"They do say that the weakest dogs howl the most."Some characters like to brawl, mock authority and protocol, and will fight eagerly. This character is just as loud and doesn't like to be ordered around. But contrary to the Boisterous Bruiser… he doesn't really have much to back it up. He is physically (and maybe emotionally) weak but that doesn't stop him from constantly calling out those who glower at him (or so he thinks). Sure he may pick on people weaker than him, but if he happens to realize his opponent can effectively kick his ass, either he will find a lame excuse, or insist and get his ass kicked just for the sake of form. Don't expect that to make him think twice the next time, though: the Boisterous Weakling shows an astounding inability to acknowledge his own impotence. Even if he tries to bite, he has no fangs. Every once in a while, you'll encounter ones who do not back down as long as they have an unfair advantage, usually in the form of weapons or a group of buddies whom they can set loose on their target. Often Played for Laughs. If the author likes the character enough, he may pull out a Not-So-Harmless Villain/Let's Get Dangerous moment or even Take A Level In Badass. Can overlap with Fearless Fool, Miles Gloriosus, Small Name, Big Ego, Dirty Coward or Super Loser. They may also be a Kid Samurai or Young Gun who knows how to talk themselves up just enough to get themselves into serious trouble. Compare Fake Ultimate Hero and Feet of Clay, when the character is alleged to be strong by other people. Contrast Gentle Giant, Cowardly Lion, and The So-Called Coward. Also contrast the Smug Super, who will usually have very good reasons to be smug, as well as the Awesome Ego. An intellectual equivalent would be Know-Nothing Know-It-All. Compare Inferiority Superiority Complex.
— Miguel Kurashiki, Rose Guns Days
open/close all folders
Anime & Manga
- Fullmetal Alchemist has Envy who may talk a lot of trash, but he can't really back it up particularly when fighting Mustang.
- Vinland Saga has Orman, a rebellious punk who only dreams of the battlefield, gets into arguments for nothing, and is always talking about the "honor of Nordic warriors". But whenever he has to actually use a sword, it's painfully obvious he has no skills whatsoever. When we first see him, he can't even draw his sword properly. He becomes less boisterous after he actually kills someone.
- Haruka in Mai-HiME, despite being a totally normal, powerless human and totally overwhelmed by the situation, will not let you forget that she is in command. She doesn't hesitate to face tanks and soldiers and even provoke a HiME while her own body is fading away. In her case, these guts are actually what makes a good part of the fandom like her.
- Mr. Satan in Dragon Ball Z is actually rather strong for a normal human, but inevitably fails to notice that the monsters he taunts and challenges can disintegrate him effortlessly or destroy planets on a whim. He gets better near the end of the series, though.
- Black☆Star is essentially this at the beginning of Soul Eater, constantly boasting about his strength and announcing his strategies out loud, which then leads to his ass getting kicked.
- Team Rocket in Pokémon is a trio of this, although Jessie and James use their Pokemon instead of doing the actual fighting themselves.
- The titular character of Naruto was this as a child and at the very beginning of the series. As soon as he learns the Shadow Clone Technique though, he takes levels in badass for breakfast.
- In Daily Lives of High School Boys, Sanada North's Student Council President starts a fight against Sanada East's counterpart Ringo only to get his ass kicked without landing a single punch.
- Yagi from Holyland shouts a good shout but can't back it up with his fists at all. If he doesn't have a better fighter to cower behind, Yuu or another good guy will usually do him in with a Curb-Stomp Battle.
- One Piece
- Buggy the Clown becomes this by sheer accident—although he's considered a lightweight at best and a nuisance at worst by any notable pirate who has actually seen him fight, the World Government does some research on him and finds out that he was a crewmate of the legendary Gold Roger and a former good friend of Shanks, one of the strongest living pirates. When Buggy finds out, he plays up this new reputation and receives a crowd of admirers, all of whom are much stronger than he is, some of whom are notable pirates themselves. He's still just as bad in combat as ever, but his loyal fans will decimate anyone Buggy wants.
- Buggy IS a credible threat...in the calmest area of the least dangerous sea. His Devil Fruit power makes him immune to slashing attacks and is very difficult to deal with if you're not a highly skilled or similarly superpowered fighter with a good strategy. His problem comes from pushing his luck and going into seas where mere mooks have a decent shot at taking him out, relying on his unearned reputation instead of training or developing his powers like Luffy.
- Kelly Funk of the Dressrosa Arc is also this, though in a bit of a subversion, his Jacket-Jacket Fruit powers allow him to take over the form of his meek, but genuinely powerful brother Bobby Funk, upgrading him to an actual threat, albeit one that's still quickly worfed.
- The Neo-Nazis from Black Lagoon. When Revy and Dutch annihilated them in their ship, the Neo-Nazis end up killed without shooting a single bullet.
- Pretty much every student attending Shirokin in Gokusen. If someone even so much as looks at them funny, they quickly pick a fight and, nine times out of ten, get their asses handed to them and/or have to be rescued by Kumiko.
- Kuroda in Angel Densetsu is a shining example of people who only pick on people weaker than them. Irony bites because he *is* strong, big and tough but too stupid and cowardly to capitalize on his advantages.
- Girls und Panzer,
"The name is “Bokorare-Guma series”. He likes fight and has a loose temper, but is weak. He gets bashed up all the time, so you can see why he wears bandages in so many different places".
- Alisa of Saunders is hot-tempered and arrogant, but an ineffective tank commander, especially when she is panicking. Her tank isn't necessarily weak, since it's strong enough that the Type 89 most likely could not have penetrated its armor, but she doesn't put it to very good use.
- Mizushima's twitter describes the bandaged teddy bear in Miho's room as this type of character. It's nicely demonstrated in Der Film, which shows him getting beaten up by the other animals when he challenges them to a fight, and even with The Power of Friendship, he can only throw a single ineffective punch that misses.
- Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Patrick Colasour, who brags about being undefeated in over 2000 simulation matches even as his mecha is being sliced apart. Throughout the series, he talks big and acts like an ace pilot, but always gets shot down with little fanfare. His miraculous survival of all the times he's been shot down earns him the disparaging nickname of "The Immortal Colasour", but he misses the point and thinks it's genuine praise. In a subversion, he actually does grow more competent as the series goes on, and by the end is a respectably skilled pilot, though still nowhere near Ace Pilot status.
- In Fairy Tail, Elfman was this early on in the series. In spite of his preaching the value of manliness, he could only manage partial transformations, which only amounted to punching someone a bit harder, and his guildmates saw him as something of a joke. He largely overcomes this when he masters Full-Body Take Over and defeats Monsieur Sol.
- Many minor Batman villains of the early Silver Age turned into this in The Dark Age of Comic Books, since they remained active supervillains but had their skills downplayed and their ridiculous motifs played up. Typically, they'd show up, full of bluster, and be dropped within a page or even a panel. Killer Moth, Catman (before writer Gail Simone rescued him), and the 1940s version of the Cavalier all got such treatment at various points. In both the comics and one of the animated Batman series, Killer Moth eventually took a skyscraper in badass, mutating into a deadly and carnivorous actual moth named Charaxes.
- Many criminals in Judge Dredd talk tough...but they can never stand up to a Mega-City Judge.
- In The Golden Age of Comic Books, this was the role of many a teen sidekick.
- The vast majority of the criminals seen in Garth Ennis's Punisher comics are tough-talking, gun-happy street criminals...but when they go up against Frank Castle, a trained soldier with military equipment, they're far less powerful and dangerous than they imagine. It's even lampshaded in the first issue of the MAX series.
The Punisher: Most wiseguys are one part street-smarts to two parts muscle. Enough to terrify the mooks that owe them money, but not much more.
- Harry from Home Alone. His partner Marv wishes he could be this, but he's not that threatening even on a superficial level.
- A perfect example of this trope is Wimp Lo from Kung Pow! Enter the Fist. He constantly taunts the actual hero, getting beaten up easily and unable to do even the simplest combat move. According to Master Yang, Wimp Lo is "an idiot who was trained wrong on purpose, as a joke". He thinks getting kicked in the face is "face to foot style", as an example.
- 'Ol' Cigaret' in Emperor of the North is always boasting about how he's the toughest hobo riding the rails, but the real veteran 'A-No. 1' has his number right from the start. At the end of the movie, he's so fed up with Cigaret's bragging that he just picks him up and throws him off the train into a lake.
- Ike Clanton in Tombstone is a loudmouth who starts several gunfights, but he's always the first to fall or flee despite his bravado. The obnoxious, bullying casino employee at the beginning, played by Billy-Bob Thornton, is another example.
- When "Happy" Hogan and the Black Widow infiltrate Ivan Vanko's hideout in Iron Man 2, Happy comes off as this in comparison to the more skilled Natasha; he wins his fistfight with a single Mook, but she easily takes down the other dozen or so in the meantime. Though to be fair to Happy, it's more an example of Overshadowed by Awesome, as he is a competent boxer in his own right.
- Ash Williams plays this part throughout much of Evil Dead 2 and some of Army of Darkness, but by the end of each film, he's become the catchphrase-tossing, boomstick-toting badass we all know and love.
- Captain America: The First Avenger's Steve Rogers before he gets the super soldier serum. Even as a 98 pound weakling, Steve never backs down from bullies...with predictable results. Notable in that this is overall portrayed in a positive light, as courage and selflessness: Rogers is well aware of how weak he is, and yet he's willing to stand up to tough odds for what he believes is right, rather than some delusional loudmouth who overestimates his strength. It's these qualities, in fact, that get him picked for the serum.
- Kreese from The Karate Kid is mentioned to be a Vietnam vet, and is not only really hard on his students but continually (and loudly) talks of toughness and showing no mercy. This culminates in him confronting his top student, Johnny, for losing the tournament against Daniel, breaking Johnny's second place trophy and strangling him. All the more sweeter when Mr. Miyagi steps in and dolls out the humiliation of a lifetime to the asshole by goading him into punching through car windows and then giving his nose a good honk.
- There is a joke about a small animal (told in Russia about a hedgehog) standing and shouting "I am strong! I am strong". A passing bear gives it a kick. The hedgehog flies a few meters, stands up, brushes itself off and shouts "I am light, but strong!"
- Curley in Of Mice and Men fills this role, coupled with a (very) minor Xanatos Gambit.
Candy: S'pose Curley jumps a big guy an' licks him. Ever'body says what a game guy Curley is. And s'pose he does the same thing and gets licked. Then ever'body says the big guy oughtta pick on somebody his own size, and maybe they gang up on the big guy.
- The Iron Teeth web serial has a lot of guys like this. They're called goblins. Every goblin thinks it's the toughest thing around, even when its obviously not.
- Joffrey Baratheon of A Song of Ice and Fire may talk a good game, but while his alleged father is a well-known Boisterous Bruiser famed for his skill as well as his bravado, Joffrey himself is a weak, cowardly bully who can only get away with continually punting puppies because of his status as king. He claims to be vicious and manly, but is often put in place by his dwarf uncle Tyrion for his Stupid Evil antics, and when he is disarmed by Arya Stark, he pitifully pleads for his life (though to be fair, Arya Stark is no ordinary little girl).
- Although he could potentially be a remarkably skilled warrior if he weren't such a spoiled coward. After all, his real father is the one of the best natural swordsmen in the world and he at least holds his own against Robb Stark, who was two crucial years older than him.
- Viserys Targaryen is very much the same, he keeps boasting that he would reclaim his kingdom one way or another, but he doesn't have the skills or the means to back it up. All he ever does is bully his sister, and is general kicked around by the Dothraki.
- Clip From Malazan Book of the Fallen isn't a bad fighter per se, but every onscreen fight he is in, he gets his ass handed to him. Of special note is his encounter with Trull, wherein he boasts that he has never been beaten by a spear-wielder. Well, he has now.
Live Action TV
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer
- For a while this was Xander's role, thanks largely to his becoming Overshadowed by Awesome but still insisting on joining in the battles.
- An even better example might be Wesley Wyndham-Pryce, at least before he Took a Level in Badass in the Spin-Off Angel. Even there, it took some time for him to become as formidable as he initially thought he was.
- In Lie to Me, Cal Lightman is thwarted at any bit of assault toward him. He is occasionally battered.
- Justified: Harlan County gangster and marijuana dealer Dickie Bennett talks a lot of trash for a scrawny, physically impaired, emotionally stunted coward. The fact that he normally has his brothers Coover or Doyle backing him up helps explain this.
- It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Mac likes to pretend that he knows karate. He's always looking for the chance to prove that he's a Badass, until one turns up, then he just runs away.
- The boyfriend of Taylor Swift from the I Knew You Were Trouble video.
- In professional wrestling, this is thrown around a lot with heel characters. While how pathetic they actually are varies, almost all heels are cowards to some extent and tend to suffer some mild Badass Decay when they make a Face–Heel Turn. A very common running concept is for a heel to mouth off and boast at a face about how he is going to kick the latter's ass, only to be quickly knocked down or sent running when the face decides they've heard enough. Even legitimately dangerous current faces such as Kane and Randy Orton had to pay their dues this way. Chris Jericho and The Miz are key modern examples (even if they prove to be more than all talk on occasion). Spike Dudley and AJ Lee are more literal examples, with Spike (usually) being the heroic variant.
- Sir Andrew Aguecheek from William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. According to Maria, he loves arguing so much that the only thing saving him from an early grave is the fact that he's a coward. Sir Toby gets a kick out of urging him to write a highly insulting challenge for a duel, then feeding him false information to the effect that his opponent is a skilled and ruthless swordsman. (In reality, his opponent is the local Sweet Polly Oliver, and Toby is intentionally setting up a Wimp Fight for his own amusement.)
- Dan Hibiki from Street Fighter likes to boast about how strong he is and invites people to learn martial arts from him. While he may be a skilled fighter to a normal person, he is very weak when compared to the rest of the cast.
- Sir Prancelott of Scufflewick in Drakensang always talks about his wondrous deeds.... except that he's the biggest egotist in Aventuria, his sword skills are useless, he can barely hold his own against a wolf and runs away from some goblins (later claiming that he was taking their attention away from you) and the only time he tries to take on a Linnworm (huge multi-legged reptile), he's knocked unconscious by the beast's breath.
- Von Kaiser in both of his appearances in the Punch-Out!! series. He can actually back it up a little in the Title Defense mode of the Wii version, though.
- In MOTHER 3, the Mole Crickets are an entire species of this, at least until their champion is defeated with ease by the protagonist.
- Naoe Kanetsugu the INVINCIBLE from Sengoku Basara. He's the games' official Chew Toy Joke Character who is about as endurable as your average mook (and is in fact a retextured generic officer), but that doesn't stop his boasting.
- Qing China from Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun. Huge population and equally enormous armies to draw on, as well as a huge territory to conquer, but they're technologically backwards with a mostly agrarian economy, and their government is quite poor as well. So, in any actual war, an equivalently-sized industrial superpower like the United States or The British Empire will roll them rather easily. The Opium Wars come to mind. In a similar vein, the Ottoman Empire. It starts out as a Great Power, up there with France, Britain and the US, but it's highly illiterate and conservative population often refuse to move forward like the rest of Europe and eventually they become pushovers. They act like a Great Power from beginning to end, however, which is potentially hilarious.
- Self-proclaimed "strongest in Gensokyo" Cirno from Touhou Project, a stage 2 boss on a good day and a stage 1 miniboss on a bad one (in a game that usually has seven stages). Not entirely a "weakling" (considering that she is a fairy), but not hot stuff by any means either. Fans will often take this Up to Eleven and make her even weaker than she is depicted in canon (others go the other way and make her a Memetic Badass).
- In Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, Captain Hammer is perfectly happy to beat up nonpowered folks, he's not actually that talented a fighter, continually lets his enemies escape, and once he's actually injured he becomes a blubbering mess. Well, said injury came in the form of an exploding death ray - it's just that Captain Hammer was such an Invincible Hero that he'd never actually felt pain before. He's seen in the end-credits laying on a therapist's couch crying about the physical trauma blithely ignoring the death of his girlfriend.
- One of the reasons Scrappy-Doo is the trope namer for The Scrappy is his habit of picking a fight with villains obviously stronger than him. One of the only justifications someone can have for this is that it does make him act more like a puppy, see Real Life below.
- South Park: Eric Cartman talks a big game, but when it comes to actual combat, he usually can't follow through. In one notable example, one mild slap from Kyle sends him crying to his mom.
- Daffy Duck, despite being a self proclaimed "craven little coward", has a tendency for flapping his big beak about his bravado and smarts and trying to place himself in the role of The Ace, usually literally getting in the face of someone way out of his league.
- Dermott in The Venture Bros. talks about fighting much more often than he actually fights, but it's been demonstrated that when actually challenged, he has no hand-to-hand capabilities whatsoever. Even Dean can beat him. This is a big hint that he isn't actually Brock's son.
- Family Guy: When drunk, Peter Griffin boasts he can beat up Liam Neeson.
- In her very first appearance, Trixie from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic proclaims to be a great magician and lies about having defeated the giant bear called Ursa Major. Later, when she actually has to face against Ursa Major, she doesn't stand a chance. To make things even more painful for her, at the end of the episode it is revealed that the bear she tried to fight wasn't even Ursa Major, but Ursa Minor, which is several times smaller and weaker.
- Small dogs fit this trope. Vets call it BDLDLDL: Big Dog, Little Dog, Little Dog Lost.
- Mike Pendergast, who (along with his brothers) ran the infamous Pendergast political machine in Kansas City just after World War I, was both this and a Fighting Irishman of sorts. He was so skinny that he had to wear both suspenders and a belt to hold up his pants, but he loved to antagonize the rival faction in the city, even though they were fellow Democrats. He had a habit of picking fights with large gangs of rivals and then receiving a severe beatdown, the satisfaction of having gotten his assailants to lose their temper being good enough for him.
- North Korea, with all the trash talking they give to the United States. They've repeatedly been caught photoshopping images of their military to look stronger and, in one case, painting civilian aircraft to pass as military planes.
- This is/was a common pattern in Flaunting Your Fleets: the less industrially capable the country is, the more ambitious super-battleship it attempts to produce or order.
- One example of this logic is the ill-fated Rio de Janeiro, the only dreadnought with seven turrets, which was not complete by the time the South American dreadnought race was over, was sold to the Turks, and then appropriated by the Brits with Battleships who were building it at the outbreak of the Great War.
- Another is the infamous Yamato-class. Yes, it was the biggest, baddest, and with the biggest guns. But at the time the two ships (one more was finished as a carrier) were ready to sail against the Yanks with Tanks, the latter had smaller, faster, more efficient battleships with guns quite capable of hurting the Japanese giants - as well as radars linked to electromechanical computers allowing them to do so at night and from over the horizon; and there were several times more such Allied battleships. The fact that carrier aviation had obsoleted battleships altogether was incidental to their defeat.
- Bismarck is another good example: while it outmatched anything the Royal Navy had on a ship-by-ship basis, it was confronted by the entire Royal Navy.
- Have you ever heard of the Sovietsky Soyuz-class battleships? It was slightly bigger than the Bismarck, but none of the four hulls were anywhere near completion by the time of the German invasion, and they were likely to be plagued by technical problems, since the Soviet Union was rebuilding its capital ship design school from scratch while permitting extreme size creep.
- On a much more general note, the entire credo of Axis powers in World War II was this: Germany, Italy, Japan and their ally of convenience the Soviet Union were unsatisfied by themselves having less power than the established colonial empires and the United States, so they started a war.
- This is a common behavior pattern with drunks, especially mean ones. Most of them couldn't fight their way out of a paper bag and are generally aware of it when sober, but once inebriated, they either forget or stop caring and will loudly attempt to start fights or just out-and-out attack people with no regard for the consequences. Given that alcohol also tends to give them Determinator tendencies and resistance to pain, it's not a good idea to fight them unless you want to potentially cause crippling or lethal injuries by accident.
- Richard Gale, a short, skinny bully who decided he was tough enough to start punching Casey Heynes, a bigger kid, with impunity. Then Casey, thereafter known as Zangief Kid, suplexed him into the pavement with a lack of effort bordering on laziness. Half the reason the video went viral was because of this trope (the other half goes to Bully Hunter, probably).
- Iraq under Saddam Hussein's rule, while he boasted of having one of the largest army's in the world, all he had was numbers, as his military was composed mostly of unwilling conscripts, and equipped with outdated weapons since the Cold War. Needless to say Iraq got easily curb stomped in the Persian Gulf War, and in the US invasion of Iraq.