The question of who will be the next Waystar Royco CEO has consumed Succession fans since episode 1—overlapping with the debate around whether anyone can truly “win” in a show where everyone is miserable, unpleasant, and undeserving of power.
By the end of Succession‘s unpredictable yet satisfyingly foreshadowed finale, we have our answer: Tom Wambsgans (played by Matthew Macfadyen), who weaseled his way in by emphasizing his competence and obedience as a corporate middle-man. Some fans guessed this was coming, but one particular theory grabbed a lot of people’s attention—both positive and negative. And it came from… a baby naming website?
Now viewed more than 460,000 times on TikTok (and more in reposts elsewhere), this video from NameBerry.com asks, “Do the names on Succession reveal the show’s ending?”
NameBerry Editor-in-Chief Sophie Kihm starts off by explaining some of the more obvious symbolism in Succession‘s name choices, including the fact that the surname Roy is like “royal,” or king. However, she’s particularly intrigued by Tom Wambsgans, who has a rare German surname. She explains that in addition to sounding goofy, it means “goose with a big belly” or “pregnant goose.”
Crucially though, Wambsgans is tied to a real historical figure who offered a potential clue to Tom’s victory in the show.
@nameberry.com Do the names on Succession reveal the show’s ending? #succession #hbomax #tomwambsgans #billwambsganss #shivroy #successionhbo #successiontok #successionfinale #babynames #nameberry ♬ Epic Inspiration – DM Production
Kihm theorizes that Tom is named after Bill Wambsganss, an early 20th-century baseball player who is famous for completing the only unassisted triple play in World Series history. “He took out three players at once in what is essentially the finale of baseball.”
(Kihm actually isn’t the first to put forward this theory, but she’s by far the most viral.)
Posted a few days before the finale, this attracted polarized reactions because while it’s an intriguing idea, Succession isn’t the kind of show that drops secret clues. It seemed far more likely that Wambsgans was selected because it’s an awkward, uncool name for an awkward, uncool guy.
But then Tom did “win Succession.” So maybe the NameBerry.com TikTok was right? According to one of the show’s producers however, there’s no connection. Speaking to Slate, executive producer Frank Rich explained that Tom’s family name was chosen long before they’d “mapped out precise story twists that would culminate 39 episodes later.”
Labeling the theory “false,” he noted that many of the show’s writers are British and therefore have no knowledge of baseball anyway. They’re soccer people.
As it turns out, “Wambsgans” was selected because a Succession staffer was related to someone with this surname, and it sounded like a good fit for the awkward-to-pronounce vibe they were looking for.
Back during this early stage of the writing process, Succession‘s creators never could have guessed the show would inspire this level of Game of Thrones-style theorizing.