The Worf Effect

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"He's the guy who's here to act tough so new characters can wreck him when they're introduced thus proving to the rest of us how amazing they are! Like Wolverine or Worf."
Red Mage, 8-Bit Theater

Want a quick way to show how dangerous one of your unknown characters is? Simple, make him win a fight or score points against a character that the audience already knows is tough. This establishes him as willing to fight and marks him as sufficiently dangerous.

For new villains, it's common for them to pick up the toughest character among the heroes and hurl him across the room or otherwise take him out in one blow, thus showing that they are the real deal. "Wow, he just beat up Worf! He must be bad news!" Of course, if the same character is repeatedly used as the target of displays like these, it can result in Badass Decay, and if abused, his toughness could become an Informed Ability.

Worf Had the Flu is sometimes used to justify Worf's poor showing. A Worf Barrage is when an "ultimate" attack or technique is defeated this way instead of a character. If a new villain introduces himself by beating the previous villain, that's Make Way for the New Villains (a Sub-Trope). When Worf gets beaten emotionally rather than physically, that's Break the Badass.

Compare Badass in Distress and The World's Expert on Getting Killed, both of which can overlap. Killing off a Red Shirt or two is a slightly different method for achieving a similar effect. If the character beats up a whole army's worth of Worfs, Conservation of Ninjutsu is probably at work. Contrast Fight Dracula, in which a writer has a pre-established character (as opposed to a new one) demonstrate their awesomeness by fighting Dracula (but not necessarily winning).

Named for the tendency in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine for hostile creatures to do that very thing to Worf. No relation to the Whorf effect.

No Real Life Examples, Please.


Examples of The Worf Effect include:

Anime and Manga[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Ace Pilot and Newtype Char Aznable in Zeta Gundam. Despite having more experience and low level Newtype gifts, as well as piloting a Super Prototype, he underperforms compared to Kamille, Amuro (who's rusty in comparison, yet still proves he's an Ace Pilot), Emma (after suffering from her own Worf Effect before getting the Gundam MK II as her primary machine, which takes her to a level of badass), Haman Kahn, Paptimus Scirocco, and Reccoa Londe.
  • Naruto: Sasuke Uchiha suffers from this a lot, especially pre time skip. Kakashi, Rock Lee, Itachi, The Sound Four all beat Sasuke fairly quickly and easily with the latter two actually helping lead to his Face Heel Turn. He still suffers from it post time skip, even getting hit with it 3 times in a row at the Kage Summit, and the fight with Killerbee...
    • Sasuke may count as a Deconstruction pre-timeskip, since being repeatedly defeated led to him believing he was falling behind which eventually drove him to seek out Orochimaru for power.
    • Even characters who gave Sasuke trouble earlier in the series wound up getting the Worf treatment in some way or another. Rock Lee especially, since after curb stomping Sasuke, he proceeded to get an arm and leg absolutely destroyed by Gaara after suicidally opening his inner gates for a severe boost in strength, and narrowly avoid getting killed by Kimimaro after one spectacular Drunken Master display.
    • This also happens quite frequently to Kakashi Hatake, more so post time skip. In Part 1, Itachi Uchiha proceeds to curb stomp him. With ease. In part 2 Kakuzu had every advantage leaving him nearly helpless offensively (Kakashi, however, mentions that he could have won with the Mangekyo Sharingan, but would have ended up in the hospital again). We also see him nearly killed by Deva Path Pain who takes little to no effort to defeat him and set him up to die.
    • The ANBU black ops, despite being referred to as incredibly powerful, never seem to actually do anything other than lose.
    • This happens a lot in Naruto. Aside from the examples listed above, Orochimaru got curb-stomped twice by Itachi, once before the series, and again at the end of Sasuke's fight with Itachi. Deidara made his introduction by defeating Gaara, and then lost to Sasuke, who in turn got hammered by Killer Bee and the Five Kages (including Gaara). Probably the best example is when Pain worfed the entire Leaf Village!
    • One interesting case is Naruto's defeat of the Third Raikage. In this case, his victory was used not to show how powerful he had become, as his best attacks still failed to work, but how much he had progressed tactically.
  • In Beast King Golion, every encounter the titular robot has with a robeast who is a physical threat to Golion is an example of this.
  • Sailor Moon: Poor Mamoru. On top of being the show's designated Distressed Dude, he also had the distinction of being a strange candidate for this trope because all he had going for him as Tuxedo Mask were his physical strength and agility, a cane, and roses that rarely had any magical properties. Needless to say, it wasn't terribly threatening when you saw the powerless guy in a suit get his butt kicked to try and show the bad guys were a real threat compared to...the main characters who all have super powers.
    • This even happened to his Literal Split Personality counterpart Moonlight Knight, who was effortlessly beaten down by the villain at the end of the story arc he appeared in for the sake of establishing how dire things had gotten. Needless to say, it wasn't that surprising considering just who he was split off from. At least Moonlight Knight had a sword.
    • Likewise, Sailor Jupiter is almost always killed first in the Battle Royale With Cheese episodes, or at least the first knocked out because she's the strongest out of the Inner Senshi.
  • Just being the title character doesn't earn Inuyasha an exemption from Worf duties. Generally any fight against a major opponent has to open with the same ritual: Inuyasha unsheathes his BFS; headlong running charge into opponent; sword gets blocked (either directly or by some magic force field), and sparks fly for several seconds; then Inuyasha gets thrown back to the practical horizon. (In this case, the big tough character often does prove capable of beating the opponent handily but still has to give them the chance to toss him. Perhaps it's etiquette?)
  • Bleach
    • Both Chad and Renji have been beaten very easily several times (4 and 3 times respectively) to establish the strength of their opponents.
    • Chad plowed through dozens of regular Shinigami, including a 3rd Seat, only to lose to Shunsui Kyoraku. His arm gets demolished by Yammy Llargo, he gets pummeled by Nnoitra Gilga and he loses to Yammy again, but off-screen.
    • Renji, the guy who fought fair-and-square with The Hero, was defeated by Byakuya Kuchiki, sliced apart by Yylfordt Granz, humiliated by Szayelaporro, and curb-stomped off-screen by Yammy. Hopefully this is taken care of, considering the later chapters...
    • Komamura also suffers from this trope. Seriously, he's a captain and the only fight that he's won was against a Fracción arrancar. In the fight with Tousen, even though he did most of the fighting, he couldn't land a single lasting blow due to Tousen's instant regeneration ability. This means the only one who really did anything was Hisagi, who at first was KO'd early, but lands the killing blow. Worse, Komamura's bankai shares damage with him, so unless he can win in one hit, he's screwed. This means he's doomed to always fall victim to this trope unless his opponent is significantly weaker than him.
    • Uryu Ishida loses more fights than he wins, but makes up for it by having his wins be quite spectacular.
      • A small list of losses includes but is not limited to: Renji, Szayel, Ulquiorra, Inaba and Tsukishima.
    • Though not effected by it themselves, expect this to happen somewhere, somehow, whenever Ulquiorra or Grimmjow are important to the plot during the Arracnar Saga; Ichigo got Worf'd by a one-armed swordsman, and don't start on Loly.
  • Vegeta is doomed to this role for most of the Dragon Ball series. After his Heel Face Turn, his place in the plot is "lose to Recoome, almost lose to Frieza, lose to Frieza's final form, get killed by Frieza, lose to Android 18, lose to Perfect Cell, almost lose to Cell Jr, lose to Buu, and get the crap kicked out of him by Buu while someone else wins the fight.
    • Krillin suffers from this nearly as much as Vegeta.
    • Nappa is on the giving and receiving end of this. First, he easily engages all living Z Warriors who have been training for a year to fight him and kills all but two of them, then he's tossed aside quickly when Goku arrives.
    • Yamcha seemed to be the caretaker of this role long before Vegeta showed up, especially in the tournaments, where he was always paired up in the first round against a then-unknown opponent whom everyone expected would be dispatched easily but would end up either winning the tournament (Jackie Chun, Tenshinhan) or being, well, God. Every instance ended with the other main characters in shock that someone like Yamcha was beaten. Unfortunately, this happened so often without giving him enough chance to win fights that, by the time the Z-era began, he had long since lost all credibility.
    • Piccolo has also suffered from this a few times. After fusing with Nail and fighting Freeza's second form on fairly equal footing, Freeza transforms and utterly trounces him. Likewise, in the Cell Arc, he rejoins with Kami and becomes a "Super Namek," proving himself too much for Imperfect Cell and an equal match to Android 17. Then Cell returns after absorbing several cities-worth of people, and effortlessly defeats and nearly kills him.
    • Both Piccolo and Vegeta get this in almost every single movie they appear in.
    • GOHAN fell victim to the same fate in the Buu Saga. He was built up over the entire series as Goku's successor, and ultimately loses to Super Buu and gets absorbed, even after a significant power multiplier. Although, in this case, Gohan was winning by a lot until Buu absorbed a SS3 Gotenks and Piccolo. Like Gotenks and Piccolo, he was absorbed by surprise.
      • Not exactly, due to him being DOMINATED by Dabura.
    • Even Goku wound up like this in late DB and early DBZ. Both Tao-Pi-Pi and and King Piccolo defeated him with little to no trouble in their first bouts with him forcing Goku to seek ways to get stronger to overcome them. Then at the start of DBZ when Raditz showed up, he took Goku out with one kick during their first encounter and spent most of their second curbstomping him.
    • And to include a villainous example, Freeza. We all remember how the epic fight against him took 20-something episodes and even after Goku transformed into a Super Saiyan he was still able to hold his own for a bit. Then when he gets rebuilt into a cyborg and more powerful than ever, so when he lands on Earth it's expected that everybody is royally screwed. Only then Trunks shows up and kills him within five minutes in real time. It gets even worse for him in the anime where any filler and movies that have him make a reappearance usually have him taken out in one blow.
  • Ultimate Muscle is another one of those series where every good guy except the main character seems doomed to lose every fight they get in. Dik Dik van Dik and Wally Tusket get a lot of Lampshade Hanging about their repetitive losses, but there's also Jaeger, whose ability is lauded far and wide...and who loses every single match he gets into. (Well, OK, he wins one, but that was where he was fighting on a team.)
  • In Cardcaptor Sakura, Kerberos finally returns to his awesomely Badass-looking true form...and gets hammered every. Single. Time. Often, it's explained by having Kero's creator be the one to send the threat to test our heroes, but not always. It'd be nice to have Kerberos's true form prove non-useless once in a while.
    • Somewhat lampshaded in the manga, near the end of the first arc, when they acknowledge Kerberos's vicinity makes The Earthy stronger, and Kero comments to himself "My true form isn't helping at all."
  • Happens to Asuka Langley Sohryu quite often in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Throughout the series, her achievements as a human and a pilot are often noted, however, she is never once shown defeating an opponent by herself. By the end of the series, she is Mind Raped by an Angel, and subsequently becomes so bad at piloting she suffers a nervous breakdown.
    • And in End of Evangelion, she finally manages to get her act together against the Mass Production EVAs only to get speared through the eye shortly before suffering one of the most Cruel And Unusual Deaths in the entire damned series.
    • Subverted in Rebuild of Evangelion, where Asuka makes her entrance by one shotting the new attacking Angel, just to throw this out the window and show us why she's considered an Ace Pilot to begin with. She does require help defeating the 8th Angel (Sahaquiel in this one), but teamwork between the three pilots was kind of the point of that fight even the original. And she can't be held accountable for being absent during the next two Angel battles. It remains to be seen how she will fare in the coming fights, but this is Evangelion we're talking about here...
  • Saint Seiya's Big Guy Taurus Aldebaran devolved into this after his first fight, serving only to establish that the new antagonists could defeat a Gold Saint and were thus worthy of their place on the Algorithm. He ended up being killed offscreen in the last arc of the manga. At least he got a Tear Jerker and a delayed-effect Crowning Moment of Awesome out of it.
    • Even more ignominious: Shiryu's Dragon Shield, one of the strongest ever due to being submerged for millennia at the bottom of the holy Rozan waterfalls, is usually the first thing that cracks, splits, or outright shatters when he faces a new class of enemy.
    • Some sections of the fandom have made it a drinking game: if it's a movie or an OAV, drink every time Seiya faces the brand new Olympian Of The Week only to be swatted aside by the villain's top lieutenant with no effort whatsoever.
  • Need a quick way to show a mage's power in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha? Have them shatter Nanoha's Deflector Shields, which are amongst the strongest in the series and the reason why Nanoha can invoke The Worf Barrage often.
    • Meanwhile, after her first battle, poor Vita has often found herself on the receiving end of this. May it be a powered-up Nanoha forcing her to the defensive, or Nanoha giving her an Oh Crap moment with one attack alone, or Zest smacking her out of her Unison form, it's like she's receiving karmic backlash from her initial beatdown of the main character.
      • Some chapters later Vita got (rather quickly) trounced again by one of the new villains just to maintain the tradition.
  • Sanosuke Sagara from the Rurouni Kenshin was the first enemy to pose any sort of threat to Kenshin. He was superhumanly strong, almost invulnerable physically and wielded a BFS that would have made Cloud pull a muscle. His skills were so impressive he was worthy of becoming a regular cast member. Unfortunately for Sanosuke he had to take second string to the title character. In a short time it became a running theme that before an enemy could be considered a match for the Batosai, they first had to curb stomp Sanosuke. By the end of the series the people Kenshin goes toe to toe with laugh in Sanosuke's face and for shear amusement smack him around in unarmed combat (which is supposed to be Sanosuke's specialty).
    • Probably the best example of this would be the introduction of Shinomori Aoshi in the anime, who knocked out Sanosuke down with one hit when Kenshin gave Sanosuke a beatdown which included a Ryu Tsui Sen, arguably Kenshin's strongest attack at the time.
    • This doesn't happen so much in the manga, where the only ones to brush Sanosuke aside are Jin-E, Shishio, and Saito, the last of which inspires him to undergo Training from Hell to catch up. By the end, Kenshin notes that Sanosuke has become so strong that he doesn't have to keep an eye on him in battle.
      • During one of the final arcs in the manga Sanosuke is getting his ass handed to him while Kenshin does nothing but observe, a character tells Kenshin that he's truly heartless if he can watch his friend getting killed and not help him, to which Yahiko answers that, if it was anyone else (even someone Kenshin didn't knew) he would go help him without second though, but Sanosuke was the only one strong enough to not need Kenshin's help and because of that he was the only one suited to fight side-by-side with Kenshin.
  • Bubblegum Crisis:
    • Despite having high-yield firearms, railguns, powered suits and combat helicopters, the AD Police often cannot stop rogue Boomers, although to be fair the cases depicted usually involve very out of the ordinary boomers going rogue. Their K11s did stop a BU-12B Combat boomer (both getting destroyed in the process, sadly, although the second one was pure jinx on the AD Police side) in "Blow Up", though. Also, Leon sniped Largo before he could pulverize the Knight Sabers in an orbital beam of death.
    • As the designated Badass of the team, Priss also suffers from this to some extent - especially in "Red Eye's".
  • Despite not being one of the top tier characters on One Piece, Franky is commonly beaten by the Big Bad after he joins the crew. Perhaps it's because he's the only member of the cast who is Made of Iron, while for the other crew members it's more figurative.
    • The Big Bad of the arc often does this to several of Luffy's crewmates before Luffy goes to fight him (Buggy did it to Zoro, Arlong did it to Zoro and Sanji, Eneru did it to Sanji, Robin, Zoro and Wiper, and Moria and Oars did it to the entire crew), typically to establish that he's too strong for anyone except Luffy to defeat (although Zoro is often subjected to Worf Had the Flu because he is as strong as Luffy and his defeats are to be justified more). The villains often do it to minor characters to reveal just how strong they are, sometimes offscreen (for example, Mr. 3 supposedly captured a criminal worth 42 million, and this is revealed back when Luffy's bounty was 30 million).
    • On the other hand, the jailers get this during the Impel Down arc, especially the Demon Guards. One of the Demon Guards gave Luffy and the others some trouble in its first appearance, but all four of them were easily beaten in one hit in every encounter after that. They existed only to remind the audience that Luffy, Jinbei, and Crocodile are still really strong.
    • Before the timeskip, the crew had real problems taking down a Pacifista. Now, Luffy can take them down no problem, and Zoro and Sanji attacked one together, each claiming to have gotten in a fatal blow.
    • During the Water Seven arc, the crew had gotten themselves stomped in their first encounter with CP9. When the story gets to Enies Lobby, Luffy has a rematch with Bleuno, ranked as mid-level among the CP9 agents, and brings out new moves to stomp him, showing off just how much more powerful Luffy is.
    • The Straw Hat crew as a whole can be used for a variation of this. During the Whitebeard War following Impel Down, antagonists who had defeated the Straw Hats without question in their first encounters (Aokiji, Kizaru, and Mihawk) have their initial moves blocked almost effortlessly by Whitebeard and his officers Marco & Jozu, which quite clearly displays the weight class we're seeing for these characters. Further, Little Oars Jr. was defeated easily by the combined power of three Warlords of the Sea, when his zombified ancestor took all nine Straw Hats and then some.
    • Luffy's older brother Ace is also hit with this. Though he is quite strong compared to Luffy in both devil fruit and combat abilities, he's also used to show how much stronger certain characters are. In his backstory, Whitebeard easily defeated him more than a hundred times, Jinbe tied with him in a match that nearly killed both of them. Blackbeard also takes him down after a relatively short fight, and Akainu burns and eventually kills Ace.
      • Of all the characters, the one closest to being the main villain got this, Black Beard, among other things, was considered to be at the same level of one of the four most baddasses pirates in the world, this even was before he got his super powers, several characters had ben Worfed for the sake of his, and he's considered one of the only two enemies Luffy had ever ran away from, yet during the Impel Down arc he got badly trashed (like Voldemort-killing-Cedric badly) by a completely new character called Magellan who's in charge of the prision, it's important to notice that by the end of the very same arc that he got Worfed he came to be considered the most dangerous criminal in the world, and every named character ever wants his head, this Magellan dude is bad news. Notably, Magellan has one of the most broken non-Logia Devil Fruit powers in the series (up there with Whitebeard himself), and the team-up of Luffy, Crocodile, Jinbei and Ivankov has no choice but to flee from him.
  • Eyeshield 21 this applies some players, most heavily the heavyweight linemen—considering how easily Gaou crushed Banba and the Pyramid Line (previously the standard for strength, tying with the Devil Bats' own center Kurita), Mr. Don (who can smack down Gaou with ease) should be strong enough to split an anvil by coughing at it!
  • Any dragon that shows up in Mahou Sensei Negima will inevitably be defeated by someone in an awesome manner. Albireo has a dragon acting as his guard dog, Kaede took out a dragon while blindfolded, Yue defeated a griffin dragon to prove she Took a Level in Badass, and Jack Rakan is said to have fought the Sacred Guardian Beast of the Empire, the Ancient Dragon Vrixis Nagasha on even footing. It's one of the most powerful beings in existence, and it still worfed. It shows up again in chapter 281, and gets its ass kicked. Stupid reality warping Big Bad.
    • Dynamis also has some trouble with this: after his debut, Nodoka steals his Reality Warper staff and uses it teleport away, Chachamaru obliterates his massive shadow summon, and later on he gets his ass kicked by Negi's Demon Form.
    • Fate's Quirky Miniboss Squad had precisely half a successful battle before this set in.
    • And now the whole of Ala Alba is suffering from this at the hands of the new Averrunci.
  • The Digimon franchise as a whole has Seraphimon. As an Mega-level Digimon, the leader of the Three Great Angels and one of the rulers of the Digital World in the Digimon Frontier continuity, he is incredibly powerful, but you'd only really know this if you're into the Expanded Universe. Whenever Seraphimon shows up in an anime or manga, he is promptly defeated (and outright killed in Frontier), demonstrating just how dangerous the new antagonist is. His debut appearance in the first of the Digimon Adventure 02 movies had him defeated by Cherubimon within thirty seconds of evolving, and that was with another Mega Magnadramon, assisting him!
  • The Kazekoshi team in Saki, which is the school to go to for Mahjong that boasts a massive lineup and a history of championships that was only broken last year by the Mahjong Demon called Koromo. They started the Finals with a massive lead over the opposition after Mihoko crushed everyone else in the first match without losing her gentle smile...then spent the rest of the finals bleeding away said lead as they proceeded to be every other school's punching bag, to the point where their representative in the last match spent most of her time there watching in horror as she gets stomped into the ground by everyone else. You know things are bad when their biggest moral victory during that period was that they managed to hold their lead against a complete beginner.
  • Team Fudoumine from The Prince of Tennis. The first rival team introduced, they were given an angsty backstory and were supposed to be serious competition. They wound up being this trope instead (first against Rikkaidai, then against Shittenhouji).
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Manjoume gets the Worf treatment quite a bit—he's lost to Daichi, Amnael, Saiou, and Amon. All four of them beat Manjoume in their first shown duels, and with the exception of Amon none of them had a particularly hard time doing it. He also tends to duel Judai whenever Judai gets a new deck. His only wins before Season 2 were against Mooks, his brother (who isn't a duelist), and a Monster of the Week. He got more victories in Season 2 after his Face Heel Turn, including against Daichi and Asuka, and he's the one who dueled and defeated the entire Obelisk Blue dorm. Still, said Face Heel Turn was caused by, you guessed it, the Big Bad defeating him in a duel. Season 4 finally gives him a significant victory on his own when he defeats Edo.
    • Averted in the manga. Out of a dozen shown duels or so, Manjoume only loses two of them, one of which is against Judai and the other of which is against Ryo. The other duels we see him fight, he wins. However, he's still essentially undergoing the Worf effect on Ryo, as we haven't seen Ryo duel yet and he handily crushes Manjoume without taking a single point of damage. This is immediately after Manjoume's victory over Judai to boot.
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! season 1, Kaiba gets Worfed by Pegasus.
  • Yu Yu Hakusho does this with Kuwabara,who lost almost all his battles in the Tournament Arc to show how terrible the next team was. Averted against the final team though where he beat Elder Toguro
  • Despite being the heir-apparent to the Flame King Spitfire, Air Gear's Kazu has been summarily manhandled by Aeon Clock, Sora, Nike, Nott-Dagr, and several nameless Gravity Children throughout the series.
  • Ash's Charizard from the Pokémon anime is regarded as one of, if not the, strongest Mon amongst all the main characters' teams. So powerful, in fact, that he can stand toe to toe against Legendary Pokémon, and win. However, he has also been a victim of this trope at least two times.
    1. Dragonite in the Orange League Tournament (granted, Charizard was already weakened earlier by an Electabuzz);
    2. Dusclops in the last Battle Frontier battle against Brandon. (Although for that one, Ash was planning on using Seismic Toss (A Fighting type move) to end it...but completely forgot that Dusclops is a Ghost-type)
    3. There's also the episode "Charizard's Burning Ambitions", where it gets slammed twice with a stronger Charizard's tail, then slammed face-first into the ground, then kneed in the stomach...it just goes on and on until the Charizard's caretaker makes it give up.
    • Paul is used for this twice too. Wanna prove that Cynthia is untouchably strong? Watch her One Hit KO Paul's Pokémon one by one. Has Brandon been getting stronger? How about a 6-0 victory using only three Pokémon?
    • Ash's Torterra has fallen victim to this by losing every battle it's been in since it evolved to show just how powerful the other Pokémon is. This is mostly due to being moved aside in favor of Infernape.
    • In Pokémon Special, unless it's against a wild Pokemon or someone generic, Red's Poli tends to get knocked out the moment it pops out of its Pokeball. Especially kind of sad seeing how it's his first Pokemon (which he had for years before getting any other) and logically should be the strongest. No wonder Red uses Saur and Pika more often.
    • Misty's Starmie is a pretty regular victim of this. Despite being the evolved form of Staryu, Misty's Staryu has been shown winning way more battles than her Starmie. In fact the only time Starmie hasn't gotten its ass kicked in a battle is during the Princess Festival. It's shown to be pretty useful when travelling through water or saving people's lives but once a battle starts...
    • Brock's Vulpix is a similar offender. Its introductory episode has it unleash a very impressive Fire Spin to Curb Stomp Battle Team Rocket. It does it again a few episodes later, with an even shorter fight. Then it's made an example of by Jessie's new Lickitung, locked in a hopeless fight with its identical clone, used as an ineffectual delaying tactic against an illusory Teddiursa in Pokémon 3, demonstrates Skarmory's superiority over its type disadvantage, before finally getting in one last Curb Stomp Battle against Team Rocket and subsequently Put on a Bus.
  • Poor Klan Klein of Macross Frontier is the Proud Warrior Race Girl of the series...and she follows quite closely in Worf's footsteps, getting kicked around fairly consistently despite also having several moments of startling competency.
  • Kai Suwabara of Yakitate!! Japan only seems to win Cooking Duels by default. Both times he went up against Azuma, he lost without even having his bread tasted.
  • Used in Fullmetal Alchemist against Major Armstrong by his sister Major General Armstrong. Not only does she get him in tears by standing on his foot, she knocks him through a wall during the battle for the Armstrong Estate.
  • In his first appearance in Durarara!! Kinnosuke talks how police gets that kind of treatment in all kinds of fictions dealing with supernatural – they usually ends laying in their own blood to show how dangerous enemy is. However, he doesn't really mind, as this shows that people still believe that cops are strong and powerful.
  • J., the Phenotype Stereotype American Boxer in Sakigake Otokojuku
  • Jellal Fernandes, officially recognized as one of the ten strongest wizards in Fairy Tail (until they recognize which side he's on, at least) is so powerful that Natsu need to absorb the ultimate magic Etherion in order to beat him. Midnight only needs to land one hit on the poor guy-and he does it off panel too. Erza is willing to say Worf Had the Flu but there are a good many other ways of arguing this one.
    • Erza is THE example for Fairy Tail. Generally considered one of the strongest wizards in Fairy Tail she seems to be taken out for a brief time once an arc to show how strong any given bad guy or super weapon is.
  • Aranaut of Bakugan: Gundalian Invaders made a strong first showing in the previous season when a digital clone of him threw around one of the main characters like a rag doll. However, the Aranaut in GI has one of the WORST fight records in the show, quickly going from hot stuff to a bit of a joke, usually only winning with help or other circumstances.
  • Inazuma Eleven loves this, especially Kabeyama, Touko, and Tachimukai, whose special skills are almost useless in the long run against most of the opponents' abilities. Also, want to show how bad the bad guy team is? Have them beat a random team or even the heroes to 10-0 or worse within the first half. This however, can be avert easily after The Hero begins his speak of friendship and how fun soccer can be.
  • Despite (or because of) his badass status, Mugen of Samurai Champloo is hit with this trope. He nearly lost to Oniwakamaru (though he was drugged before hand), lost to the monk Shoryuu once, was defeated and nearly killed by spear specialist Sara and was unable to land a single blow on Big Bad Kariya
  • Viral from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is said to be the commander of one of the units of the "Human Eradication Forces." In the manga, he was the one who wiped out the Black Siblings' home town. However, he almost always loses against Simon, Kamina, or the pilots of the Gurren that day. Once his Heel Face Turn happens, he gets better.
  • Ranma, Ryouga, and Mousse of Ranma ½ get hit with this in the Pantyhose Taro and Musk Dynasty arcs. In the first scenario, the aforementioned villain is looking for a specific visitor to the Jusenkyo cursed springs, and therefore ends up crossing paths with them and defeating them handily. Ryouga even goes as far as calling him a "demon" when warning Ranma about him. In the second one, Mousse is quickly dispatched by a warrior with a penchant for throwing knives; Ryouga is turned into scenery by another warrior with strength even greater than his. Then Ranma himself is defeated by those warriors' lord, a Gender Bender ki master.
  • All female fighters in H anime are subject to this. No matter how competent they are shown to be or how much respect their fellow warriors show them, they will eventually lose a fight to The Dragon or be forced to surrender to the Big Bad or lose off-screen and then- good heavens, just look at the time!
    • In the H-animes by Pixy, this usually happens in the first five minutes of the first episode.
  • Both Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger suffer this within the first two episodes of the Mazinkaiser OVA, with both machines falling to Dr. Hell's Mechanical Monster army.


Comics[edit | hide]

  • The Silver Surfer is one of the most powerful beings alive. He has thrown energy blasts that have staggered Galactus, a man in a crazy hat who eats planets. He has taken hits from said man in crazy hat and lived. He's taken hits that would liquefy Earth and given them right back. This is why whenever a new cosmic menace is introduced, generally the very first thing that happens is someone pitches Silver Surfer in through a window.
  • To an end, despite (or perhaps because of) his badassery, a good half of the numerous, seemingly omnipresent cameos Wolverine makes in various issues involve him being beaten within an inch of his life and thrown through something. Fortunately, his Healing Factor fixes him up in a split, allowing him to move to the next. They're being serious when the Badass in question kills Wolverine, but given how much he's come back from, that will probably never happen.
    • The most notable examples for Wolverine is Gambit. Short after he joined the team, he got a chance at fighting (and winning) against Wolverine in the Danger Room in order to show "how badass the new guy is".
    • Rogue often fills this role, especially in the animated series.
    • Name a fight that Gladiator, Superman Expy (sorta) and leader of the Shi'ar Imperial Guard, has actually won. Now for each of those, name five other fights he's lost. Seriously, Cannonball?
    • Parodied on Newgrounds here. "Ow! ...Bub." (Made even sillier by his stereotypical Canadian accent.)
  • Until his recent death Captain America (comics) was another popular go-to guy to get the beat-down in a new or relaunched title; to a lesser extent the rest of his fellow Avengers, too.
  • Whenever he's in the Justice League of America, Ridiculously Human Android Red Tornado is notorious for always getting demolished to show off a villain's power. The main reason for this is that the badguy can tear Red apart and the team can just repair him later.
    • Same goes for Cyborg of the Teen Titans.
      • Lampshaded in-univere. Cyborg eventually builds Reddy a new body made of self-replicating nanites, explicitly stating that he wanted to find a way to stop him from constantly being destroyed.
  • This frequently happens to the Martian Manhunter who is regularly rendered comatose by scanning the mind of any Big Bad. You'd think that after seeing "the greatest evil in the universe" some dozen times he would at least learn to stop looking into people's minds.
    • In the cartoon, the Martian Manhunter is almost REGULARLY shocked by an electric stick when he tries to sneak in. Needless to say, people no longer saw it as a big deal.
  • The Sentry of Marvel Comics. He was based on the Silver-Age Superman, more powerful than anyone, so mighty that he made the comics universe and the real world forget he had ever existed because he was so almighty that the mere memory of him would risk destroying the world. Now he's getting lunched by everybody. Including the Golden-Age Human Torch.
    • Taken to a ridiculous point in Dark Avengers - during first 10 issues. Sentry was killed THREE TIMES. Once by Morgana le Fay, once by his wife with his teammate gun, and once by Molecule Man. He keeps getting better.
    • Ares was supposed to combine the viciousness of Wolverine, power level approaching Thor or Hercules with being a military genius all the while being praised and feared as a massive threat. Instead he tended to serve as either someone to show how powerful a new villain was so Sentry could take care of it or was needed for a fight scene that Sentry was too powerful for. He would then lose said fight scene. This culminated in SIEGE where he was ineffective against the Sentry to show how dark the character had become. Trying to remember any victories he might have had against any meaningful opponents is much more difficult than all the loses he has had. He gets his ass kicked in his own mini and needs his daddy Zeus to bail him out.
  • The Avengers have had several characters serve this role over the years. Wonder Man is often joked to be this. Despite supposedly being as tough as Thor or Sentry he has a very poor record at winning fights, often only serving to make someone else look good. Thor, arguably the most powerful Avenger and one of the most powerful heroes, sometimes suffers from this to establish a new threat as being a real danger. Ares also served this to a point whenever Sentry wasn't around.
  • Doctor Doom occasionally suffers this, whether from Dazzler and other new heroes, or to show how tough a new villain is (I.E. Millar's promise of a "Master of Doom"). Thank Kirby for Doombots, eh?
  • X-23 and Rockslide in New X-Men (and other appearances after the series end) they get stuck with this as they are the strongest and scariest team members...who are practically immortal. Rockslide has been blown up twice BEFORE his power became not dying to physical harm. And X-23 is just like Wolverine.
    • Incidentally, during New X-Men, the original X-Men cast ALL SUCK. If the students are around every move and strategy and power of the older cast is instantly wrong. In "Quest for Magik" the X-Men are all captured and held in an energy field unable to help and during "Messiah Complex" the X-Men have to hand over the fight to the students due to it being something Sinister's mooks didn't plan on.
  • In Star Trek: Countdown, the prequel comic to the 2009 movie, we see Worf again, 10 years after Nemesis and now a Klingon general. He gets impaled through the chest by Nero, but fortunately he was Only Mostly Dead.
  • In the latest Thunderbolts series, Headsman's tendency to get beaten up or otherwise neutralized even though he's the largest and most intimidating member of the team is, rather refreshingly, noticed by the rest of the team. He's constantly razzed by teammates Paladin and Ant-Man, employer Norman Osborn regards him only with barely repressed disdain...once he suggested he get on his flying disc to deal with an airborne threat, only to be shot down with "Please, I've never seen you on that thing for more than 30 seconds."
  • Galactus sometimes gets this when the writers want to show how tough a new cosmic menace is. He got smacked down by the Beyonder and Doctor Doom in Secret Wars, and Krona in JLA-Avengers killed him and constructed a fortress out of his corpse. Tenebrous and Aegis take him out in Annihilation for Thanos.
  • General purpose Marvel Universe villains The Wrecking Crew now exist entirely for this purpose. They have an ounce of credibility from being old Thor villains with incredible strength and mystically powered construction weapons, but adamantly yelling that you've fought Thor doesn't mean much when you can be taken down by low-power heroes like Spider-Woman. Spider-Man once joked that everyone seems to beat them up sooner or later; subsequent encounters with the Runaways and The Punisher of all people have showed he's probably right.
    • Some writers have played with this, however... The team shares energy from a single pool. If the leader simply kept all the power for himself he would be a serious threat, but if nothing else the rest of the crew are True Companions, and he's not willing to leave even one of them depowered even if the power boost would make everyone else an actual threat.
  • If The Authority was better known than Star Trek, this trope would be called "The Midnighter Effect". Midnighter is essentially a Captain Ersatz of Batman with Wolverine's personality, and canonically the scariest and most dangerous Badass in the Wildstorm universe, yet he gets jobbed out in every single story arc just to demonstrate how much of a threat that arc's villain is.
    • In Captain Atom: Armageddon, it isn't Midnighter who is used this way to show how utterly outclassed everyone in the Wildstorm universe is when compared to Captain Atom, it's Apollo, Wildstorm's Superman Expy. Midnighter doesn't even count as a threat to Atom, and is casually (and entertainingly) dismissed offhand.
    • In the rebooted Stormwatch, Apollo seems to have taken this role from Midnighter in a big way. In issue 7 he gets taken out twice, once at the beginning, then just as the issue is ending, as the bad guy they had (with difficulty) managed to capture escapes, taking Apollo with it. This is not new territory for him, however. In the Authority, he kind of has a habit of rushing into battle, and if he either has to expend all his stored energy and he passes out as a result, or is knocked across the room, you know the bad guy is tough.
  • Nightcrawler of the X-Men and The Flash of the Justice League of America begin at least half of the team fights they're in by getting backhanded into unconsciousness (they do much better when fighting solo). The reason for this is (1) due to their powers (teleportation and Super Speed, respectively) they're usually the first one to reach the villain, (2) the sooner they get taken out, the less time the reader has to think about how each could kill almost anyone before their opponent even knew they were in a fight, and (3) it demonstrates that the villain has reflexes akin to precognition just to be able to lay a glove on them...in theory. You see it enough times, it starts to look like they just 'port/run right into villains' outstretched fists.
  • In the very short span of time since Danger joined the X-Men, she's already been busted open by Ms. Marvel (Moonstone) and Emplate to establish how powerful they are. And knocked out by Selene's T-O virus.
  • In big DC events, The Spectre tends to stay out of the "mortal affairs" but when he does interfere, he tends to get taken out pretty quickly. Seeing as how if he could affect the Big Bad, he could turn them to dust just by looking at them, it's kind of necessary.
  • In the comic Gold Digger Stripe Gia, despite being one of the stronger good guys post-upgrade, has this happen to him all the time. Ironically back when he was a Badass Normal he did a lot better.
  • From Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner has this going for him at times, both during stories written by Geoff Johns. During the Green Lantern Rebirth story, he spent most of having the tar beaten out of him by Sinestro, until he's rescued by Green Arrow and later Hal Jordan. He does eventually land the finishing blow on Sinestro, but only while aiding Hal during their duel. In the Sinestro Corps War miniseries, Kyle has a chance to fight Sinestro again and prove himself, now with an enormous power boost courtesy of Ion, but his attacks just bounce and shatter harmlessly off Sinestro and he's easily curb-stomped and has the Ion entity ripped out of him. Both times he's used only to establish Sinestro as a major threat.
    • It plays off a trait that allows Kyle his moments of awesomeness. Kyle is the first Green Lantern to know fear and thus the first to discover the true nature of Parallax (saving Jordan from damnation.) He's also the Lightbearer for having restored what a possessed Hal Jordan destroyed, so Jordan's image needed some rehabilitating.
  • Kon-El, God damn it the poor kid gets the crap kicked out of him when he's not a main character in book, and at times even if he is.
    • In Superman Ending Battle he gets the crap kicked out of him by the Atomic Skull, whose powers seem to be being a moderately strong robot, some atomic fire shooting powers, and having his head on fire. Strangely enough however, it's not to show off how strong Superman is, it's to show how badass his father is; who shoots the Atomic Skull in the back of his head hurting him badly enough to be distracted until Superman could show up and toss him into space or something. That's right, Kon-El, Superboy was taken out by a villain who was defeated by a badass farmer with a simple shotgun.
  • Superman villain Doomsday. Following his impressive feat of killing Superman, the poor thing has had nowhere to go but down. Now he's brought out whenever a new Kryptonian shows up to point out how two Supermen are better (or scarier) than one.
    • They avoided this at first. In their first rematch, Superman's powers had increased and he was still out of his element needing help to win and facing near paralysis from fear (the story starts with Superman having nightmares about Doomsday, one of the very few times that he has actually been visibly scared of a villain for what they could do to him as opposed to what they could do to others), using a time travel device to chuck Doomsday to the end of time.
    • The second time required the entire League (and this time it was the A-list big seven) and all they could do is contain Doomsday in a transporter loop, being continually dematerialized between three transporters to keep him from cohering. It was only 10 years later, after the team that created Doomsday had left, that he started to suffer Villain Decay. Even they at first used Doomsday respectfully, making him the ultimate weapon against a new threat. It was only after he developed intelligence (because people were beating him through smarts) that he became vulnerable to being intimidated.
  • Manute from Sin City is normally an unstoppable villain, unless Frank Miller decides to make one of the heroes (Marv, Wallace, or Miho) look badass.
  • A curious case is Magog, a Canon Immigrant from Kingdom Come. He's supposed to be a meta with power on par with Superman, Alan Scott, and Power Girl. In practice? He usually ends up either jobbing to whoever the villain of the day is or falling prey to someone with mind control. He's already been whammied by Gorilla Grodd, Miasma, and the Brain Trust - all in a single year. Max Lord is currently aiming to make the fourth time the charm, too. Guy can't catch a break.
    • Now, it seems Max has finally managed to kill the guy.
  • Batman has been used this way at least twice. When Green Arrow and Green Lantern came back from the dead, they both established that they were the real deal in short order by socking the Goddamn Batman square in the jaw.
  • Ultimate Thor from The Ultimates has over the years often played this role. Several sentences or an issue would be built up to establish how badass he is only for him to get taken out in about two panels. For ever high showing he has there are three or more low ones.
  • The Juggernaut plays this role from time to time. The forgettable X-Men villain Post was introduced when he punched Jugs so hard he landed in the next state. In fact, one of Marvel's biggest storylines got started just because Scott Lobdell decided it would be cool to have Juggernaut mysteriously tossed through the sky, able to speak just one word: "Onslaught". (Lobdell hadn't even decided who Onslaught would be yet!)
  • Years ago, Eric Larsen had the Spider-Man villain Dr. Octopus deliver the Hulk a severe smackdown during the "Revenge of the Sinister Six" storyarc. In the story, "Doc Ock" was given extremely powerful adamantium limbs which made him far more dangerous. Hulk writer Peter David accused Larsen of a making a personal attack when he wrote that story and responded with a story written for the sole purpose of mocking Dr. Octopus. Larsen explained that it made sense to use the Hulk for the purpose of this very trope.


Fan Fiction[edit | hide]

  • Invoked and lampshaded in Naruto Veangance Revelaitons. In response to accusations that Ronan is a God Mode Sue and an Invincible Hero, the author had him lose against Madara, claiming that it was proof that Ronan was realistic. This was followed by other (albeit non-consecutive) losses, such as against the head of the Kibusi Corporation, Sasuke and now, the Council, which are gradually becoming more common than the early series.
    • The first chapter effectively aets the power rankings when Team 7 loses to Orochimaru, who gets curb stomped by Ronan.
  • Original-creation and self-insertion characters in Ranma ½ fanfiction are obligated to prove their worth by making mush out of Kuno when they first meet him.
  • Similar to the Jurassic Park examples below, Rise of the Galeforces applies this trope to the Turret Raptors, who are quickly defeated by even the youngest members of the main cast. Ditto for the local Eldritch Abominations, e.g. Dynacide.
  • Epic from Disgaea:Jewel of the gods is an example. He's introduced by taking out an immortal, giant enemy that Laharl, Adell, and Mao couldn't beat. After that he get's dominated by Etna, a reaper, Baal's minions,Fried, Baal's right hand man, and Baal, mixing in some Butt Monkey status along the way.
    • Well, what would you expect from a Prinny?
  • Deconstructed in the Pony POV Series with Spitfire. The repeated failures of the Wonderbolts to actually succeed in their heroic attempts begin to take their toll on her confedence and send her into a Heroic BSOD. Rainbow Dash snaps her out of it by reminding her that, even if the Wonderbolts can't do the actual heroics, they are still heroes because they inspire ponies who can.
  • Each of the Big Bads in the Azula Trilogy prove themselves to be threats by being able to match or defeat one of the heroes—Azun defeats Zuko in Heart, Wei Ming goes toe-to-toe with Azula in Path, and Jian Chin defeats Aang in Soul (though the latter two were possessed by true Big Bad Zhan Zheng at the time, so this trope more works for him than them).
  • In The Troll War series, after Equius Zahhak resigns from the human starfleet and then explains his reason: "I have been...reviewing your documentaries and the history of your spaceships, John. And I will not be the 'Worf'." John Egbert convinces Equius to stay, not by telling him that Star Trek was fictional, but by promising he won't let the fleet "Worf" him.
  • In Uninvited Guests, this is invoked by Hitsugaya in order to beat Aizen's Plot Armor. Enter "the Dark Lord Wolfington," who is definitely not Komamura in a mask.


Film[edit | hide]

  • Star Trek
    • Worf himself did not escape this trope when it came time for the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation to make it to the big screen. In Star Trek: First Contact, his ship is damaged early on against a massive, time-traveling Borg Cube and he is forced to hang out on the Enterprise for the rest of the movie. But averted for most of the movie when he proceeds to wreck every Borg drone he encounters.
    • Other Klingons suffer from this tendency, too. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the opening sequence is three Klingon ships, all looking quite badass...and all three get taken to pieces in about ten seconds by V'Ger.
  • Just like his comic counterpart, Wolverine gets this treatment in the X-Men movie series. Magneto, Mystique, Sabertooth, Lady Deathstrike, and the Juggernaut all had their way with him throughout the series. Out of those listed, he only managed to kill Lady Deathstrike and that was through sheer luck of having a pump filled with liquid metal laying nearby. Otherwise, he was getting killed.
  • In Terminator 2: Judgement Day we see the T-800 (Arnold), the 6"4' unstoppable killer robot who for the whole last movie was one of the most menacing things ever put to film, get thrown around like a rag-doll by the considerably shorter and skinnier T-1000.
  • The Jurassic Park movies gauged the danger-levels of their dinosaurs against the T-Rex (the most well-known dinosaur even before the movies came out) in order to let the audience know how tough they were. Muldoon is an example, who takes on a T-Rex early in the film and holds his own, but is then easily outsmarted and killed by the Velociraptors in order to establish them as more of a threat. The T-Rex is also killed by the Spinosaurus in a sequel.
  • Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings is a powerful wizard, respected and feared by all. It is thus a very big deal when he is terrified of the Balrog in Moria and showcases the Balrog's power and the tragedy of Gandalf's defeat. The Witch King's defeat at the hands of Eowyn and Merry after facing off Gandalf earlier may also count. In a case of Tropes Are Not Bad, these instances are very much justified in context and does not feel gratuitous.
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi had his fare share of worf effects through the Star Wars series. Obi-Wan was killed the first time we got to see Darth Vader in action, was getting beaten by Darth Maul (alongside his mentor) until Maul picked up the Idiot Ball, and was beaten by Count Dooku twice.
  • Transformers does this to Ironhide. Spec wise he's the strongest Autobot after Optimus. And he boasts about his powerful arm cannons. But outside of tie in material in the actual films his performances are less than stellar. In the first film he waves his cannons around the entire time but when he finally gets to fire them at Brawl he misses and winds up doing no damage to him at all while the medic Ratchet slices off his arm and knocks him over. Brawl is killed by Bumblebee while Hide opts to run around after Sam until Starscream shows up and blasts him, taking him out of the fight for the rest of the film. In the 2nd film he again doesn't really cause any actual damage with his trademark cannons, simply attempting to lead a scout team (which gets all wiped out but him) and running from an explosion. Which he doesn't manage, again getting knocked over and down for the count for the rest of the film. Finally in the last film he manages to show off his apparent Badassery by stepping in and singlehandedly killing two of the Dreads that Bumblebee and Sam had spent the last 5 minutes running in fear from. Then Sentinel Prime kills him. And the two Dreads? He killed with a sidearm and his fists, not his cannons (which he doesn't even bother to use) giving the weapon specialist a kill count of 0 with his actual weapons.
  • In Enter the Dragon, we get introduced to Williams' ability to kick butt. He then faces the Big Bad, Mr. Han. It is the first time we actually see Han in action so naturally, this trope in invoked.


Literature[edit | hide]

  • In the Dragonlance series, kender are supposed to be immune to fear. Consequently, they're almost constantly having a strange, new, unfamiliar feeling to let the reader know something is so scary that even they got scared!
  • Feral of Soon I Will Be Invincible is a rare literary example of this. A ferocious tiger-man who's ended the entire careers of supervillains, and his entire plot importance consists of being beaten up by a baseline human, being blown away by a mad scientist, being knocked out by a mad scientist, being beaten up by mecha-insect aliens in a flashback, and being beaten up by a mad scientist again.
  • In the later novels of Alan Dean Foster's Flinx and Pip series, Pip suffers from this trope. Any time a serious threat to Flinx presents itself, the very first thing it does is restrain or otherwise deal with his minidrag.
  • In the final book of the original story arc in Warrior Cats, the newly-introduced villain Scourge kills Tigerstar when all of the Clans are gathered, for spite, to intimidate the Clans into complying with his demands, and (we learn later) for revenge.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe has the Nohgri, silent-stalking little commando people who are very good fighters. The same trilogy which introduces them has them accept Leia as the Mal'ary'ush, the Lady Vader, so some of them become her bodyguards. Very nearly every work set after that has them either inexplicably not present or getting tricked, out-tracked, and out-fought by everyone. Shada Du'kal even wonders if their reputation is exaggerated, although she at least is a Mistryl shadow guard, only had to get past one of them, and had a very novel way of tricking him. This is taken to ridiculous depths in New Jedi Order.
    • For Karen Traviss, the Jedi are hateful incompetent death-deserving people fit only to puff up her Mandalorians; hence they either convert, sit quietly and accept really pathetic Hannibal Lectures while being very impressed, or are curb-stomped. Every. Time. A connection to The Force which binds all things, shaves reaction times, oxygenates blood more efficiently, provides telekinetic abilities, enhances strength, and gives battle precognition sufficient to deflect blaster bolts into enemies with the narrow blade of a lightsaber is no match at all for the perfect people with their colorful beskar'gam armor!
    • What's the best way to show how strong a villain in the Star Wars Expanded Universe? Make him toss some Jedi around the room with his eyes closed and one hand behind his back. What's the best way to show how serious the situation is? Kill a few Jedi. In books, games, and comics, if a Jedi isn't a protagonist, he's fucked. Especially if he happens to meet Sith, Mandalorians, Grievous, Cad Bane, or lamely-designed aliens.
    • In Legacy of the Force, they have their villain stab Kyle Katarn through the chest. Thankfully, this get's reversed, and Kyle's shown much more respect, in the Fate of the Jedi books.
  • In the Star Trek novel The Return, Worf is pwned by, of all people, the risen Kirk, using a Klingon's best weapon. Consider who these novels are written by...supposedly.
  • Harry Potter has Mad-Eye Moody, master duelist who's put more Dark wizards in prison than any other Auror, has never won a serious fight in the text. True, his opponents are always either Voldemort's hardest core or Voldemort himself, but you'd think he'd save someone's butt given his street cred. He is killed in the first few chapters of the seventh book, for the sole purpose of showing how serious business everything now is, embodying this trope. In one of the movies, we at least get to see him briefly knock over a random Death Eater using some sort of magic from his cane.
    • John Dawlish is even worse: he was introduced by Dumbledore praising his combat skills before warning him that he was no match for him, and since then he has lost every single fight he had, getting trounced faster than anyone could see by Dumbledore, either summarily manhandled by Hagrid or terrified into helplessness when he beated up a group of Aurors that underestimated him, defeated off-screen by Dumbledore a second time, defeated off-screen by the Order of the Phoenix to lay a false trail, summarily curbstomped by an extra, and when he was sent to take Neville's grandmother hostage...

Neville: Little old witch living alone, they probably thought hey didn't need to send anyone particularly powerful. Anyway, Dawlish is still in St. Mungo's and Gran's on the run.

  • In The Wheel of Time Nynaeve in canon is one of the strongest channelers in the world. When a channeler comes along who is the best at something, this is often established by noting that they're better at it than Nynaeve.
  • There are many examples in Steve Alten's Meg series where a Megalodon defeats equally large and dangerous predators (to the point of bordering on Villain Sue), but only the opening scene of the first novel qualifies (wherein Meg eats a Tyrannosaurus Rex) because the marine reptiles are too obscure to the general public to be this trope.
  • Possibly lampshaded in Warhammer 40,000 novel, Daemon World. When a group of Word Bearer Chaos Marines board his ship, Arguelon Veq's first target is Vrox, an Obliterator (which, for the uninitiated, is a mutated monstrosity twice the size of regular Chaos Space Marines and can spawn weapons and armor from his body). After he kills Vrox with relative ease, he even comments that he was the least threatening of the Chaos Marines on board.
  • In Sourcery, the Sourceror Coin upon entering the Great Hall of the Unseen University asks the wizards who is the most powerful of them, so that he can duel him. Skarmer Billias, an eight grade wizard, steps up, seeing the challenge as a joke. After displaying his most powerful spell, creating a miniature of Maligree's Wonderful Garden, Coin counters by making the garden life-size and bringing all the wizards with him into it. After this display he incinerates Billias with a single thought.
  • Another Discworld example, in Guards Guards Carrot goes into the Mended Drum to break up one of their regular bar fights. The other Watchmen with him expect to see bits of him start flying out at any moment. Instead, Detritus (a troll, which on Discworld are made of solid rock) is the first to fly out. Unconscious. Softer targets follow. (It was previously established that Detritus was employed at the Drum as a Splatter. Like a bouncer, but trolls hit harder.)
  • In Animorphs, David subjects team leader Jake to this during their duel. Up until this point, Jake's tiger has been one of the most lethally efficient morphs the team has. Despite having a year of experience on the new Animorph, Jake still loses. Handily.
  • Septimus Heap: Nicko Heap in Physik is mentioned to be strong enough to tackle virtually anybody, but when he tries to attack Queen Etheldredda, she just swats him out of the way.
  • Anyone Roran is sent to replace in Inheritance Cycle. Especially with Queen Islanzadi near the end of the final book.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • On the video commentary for the episode "Errand of Mercy" on the Star Trek: The Original Series Season 1 Blu-Ray, the Worf Effect is very clearly referred to by VFX designer David Rossi. He notes that the production staff consciously used Worf as the "measuring stick" by which the strength and Badass-ery of villains was determined.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, as noted above. The many occasions of this on TNG collected here.
    • In "Conspiracy", an adversary casually tosses around Riker, LaForge and Worf before Dr. Crusher calmly walks in and phasers his ass. Multiple shots at high setting were required, though, one lasting as long as three to four seconds.
    • In one episode of Deep Space Nine, Worf himself deliberately utilizes this trope by letting Martok defeat him in a duel so as to restore the crew's confidence in Martok. This scene echos the TNG episode A Matter of Honor, in which Commander Riker, on detached duty to the Klingon warship Pagh, intentionally provokes the Pagh's captain into backhanding him so the man could take back his command with honor. The episode also proves that a Klingon Promotion isn't always fatal.
    • Interestingly, Worf's predecessor as head of security, Tasha Yar, was killed by a monster purely as a demonstration of power. Seems Worf inherited it. She had it far worse that Worf ever did. He, at least, sometimes won fights. If she'd stuck around longer, this trope would have been called the Yar Effect.
    • In Deep Space 9, the Jem'Hadar were first introduced in a season finale that culminated in the destruction of the Odyssey, a Galaxy class starship and The Big Guy of Starfleet ships, sister to the USS Enterprise-D - also having a balding captain, interestingly enough - with the only Jem'Hadar ship lost in the engagement being the one that intentionally rammed it. One of the writers later admitted that he had drawn this parallel between the two ships to showcase the Dominion as a credible threat. Later episodes would have the Federation come up with successful countermeasures, though there is a period in which the Dominion ships are looked at with some apprehension.
    • Worf getting his butt kicked on the phaser range by Guinan. Though at least he had a couple good excuses—he was distracted by his personal problems, number one, and number two--

Guinan: Don't feel bad. I was doing this long before you were born.
And he's never claimed or been shown to be that good a shot. Give him a Bat'leth, however, and diced El-Aurian would have been on the menu that night.

    • This is averted in several ways however - Worf won Grand Champion standing in a Bat'leth competition, for instance. And then there was the time he was forced to fight Jem'Hadar in to the death combat every day. When he faced the eldest, baddest Jem'Hadar, despite being severely injured he kept getting up and the Jem'Hadar decided to quit because he couldn't beat him (he could only kill him).
      • It's not just averted, but full-on INVERTED during In Purgatory's Shadow/By Inferno's Light. The Jem'Hadar were already established as super-badasses, and Worf's successive victories against them in single combat reestablished Worf's ass-kicking credentials.
      • Worf's tenure on DS9 is where Worf really earned his Badass title. Worf finally gained the ability to consistently win fights and developed a taste for killing Jem'Hadar with his bare hands—often relying on the Neck Snap.
    • Worf has the excuse of being Zerg Rushed in Star Trek: Insurrection when the So'na crew retake the bridge. He gets in some really good hits, and one audibly cringeworthy arm break on one assailant before he gets overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of enemies rushing the bridge.
    • Interestingly, in Enterprise's first encounter with The Borg, Picard orders Worf to stop a drone from interfering with the ship's systems, and Worf delegates the task to a subordinate...who the drone effortlessly throws across Engineering.
  • In Power Rangers Mystic Force, Daggeron was unstoppable in his first two or three appearances, but after that, he suffered The Worf Effect often. Mystic Force did have tougher monsters than other seasons, and anyone who could beat on Daggeron could maul the main five, but he was always the first one in and the first one down.
    • This "Sixth Ranger Syndrome" can be seen in almost every season of Power Rangers—the new, super powerful extra Ranger debuts, defeats the enemy in a few hits, and two episodes later is jobbing out to anything thrown his way.
      • It's more of a case of Can't Catch Up. Think about it, the villains get gradually more powerful over the course of the show, and the team gets upgrades to compensate for their ever more threatening foes. The main team, that is. Sixth Rangers generally aren't given Super Modes or extra mecha to stay competitive. So they fall behind.
        • It's demonstrated especially well with poor Daggeron: he can only stand by and watch the Rangers in their new Legend Mode easily take out the guys who beat him up. Then we take it to mecha level, and the new Megazord that comes with it does the same to the machine that Daggeron's own couldn't stand up to.
      • Another recurring thing is that often a monster will show and effortlessly defeat the team, then the team gets some powerup and beats the shit out of it in round two. The same applies to the Zords. These new toys easily take out the monster that the old ones were nothing against. Three episodes later, the new weapon/mech is no tougher than the one it replaced at best, constantly getting thrashed at worst. Especially once something badder replaces it. At that point, it will only exist to get hit once so the Rangers can say "Whoa! Even the Super Megazord isn't enough! We need the Super Duper Megazord!"
    • Even this is experienced by you-know-who. Daggeron can take on a non-Ranger morphed form, previously seen only in flashbacks until one day he just starts using it in the present. It is quite powerful, so his Ranger suit serves the same purpose as the Megazord before last: morphed Daggeron gets Worf'd, oh noes, and then out of the flames bursts Ancient Mystic Daggeron! You start to wonder why he ever bothered with the spande...uh, tights.
    • This is also subverted as well. Most obviously in Power Rangers SPD with the Shadow Ranger. He rarely fights (as he doesn't want the Rangers to rely on him) and when he does, he normally completely mops the floor with his opponents.
    • Tommy also suffers this to the White Ranger in Power Rangers Dino Thunder. Despite having consistently beaten everything that came at him, including a Once Per Episode battle with one of the season's Dragons, The White Ranger takes him out without breaking a sweat. Trent would go on to suffer this himself, being himself a Sixth Ranger. As the Green Ranger, Tommy got this a lot, losing his powers twice, turning evil a second time, and constantly being under spells that that made it impossible for him and Jason to work together.
  • Bobby Flay invokes this in his Food Network show Throwdown, where he finds a chef, trains in their specialty, and then challenges them to a cook-off. Despite being an Iron Chef, Flay loses most of the time; however, he's said that he wants to lose, since the whole point of the show is to give props to all the awesome chefs out there (he's trying to do something after a week of training that they've been doing for years). On Iron Chef America, though, he plays to win. And he still does win throwdowns on occasion.
  • Angel featured this to some extent with Illyria. After a few episodes of her beating the everloving snot out of everyone and being nigh indestructible (although she does get toned down a bit right before this incident), Marcus Hamilton shows up and beats her to a bloody pulp, with as little effort as Neo put into defeating Smith at the end of The Matrix.
    • Marginally Justified Trope, in that Hamilton was sent in after Illyria had been depowered; in fact, he actually helps arrange for her depowering, and deliberately doesn't go anywhere near her until she is.
  • In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy gets her ass kicked by Glory several times. Also Buffy, for the first time, expresses doubt that she can beat an enemy.
    • Also used in Season 5 to emphasize Willow's newfound magical strength. Glory effortlessly knocks Buffy, the resident badass, around week after week; until the finale only Willow manages to make her feel pain.
    • Also, establishing The Dragon of season 7:

Caleb: So, you're the slayer. The slayer. The strongest, the fastest, the most aflame with that most precious invention of all mankind - the notion of goodness. The slayer must indeed be powerful. [Knocks Buffy out with one punch] So, what else you got?

    • Adam is another villain to casually see off Buffy at their first encounter.
    • The first time Buffy tries to take down a Turok-Han, it beats her unconscious.
      • That was mostly because she was sleep deprived though, once she finally slept (like her premonition told her to do) she beat it rather easily.
    • Spike is semi-vulnerable to this. His fights tend to start with him being beaten almost unconscious by whatever man/woman/fluffy rabbit he's fighting, then proceeding to destroy his opponent in the span of a few seconds.
  • Ka D'argo is the Worf of Farscape, in this aspect as well. The Alien of the week usually manhandles him, and D'argo ends up choking up black, poisonous blood, leaving it up to Crichton or Aeryn to save his life. This appears to have been mitigated by the writers by late season 2, however, as D'argo seems to win EVERY fight with relative ease, even with multiple, credible non-mook opponents.
    • A bit of Fridge Brilliance here. D'Argo had been chained to a wall for many years at the start and would not be nearly as strong or able as when he was originally a warrior. However, after a year and a half of being on the run and facing monsters on a weekly basis, it's not surprising he got back in shape.
  • Kamen Rider Decade gets this accusation in spades; check its individual page for details. In short, despite the fact that Decade is canonically one of the strongest Kamen Riders, every single time he defeats a character returning from an older series, somebody's going to claim that his opponent was Nerf ed to make Decade look better. Also, the alternate version of Kamen Rider Kuuga who appears in this series rarely transforms and when he does, he usually gets smacked around, which has become another point of contention between those who like the show and those who don't.
  • Sayid, as the toughest of the crash survivors, suffers from this to some extent in Lost, and has been taken down by Rousseau, Mikhail Bakunin and Keamy, the first two in their introductory episodes. He usually puts up a creditable fight, though.
    • Luckily, for many this doesn't threaten Sayid's legitimacy as a badass because Lost is often less about combat prowess and more about overall competence. Furthermore, there will usually be moments of awesome sprinkled around with regards to this character; many people pointed out that "only Sayid would put his forks and knives pointy-side up in the dishwasher, just in case" after an awesome fight in which Sayid kills some assailants by opening up the dishwasher and throwing them on the deadly silverware.
  • In the tradition of Worf and Proud Warrior Race Guys everywhere, Stargate Atlantis has Ronon, who suffers the Worf Effect once every several episodes, but actually manages to be a legitimate Badass the rest of the time.
  • This will happen every once in a blue moon to Criminal Minds' Derek Morgan. When he's not the one who takes down the episode's Big Bad, he'll be the one who gets knocked out from behind.
  • Castiel in Supernatural. Despite being an angel, he's usually the one getting his head kicked in.
  • Used to rather shocking effect in Stargate SG-1. The episode "Camelot" has the humans, Free Jaffa, and Asgard, the three most advanced races in the Milky Way, try to stop the Ori from invading through the Supergate. There are about sixteen ships there, later bolstered by reinforcements from the Lucian Alliance (procured by Teal'c by holding Netan at gunpoint). This still doesn't help, as while the Asgard ship is able to survive, a ha'tak can't survive even one hit from the Ori ship's main weapon, and a human 304 is only able to take two. Until "Unending" only one Ori ship had been destroyed, and that was by a clever trick. This gets better at the season finale when they get Asgard beam weaponry, but it still takes the Big Damn Movie for the war to finally be won.
    • SG-1 used this trope constantly throughout the series whenever a new force was introduced. The Goa'uld, the original antagonists for example were seen as all powerful...until the Asgard show up and can utterly dominate them. Then the Replicators appear, and can manhandle Asgard ships with ease. The Tolan also first appear to easily dispatch Goa'uld ships. Then Anubis comes onto the scene and obliterates them and is a credible threat to the Asgard who in turn get better ships and scare *him* off and then finally Ancient tech is revealed to be able to crush Anubis easily. About the only ones who haven't been Worf Effected in this manner are the Replicators, where their every defeat comes down to tricks, luck and Deus Ex Machina.
    • Teal'c could be said to be SG-1's Worf. However he usually prevailed, and his defeats were mostly non-gratuitous serving to better develop his character.
  • Amped to ridiculous levels in the Stargate Atlantis finale where the human 304s armed with the same Asgard beam weapons that could destroy Ori ships in one shot cannot even scratch a Wraith ZPM powered hive ship and it only ends up being destroyed by a bomb in it's fighter bay, because apparently internal security is an alien concept to the Wraith.
  • In Law and Order SVU, Det. Stabler's a pretty tough guy who's known for working over perps in the interview room. Frequently he gets knocked around, racked in the nuts, etc.
  • This becomes a plot point on Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon with regards to Sailor Venus. In the episode that she debuted, she was able to effortlessly defeat Zoisite with her standard attack. This made sense as she had the most experience as a Sailor Soldier compared to the other girls. Later on, though, as the rest of the girls awakened their full power, it became clear that Venus hadn't awakened hers yet since she was regularly getting overpowered by the standard Mooks. Sailor Mars even calls her out on it. Venus finally receives her Mid-Season Upgrade towards the end of the series, but she died of a terminal illness the next episode.
  • Several episodes of the BBC's Walking With... series follow the same pattern. As an opening a bad-ass dinosaur/scorpion/shark is shown hunting down some poor critter only for the real star of the episode to suddenly appear and bite them in half.


Mythology[edit | hide]

  • Tigers in East Asian fables tend to get sacrificed to show the badassery of various characters.
    • Oni are almost always depicted as wearing a tiger skin on some part of their body, or at least tiger-teeth jewelry.
    • The first thing Sun Wukong does when released from his imprisonment is beat a tiger to death and fashion a kilt out of his skin.
      • And before that, he beat up the entire army of the Celestial Court. The really powerful beings that finally subdued him weren't in the mood to interfere until personally insulted or their IOUs were tapped.
  • In Greek Mythology, Ares is recognized as the god of war and embodiment of physical power, but tends to lose or get humiliated in nearly every story about him. He gets trapped and humiliated by Hephaestus when Ares and Aphrodite (Hephaestus' consort) are caught in an illicit love affair, fled from the monster Typhon, lost a boxing match to Apollo, wounded by the hero Diomedes with the aid of Athena forcing him to flee the battle, defeated by Hercules twice and stripped of his armor in one instance, locked in a bronze jar by the Aloadae requiring Hermes to free him, and defeated in battle with Athena by a rock to the head. Athena had a habit of humiliating him and Zeus generally said he was worthless. His humiliations are usually attributed to the Greeks preferring the more intellectual Athena and Ares being hated for embodying the chaotic and destructive nature of warfare. Oh, and Nike (Victory) usually sided against him.
  • Indra from Hindu Mythology started off as the supreme god, lord of heaven, and ultimate warrior. He rose to power by saving the world from an endless drought through slaying the demon snake Vrtra after breaking through the demons 99 fortresses with his Vajra or thunderbolt. Nowadays it's hard to find a story where he does not lose his throne, is completely ineffective in battle, or in some way humiliated. Even his one claim to fame has been retold with either Vishnu having to save him and practically handing him his victory.
  • In Russian Mythology and Tales, the Firebird is a magical creature that is supposedly nigh-impossible to catch. Some stories about hunting the Firebird do portray the hunt as just such an impressive quest, but almost as often the hero catches the avian almost as an afterthought.
  • Sir Kay fills this role in Arthurian Legend - he never wins a fight "on screen."

Professional Wrestling[edit | hide]

  • WWE has always had a "Big Man Who Loses" for new people to demonstrate their ability over. In the 80s, they used jobbers Dave Barbie and Rusty Brooks. In more recent years Kane has played this role. Sometimes Kane gets pushed and The Big Show or Mark Henry fills in for him.
  • The Undertaker is often the victim of this (as opposed to more conventional jobbing), which causes most viewers who have been watching WWE Smackdown for more than a few months to conclude that Michael Cole has a very short memory.
    • The Undertaker is so good in this role, he doesn't even have to get beat to prove the new guy is credible. From Yokozuna to Stone Cold Steve Austin to Jeff Hardy, the easy way to establish a WWE wrestler as a legit main-eventer has been to have him stare into the Dead Man's eyes and refuse to flinch. (And when Mankind proved himself Taker's equal in psychological warfare, it made him an instant star.)
  • Hacksaw Jim Duggan practically made a career out of setting up the Big Invincible Monster for Hulk Hogan.
  • When Brock Lesnar debuted, within a week he was throwing the 350lb Rikishi around like a ragdoll. Within a month he was doing the same to the near-400lb Mark Henry. Within a year he was throwing the 500lb Big Show around with suplexes.
    • Lesnar also got to Worf Effect for The Big Show. Show went from being the Big Man Who Loses to the man who broke Lesnar's -- the man who slaughtered Hulk Hogan—winning streak (with a little outside interference) overnight. That was partly because the tag line for the angle was "don't wake the sleeping giant" - a particularly unconvincing version of Worf Had the Flu.
  • Speaking of Mark Henry, that may actually be the best pro-wrestling example of this trope. Henry's been with the company for longer than anybody but DX, Kane, and The Undertaker, yet has been in the 'monster jobber' role for a long time even while being simultaneously pushed as legitimately the world's strongest man. In 2008 he even got his hands on the ECW Championship, and still lost a greater number of matches than any single person on that brand. Then in 2009, they suddenly bring him over to the A-show Raw, switch him to a good-guy role and have him cleanly pin the then-WWE-Champion Randy Orton...only to quickly drop him back down to the losing end of over half of his matches, even while he's a supposed "powerhouse" and the fans couldn't be cheering for him more.
    • Henry might have finally become an aversion. Since the Draft this year, he has been tear-assing through Smackdown, booked like the Juggernaut, culminating in his dethroning the aforementioned Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight Title at Night of Champions. The promos have made heavy mention that it's his first title reign in his 15 year (on and off) WWE career, so we may get a decent run with Henry as champ.
  • When Kane debuted, WWF had several wrestlers Worf Effect for him, most notably Ahmed Johnson and Vader. Using Vader for this was very controversial at the time, as Vader had built up years of monster heel credibility, and a lot of fans just plain didn't buy Vader being dominated in the ring at all.
  • In a very unusual setup, WCW had Goldberg and Meng Worf Effect for each other. Meng (Haku in WWF/E)would batter Goldberg all over the ring for roughly three quarters of the match, when Goldberg usually tossed opponents around effortlessly. Then at the point where Meng would usually apply the Tongan Death Grip and win the match, Goldberg would rally back, spear, jackhammer, pinfall. The two of them had surprisingly good chemistry in the ring together, and despite Goldberg winning every single battle between them, the fights were popular enough that Pizza Hut shot a commercial with Goldberg and Meng putting aside their differences over a pizza.
    • Goldberg, Arn Anderson, The Barbarian, Hulk Hogan, and one-time manager Bobby "The Brain" Heenan have all said at one point or another that Tonga "Meng" Fifita was legitimately the toughest man they'd ever met (though outside the ring, he was generally an easy-going family man... who had VERY little tolerance for anyone who tried to test him.)
      • Jake Roberts said that if he fought Meng for real, he would want a tank and a gun with one bullet: if he missed with the tank, or the shot didn't kill Meng, he wanted the gun to shoot himself because that would mean 'Meng was gonna be pissed'.
  • Going into 2010, Beth Phoenix had been de-emphasized as the dominant monster heel due to her angle with "Santina" Marella as well as losing cleanly to other divas on the roster. In order to elevate her to the top of the women's division, WWE had two Worf Effect moments for her:
    • She entered the Royal Rumble and eliminated the Great Khali.
    • Delivered an almighty Glam Slam to the Women's Champion Michelle McCool and became the first person to pin her cleanly in over five months. To this day Michelle still hasn't beaten Beth cleanly.
  • It's a pretty standard formula for starting up a feud over the title. The champion is in a tag team match (sometimes it's a singles match) and the wrestler they want to push will get a surprise win with the champion taking the pin. Usually another tag match will follow with the same thing happening again. Next there will be some kind of #1 contender's match and the wrestler will get his/her official title shot (sometimes they don't even use a #1 contender's match if the wrestler beats the champion in a non-title singles match). However it can go either way whether or not the wrestler actually wins the title.


Sports[edit | hide]

  • In combat sports such as boxing and Mixed Martial Arts, contenders on the rise are often matched up with "gatekeepers," who are reasonably tough veterans of the sport who will not be challenging for the title any time soon. Defeating a gatekeeper gives fighters experience and raises their stock in the public's eye.


Tabletop Games[edit | hide]

  • Used regularly in Warhammer 40,000 fluff and books. Anytime an army or faction is shown in a Codex or article not about them, you better believe they're getting their asses kicked by whoever it is featuring. This can lead to problems where long development cycles mean some factions will be Out of Focus for years, and have thus accumulated a long string of defeats, with no victories to counteract them.
    • Exception? Maugan Ra, the Eldar Phoenix Lord. Chaos worfed to him and his army bigtime in the Eye of Terror campaign, and a Tyranid swarm worfed to Maugen Ra fighting solo in their own codex in a page surrounded by examples of everyone else in the galaxy worfing to the 'Nids.
    • WH 40K manages to use this trope with a material. Adamantium, the resident Made of Indestructium item, is almost never mentioned in any situation other than how a certain weapon can cleave through it like tissue paper. Terminator armor similarly has a tendency to get ripped apart to show how strong the most recent threat is.
    • Played utterly straight with Daemon Lord M'kar, across multiple books. Every time he shows up (and he shows up a lot), it is solely to look menacing for about half a second before being carved into ribbons the badass special character of that particular codex. He makes Team Rocket look dignified.
      • Averted in M'kar's more recent appearances, where he's generally treated as a terrifying threat.
  • In the Ravenloft product line, a remarkable number of adventures require the player characters to rescue Dr. Rudolph van Richten when he's kidnapped, mind-controlled, committed to an asylum, or otherwise incapacitated...so much so, it mars his reputation as a shrewd and competent monster-hunter, to have gotten himself captured so many times. Probably a side effect of his being the most prominent non-evil NPC in the game setting, whom writers can't resist using in their scenarios, yet must hamstring to ensure he won't outshine the players' characters. This actually gets explained in Van Richten's guide to the Vistani. He's under a Vistani curse that compels him to go into dangerous situations and fail horribly in ways that get all his friends killed, but allows him to survive.
  • The eponymous Champions were shown lying beaten alarmingly often for the world's premier heroes in the game's 4th edition, in the interests of making whichever villain they were trying to promote look nastier. Nowadays the art usually shows the heroes putting up a fight rather than just having lost one.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has the Monarchs. Any time they appear on a card, it's them getting their asses kicked or about to get their asses kicked. This may be something of a backlash against their former Game Breaker status.
  • Particularly with tabletop games, there is something of a mathematical basis for this trope. The deadliness of a character or unit is a function of their offence and defence. If offence substantially outstrips defence they become the priority target in any engagement because it takes less effort to neutralize a greater threat. In an ongoing campaign an unbalanced character will almost always be the first to taken out, thereby invoking the trope.
    • Contrast with the film Unforgiven (to which the trope doesn't apply anyways because it is a one-time encounter) where the writer speculates that Munny took out his opponents in the final shoot out in order of their dangerousness. Munny says no, he's just been lucky that way.
  • This is actively subverted in White Wolf's Werewolf: The Forsaken. The Rahu Auspice are the designated tough guy in any pack. What inborn ability do they gain for being Rahu? The ability to tell at a glance whether or not they could take a given opponent in a fight.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, a variation occurs, because of the Metagame: If a card turns out to be a Game Breaker, there will be instant answers to it next set, though (as per the rules) there are always answers to everything. Storyline-wise, Lin Sivvi was a Game Breaker in the Masques block; she died at the very beginning of the Invasion block.
  • Exalted: the Bull of the North is recommended for this in Compass: North, while Return of the Scarlet Empress sets up as much of the Fivescore Fellowship as the Storyteller wishes to take out, and especially Chejop Kejak.
  • The first book in the Immortal Handbook series (an Up to Eleven modification of Dungeons & Dragons) shows two monsters battling on the cover. If you look, you can see the Tarrasque cowering on the background.
  • Most premade tabletop RPG settings feature powerful existing characters. As saving and one-uping the player characters in their own story is very unpopular, most pre-written modules and GMs that actually use them relegate them to Mr. Exposition or this.

Video Games[edit | hide]

  • Opalneria Rain from Grim Grimoire is a powerful necromancer and a respected teacher at the school, yet in every single repetition of the Groundhog Day Loop she is either killed or rendered unconscious, often by the main character (Three times and counting). You begin to wonder towards the end if she's offended some great cosmic force or something!
  • Halo 3: As the only competent human still alive besides the player character, Sergeant Johnson falling victim to this trope was inevitable. A Pelican gets shot down? Johnson was on it. Enemies storm the base? Johnson gets pushed back and you have to finish the job for him. Need a third team leader for a crucial operation? The normal human takes the riskiest spot, while the Super Soldier and the Proud Warrior Race Guy get targets that are not directly connected to the nearby enemy stronghold. It gets to the point where our Badass Normal becomes a Damsel in Distress of sorts—and a rescue attempt is mounted by the person whom you'd expect to fill the role.
    • Johnson seems aware of his status - when overwhelmed, he admits "there were too many, even for me"
    • In the Halo canon, the Covenant invokes this trope by worfing the planet Reach.
  • Vanquish also plays strict homage to this trope with Colonel Robert Burns, a gruff old cyborg squad leader who so happens to survive almost everything that the robot legion throws at him WITHOUT A HELMET.
  • Metroid Prime 3: Corruption: Subverts this. The Berserker Lord can't be hurt by your weapon's standard fire and has to be worn down. You then see Ghor defeat a Berserker with two hits, making it seem like this trope but it but was really a weaker lookalike you can beat even faster than he did.
    • Other M features Ridley appearing again and scaring the shit out of Samus, making him seem like a credible threat. Later in the game, Ridley is owned by a creature you don't see until you fight it as the final boss - a Metroid Queen. You know it's not messing around because it killed Ridley.
  • Gears of War 2: Skorge's first act in the game is to leap onto the battlefield and immediately saws a tank in half. He then begins to solo both The Big Guy and a Mauve Shirt while the player character(s) can do nothing but watch. Granted, the exact ending of the conflict was never shown and The Big Guy wasn't actually killed, but still. His predecessor, RAAM, proved that he was Serious Business by killing your Lt effortlessly, though the Lt only really showed his Badass-ness in the same cutscene he was killed.
    • Marcus then directly references this trope by yelling "This guy makes RAAM look like a pushover!"
    • That, if anything, was the Worf Effect at work. After how agonizingly difficult RAAM is, and how hilariously weak Skorge is in both fights, we're meant to think that Marcus reaaaaally believes Skorge is tougher.
  • Both in-game and out, the Heavy in Team Fortress 2 is the biggest, toughest character in the game, able to soak up rockets like a sponge and kill multiple people in a second. ("He punched out all my blood!") Over the course of eight of the nine "Meet the Team" videos currently released, he has been gibbed three times, shot to death by a level one sentry, headshotted by the Sniper, and beaten unconscious in three hits by a baseball bat. He is killed more often than almost anyone else anyone else (he can't hold a candle to the BLU Soldier, though), and commonly by things he could easily tank.
    • He reclaimed his throne as in-game resident badass after Valve increased his damage and tightened his firing cone; a week later, they released the Scout update - including a weapon whose sole purpose seems to be rendering the Heavy comatose with relative ease.
      • The Heavy can retaliate by calling on another of his gals and rob Scout of his greatest asset, so it's all good.
    • In gameplay, you may encounter Spy players who show just how good they are by stalking and killing Pyros, the class meant to counter theirs.
    • Also, before, the Ubercharge was one of the most tide-turning aspects of a game. You get a invulnerable, recket/boolet firing monster mowing everyone down. Now? You get someone immune to damage, but not the push-back effects of explosions or the Pyro. In fact, the Pyro is considered to be one of the most effective Uber-counters. Good Pyros can effectively render an Ubercharge useless.
      • This counter has been countered once again, with an alternate form of Ubercharge that, while leaving you vulnerable to One Hit Kills, makes you immune to the deadly knockback.
  • You will know how dangerous Mr.Sandman is in Punch-Out!! as soon as you unlock the final fight.That is, by watching the 8-seconds clip that shows him effortlessly knocking the hell out of every other opponent you beat before him.
    • That, and when he enters the ring even Doc is afraid of him.
  • The player characters seem to fit that role in the later Metal Gear games.
  • Inverted in Persona 4, Yukiko laughs at nearly anything even slightly funny, the fact that she fails to laugh at Teddie's jokes shows off just how bad they are.
  • In Castlevania: Circle of the Moon, the player fights with Adrammelech after it gains the upper hand against Hugh and knocks him out of the room.
  • In Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, Dario proves easily able to defeat Julius as a way of showing how much more powerful he's become since the last time (Julius also got Worfed by Soma himself in the previous game). Later on, Dmitri defeats Arikado/Alucard, albeit by using Celia's sacrifice to cause him to lose control of his dark powers.
  • Fate/stay night
    • Happens especially on Servant Berserker. His Master makes no secret of his true identity as Hercules. He's called The Strongest Servant, he's top-tier in all the main factors that determine a Servant's strength (age, fame, and mana stores of his Master), with his Class enhancing his already insane power, attacks below 'A'-rank barely scratch him, and he revives 12 times before he can be Killed Off for Real. You'd think he's a shoe-in to win the Grail War. However, he is always eliminated half-way through any scenario, all to show how impressive some other character is or has become. Taking from a modified text above..."If those things took down Berserker in less than two minutes, what chance do we have?" Isn't it sad, Bahsahkah? To be completely fair, in the Fate arc, he took out Archer and nearly killed Shirou and Rin and he went out in a blaze of glory in Unlimited Blade Works tanking Gate of Babylon after Gate of Babylon to shield Ilya cementing how badass he actually is.
    • Although he's Hercules, having him become the Berserker Class may not have been Ilya's brightest decision - while it beefs him up in stats, the fact that Hercules already has the greatest physical statistics of any legendary hero makes these boosts minimal compared to most Servants who agree to be compatible with the Berserker class (most are considerably weaker fighters who gain a much bigger stat boost). Trading in your strategic and tactical fighting skills (and possibly a Noble Phantasm or two) in for almost worthless stat gains doesn't exactly make for the most balanced fighter in the conflict. To be fair, this is the Servant of Illyasviel von Einzbern we're talking about here.
    • The true master of this trope is Lancer; he is established early on as being a Badass while fighting Archer and almost kills Shiro and delivers a badass one-liner immediately following, but it's all downhill from there. In the Fate route he is killed by Gilagmesh to establish how powerful he is. In Unlimited Blade Works he is forced to kill himself by Kotomine ordering him to do so with a Command Spell, though he does have his chance to shine immediately following this. Finally in Heaven's Feel he dies to establish True Assasin's cred.
  • In another dinosaur example, the one-eyed T. rex in Dino Crisis 2 (Who was nigh invulnerable to your weapons, as well as taking on a tank and surviving gets ripped apart in seconds by a Giganotosaurus. This one is even more egregious than the Spinosaurus example above, as the Giganotosaur is depicted as so huge it can pick up the Tyrannosaur in its mouth and toss it around like a rag doll. A real-life matchup would be much more evenly weighted, as the real Giganotosaurus is only marginally bigger than T. rex, possesses a more gracile build, and lacks the Tyrant Reptile's bone-crushing bite strength.
  • In Tekken, ever since returning Back from the Dead, Kazuya Mishima has been suffering this a lot. He's beaten down by Heihachi, and then Jin consecutively. And if the newer bio of Tekken 6 is to be trusted again, someone beats him in the middle of the tournament (presumably Jin. AGAIN), opting him to leave the tournament to deal with the G Corporation. Then one of the leaked screenshots for Tekken 6's new Scenario Campaign had him being kicked in the ass by Heihachi. Was coming Back from the Dead really worth it?
  • Iji manages to do this on a species-wide scale. Granted, we only see the last major battle, but the backstory states that these wars have been going on for decades, so it still counts. Specifically, at the beginning of the game, the Tasen seem like a rather frightening, imposing warrior race, but once their ancient rivals appear on the scene they're absolute jokes.
  • In Mega Man & Bass, the first thing we see King do is chop Proto Man in half.
  • In Final Fantasy VII SOLDIER is heralded in the backstory as a group of unrelenting hardcases who can mow down countless enemies with ease. In-game, however, the lower class members of this group are less than impressive, just another batch of Mooks for the protagonists to stomp.
    • Not just the lower class. While at the beginning you fight the 3rd Class (recruits) in the mid-game you're against 2nd Class and by the end you're easily dispatching SOLDIER 1st Class, the elite of the elite of which Cloud, Zack and Sephiroth are supposed to be from. By the time you fight the 2nd class the fate of the world is in your hands and personally gunning for the Strongest Soldier that ever lived.
    • Another example would be the Midgar Zolom. When you first encounter it, it's almost impossible to beat, and the game encourages you to evade it instead. When you get to the other side of the swamp where it lives, you find that Sephiroth already killed one and left it's remains dangling from a tree.
  • Kyosuke and his Alt Eisen get subjected to this throughout the middle of Super Robot Wars OG 2 with each new villain nearly destroying the Alt, ending with Axel nearly killing him before Alt Eisen's Mid-Season Upgrade to the Alt Eisen Reise saves them from further Worfing.
  • If Mario fights in the opening of a game, he's getting a Worfing. A particular example is at the start of Super Mario Galaxy, when he doesn't even get in striking range of Bowser before getting blasted by Kamek. This despite Magikoopas being fairly minor enemies in their previous appearances.
    • And, to tie it to an above example, in Brawl, the first fight is a quick slobberknocker between Mario and Kirby. Then, the two of them hold off incoming waves of Primids and such. Then...Mario's promptly shot by a cannonball. Just...blam, the most iconic video game character of all time, blasted off like Team Rocket to show that whoever the antagonist of the story is, they're serious. This becomes the standard in any subsequent appearances Mario makes in any given cutscene...while Kirby and co. proceed to steal the spotlight whenever possible.
    • Even Bowser himself is not immune to the Worf effect, but his Worfings are nearly exclusive to the RPG titles (such as Bowser's Inside Story).
  • Mass Effect 2 did this to the Normandy: what better way to establish the Collectors than have them blow your trusty ship in half.
    • Whoever you take to fight the Shadow Broker gets this - he throws a desk into them with enough force to knock them out for the rest of the fight.
    • In Mass Effect 3, Cerberus assassin Kai Leng's first appearance involves him either gutting Thane Krios, shooting Major Kirrahe, or assassinating the salarian councilor.
  • In Champions Online, the eponymous Champions seem to take a beating even more than their tabletop counterparts: in fact, Defender's status as class punching bag has become a bit of an In-Joke among the playerbase, despite his status as Millennium City's premier hero. Most recently, in the Demonflame arc, the Champions' resident mystic Witchcraft gets her ass handed to her by a Giant Mook while taunting the villains about their inevitable defeat.
  • Even as the archrival, Eggman is like this in the newer Sonic the Hedgehog games. If he's set up to be the Big Bad, just imagine how tough that guy who destroyed his Death Egg in one shot is going to be!
    • Sonic himself suffered from this in Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. All of his encounters with Silver end with him being dispatched rather easily. In addition, Mephiles manages to kill him without much effort.
  • Mortal Kombat 9 does this a lot:
    • In Smoke's chapter of Story Mode, he faces off against Kitana and Sektor and triumphs without much difficulty. When they meet again (Kitana and Nightwolf's chapters, respectively), Kitana beats him alongside Cage, and Sektor treats Smoke like a ragdoll, with Smoke being unable to successfully land a blow before Sektor gets him into a chokehold and Nightwolf has to intervene.
    • If the Story Mode is any indication, Sub-Zero punked Kratos (Play Station 3 version only) off-screen and put him on ice.
    • Sindel, having been empowered by Shang Tsung's soul/essence, attacks the heroes after the automated Lin Kuei warriors fail to kill them. It quickly escalates into a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown like no other. Nightwolf, Kitana, Sonya, and Cage are the only immediate survivors; one of them dies of their wounds and another has to pull a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • In Deadly Alliance, Liu Kang, the protagonist from the first three games, dies before Quan Chi and Shang Tsung can continue their evil plan.
  • Used in an incredibly shameless, utterly demeaning manner in Marvel Nemesis Rise of the Imperfects, where Captain America (comics), The Punisher, and The Hulk are all implied to have been killed Off For Real by the current Alien Invaders, with the first two not being shown (although the PSP version has Cap as a playable character), and the Hulk being knocked into a building, buried under the rubble, and transforming back into Bruce.
  • In Final Fantasy XI, you can exploit this with the aggro system. White mages tend to draw the most aggro since healing draws more than anything. After healing comes the warrior's provoke ability.
  • A Deathclaw plays this in a Fallout: New Vegas expansion. In an automated fight, it gets killed by a Tunneler, setting the strength of them to scale against the Deathclaw, an enemy you're likely familiar with.
    • The NCR Rangers are built up throughout the game to be a crew of ultra-badasses that only the best of the best get to join. Right before the final boss fight, there's a scripted sequence where two of them charge Legate Lanius, only to be immediately cut to shreds. To be fair to those scripted Rangers, they were Patrol Rangers. While still badass, they aren't quite the badass Rangers everyone oohs and awes over. The Veteran Rangers never have a Worf Effect moment in game. The Patrol Rangers get one of their outposts destroyed, one of their snipers assassinated and keep getting bad intel, supplies and reinforcements from Chief Hanlon. Since most of the Patrol Rangers are young rangers who just got into the corps., this trope is ultimately zig zagged because they vary so much.
  • Cesare Borgia's first appearance in Assassin's Creed Brotherhood has him beah, humiliate and kill Mario Auditore, who was shown in Assassin's Creed II and the opening of Brotherhood to be a capable leader and skilled condottiero.
  • The Antivan Crows in Dragon Age are (allegedly) the greatest assassins in Thedas. Yet, every time they go up against the Warden/Hawke they get soundly defeated, just to prove how tough s/he is.
  • Fire Emblem is guilty of using this. In Fire Emblem Elibe: The Sword of Seals. General Cecilia who was established as Roy's teacher and one of the best generals in Etruria, promptly gets taken out in one hit by Zephiel. It gives you a sneak peek at how powerful he is and he even stays on screen for a couple turns afterwords to show off his stats.
    • In the next game the Big Bad tanks a direct attack from a legendary tome/hero combo to little effect. In the Tellius series, right hand to the Beast king Ranulf takes beatings to show how outclassed he is.
  • In Dawn of War II - Retribution, during the Exterminatus of Typhon Prime, a Carnifex tries to flee from the planet. This completely pisses off a Chaos Champion who's offended that all these escapees aren't accepting the "honor of such a glorious death" and so he single-handedly kills the Carni with a synch-kill. While the Chaos Champion is a minor-boss, he's certainly no match for a Carnifex in-game or table-top. Your heroes will only take seconds to finish the guy off and hopefully collect a shiny from him too.
  • In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, one of the first things Deathwing does after his return is attack Stormwind, for no (stated) reason other than to show he's Not So Harmless.
  • In Kid Icarus: Uprising, Thanatos, the boss of Chapter 7, is brought Back from the Dead in Chapter 14 only to be curb-stomped by THAT chapter's boss, Phosphora.
    • The Three Sacred Treasures, very powerful weapons of light, were used in the first game and Uprising to defeat Medusa. When Pit uses them to battle Hades, Hades destroys them by blowing on Pit real hard.
  • Ziggy gets this treatment a lot in Xenosaga; the largest, most experienced and most physically intimidating of the main cast, he's nevertheless been thoroughly trounced in encounters with Margulis, Voyager and T-elos.

Web Comics[edit | hide]

  • As this strip explains, Black Mage of Eight Bit Theater functions as both the Worf and the Butt Monkey. Probably from how he almost always uses one spell, that while powerful, can only be used once a day.
  • In Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic, Glon the half-orc and Clover Firelight the halfling are the series whipping boy and girl, respectively, despite being exceptional fighters. (This also works verbally.)
  • In Sluggy Freelance, Bun-Bun found himself used like this during "Dangerous Days Ahead". Getting his butt kicked by the monstrous CEO form of clone!Aylee was a major plot point because in the past, Aylee was not strong enough to win a fight with him.
    • Their first battle ended in a draw as they both collapsed from exhaustion, although Bun-Bun managed to slice off Aylee's arm before the end (it regenerated). The fact that "Aylee" was a clone whose evolution was controlled to make her stronger helps.
    • Oasis sometimes falls victim to this, as while she is a deadly assassin, she also loses against Clone!Aylee, and previously lost to demon-possessed Gwynn.
      • Finally, in June 2009 Bun-Bun and Oasis faced each other in a full-out fight. Who would be the Worf this time? Bun-Bun. It was likely decided by the fact that the storyline at the time was all about Oasis and it would have been cut anticlimactically short if she'd been the one to lose.
        • Bun-bun had taken the advantage when it was solely about conventional means of fighting, but when Oasis' pyrokinetic powers are shown, the fight goes the other way.
  • In one of the prequel books of Order of the Stick, the Order is about to face a guard monster, only to have it hit Roy with a roll of 2. Upon realizing that it can nail the party member with the probable highest Armor Class with such a low roll, they flee.
  • Sara and the other Time Monks from Errant Story. The author directly invokes the trope in a commentary comic.
    • Sara's jobbing seems restricted to magic-using enemies. For example, she gets caught by an unexpected bind spell, but once Meji frees her she takes down three elves in a handful of seconds.
  • In Homestuck, Equius, the strongest of the trolls, (he punched the head off an ogre with his bare hands!) is easily strangled to death by Gamzee as his first victim. This is arguably both a straight play and a subversion, since Word of God says he could have easily broken the bowstring with his STRONG neck, but didn't because Gamzee is a highblood and therefore had the right to kill him, at least in Equius' mind.
    • Hegemonic Brute. Biggest, toughest, meanest of the Derse agents, save Jack once he gets the ring. His Midnight Crew counterpart Hearts Boxcars devours the heads of his enemies whole and rips huge safes out of brick walls. Yet in the first iteration of the kids' game he's slain off-screen by the relatively harmless-looking and meek Parcel Mistress (using the sword his boss gave her, no less), and in the post-Scratch session decapitated in one sweep by Dirk Strider with only three panels worth of screen time.
  • Generally, the first action of a villain during the Yearly Bob and George Villain Kills Everyone storyline is to take out Protoman, who could be loosely described as a sort of robot Batman.
  • Elliot from El Goonish Shive suffers from this, even though the series isn't focused on combat. He built a reputation as a Bully Hunter and befriended two of the main characters through saving them from bullies and defeated the first antagonist of the strip. He then lost to Grace's brother Hedge, and embarrassingly so having been knocked out after one blow.[1]


Web Original[edit | hide]

  • This would apply to the way Tex dominates Maine, Wyoming, and York in season 9, episode 10 of Red vs. Blue were it not for the fact that we're already well aware of Tex's badassery. To the other Freelancers, however, this is exactly what's going on. The show does a good job of averting this for the most part, however. Those that are skilled all appear completely competent even next to the absolute badasses, but the most badass of them still show clear superiority.
  • This particular effect happens to Yellow in Super Mario Bros Z. Supposedly the toughest of the Axem Rangers X, not only does he get his first strike turned into a dud, he's also the first one of the group to be killed off when Mecha Sonic comes calling, followed quickly by the other four. Also, this effect happens earlier with the Koopa Bros. A couple episodes earlier, their Chaos Emerald fueled special attack decimated the heroes. Mecha Sonic blew through them like they were wet rice paper.
  • In the second season of Legion of Extraordinary Dancers, they introduce Organization X, a group of Evil Counterparts to the heroes set up as the main antagonists. When episode 16 rolls around, they haven't actually gotten a chance to show off their skills in a fight just yet (Except for Fangz, who isn't actually in the episode). Episode 16 has them facing off against The Umbras, a group of identically dressed Mooks working for the Dark Doctor who are only introduced a minute or two before OX shows up, just enough to show that they're actually pretty good. It's a perfect set-up for this trope, but The Umbras end up wiping the floor with them.
  • In the David Blaine Street Magic parody videos, David Blaine starts out as a Reality Warper who keeps playing tricks on two L.A. idiots. Then, in the fourth video, Zaoza appears.


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Used in the Justice League cartoon, with all the times Superman gets beaten up, particularly in the first season. The writers admitted to doing it when called on, and toned it down.
  • In Ben 10 Alien Force, you can always rely on Kevin, the physically strongest member on the team, to take the most damage in battle.
  • Happens to Prince Zuko on Avatar: The Last Airbender. He is the front row victim when Aang first taps into his Avatar State, he's taken down by the deadly Yu Yan archers with one single hit, and during the season one finale, he struggles to a victory in combat with Katara, whose abilities had risen to master levels offscreen. Later on that night, during their rematch under a full moon (which augments a Waterbender's power) Katara is able to abruptly neutralize Zuko's attack and KO him in a single stride. In the season two premiere, Zuko takes on his newly introduced sister, but is unable to land a single hit on her and has to be saved from certain death by his uncle.
    • Zuko gets stronger as he approaches his Heel Face Turn, and is one of the world's greatest benders by the series' end, though. The aftermath of his battle with Katara seemed to show that they were actually evenly matched; she beats him under the full moon, augmenting her powers, but he beats her when the sun is out, augmenting his.
    • The Kyoshi Warriors have elements of this too, easily defeated by Zuko in the first season, then by Azula and her Quirky Miniboss Squad.
    • Averted versus Zhao. After the fight, the viewer knows that Zhao is less capable than Zuko by himself, while he is a greater threat because of his vast resources. But definitely a Worf effect in evilness, as we see that Zhao is a complete jerk, while Zuko is honorable.
  • Transformers Animated lays it out with this dialogue from "Sari, No One's Home":

Bulkhead: He always shoots at me first!
Blitzwing: Let's see how tough you are without your big bolt-brained bruiser!
(fires a blast that knocks Bulkhead over)
Bulkhead: Called it...

    • The Worf Effect is applied in a layering effect in Animated. There is a special tier of villains Bumblebee can take out by himself (the human villains, sad as that sounds), then a higher tier for the Robot Ninja Prowl and The Big Guy Bulkhead (The Brutes, Sixth Ranger Traitor and random Cons), then a tier that only Optimus has a chance against with the below serving as mere decoys. Starscream and Megatron cement their status as a tier by themselves by Starscream fatally wounding Optimus in the pilot and beating Optimus' superior with one shot...and then Megatron beating Screamer with one shot. Despite this very clear hierarchy, Bumblebee has charged head first at Starscream and Megatron by himself several times. They usually pick him up by the neck and fling him.
    • The Autobots themselves have a tendency to end up as victims. In the pilot episode, Starscream easily defeats all five of them, twice, which turned out to be the only fighting he did during the season. They also get thrashed by Blitzwing and Lugnut, and Megatron at the end of the 1st season. The irony is that the debut fights for all of the above, except Megatron, was the only time they are shown are how tough they are. In subsequent appearances, Starscream rarely ever did any fighting, and half the time it was getting thrashed by Megatron.
      • By themselves, the Dinobots have been beaten by Optimus' team, Meltdown and now Jetstorm and Jetfire.
    • Sentinel Prime is also victim of this. When he assists the Autobots, he has beaten the Headmaster and most of the Decepticons. At the same time he has lost to Headmaster, Blackarachnia and Blitzwing when he had to fight them himself. He also was beaten by the Dinobots when he tried to bully them.
  • Splinter from the 1980s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987 cartoon was portrayed as a master of ninjitsu, but he got himself captured on a regular basis and had to be rescued by the Turtles as often as April O'Neil herself.
  • If the Gargoyles are fighting as a group, expect this to happen to Goliath. He usually recovers in time to get the final blow in on the antagonist, though.
  • X-Men the Animated Series had a rare 3x combo in "The Phoenix Saga Part 2" : First, Wolverine plays his typical role by getting easily taken out by the Juggernaut. Then Juggernaut is easily tossed away by Gladiator (with the "what chance do we have?" line delivered by Jubilee). Finally, Phoenix shows up and Curb Stomps Gladiator.
    • In the first season there are a lot of moments where enemies take Storm out with a shock response from the other characters.
      • IIRC, most plot lines in X-Men the Animated Series went thusly. A. Arrival of enemy of the week. B. Wolverine snarling, declaring intentions of harm upon enemy, and deploying claws. C. Wolverine is seen tumbling through the air in such a fashion that the viewer could believe there was some kind of Pan-Galactic Wolverine toss competition and every bad guy was trying to out do the previous.
  • Magneto gets it from Apocalypse in X-Men: Evolution. He uses his powers to seize control of and hurl army vehicles, weapon emplacements, and drags satellites down from orbit to throw at his opponent. Apocalypse shrugs it off like it's nothing and (apparently) vaporizes Magneto before the X-Men's horrified eyes.
  • And, to complete the trio, in Wolverine and the X-Men, a little mutant girl is released from a stasis box by Juggernaut. The first (apart from the manner of keeping her in stasis) way of demonstrating her powers? She flings said Unstoppable Juggernaut a few miles away, knocking him out cold.
  • This was pretty typical in Transformers: Beast Wars on both factions. Typically, when a new character would show up they would whoop some serious ass and be portrayed as an unstoppable force. This is notable in "Feral Scream", where first Dinobot gets cloned and made into a new Transmetal II Predacon and schools everything, then in the same episode Cheetor gets an upgrade and takes out the new Dinobot. In the next episode Cheetor resumed his typical, post-upgrade role and Dinobot's status was lowered to a more typical enemy.
    • Special mention must go to Rampage. As a rule, he's almost unbeatable in any episode, as long as he's important to that episode's plot. After Blackarachnea got her upgrade, she beats him without even using a GUN. TWICE. To put in perspective, every robot character in the show (except Transmutate) had some kind of gun, and rarely was there a fight where they didn't use it.
  • In Kung Fu Panda, the Furious Five are apparently the strongest Kung Fu practitioners around, and we hear loads of stories about awesome things they've done in the past. The only time we actually see them unleash their full skills in combat, they lose handily to Tai Lung.
    • Its even worse in Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness. Even Shifu gets pwned to many times to count, leaving the arguably least skilled member-Po to fight the baddie all on his own. Taken to insane amounts against Dodai's Iron Claws of Doom V2, the Five and Shifu are taken out in less than a minute. Po stalemates him. Despite having less training. Despite being the least skilled member. They want to make Po awesome and all...but throw the Five a bone! Throw Shifu a bone! Shifu has yet to beat his evil counterparts in a one on one fight! While Po's been able to do that every episode.
  • The short-lived Mighty Max had a character who fit this trope. The character's name was Norman who was supposed to be the bodyguard of the title character and a vastly skilled warrior with centuries under his belt despite the fact that most episodes featured him getting clobbered.
  • Teen Titans
    • Raven tends to be on the receiving end of this. Despite that she's probably the most powerful member, episodes which don't focus on her tend to feature her getting knocked out in one hit after she throws a few nearby objects at the Monster of the Week. Cyborg, since he's the biggest member of the group, also gets Worfed a lot. However, Raven's a bit of a Squishy Wizard (she's got some martial arts moves, but is physically the weakest of the team, since Beast Boy doesn't fight in his true form) and her powers can be a bit...finicky, to say the least. Taking her down is less a question of overpowering her, and more about exploiting her weaknesses. Plus, she doesn't actually actually use her telekinesis directly on people. Something about demonic heritage and the possibility of that leading her to sliding into evil.
    • Cyborg is supposed to be the tank of the team yet seems to always get knocked around on the show. Although he can take a hit we seldom see him dish them.
  • Huey Freeman from The Boondocks subtly takes on this role. Though his fight sequences are somewhat lengthy and he shows much martial knowledge, anytime he has fought anyone with some sort of training, he has ended up on his back and bleeding.
  • In Superman: The Animated Series, Mercy Graves was usually presented as the Badass Normal dragon for Lex Luthor. She spent "World's Finest" getting knocked around, mostly by Harley Quinn, and ended up Bound and Gagged and strapped to one of Lex's robot as a Human Shield against Superman. She gets the last laugh, though; Harley goes to the slammer, and Mercy just has to heal.
  • My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic is a children's show about, well, friendship being magic, so obviously physical force never accomplishes anything. As a result the frontline fighters (Applejack and Rainbow Dash) are always getting their butts kicked. Twilight also gets worfed in Stare Master, which is a little fairer since she's evidently overpowered compared to the others and has defeated (often single handedly) most of the show's villains.
    • Twilight actually gets worfed pretty often on the show, due to a borderline Story-Breaker Power. In The Stare Master she encounters a creature that presumably took her out too quickly for her to have time to use magic on it. In The Return of Harmony her supposedly "failsafe" spell fails, probably because she attempted to fix the changes provoked by a Mad God. She also has many, many occasions on which she conveniently forgets to use spells we already know she has (that teleport of hers would have been convenient against the hydra!) or uses spells that go catastrophically awry, like in Swarm Of The Century.
    • The Wonderbolts swoop in to save the day both in "Sonic Rainboom" and in "Secret of My Excess". Neither attempt goes well.
    • This ends up happening to PRINCESS CELESTIA of all beings, when she ends up getting defeated by Queen Crystalis because of the vast amount of power the latter had absorbed from Shining Armor. Though to be fair, even as powerful as Chrysalis had become, she was visibly straining to overpower Celestia and was shocked herself that she'd managed to do it, which does show she's still pretty dang strong.
  • In The Venture Brothers the neighbour happens to be a powerful necromancer who can summarily handle most threats as if they were farcical or annoying diversions from his everyday dad routine. A couple of monsters of the week do manage to utterly wreck him when they appear on the scene, for instance 'Mother' and 'Dr. Henry Killinger'.
    • Bodyguard Brock Sampson also manages to run over every opponent he faces (except for an ambush of mooks on a few occassions) but Molotov Cocktease proves her power by sparring with him successfully.
      • Molotov is also Brock's recurring love interest - he has no interest in killing her, their fights are almost sadomasochistic in nature.
  • In the Animaniacs segment "The GoodFeathers" Pesto was the toughest fighter; they knew that their opponent was a threat if he took down Pesto which happened often.
  • Done in Kim Possible where Alien Invader Warmonga easily took on both Shego and Kim, the latter of which was wearing her Story-Breaker Power battlesuit. Only a miracle allowed them to survive. Then in the Grand Finale, Warmonga returned with the more powerful Warhak who was able to knock both females out with a single punch. It was then reversed to show just how awesome Ron was by taking both aliens down with his Mystical Monkey Power.
  • In WITCH's second season, if you weren't the Guardians, the Regents or Caleb, you were going to get Worfed. Elyon, Kadma and the Oracle end up getting captured by Nerissa due to her wonderful skills in Xanatos Gambit-ing.


Notes

  1. and the exhaustion from one involuntary transformation that may have been precipitated by that blow