I’ll admit upfront, I started writing this article nearly one year ago when Orange Cassidy won the now-AEW International Title (then the AEW All-Atlantic Title) from PAC in a fantastic match. I was inspired by the orange confetti falling from the rafters while Orange Cassidy celebrated with the Best Friends (Chuck Taylor and Trent Beretta).
I’ve had stops and starts since writing this – but the last year has only strengthened my thesis that, yes, Orange Cassidy and the Best Friends are the “heart and soul” of AEW.
This has recently been punctuated by OC’s incredible International Title run and the finish of the All In London Stadium Stampede, which saw this trio stand tall while the largest paid crowd in wrestling history reigned applause down on them.
Now, I’m not one to disagree with Jon Moxley, though the title of this article may suggest otherwise. Over recent years, Moxley has frequently stated that he is the “heart and soul” of AEW – and honestly, it’s hard to argue with. He’s been in the company since the first PPV. A PPV in which he created an enormous buzz with his show-closing debut and attack on Kenny Omega. Since then, he has carried the company on his back as AEW World Champion during multiple difficult stretches – the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent ten months of limited fan crowds, the injury-riddled summer of 2022, and the fall out from Brawl Out 2022.
Moxley IS the “heart and soul” of AEW – and to me, Orange Cassidy and Best Friends are too – in very different ways. Moxley is the “heart and soul” in that he has given blood (so much blood), sweat, tears, and even more to this company almost daily since Double or Nothing 2019. He is the company’s grit and grind that keeps everything ticking. He’s the passionate, beating heart of AEW. He’s not glitz and glam – he’s blood and guts.
Orange Cassidy and Best Friends (mostly Trent and Chuck Taylor, best also with appearances by Kris Statlander and Danhausen) are the “heart and soul” of AEW in a more “touchy-feely” sort of way. Rather than the bloody, anatomically correct heart I see when I picture Moxley as the “heart and soul”, I see cartoon hearts (I guess we’d call them emoji hearts now) when thinking of Best Friends. It is very much in line with the puppies, hand holding, beaches, sunsets, and beautiful fields seen in their entrance video.
It is only perfect now that these two beating hearts of AEW, Orange Cassidy and Jon Moxley, fight for the soul of the company, and the AEW International Title at All Out 2023 in what many expect to be the end of Freshly Squeezed’s title reign. It’s ❤️ vs. 🫀
As stated earlier, the impetus for this column was originally the All-Atlantic title victory by Orange Cassidy on Dynamite in Toronto. Watching the picture-perfect bright orange confetti rain down on OC as he celebrated with Trent, Chuck, and Danhausen while the crowd went wild made me realize that this group has had a number of great “feel-good moments” to end episodes of AEW television.
That was obviously a while ago, as OC has now defended the title over 20 times. Luckily a recent column by Jesse Collings (of the Gentleman’s Wrestling Podcast right here on the Voices of Wrestling Podcast Network) titled “Orange Cassidy Is Telling The Best Story In Pro Wrestling” gave me the kick in the ass I needed to…..finish the story.
Or “a” kick in the ass at least, if not “the” final kick. As I stated in the intro – this column has had a lot of starts and stops.
In a review of the Toronto episode of AEW Dynamite where Orange Cassidy started his All-Atlantic (now International) Title reign, Joe Lanza shot back against the bad faith critics who say “AEW doesn’t tell stories.” He went match by match through the show, detailing how each match, including the PAC/Orange Cassidy main event had purpose and storyline within it. Like WWE allegedly being the company that “tells stories” it is also regarded as the company that “creates moments.” Yet I would argue that with these Best Friends matches I am about describe AEW laps the WWE in creating memorable pro wrestling moments.
The All-Atlantic Title Victory
The Orange Cassidy All-Atlantic title win was overall a very simple pro wrestling moment. It involved a beloved babyface overcoming a cheating, dastardly heel and finally giving the “Bastard” his comeuppance. And though pro wrestling is often it’s best when it’s simple – that doesn’t mean it’s easy. To get to this point, we had to have years of Orange Cassidy endearing himself to the AEW audience and getting over his character and mannerisms. We had the previous matches between PAC and Cassidy, going back to Revolution 2020 when OC had his first singles match in AEW and then the match at Grand Slam 2022 where PAC used the now infamous hammer to steal the match.
We also had PAC, one of the best in-ring wrestlers and character performers of his generation, giving an all-time “Mr. Perfect in his prime” level of selling and bumping throughout the match in Toronto. The DDTs and Orange Punches taken by Mr. Bastard were beautiful. There was also the Danhausen spot, the hammer spot, and much much more. Like Jesse Collings recently stated in his article – Orange Cassidy Is Telling The Best Story In Pro Wrestling – he IS telling the best story in pro wrestling and it all started with the phenomenal storytelling in this match. A match. Not a backstage pre-tape skit.
The cherry on top was the celebration. And the key part of this celebration, as well as of many of these moments, was the Best Friends Hug. A silly, but simple spot they work into all their matches made even better by the “Rainmaker pose” zoom-out the production crew does each time.
The Best Friends hug really boils down to an essential part of pro wrestling – building anticipation and then, to quote Excalibur, “giving the people what they want.”
In many cases, this is done to subvert expectations with a change or a reversal – and often it is what makes wrestling great. With many of these moments, we knew that Trent and Chuck (and maybe others) were going to stand on opposite ends of the ring with their arms open wide and then rush in for the hug. As fans, many of us are celebrating the babyface victory as well – and it’s great to see their friends come out and join in the celebration.
The Parking Lot Fight
The next match I will mention is The Parking Lot Fight between Best Friends and Santana/Ortiz. Interestingly, it didn’t actually feature the trademark Best Friends Hug in the end of the match – but it featured a ton of fantastic moments.
The match itself was brutal and hard-hitting. It was fully fitting of the parking lot setting and really showed the range the Best Friends have in being both fun-loving, often silly characters, and serious competitors in violent match such as these.
The match was critically acclaimed reaching #14 on the 2020 Voices of Wrestling Match of the Year Poll, ahead of such matches as Young Bucks vs. FTR from Full Gear 2020 (interestingly these wrestlers competed in the All In Stadium Stamped that also topped an FTR/Bucks match in my opinion). The Best Friends/PnP match also topped the Go Shiozaki vs. Kaz Fujita “Stare Match” and the Brodie Lee vs. Cody Rhodes Dog Collar Match. It was also the first match rated 5 stars by Dave Meltzer in the COVID era. Lastly, it features great performances by AEW wrestlers such as Brandon Cutler in the “crowd” surrounding the fight. Be on the lookout for a pink polo-wearing Daniel Garcia.
I’m not here to break down the match, though, I’m here to talk about the heart-warming moments that make The Best Friends and Orange Cassidy the heart and soul of AEW. OC emerging from the trunk of a car lackadaisically to assist the Best Friends to a victory is a highlight, but the show’s true star is Sue.
Sue had previously appeared in her minivan, driving Trent and Chuck to a tag title shot against Hangman and Omega at Fyter Fest 2020, looking like a mom dropping her two kids off for soccer practice. The build to the Santana/Ortiz match featured a lot of backstage skits where the two teams went after each other by bleaching the other team’s clothes or similar stuff that some people may hate. It wasn’t quite Usos/The Revival levels of Icy Hot bull crap but many could see it as silly.
The shit really hit the fan though when Santana and Ortiz went after Sue’s van and torched it. Yes, they destroyed their opponent’s mother’s van. Many will groan at the inclusion of vehicles in AEW, a big Vince McMahon staple, but the payoff made it all worthwhile here.
Whether you liked, hated, or didn’t mind the build – the match delivered. If you consider this a “cinematic match” it could easily be the best during this strange COVID era. It ends with some brutal move onto the parked vehicles, giving Best Friends a victory. I have not confirmed if real glass was used.
After the match, we hear a car honking and a smile slowly grew across my facing knowing what was about to show up.
As our heroic trio walks off we see them start to grin. The camera angle then changes to show Sue sitting parked in a brand-new white minivan.
In a great visual, a bloody Trent leans into through the driver’s side window to give his mom a kiss. They then pile into the van and drive off, but not before we get the coup de grace. The camera work is fantastic as the van stops, and we then dramatically zoom in. Sue’s hand causally hangs out the window for a moment before emphatically raising up a middle finger to the defeated men who destroyed her prized van.
The final moment and match I will touch on in this article is the “Arcade Anarchy” match from Dynamite in spring 2021. I would consider this the spiritual sequel to the original “Parking Lot Fight” at least until recently when we did get an official second Parking Lot Fight between Best Friends and the Blackpool Combat Club.
This match is also the only real redeeming quality (pun very much intended) of the original, Mickey Mouse pajama-wearing, gamer Miro character. A fun and brutal affair between the teams of Chuck Taylor and Orange Cassidy against Miro and Kip Sabian. This is the match that really shows why many consider Chucky T a “plunder king” as we get Legos, trash cans, kendo sticks, arcade cabinets, and more being used to inflict damage.
The first big “moment” of this match is the return of Kris Statlander, who made a comeback after a long layoff with a knee injury. After Penelope Ford stopped OC from winning the match, she then hit him with a low blow and was about to choke him with a belt when Kris Statlander rises out of the stuffed animal pile inside a claw machine.
She then slams the plexiglass, which goes flying right into Penelope’s face – hard. I feel like I saw an image at one point of Penelope’s lipstick ending up on the plexiglass, like she had kissed it.
The match then continues, eventually with Miro starting to take control. Orange Cassidy and Chuck Taylor try to crawl away and escape Daily’s Place slowly, when we see headlights in the distance. The headlights get closer and, you guessed it, that famous white minivan appears.
We don’t get the call from Tony Schiavone at this point, but I have to just mention that I love his call for other appearances of “IT’S SUE!!” in a full-on replica of his famous Sting call. So yes, it is Sue. And the returning Trent, who also was out with an injury. He sweetly gets a kiss on his cheek before entering the fray.
After some more great plunder action from everyone involved, Chuck Taylor gets the pin and we get my favorite moment. All four members of the extended Best Friends stable – Chuck, Trent, OC, and Kris Statlander celebrate. We get the classic “Best Friends hug.” We get plenty of Orange Cassidy-style thumbs up, even from Sue, who adds some honking, too while still sitting in her van.
The thing the makes the celebration even better is the music. “Where Is My Mind” by Pixies, which was Orange Cassidy’s theme at the time, is playing throughout, and it is just perfect. It evokes the ending of the movie “Fight Club” which also had the same song playing.
“AEW Dynamite” (2021) pic.twitter.com/uqYS7hZ6nx
— dakota ibushi/jones (@DakotaIbushi) April 1, 2021
The word “cinema” gets thrown around in 2023 wrestling – often now as a joke. And while I wouldn’t say these Best Friends moments aren’t better moments of filmmaking than many David Fincher movies – the music and especially the sweeping camera shots of the wrestlers at the end of Arcade Anarchy give it a cinematic quality I truly admire.
And, of course, it all ends with Tony Schiavone saying “Coming up next – The Accountant, here on TNT!” Could a discussion of cinema and AEW Dynamite ever end more perfectly?
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