“Welcome to the age of the cage match,” read the headline on a July 7, 2023, story by Joseph Bernstein in the New York Times. (Free link here.) The subhed: “These days, powerful men want to beat one another. Literally.”
The main event, as Bernstein put it, is between the CEOs of Twitter and Meta. On June 21, Elon Musk (in the Twitter corner) let it be known to his 148 million Twitter followers that he was willing to fight Mark Zuckerberg—CEO of Meta, which launched Twitter rival Threads on July 5—in a “cage match.”
I’m up for a cage match if he is lol— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 21, 2023
Musk, who has been at various times in the last two years the world’s richest human, later tweeted that such a match might take place in the Las Vegas Octagon, or on second thought, in Rome’s Colosseum. (The Italian minister of culture reportedly issued an invitation.) He also proposed “a literal dick-measuring contest.” Zuckerberg, a fellow billionaire whose wealth usually places him within grasping distance of Musk, is a student of Brazilian jujitsu. Musk has admitted that he almost never works out.
zuck wins the cage match without ever stepping into the ring pic.twitter.com/f2nLWD80v8— ian bremmer (@ianbremmer) July 10, 2023
Chalk it all up to the silly season, or to that male-primate-dominance thing, or to the “it’s just a joke lol” spirit of the age. (Neil Postman nailed it in 1985 with Amusing Ourselves to Death; Emily Nussbaum published a superb update in early 2017, “How Jokes Won the Election.”) In any event, I found myself wondering about the origin and history of cage match.