Defeat Means Respect

"Shepard. You have become an annoyance."
Harbinger, Mass Effect 2: Arrival

A villain spends his whole first appearance insulting or belittling his opponents. After The Hero serves him a slice of Humble Pie he starts to become nicer to those who have won and now considers them to be a Worthy Opponent. Sometimes it may take repeated losses to cause this in the case of a particularly stubborn villain.

Every Unknown Rival is motivated by this trope. This is also the idea behind the victims of The Bully: "You have to stand for yourself".

Distinct from Defeat Means Friendship because the opponent is still an enemy to the victor, but it can eventually evolve into friendship. Compare Graceful Loser and Touché.


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    Anime and Manga 

    Fan Works 
  • After Sonic beats Knuckles in a sanctioned prison brawl in Prison Island Break Knuckles respects Sonic enough to form an alliance with him in the interest of escaping prison. Saying it's a case of Defeat Means Friendship is stretching the term a bit.

  • In Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Girard is seeking out someone good enough to defeat him. He embraces Ricky Bobby at the end.
  • In The Karate Kid (1984), this is the reason Mr. Miyagi agreed to Daniel fighting: not so Daniel could take revenge on the bullies, but so that he would put up enough of a fight to earn their respect. That Daniel ended up winning the tournament was an unexpected bonus.

    Video Games 
  • In Mass Effect, the Reapers treat each cycle's resistance to being culled as futile (a speed bump at most), but by the end of Mass Effect 2 their leader Harbinger begins to acknowledge just how unexpectedly difficult humanity and Commander Shepard in particular is making this cycle. Leviathan notes that in the billion plus years of the Reapers' existence, no one has ever given them as much trouble as Shepard. Notably, there are multiple times in Mass Effect 3 where Reapers will turn their dreadnought-killing guns away from entire fleets to target Shepard alone.
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, your characters' role in the Battle of Kvatch earns them respect from the Dremora who were besieging the town.
  • This is a fairly regular trope in Grand Theft Auto games, particularly Vice City, where you set up a crew by proving you're better than each of your specialists in their specialty.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, Knuckles and Rouge ended their rivalry over finding the missing pieces of the Master Emerald when Rouge grudgingly surrenders the pieces to him after their arguing and also when Knuckles saved her from falling into the lava which lead to their Almost Kiss. From then on, the two are belligerent acquaintances at best.
  • The Count goes through something like this in the Boktai series. The first time he faces you he remarks that you're nothing more than a meal to him, while the second time you face him he treats you as a genuine threat despite still hailing Ringo as his greatest adversary. By the third time however he finally acknowledges you as not only a powerful warrior, but his new greatest adversary.

     Western Animation 
  • In The Legend of Korra, the Big Bad of the final season, Kuvira, refers to Korra as obsolete. After Korra manages to defeat her and save her life twice during the Grand Finale, her stance towards her enemy changes drastically. Korra is able to talk to her about how they are Not So Different and convince her to surrender. Afterwards Kuvira tells her forces to stand down, and she willingly gives herself up. She admits Korra is capable of a greater power than she ever could hope to achieve.