Nobody likes a Downer Ending where The Bad Guy Wins, but except in the case of the Boring Invincible Hero, The Hero of the story won't win every little battle along the way. A common tactic is to make The Hero their own worf in The Worf Effect at the very beginning, then have The Hero come back stronger and win. The lost battle at the beginning and the won one at the end, in this trope, are always against the same major adversary, usually either The Big Bad or The Rival.
Anime And Manga
- Ichigo vs Byakuya.
- Ulquiorra - who, being Number 4, actually pulls Worf Effect out on some of the other Espada. Who were, until that point, enduring Worf Effect from the heroes. That's right; he Worfs people who Worf the heroes. Taken out by a COMBINATION of Eleventh-Hour Superpower and Super-Powered Evil Side.
- Sensui in Yu Yu Hakusho.
- Yusuke vs Gouki.
- Luffy vs Crocodile in One Piece.
- As well as against Shiki in 10th movie One Piece Strong World.
- And against Rob Lucci.
- Averted in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple, when Mophead challenges Kenichi to a rematch. When he wins, instead of sticking around for the rematch, he takes off so he can always remain stronger.
- Nanoha vs Fate in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. The entire first season was pretty much Nanoha getting rematch after rematch against Fate until Nanoha finally grew strong enough to win.
- Maka and Soul get to fight Crona second time in Soul Eater. Maka disobeyed Stein's orders specifically to get this revenge match.
- Natsu attempts this is Fairy Tail after a defeat by one of the mooks-with one hand tied behind his back just to prove that the last loss was just good luck on his opponent's part. However, he's convinced to go after the big bad instead.
- Common in Fullmetal Alchemist, especially with the homunculi, due to the fact that they aren't allowed to kill “sacrifices.” Subverted in the first anime when Ed loses against Envy, though Ed was arguably fighting with one hand tied behind his back since he was avoiding the use of alchemy near Al.
- Happens in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Juudai vs. Edo. Juudai won their first duel, Edo comes back a while later and tromps him into the ground. Juudai takes off to Neo-Space, returns with the Neo-Spacians, and teaches Edo some lessons.
- Inverted in Dragon Ball, where is the villain (Vegeta) who wants a rematch with hero Goku. He wins.
- Also inverted in Psyren where a villain (Dholaki) gets a rematch with the hero who nearly killed him the last time they fought (Ageha). Dholaki wins thanks to a Deadly Upgrade and would have killed Ageha if not for an unexpected Big Damn Heroes.
- Luke vs. Darth Vader in Star Wars Episode VI.
- Anakin vs. Count Dooku in Episode III.
- Happens in all Spider-Man films (though two don't have the hero defeated: Spidey wins the first over Green Goblin, and Sandman escapes the fight).
- The X-Men films have Storm/Callisto in the third, and Wolverine/Sabretooth in Wolvie's film.
- Wong Fei-Hung vs Yan Ti San in Drunken Master.
- In My Bodyguard, Moody bullies Clifford Peach with impunity... until to his own surprise Clifford gets his climactic Heroic Rematch at the end.
- In Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Scott replays the confrontation and battle with Gideon Graves after being brought via extra life.
- Happens twice in the Rocky series. In the first, Rocky goes the distance but loses to Apollo Creed, leading to a rematch in the sequel that Rocky wins. In Rocky III', Rocky's newfound cockiness leads to newcomer Clubber Lang beating him; the rest of the movie consists of Rocky getting his head back into the game to win the rematch.
- Chrono Trigger: Unless you're on a New Game+ (in which case, you can win the first time around), this will be how the final battle with Lavos plays out after it defeats the party in the Ocean Palace.
- Numerous examples in the Final Fantasy series:
- Villainous example: Final Fantasy I's final boss is the first one.
- Final Fantasy V has the heroes confront Exdeath in his castle after only barely surviving the previous encounter due to Galuf's Heroic Sacrifice.
- Final Fantasy VI has the team face Kefka at the end, who during their last meeting destroyed the world, destroyed their airship, and scattered the party.
- Final Fantasy IX: Subverted in the rematch with Trance Kuja, which, after an epic boss fight, ends exactly the same way as the first fight.
- Final Fantasy X has the rematch with Sin after the spectacularly failed attempt to stop it in Kilika.
- Lufia: Curse of the Sinistrals, you're forced to lose to Gades as soon as you land a hit on his core. After you've gained some companions and levels, you rematch him in an epic battle.
- Gades loves this trope. In every main game, he will beat you up badly when you first meet him (unless you grind) then you have to defeat him at the very end of the game, if not any time before the other big bads shows up.
- Agarest Senki, the Black Knight kills Leonhardt, but the man's saved by making a pact with a devil girl. The Black Knight ends up as a Disc One Final Boss.
- Mario vs Bowser in the original Paper Mario. Mario loses the first fight with Bowser and his Star Rod granted invincibility right at the start, then returns seven chapters later, beats Bowser and saves the world. Possibly also in some other games like Super Mario Galaxy, although Mario technically only attempts to initially stop Bowser before he's sent flying.