It’s a theater of status.
Professional wrestling isn’t about wrestling, of course. It’s about who’s up and who’s down. The stated rules are there to be broken by some of the participants, and it’s not professional in any useful sense related to the sport of wrestling.
And the metaphor is powerful in many areas of life.
But we can’t understand the metaphor without understanding the forms of status that are on offer.
There is the status of affiliation. This is about belonging, about knowing and living with the rules. It’s about weaving together the culture and this affiliation leads to a form of popularity.
And then there is the status of dominance. This is about winning at any cost, cheating and subjugating. It’s about unraveling the culture in service of just one aim–victory over the others.
Professional wrestling creates tension between the two forms of status. We know that we all benefit from affiliation, but often are swayed by the avenging dominator if we see ourselves in them.
The theater of status happens in our daily lives. It’s who sits where at the meeting, or who gets to announce that the Zoom session is over. It’s the insurgent and the status quo. It’s the dramatic back and forth between someone who seeks power and someone who is tired of being told what to do.
The successful affiliator doesn’t seek to out-dominate the dominator. Instead, affiliators weave together enough persistent community pressure to get things back on track. And sooner or later, people realize that the triumph of the dominator, while it can be painful, is short-lived.