"I don't care if The Hulk could defeat the Man of SteelOne way to show just how nerdy some characters are is to have them idly debating who would win in a hypothetical fight between two fictional characters. The debate can be made even more pointless and absurd if the characters are non-violent or not even owned by the same company. It can also be a debate about things other than characters, such as Enterprise vs. Star Destroyer, Pirates Versus Ninjas, etc. The key element is pretty much discussing Cool vs. Awesome. A Sub-Trope to Seinfeldian Conversation (most of time, because in some cases the hypothetical case can involve characters that really exist within the work's universe). Compare Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny, which is when it actually happens instead of being conversed. Not to be confused with a Cavemen vs. Astronauts Debate, which, while there may be overlap, is about a debate/discussion that gets out of hand.
I'm gonna rearrange your face if you continue to debate
Whether Logan's claws could pierce Steve Rogers' shield!"
I'm gonna rearrange your face if you continue to debate
Whether Logan's claws could pierce Steve Rogers' shield!"
— Ookla the Mok, "Stop Talking About Comic Books or I'll Kill You"
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Anime and Manga
- A two-parter chapter of the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Striker S manga revolves around the younger members of Riot Force 6 arguing about who of the RF6 aces would win in a fight.
- A Superman/Batman story had two kids arguing over who would win in a fight between the two heroes, eventually deciding that since neither of them would give up, they'd both lose, which is why it would never happen. It then reveals that Superman was listening, and dragged Batman out to hear it as well, because he thought they were pretty clever. Batman says they were wrong, he'd win. Even without kryptonite.
- Daring Do: Page and Header discuss assorted mythological mashups, like who would win in a fight between between Nightmare Moon and Tirek. They're still at it in the Expanded Universe, adding Fuergott, Krastos and the Assembler into the mix.
- From Superhero RPF about the members of the Young Avengers:
Sassgardian (Loki): Who do you think would win in a fight? Billy (Wiccan) or David (Prodigy)?
- In Stand by Me the boys discuss whether Mighty Mouse could beat up Superman.
Teddy: Mighty Mouse is a cartoon. Superman is a real guy.
- The Other Guys has a really quite hilarious scene where the two protagonists debate over a fight between a tuna and a lion.
- Related example in Fight Club, where the two main characters are discussing which historical figure they'd like to get into a fistfight with and how they think they'd do. The one favors Abraham Lincoln for his reach and wiry strength. The other cites Gandhi.
- In Roadie (a comedy featuring Meat Loaf in the starring role), Travis Redfish would often cite these when "Brain locked"; essentially, a Non Sequitur Thud with a very delayed thud.
- Parodied in the Diogenes Club story "The Gypsies in the Wood", where Uncle Sat's Faerie stories have an insanely complicated class structure as an essential part of the text, leading to kids have similar arguments about orders of precedence.
- Animorphs had Jake and Marco arguing over Batman vs Spider-Man, the point of contention being whether or not Spider-Man's webbing would slide off Batman's body armor.
Live Action TV
- Apart from the combatants being real-life people, this trope is the entire point of Deadliest Warrior.
- The Big Bang Theory:
- One episode had the characters reworking the battle of Gettysburg with additional units ranging from real-world military units to Hindu gods. The humor value of the discussion was ruined somewhat by a lack of research that had Sheldon accepting Leonard's spurious argument that Middle-earth's Orcs "are magic" and so would defeat Superman, who is vulnerable to magic.
- There's a scene where the guys discuss the bravest person in the Marvel Universe.
- The guys start to debate whether the White Witch or Billy the Kid would win a fight in a card game, and are persuaded to buy the cards to find out, telling themselves off for doing so.
- My Name Is Earl. Episode "Robbed a Stoner Blind": In the closing discussion, Randy and Earl philosophize who would win in a fight:
Randy: Hey, Earl.Earl: Yeah, Randy.Earl: I don't really think they'd fight; they're both pretty peaceful.Randy: What if they had to, like in that head-chopping-off movie where there could be only one?Earl: Muppets.Randy: Okay. Muppets or Fraggles?Earl: Muppets.Randy: Okay. What about Muppets or He-Man?Earl: Just He-Man, or He-Man and his friends?Randy: Just He-Man.Earl: Muppets.Randy: That's who I had.
- In the Saturday Night Live recurring sketch "The Superfans", the guys sit around discussing who would win things, with the answer always being "Da Bears!" (Or if it's basketball, "Da Bulls!") Or complete non-sequiturs like Mike Ditka vs. a hurricane.
- Happens a few times on Corner Gas. Davis debates with a few people about who would win if Star Wars fought Star Trek. Also, Hank apparently has these types of debates with himself inside his head, such as who would win if a werewolf fought Wanda.
- One episode in the second season of Game of Thrones has two redshirts having a humorous debate regarding who is the best knight in the realm, and their discussion is a Fandom Nod to debates that fans of A Song of Ice and Fire have had.
- This is a Running Gag on The Finder. The hangout for the main characters has a chalkboard specifically for hypothetical debates. See the page image for one example.
- There is a small running gag on NCIS about the rest of the team talking about who would win in a fight-resident Memetic Badass Jethro Gibbs and such crazy proposals as The Terminator and Batman... and Memetic Badass that he is, the rest of the team puts the odds on Gibbs.
- Angel is the Trope Namer for Cavemen vs. Astronauts Debate. The astronauts don't get weapons, but the cavemen have fire. It winds up turning into a metaphor for the episode's events; cavemen win, which is a Tear Jerker in context.
- One episode of Drake & Josh has the duo arguing who would win in a fight between Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff. Helen sides with Drake about it being Lohan, saying that Duff can't take a punch.
- Warehouse 13 had two nerdy characters discussing what sounded like a complex topic but was actually about whether Vulcans or Klingons were stronger. One one of them was able to calculate that Vulcans were 47% stronger.
- In Flash vs. Arrow, Barry/The Flash is infected with a Hate Plague so Oliver/Arrow is called in to handle the situation. During the fight, Cisco and Caitlin insist that Barry would win since he has superpowers, while Diggle maintains that Oliver's experience and superior tactical abilities would win out. The fight basically ends in a tie.
- The song "Hot Girl in the Comic Shop" by Tripod devolves into an debate about who would win a fight between Spider-Man and the Hulk.
- "Stop Talking About Comic Books or I'll Kill You" by Ookla the Mok:
- This is a staple question in Yahoo! Answers "Comics & Animation" section.
- ScrewAttack has Death Battle, a web series involving one-on-one matchups against characters all over the realm of fiction.
- StarDestroyer.net: Who would win in a fight between the Enterprise and a Star Destroyer? That would be the Stardestroyer of course.
- WWWF Grudge Match, a now-defunct site about pop-culture icons fighting for supremacy, and sister site Comic Book Universe Battles.
- Reddit's /r/whowouldwin.
- Mass Effect:
- As part of the idle banter between your squadmates in the first game, Wrex is fond of asking them who they think would win if they took on Commander Shepard in a fight.
- In the Mass Effect 3 DLC "Citadel", your squadmates argue over who of their two Krogan members would win in a fight: Wrex, a thousand-year-old battlemaster, or Grunt, a genetically engineered perfect warrior. In the same DLC, the aforementioned banter with Wrex becomes a Brick Joke if you take Wrex and Ashley / Kaidan to fight Shepard's clone.
- Brothers in Arms: Allen, Garnett and Leggett have a Superman vs. Batman argument.
- Command & Conquer fans asked about a fight between Kane and Tanya. Kane's actor answered:
Joe Kucan: We'd both win. We'd end up smoking a cigarette in the morning.
- Shin Super Robot Wars: While Domon Kasshu is busy chasing Master Asia and the Devil Gundam in Scenario 33 of the Earth Route, the rest of the group lightly place bets on whether the God Gundam could kick the R-1's butt.
- Happens all the damn time in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes with NPC chatter.
Who'd win in a fight between a Quinjet and a Chitauri Chariot? Wait, whaddya mean I missed that?!
- Also in Lego Marvel's The Avengers:
- Minecraft: Story Mode has Olivia asking whether Jesse would want to fight either 10 zombie-sized chickens or 100 chicken-sized zombies. She will also present this to Lukas but he only answers if Jesse prevented him from leaving the shelter in Episode 1.
- 8-Bit Theater has several examples:
- The Fourth-Wall Mail Slot Twinkin' Out With Red Mage ran several columns dedicated to Red Mage answering "who would win" fights suggested by readers, starting Twinkin' Out 7: Superfight Spectacular. Reader suggestions ran the gambit anywhere from comic book heroes and villains to real life celebrities and historical figures, including Lincoln versus John Wilkes Booth and Gandhi versus Martin Luther King Jr. The feature concluded its 2004 run with a Superfight elimination tournament that pitted Wolverine against Link (the latter of which had just defeated a three-man team of Pyro, Superman, and God to reach the finals) in the final match which remains unconcluded five years later.
- And don't forget the Flash animations featuring matchups between the webcomic's characters (removed from the official website, but still available here.
- Also, once the comic spent two installments with Red Mage and Black Mage discussing on who'd win, Batman or Doctor Doom. Black Mage won the argument by pointing out that Villains Act, Heroes React, therefore Batman would only be fighting under conditions Doom chose; and that "Doom's machinations are such that even if Batman wins, his victory will somehow further Doom's schemes".
- Another strip had the two discussing on Bullseye vs. Green Arrow, with BM arguing against precisely shooting several arrows at once — until he received it himself.
- In the early Homestar Runner cartoon Interview Strong Bad asks Homestar who'd win in a fight between The Cheat and Strong Sad. Homestar says that even if The Cheat had both hands duct taped behind his back, and duct tape over his eyes, and Strong Sad had a spear, he would put his money on The Cheat.
- The Nostalgia Chick and her friend Nella spent a whole episode debating Picard and Kirk, respectively.
- The Simpsons:
- In one episode Bart asks Milo, the owner of a new comic book shop in town, who would win: The Thang or the Mulk. Milo asks Bart what he thinks. Bart is impressed that a comic shop owner would encourage discussion rather than pontificating.
- In another episode, a group of nerds are tying up the phone line because some guy thinks Captain Picard is better than Captain Kirk and naturally this just won't stand.
- In "Marge vs. the Monorail" when Lyle Langley asks Lisa's class if they have any questions, one kid asks him if Superman could outrun the Flash. When Langley specifies he wants questions related to the monorail, another kid asks him if the monorail could outrun the Flash.
- In Doug's 1st Movie, two cops debate who would win in a fight between Batman and Superman.
- In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Jaime and Paco discuss who would win in a fight between Superman and Batman, if Batman didn't have Kryptonite.
Jaime: Trick question! Batman always has kryptonite!
- Parodied in Family Guy.
Peter: Lois, Parker Lewis can't lose. Don't even try and make him lose 'cause it's just going to be that much more embarrassing for you when you realize that he can't lose.Chris: Would he win in a fight with Batman?Peter: Well, Chris, think about what you're saying; Parker Lewis can't lose. Heretofore, Batman can suck on that.
- Adventure Time: 'Theoretical fightonomics' is taught in a worm college Finn and Jake visit. Werewolf Queen always wins, apparently.
- Invoked and double subverted in Regular Show episode "Replaced". Mordecai and Rigby try to prevent their replacements from finishing their work by having them debate who would win in a fight between a two-headed dinosaur and a robotic Bigfoot. They both agreed that a robotic Bigfoot would win. Then Mordecai gets into a debate with them on why a two-headed dinosaur would win. It still didn't stop them from working.
- The Venture Bros.: Henchmen 21 and 24 debate who would win in a fistfight between Lizzie Borden and Anne Frank.
- In the Freakazoid! episode "Freak-a-Panel" among the non-Freakazoid-related questions Freakazoid is asked at a Q&A panel is "If Superman fought Fred Flintstone, who would win?"
Freakazoid: I would guess Superman. Unless Barney Rubble snuck up and hit him with a kryptonite club or something.
- The Amazing World of Gumball:
- In "The Origins", Gumball asks Darwin who would win in a fight between a shark and a thousand piranhas.
- "The Roots" opens with Gumball and Darwin debating who would win if a crocodile fought a bear.
- In an example suspiciously similar to the Stand by Me example above, author Thomas Harris said two guys were arguing on his Web site over who would win, Hannibal Lecter or Mighty Mouse, and one guy said Lecter because Mighty Mouse wasn't real.
- Early Christian missionaries in Scandinavia claimed that one stumbling block in converting the Norse to Christianity was that they kept asking if Jesus could beat Thor in a fight.
- A modern variation points out which one was nailed to a cross and which one has a hammer.
- An early selling point of Mixed Martial Arts was that it was a test of which martial art was the most effective in one-on-one combat with minimal rules.