This can be any sort of plot where an organized competition isn't a simple TournamentArc, but rather has a behind-the-scenes plot going on. Sometimes the tournament starts out by looking like a mere framing device for the story, then is shown to have a sinister behind-the-scenes purpose. Other times the behind-the-scenes plotting is used as TheReveal. Most of the time, this trope is used as either a setup for a SummationGathering or the BigBad's climactic attack on the hero. If there isn't some deeper hidden purpose to the tournament (and there really is just a FramingDevice at work) then this isn't the trope you're talking about.

Regardless of the exact type of tournament this often results in [[DudeWheresMyReward whatever reward was promised]] to the winners [[TheCakeIsALie being a ruse]]. At the worst the tournament is UnwinnableByDesign. Sometimes its sinister purpose is derived from [[StatusQuoIsGod perpetuating the competition]].

Since this is often presented as TheReveal, '''[[SpoileredRotten spoilers ahoy!]]'''
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!!Examples

[[AC:{{Anime}} and {{Manga}}]]
* The ''Manga/DragonBall'' franchise has had many "World Martial Arts Tournament" arcs over the years. Sometimes they would lead to a bigger arc, and sometimes not. Specifically, the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai (the first one in the series) is a straight up tournament. At the 22nd, ItsPersonal between the Turtle and Crane RivalDojos, at the 23rd the tournament is [[spoiler:hijacked by Ma Junior, the son of [[SatanicArchetype Piccolo Daimao]], at which point it becomes a battle for Earth's fate]] although Goku still [[LetsFightLikeGentlemen treats it as a normal tournament]]. As of the 25th Tenkaichi Budokai, the tournament is interrupted by [[spoiler:[[SealedEvilInACan the revival of Majin Buu]]]], which leads directly into the final story arc of the series (this one example goes FromBadToWorse when [[spoiler:Vegeta, in the middle of a FaceHeelTurn, has the wizard Babidi warp them back to the Tournament arena and starts slaughtering the spectators in order to goad Goku into fighting him]]).
* ''Manga/{{Naruto}}'':
** The Chunin Exam arc features a single-elimination tournament as the final stage of the exam. Initially, the idea is that the contestants will fight each other and that the judges determine who should be promoted based on the performance. However, it is soon explained that that function is more of an in-universe ExcusePlot to showcase competition between villages. Said competition affects incoming business for each village. The tournament is ultimately interrupted before the end of the first round by an invasion. In addition, the only competitor to gain the 'prize' of promotion to chuunin was a guy who surrendered in his one fight.
** Besides the invasion plot and the display aspect, Gaara and Neji use the tournament for personal grudge matches. While killing is not encouraged in the tournament, it's not prohibited either
* ''Anime/RevolutionaryGirlUtena'': The winner of the Rose Duelists' tournaments will hand over the godlike power of Dios to Akio, then be promptly disposed of.
* ''Manga/{{Shitsurakuen}}'': Whoever collects all six seals in Exaclan will... actually, never mind, the ending is too confusing to tell, but it's certainly not about rounding up a six-girl harem.
* ''Anime/MasterOfMartialHearts'' is a big time (and convoluted as hell) case of this. The tournament revolves around the "Platonic Heart," a mythical jewel that can supposedly grant any wish to a girl who acquires it. Every girl who loses the tournament is {{Mind Raped}} into an EmptyShell state before being conditioned into sexual slavery and sold. The entire thing is being conducted as a CycleOfRevenge by the daughters of two sisters who wound up on the losing end of a similar tournament organized by Aya's father, which Aya's mother won. The two cousins want the same thing their mothers got put through to happen to Aya as revenge against both of her parents, and they don't care about what happens to the other contestants.
* ''Manga/MahouSenseiNegima'' had a tournament whose hidden purpose was to gather evidence of the existence of magic and flood the media with it.
* Every TournamentArc in ''Anime/YuGiOh'' to the point where a filler arc has a character comment in-story how refreshing it is to go to a tournament that's ''only'' a tournament (it still manages to get hijacked by a villain's scheme, but at least that wasn't in the host's plans).
** The first series three tournaments were Duelist Kingdom (Pegasus wanted Kaiba's technology and the Millennium Items to resurrect his wife), Battle City (Kaiba wanted the God Cards and to beat Yugi, while Marik wanted revenge against Yami, who he mistakenly believes killed his father), and the kC Grand prix (said hijacked tournament.)
** The GX Tournament in ''Anime/YuGiOhGX'' is a regular tournament, until the ArcVillain uses it to brainwash people and consolidate his cult's power. Amon Garam/Arian Gecko in season 3 also hosts a very small tournament, but it's used to overload the ArcVillain's Bio Bands. (Though this also endangers duelists' lives, as the Bands cause real damage to those dueling.)
** Naturally, the Fortune Cup of ''Anime/YuGiOh5Ds'' is a ruse set up by Godwin to round up the five Signers for their fated battle with the Dark Signers next arc. The WRGP later on is innocuous enough, but the villains use it as a catalyst for their plans.
** And the World Duel Carnival in ''Anime/YuGiOhZexal'' is used to gather [[PlotCoupon Numbers]]. Tron and his kids take over the tournament and defeat people as part of Tron's plan to get to, and ultimately take revenge on Dr. Faker for his past betrayal.
** Finally, the Maiami Championship of ''Anime/YuGiOhArcV'' is largely a testing ground for Reiji to spot duelists to be his Lancers - people who will protect their Dimension when vanguards from Academia attack. The Battle Royale round of the tournament was made specifically to cover up Acamedia attacks in the city, while the Youth and Junior Youth portion of the tournament fight off the invaders. It's deconstructed in that once the Lancers had assembled after the end of the Junior Youth Battle Royale, the tournament is canceled, having fulfilled its purpose.
* ''Manga/YuYuHakusho'':
** The first tournament in the series is the Rando plot, where the competitors to be trained by Genkai wound up fighting single-elimination as the final qualifier. Yusuke is actually sent there to ''keep'' the serial killer technique-collector Rando from becoming her successor, not to win... although Koenma also calculated that this is the only way Yusuke was ever going to get any proper training. Meanwhile, if someone who couldn't be trusted with her skills ''had'' won, Genkai intended to kill him in a 'training accident.'
** The Dark Tournament Saga is already pretty, well, [[DarkerAndEdgier Dark]], but then it is revealed that the ''true'' purpose is for betting and power brokering behind the scenes.
** The later Demon World Tournament is a complete aversion of this trope, especially considering [[{{Hell}} where it takes place]].
* The "D of D Tournament" in ''Manga/KenichiTheMightiestDisciple'', where both the bad guys (who organized the event) and the good guys are engaged in various activities behind the scenes which are as important as the tournament itself. The climax of these background activities takes place simultaneously with the final tournament battle between Kenichi and Kanou.
* ''GGundam'' has the Gundam Fight, which occurs regularly every four years. However, in the 13th Fight we have the Devil Gundam getting loose and trying to destroy the planet, while several nations vie to find and take control of it for their own purposes.
** The prequel manga ''Fight 7th'' shows that the 7th Fight had its own problems, with a terrorist trying to destroy the space colonies using a WaveMotionGun-equipped mecha based out of Antarctica, this leads to Japan's Shuji Kurosu and his allies [[spoiler:later known as Master Asia and the Shuffle Alliance]] tracking him down and defeating him, but being disqualified from the Gundam Fight because they couldn't make it to the finals in time.
* ''Manga/FairyTail'': The Grand Magic Game Arc reveals around ''four'' things going: [[spoiler:a conspiracy in the background involving a TimeTravel plot to [[HitlersTimeTravelExemptionAct kill the legendary dark mage Zeref]] before he does all the bad stuff he is infamous for, some mysterious girl wandering around, who turns out to be Lucy from a BadFuture ''and'' some unspoken danger that is going to destroy the place unless the ''second'' conspiracy succeeds in ''its own'' plan.]]
* During ''Manga/OnePiece'''s Dressrosa Arc, Donquixote Doflamingo sets up a tournament for the Mera Mera Fruit [[spoiler: Which belonged to Luffy's by-then dead brother Ace.]]. It's obviously a trap to ensnare Luffy and derail him from the plan to destroy Doflamingo's operations, as the Navy is waiting outside the Colosseum and losers are turned into enslaved LivingToys by a power-user on Doflamingo's payroll. [[spoiler: the trap fails when Sabo, Luffy's thought-to-be-dead ''other'' brother switches places with him, allowing Luffy to attack Doflamingo's castle undetected. Then Usopp undoes the curse, Sabo wins the Mera Mera Fruit, and all of the other losers join Luffy to destroy the Donquixote Pirates, making the tournament Doflamingo's worst move ever.]]
* In ''Manga/{{Gamaran}}'', the Great Competition of Unabara is apparently a way to find out which of the 31 chosen schools is the strongest and which son will inherit the fief. [[spoiler: Is actually a ruse orchestrated by Jinsuke Kurogane, so that his Muhou School can reinforce its lines with strong martial artists, eliminate the daimyo with nearly all his sons and use the surviving one as a puppet king so that they can use Unabara's riches to build up an army and challenge the Bakufu.]]
* In ''LightNovel/ACertainMagicalIndex'' ''New Testament Vol 4'', Baggage City holds the Natural Selector Tournament, a contest that uses the entire city as the battlefield. The city's rulers were planning to recruit the winners into their plans to declare war on Academy City. The tournament gets interrupted by the city being invaded by both the organization GREMLIN and the Kihara family. Interestingly, instead of the main characters entering the tournament, it is a bunch of people we have never seen before. [[TheHero Touma Kamijou]] doesn't show up to help until near the end, saying he caught wind of the situation here.
* ''[[Anime/VariableGeo Variable Geo]]'' centers around a tournament for [[WorldOfActionGirls combat waitresses]], where the grand prize is 10 million yen, a piece of prime real estate, and a year's worth of free advertising for the winner's establishment. If all of that sounds [[TheCakeIsALie too good to be true]], [[AvertedTrope it isn't.]] The prize is a lure to bait unsuspecting entrants into being test subjects to determine which of them [[spoiler: will make [[GrandTheftMe a suitably powerful host]] for Miranda's disembodied spirit]].

[[AC:EasternEuropeanAnimation]]
* The ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adventures_of_Captain_Vrungel Adventures of Captain Vrungel]]'' cartoon is about an international regatta with the purpose of smuggling out a stolen sculpture.

[[AC:{{Film}}]]
* In ''Film/TheQuickAndTheDead'', the gunfighting tournament is primarily a way for the BigBad to eliminate any threats to himself and intimidate any of the locals who might try to oppose him. He knows that there is an assassin gunning for him and that the Kid is itching to take him on. The tournament is a trap for them to face him in the open where he can gun them down in a duel. It is implied that if anyone proves too much of a threat, his Mooks will gun that person down.
* In ''Film/EnterTheDragon'', the hero participates in the tournament, but was actually sent there to uncover the evidence about the tournament organizer's criminal activities. The tournament organizer also attempts to recruit the winners into his organization as hired muscle.
* In ''Film/DOADeadOrAlive'', the villain's tournaments are used to collect fighting information to create sunglasses that turn the wearer into a master martial artist.

[[AC:{{Literature}}]]
* ''Literature/TheOdyssey'': When Odysseus returns to Ithaca, he orchestrates an archery competition for the suitors that have been vying for his wife's hand while he was away. Odysseus wins the tournament, being the only man strong enough to string his old bow in the first place, to prove his identity. He and his son then proceed to massacre all the suitors who showed up for the tournament.
* ''Literature/KnightsOfTheFortyIslands'': The team that first comes to control all 40 eponymous islands will be sent back home... NOT. Actually, the game is rigged so that no team can ever achieve victory, and the kids can never ever go home again.
* Creator/FredSaberhagen's {{Literature/Berserker}} novel ''Berserker's Planet''. A cult on Hunter's Planet regularly has tournaments where the contestants fight to the death. Little do the competitors know that the ultimate controller of the cult is a disabled Berserker which is doing its best to carry out its programming to destroy all life.
* Doubly subverted in ''Literature/HarryPotterAndTheGobletOfFire''. Everyone thinks its a ruse to kill Harry during the contest. In truth, it is rigged for him to win, so he can be captured at the moment of victory. Note that the Tri-Wizard Tournament isn't evil by design, just hijacked by the villains in that particular instance.
* ''Literature/DeltoraQuest - Book IV: The Shifting Sands''. Leif, Barda and Jasmine enter in a tournament for money to continue their travels. The problem is, the tournament is a trap. After Jasmine wins, they are kidnapped by the evil Shadow Guards as a method of keeping the population quiet.
* "The Mystery Knight", one of the ''Literature/TalesOfDunkAndEgg'' to ''ASongOfIceAndFire'', takes place during a tournament that's [[spoiler: secretly a gathering for conspirators trying to start a second Blackfyre rebellion]].
** Also, supposedly the infamous Tournament at Harrenhal was reported to be one of these. The only reason King Aerys, who had not left his castle for some years, attended, was because he had been told that his son Rhaegar was gathering the nobles of the realm to plan for a coup. This story has not yet been confirmed.
* The Tourney of PiersAnthony 's ApprenticeAdept series definitely turns out to have aspects of this. Even according to the publicly known purpose of the Tourney, it's the best way for an enterprising serf to rise in status; but in Stile's case it makes an even bigger difference, because the sentient Game Computer has plans that involve the fate of two worlds, Proton and Phaze. Also, the final fight between Stile and his enemy the Red Adept consists of a contest, which Red loses and therefore gets banished to the worlds outside Proton.

[[AC:LiveActionTV]]
* This happened a few times on ''Series/TalesFromTheCrypt'', where a contestant in a contest murders the odds-on favorite, but finds out too late that the "prize" for winning is death. In one case, an actor literally kills for a chance to play Theatre/{{Hamlet}}, but discovers that he was really auditioning to play Yorick [the skull]. In another case, a BeautyContest contestant kills another, but discovers that the pageant is "Miss Autopsy".
* In the ''Series/{{Leverage}}'' episode "The Queen's Gambit Job", the heroes set up -- and then rig -- a blitz chess tournament as a way of distracting the mark of the week during a theft.
* In the pilot episode of ''Series/MetalHurlantChronicles'' the drones serving the dying king of a planet are holding a tournament to decide his successor. Except that once someone wins, they transplant the old king's brain into his skull.

[[AC:OralTradition]]
* The archery tournament in the various versions of RobinHood. It's simply a ruse for the bad guys to flush out Robin, knowing full well that he would not resist entering the tournament and winning it, especially if the prize is a kiss from Maid Marian.

[[AC:TabletopGames]]
* ''{{Champions}}'' campaign ''The Great Supervillain Contest''. The Crimson Claw sets up a competition among the Earth's greatest supervillains to determine which one is the most powerful. The prize is the Emerald Eye of Azog, which will increase the winning villain's already great abilities. What the villains don't know is that once the winner bonds with the Eye, it will take him over and turn him into a gate that will allow dangerous demons to come to Earth.

[[AC:VideoGames]]
* The plot for ''VideoGame/MegaMan6'' involves a certain Mr. X, who is totally not [[HijackedByGanon a disguised Dr. Wily]], organising a fighting tournament for robots with prizes for the laboratories developing them; Mega Man has to stop the eight finalist robots of the contest after Mr. X reprograms them to TakeOverTheWorld in his stead.
* This is pretty much ''VideoGame/TheKingOfFighters'' in a nutshell, most prominently during The Orochi Saga (''[='95=]''-''[='97=]'') and The Tales of Ash (''2003''-''XIII''), where the primary motive of the baddies is to [[SealedEvilInACan unseal]] {{Orochi}} (although for varying, but no less equally evil purposes). This has happened so frequently that characters start [[LampshadeHanging lampshading]] why there can't be a regular fighting tournament that ''doesn't'' serve as the instrument for TheEndOfTheWorldAsWeKnowIt every once in a while.
** The NESTS Sage ('99-'01) was also this too, but got complicated due to in-fighting of the members who each had their own little plan.
** Interestingly, the first ''FatalFury'' game, which is the first to portray the ''King of Fighters'' tournament, simply portrays the tournament as being a legit one held by Geese with no sinister motive behind it. It's only Terry, Andy and Joe who have an ulterior reason for entering - to get close to Geese. Geese himself doesn't interfere with the tournament at all and only makes his move, upon realising who the heroes are, after the final.
** ''Fatal Fury 2'' then plays it completely straight, with Krauser simply hosting a tournament in order to find someone worthy of a good battle. He even enters it himself (beating all the characters left out of the sequel enroute to the final)!
* ''VideoGame/BloodyRoar'' can be best described as ''Franchise/{{X-Men}}'' meets ''VideoGame/TheKingOfFighters''. Each tournament revolves around diplomatic tensions between zoanthropes and humankind due to experiments being conducted on zoanthropes, behind the scenes. The tournament itself is merely a front to [[ShmuckBait lure the strongest of their kind]] to be test subjects, by pitting them against others of their kind with legendary beast power... or genetically enhanced super beings.
* Chapter 3 of ''VideoGame/PaperMarioTheThousandYearDoor'' has Mario enter the Glitz Pit fighting arena, as the champions belt has the next [[PlotCoupon Crystal Star]] for a buckle. A few fights in, Mario starts getting strange text messages, fellow fighters are disappearing mysteriously and the Crystal Star turns out to be a fake.
* In ''VideoGame/StreetFighterII'', Bison's holding a tournament to get revenge on the characters who ruined his plans in ''Alpha 3''. In ''VideoGame/StreetFighterIV'', Seth from S.I.N. (Shadaloo Intimidation Network, the weapons division of Shadaloo) holds a tournament to gain data (and Ryu) to complete his BLECE Project, an unknown bioweapon. The tournament in ''VideoGame/StreetFighterIII: New Generation/2nd Impact'' subverts this, though. The Illuminati is judging people the world wide to see who is fit to live in the new utopian world foretold in their ominous prophecy, but their leader [[DarkMessiah Gill]] is a WellIntentionedExtremist.
* ''SNK vs Capcom: Match of the Millenium'' has a tournament that actually turns out to be a project by both Geese Howard and M. Bison to gather powerful warriors to make into a clone army. The victor of the tournament would go on to fight three clones (Leona, Kyo, and Haohmaru, if you're playing as a Capcom character; or Morrigan, Zangief, and Akuma for an SNK character) before fighting Geese and Bison, then finally, either an Orochi-empowered clone of Iori, or a Satsui no Hadou-empowered clone of Ryu.
* ''VideoGame/{{Tekken}} 2'': Kazuya announces the King of the Iron Fist Tournament 2 to get rid of Heihachi and his other enemies. ''Tekken 3'': Heihachi announces the King of the Iron Fist Tournament 3 to lure Ogre out in order to capture him using the contestants as bait. ''Tekken 4'': Heihachi needs to get the Devil Gene to become immortal so he announces the King of the Iron Fist Tournament 4 to lure Kazuya and Jin out to obtain the Devil Gene. ''Tekken 5'' Jinpachi announces a King of Iron Fist Tournament in the hopes that someone will defeat him before he is overtaken completely by an evil spirit and destroys the world. ''Tekken 6'': Jin announces a new King of Iron Fist Tournament as part of the Mishima Zaibatsu's war against G Corporation, which is run by his father Kazuya, all of which was necessary to make an ancient monster physical in the real world and allow him to battle it to the death.
* ''Persona4Arena'' is set up as a tournament hosted by Teddie. [[spoiler: It's a Midnight Channel dungeon for Labrys, one of Aigis's sisters. Even more intriguing is the Malevolent Entity who's playing with the whole thing. What seems to be a mere spin-off may actually be a Wham Episode for the entire ''Persona'' series if it's confirmed that he's Nyarlathotep, Big Bad of ''Persona 2'' and Chessmaster of the first game. There's even another theory that makes him the Bigger Bad of ''Persona 3'' and ''4''.]]
* Interestingly, the original ''VideoGame/MortalKombat'' both is and isn't "just a tournament" (following some RetCanon post-movie). It "is" in the sense that the gathering of the warriors for the tournament itself has no pretense other than just a gathering of warriors but it "isn't" as well because each individual tournament counts towards a rolling total of wins or losses. Should a realm lose ten times consecutively in Mortal Kombat, then they forfeit the right to hold back an invasion by the realm they were competing against.
** [[VideoGame/MortalKombatII The sequel]] abides by this trope fully, though. The second tournament is merely so Shao Kahn can divert the Earthrrealm warriors' attention away from their home realm by keeping them preoccupied in Outworld. His goal is to resurrect Sindel in Earthrrealm, the consequence of which plays out in [[VideoGame/MortalKombat3 the following sequel]]. After ''Mortal Kombat II'', the entire concept of the TournamentArc is dropped from the series altogether, symbiotically rendering this trope moot as well.
* The first ''VideoGame/GuiltyGear'' took place during the Sacred Knights Tournament, where the contestants were [[spoiler: to be used by Testament as blood sacrifices to revive the Commander Gear, Justice.]] Averted for later games, which opted for more complex plots.
* ''[[VideoGame/AdvancedVariableGeo Advanced V.G.]]'': Like the OVA it loosely inspired, the VG tournament is simply a means for [[BlondesAreEvil Miranda]] [[CorruptCorporateExecutive Jahana]] to field test her GattacaBabies, by pitting them against the tournament entrants. Which also allows her to do away with any opposition she faces from those such as Yuka, or Miranda's daughter, Reimi.

[[AC:WesternAnimation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/TeenTitans'' episode "Winner Take All". A number of teen superbeings are teleported to an unknown location, where the Master of Games invites them to take part in a Tournament of Heroes that will determine which of them is the greatest young hero on Earth. What the competitors don't know is that when they lose, they're trapped within the Master's jewel so he can use their powers.
* The World Grand Prix from ''[[WesternAnimation/{{Cars}} Cars 2]]'' was actually organized by the Lemons just so they can zap all of the competing race cars with a deadly radiation cannon as an attempt to discriminate all alternative energy sources and force everyone back to using gasoline.
* The ''WesternAnimation/JackieChanAdventures'' episode "Re-Enter The J-Team" is a parody of ''Film/EnterTheDragon'', including the heroes entering a tournament to get evidence of criminal activity and the tournament being used to recruit people.
* In ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyEquestriaGirlsRainbowRocks'', the Dazzlings manipulate the school into holding a BattleOfTheBands competition, so that they can [[EmotionEater feed on the conflict]] to supercharge their powers and take over the world.

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