Asskicking Equals Authority
What happens when the people of the Planet of Hats
believe Authority Equals Asskicking
? They create a civilization, nation, or culture that bases its social hierarchy and governance on whosoever is strongest among them. Obviously, this is likely to lead to a lot of Klingon Promotions
Usually, the base culture or organization is of the Social Darwinist
variety or the Proud Warrior Race Guy
. They will benefit from great strength and martial ability, but don't expect them to put much value on teamwork. Their main problem will usually be that they place such importance on personal
power that they eschew not just The Power of Friendship
but tactical cooperation in favor of individual glory. This makes them vulnerable to cultures placing more value on teammwork as the relatively weaker warriors will be far better coordinated.
of such a group is usually the Big Bad
/ Big Good
and has Authority Equals Asskicking
up the wazoo. It's especially likely for there to be one or two Starscreams
hovering near the main bad guy. Grunts will usually be sociopathic enough for the heroes not to feel bad about killing
, but you can expect them to be especially easy to turn
with displays of kindness because Machiavelli Was Wrong
If they aren't evil, then expect them to swear everlasting fealty to the hero
once he bests their leader in combat
. (It's a good thing they don't usually switch to the villains' side when the hero loses that second act skirmish
.) These types will benefit both from their Darwinian upbringing and
the Power of Friendship
to easily massacre most enemy mooks.
One thing they have going for them is that they acknowledge the same strength in outsiders, as well. If a Mighty Whitey
manages to defeat one of them (indeed, the plot often requires that he does this) the majority will acknowledge him as the new leader. For an especially delicious twist, the leader of such a group will be an X hater (misogynist, racist, anti-human, whatever
) and of course, a person from said group will
beat them sooner or later and earn control of the tribe.
(Heroes who do this out of necessity will usually renounce the position once they no longer need it and give it back to the old leader or another more worthy person.)
Neatly satisfies the Sliding Scale of Villain Threat
and Sorting Algorithm of Evil
. Avoids Diminishing Villain Threat
, as there is a logical reason for a bigger bad to replace the current one (although it better not be that Smug Snake Reliable Traitor
). You can expect these groups to be easily divided by an Evil Power Vacuum
or Enemy Civil War
; it's often implied that should they ever get their act together or a strong enough leader to unify all of them
, the heroes would lose handily.
In a primal sense, this is Truth in Television
. When someone who you know is very big and strong
and / or capable of kicking the crap out of you
tells you to do something, human instincts as well as simple common sense will often suggest that it might be a good idea to do as you're told. On the other end, a whole bunch of guys
working together can intimidate individuals into doing the same.
Other exceptions are friends
, in which case pissing each other off is often par for the course
. Or if your boss is scarier
. More positively, in organizations or cultures that are good, The Hero
might earn their cred once they've bested a number of enemies, thus proving their worth. Think of it as attaining their Awesome Moment of Crowning
through Moments of Awesome
Not to be confused with Authority Equals Asskicking
, which often overlaps with this trope. The distinction depends on what type of story you're telling. A story about a contender rising through the hierarchy by kicking the asses of his rivals counts as Asskicking Equals Authority. A story about a hero confronting a villainous organisation whose members became ever tougher as he closes in on the leader counts as Authority Equals Asskicking
See their Super Trope
, Badass In Charge
, for any kind of Badass
in charge. And the other Super Trope
, Superior Successor
, for why the new authority kicks the old one's ass. Compare Heroism Equals Job Qualification
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Anime and Manga
- In Haou Airen, Hakuron went up the Triads's ranks via basically kicking all kind of ass to get there. Also, that's how he recruited Di Long into the group.
- In Naruto, the hidden villages of the Five Great Shinobi Countries are each led by a Kage; candidates are required to be one of the strongest ninjas in the village. However, deficiencies in intelligence and/or character can sometimes disqualify a candidate. In general, this principle of allowing only the best fighters to take the top leadership position seems to apply to any nation/organization run by ninjas and/or samurai.
- While Hokage candidates also need to be approved by the Hidden Leaf's elite ninjas in order to take office, it's still implied that they won't even look your way unless you've proven yourself as one of the village's best.
- This principle of requiring both combat and leadership abilities applies to promotions in general; the Chunin Exams themselves function more as Secret Tests Of Character, since merely winning all of your fights will not guarantee a rank up.
- Goku is the de facto leader of the Z Fighters in Dragon Ball Z, not because he is the smartest (in fact he is one of the least intelligent; the title is probably taken by Piccolo), or because he is a great tactician (Vegeta probably takes that one); no, it's simply because he is the strongest of the group by a huge margin.
- Not necessarily: Goku should be classified as more of a Genius Ditz than "the least intelligent"—it's just that his intelligence seems to more attuned to combat than anything else. For example, he incorporates his knowledge of the speed of light when fighting with Frieza, and a lot of the tactics he comes up with are quite clever. If you watch the series, you know he doesn't just win by repetitious punching. Vegeta on the other hand, the alleged "tactician", seems to employ the berserker method more often, particularly during his fight with Cell.
- Goku is seen as the de facto leader not only because of Asskicking Equals Authority, but also because he tends to keep a cool mind when things go to hell. Even when he is not the strongest, he tends to set systems in place that help the characters in the long run, like restoring the Dragon Balls after Piccolo and Kami fused, training Gohan to surpass the limits of a Super Saiyan, and teaching Trunks and Goten the Fusion Dance.
- Vegeta is a very good tactician, when he is cool-headed. When Vegeta is upset or being overly prideful, he tends to regress to tactics of throwing energy blasts until the target is dead.
- Although this isn't always the case, Vegeta was stronger for the first half of the Android/Cell arc and Gohan surpassed him ever since having the Old Kai unlock his power.
- While it is debatable if Gohan is still stronger than Goku at the end of the series, the reason why Gohan is never seen as the leader despite his power is because he tends to rely on his brute strength more than the other fighters. Gohan tends to do poorly against opponents who are equal or a little stronger than him since he cannot just overwhelm them, while Goku, Vegeta, and Piccolo can fight or even bring down opponents stronger than themselves by using fighting tactics.
- Straighter example with the Saiyans. King Vegeta became king because he was the strongest of them.
- As noted on the Pals with Jesus page, the main characters of Dragon Ball Z get to choose who the official God of Earth is almost entirely due to strength, and aren't afraid to strong-arm gods higher up the chain if need be.
- InuYasha: Bankotsu tells Inuyasha that he's the leader of the Band of Seven because he can outfight the other six.
- Since one of the main, and most important requirements for a person to become an General of the Black Order in D.Gray-Man is to have over 100% synchronization with their Innocence, this is naturally what happens.
- The Gotei 13 is a military meritocracy. The only way to get to the higher ranks is to have the talent to be better at asskicking than everyone lower in rank. The captains of the 13 divisions are so powerful that they're the core strength of the Gotei 13: there are 13 captains and 6,000 soldiers in total, but if the 13 captains are defeated, the organisation falls. The head captain, Yamamoto, is in charge of all the divisions and all the other captains. He got that position a thousand years ago by being the most powerful and dangerous thug of all. He's more powerful than most of the other captains put together.
- The Espada are designed to oppose the strength of the Shinigami captains. They are therefore designed to be as powerful as possible. They were originally created as Arrancar and fought their way to the top. The ones in charge are therefore the ones who are strong enough to keep their position from any challengers. Prior to Aizen setting up the Espada system Barragan had taken control of Hueco Mundo by conquering part of it and then defeating any challengers to his authority.
- The Vandenreich has a similar set-up. They are led by the Stern Ritters who are the most powerful Quincies and have been even further enhanced by the Quincy King's special Schrift. Yhwach himself is the most powerful Quincy. In fact, he is so powerful, he created the Quincy lineage and can therefore not only beat down other Quincies, but steal their power whenever he wants and redistribute it among other Quincies or just keep it all for himself.
- Raoh's goal in conquering the world in Fist of the North Star is to bring about a society like this, albeit one that is much more united than the Crapsack World that exists after the nuclear war.
- The Three Kings arc in YuYu Hakusho plays with this. At first, there are three warring countries, each led by the strongest fighter. Eventually, everyone agrees to hold a tournament, and crown the winner ruler of all demon world (until the next tournament). The strangest thing is, it works perfectly, even though none of the protagonists made it into the finals. Neither of the two surviving kings win either; instead, an old sparring partner of the recently deceased third king wins.
- Tenchi Muyo! Word of God states that this is how becoming Emperor of Jurai works. Ordinary Earthling Seina Yamada from Tenchi Muyo GXP learns that stumbling across a Humongous Mecha with a seed for one of Jurai's space trees catapulted him near the top of the list of potential heirs. The title character, Tenchi Masaki, would be at the top of the list if he had any interest in the job; the creator's semi-official doujin works indicated that eventually he will.
- Due to general Feudal Future feel in The Five Star Stories, this trope is at full power there. Only Headdliners could manage the Humongous Mecha of their world, and because of this all who exhibit such abilities generally happen to become nobility. All in all, given the general belligerence of the Joker society, it is to be expected.
- While Dynastical Council in Crest of the Stars evaluates not only the martial prowess of the potential candidates to the Jade Throne, it's still one of their major consideration, and to ascend to the title of Crown Prince, successful aspirant should rise in the military ranks to the position of Commander in Chief — with the Council constantly judging his or her performance and vetting the promotions accordingly.
- Specifically invoked in Saiunkoku Monogatari when Rou Ensei explains how he ended up as the Governor of an entire province even though he hadn't passed any of the examinations normally required to qualify for government office: the Sa clan was causing so much trouble in the province that the Imperial court needed to appoint a governor who'd be able to survive their repeated assassination attempts. Ensei was their guy. (That he had The Chessmaster Tei Yuushun supporting him as Lieutenant Governor helped to keep the actual administrative side of things running smoothly as well.)
- Yugioh GX has North Academy, where new students have to duel through a forty-man gauntlet to find out their rank. Chazz fights his way to the top and is immediately crowned head of the freshman class.
- Not only that, but they also have to do it with a deck they constructed from scratch using cards found outside the academy
- The society of Jungle Planet in Transformers Cybertron is based on this. A variant exists on Velocitron, where the planet ruler is whoever is the fastest.
- Apparently the set-up of Shibusen in Soul Eater. The more successful the members, the higher their rank of between one to three stars. However, the time the main cast spent as Almighty Janitors would suggest this is less about strict hierarchy than it is about whatever Shinigami feels like putting his students through for his own reasons/amusement.
- Not really legal in Code Geass - though it is implied that Charles killed his own father to get the position (at which point it became retroactively legal, since the Emperor is an absolute monarch). Lelouch manages to become Emperor by killing his father, and forcing the rest of his siblings to comply through violence and coercion. By which I mean mind control. Head of the Knight Bismarck Waldstein disagrees with the concept... but finds himself coming down with a case of death, with his killer taking Bismarck's place.
- In Record of Lodoss War most rulers are semi-retired adventurers of great fame. Kashue, Parn, Etoh, Shiris, and Spark were all adventurers for many years, before they became rulers of their own countries. Fahn, Beld, Ashram, and Ryona were also great warriors as well.
- Basically the entire premise of the Queen's Blade series. In a nutshell: assorted women of various fetishes fight for the right to become queen for a year. Even has two spinoff series for more characters and more fun.
- One Piece has Baroque Works, where one's spot in the organization is determined by how much ass you can kick. If lower-ranked members can eliminate higher-ranked ones, they can move up in the ranks. Most of the top ranks are Devil Fruit users.
- The Marines also play this straight. Captain (now Vice Admiral) Smoker gets to keep his position and often promoted despite being a Cowboy Cop largely thanks to his fighting ability and powerful devil fruit. After the time skip, the Marines have also recruited two new members entirely from outside the organization and promoted them straight to Admirals, because of their power.
- Claymore has this. The organization that Claymores work for only has forty-seven Claymores active at any one time. If a Claymore dies, all the Claymores below her are automatically promoted one rank - and if a new Claymore is powerful enough to take a higher rank than #47, all the Claymores weaker than her are automatically demoted.
- Of course, while Asskicking Equals Authority applies to Claymores while they're on missions, the ones who are actually in charge of the organization seem to have no physical power at all.
- Invoked by the (probable) Big Bad Naosada Washizu from Gamaran: He has about thirty sons and rules over a region famous for martial arts and full of powerful warriors. His plan? Each of his sons will hire a Ryuu (martial art school), and those Ryuu will fight in the great Unabara Tournament: the heir with the strongest Ryuu will become the new Daimyo, with the members as his vassals.
- Subverted in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann: after the Time Skip most of the members of Team Dai-Gurren are put in charge of the newly formed government entirely because they're such huge heroes. But, being for the most part a bunch of rowdy jackasses, the majority of them don't have any talent for or interests in politics and they know it. Until there's ass to be kicked, they're content to just sit back and be figureheads for the ones who actually know what they're doing.
- In 12 Beast's alternate dimension of Live-Earth, populated by monster girls and monster boys, positions of authority are rewarded to those that defeat their predecessor and/or the competition on the way up there. It really brings a new meaning to "biting and clawing your way up the ranks."
- Attack on Titan deconstructs this. The military system in place makes sense on paper: the best and brightest defend humanity's center (the Military Police Brigade) and the rest either maintain the walls or go on scouting missions (the Garrison and the Survey Corps, respectively). This means ultimately the best soldiers are likely never to be where they're needed most, making them useless to the overall war effort. Few of them ever actually participate in combat. Additionally, any exercises that they do would involve drilling with their guns (as they are responsible for maintaining law and order) so the 3DMG skills that got them to the top are stagnated and see little further use because they're at the top.
- In Judge Dredd, in the aftermath of the Apocalypse War, group of robots set up an independent city in the ruins of Mega-City One, with a wrestler droid as king. The law is that anybody who wants to change the way things are run must beat the king in a wrestling match.
- In Wakanda of Black Panther, they hold a tournament where anyone can challenge the current king for the right to take the throne.
- Sondra Marshak and Myrna Culbreath's Star Trek TOS writings are all about this. Especially in The Prometheus Design wherein we learn that Spock has been living in a cardboard world all these years. Vulcan superiority is their obsessive Author Appeal.
- Fimblvetrian society works on this principle in Honor for the Enemy.
- Want to know how to handle impatient hostages you're trying to rescue? Kick the crap of a Mecha-Mook, which is what Rob Jackson did in Power Rangers GPX.
- Played straight in the Final Fantasy VII fanfiction Shinra High SOLDIER. Raw, one-on-one physical combat skill is the sole quality required to become the general of the entire Shinra army, by beating the previous one in the Challenges. Sephiroth, an 18 year old who had been a soldier for only a few months, defeats Heidegger and becomes general of the entire army. His 16 year old girlfriend Julia becomes commander by defeating Commander Kinneas.
- In the Paris Burning universe, personifications of cities compete fiercely for the right to be capital of their country. Depending on the traditions of the society and the temperaments of the combatants, these conflicts can be long campaigns of political intrigue and underhanded violence, or simple face-to-face duels.
- Saito Hiraga invokes this beautifully in Jus Primae Noctis when he storms into the tent with the rebel generals where they’re meeting under truce to negotiate and tells them to sit down, shut up, and surrender to Henrietta or he’ll kill them all. They're not technically bound to obey his orders, since they were trying to use this trope and stage a coup, but they submit.
- In Origin Story, Alex Harris is able to ignore the Metahuman Registration Act because, to be blunt, the only beings in the Marvel Universe powerful enough to enforce on her just don't give a damn about puny humans and their political squabbles.
- In the Fan Film Judge Minty, Aquila, the leader of the Cursed Earth outlaws, is by far the most dangerous member due to his vast telekinetic powers, which is presumably also the reason why he's in charge in the first place. When the rest of his gang is quickly picked off by the lizard creatures, he initially manages to hold them off repeatedly before numbers take their toll.
Films — Animated
- At the end of How to Train Your Dragon 2, Toothless becomes the Alpha after challenging and defeating bad guy Drago's enormous Bewilderbeast with the help of the rest of the dragons. The rest of the dragons and the Vikings bow down to him.
- In The Book Of Life, thanks to the Medal of Everlasting Life and Posada's training, Joaquin kicked enough ass to be second-in-command.
Films — Live-Action
- Almost every single action movie hero takes charge of whatever situation they deal with, precisely because they're kicking the most ass and usually there is nobody who wants to challenge them.
- The tribe of not-so-friendly neighborhood cannibals in Doomsday uses this trope. At the end, the protagonist takes control of it by delivering them the head of their former leader.
- As the Necromongers say in The Chronicles of Riddick, "You keep what you kill."
- The barbarian horde in The 13th Warrior retreats when their leader is killed by the leader of the heroes' side.
- In The Quick and the Dead, Herod is the mayor of a small town because he has the most hired muscle on his side and he is nigh unbeatable in a gunfight.
- In Avatar, Jake Sully proves himself the leader of the Na'vi by taking, as his personal mount, the biggest, baddest beast in the sky.
- In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar's rise to power is attained by his asskicking almost everyone into submission, including his fellow chimps who become his army, his bullying handlers at the detention center, then the director of the research facility.
- In The Avengers, Captain America has to rally the New York City police to respond to the invading aliens and evacuate the civilians. The police commander on the scene scoffs at Cap's orders, saying that he has no reason to listen to Rogers. Then three aliens suddenly leap down upon them, who Cap beats down in seconds with just his fists and shield. The police commander immediately spins around and begins relaying Cap's orders almost verbatim.
- Godzilla. He didn't earn the title "King of the Monsters" for nothing.
- Played for laughs in Idiocracy, where President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho is porn superstar and five-time Ultimate Smackdown wrestling champion.
- Though he was presumably elected, and was popular because of the wrestling and porn. Seeing how physically unimposing but smarter than everyone else in that era Joe Bowers becomes president after him.
- Visser Three, from the Animorphs series, in The Andalite Chronicles, is a Hork-Bajir Controller with the respectable rank of Sub-Visser Seven. He's promoted to a low Visser rank immediately upon (and explicitly because of) his infestation of Elfangor's commanding officer and becomes the only Andalite-Controller in history. His rise turns meteoric from there. It helps that Visser Three had full access to all of the military knowledge in his host's (a high-ranking though disgraced Andalite warrior-prince) mind. Obtaining a prize like that would definitely warrant a promotion.
- The Hyerne nation in 'Philosopher in Arms' chooses its queen through one-on-one combat.
- The rank of queen in 'Branded' by Clare London is determined by a war game-style generalship competition.
- Rehvenge in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J R Ward becomes the supreme ruler of the sympaths by essentially killing the ones in authority.
- Gaining rank in the Star Wars universe has a lot to do with asskicking. Both Luke Skywalker and Han Solo are given senior officer status in the Rebel Alliance just based on the fact that they are awesome. Somewhat justified in that a rebel insurgency doesn't have the luxury of OCS and a career advancement system, but still odd that any random smuggler can become an instant General.
- In The Dresden Files the main character and narrator reflects that you don't get to become The Merlin, chief wizard on the planet, by collecting bottle caps. Since he is referring to someone who held off an entire Badass Army of Eldritch Abominations with one hasty ward, he may have a point.
- In the Kate Daniels series, the Beast Lord is said to rule over the 300+ Shapeshifters of Atlanta specifically for this.
- On a less malevolent scale, the Mandalorians also have a tradition of following their leaders based upon this trope. Whenever Mandalore dies (given the nature of their culture, this usually happens in battle), the strongest remaining warrior becomes the new Mandalore. This has been happening for over twenty thousand years.
- More specifically, the strongest warriors fight over Mandalore's helmet. If there's no helmet, there's no fighting, and no new Mandalore. KOTOR 2 pointed out how ridiculous this is—Revan managed to deal the death blow to the Mandalorian people basically by just killing Mandalore and taking the helmet with him when he left.
- They fixed that. Now either the current Mandalore chooses a successor (the person he or she feels is best fit to lead), or it's the guy who can get the most people the follow him. The second one happens if the Mandalore fails to name a successor before he dies.
- The Lensman series by E. E. “Doc” Smith had multiple cultures which followed this method (though this is usually explained by the fact that all of the subject cultures consciously patterned themselves after the primary culture). The Eddorians, the Ploor, the Eich, possibly the Delgonians, and the entire Council of Boskone, fit this trope perfectly. Kim Kinnison even uses this to take over the entire bad guy's empire and become the Overlord of Thrale by assassinating the previous Overlord of Thrale, which was the accepted way of moving up in the world. It was stated that all of these cultures were fairly stable, in that underlings would not try for promotion until they were fairly certain that they could succeed, and in the meantime they had to produce for their superiors or they would be replaced, either by their superiors for not producing or by their own underlings for failure to protect themselves.
- The Heroes of Olympus:
- One of the two possible ways to get promoted to praetor.
- Still in full effect for General Tyson of the Cyclops Army too.
- Also the method by which the Amazons can challenge for the queenship.
- Among the Children of the Light in The Wheel of Time, a victory in a duel conducted within the proper constraints results in the loser's rank and property being forfeited to the winner. Galad became Lord Captain Commander by using this law.
- Another example would be the Aes Sedai, whose internal ranking depends partly on how strongly they can wield magic.
- The Forsaken also structure their hierarchy this way; it's justified because of the fact that the Dark One likes pitting his servants against each other. The Forsaken hierarchy is pretty fluid as a result, since whoever is most successful at the moment has ascendance over the others, but Ishamael was always the overall leader both in his original body and as Moridin owing to being the setting's version of The Antichrist, and Lanfear and Demandred were usually close behind, with Graendal, Sammael, and Semirhage generally filling out the top ranks.
- The wizards of the Discworld were originally like this, with wizards rising through the ranks at the Unseen University by filling the recently vacated pointy shoes of their higher-ups. This state of affairs ended when the wizards ended up appointing Mustrum Ridcully to the post of Arch-Chancellor; not only did he come down like a ton of bricks on anyone trying it in his faculty, but he was also nigh impossible to kill. The wizards mellowed down shortly after.
- In The Fires of Affliction. Sir Roland Balfour's martial skill earns him the top spot on the mission to find the Mystery Cult's base. But he makes poor decisions, disregards advice from people he doesn't like, and is easily outwitted.
- The urgals of the Inheritance Cycle. Their entirely social structure is based on feats of combat, meaning that if you don't win duels and raid enemies' villages, you'll never advance in society.
- One other way for some of them to advance is a trial of manhood passage, where they go and kill a dangerous animal bare handed. We hear from one chieftain (who is of a larger 8-foot tall sub-species called a kull, take note), that he's the chief because during the passage he went and killed a "cave bear" while everyone else went after wolves. He also states that a cave bear was larger than an adult kull, and when we see one later we find he wasn't exaggerating.
- In A Song of Ice and Fire, this is the logic which places Robert Baratheon on the throne after he deposes Aerys Targaryen. It... doesn't go well.
- The problem here is not so much a lack of teamwork or strategy, as that Robert Baratheon has no aptitude or interest in actually running Westeros. That, and he's surrounded by about four Manipulative Bastard wannabes.
- It does seems possible that he was technically the closest non-Targaryen in the line of succession, as Robert's grandmother was a Targaryen. That being said, it doesn't appear to have played a part in the consideration of who would take the throne (though it is opined that even Eddard Stark, as first of the rebel lords in Kings Landing, could have made himself king if he wanted), as four Lords of equal prominence led the rebellion - Ed Stark, Robert Baratheon. Hoster Tully and Jon Arryn - and Robert was undeniably the leading warrior among them and principle driving force of the fight and thus the obvious choice.
- Bronn deserves a point all to himself. Here is a man who rises from a common sellsword to a Lord and Knight, far rarer than most people believe in medieval settings, simply because he's really good at fighting. He even states he could maybe, probably beat Gregor Clegane, one of the most deadly men in Westeros.
- The Dothraki seem to work on much the same lines; the most badass warrior calls the shots and leads the horde. Since the Dothraki are a Barbarian Tribe with less of a tendency towards political intrigue, it works better for them than it does for Westeros. The Dothraki's leadership only last as long as their Khal is strong and alive, if they are seen as weak, or are killed, they pick the next strongest warrior as their Khal.
- Mance Rayder, King-Beyond-the-Wall, can also be considered this. The wildlings are notoriously individualistic and rebellious, and don't recognize lineage or any form of religious, political or legal authority, only your skill at warfare and your ability to command. To be King means you have to have beaten the other contenders, sometimes in a fight to the death.
- Greatjon Umber, one of House Stark's bannermen, initially refuses to follow the young and inexperienced Robb Stark. Then Robb's direwolf bites two of his fingers off and he becomes the young lord's most loyal supporter, as well as the first man to proclaim him King in the North.
- In Guild Hunter, that's basically the way Angels' society works, with the Archangels, the most powerful of them all, reigning supreme.
- The Seguleh in the Malazan Book of the Fallen have their social hierarchy based entirely on martial skill. They were founded by an army of the First Empire after the Empire was destroyed.
- It is later revealed that they have a parallel civilian hierarchy that exercises authority on all internal matters that don't pertain to the army. While the top ranks of the army act as the rulers of the nation, there seem to be other paths of advancement available to those not skilled with the sword.
- In the C. S. Lewis novel Perelandra, the hero has to prevent Satan from tempting alien Adam and Eve. He first tries to do this through debate, but the devil keeps winning the arguments. The hero decides to settle matters with good ol' fisticuffs. Because the proper response to losing a debate is to beat up your opponent to prove that you're right despite logic.
- Subverted in Dune. Early on, Paul earns credibility among the Fremen by reluctantly killing one who challenged him to combat. The Fremen, like the Bedouin culture they loosely parallel, have a culture that values "honor," defended through bloodshed. Also, they expect their leaders to succeed by killing their predecessors. Though the Fremen take him for a Messiah and see his leadership as inevitable, he refuses to take the place of the tribe leader Stilgar by killing him. He takes power instead after an impassioned speech deploring the idea of sacrificing a loyal and talented soldier to such a brutal custom. This compels Stilgar to step down, and the Fremen accept Paul's leadership.
- In Gav Thorpe's Warhammer 40,000 story "Renegades", when Gessert demands that the members of his company paint over their insignia, so they realize they are renegades and commit themselves, one says that he is no longer authorized by the Imperium as their captain. Gessert says that if he wants to fight him, go ahead.
- In Jonathan Maberry's Patient Zero, the protagonist Joe Ledger is introduced to his competitors for leadership of Echo Team and told to think outside the box; six seconds later other five candidates (vets of the Navy SEALs, Marines, Army Rangers, and Delta Force) are flat on the floor.
- In the Shadowleague books, Aliana convinces Galveron that this might be true, in which case he would be most fit to be leader.
- Jenna and Carum in the Great Alta Saga become king and queen of the Dales because they prove they're the best fighters in the army.
- Alanna of the Tortall Universe, who is the King's Champion and has the authority of the crown when the king or queen are not present. Not to mention she has not lost a battle since her training days. King Jonathan also counts, since he is a trained knight (and was in fact Alanna's knight-master while she was a squire).
- InThe Stormlight Archive, anyone who wins a Shardblade becomes a noble, regardless of birth. In fact, its possible that that's how the noble houses came about in the first place.
- The Biblical Judges were military leaders of ancient Isreal (at the time a loose confederation of tribes) chosen to lead during times of war and were decided by this trope.
- In Robert E. Howard's Kull / Bran Mak Morn story "Kings of the Night", Wulfhere insists that Kull fight him for the leadership. Kull, though not knowing his language, deduced it before being told.
- In the Incarnations of Immortality series, in "For the Love of Evil", Hell itself is an interesting subversion. When Satan first takes control, he finds it plays this trope straight. After proving his ability, he re-organizes Hell. Interestingly, his greatest power is the destruction of demons which in a complete subversion is solely based on the demons belief and not any real ability
- In Codex Alera, Citizenship requires winning a witnessed duel with an existing Citizen, marrying an existing Citizen, or being granted Citizenship by the First Lord, generally for doing something completely awesome. It's largely hereditary, but that's because furycrafting power is largely hereditary.
- In Warrior Cats, BloodClan works this way. Scourge can kill a cat in one blow; he's leader. Bone is huge and also a powerful fighter; he's second in command.
- A belief in this principle is the undoing of the rabbits of Efrafa in Watership Down. When the biggest, toughest, most badass rabbit you've ever seen has stood alone against your elite warriors, and then rejects an offer of surrender because his chief rabbit has ordered him to stand... well, you don't want to stick around to meet the big guy's boss.
- Neatly subverted in that said Chief Rabbit is actually smaller, has a permanent leg injury, and just generally less prone to asskicking than Bigwig. Not that most of the Efrafan Owslafa stuck around to find this out—especially considering there is a bigger rabbit but who is not in command.
- The Minotaur Empire in Dragonlance is all about this trope; anyone can become Emperor so long as they defeat the previous Emperor in a ceremonial (but very real and lethal) duel, and social and legal conflicts are also often solved in the arena. This becomes a plot point in the Minotaur Wars trilogy where a new Emperor comes to power after a coup, and even though he is a much better leader sizeable chunks of the population won't follow him because he dishonorably assassinated his predecessor rather than formally duelling him.
- The leaders of the Holnists in The Postman. The Holnists are a gang of Crazy Survivalist social Darwinists, so naturally the men in charge are Super Soldiers.
- In Larry Niven's novel Footfall, the Fithp ultimately surrender unconditionally to the Humans and join their "herd" after Wes Dawson, aboard the Fithp mothership, overpowers its commander and takes control of it. He then performs a ceremonial gesture of placing his foot on top of the submitting commander's body, becoming the ship's new "Herdmaster".
- Averted in The Obsidian Trilogy where Kellen's fighting prowess earns him the respect of his commanders, but he is unable to get his greater strategic goals taken seriously until he is able to succeed in the command of a small squad.
- Vorkosigan Saga is a deconstruction. The endless strife and militarism of the ruling classes are ruining the planet Barrayar until they learn to get by with a minimum of asskicking. In a way it is a Coming-of-Age Story for an entire society.
- In one Sister Fidelma novel, King Colgu of Cashel is injured by an assassin — who isn't even trying to kill him, since under ancient Irish law a chieftain was required by law to step down if unable to physically lead his people in battle, thus making way for a rival.
- Honor Harrington: In The Honor Of The Queen, the religiously conservative Graysons initially can't handle Honor's mere presence, due to their prejudice against women. They simply can't believe that a woman can in any way be capable of a military command. This changes after the planetary newsnet gets their hands on a security-camera recording of Honor decimating a small army of armed assassins who were trying to kill the planet's leader — with her bare hands. Afterwards, nobody dares question her worthiness of command, suggesting that they're following the logic of this trope.
- In Riesel Tales: Two Hunters, the titular planet Riesel is ruled by whoever has the most firepower.
- In the Dirigent Mercenary Corps series, it's a minor plot point in the first book that officer cadets are not allowed to graduate and become officers until they've served a combat tour. Until then, they command no one and are just grunts like the enlisted men.
- In Harry Harrison's The Hammer And The Cross the Ragnarssons and their father are all famous champions with a history of victorious battles behind them, and this fame allows them to attract followers. In One King's Way, Shef duels the King of Sweden to the death for the right to the throne. Truth in Television to a great extent, the Norse really were that way.
- A Mage's Power: The Dragon's Lair hierarchy is built with this in mind. Proving that he can kick ass is how Eric promotes from Apprentice to Novice. At the top of each Squad is a captain more powerful than several regular members and at the top of the guild is The Dragoness, who could fight all five captains at once.
- Survivors uses and deconstructs the trope. In a group with a lot of unrelated dogs, this is how they choose the alpha. The pack leader is an idiotic, occasionally cowardly racist asshole who puts his needs above the entire pack, but because he's the best fighter they can't depose him. Luckily, he leaves anyway in the fifth book, and there's some justice to be found in that he becomes the Omega of the pack he joins.
- The Mortal Instruments:
- On more than one occasion when Luke has needed to acquire some allies in a hurry his solution has been to find the nearest werewolf pack, kill the Alpha and take over as leader.
- In City of Heavenly Fire, Maia takes down an usurper of the New York Clan in an absolutely vicious Curb-Stomp Battle which leads to her becoming temporary head and later permanent head of the New York Clan after Luke's retirement.
Live Action TV
- Game of Thrones:
- Robert Baratheon won the Iron Throne this way, but proves to be a very ineffectual ruler who hates the job.
- Each Dothraki khalassar is led by the most badass warrior present. Leadership can pass from father to son (Drogo's father Bharbo was khal before him), but it is not an inherited title and each khal must fight constantly to defeat his rivals and appease his supporters with victory.
- The Wildlings value charisma and martial skill far above lineage or rank. To become King-Beyond-the-Wall like Mance Rayder means subjecting or defeating every other contender, one way or another.
- Even in the Seven Kingdoms where people do respect birth and rank, Jaime Lannister fears what will happen to his authority if people realize he can barely wipe his own ass anymore.
- In an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, "Mirror Mirror", Kirk and a few of his bridge crew swap places with their counterparts in an alternate dimension where promotions are earned by killing your commanding officer. It's a wonder they managed to keep their Enterprise crewed by anything but a huge pile of corpses.
- The Klingons would've been right at home in that universe, as they actually want their worthy successors to prove their mettle by killing them to take their place.
- The Nietzscheans of Andromeda, on account of being a genetically engineered race of Social Darwinist Nietzsche Wannabes, base their society on this principle. The males compete with one another to gain the females' attention and the strongest male in the Pride is the Alpha.
- Stargate SG-1: The Goa'uld play it deadly straight, since the only way to become Supreme System Lord is to amass enough power to tell all the others to sit down and shut up. Since O'Neil(l) dealt Ra a nuclear sucker punch back in Stargate the other System Lords have been squabbling over who gets to fill his gold-plated shoes; whenever one seems to be getting close it's generally regarded as a bad thing.
- Babylon 5:
- The Narn evidently follow this trope to some degree; if a Narn is really pissed off at a higher-up, said Narn can challenge him to single combat for the position. G'Kar was challenged by a young hothead leading attacks on Centauri on the station; despite the underhanded tactics (e.g. having one of his lieutenants try to get G'Kar with a poisoned dart), G'Kar wins and manages to get something of a handle on B5's Narn population.
- Drazi "elections" work this way. Every so often, the population is randomly split evenly into the purple and green factions. These factions, whose only difference is which colour they're wearing, then fight. The side with the most victories forms the ruling body until the next election.
- In the episode "Wipe-Out" of the American TV series Raven, the titular character Jonathan Raven (who is secretly a ninja) decides to infiltrate a gang of surfers. The final test to join the gang is to fight every member, one by one. He defeats every single one except the boss. After losing this fight, he innocently remarks that he must've failed the test, but the boss replies that no, he's now the second in command. Later on, however, Raven (who is actually a ninja) admits to his pal that he lost the fight to the boss on purpose, because if he had defeated the boss he would have undermined his authority, and been unable to infiltrate the gang. The gang are playing the trope straight, and Raven uses Genre Savvy to take advantage of them.
- In the seventh season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when the group temporarily turns away from Buffy as their leader, they place Faith, who as the other Slayer is the team's second strongest member, in that role instead. This is in spite of the fact that Faith has no leadership experience whatsoever, and virtually every other character has a better claim to the leadership. Willow and Giles are smarter, and Xander is the only member of the group with actual management experience.
- Buffy later regains leadership upon slaying a Turok-Han in front of them.
- In Kamen Rider Kuuga, the Grongi's Gegeru game revolves around killing humans, each rank taking their turn and getting progressively stronger with rank. The winner of each tribe gets promoted to the next level, the winner of the Gegeru earns the privilege to fight the Grongi King for control of the tribe. To add to it, the king himself kills off 152 Grongi he decides are too weak to engage in the Gegeru.
- In The Sopranos, while recovering from a severe gunshot wound, Tony notices that his old lieutenants don't follow his orders as readily as they used to, and he suspects that they now see him as weak. Tony responds by goading his hotheaded, musclebound bodyguard into fighting him. He kicks the everloving shit out of the much younger man in front of his entire crew, to their visible shock, then calmly walks into the bathroom and coughs up blood into the sink. No one questions his orders after that.
- Perhaps the practice became outdated after 1980 or so, but if you want to hold any National Wrestling Alliance Championship at the world level, you don't just have to be good at your job in the ring, you also have be prove able to kick ass when your opponent is not cooperating with you to make it look good. Below the world level, things are more relaxed.
- This trope is one of the factors in New Japan Pro Wrestling's dork age during the 2000s. Wrestlers would be pushed solely for their success in mixed martial arts bouts, regardless of how well they wrestled or if it even made any sense. Things largely turned around in the 2010s.
Destroy the Godmodder
: The Godmodder himself
is the highest ranking godmodder in Minecraft. However, to the ascend the ranks of the godmodding tiers, one must defeat other equally powerful godmodders. It took a lot of asskicking for the Godmodder to reach the top.
- In Supernormal Step, Cavan Henderson was voted dictator of the United States because he single-handedly defeated Hitler...who was a little green gremlin.
- In The Adventures of Dr. McNinja one villain has a plan to take over the presidency by convincing Americans that it works this way. The arc ends with the good doctor pointing out all the many flaws in the plan.
- In The Order of the Stick, this is the reason the imp offers for trying to attach itself to V.
- There's also the quicker way to become the supreme leader of a rather large army.
- Similarly, The Bandit King set up his band of bandits with this as a rule. Unfortunately for him, his daughter, a sorcerer, grew up to be more powerful than he was.
- In Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures , this is the basis for most Creatures' system of (ahem) ethics. On the brighter side, it means revenge is pretty rare, since, by such logic, if you were defeated, you deserved to be.
- In S.S.D.D this is the basic principle of the Collective of Anarchist States' hierarchy, though most challenges are non-violent, a lower ranking Advisor is promoted if he challenges a superior's decisions and gets a better result. The CORE is a bit more Authority Equals Asskicking due to their use of cybernetic implants.
- In Strays, clan leaders fight for it — then, they are part wolf. Intervention of friends is dirty pool.
- In Gone with the Blastwave the red army promotes solely based on kill count.
- In TwoKinds the Basitin operate on this principle, after the three generals are killed the succession is largely decided by means of duels, and the king is nearly eight feet tall, in a species that is rarely more than 5'5".
- In The Gamers Alliance, the strongest and/or most cunning demons end up in leadership positions in the hordes. Anyone can challenge the current leader of any tier, and if the previous holder of the title is defeated, the victor takes the title.
- The Yamani Empire from Open Blue.
- Destroy The Godmodder: The Godmodder is the only Omega+ godmodder in the world. He did that by utterly destroying every other godmodder there was. While he was at lower power levels too!
- The Society For Creative Anachronism holds crown tourneys every six months where people fight in armored combat to determine who shall be the next king or queen of their kingdom.
- This is Truth in Television for a major part of human history. Many leaders came into power by kicking out the region's current leader, then doing the same to anyone who might try to challenge them later. (Although it's usually the army doing the asskicking rather than the individual leader.)
- It is said that when Alexander the Great was asked to whom the succession would go, he replied "to the strongest." note . Of course no one ever figured out who was the strongest until the Romans came along and showed everyone, thus becoming The Empire.
- Along the Scottish Border that was pretty much how the clans worked too. See The Steel Bonnets
- Attila the Hun was the leader of the Huns because he was the strongest of them all.
- In ancient Ireland, chieftains were required to be of sound body — if a king lost his arm or leg, he was expected to step down, since obviously he could not lead his armies or protect his people.
- Pick any animal species organized by packs or herds, and their social order will generally be ranked accordingly, with the strongest male exerting the most influence, both with regards to the pack as a whole, and with regards to the available females.
- The term "pecking order", in fact, originates from hens. Yes, even female chickens will fight to establish dominance. The alpha hen in a flock will frequently pull out the feathers of lower-ranked hens, often drawing blood. And since they usually attack the head, pecking out of subordinate hens' eyes is not unknown.
- Wolves and lions are both widely known for their respective social structures.
- Though atypical, this can even happen with domestic dogs: If their owner fails to establish authority by the dog's standards, the dog may declare themselves "pack leader" and refuse to be trained.
- The Leader of any horse herd is the dominant mare. She chooses routes and takes the best drinking/feeding. The stallion's role is to drive stragglers along and stay at the edges, guarding against threats. Taking down threat after threat wears on the stallion. Sometimes he'll allow a younger stallion to join him, though it means he'll eventually be displaced, thus making for a sith apprenticeship.
- Warrant Officers in the United States military are part this and part Genius Bruiser. You get to be a warrant officer by being more skilled in your Military Occupational Specialty than an E-9 (highest ranking enlisted) in that specialty is supposed to be. Unlike regular commissioned officers, warrant officers don't need college degrees (though many have them anyway). Although outranked by regular commissioned officers, they still rate salutes from enlisted members, and can even be made company commanders in specialty units.
- Among the Ijaw clans of southern Nigeria, the cultural period before the rise of war-canoe houses and kingship (dated usually as 17th Century) is known as the "Heroic" or "Warlord" period. Basically, clans rallied behind strong fighters who organised them along war-making lines (levies of warriors from each family, garrisons). The top warriors in each clan ruled in council under the strongman, who could be deposed for failure in warfare, or a challenge to single combat. Many of the founding warlords have been elevated to deity status, becoming "patron saints" of combat and national cult heroes for their clans (Fenibeso for Okrika, Egbesu for many of the central Ijaws).
- Democratic Elections are (sometimes) a more civilized form of this. When you think about it they are a non-violent Combat by Champion involving an exchange of insults until the one whose reputation has been least destroyed gets the privilege of taking office and being blamed for all the evils of the world for his entire term. In any case it is about giving power to the one who was victorious in a contest.
- This trope is a nice summation of the fascist worldview. In the 1930s and '40s, when it was also sometimes referred to as "Realism" in relation to foreign policy, Orwell summed it up with a supposed quote from Germany's "Iron Chancellor" Bismark: when asked if a failure in foreign policy had been caused by being too harsh to a defeated enemy, Bismark was supposed to have replied "No, it was clearly caused because we weren't harsh enough".
- William Marshall was one of the most important English military commanders and at the end of his life the regent of the kingdom. While his father and elder brother had held the office of Marshall, he was sent to France as a child, where he eventually became one of the greatest champions in knight tournaments. He first got a foot into politics when he was chosen as the personal coach for the son of the king of England, because he was the greatest fighter in all of Europe! Even in his 70s he still fought in major battles, which probably helped him a lot in being chosen as the regent for the infant king after the death of King John.
- This was how Henry IV, Edward IV, and Henry VII became King of England, securing their throne on the battlefield and eliminating opponents through violence.