Smile like you've got nothing to prove No matter what you might do There's always someone out there cooler than you
The character who is the best-of-the-best with a supporting cast that Can't Catch Up comes across someone even better than them; someone more powerful than the Super Hero, or more skilled than the ninja, or smarter than The Professor, or richer and more important than the rich important guy, or a better banjo player than the master banjo player, etc.
It's not uncommon for the characters to be siblings, not unlike the Aloof Big Brother — e.g. Sam Malone's brother was more popular than him, Adrian Monk's brother was better at deduction. The classic better sibling is, of course, Mycroft Holmes, better known as "Sherlock Holmes' smarter brother."
By the end of the story, one of three things has usually happened: the regular character has been totally humiliated trying to beat the other character; he has grown up and realized that he just doesn't need to be the best, and becomes happy being second best; or has bested their superior. The most common ways for besting them in action shows is by outwitting or tricking them, finding their Achilles Heel, using a Forgotten Superweapon, getting into an Unstoppable Rage, or just a good old-fashioned David Versus Goliath confrontation. Sometimes, the character just has to get over their mental block/self-esteem issue, which was the problem all along.
This is generally just a one-shot character, but in continuing, action-oriented shows, this character can sometimes turn into a recurring villain or Big Bad with whom the Hero develops a rivalry. In many cases, the rivalry is entirely one-sided — either the rival doesn't know that his challenger exists or (much to the mortification and fury of the Hero) likes the Hero and considers them a friend, and thus doesn't enjoy competing with them; there may even be something the Hero possesses which the rival character envies). In other situations, the better character is a Jerkass who just loves to lord his superiority over the Hero.
Sometimes overlaps with The Ace. In a Monster Protection Racket, a character can seem this way before they're revealed. See also Always Second Best.
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Anime and Manga
Pokémon: Gary Oak from the Kanto Arc to the end of the Johto Arc.
Ritchie, during the Indigo Plateau.
Harrison, during the Silver Conference.
Tyson, during the Ever Grande Conference.
Paul, during the Sinnoh Arc.
Until the Lily of the Valley Conference.
Zoey, Dawn's rival during the Sinnoh Arc. Dawn NEVER defeated her, not even in the finals in the Grand Festival.
Tobias, during the Lily of the Valley Conference.
Trip during the Unova Arc but quickly subverted in his fourth appearance when they tie. Subverted in the Vertress Conference, where Ash beats him in the preliminaries.
Both Seta Noriyasu and Aoyama Tsuruko in Love Hina can outfight Aoyama Motoko.
Granted, Seta is The Ace and Tsuruko is Motoko's older sister (older siblings tend to be like this).
Ranma ½. The main cast is already superhuman (and here they're jockeying for "betterness"), and they routinely come across other people who are better. Most of this main cast will Take a Level in Badass to defeat the better bunch, but only after having their collective/respective backsides handed to them. Victory is often about exploiting a weakness instead of through the application of superior firepower.
In Spiral, Narumi Ayumu's older brother, Kiyotaka, is far and away his superior (though he also seems to have vanished from the face of the earth for the anime portion of continuity).
One Piece had Mihawk, the greatest swordsman in the world, who in his first appearance utterly trounces Roronoa Zoro (greatest swordsman in the ocean of East Blue) with a tiny dagger, but spares him because Zoro shows promise.
Also, Luffy's Brother Ace. He was already stronger than Luffy before he got his Playing with Fire powers and after Luffy got his rubber-powers.
Slayers had Luna Inverse, Lina's older sister and the only person in a world full of chaos-demon-gods who scared her. She could trounce any of the bad guys Lina faces, being a reincarnation of one of the world's supreme gods...if she had any ambition beyond being a part-time waitress.
Mizuno Ami of Sailor Moon had two. One turned out to have psychic powers from the nijizuishou, lost them, and became a love interest; the other was exclusive to her OVA.
Mercurious was more like her equal, the got the same grades but for some reason he was always mentioned first at the list.
Maybe the listmaker resorted to alphabetical listing when grades were the same?
Whatever new skill Vegeta manages to acquire in Dragon Ball Z, he always ends up falling behind Goku. His sense of jealousy and rivalry gets increasingly bitter since Goku doesn't care and treats him like an old friend. Also, Goku is a good guy who can almost treat gods on a first-name basis, while Vegeta ends up in hell after his Heroic Sacrifice. At the end of the anime, he seems to have found some peace in always playing second fiddle to Goku.
Also, this was the reason Muten Roshi went undercover to test his students on the Tenkaichi Budokai.
Being about sports, this happens kind of a lot in Eyeshield 21, where there's at least one of these on any major opposing team. For instance, Sena's come up against Riku, the guy who taught him how to run in the first place; Panther, at once a kindred spirit and a total opposite who is actually even faster than him; and Yamato Takeru — the real Eyeshield 21.
And it's not only Eyeshield. This is one of the biggest staples in sports manga as a whole. Even some main characters fits this trope, or become so as the plot goes on. Examples are...
Code Geass: Schneizel is this to Lelouch. He is the only person he couldn't defeat in when they were kids. They tie when they played later. And the final battle was won by Lelouch because he was able to think in ways his opponent couldn't.
Miki Koishikawa from Marmalade Boy often saw her love rivals for Yuu's affections this way. Almost a whole episode in the anime is about Miki watching the beautiful and elegant Arimi Suzuki from afar and thinking she's just a little girl when compared to her.
The sad thing is that Kikyou's brialliance is an informed attribute. She was talented but not very intelligent as is proved from her failed plan to purify the shikon both before and after she died. Kagome is also canonly more powerful than Kikyou. So she is in effect competing with an illusion of superiority that shrouds Kikyou, who is in actuality not better or worse than her. Which makes her situation even more depressing.
Inuyasha's nose is something of a marvel given how sensitive it is. Then it's revealed that his sense of smell cannot compete with with his full-blooded dog-youkai brother's sense of smell. It becomes a plot-point in the mastering of Inuyasha's sword.
Kare Kano's Yukino was considered to be the perfect person by her peers until Arima came into her life.
As Peacock's number one talent, Ayaori serves as Always Someone Better to Ryo in Penguin Revolution, and typically for the trope is also Ryo's adopted brother. Less typically, they're both very fond of each other and Ryo, while competitive, bears no resentment towards Ayaori.
Yoshimori's older brother Masamori is first shown as one of these, being incredibly powerful at a young age, the object of Tokine's affection, and overall everything Yoshimori wants to be. Their grandparents Tokiko and Shigemori play this role to Masamori, with the former being able to mend holes in space and dimensions using her powers.
However, after much plot development, Yoshimori goes through more training, and eventually can do things not even Masamori can do.
In Cowboy Bebop, Spike is set up as the biggest Bad Ass of the galaxy, matched only by his nemesis Vicious, however when Ed's father briefly shows up toward the end of the series, he effortlessly outfights Spike.
In Special A, the main character Hikari Hanazono's sole objective in life is to one-up her life rival Kei Takishima. Since the day he beat her in a pro wrestling match, Hikari has challenged Takishima in everything from test scores to high jumping over a mountain-sized vaulting horse. Each time Takishima beats her with incredible ease and non-chalantly calling her "Miss No.2" which only fires Hikari's spirit even more.
This is the entire plot basis of Yu-Gi-Oh!. Specifically:
Seto Kaiba can never defeat Yami Yugi in a fair duel (and the one time he did win, it was only because Yugi took over control from Yami before Yami could execute an attack that would have killed Kaiba). It causes Kaiba to be The Resenter, and any time he has to help Yugi and company it's shown to be only because he actually has to.
Kaiba himself is the "someone better" for Katsuya Jonouchi (Joey Wheeler in the dub), and never takes him seriously as a duelist. Though the fact that Kaiba's pretty anal toward Jonouchi/Joey to begin with doesn't really help the situation (admittedly, he's not so jerkish in the original series, where he does acknowledge Jonouchi's/Joey's growth in skill and experience, just not openly).
Regular Yugi becomes this for the Pharaoh at the end of the series.
Sakuma Ryuichi (and, to a lesser extent, Seguchi Tohma) are this for Shindou Shuichi in Gravitation.
In Great Mazinger, Tetsuya is pictured to be much more superior than Koji in many ways during his introduction, being a same character with their only difference was Tetsuya being better, more mature but more arrogant than Koji. When Koji returns after being Put on a Bus, it become apparent that Tetsuya has a weakness which was none, on the flipside, Tetsuya himself don't even know that he is better than Koji and accepted by the others in the same way as Koji, and at the same time have a massive Inferiority complex. This caused a huge amount of problem.
In Bleach, Renji Abarai trained for decades to defeat Byakuya Kutchiki to reclaim his old relationship with his childhood friend Rukia whom he views as having been stolen from him when Byakuya adopted her into his clan. Not only does he completely fail to defeat Byakuya despite achieving bankai because a new bankai is nowhere near the level required to fight a captain, but some punk human kid who's been a Soul Reaper for all of two months shows up, kicks his ass, kicks Byakuya's ass, saves Rukia from being executed by Soul Society all despite having a brand new bankai himself. The only way it could possibly suck worse for Renji is if this upstart kid was the main character. Oh, wait...
A more appropriate example would be Ichigo himself. In record time, he becomes a shinigami capable of fighting and defeating captains to save Rukia and change Soul Society enough to ensure Rukia won't be executed once he's gone home. It seems as though he's achieved his goal when the real villain puts in his appearance, able to stop Ichigo's unstoppable blade with a single finger. The significance of this moment is lampshaded in the anime by having Aizen not only stop Ichigo's blade with his finger, but actually bring Ichigo's theme music to crashing halt mid-note.
Raigyo from Xam'd: Lost Memories exists to make protagonist Akiyuki feel terribly inadequate both as a Xam'd and as a crewmember of the Zanbani Postal Ship. The point is stressed further by the fact that Akiyuki is stuck mostly wearing Raigyo's hand-me-downs which, with Raikyo being a good head taller and utterly ripped, are almost comically oversized on the poor kid — meaning that he has big shirts to fill both figuratively and literally.
Furuichi's resentment towards Akiyuki, who has everything Furuichi wants — mainly, the affections of their love interest Haru. And when Furuichi puts the matter in his own hands to get what he wants in Episode 14, things don't end well for the guy.
Athrun Zala is this to fellow red suit Yzak Joule in Mobile Suit Gundam Seed, who always is at the top in everything. Though Yzak tries his hardest he never quite manages to get within Athrun's range and ends up being the No. 2. It does not really make things better that Athrun seems to be mostly oblivious to the fact that he is causing Yzak in fact a lot of Tsundere moments.
Admittedly it's shown in a manga chapter, that Athrun did notice his rivalry with Yzak, and is as upset and serious about it then the other one, not wanting to lose by any means.
In Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny, this continued with tension between Shinn and Athrun, while they were both with the Minerva crew. Though this time, Athrun was just trying to set a good example for Shinn to follow. he failed
Deconstructed in Medaka Box. The titular character can and does copy any physical ability she sees and any other character's "abnormal" power she comes in contact with. This means she can copy, say, Akune's "superhuman" abnormality, or Maguro's "perfection" abnormality...but she can also absorb and perfect things that don't need to be perfected, like an abnormal desire to kill others, or the abnormal ability to cause everything you touch to decay.
Master Hiko Seijuro of Rurouni Kenshin. Hiko chose Kenshin as his successor because of his spirit, but because Kenshin doesn't have the physique he will never reach Hiko's level. Kenshin does defeat him once with the final succession move, but it's completely unblockable, even by someone like Hiko.
Saitou also serves as this for Sanosuke; Sanosuke had considered himself Kenshin's strongest ally prior to Saitou's arrival, yet Saitou proves to be just as skilled as Kenshin in swordsmanship, and far more skilled in hand-to-hand combat than Sanosuke.
"W- watch... S- see... What I- I can never- WILL never be. Dancing before me... When I was a child, afraid of a single wild dog... And that girl appeared, no more than ten, slicing it in half. The same feeling. Only now, remembering my emotion... It wasn't fear of her. No... I already knew... Instinctively... That she'd walk ahead of me the rest of my life. Accepting that, I felt no fear. No resistance. Only familiar, comfortable despair. I remember it now... What I felt then...It was awe..."
Both Keith/Sky High and Barnaby Brooks Jr. serve as this to Kotetsu/Wild Tiger in Tiger & Bunny, in slightly different ways. Keith overshadows Kotetsu by the virtue of being comically amazing in every way. Barnaby, on the other hand, gets to make Kotetsu feel inadequate by having the exact same powers while being younger, better looking, more competent, and more loved by fans and sponsors alike. Later on in the series, however, Kotetsu's Always Someone Better relation sort of flips around in a way, as Barnaby starts seeing him as someone he can't ever hope to compare to.
Barnaby: There's no one I particularly aspire to be like, but there is someone I'm no match for... I just aspire to be someone who's worthy of his trust.
Touma Kamijo to Accelerator. Despite Accelerator's genius intellect and Superpower Lottery, Touma can kick his ass. Touma can easily solve problems without resorting to deadly force, Accelerator struggles with this. Touma can easily make connections with people and befriend defeated foes, Accelerator struggles to even open up to his adoptive family, etc. Accelerator is jealous, but awkwardly looks up to him.
Touma Kamijo and Accelerator to Shiage Hamazura. Despite being a Grade-A Badass in his own right, Touma and Accelerator overshadow him. Touma is a Butt Monkey, but Shiage's luck is even worse. Shiage doesn't hate them, instead seeing them as role models.
Accelerator to Kakine Teitoku. Kakine's power and intellect rivals Accelerator's, but in the end, Accelerator is the #1 Esper and Kakine is the #2 Esper for a reason. Kakine hates him and desperately wants to kill him and prove his superiority.
Kaori Kanzaki to Itsuwa. Kaori is stronger, the more skilled fighter, has bigger boobs, and in Itsuwa's mind is more beautiful. Itsuwa looks up to her, but worries that Kaori is more likely to win Touma's heart.
In Glass Mask, Ayumi Himekawa, is the product of two successful and famous actors. She was born and raised to follow in their footsteps. She seemed like the obvious choice to play the iconic Crimson Goddess role. Along comes Maya Kitajima; a daughter of a restaurant worker. A girl who dreams of becoming an actress and can memorize every line, action, and scene from her favorite films. After Chigusa Tsukikage discovered her, she would turn out to be a natural actress and would always seem to out-do Ayumi without even trying.
In Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Hikaru Ichijo comes to eagerly concede that his wingman and friend, Maximilian Jenius, is far and away a better fighter pilot than himself.
In the G.I. Joe Marvel comic series, before the actual events of the comic, Snake-Eyes became Storm Shadow's Always Someone Better, with some judicious manipulation from Firefly.
In the new Transformers series from IDW, Sixshot seems to be every Decepticon's Always Someone Better ... or he would be, if anyone but Megatron weren't so afraid of him they strip gears at the mention of his name.
In many ways, Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic) of the Fantastic Four is this to his arch-nemesis Doctor Doom, with regards to science at least; one of Doom's key driving motivations is to prove himself superior to Richards, who has always demonstrated that he's just that little bit smarter and better than Doom. In this case, the rivalry is far from unnoticed, although it's always Doom who actively plans and attempts to humiliate and subdue Reed, who is less interested in proving himself superior to Doom and in fact considers it a waste that Doom expends his still-impressive intellect on what amounts to little more than petty jealousy. It is worth noting, however, that Doom is an equally-powerful sorcerer, and is in fact more powerful than Richards in this respect. However, he still meets the basic nature of the trope, as he is obsessed with besting Richards entirely on his own terms, i.e. with science, and when he uses his formidable skills in sorcery against Richards, Richards nevertheless manages to find some way to outwit him and win.
It has been stated in Unthinkable that if Doom had chosen sorcery over science, he would be Doctor Strange's superior. Strange also had the advantage of being tutored by the world's Sorcerer Supreme, while Doom had only a monastery of mystic monks to teach him.
Reed is also the Always Someone Better to The Wizard, who has actually given up on beating him with science and just wants him dead so he can be the best, resulting in a whole lot of Frightful Fours, one of which had five members. Reed is surprisingly calm about this, except when it's actually happening; he never sits around worrying about what the Wizard's going to do next.
Speaking of Dr. Strange, it may be more appropriate to say that he's this to Baron Mordo (the other former disciple of the Ancient One) rather than Doom; Doom certainly obsesses less about Strange in particular than the not-so-good Baron does.
Furthermore, while Richards lends his name to the Reed Richards Is Useless trope for a good reason, Doom actually uses his incredible intellect to make Latveria, the nation he rules, into a high-technology utopia. However, Reed's technology is still usually superior to Doom's efforts. Doom also gets away with actively using his technological prowess on Latveria because it's a fictional, highly isolationist country and so not subject to the general Status Quo Is God effect that applies to the more "realistic" areas of the Marvel Universe.
Ironically, in Ultimate Marvel, Reed Richards gets to experience it himself, claiming that he feels inferior to his universe's incarnation of Tony Stark.
Similarly, this motivation is attributed to Lex Luthor's hatred of Superman, starting with John Byrne's reboot in the 1980s. Lex Luthor was the most powerful man in Metropolis, with even politicians and law enforcement afraid to cross him, until Superman arrived in town and not only showed Lex up but emboldened the police and mayor to stand up to Lex as well. In John Byrne's version of the first meeting between Lex and Superman, Lex tried to hire Superman as one more obedient employee, and he has never forgiven Superman for being the first person in Metropolis ever to dare to say "no" to him. This is further compounded by the fact that, over the years, Superman's increasing popularity has drastically overshadowed Lex. The obvious factor that Superman has a whole load of awesome super powers and Lex doesn't, which Lex is rather bitter about.
Interestingly, Luthor has actually justified his hatred of Superman by claiming he is this to the human race, and all human achievement pales when compared to the things "the alien" can do effortlessly. Lex has even gone so far as to tell Superman that as soon as he's out of the picture he will solve all of humanity's problems himself, thus proving his superiority to all. However, this is proven as a petty lie after the events of 52, when Superman was out of commission for a year and Luthor did nothing but be his scheming evil self. Superman taunts him for this: "Where's the cancer cure, Lex?"
Luthor: I could have saved the world if it wasn't for you!
Er.. in that Captain Atom: Armageddon comic, Superman is the "Always Better Than..." to Captain Atom. Captain Atom has more powers but he admits that he's just a C- grade superhero as he always a step too slow or too navel-gazing to be the first to save the day. And as for defeating the Authority, that was easy for him because everyone dropped the idiot ball hardcore, "Oh I'm the most powerful person in the universe except I have no invulnerability naturally, look there's an alien superhero who's going into meltdown. I'll save the day by copping a feel off of him" (almost all of the Authority died in the series because they kept touching him while he was burning)
A lot of British children's comics, such as The Beano and The Dandy, characters have fallen victim to this, because many of them consist of groups of friends/sports teams/classes etc. where each character is centred around a particular attribute - clever, fat, short-sighted, whatever - and a common plot is to introduce them to an even more exaggerated version of themselves.
The Human Torch played this role in early Spider Man stories. No one character plays the role now.
In fact, Torch and Spidey eventually switched the roles for awhile. Peter was smart enough that he could keep up with Reed's scientific lectures, developed a friendly rapport with Sue and Ben, and was even good with watching Franklin. There was a period where Johnny resented the fact that Peter was practically more of a member of his own family than he was. They eventually worked this out, though, and became best buddies, until One More Day caused an identity reset. While they're friends again, sort of, now that Peter's again revealed his identity to the Four, they aren't near as close as they once were.
The first page quote comes from She-Hulk, where the titular heroine fills this role for Titania and is the subject of her husband the Absorbing Man's lecture. She just can't beat her and it just drives her insane.
In Bronze AgeSuperman comics, this was Vartox's shtick. Vartox was the superhero protector of a distant planet. He had been superheroing longer than Supes and had an even wider array of powers than he did. Fortunately, Vartox was a hero, and the two were nominally friends. Unfortunately, Vartox frequently showed signs of emotional instability, and seemed to get mind-controlled or otherwise manipulated every time he showed up, so the two always got in a fight. Supes couldn't out-muscle him, so he always had to win by using his head.
Wolverine has often claimed to be the best there is at what he does. Perhaps no enemy of his has presented more conclusive evidence against this than Tomi Shido - the Gorgon. Faster, stronger, smarter, more agile, more silent, more skillful, all despite his mutant powers having nothing to do with any of these things. Many of Wolvie's enemies are in some way an equal match for him, but the Gorgon is, simply put, too much for Wolverine, even according to the man himself. It took using his own Taken for Granite powers against him to put him away... but sometimes you just can't keep a bad man down.
See also Mr. X, thought by many to be the most perfect killing machine the world has ever known. After the Gorgon, nobody's taken Wolvie to school quite like he has. And before you dismiss his Combat Clairvoyance as cheap, it's hard to argue with a guy who can kill you with both hands behind his back.
Wolverine and Spider-Man have fought a couple of times, and every single time, Spider-Man has basically handed Wolverine his ass. Of course, this could always be chalked up to Wolverine simply not fighting in the same weight-class as Spider-Man.
While other writers would abandon the idea, Chris Claremont has stated that he intended Sabretooth to be Logan's someone better. Creed would regularly track him down on his birthday, every year, ambush him, and defeat him every single time (Logan would have been dead, if it wasn't for his Healing Factor). Claremont explained their relationship in an interview as;
Claremont:Father and son. That's why Sabretooth always considered Logan "sloppy seconds" to his "original" / "real deal." The other critical element in my presentation of their relationship was that, in their whole life, Logan has never defeated Sabretooth in a knock-down, drag-out, kill-or-be-killed berserker fight. By the same token, on every one of his birthdays, Sabretooth has always managed to find him, no matter where Logan was or what he was doing, and come within an inch of killing him. For no other reason than to remind him that he could.
Like Wolverine above, Taskmaster is supposed to be this for the Marvel Universe mercenaries. Like Richard Dragon of DC, he's the one who "trains the best." DC stops Dragon from suffering from The Worf Effect or Badass Decay by not having him around when he's not teaching. Taskmaster gets his butt kicked all over.
Taskmaster actually told Deadpool that Deadpool is really the best mercenary and possibly the best fighter on Earth. It's just that Deadpool's messed-up in the head, making him so crazy that no-one will hire him.
Taskmaster: Truth is, you're that good. You've always been that good. Which won't even get you a cup of coffee until you can figure out how to be a professional...
In Harry Potter And The Methods Of Rationality, Harry realizes Hermione's ability to rapidly assimilate information and do academic work better, as well as having unwavering morality is superior to him. Hermione, in contrast, recognizes that Harry is a Chessmaster that she frankly cannot outplot no matter what she tries, and that he's far less naive than her. Both of them are jealous of the other's better points.
In Excalibur, Merlin warns Arthur, "You must remember, there's always something cleverer than yourself." This was a particularly prescient warning since it was the first time Arthur faced Lancelot.
Woody and Buzz in Toy Story, Buzz appears to be better at Woody in everything when he first arrives.
Helen is this to Annie in Bridesmaids. It turns out that she's not-so-perfect after all, and far from what Annie thinks was upstaging her mainly out of thoughtless over-eagerness and a desire to fit in rather than maliciousness or competitiveness.
Iron Man 2: Tony for Justin Hammer, who just barely hides his resentment about always being second-best compared to Stark behind his faux grin.
In The Dark Knight Rises Bane is this to Batman. He utterly destroys him in their first fight, and even in their rematch, still possesses a clear edge despite Batman getting back in shape and regaining his resolve. Batman beats him not through superior strength or even superior skill, but by disabling his mask.
In The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi confesses that he is never at ease in fighting:
Miyagi: Why? Fighting fighting. Same same.
Daniel: Yeah, but you knew karate.
Miyagi: Someone always know more.
Elfangor from Animorphs, but only from Ax's perspective. In fact, the main reason the Animorphs go to rescue Ax is because they feel an obligation to any Andalite because of Elfangor's kindness. From his own perspective, Elfangor is more of a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
The concept was subverted in Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot novel The Big Four, when Poirot mentions his older brother Achille as being a better detective than he is; the only visual difference, he claims, is that Achille doesn't have a mustache and has a scarred lip. Near the end, when the villains have captured Hastings and Poirot, Hastings realizes that they captured Achille instead - only to have it revealed that Achille doesn't exist; in order to fool the villains, Hercule shaved off his mustache revealing his own scarred lip. Hastings probably should have realized something was up when Poirot, the biggest egomaniac in literature, started describing someone as better... This idea was likely inspired by Mycroft Holmes; Poirot gives a Shout Out to him by noting, "Don't all great detectives have a brother better at it than them?"
The Shadow Club by Neil Shusterman was devoted to this concept, with seven second-best children being driven to incredible lengths to humiliate their better. They start off sympathetic, one girl is even being ignored by her parent and step-parent DURING THEIR WEDDING because of her superior cousin, but they ultimately begin to cause serious harm to their rivals, and nearly kill one of them and an innocent bystander.
Then, for extra fun, a sequel is made in which the better arrives who is better than EVERYONE at EVERYTHING. When he too is targeted, the adults suspect the former Shadow Club of being the cause, but they are surprisingly innocent and the main character begins sleuthing to figure out who is trying to frame them.
After blowing through military academy in record time and without finding anyone who can match his strategic genius, the titular protagonist of Ender's Game meets a strange old man in Command School, who catches him off guard and beats him up. Turns out the old guy is Mazer Rackham, the hero from the last war against the aliens, whose victory Ender is being groomed to repeat. His introduction is awesome:
Ender: I've had too many teachers, how was I supposed to know you'd turn out to be a-
Mazer Rackham: An enemy, Ender Wiggin. I am your enemy, the first one you've ever had that was smarter than you. There is no teacher but the enemy. No-one but the enemy will tell you what the enemy is going to do. No-one but the enemy will ever teach you how to destroy and conquer. Only the enemy shows you where you are weak. Only the enemy tells you where he is strong. And the rules of the game are what you can do to him and what you can stop him from doing to you. I am your enemy from now on. From now on, I am your teacher.
Ender himself is the Always Someone Better to every other student in battle school (with the possible exception of Bean), especially Bonzo.
Ender also served this function to his older sibling Peter. While Peter was brilliant, he was too violent and wild to be accepted into battle school, while Ender had all the right qualifications. Peter didn't take it well.
Although Peter eventually managed to show him up by getting elected President of the Human Race because of his Internet forum skills.
In Timothy Zahn's The Thrawn Trilogy, (part of the Star Wars Expanded Universe), we are introduced to Winter Celchu, Leia's aide and a friend from childhood, who had been invaluable during the less certain times of the Rebellion. Leia, when it comes to gracefulness and elegance, thinks of Winter as her Always Someone Better, as she can wake up in the middle of the night, leave her hair unbrushed, wear only a plain robe, and still seem more poised than Leia feels. Leia was lying in bed pregnant at the time...
Another way she might be Leia's Always Someone Better is that due to her responsibilities, Leia had to leave her children with Winter quite often.
In Outbound Flight, the domineering Jedi Master Jorus C'baoth has a twenty-two year old Padawan, Lorana Jinzler, who doubts herself and isn't given much encouragement. C'baoth, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and their respective Padawans meet up, and C'baoth approves of the fourteen-year-old Anakin, predicting that he'll be a Jedi Knight before he's twenty. Poor Lorana winces, remembering that her Master hasn't even hinted about her knighthood, and wonders if Anakin is really that much stronger in the Force.
According to Obi-Wan Lorena is hardly a bad Jedi. In fact he admits that save for a lack of self-confidence she was well on her way towards being a good Jedi Knight. The problem is that she choose to compare herself to a Skywalker.
In the novel Wraith Squadron two of the characters fall into this. The first is Falynn Sandskimmer who is second-best in several areas (TIE pilot, security expert, scout), but doesn't see herself as number one at anything. She fails to see how her versatility makes her valuable (she's number two to several different people). At the end of the novel, she makes a desperate attempt to be "first" at something; she succeeds, but dies in the process. Also Tyria has this somewhat in that though she is the squadron's best scount and is almost always the point man, she is the worst pilot. Fortunately for her she is also Force sensitive and develops those skills over the course of the series in the process becoming a much better pilot. Eventually she even becomes a full fledged Jedi.
Walter Tevis's fictional The Hustler, later made into a movie, focuses on protagonist Eddie Felson's goal to beat Minnesota Fats, the best pool player in America.
And Harry must deal with Cedric Diggory in the very same book.
This builds up throughout the series between Harry and Ron. Harry is more popular with his classmates, cherished by all as The Chosen One, was Gryffndor's star Quidditch player since his first year, and gets along better with Ron's family than Ron himself. All of this results in Ron having a massive Inferiority Complex throughout the series.
Interestingly, the egotistical Sherlock Holmesfreely admits that Mycroft is better at his brand of deduction than Sherlock himself is. In turn, both brothers acknowledge that Sherlock is the energetic one, and that he gets results because he is willing to get up and do something (Mycroft is about as sedentary as they come). This largely averts the rivalry aspect of this trope. Although Mycroft is sedentary, he's far from inactive. Mention is made of his work for the government; which in modern terms most likely means Intelligence (in a modern setting, he'd probably be working for the SIS). So the two brothers do effectively similar work, Sherlock on a personal level, Mycroft on an international, governmental level.
The point is there is a complete lack of rivalry between the brothers and neither hesitates to call upon the other when he feels a need for his particular skills.
In Jim Butcher's The Dresden Files, nearly every character has their own area of expertise and could pose a threat to Harry Dresden under the right circumstances, but the closest thing to an Always Someone Better for Harry is Cowl. Cowl is a Hidden Agenda Villain and yet not afraid to get his hands dirty, and the last time he was seen, he was perfectly capable of beating Harry in his area of expertise: brute magical force. Harry has caught Cowl by surprise and escaped his traps, but never actually beat him in a fight.
Codex Alera spends a lot of time building up Aldrick as the best swordsman in existence, and then has his presumed dead former rival come back and beat the stuffing out of him at the climax of the first book.
In The Curse of Chalion by Lois McMaster Bujold, Caz has a flashback to an epiphany he had during his youth. While Cazaril was considered the best fencer in the castle, he was paired off as a sparring partner to a visiting youth and was thoroughly convinced of his own superiority, only to be soundly trounced by the visitor. The realization that there's Always Someone Better had a profound effect on his development from then on.
Also, in the sequel Paladin of Souls, Illvin muses that his elder half-brother was always better than him at everything they tried... the one thing Illvin could do that his brother could not was fall in love with Ista. Aww.
In The Wheel of Time the mythic hero Lews Therin Telamon was this in the Age of Legends. Several of the Forsaken turned to the Shadow out of jealous of him. Most notable is Demandred, who was slightly inferior to Lews Therin in almost *every* way - appearance, height, age, power, romantic success, et cetera.
In Child Ballads #132 ("The Bold Pedlar and Robin Hood"), Robin Hood & Little John meet a pedlar in Sherwood Forest who beats both of them in hand-to-hand combat. He finally reveals his name to be "Gamble Gold" and himself to be an exile from England for murder—at which point it is determined that he is Robin Hood's cousin (specifically, the son of his mother's sister, so that their relationship is in no doubt). This actually seems to make the beatings more acceptable, as all three then finish out the song merrily drinking together at an alehouse.
In David Duncan's The Reluctant Swordsman series, Wallie Smith, transported into the body of the seventh level swordsman Shonshu, is given all of Shonshu's skill and ability with a blade. He's unbeatable except that a god tells him there's "one as good" out there somewhere. The climax of the book comes after Wallie has faced that one and discovers that his protege, Nnanjji, has gone from being a second level to being the youngest seventh in history— and easily bests the "one as good," making him the true destined wielder of the Goddess's Sword.
Hiro Protagonist of Snow Crashactually expresses relief at meeting Raven, who is infinitely more badass than Hiro (or anyone) could ever hope to be. Now that he knows that Raven will always be better than him, he reasons, he'll never again have to bother trying to be badass and can just get on with things.
"Your thoughts on numerology are most interesting," Waterhouse says loudly, running Mr. Drkh off the rhetorical road. "I myself studied with Drs. Turing and von Neumann at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton." Father John snaps awake, and Mr. Drkh looks as if he's just taken a fifty-caliber round in the small of his back. Clearly, Mr. Drkh has had a long career of being the weirdest person in any given room, but he's about to go down in flames.
In the book Holes, the main character always says that no matter how tough and scary you are, there is always someone that is tougher and scarier than you.
A variant occurs in Emperor: The Field of Swords, based on a historical incident. While conquering Spain, Julius Caesar comes across a statue of Alexander the Great, and temporarily falls into depression upon realising that he has lived almost as long as Alexander but accomplished much less.
Wesley in The Princess Bride. He outfights the world's greatest swordsman, beats up the world's strongest man, and fools the world's smartest man.
In Star Trek Cold Equations, genius cyberneticist Noonien Soong becomes increasingly furious at Emil Vaslovik, who turns out to have secretly pioneered most of the technologies, techniques and long-term survival strategies that Soong thought were so novel, and a century before him at that. As the final frustration, Vaslovik ends up building a future with Soong's beloved former wife.
In Larry Niven's Known Space series, Pak protectors are evolved for warfare, literally. Millions of years of constant struggle between themselves has made them the perfect fighting machine. Problem is, humanity evolved from the Pak. When a Pak breeder (which starts out about as smart as a chimpanzee) makes the change to the protector stage, the ensuing being's intelligence is increased by a certain ratio; human breeders, on the other hand, are much smarter than chimpanzees, and when they make the change to protector, their intelligence increases proportionately. In short, its simply impossible for a Pak protector to out-think a human protector, which is why human protectors Brennan and Truesdale run roughshod over every protector they come up against.
It also explains how a Protector-stage Luis Wu could think rings around Proserpina and Hanuman (both of whom were non-sentient before their change to protector-stage), but couldn't out-think Tunesmith, who was not only already sentient before his change, but was smarter than Luis was on an individual basis, and thus continued to be smarter after the change.
Chandler panics when Monica refers to a colleague as the funniest guy she's ever met.
Since Chandler and Monica were friends for years before they became a couple, they know each other's dating history. As a result, Chandler was there as a friend when Monica was going through her relationship with (then) love of her life, Richard, and how hard it was for her to get back on her feet when the relationship ended. Richard was also very popular with the entire gang for being a very nice, respectable, successful man. Chandler is sometimes haunted by this knowledge even though he's also a very nice, respectable, successful man who completely surpassed Richard as the love of Monica's life. As an Insecure Love Interest, he sometimes has trouble believing this.
Angel had the weird undefined demon-ish...thing The Immortal, who in his single not-quite-appearance managed to embody Spike and Angel's insecurities, by constantly one-upping them at everything they did—without even trying. He did both Darla and Drusilla while they were still seeing Angel and Spike respectively, and in the present day was supposed to be dating Buffy. The demon world—and some of the magical world that wasn't fond of demons—fawned over him and considered him an idol. In a subversion, at the end of the episode, Spike and Angel were no more over their inferiority complex than before.
Later, it is established in the in-canon Buffy comics that the Immortal wasn't dating Buffy, Spike and Angel had been fooled (by Andrew, of all people) to keep Buffy a bit safer and because he thought it would be funny.
Spike also feels this way towards Angelus - who is more skilled, tougher, and more attractive to Drusilla. And then both get souls and he feels this way towards Angel, who is skilled, tougher and more attractive to Buffy. Poor Spike just can't win.
Angel seems to feel this way about Spike, who lacks his self doubt and brooding angst, and ended up sleeping with Buffy after Angel left Sunnydale so Buffy could find herself a normal boyfriend.
Angel himself felt paranoid that The Groosalugg was taking over his life.
Also in Buffy, when other slayers turn up (ironically, since there is only supposed to be one slayer, so Buffy is not used to rivals). Kendra is the model slayer in contrast to Buffy's casual and rule-breaking attitude. Faith is much cooler and more fun than Buffy, telling stories of her naked demon-fighting exploits, fascinating all Buffy's friends and Buffy's boy-toy of the week, etc. However, averted in that Buffy turns out to be a better fighter than both.
While Faith effortlessly draws all the attention away from Buffy in the episode where she first appears, later in the season she is complaining that Buffy is herAlways Someone Better. Apparently Faith is great at making a first impression, but Buffy is the one who can inspire long-term loyalty.
This is messed up by a large chunk of the fandom seeing her as the better character.
In the episode "A New Man", Giles feels his raison d'être slipping away when – among other things – Buffy tells him that Professor Walsh is the smartest person she's ever met. Buffy seems oblivious to the implied slight, though.
In the series Dream On, Martin Tupper's ex-wife Judith's (unseen) new husband Richard was annoyingly perfect in every way.
Monk, Mr. Monk and the Other Detective - another detective starts showing up Monk at the scene of a crime, using clues such as smelling a bag of dog poop, smelling the dog itself, tasting mud, and other such egregious acts to deduce exactly what happened. It gets to a point where Monk accuses the man of cheating. It turns out he really is cheating...
As mentioned above, Adrian's brother Ambrose might, in fact, have superior investigation skills, but is crippled by his severe agoraphobia.
Inverted in "Mr. Monk and the Daredevil", where Monk is traumatised when he thinks that his arch-rival Harold Crenshaw (another OCD sufferer who goes to the same doctor he does) might have recovered from his condition, because "no matter how bad things got, I could always say to myself "at least I'm not Harold Crenshaw"".
Frasier: The new radio host Clint Webber is everything Frasier prides himself on being but more, (a polyglot, a gourmet chef, a great chess player, etc.) At the end of the episode Frasier has his revenge when he discovers that Clint's a terrible singer and tricks him into humiliating himself by suggesting he serenade Frasier's party-guests.
Both Frasier and Niles live in terror of it some day being proven that one is Always Someone Better to the other, which is one of the contributing factors to their Sibling Rivalry. Once, it was revealed that Niles possessed a greater IQ than Frasier which, as they were meeting Nobel Laureates for lunch the next day, prompted much scrambling from each to prove that each was equal to / better than the other. The resulting chaos demonstrated that whilst Niles might have the edge in IQ, they were about equal for common sense and maturity.
In another example of the sibling being the rival, Rodney McKay's sister Jeannie is possibly even more brilliant than he is-but has chosen to settle down and have a family, rather than become a "real" scientist like him.
An early episode of Scrubs has JD frustrated since even though he's at the top of his game there's another intern who keeps outshining him. However the other intern ends up not being able to handle the emotional stress of working with sick people, and quits.
Scrubs also did a whole episode (My Catalyst) on this subject, with Michael J. Fox guest starring as the super-medic who upstages Cox and outdoes Turk. However he suffers from OCD, which although contributing to his ability to learn medicine incredibly frustrates him, the moral being that even the best have problems of their own.
The main problem being that he can't even walk through a doorway without repeating it until it's perfect.
When JD, Turk, and Cox go to confront him, they find that he's been stuck washing his hands for hours, frustrating himself nearly to tears.
In Doogie Howser, M.D. Doogie is this to Jack. He happens to be a perfectly competent doctor (perhaps equal to Doogie in skill) but can never get out of the shadow of his teenaged co-worker. This frequently leads to them being (friendly) rivals and attempting to one-up each other. Doogie, in order to compensate for his youth, feels he has to be the best so he isn't underestimated, while Jack also needs to prove himself equal to the exceptional Doogie. This eventually leads to him leaving about halfway through the series.
The Twilight Zone episode "A Game of Pool" combines this with a case of Be Careful What You Wish For when a pool player wishes he could play one game with a deceased pool champ and defeat him so that he can be considered the best in the world. He suddenly gets challenged to a game by the ghost of said champ with the stakes being that if he wins he will be considered the best in the world, but if he loses he will die. He wins, but finds out that it means taking the previous champ's place and having to spend the afterlife defending his title until someone else defeats him.
Remade for the 80's version, where as intended by the original author, he loses but discovers that the "death" is only metaphorical. If he'd won, he would've been remembered forever.
In an Everybody Loves Raymond episode, Debra hires a babysitter... then regrets the decision when the sitter turns out to be more popular with the kids than she is. And then she regrets the decision to let her go when she sees what the kids do to Marie when she babysits...
John Cleese guest-starred on 3rd Rock from the Sun as a new professor who was exactly like Dick, but way better in every way possible. At the end, it turned out he was another alien.
In another episode, Sally obsessed over trying to take down a buff woman, played by Chyna, who repeatedly subdued her effortlessly.
In Andromeda the Magog worldship proved this true to Rommie's chagrin.
Shawn Spencer of Psych encountered an FBI detective who was everything he wasn't in the episode Psy vs. Psy. He got to upstage her in the end.
Happened again with Declan Rand, who has become something of a recurring foil and romantic rival. He's also a phony (criminal profiler) who solves mysteries, but not to make money, rather because he's a bored rich genius. Who has the lead singer for Tears For Fears over for lunch, and his own personal dessert chef.
In Firefly, River makes Simon (for whom " 'gifted' is the term") look like "an idiot child". However that doesn't seem to bother him. He's just that kind of Big Brother.
Saffron is an expert seductress, but she meets her better in the form of Inara.
Actually, Data turned out to be Lore's Always Someone Better. While Lore had emotions, they caused his behaviour to be erratic and sociopathic, which frightened the other colonists. Data was built as a replacement for Lore, possessing no emotions whatsoever so they couldn't overpower his logic. When reactivated, Lore is obsessed with killing his brother and taking his place as the "better" son. Oddly enough, their creator Dr. Soong claims neither is better than the other and they're identical save for a few lines of programming code.
Which doesn't say a lot since everything about them is controlled by programming codes.
Commander Shelby was this to Riker for nearly the entirety of Bo BW part 1, at least when it came to being the ideal first officer of the Enterprise.
In Full House, Stephanie is the best speller in her class and is pumped for the spelling bee. When she loses that, and a subsequent unofficial rematch to classmate Davy Chu, the wind is knocked out of her sails and she storms off in a tantrum. Danny then gives her the "always someone better" speech. There's also an episode dedicated to Stephenie's Middle Child Syndrome, where she imagines both of her sisters upstaging her at everything.
In Red Dwarf, Arnold Rimmer's alternate-universe counterpart shows up and is better than him at everything — simply because he got the right kind of motivation in his early adult life.
One of them was held back a grade in school. Instead of destroying his life it taught him that failure has real consequences. Consequences that can be overcome by effort.
It is implied that Damon also feels this way about Stefan.
In the first episode of season 2 of Glee, Rachel discovers that the new exchange student is a better singer than she is.
Rachel herself functions as the Always Someone Better for everyone else in New Directions, particularly in Season One - though one who's heavily invested in having them all recognise and accept her superiority. This is interestingly inverted in Season Two, however, as she's increasingly shown not to be definitively better at anything than all the other members of the club - she has vocal equals in Mercedes and Kurt, and is relegated to the back row with the weakest dancers in several numbers while Tina and Kurt move to the front row alongside Brittany, Santana and Mike.
And Vocal Adrenaline as a whole is one for New Directions as a whole.
In Community episode "The Politics of Human Sexuality" Abed turns out to be this for Troy with regards to athleticism. Parodied, in that Abed is clearly not interested in athletics where Troy is immediately driven into a fit of paranoid insecurity by the fact that Abed manages to throw a piece of trash into a garbage can when Troy misses, and it just gets worse from there.
Also, in the paintball special, Josh Holloway guest stars, and Jeff becomes unnaturally jealous of his good looks.
Often a source of frustration in virtually any online game. No matter what you do, there will always be someone with better reflexes, a quicker mind, or more practice. Being a true contender for the title of 'best' often requires absolutely obscene time investment.
The higher ranked online players of Fighting Games rarely allow you to get a move in, meaning that you can't beat them without doing unblockable combos. And given that they are used to doing this, it is virtually impossible to beat them.
Gameplay wise in any RPG game. You defeat some Killer Rabbit and That One Boss that are naturally stronger and tougher than you by doing a Level Grinding, only to realize that there's loads and loads of tougher enemies/monsters out there you have to fight with.
This describes the relationship between Kieran and Oscar in Fire Emblem Tellius: Path of Radiance (and subsequently Radiant Dawn). Kieran is a loud, obnoxious man who challenges Oscar at every possible moment, yet Oscar isn't even aware of it until he breaks Kieran out of prison. He is indifferent to Kieran's continued proclamations.
Grandia II's protagonist Ryudo has always been a lesser swordsman than his brother Melfice. This becomes a considerable problem when the group meets the now psychoticbrother at various points in the game, generally leading to a Hopeless Boss Fight or two before Ryudo is finally able to defeat him.
Dias Flac is this to Claude in Star Ocean The Second Story: A better swordsman, and another love interest for Rena (whom he has history with - Claude just showed up). Ultimately subverted in Rena's story, since when he joins your party Claude eventually surpasses him.
Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War has Larry "Solo Wing Pixy" Foulke, who starts off more famous/notorious than player character Cipher. Eventually, Cipher manages to become better, as demonstrated when Cipher in his F-15 squares off against Pixy in the Morgan and wins.
Unprovable, but it seems like Scarlet in Final Fantasy VII immediately hates Tifa for innocently being more Stripperific and better equipped for it than she without even trying. Well, there has to be some reason, and the way Scarlet dresses... Kind of a subversion, since played straight it would be more fitting the other way around.
From the same game, sing it with me: "anything Cloud can do, Zack can to better..."
There's also Teioh, the black chocobo found in the chocobo races whose stats are always higher than your chocobo's, even going past the normal maximum stats.
Your rival in Pokemon Red And Blue is always a step (or more!) ahead of you. For example, he boasts about having captured 40 Pokémon when you meet him on the S.S. Anne, at which point the player has probably caught barely half that number.
You're this once again to both of your rivals in Pokemon Black And White. Your first rival, Bianca, chooses the starter that's weak to what you picked, doesn't seem to know what she's doing sometimes and usually just accepts that she's probably the weakest of the three of you. Your other rival, Cheren, chooses the starter with an advantage over yours (may actually beat you in your first battle) but from then on, continues to lose to you, which he chooses to challenge you after almost every goddamn Gym battle, usually lamenting his loss with "why are you so much better than me?"
Lance, who, depending on whether you're playing Red/Blue/Yellow or Gold/Silver/Crystal is either the fourth Elite Four member or the Champion, is this to his cousin Clair, the eighth Gym Leader in Johto.
Mega Man: Dr. Wily has always been second to Dr. Light, which is the main reason why he turned evil in the first place. He's the four years consecutive runner-up of the LIT Manual Design Contest. He has won the Silver prize at the worldwide engineering grand prix and was a nominee for the Nobel Prize in Physics. Guess who won all of these.
Although Junpei being as colossally inept as he is, everyone is the Someone Better.
The Moriya shrine in Touhou. The heroine, Reimu Hakurei, is a miko who is jaded, lazy, sharp-tongued, and surrounded by Youkai friends and hang-ons that she was supposed to be exterminating. She's also completely broke because none of the humans want to venture into the shrine of a youkai exorcist when the shrine is full of partying youkai. Enter Sanae, an apparently kind and cheerful, if naive, foil to Reimu's Deadpan Snarker personality, whose shrine grows to be extremely popular in a short time and who later becomes a playable character when she tries her hand at Reimu's job. However, the game in which the rivals are introduced is not this, as the Moriyas take aggressive action against Reimu without understanding Gensokyo's political climate or her shrine's status as a Cosmic Keystone.
In the reboot of Syndicate, Eurocorp is this to the multiplayer characters' syndicate Wulf Western. Tooltips for much of their equipment reveals that it was imperfectly replicated from Eurocorp's.
Rosh in Jedi Academy starts out like this: he has actual Force powers in the intro level, and in the tutorial he defeats the training remotes and finishes the course before you do (though even with the lightsaber training droid to slow you down, it's still a close finish). As early as two missions into the game, though, he starts grousing that Kyle might be holding him back to keep him from becoming too powerful, while Jaden, the Player Character, exponentially grows in his powers. Rosh eventually falls to the Dark Side partially because of this.
Dora's brother Sven in Questionable Content is more popular with the opposite sex (often stealing Dora's friends) and better at earning money than his sister, a fact that bothers her to no end.
Dave Strider of Homestuck has his inability to properly come to terms with this as his primary problem, manifesting mainly late into Sburb. He feels he can only dream of being someday as great as his Bro. When it's not Bro, it's Davesprite or some other future self. When it's not them (or rather, when he is them), it's John. He does not see himself as a hero, whereas he feels Bro and John are.
And since they're the same person, Davesprite has the same problem. He saved Alpha John from death, gave Dave a bunch of power-ups, and even dueled with the Big Bad, yet he still can't help feeling like a cheap knock-off of the "real" Dave.
A more recent chapter of Book Wyrms actually invokes this. Considering that Gwendolyne is the product of generations of genetic selection and training all geared towards making the perfect warrior, she's probably isn't exaggerating much.
In Tower of God, one character is so frustrated about this and Can't Catch Up, that he decides to kill Lahel to stop Baam from climbing. When Baam once again proves his genius by saving her with a technique he had just been shown, said character gives up and commits suicide.
Ho: I've always asked myself: Why did God give that thing so much power… and me too little power to protect my friends?
In Less Than Three Comics' Brat Pack, Firestorm is Lancer to Mr Perfect's Hero, and often finds himself in this type of relationship.
Played somewhat straighter with Captain Awesome, who is Mr Perfect's Always Someone Better, he even has the same powerset as Mr Perfect, albeit at a much higher level.
Infinity, a very character from The Descendants is this for The Whitecoat and seemingly every other street level hero in New York.
Jermaine performs this function for Lester in Awkward. He knows it, revels in it, and lampshades it constantly.
Jermaine: I win all the games, get all the girls, do all the dishes... I'll always beat you. You'll never be able to surpass my level of— YOU SUCK AT LIFE.
Jermaine: Lester's such a great friend. I'm better than him at everything. Man, what would I do without him?
The Nostalgia Criticthinks this, so he bitches out anyone that goes into his territory. Whether that's true or not is up for debate.
In The Simpsons, Lisa panics when a kid turns up who's smarter than she.
Before the Flanderization which bears his name had set in, Ned Flanders was very much an Always Someone Better to Homer. Flanders made more money, had a better house, better things, a more attractive wife (while she was alive), better-behaved and more affectionate children — he had everything better than Homer. This was why Homer hated him so much. Ned's Christian faith was initially just the reason why Ned was too nice to realize all this. There was even an early episode where Homer makes Bart compete with Ned's son Todd in a miniature golf tournament that fits this trope to a T, especially when a loophole in a bet makes both him and Homer have to mow the other's lawn in a dress and Ned doesn't even mind that much.
There's another joke in there about how Flanders is a nice, helpful guy, but Homer hates him more than anyone else solely for this reason. Then Flanderization kicked in and he became obnoxiously pious, which gave Homer a legit reason and lost the joke.
Lester and Eliza (they one-up Bart and Lisa, and then...)
And there are at least two episodes where this happens to Lisa ("Lisa's Rival" and "Smart And Smarter").One in which Maggie is shown to be smarter than Lisa.
She wasn't. Lisa was subconsciously telling Maggie what answers to give.
The trope is also parodied in Homer at the Bat:
Bart: You make me sick, Homer. You're the one who told me I could do anything if I just put my mind to it!
Homer: Well, now that you're a little bit older, I can tell you that's a crock! No matter how good you are at something, there's always about a million people better than you.
Bart: Gotcha. Can't win, don't try.
In the Thomas The Tank EngineMovieThe Great Discovery an engine named Stanley is introduced. The narrator describes him as "Shinier, bigger and stronger than Thomas". He's also instantly popular with all the other engines including the arrogant ones like Gordon and James. Thomas' jealousy towards Stanly (which is amusingly similar to that of Homer Simpson's attitude towards Ned Flanders, pointed out above) is a major plot driving force of the film.
Codename Kids Next Door, "Op DOGFIGHT" had a pilot known only as "The Kid" who kept shooting Numbuh Two down through most of the episode. It was never established whether he was truly a better pilot, or if it was due to his superior equipment. Given that Numbuh Two builds all his own aircraft, neither of those possibilities is easy for him to live down.
Batman The Animated Series had an Always Someone Better, the ninja Kyodai Ken, appear in two episodes: "Night of the Ninja" and "Day of the Samurai." Both times, Kyodai is built up as a fighter Batman cannot hope to beat. Batman beats him the first time by holding back until he can beat Kyodai without revealing his secret identity. The second time, he uses hidden armor to keep Kyodai from using a deadly pressure-point strike on him.
Making it even more appropriate, the words "Always Someone Better" appear in the episode.
The first episode plays out as if Bruce simply has performance anxiety while fighting someone on his own level in front of others. During a flashback of him and Kyodai training in the dojo, Kyodai soundly defeats him in front of their master and class. The fight at the climax of the episode plays out more or less the same way until some padding falls on top of Bruce's love interest, leaving her unharmed but obstructing her view of the fight. There might be some Fridge Brilliance here when you realize that Batman's persona and power are built around two things; being seen as little as possible in general, and being so skilled as to utterly dominate his enemies as quickly as possible. When both of these factors are taken away, Bruce freezes up.
Whenever Gizmoduck guest stars on Darkwing Duck, there is an element of Always Someone Better to his role in the story. He is a truer, nobler, more all around impressive and famous superhero than Darkwing, apparently upstaging him without even noticing. On the first such occasion, Darkwing suffered the traditional inferiority complex that such a plot calls for, but after that episode disproved Gizmoduck's true superiority conclusively, Darkwing has since never shown any sign of Gizmoduck envy. Even so, during that first episode and every Gizmoduck episode since, Darkwing always resents him, treats him as unwelcome and unnecessary competition, even thinks of him as The Rival, despite Gizmoduck's routinely demonstrated and explicitly stated refusal to consider competitiveness as a motive fit for a true hero. This, if anything, only serves to infuriate Darkwing further, and despite Gizmoduck's repeated requests for mutually beneficial cooperation, he finds himself feuding with Darkwing again and again. It could be said that Darkwing himself is The Rival, and Gizmoduck is The Hero, despite the fact that Darkwing invariably triumphs in the end regardless of whether he agrees to team up with Gizmoduck, and in every episode where Gizmoduck is absent, Darkwing is unquestionably The Hero.
The episode "The Original Fry Cook" of Spongebob Squarepants has Spongebob, who is regarded as the best fry cook in Bikini Bottom, meeting the Krusty Krab's first and best fry cook, named Jim.
One episode of G.I. Joe had a costumed crimefighter, "Serpentman" come out of nowhere and begin upstaging the Joes in their fight against COBRA, complete with a toadying news crew that followed him around everywhere, reporting on his successes. Naturally, it turns out to be another of Cobra Commander's schemes, intended to make the Joes look unnecessary and lose public support and government funding. What's great is that it actually works, until C.C. screws it all up.
Recess had an episode of this, where a new kid is introduced who is faster than Vince, smarter than Gretchen, stronger than Spinelli, and better at poetry then Mikey. It's revealed that the kid feels isolated because he's always better at everything, and at every school he goes to the same thing happens. Mikey points out that they should have all been more accepting. The episode ends with the kid getting a message from the Secret Service saying the president needs him. He gets into a jet, takes off, does a perfect barrel roll, and flies off.
Also the kid was specifically trying to be low-key about his talents—-as he points out near the end of the episode, everybody else only found out how great he was at everything because they kept challenging him, trying to find something he wasn't perfect at. He only went along with it because they kept insisting.
In one episode of The Powerpuff Girls, the girls found themselves upstaged by "Major Man", a fairly conventional Superman-type hero, to the extent that the Mayor even called the girls to break off his (professional) relationship with them. Needless to say, Major Man was not all that he appeared, and once again the day was saved... no thanks to him.
Mandark in Dexters Laboratory is originally introduced as one of these, smarter and more efficient than Dexter in nearly every field imaginable (to the point of being able to read Dexter's mind), and he even has a not-so-secret laboratory that's even larger than Dexter's. However, once Dexter discovers Mandark's weakness, a crippling infatuation with his older sister DeeDee, the tables were turned rather quickly. In subsequent appearances, Mandark's competence as The Rival was entirely dependent on the needs of the episode.
And then came an episode where a female new student outdoes both of them, leading to some Roadrunner-esque attempts to take her out... until she says at the end she moved on to a different subject to excel at.
Jonas Venture Jr. in The Venture Brothers. Despite being eaten by his twin brother in the womb and spending 40 years inside him, within weeks of escaping he's already become a better super-scientist, has more friends, still has his hair, and is much more successful with the ladies (actually winning over Sally Impossible, the one female that Dr. Venture had any chance with). He even somehow has a better tan than Dr. Venture right after spending 40 years in his stomach.
Phantom Limb was like this compared to the Monarch. Descendant of a long line of costumed adventurers, he was handsome, refined, had an intellect comparable to Jonas Jr., able to handle Brock at his own level, and was high enough in the Guild of Calamitous Intent's ranks to have direct command over its sizable forces. This was subverted or deconstructed, when he lost Dr. Girlfriend to the Monarch because he was too refined and lacked the passion that the Monarch has. He was also sexist, mainly having Dr. Girlfriend around as glorified eye candy, unlike the Monarch who listened to her ideas and respected her. The end of season two has him losing his career, and some limbs, when his take over attempt is foiled by a huge number of unexpected events. As season three showed he was disowned from by his family for having deformed limbs, a botched lab experiment brought them to normal size and granted him his death touch power.
Phantom Limb returned in season 4, where he had gone insane and really withered away; he had about as much muscle mass as the Monarch now. He was captured by the Guild. By the latter half of the season, however, he was back as a dangerous villain who sets up a legitimate villain guild of his own.
Another episode had Dr. Orpheus meeting with the man who stole his wife and finding he was younger, handsomer, and a better sorcerer, even able to jump back and forth between dimensions (Orpheus studied for decades to just perceive a separate universe). Orpheus finds however, the other guy has been using a shortcut- he had a mystical item surgically implanted into his brain that granted him greater power than he should really have. They make peace at the end of the episode, with the other guy explaining that he saw what a workaholic Orpheus was and wanted to find a way to get results without losing connections with his friends and family.
In The Proud Family, Trudy hires a nanny named Renée. At first, she seems perfect for the job: She's a good housekeeper, great with Oscar and the kids, and knows exactly what to do when in trouble and when. Trudy gets upset, though, because she's too perfect, like an angel, and sends her back. Apparently, this wasn't the first time Renée's been given up because of the "Renée Syndrome".
Cartman's alter-ego, Bulrog, hangs a lampshade on this in episode 801 of South Park when he invents powers for himself that are "better than Kyle's."
In an episode of Captain N The Game Master, Kevin teams up with his video game hero, Link, and proceeds to show up the elf at every junction as they venture through Hyrule, meaning well the whole time. Kevin even manages to get a kiss from Zelda in a few minutes. Link learns to move past his jealously and accept Kevin as a fellow warrior, especially when Kevin points out that no one can defeat all the villains alone and they have to work together.
In the '80s cartoon of Alvin And The Chipmunks, Alvin encountered one of these in the person of a boy named Apollo Jones, who kept beating him at everything. It turned out that Apollo genuinely envied Alvin because Alvin had one thing he himself lacked - a family that could be bothered with him. Apollo's parents were rarely home and sent him extremely generic postcards from wherever they went. ("Dear Son, Congratulations on whatever it is you've done well lately.")
Futurama has "Barbados Slim" as a limbo rival for Hermes. Slim generally outshines Hermes at everything, and is a real jerk about it too. He eventually goes so far as to steal his wife in the first movie, who he had previously been married to before Hermes came along. It is ultimately revealed that he has Olympic Gold medals in limbo AND sex, and the writers themselves loved the character so much that they were going to make a musical episode based solely around him until the news of their initial cancellation came up.
Fry learns to accept that fact that he's not too bright and says something very similar to the trope name when it turns out that Leonardo DaVinci is still alive and was from another planet on which he was the dumbest inhabitant.
In fact, more than a few episodes involve Fry feeling inferior to someone, be it a super-intelligent monkey or anyone who rivals him for Leela's affections. He go to experience both sides of the coin in a way in "Bender's Big Score" when a version of him created by a time paradox dated her under an assumed name.
Lila was introduced like this in Hey Arnold!. Helga, Phoebe, Rhonda and all the other girls were jealous of her beauty, her cute dresses and her sweet disposition and ostracized her out of jealousy. It turns out Lila envied them because she not only was very shy, she had a sad home life with a Missing Mom and a sweet yet unemployed single dad.
Bromwell High had a girl like this show up in one episode. She was middle-class, and therefore bested the girls at each of their defining qualities (cleverer than Natella, more powerful than Keisha, and more alluring than Latrina). The girls dealt with her by calling her parents to tell them all the horrible things that happen at the school.
In the last episode Vlad puts together a team of ghost fighters known as Masters' Blasters that proceed to hunt down and stop any ghosts before Danny can.
In Lilo And Stitch The Series, Stitch ends up thinking too highly of himself with his cousin catching success. Jumba, fed up with Stitch's obnoxious attitude, creates experiment 627, a red and yellow, conehead, purple-nosed experiment that looks like a bigger, badder, and worse-mannered version of Stitch but with powers from 20 different experiments but absolutely none of stitch's weaknesses, 6 retractable arms, an extra retractable head, inability to drown in water, and an Alien-based retractable mouth. As his villainous rival, 627 dances a Humiliation Conga around Stitch as he bests him at everything he does. In the end, Stitch manages to outwit him by taking advantage of his extreme sense of humor and dehydrated him back into an experiment pod. Afterwards, towards the end of the episode Jumba creates another experiment pod labeled "628" and locks it away in his vault.
Subverted, too, when Zuko's comments about Azula's insanity growing to the point where he can actually notice her bending being off makes it seem like he'll be able to beat her now...and he can't. Or at least he would've, but Azula is still smart enough to fight dirty. Katara, however, proves that she's this trope to Azula shortly thereafter, and beats her in the same way Azula beat Zuko; improvising something unexpected when put on the spot, just more badass.
The season 2 finale would show hints of this, before she proved it in the series finale. Katara was very close to beating Azula, until Zuko interfered and saved her.
Squirrel Boy had Rodney's Jerk Ass cousin Eddie, a flying squirrel who constantly looked down on Rodney because he was a land squirrel. Typically Rodney would find a way to spite him such as invoking his phobia of rattlesnakes or stealing his favorite comb.
In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well", Rainbow Dash gets shown up by the titular character when she keeps stopping disasters before she can, eventually stealing away her fan club. In the end it turns out to have been her friends trying to teach her a lesson in humility.
In the Looney Tunes world, Bugs Bunny, is well-known and praised for being able to outsmart his enemies and make them angry and frustrated, much to the viewers enjoyment. However, even Bugs Bunny would meet more than his match in Cecil Turtle, who succeeded in outsmarting and frustrating him. Bugs Bunny would even challenge Cecil Turtle a second time, only to get beat by him again.
On Doug, Pattie always prides herself on being better than everyone else when it comes to sports and video games. However, during one episode, Doug surprisingly, would prove to be better than her in both. Because Doug is portrayed as the Ridiculously Average Guy on the show, Pattie finds it hard to believe. Everyone else, also not believing it, thinks Pattie is just having a losing streak. Pattie constantly challenges him until she finally beats him by the end of the episode. It's suggested that Doug lost on purpose, afraid he might turn Pattie - whom he secretly loves - against him and lose her friendship.
How many sports rivalries are one sided? Chargers/Raiders, Michigan/Michigan State, Ohio State/Illinois, Oklahoma/Oklahoma State...
With their recent(and painful) fall from grace: The Dallas Cowboys to the New York Giants.
"Wally Pipp Syndrome" is the fear that no matter how good you are at your job, someone better will take your place should you ever take a day off. Wally Pipp was a decent first baseman for the New York Yankees in the early 1920s, until he had to sit out a game with a bad migraine. His replacement - Lou Gehrig, who would play 2,130 consecutive games for the Yankees.
This is also how Ben Roethlisberger got his start with the Pittsburgh Steelers; Tommy Maddox was injured, Ben took his place, cue 15-1 season and multiple Super Bowls over the next few years.
Drew Bledsoe in 2001, after leading the Patriots to a Super Bowl, he gets hurt and replaced by some guy named Brady
49ers quarterback Alex Smith sat out one week with an injury and his backup Colin Kaepernick led the team to the Super Bowl.
Like it says under video games above, play an online game long enough, and no matter how good you are, you'll eventually find someone who completely outclasses you.
Musicians run into this problem all the time, especially at conservatories. Generally speaking, almost everyone who attends such a school (e.g, Juilliard) is the best in his or her own hometown. With everyone being so good, it's inevitable that someone is always going to be better. Sometimes, just walking into auditions and hearing the competition warm up is a very quick reminder of this trope.
This frequently occurs with any type of top-ranked school, such as an elite university. Given the ultra competitive nature of college admissions nowadays, just getting admitted usually means that the person is probably one of the best and most outstanding students in his or her particular school system. However, when exam times comes around, someone has to end up on the lower end of the grading curve. For many students, it can be very traumatizing because it's the very first time they've ever been out of the top 5-10% grade-wise.
It's been suggested that schools like Harvard made changes to admit students without top grades who excelled in other ways to deal with that very problem. They needed someone to be at the bottom of the class who wouldn't mess up the quad by blowing their brains out.
The real life examples could be greatly shortened by saying, "Any elite group." To experience this trope yourself, try earning your way into an elite military unit, becoming an actor who doesn't pay rent waiting tables, being a chef who doesn't flip the occasional burger, getting your garage band signed to a real label, or making it to the top of your company's chain of executives. Very few will not run into this trope.
Another place this happens is prison. You may go in being the biggest and baddest guy in the neighborhood, but there is always someone on the inside that is bigger and badder than you.
Despite being just as outspoken as his brother, Peter Hitchens has never been quite on the same level of charm, wit and conversation as Christopher Hitchens. Which is perhaps one reason why he holds almost every single contrary opinion to his brother's.
On the women's side, Maria Sharapova suffers from this when it comes to her extremely one-sided "rivalry" with Serena Williams. She's one of the fiercest and toughest competitors who can outgrit almost anyone on court and is the active player with the most Grand Slam titles outside of the Williams sisters, but she hasn't been able to beat Serena ever since 2004 which keeps her stuck in permanent second-fiddle role to her (and more recently, to Victoria Azarenka too).
This would sadly be the story of the Buffalo Bills during their AFC reign in the 90s. Despite being the best AFC team in the NFL and going to four straight Super Bowl's. Every NFC team they faced was always better, including the Dallas Cowboys, whom would go on to have the dynasty the Buffalo Bills were denied, including getting a Super Bowl win over their rivals, the Pittsburgh Steelers, whom was always the better NFL team during the 70s.
Many people know that Mensa is for the "smartest of the smart" the top 2% - but did you know there are organizations above it? The top 1% is Intertel, The top 0.1% is Triple Nine Society (and two others), The top 0.003% is The Prometheus Society, and the top 0.0001% is Mega Society. Get in there, and you're literally one in a million. You would certainly have the right to brag, though some will argue that this far "off the chart" it's hard to gauge exactly what it means (possibly even a statistical glitch) with so few examples around to study.