explosive enthusiasm. Cassidy then tends to open his matches with a series of less-than-half-hearted punches and kicks, to which audiences cheer in the rhythm of a more normal wrestling match, mocking the expected beats of a regular bout. Cassidy rarely takes his hands out of his pockets and barely runs in a pace more intense than a brisk jog. He dodges opponents’ attacks with arrogant feints, hardly bothering with a parry or counterattack. Once in a blue moon, he’ll break out an impressively graceful tope con hilo, followed by—you guessed it—a lazy thumbs-up. He sometimes wins through a series of fortunate mistakes or by surprise roll-up after spitting orange juice, presumably purchased to help assuage his aforementioned hangover, in his opponent’s eyes.