Crippling the Competition

Sometimes someone is just too good at something. There is no way you can beat them at it. Or they have humiliated you once too often in their field of expertise. You decide to fix it so they can never beat you ever again.

Crippling the Competition is when someone, usually a villain, injures someone in such a way to prevent them from doing what they are best at. A Sub-Trope of Career-Ending Injury, Crippling the Competition is always a deliberate act done with malice and forethought. Can overlap with Game-Breaking Injury if it occurs during the final showdown.

When applied to superpowered beings, this trope may lead to them being Brought Down to Normal.

Often overlaps with Fingore. Frequently leads to Throwing Off the Disability. A Sub-Trope of Removing the Rival. It's commonly the purpose of Unnecessary Roughness, unless the roughness has no purpose and is just For the Evulz.

Different from Make an Example of Them, where in some cases the victim's punishment might deliberately target their ability to perform, but the motivation is not the fear of competition. For example, in Crippling the Competition, a bunch of mobsters might break the legs of a championship marathon runner so the guy they're betting on will win, whereas with Make an Example of Them, the mobsters break the marathon runner's legs because he failed to pay his gambling debts.

Not to be confused with Blasting It out of Their Hands. If the person being crippled attempts to compete or fight anyway, this may lead into You Can Barely Stand.


Anime and Manga
  • Early in Rurouni Kenshin, Kenshin encounters a thug posing as Kenshin's old assassin persona and creating a lot of trouble. When he defeats the guy, Kenshin smashes his fingers with the hilt of his sword so that the thug will never be able to use a sword again. Also, early in his days of being a Technical Pacifist, Kenshin chopped off an opponent's arm instead of killing him. The opponent thought this was a deliberate Cruel Mercy (as opposed to killing him honorably), and comes back for revenge with an Arm Cannon.
  • In Rose of Versailles, Oscar shoots a guy's gun hand in a duel, as this is the only way she can punish him for shooting a peasant boy in cold blood.
  • Bleach:
    • Anime episode 28. During the fight between Uryu Ishida and the Soul Reaper Jirobo Ikkanzaka, Uryu fires an arrow into Jirobo in such a way as to prevent him from using spiritual pressure and thus making it impossible to continue as a Soul Reaper.
    • Anime episode 156. Uryu Ishida does the same thing to the arrancar Cirucci Sanderwicci, firing an arrow into her chest to seal off her power.
  • In Gunsmith Cats, Rally has a habit of shooting the hands (specifically the trigger fingers) of opposing gunmen. Some have come back looking for revenge because of their crippled hands.
  • Ranma ˝: Kodachi Kuno tries doing this to Ranma before their big match. However, Akane thwarts each effort. Ryoga also tries to beat up Ranma before the match, but the fight lasts the entire night without a winner.
  • In the anime of Death Note, Matsuda, upon finding out that Light is the guy behind all of the Death Note incidents, shoots Light's hands to prevent him from ever writing into a Death Note again. Not that it matters much, as Light dies shortly afterwards.
  • An early episode of Pokémon depicted such a scenario; to increase his chances of winning an upcoming Pokémon race, a man named Dario hires Team Rocket to do this to his rival Lara Laramie, which they do by spooking her Ponyta, causing it to throw her off and break her arm, leaving Ash to win the race in her stead. In The Electric Tale of Pikachu, this plotline is retained with one difference: Dario spooks said Ponyta and knocks Lara off of it himself.
  • Ice Revolution: The slashed thigh that nearly ended Saaya's career is implied to have resulted from a skating rivalry gone bad similar to the Real Life Harding/Kerigan affair. Subverted when we meet the so-called perpetrator and learn that it truly was an accident and she's still haunted by guilt.
  • In Ping Pong: The Animation, Coach Koizumi shares a tale with Smile: In his youth, he ended up playing the finale of a tournament, which would have have made his career, against his best friend. Said best friend had a hurt knee and Koizumi knew he could probably win if he intentionally kept playing towards that knee with the intent of overburdening it, but chose not to and therefore lost. In the climax of the anime Smile and Pedro are put against each other in the Big Game's finale, but Pedro hurt his knee in the quarter-finals. The last thing we see before the match is Smile telling Koizumi "I can do it". Cut to the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue and we learn he didn't.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, before reaching Pegasus's island. Insector Haga throws Yugi's Exodia cards off the ship to sabotage his chances off winning. He also does this to Joey, in the Battle City arc.

Comic Books
  • In Jonah Hex #11 (original series), a gambler Jonah caught cheating hires thugs to ambush Jonah and breaks his hands with a sledge hammer.
  • In an issue of Hawkman, Green Arrow stops the villainous archer the Spider by shooting out the Spider's eye, destroying his ability to aim unless he manages to switch handedness.
  • In The Dark Knight Returns, it's strongly implied that Superman amputated Green Arrow's arm to force his former ally to abandon his vigilante activities. Subverted in that GA can still shoot his bow using his teeth to draw the string and gets a bionic arm in the sequel.
  • In a Thorgal comic, Thorgal and his friends, excellent bowmen taking part in an archery competition, are jumped by a group of thugs led by their competitor, who says that there's no need to kill them... just break their wrists.

Fairy Tales
  • In "The Grateful Beasts", Ferko's brothers think he's too good-looking and everyone takes a fancy to him; they will get on better without him. So they break his legs and put his eyes out before abandoning him.

Fan Fiction
  • In the pro wrestling story, A Ring of Their Own, the Beautiful People attack Taylor Wilde in the locker room, making her unable to wrestle in the finals of the FWF Tag Team Title Tournament, making them the winners by default.

  • In The Quick and the Dead, Ratsy breaks Cort's right hand before his gunfight with Herod, forcing him to fight with his left hand.
  • In D2: The Mighty Ducks, Wolf "The Dentist" Stanson whacks Gordon Bombay's bad leg, keeping Bombay from winning a game of three bar against him.
  • In Shoot 'em Up, Hertz tortures Smith by breaking his trigger fingers and then threatens to cut his eyes out. This ends very badly for Hertz.
  • In the film version of Daredevil, Bulls Eye's hands are injured in the climactic battle with Daredevil, and he says, "You took away my hands! Show mercy!"
  • A possible inversion (or just unusual example) in the Mariachi Trilogy. In the backstory shown in Desperado, the Mariachi received a hand wound that ruins him as a guitar player. However, it doesn't do anything to impair his later Improbable Aiming Skills as a gunfighter.
  • Not exactly a Western, but the same philosophy is shown in the film version Starship Troopers.
    Ace Levy: Sir, I don't understand. What good's a knife in a nuke fight? All you have to do is press a button, sir.
    Career Sergeant Zim: Put your hand on that wall, trooper. [Ace hesitates] PUT YOUR HAND ON THAT WALL! [Zim throws a knife and hits Ace's hand, pinning it to the wall] The enemy cannot press a button... if you have disabled his hand. Medic!
    • Note that his answer was completely different in the book.
  • In The Hustler, 'Fast Eddie' Felson has his thumbs broken by a pool shark who doesn't like being hustled.
  • In A Fistful of Dollars, the bad guys stomp on Clint Eastwood's hands while beating him.
  • In Django, bandits ride over Django's hands with horses in retaliation for stealing gold from them.
  • Kung Fu Hustle: the Harpist manage to cut the palms of Donut, whose specialty is with staffs.
  • In the 1949 Film Noir The Set-Up, a washed-up boxer wins a fight he was supposed to lose. The mobsters who put the fix on the fight retaliate by breaking his hand so he can never box again.
  • In Gladiator, Commodus restrains and stabs Maximus just prior to their final, climactic arena duel in order to gain the upper hand during the fight.
  • In Blade Runner, Roy Batty breaks Deckard's fingers to hamper his ability to use his gun. Deckard starts using his other hand instead.
  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace has champion podracer Sebulba "accidentally" bump another podracer, messing it up and making it unable to race.
  • At the end of El Mariachi, the main antagonist shoots the mariachi's hand, preventing him from playing guitar.
  • Sin City: A Dame to Kill for: After Johnny beats him at poker, Senator Roark breaks the fingers of his game hand with a pair of pliers. Shooting him in the knee is just an act of pure sadism.

  • A popular (but questionable) etymology for the profane variant of the V Sign is that it came from archers taunting enemy soldiers who would cut off the middle and index fingers of any archers they captured (Welsh archers taunting Englishmen or English archers taunting Frenchmen tend to be the most common).
  • Pecos Bill is often reputed to have shot off his opponents' trigger fingers in gunfights. He can be seen doing this in the movie Tall Tale.

  • A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones: Jamie Lannister, one of the top swordsmen in the Seven Kingdoms has his hand cut off by Vargo Hoat.
  • In the backstory of Neuromancer, the main character was a hacker who was caught stealing and punished by being given a treatment that destroyed his ability to interface with the matrix.
  • The "Waxahachie Smith" series by J.T. Edson is about a gunfighter who had his trigger fingers amputated by vengeful foes.
  • In Jules Verne's Michel Strogoff, the eponymous character is blinded by having his eyes exposed to a heated iron by his foes.
  • One of the 1632 novels had a violinist who had had his left hand crippled by a jealous rival.
  • In the backstory of Assassin of Gor, a chess player was blinded by a powerful man whom he had beaten in a game. But he is still able to play because he can visualize the board.
  • A rare heroic example occurs in Brian Daley Brian Daley's Han Solo Adventures after Han gets roped into a formal duel against the notorious gunslinger Gallandro he conspires to stun both of their right hands. This forces Gallandro to concede since Solo is ambidextrous and Gallandro isn't.

Live-Action TV
  • In the Twilight Zone episode "Mr. Denton on Doomsday'', the title character, a washed up Retired Gunfighter faces off against a young wannabee in a duel, both using a potion granting quick draw abilities. Both men manage to inflict hand injuries preventing each other from ever using guns again. Denton sees this as a blessing, as it will prevent either from engaging in any more reckless duels.
  • In an episode of Bones the Victim of the Week had done this to himself shortly before he was killed: he slammed his right hand with a desk drawer to break it, in order to remove the temptation of going to a music school to study piano.
  • In an episode of Coach the Orlando Breakers are in Buffalo to play the Bills when Luther accepts a dinner of Buffalo Wings from a bar/restaurant called "Buffalo Billy's." The entire team comes down with food poisoning and Coach Fox has to draft anyone he can find to fill the uniforms. Afterwards, Luther goes back to "Billy's" and asks the owner if it was intentional. The owner says no, but isn't too convincing about it.

Professional Wrestling
  • A very regular occurrence, usually where the heel will attack his face opponent before a big match to gain the upper hand.

Video Games
  • A self-inflicted example from Arcanum: William Thorndop, formerly the world's greatest marksman, has taken a vow of non-violence, and cut off his own trigger fingers to make sure he can never hold a firearm again.
  • Throughout the Fallout series, you can use target shots to aim at enemy body parts. Shooting the eyes or head lowers their accuracy, shooting the arms may prevent them from using certain weapons, and shooting the legs lowers movement speed.
  • In Jade Empire, an early sidequest requires you to heal an injured fellow student so she can take part in a competition against you. The Open Palm choice is to get her a medicine that actually heals her, but if you prefer the Closed Fist, you can give her an ointment that only removes the pain, resulting in her starting the fight with much less health and ending up crippled for life. For extra adherence to the Closed Fist ideology (one of the few cases when it's actually used correctly) you can reveal to her what you did afterwards, and tell her that relying on you made her weak - she should have dealt with her problem on her own.


Web Original

Western Animation
  • In the finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang uses Spiritbending to rob Firelord Ozai of his firebending ability, taking away the threat he poses to the world without breaking Aang's Thou Shalt Not Kill policy.
  • One of the villains of the week in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2003 series) is Mephos, an Avian who was punished for crimes against his race by having the wings torn from his back and being forced to live as a human.
  • On Robot Chicken Sinestro (accidentally) cuts off both of Green Lantern's hands. Green Lantern counters by finding someplace else to wear his ring.
  • In the The Simpsons episode where Mr. Burns forces his way onto Homer's bowling team (for which he was tricked into writing a $500 check), the team is disgusted at the old man's complete ineptitude but cannot simply kick him off. Moe hatches a plan to bash in his knee with a lead pipe so he can't play. Unfortunately, he does so when Burns is already indisposed and his whack on the knee has the exact opposite effect: the injured Burns is able to play again.
  • In an episode of Cow and Chicken, the Red Guy injures Chicken's ice skating partner, which is most likely a Shout-Out to the Tonya Harding-Nancy Kerrigan fiasco.
  • In Futurama, Bender drugs a bunch of race horses (and a jockey who caught him) so the only one he hasn't drugged will win and net him a big payoff.

Real Life
  • Figure skater Tonya Harding's then-husband, Jeff Gilooly, hired someone to attack her rival, Nancy Kerrigan, with a tire iron. The extent of Harding's own involvement remains debatable.
  • A journalist asked former Tennis player Rod Laver (a contender for the Greatest of All Time title) how he would go about beating current player Roger Federer (another contender), if they had been professional at the same time. Laver replied "Hit him over the head with a tennis racquet."
  • Twenty-seven members of the New Zealand national rugby team developed food poisoning two days before the grand final of the 1995 Rugby World Cup, where they were to play host nation South Africa. Legend has it, it was deliberate act by a mysterious waitress called "Suzie."
  • During the Cold War, the Soviets were known to punish Turbulent Priests by cutting off their hands, since that was the only disability that disqualifies one from sanctifying the Eucharist.