The Royal Rumble event inaugurates the most important two months in the professional wrestling calendar. For wrestling fans, it is the Olympic torch lighting, the tip off of March Madness, and the first night of Hanukah all rolled into one. The Royal Rumble match itself is a unique, exhilarating spectacle that sets countless story arcs into motion.
But the Royal Rumble match also serves as a microcosm for Capitalist economics. The coordinated chaos, regulated in the ring by the participants themselves, is emblematic of market forces. In the interest of brevity, I will highlight some of the more demonstrative examples.
The event pits people against one another in a dynamic, multi-faceted competition. The Royal Rumble’s appeal comes from it’s ever-changing nature. It starts with two people in the ring, battling to throw each other over the top rope. Every 90 seconds another combatant is added (to a total of 30 wrestlers) and the only way to win is to be the last man standing when all 29 other people are eliminated. At any given time, a wrestler may have to focus on 1 other challenger or 20. It may be ideal to go on the offensive, trying to tip a vulnerable wrestler out of the ring, or it may be better to skirt around a large scrum. The challenges of survival are always evolving.
The marketplace is also in a constant state of flux. The amount of challengers waxes and wanes. If someone focuses too much on one other person or entity, they open themselves up to attack from others. Additionally, no 2 competitors are the same. There are some who are nearly exhausted (could be likened to those drawing a early number), those comparable to each other, and those yet to come (the coveted numbers 29 or 30).
The event is fair, but also skewed. Everyone gets a chance. That’s fair. Everyone draws a number randomly. That’s also fair. But the numbering system plays a pivotal role in determining outcomes (or would if wrestling wasn’t scripted). If you are entrant #1, you are at a significant disadvantage compared with entrant #30.
This too is true of the marketplace. It doesn’t happen in a vacuum. The number drawing is a great metaphor for the extraneous factors one can’t control about their fortune. You have no influence on if you are born into a wealthy family that can bankroll your startup fees, if you have contacts with success in a similar field or if you have the physical resources to accomplish your goal. This is the random, if somewhat unfair nature of American Capitalism. It’s not to say the poor kid at community college (entrant #1) can’t win against the wealthy kid at Yale, (entrant #30). It’s just going to be harder.
The demands of the immediate situation create strange friends and stranger enemies. Not surprisingly, those who create alliances (albeit temporary) tend to be more successful. Often, the ad hoc teams are not built on friendship, but necessity. If Cody Rhodes and Sin Cara are staring across the ring at 7-foot-300-pound Kane, it is in their best interest to put past feelings aside and double-team the much larger competitor.
Conversely, people who would be close friends in other situations become bitter enemies while competing directly against one another. Many tag-teams have split because of the Royal Rumble event.
These odd alliances and rivalries are typical to the market as well. The best way for smaller companies to topple a giant in a particular field is to work together, however there are inherent risks when putting trust in other competitors. Because business relationships are not rooted in camaraderie or altruism, the bonds are tenuous at best.
The winner is often not the strongest competitor, but instead the most resourceful. I mentioned Kane earlier. He has never won a Royal Rumble. Neither has the Big Show, Andre the Giant, Mark Henry, The Great Kahli, or One Man Gang. The biggest wrestler is not always the winner of the Royal Rumble. The most successful competitor usually combines strategy, opportunism, intelligence, flexibility and, often, ruthlessness. The victory goes to those who can evolve.
This is true of businesses as well. Large, powerful companies fold when they can’t keep up with the rapidly changing environment (see Blockbuster or Circuit City among others). Ideas become small businesses when they are novel, which become large companies when they are shrewd, which sustain success when they are flexible. The Royal Rumble and the free market are ultimately exercises in Social Darwinism. Adaptation is a competitor’s greatest strength.
The Royal Rumble and the business realm are attractive to people because of their unpredictability, and the drama created within their framework. In many ways the Royal Rumble captures the positive aspects of American Capitalism, while simultaneously highlighting it’s pragmatic pitfalls. What exactly the positives and pitfalls are, is a matter of perspective, but few can say they weren’t entertained by watching it all unfold.