"That's strange... This world feels empty without a creature of utter darkness and evil. It's a good thing I'm here — to conquer it!"The mindset is this: you see a world without fear, without anger, hate, or war. And then you go and conquer that world, because they'd never expect it. So, the Big Bad is done for. Maybe they Never Found the Body, or maybe s/he's finally been Killed Off for Real. But for some reason, the series of events hasn't ended yet. The Evil Power Vacuum occurs when a Big Bad is, at long last, seemingly taken down by the good guys or an outside group. The result is usually a sort of "power scramble" amongst the good guys, the bad guys, and every allegiance in between, as each group tries to come out on top. Tyrant Takes the Helm is when a revolution or a coup dethrones an old evil leader, only for a new — possibly worse — evil to take its place. This is sometimes the result of Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!, especially if the chaos following the Big Bad's fall is worse than anything he ever did. See also Balance Between Good and Evil, Enemy Civil War, Asskicking Equals Authority, and The Starscream. Preventing this trope is often a reason for Better the Devil You Know.
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Anime & Manga
- This happens in Melody of Oblivion whenever the Monster King is killed. Last time, it caused an apocalyptic war that more or less ruined reality (it turned Earth into a maze, which is meant almost entirely literally), and was only stopped once the killer agreed to become the next Monster King. The monsters themselves are eldritch abominations. it's rather interesting that humanity *could* fight them, even if they lost.
- This happened in One Piece. With the death of Whitebeard, piracy skyrocketed as it did when Gol D. Roger was executed, worse than ever, possibly. Apparently, the only thing keeping most possible crews from forming was the belief that there was no room at the top. That, and belief in One Piece was beginning to waiver. Whitebeard saw to that as well.
- It happens again with the defeat of Doflamingo at Luffy's hands. Since Doflamingo held the most power and influence in the black market underworld, his downfall had a negative backlash on all of his business dealings. As a result, the Revolutionaries won numerous wars in kingdoms that bought weapons from him. Even moreso, the pirates that had been turned into toy slaves by his subordinate Sugar have returned to normal and are now free on the oceans again.
- The premise for the Doryu Arc of Rave Master is that other criminal groups are trying to become top dog after Demon Card was destroyed. However, before the arc is even over, Demon Card has been revived by the new Big Bad.
- After the Tartaros arc in Fairy Tail, the void left in the wake of the Balam Alliance of Dark Guilds' downfall is filled by the Avatar Cult, a Religion of Evil who worships Zeref and wishes to offer the world to him. They prove to be Inadequate Inheritors who were easily curb-stomped by a fresh-from-training and reunited Fairy Tail team, but the Albareth Empire from the next continent over is more than happy to take over in their place...
- Tartaros itself served this role to the Balam Alliance over the seven-year Timeskip, as the Oracion Seis were imprisoned and Grimoire Heart was defunct due to the deaths and defections of its strongest members, leaving them to consolidate power over the remaining Dark Guilds and taking more than a few of their subordinate guilds by force. Some of the Oracion Seis did escape prison and reformed into the Neo-Oracion Seis, but they weren't out long enough to re-establish a sufficient power base and when they all were released from prison for real, they betrayed their leader and joined Crime Sorciere, who themselves had taken advantage of the power vacuum to demolish dozens of dark guilds over the seven-year Timeskip.
- In Endride, after King Delzaine is killed by Ibelda, massive social instability follows and petty lords step in, raiding villages and demanding wealth for protection. The Ignauts try to help out the citizens wherever they can, but know they're just a stop-gap and as soon as they move on, the raiding lords will come back.
- A storyline in the original backstory of Magic: The Gathering involved Ertai and Crovax, both former crewmen of the Weatherlight, fighting over which of them will succeed the now-vanished Volrath as ruler of Rath. This leads to a series of brutal confrontations that sees both of them turning into figurative and literal monsters (courtesy of some Phyrexian implants) and destroys whatever good is left in them. Crovax eventually succeeds, at the cost of finally, irrevocably crossing the Moral Event Horizon.
- Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog: After the death of the original Dr. Robotnik, an Alternate Self, Robo-Robotnik/Dr. Eggman, who had succeeded in conquering his own Mobius, discovered his demise, and bored out of his mind, made his way to the Prime Zone to "fill the void." Much later, when Sonic asks the Zone Cops why they haven't arrested Eggman for overstepping his bounds and interfering with another dimension, they explain that since the original Robotnik was erased from existence, and he and Eggman share a near-identical past, he's replaced the original, and Sonic has to fight a Robotnik to maintain his world's stability.
- In Runaways, the team has to deal with this after taking down their evil parents, who ran all the illegal activities anywhere within range of LA.
- And in the Moon Knight series, there's a new "Kingpin of L.A." filling the void.
- A running theme of the Milestone comic Hardware was that Hardware's mentor/boss/enemy (it was complicated) kept his hand in organized crime because without his influence, anarchy would be loosed amongst the criminal element of the city. Later, he died trying to save people, and it turned out he was right.
- In the Spider-Man universe, when Parker helps to take down The Kingpin, it almost immediately turns worse, as less-refined, less-humane, and less-subtle underbosses scramble to take the top spot Kingpin used to occupy.
- In Ultimate Spider-Man, this trope is discussed with regard to the Kingpin when Daredevil puts together a group of heroes to systematically take out his operation. Peter points this trope out as a possibility, though Daredevil argues that the Third Reich collapsed after the death of Hitler.note
- When Kobra, a long-time Diabolical Mastermind who had served as a Big Bad many times in The DCU, was Killed Off for Real by Black Adam, his Religion of Evil was wracked with power struggles. This seems to have been settled, as his good twin has been brought back to life, turned evil, and taken the reigns of the organization. And become the Big Bad in a Justice Society of America miniseries.
- In The Savage Dragon, a Gang War erupts after Dragon kills Overlord, the ruler of the Vicious Circle.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Mirage Publishing): The 13-part story, "City at War," depicts the various splintered factions of the Foot Clan at war with one another, trying to fill the void left when the Turtles defeated the Shredder.
- This was the beginning of the more reviled Batman storyline War Games, as a plan of Batman's is initiated by an angry and desperate Stephanie Brown to gather all of the crime families together and pretty much capture them. However, since the plan was missing one key player, "Matches" Malone, those there started to panic and ended up going into a shooting spree that left everyone dead and others seeking to fill in the vacuum.
- An earlier Batman story, The Long Halloween, implies this is the reason Gotham is filled with super-villains. As the story goes on, Batman dismantles the Falcone crime organization and all other "normal" forms of super-criminals like the mob. As this happens the colorful, more unpredictable madmen begin to slowly become more and more active. Once traditional organized crime is wiped out, freaks like The Joker and Two-Face begin to truly blossom.
- In Nikolai Dante, when Kraken is removed from the picture and with Katarina's grip on the other pirates loosening due to perceived weakness, four other captains scramble to capture his territories.
- In Queen of All Oni, it's revealed that Daolon Wong was the Darkest Mage, a sort of arch mage for Evil Sorcerers. Following his loss of power at the end of season 3 and his death in-story, the spot is now open, and a couple of subplots focus on the villains trying to gain power to assume the role Wong left behind.
- In The Bridge, after Xenilla and Destroyah were transported to Equestria, various evil kaiju scramble to assume leadership of their faction, the Mutations. Humanity's Stand focuses a bit on this, and on the human Global Defense Force and good kaiju of Godzilla's Terran Defender faction taking advantage of this to try and wipe them out for good.
- The latter story also shows that while the GDF/Terran Defender alliance is dealing with the Mutations, the kaiju-worshipping Apocalypse Cult the Red Dawn emerges as the new primary threat to the world.
- In Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters, it's shown that after Valmont's downfall, the American branch of the Dark Hand collapsed into infighting, with every mid-level administrator fighting to fill Valmont's spot. As the story starts, Bartholomew Chang (the head of the Dark Hand's Asian branch) has come to the States to restore order.
- Queen Of Shadows: Following Hiruzen being sealed, the remainder of the Circle of Generals, and the Shadowkhan Empire as a whole, are thrown into total disarray, with no idea how to move forward.
Films — Animation
- In Transformers: The Movie, following Megatron's apparent demise and subsequent dumping into space, the Decepticons try to decide on a new leader, and their argument leads into an all-out brawl aboard Astrotrain. It turns out Megatron is Not Quite Dead, though, and after a power-up from Unicron, he returns as Galvatron in time to reclaim his title as leader of the Decepticons... by blowing Starscream to ashes mere seconds after he'd literally crowned himself the new leader.
- Inverted in Megamind. Megamind "defeating" Metroman caused Megamind to make a new hero, and Music Man advises Megamind that wherever there is evil a new force for good will rise.
Films — Live-Action
- At the beginning of L.A. Confidential, mob boss Mickey Cohen is arrested. A recurring subplot shows all the mobsters seeking to fill Cohen's place either being scared out of Los Angeles or riddled with bullets. By the climax of the film, Police Chief Dudley Smith is poised to seize control of L.A.'s organized crime.
- American Gangster: The beginning of the film takes place after Harlem mob boss Bumpy Johnson's death, and shows Frank Lucas's rise to power out of the chaos that accompanied Bumpy's death.
- In Spectre, James Bond's conversation with Mr. White implies that QUANTUM, the crime organization from the first two Daniel Craig films, was either reorganized into or superseded by SPECTRE, after Bond destroyed much of its leadership in Quantum of Solace.
- Seen in the Star Wars Expanded Universe after Palpatine's death, with the Rebel Alliance (later New Republic) and a score of Imperial admiral-turned-warlords, then Grand Admiral Thrawn, then Palpatine Back from the Dead (to be fair, he was Not Quite Dead all along, he was just biding his time), then a succession of threats from warlords and aliens, and finally a peace treaty was signed between the New Republic and the Empire. Then the Yuuzahn Vong invade and the Republic and Empire rally together to fight them.
- Tolkien's Legendarium
- The main danger of the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings is that powerful individuals would eventually use it to replace Sauron. Even if they resisted corruption long enough to defeat him, they'd end up becoming corrupt and replacing him in the end.
- And in The Silmarillion, Sauron himself was a replacement of Melkor as the Big Bad.
- Partial example in the appendices of ROTK where Aragorn and Éomer are forced to go on punitive expeditions among the Easterlings and Haradrim to keep this under control.
- Tolkien briefly considered a sequel to LotR in which Aragorn fights against a Morgoth-worshipping cult which seeks to bring back Middle-Earth's original Big Bad, but ultimately (and probably wisely) decided that it would subvert the trilogy's End of an Age / Dawn of an Era themes too much.
- The Dresden Files
- Anti-Villain mobster "Gentleman" Johnny Marcone maintains an iron grip on the Chicago underworld in order to avoid precisely that; sure, he's gotten rich from exploiting other people, but at least under him the most unpleasant aspects are kept to a strict minimum. If he were to go, the turf wars and power grabs would tear up the city, and lots of innocent people would get killed in the crossfire.
- Also, in the short story "Aftermath", set after Changes, the destruction of the Red Court has led to a power struggle among other supernatural baddies. The only race seen in the story is the Fomor, but Gard indicates that several others have appeared. And incidentally been fought off by Marcone, who probably has every intention of filling the Red Court's void himself, at least on the local level.
- This ongoing struggle goes on to be one of the two major plot threads in the next full-length novel, Ghost Story.
- Generally averted in Discworld. Vetinari remains Patrician in Ankh-Morpork specifically because all the potential power-grabbers know perfectly well that this would be the result if he was removed. It helps that Vetinari himself set up the whole system so that this would be the only possible result, and that everybody who was anybody would realize it. He really is Just. That. Magnificent.
- Partway through The Mallorean, the main characters are informed of how current Big Bad Zandramas took her position — after the death of God of Evil Torak, the Grolims (his priests) were left completely without guidance... until she had a vision, ran off into the wilderness, and eventually came back to take over the church. (The intervening period, as the heroes work out, is when the Dark Prophecy settled into her head.)
- At the end of the first book of Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy, the protagonists have succeeded in killing the immortal Lord Ruler, who had reigned over the Final Empire for a thousand years. Being, well, immortal, the Lord Ruler didn't leave behind any instructions on what to do in his absence, and the protagonists only have control over the capital city. As a result, the rest of the empire has quickly devolved into various warring factions struggling for power, and the capital city is looking like a big, fat target ripe for conquest...
- Toward the end of Belisarius Series there was a large ammount of power jockeying between the various empires once it became clear that the Big Bad was doomed militarily.
- With the fall of Nicolae Carpathia and the Global Community at the end of the Tribulation in the Left Behind series, mankind finally has peace with Jesus Christ at the helm of the Millennial Kingdom. 93 years from the start of the Kingdom, however, the Other Light rises as La Résistance to bring evil back into the world, waiting for their leader Satan to be released from his imprisonment so that they can finally defeat God at the end of Millennium. Of course the citizens of the Millennial Kingdom knew from Scripture that it was eventually going to happen...and in the end it was also going to fail.
- When Joe Steele — an alternate history Stalin who came to power in the United States instead of Russia — literally drops dead at the start of his sixth term in office, a power struggle emerges between his Vice-President, John Nance Garner, his chief political aide/enforcer, Vince "The Hammer" Scriabin, and his Secret Police chief, J. Edgar Hoover. Hoover ultimately wins, and replaces Steele's dictatorship-disguised-as-democracy with a full blown Police State.
- Preventing one of these turns out to be a central plot point in Brimstone Angels. Bryseis Kakistos wants to kill Asmodeus on account of how he cheated her by not resurrecting her sister in their deal a century ago. She knows how to pull it off, too. The problem is that Asmodeus's death would lead to a massive Enemy Civil War in the Nine Hells with someone even worse potentially coming out on top, while rival Demon Lords And Arch Devils would see one of their greatest threats being removed as an excuse to declare open season on the mortal plane. Thus, the heroes find themselves fighting valiantly... to keep the King of the Hells on his throne. There's a reason the last book is called The Devil You Know...
- Happens in Charmed after the Source is killed (for the third and final time). At first there is an orderly succession, but it rapidly breaks down and increasingly-mediocre contenders appear as Big Bads each season thereafter.
- Game of Thrones: Tywin's death creates one in Westeros. The hegemony he built crumbles almost overnight, with Lannister puppets like the Boltons going rogue, renegade religious factions like the Sparrows slowly taking over the city and Cersei sabotaging his alliance with the Tyrells.
- Malcolm in the Middle
- The entire neighborhood is united in hatred of the main characters. Hal and Lois win them over, and five seconds later the street's turned into a giant screaming match.
- When Reese stops being the school bully, a dozen other bullies appear and terrorize the students. Malcolm has to persuade Reese to return to his evil ways to bring things back to a manageable level. Reese is particularly outraged when he sees people picking on Stevie (who's out of bounds due to being in a wheelchair).
Reese: I was a jerk!
Malcolm: Yes, but you were the alpha jerk!
- A major plot point of The Shadow Line is the power vacuum in the drug trade following the death of Harvey Wratten. In the final episode, it turns out this was specifically invoked by Gatehouse, who killed Harvey to give his protégées Jay Wratten and Ratallack a chance to rise to the top.
- Stargate SG-1 has a very, very long Sorting Algorithm of Evil, arguably to the point of deconstruction. The big source of that is that the followers of a dead System Lord defect to the System Lord who killed their master. But what happens when your master was killed by someone who is not only not a System Lord but isn't even Goa'uld? Okay, let's get this party started:
- In the Stargate movie they started with Ra, an Evil Overlord who was the Last of His Kind. When they recycled it for the series, he was changed to be the most powerful of the "System Lords", a loose-knit group of evil overlords each with a god-complex. His death started an arms race among the lesser System Lords. This led the main characters into conflict with:
- Apophis. Starting with kidnapping several friends of the main characters for use as hosts, he remained a threat until, after steadily losing power and influence because of the conflict with the heroes, he was defeated and killed by a more powerful System Lord late in the second season.
- Sokar, having inspired the myth of Satan through his ruthlessness and evil and having a fleet of warships at his command ready to conquer the galaxy, was shaping up to be the new Big Bad when SG-1 and their Tok'Ra allies killed him by blowing up a moon. Unfortunately, before Sokar was killed, he had brought Apophis Back from the Dead so that he could suffer on said moon. Apophis, true to form, survived and took control over Sokar's resources and army.
- So, once again the Big Bad is Apophis, this time with a fleet of warships poised to take over the galaxy. He starts with attacking Teal'c's homeworld of Chulak, continues by killing several rival System Lords, then on the brink of Galactic Domination, his fleet is vaporized when SG-1 blow up a sun. Unfortunately he survives. Also unfortunately, the nova screwed up the Faster-Than-Light Travel of the ships escaping the nova, and both Apophis and SG-1 find themselves trapped in another galaxy. To make it even worse, the writers choose this exact moment to subvert Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale and Casual Interstellar Travel, meaning that even traveling at full speed, it would take over 200 years to return to their own galaxy. He's eventually killed for real when the Replicators invade his ship and it slams into another planet.
- Next up is Anubis, who creates a nearly-unstoppable force of super soldiers, and has access to technology more advanced than literally everyone else except the Neglectful Precursors, who are all gone. He devastates the remaining System Lords with his immense forces, leaving our heroes as the only hope of stopping him. He is finally defeated when the fleet sent to conquer Earth is destroyed by a Lost Technology Superweapon.
- Ba'al takes over the remainder of Anubis' forces and continues to take over the galaxy. He was doing a pretty good job until the Replicators launch an all-out attack, starting by killing all the remaining System Lords other than Ba'al and Anubis, who's still alive and actually commands Ba'al, who defects and winds up in an Enemy Mine with the heroes. End result: Anubis is gone for good when Oma decides to spend an eternity fighting him. The System Lords are all dead, except for Ba'al, who is overthrown, and the Replicators are wiped out. Finally, with all major enemies defeated, the series ended. Everyone lives Happily Ever After...
- Wait, what? Yeah, that's right, it's the Ori on their universal Missionary Tour of Evil and Doom, but at least the finale may or may not have nuked them all... and in fact did, but that left their self-created Jesus archetype Adria, newly Ascended, to take over all their power. It took brainwashing her followers into forsaking her with an ancient mind probe and falling into the same "fighting for eternity" trap that Anubis got into that the Universe was finally saved...or, at least as saved as it can be with the Wraith still bopping around the Pegasus Galaxy...
- So that's it, right? I mean, we've even captured Ba'al, the slippery beast... he did what? Oh, great! Guess it's up to SG-1 to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. Again. There, done! Can we have our happy ending now?
- Stargate Universe says you shouldn't hold your breath...
- The Lucian Alliance took over a few Goa'uld vessels. They're the main reason why the crew of the Destiny are even on the Ancient ship, after all.
- And now that it's done, there are two powerful Alien forces (Catfish Aliens, and anti-technology Berserker Drones), although they are both pretty far from Earth.
- It looked like everything was set for a happy ending, with a film planned where the Stargate program was going to be made public. But thanks to the SyFy channel messing with Universe's schedule, the IP is doomed. It's probably not going to get a proper ending.
- Mentioned in the background of Season 3 of Supernatural — in light of Azazel's death in the previous season finale, the Legions of Hell are left fighting each other for control, with Lilith rising as the new "Queen Bitch" in the latter half of the season.
- In Everybody Hates Chris, Caruso, the school bully, gets trounced in an alley by a new kid who knows enough karate to take out him and his thugs, resulting in every slightly-built person in school trying to become the new bully. It got so bad that Chris eventually got mugged for not having enough money to be worth mugging.
- Played with in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Midway through the second season, Coulson manages to kill a prominent HYDRA leader. The other members of his regional council are well aware of this trope, however, and set up a peaceful transfer of power to avert it. But then Coulson exploits their backstabbing tendencies to get them to play it straight and take one another out before sweeping in to mop up whoever's left; leaving the void empty for at least the time being.
- A void made bigger when Baron von Strucker, having previously decided to sacrifice HYDRA cells in order to distract from his own activities, ends up being wiped out as a result of the actions of the Avengers, Coulson, and Ultron. Grant Ward is the only one left standing and sets out to rebuild HYDRA for revenge on SHIELD.
- And once he goes down, the true reason why when you "Cut off one head, two more shall take its place" is revealed; it was "founded on the belief that humanity could not be trusted with its own freedom", and without HYDRA to guide those efforts secretly, they are being pursued openly by elected governments via the Sokovia Accords, which not only legislates control over superhumans, but advanced technology such as artificial intelligence. Holden Radcliffe's experiments would almost certainly have been less destructive if he hadn't been forced to pursue them in secret - if only because SHIELD would have known about them well before he developed true Life Model Decoys.
- A void made bigger when Baron von Strucker, having previously decided to sacrifice HYDRA cells in order to distract from his own activities, ends up being wiped out as a result of the actions of the Avengers, Coulson, and Ultron. Grant Ward is the only one left standing and sets out to rebuild HYDRA for revenge on SHIELD.
- At the start of season 2 of Daredevil, the downfall of Wilson Fisk has caused several different criminal gangs try to fill in the spot left vacant in Hell's Kitchen. They are kept in check thanks to Frank Castle's personal war against crime. While Fisk's place is taken by the Yakuza who is just a front for the shadow terrorist organization known as the Hand, who have lain low for a while only to come out in full strength. And then it's shown that Fisk himself is only biding his time for his return, taking control of the prison he is locked up and manipulating events so that with his inevitable release, he will claim his old position back using Frank Castle's crusade to get rid of his rivals.
- This is the premise of Gotham season 2. After the big three crime lords of Season 1 (Maroni, Falcone, and Fish Mooney), who kept the city more or less stable, are disposed of through various means leaving only one the fourth contender to claim complete power, then a whole host of increasingly crazy and unrestrained villains who have progressively more dangerous and unusual M.O.s, start creeping out of the woodwork with nobody to keep them in check, though it should be added that those crazy and unrestrained villains strong presence is more of a consequence of some others shady villains activities' who largely made them and unleashed them in the public for their own sinister purposes and who by having brought the fourth player (Penguin) at their mercy were free to do as they wished to Gotham. Ironically their pawns ended up becoming independent threats beyond their intentions. Summarily those were Galavan, Hugo Strange and the Court of Owls).
- Believe it or not this is how Triple H wound up becoming who he was. The Undertaker and The Rock both ended up injured. Trips, who was at the time thought not to be over enough to hold the spot, got moved up by default.
- In the WWE, this tends to happen when someone in the main event is either out for a long time, becomes a part-timer, or retires.
- Edge's retirement couldn't have come at a worse time — the main event scene was already severely depleted, Shawn Michaels having retired, Triple H and The Undertaker semi-retired, Chris Jericho on hiatus for the entire year, and Rey Mysterio Jr. embroiled in a feud with Cody Rhodes, downgrading him to mid-carder status for the time being. They had to bump up the draft six weeks early because SmackDown didn't have a top babyface, so Randy Orton was hastily moved to the blue brand. The vacuum was gradually filled by CM Punk (who ascended to superstardom during the second Summer of Punk, allowing him to permanently take Edge's spot in the main event scene), Christian (whose feud with Randy cemented him as a possible main event player), and various younger talents such as Daniel Bryan and Dolph Ziggler. This is why building up new talent is so important — you can't risk a scenario where you don't have a big enough name to have decent, money-making feuds with.
- The reliance on part-time performers such The Rock and Brock Lesnar in the early half of The New '10s was a band-aid on the situation while the WWE was building up new stars. Around that time, the only bonafide main event talent that the WWE had full-time, the type of talent you'd allow to headline WrestleMania, was John Cena, CM Punk, and Randy Orton. While they were carrying that responsibility, WWE busied itself with building up the younger talent, particularly Daniel Bryan and the members of The Shield. Then when CM Punk unexpectedly walked out in January of 2014, Bryan got elevated to take his spot while The Shield broke up six months later, elevating all three to upper-midcard/main event talent. This means that the WWE now has six full-time potential main-eventers on top of part-timers such as Lesnar, Triple H, Chris Jericho, and the Undertaker, which is a vastly improved situation compared to 2011's situation above.
- However, they began to over-rely on part-timers as the year went on, which became an issue in 2015. The problem exposed itself when, in late 2015, the main event scene was depleted again. First, Sting suffered a Game-Breaking Injury at Night of Champions that year. John Cena requested time off to film a TV show earlier in the year, and was gone from late October to the rest of the year. Then, Randy Orton's shoulder was injured again, putting him out for the rest of the year. Not even a month after that, the then-WWE World Heavyweight Champion, Seth Rollins, got injured, putting him out until after WrestleMania. With Brock Lesnar not due until WM season, Chris Jericho no longer a part of TV and Daniel Bryan's in-ring career in jeopardy (for the record, Bryan would retire only a couple months later in February 2016), WWE effectively lost their entire main event scene in the span of three months, now lacking a top face and a top heel. At this point, they have no choice but to make a new star if they want to make it to the next WrestleMania with a decent profit.
- And as it turns out, this was a prelude to an injury epidemic, when members of the main roster started dropping like flies while others were rumored to be working more hurt than usual. Cesaro, Sin Cara, and Wade Barrett were also out by the end of the year. Within two weeks of his return from his time off, Cena was injured too, and by the end of January, so were Sheamus and Alberto Del Rio. Three weeks before 'Mania, the injury bug Struck Bray Wyatt's back and Adrian Neville's ankle. Not even the divas were immune — Nikki Bella took time off to deal with a back/neck injury that turned out to be potentially career-ending, and Naomi was also put on the shelf (briefly) thanks to injury. Even NXT got in on the act: Tye Dillinger was injured at a house show during a match with Sami Zayn (who had just come back from injury), and NXT Champion Finn Bálor suffered an ankle injury at another house show about a week or so later during his match with Samoa Joe. There is some perverse irony in the fact that the injury bug struck during the road to the company's biggest show of the year.
- And for the final cherry on the top: Roman Reigns, one of the headliners for WrestleMania 32 had to be written out so he could get surgery for a deviated septum. He would still be able to do the match but nonetheless he would miss at least two weeks of build. That left Dean Ambrose the only full-time main event talent active, and since his opponent at Mania, Brock Lesnar, was only booked for a couple more appearances, Ambrose and Triple H were stuck having to carry RAW by themselves by starting a mini-feud for the upcoming WWE Roadblock Network Special. Just for the record, that year's Mania was to be held in Dallas at the AT&T Stadium (aka the Cowboys Stadium), and WWE was planning on selling it out and breaking the 108,000 attendance record. By the time of Reigns' facial reconstruction surgery, they were more concerned with achieving a decent buy rate.
- In short, over the course of five years, these main eventers either retired, went into part-timer status, were put on the shelf indefinitely, or left: Shawn Michaels, Batista, Chris Jericho, The Undertaker, Edge, CM Punk, Daniel Bryan, Triple H, John Cena, and Randy Orton. Ten wrestlers that the company could rely on to headline major PPVs such as SummerSlam or WrestleMania are all but gone in the last five years — for perspective, that's two main eventers per year. And the only stars that are currently over enough that the company would be comfortable with on top are The Shield. To say the company is in a bad spot currently would be a severe understatement.
- At the end of the 2011 CHIKARA season, the rudo stable Die Bruderschaft des Kreuzes (BDK) had been forcibly disbanded. Ares, Claudio Castagnoli (Antonio Cesaro) and Sinn Bodhi were all no longer with the promotion, and Eddie Kingston and UltraMantis Black were both tecnicos. The opening storyline for 2012 being which of the remaining rudos would come out on top of the heap. Tim Donst (Ares' Dragon), Obariyon (Bodhi's Dragon) and Ophidian all in the mix.
- This has arguably been a recurring issue for CHIKARA. Sweet & Sour International was defeated and the Kings of Wrestling rose to become a threat. The KOW fell apart and F.I.S.T. and the UnStable both seemed to be fighting for top rudo spot, before the aforementioned BDK rose. When the BDK was disbanded, the Titor Conglomerate took over and eventually shut the company down. When the company was purchased by someone else and came back, Titor sent Deucalion and the Flood to menace CHIKARA. Then Deucalion was vanquished and the Flood fell apart, the void is starting to get filled by the Hexed Men of Nazmaldun...
- Without a doubt, TNA's biggest problem. The promotion has spent 55% of its existence besieged by some large heel faction trying to take over the company. Then the giant, super-faction starts in-feuding, wrestlers get released, and the stable dwindles down to nonexistence. Then we got at most a year before another faction starts up and we go through the whole process again.
- The main event scene. Started by the signing of numerous ex-WWE stars, they're pushed at the expense of the young, homegrown TNA talent. Then when they leave TNA finds itself in a scramble because they weren't able to built up new stars in the meantime and were relying on this "big-name" stars from the WWE to carry the main event. Rather than build up said younger, homegrown talent, they try to attract some other "big-name", former-WWE talent instead.
- In fact, you can make the argument that TNA's existence was founded on both this trope and nepotism. This trope in the sense that it was supposed to replace WCW, and nepotism because it was founded by the Jarretts so Jeff Jarrett could be in the spotlight for a while. All it did was become a Replacement Scrappy for WCW which never reached anything close to the original's success.
- StarCraft I ends with the Zerg overmind defeated at last. Then in Brood War all the factions get pulled into a struggle between Kerrigan and the cerebrates to replace it.
- Don't forget that after the Confederacy is overthrown by Arcturus Mengsk, he actually created a power vacuum so he can build himself an empire, which is as bad as the former.
- The villains in Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow are a cult that believes that Dracula's death and Soma's refusal to take his place have resulted in a power vacuum that must be filled to preserve the Balance Between Good and Evil.
- Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 Dracula is a extremely powerful Evil Overlord hellbent in taking revenge against the world, but its acknowledged that he keeps two of his worst enemies - Zobek the Lord of Necromancers and Satan himself - from also threatening the world due to sheer fear of him, and they will simply take his place should Dracula ever dies. It soon turns into a plot point when his son Alucard convinces him to fake his death so both Zobek and Satan can come out of hiding, giving him the opportunity to eliminate them in one stroke.
- This is how Saika Magoichi's revenge (for the razing of the Saika village) goes horribly wrong in his Samurai Warriors 2 story; after he shoots and kills Oda Nobunaga, he comes across a number of peasants beset by raiders who've found out already that Nobunaga is gone; later Fuuma Kotarou reveals that he released the news specifically to accelerate/cause the power vacuum that Nobunaga had been preventing.
- Much of the Undead plotline in WarCraft III: The Frozen Throne follows Arthas, Sylvanas, and the Dreadlords fighting over who controls the Scourge now that the Burning Legion has been defeated.
- At the end of World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King, much effort is spent averting this. The players beat the aforementioned Arthas in his Lich King form. Turns out this is a really bad idea, as all the undead he controlled are now free to kill everything, so someone must become the Lich King and sit on the Frozen Throne forever. The only Hand Wave given to why exactly the Scourge would be more powerful without its leader, how it could just take over the world by running rampant even after most of its operations and command structures have been taken apart in earlier quests, is that the small part of Arthas that is still human (not good mind you, but prideful and obsessed with creating Fallen Hero scenarios) may have been holding him back - which should mean all those dire plans of his that everyone has been fighting have actually been deliberately useless stalling. It's not very convincing if you think about it.
- There is a better explanation for those who are familiar with Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. (Why this wasn't the official explanation is anyone's guess.) When the Lich King started losing power, most of his former forces in Lordaeron were taken over by the Dreadlords. With the Lich King destroyed, the entire remainder of the Scourge forces in Northrend would similarly be vulnerable to Dreadlord control, and by this time we knew that Varimathras and Mal'Ganis (at the very least) were still out there. And the Dreadlords are much more interested in using the Scourge to conquer Azeroth than either Ner'zhul or Arthas was...
- Sengoku Basara had this happen twice: Oda Nobunaga's death at the hands of Akechi Mitsuhide led to the rise of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, whose death at the hands of Tokugawa Ieyasu led to the rise of Ishida Mitsunari.
- Dragon Age: Origins
- This is the core theme of the series; "Yesterday's slaves become today's oppressors." When the "Old Gods" fell, the Tevinter Imperium took over. When Andraste broke Tevinter's back, her acolytes set up the Thedas equivalent of Christianity around her, and we all know how that ended. When the Chantry started to lose their grip on the peoples' faith, the Orlesians "lent" them a hand and became the papal capital. When the blights started and the Orlesians couldn't suvert their way out of a horde of endless killers, the Grey Wardens used fear and steadfast determination at the same time to effectively take over the world by gaining the power to conscript ANYONE, even kings. And when Corypheus comes along and fucks with the entire world order, nearly breaking it under his rule, a small band of heroes known as The Inquisition acquires more power in a single year than any of the previous factions have in their first fifty.
- Implied to be a force at play in the expansion Awakening. The Architect existed before the Blight, but was unable to attempt to "awaken" other Darkspawn until the Archdemon arose and commanded them to the surface. However, while the Archdemon lived, it essentially put out interference, keeping the Architect's plans from bearing fruit. It was only after the Archdemon's death—a time that should have sent the Darkspawn back underground—that the Architect was able to begin his mission. Within a few years of the start of the Blight, his schemes have snowballed to the point that one NPC mentions that the Darkspawn army is greater than or equal to a Blight's strength—something unheard of in the world previously.
- The Architect also created his own rival the Mother, a Broodmother that did not appreciate her newfound "freedom" since she believes that existence without the song of the Old Gods is unbearable. The plotline of Awakening is about the Warden Commander getting dragged into their Enemy Civil War.
- Several characters consider this to be the fate of Caesar's Legion in Fallout: New Vegas if Caesar dies. While he does have a successor in Legate Lanius, without a charismatic leader to hold the Legion together it will inevitably crumble back into the warring tribes that it was forged from. This is a problem, as the Legion was definitely a lesser evil, owing to the safety and discipline it brought to the formerly anarchic lands of Arizona.
- In Mass Effect 2, Shepard kills the vast majority (including the leadership) of Omega Station's Blue Suns, Eclipse, and Blood Pack - the station's three major crime syndicates - to save Garrus from them. Come Mass Effect 3: Omega, it is revealed by Aria that their deaths triggered a massive power struggle by the lesser gangs. Eventually, a group called the Talons came out the victor, with a new morally-respectable leader in Nyreen Kandros.
- This is what happens in the strange secret ending of Demon's Crest that you get by beating Phalanx early, before he's marked on the map. Firebrand hasn't assembled the Crest and thus lacks the power to rule in Phalanx's place, so he takes off, leaving the Ghoul Realm in anarchy.
- In Valis II, Megas steps into the power vacuum created by the death of Rogles.
- Batman: Arkham Knight shows two aspects to this trope. In the immediate aftermath of Joker's death, Gotham's violent crimes (and crime in general) take a nosedive. For the better part of year, it's never been so peaceful. However the Joker was actually a mitigating factor of sorts to the other criminals in the city, keeping them fighting amongst themselves. Now with that obstacle gone, the villains can unite to take down their mutual enemy. So they wreak terror on Gotham together, on an unprecedented scale, to rid themselves of the Dark Knight once and for all.
- Mortal Kombat X: Word of God confirms that several factions in Outworld are at war with one another in an effort to fill the void left by Shao Kahn's defeat in the previous game; while new character Kotal Kahn is currently taking his place as Emperor, it's been confirmed that he won't be Emperor for the entire game.
- In the events leading up to the game by way of the Mortal Kombat X comic series, Mileena had actually become the Kahnum of Outworld, as was her place, but her tyrannical rule was loathed by the citizens of Outworld, partly because she was incompetent in ruling it. So Kotal Kahn, one of her advisers, took advantage of the situation by overthrowing Mileena, but she then instigates a rebellion in a bid to retake her throne, tearing the realm apart. The civil war ends with Mileena biting the dust, but her arcade ending reveals that she found an entire army of Mileena clones made by Shang Tsung that she can control telepathically. She uses them to reclaim Outworld.
- In the end of the story mode, with Quan Chi dead and Shinnok depowered so severely that eventually he's reduced to a living head by a corrupted Raiden, the Netherrealm falls into chaos with demons fighting amongst one another for dominion over the realm. Liu Kang's Arcade ending reveals that he beat the Oni into submission, and he and Kitana end up taking the throne by becoming the Netherrealm's co-rulers, since any hopes of returning to the living world are gone.
- The incomplete and unreleased Daredevil video game would have featured The Kingpin faking his death in order to create a power vacuum in Hell's Kitchen. After the city's gangs devastated one another to become the new top dog, Kingpin would have made his return and finished them off.
- Injustice 2: This is precisely what happens after Superman's Regime is overthrown by the Insurgency in Injustice: Gods Among Us. With the totalitarian government preserving order through fear out of their way, supervillains come out of the wood work rallying under Gorilla Grodd's Society to wreak havoc on the world. To make things worse, superheroes have been spread very thin as those who didn't join Superman ended up being killed by him, leaving Batman with very few allies left to fight against this new menace. And if that wasn't enough, Brainiac joins the fray, taking things Up to Eleven as he's known to collect cities and destroy planets, and was responsible for Krypton's destruction, thus being indirectly behind the events of Injustice: Gods Among Us.
- Lampshaded in The Order of the Stick, where Haley is convinced not to kill her former employer and leader of the Thieves Guild Bozzok because of this trope.
- Following K'Z'K's death in Sluggy Freelance, at least two other demons have tried to fill the power vacuum. Skip is trying to find a piece of K'Z'K he can use to restore the real thing, while Meander has set up a cult to do insect based world conquest in her own way.
- In 8-Bit Theater, the "heroes" kill both the mob and the city guard of Onrac. However, this is subverted, in that they realize that they are the only people in charge. This doesn't last long.
- Discussed and then Subverted in Schlock Mercenary. Ennesby states that their recent actions in Haven Hive will create an evil power vacuum. Instead it sucked Shep's mother to the top.
- Though how evil he was is debatable, this becomes the case for Baron Klaus Wulfenbach's Empire in Girl Genius post-Time Skip. Various Sparks and nobles all fight for territory and power, with some of the major factions being Klaus' son Gilgamesh (in control of the vastly-reduced Empire), the Knights of Jove/Martellus von Blitzengard, and the as-yet-unseen Queen of the Dawn (who may be an aspect of The Other).
- In The Gamer's Alliance, when King Renu dies in the First Age, his kingdom becomes a battleground for rival factions until the Mullencamp cult led by Sydney Losstarot defeats the other factions and takes over. Demons take over the previously villainous Yamato Empire, rally behind four different hordes and begin fighting against each other when their master, the dark god Mardük, kicks the bucket after the Cataclysm in the Third Age.
- This happens within the first few arcs of Worm, and is partly the fault of the protagonist. On her first night as an attempted superhero, she runs into a superpowered gang boss and defeats him, decapitating his gang and causing the other villains in the city, scenting blood, to move more openly. His second-in-command begins a bombing spree without him to hold her back.
- After Shredder died in the 2000s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, our shelled heroes had to contend with a literal city at war in the Second Season, with The Mafia, the Foot Clan, and the Purple Dragons fighting to take control of Shredder's empire. In that case, Shredder's adopted daughter, Karai, became the new Shredder. In season four, the series was left with no central villain since the Utrom Shredder, Ch'rell had been exiled to a frozen asteroid by the end of the third season finale. This left the turtles free to take part in a variety of adventures in this Shredder-less fourth season (Karai did take up Shredder's mantle, but was defeated quite decisively in a duel with Leonardo). The power vacuum was filled again in the fifth season when the ancient Demon Shredder was resurrected again. Note that Leonardo mentions this trope almost word for word to justify aiding the leader of a former enemy faction just to get some order back in the city.
- In Justice League, when Darkseid was killed by Superman by leaving him to die in Brainiac's exploding asteroid base, a civil-war erupted in Apokolips between Granny Goodness' forces and those of Virman Vundabar. This was deliberately maintained for several seasons by the Justice League to prevent a united Apokolips from threatening Earth. This came to a halt when Tala resurrected Darkseid. When Darkseid returned to Apokolips, they ended the war right then and there.
- Transformers Animated actually begins with Megatron apparently dying at the hands of Optimus Prime (with a little help from Starscream) and Starscream appointing himself leader... just before everyone else abandons ship as they were about to crash. Starscream later gets Lugnut and Blitzwing on his side, but when Megatron gets back, he's pretty pissed and takes revenge on the usurper. The other Decepticons are quick to re-affirm their loyalty to Megatron. Though Lugnut's loyalty never wavered to begin with. He continued to believe that Megatron was still alive, which actually was the main cause behind Megatron's return.
- An example presented as history, in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Keldor's original defeat led to a war called the Great Unrest, where several warlords formed a loose alliance in an attempt to overthrow the fledgling kingdom. Exactly how it ended is not revealed, but presumably, there was a decisive victory for the royal army.
- Jackie Chan Adventures
- With the defeat of Shendu and his return to a helpless statue, everything seems fine, until Jade blows Shendu to slag with the Dragon talisman. At this point Uncle (who of course blames Jackie) says that since Shendu has been destroyed a new, stronger darkness can take his place. Cue Shendu's extended family!
- Averted come the end of season three. Shendu is revived into a physical form, but immediately has his 12 talismans taken away, reducing him back to his harmless statue form. The talismans and he are then locked behind a vault in Section 13. While Shendu is technically still on the board, the fourth season introduces Tarakudo, and the fifth season brings in Shendu's Kid from the Future. Shendu himself isn't really a player again until the Grand Finale.
- In one episode of The Fairly OddParents!, Vicky loses her job as Timmy's babysitter only for Timmy's Too Dumb to Live parents to replace her with an arguably more evil or just as evil demonic babysitter. Gary and Betty weren't eviler. They were just so annoying Timmy would rather endure Vicky.
- Happens in The Spectacular Spider-Man after a three-way gang war manages to wipe out the criminal empires of Tombstone, Silvermane, Dr. Octopus and Hammerhead. The vacuum is quickly taken over by the Green Goblin, who had helped manipulate events for this purpose. This was even pointed out by Captain Stacy, who noted that "Nature abhors a vacuum."
- One Adventure Time episode had Finn defend a village of house people from an obnoxious green ogre and teach him how to feel empathy. Unfortunately, with the ogre out of the way, their much worse predators called "Why-Wolves" (like werewolves, except more intelligent and inquisitive) terrorize the villagers thanks to the ogre not releasing "Obnoxygen", which is lethal to them.
- In Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Charmcaster managed to overthrow the tyrant Adwaita at some point. Unfortunately, her fellow rebels immediately waged war among themselves in a bid to take over.
- The future of the Legion of Superheroes second season was a peaceful utopia thanks to the Legion having defeated all evil and brought peace. When a new evil finally did show up in the form of Imperiex no one was prepared and he easily conquered most of the universe.