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The Worf Effect

"He's the guy who's here to act tough so new characters can wreck him when they're introduced thus proving to the rest of us how amazing they are! Like Wolverine or Worf."
Red Mage, 8-Bit Theater

Want a quick way to show how dangerous one of your unknown characters is? Simple, make him do well or win in a fight with a character that the audience already knows is tough. This establishes him as willing to fight and marks him as sufficiently dangerous.

For new villains, it's common for them to pick up the toughest character among the heroes and hurl him across the room or otherwise take him out in one blow, thus showing that they are the real deal. When used sparingly and appropriately, this is a powerful way to establish said villain as a serious and credible threat, leaving the audience thinking, "Wow, he just beat up Worf! He must be bad news!" Of course, if the same character is repeatedly used as the target of displays like these, it can result in Badass Decay, and if abused, his toughness could become an Informed Ability.

Worf Had The Flu is sometimes used to justify Worf's poor showing. The Worf Barrage is when an "ultimate" attack or technique is defeated this way instead of a character. If a new villain introduces himself by beating the previous villain, that's Make Way For The New Villains (a subtrope). When Worf gets beaten emotionally rather than physically, that's Break the Badass.

Compare Badass in Distress and The World's Expert on Getting Killed, both of which can overlap. Killing off a Red Shirt or two is a slightly different method for achieving a similar effect. If the character beats up a whole army's worth of Worfs, Conservation of Ninjutsu is probably at work. Contrast Fight Dracula, in which a writer has a pre-established character (as opposed to a new one) demonstrate their awesomeness by fighting Dracula (but not necessarily winning). See also the analysis page for some side analysis of this trope.

Named for the tendency in Star Trek: The Next Generation for hostile creatures to do that very thing to Worf.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • One of the cause-and-effect-chain DirecTV commercials goes thusly, with lines 5-7 exemplifying this:
    When your cable TV company keeps you on hold, you get angry …
    When you get angry, you go blow off steam …
    When you go blow off steam, accidents happen …
    When accidents happen, you get an eye patch …
    When you get an eye patch, people think you’re tough …
    When people think you’re tough, they want to see how tough…
    And when people see how tough, you wake up in a roadside ditch …
    Don’t wake up in a roadside ditch

    Fan Fiction 
  • In general, whenever there's a new character(s) created by the author or characters from other works in Crossovers to show how tough they are by easily defeating the oppoenents that the canon characters have trouble with.
  • Original-creation and self-insertion characters in Ranma ½ fanfiction are obligated to prove their worth by making mush out of Kuno when they first meet him. And although he's more of an Iron Buttmonkey than a Worf, that's only on a relative scale: even someone at the bottom of the Ranma totem pole is still superhumanly strong, fast, and skilled by real-world standards.
  • Similar to the Jurassic Park examples below, Rise of the Galeforces applies this trope to the Turret Raptors, who are quickly defeated by even the youngest members of the main cast. Ditto for the local Eldritch Abominations, e.g. Dynacide.
  • Epic from Disgaea: Jewel of the gods is an example. He's introduced by taking out an immortal, giant enemy that Laharl, Adell, and Mao couldn't beat. After that he get's dominated by Etna, a reaper, Baal's minions, Baal's right hand man Fried, Baal, Raiden, and Alex, mixing in some Butt Monkey status along the way.
    • Well, what would you expect from a Prinny?
  • Deconstructed in the Pony POV Series with Spitfire. The repeated failures of the Wonderbolts to actually succeed in their heroic attempts begin to take their toll on her confidence and send her into a Heroic BSOD. Rainbow Dash snaps her out of it by reminding her that, even if the Wonderbolts can't do the actual heroics, they are still heroes because they inspire ponies who can.
    • Dark World!Spike gets hit with this pretty bad for a while, as his superior strength and flame breath are one way or another made ineffective — Tom is literally Made Of Diamond, the blackbirds could regenerate near instantly, and by the time the Valeyard was out of his protective shield, Spike had already been disabled (he lampshades the last one). However, the trope is ironically subverted during the fights with Odyne!Cruelty and Nightmare Eclipse/Paradox, the two strongest opponents in Dark World, as Spike manages to be as effective as everyone else.
  • Abyssgreymon in the Digimon fanfic Transcendence: Digital Curse worfs everyone from the first two digimon adventures plus two other champions without even being touched. He apparently does this without wanting to or trying.
  • Each of the Big Bads in the Azula Trilogy prove themselves to be threats by being able to match or defeat one of the heroes — Azun defeats Zuko in Heart, Wei Ming goes toe-to-toe with Azula in Path, and Jian Chin defeats Aang in Soul (though the latter two were possessed by true Big Bad Zhan Zheng at the time, so this trope more works for him than them).
  • In The Troll War series, after Equius Zahhak resigns from the human starfleet and then explains his reason: "I have been...reviewing your documentaries and the history of your spaceships, John. And I will not be the 'Worf'." John Egbert convinces Equius to stay, not by telling him that Star Trek was fictional, but by promising he won't let the fleet "Worf" him.
  • In Uninvited Guests, this is invoked by Hitsugaya in order to beat Aizen's Plot Armor. Enter "the Dark Lord Wolfington," who is definitely not Komamura in a mask.
  • Inner Demons: Twilight manages to turn Princess Celestia to stone by accident even before her Face-Heel Turn, which gives a good idea of just how powerful and dangerous her Queen persona will later be. Which is proven true when one of the first things Queen!Twilight does is completely wipe the floor with Princess Luna.
    • The first time we see one of Queen!Twilight's lieutenants fight the protagonists, Scootaloo not only beats Rainbow Dash in a race, but leaves her unconscious in a ditch. Said lieutenant goes on to successfully fight the rest of the Element bearers and their allies, and very nearly defeats them, only being stopped by Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie's Elements evolving to armor.
    • Speaking of which, an inverted example — every time one of the Element bearers succeeds in getting their elements to evolve to armor, they easily Worf whatever they're fighting. The only exception is Rarity's offscreen fight with Trixie, which she loses, but even then it's implied that the fight was even enough that Queen!Twilight had to step in to end it.
  • In Naruto Mysterious Power, when the Sakura from the future confronts the main characters at the end, she demonstrates her power by proceeding to defeat Temari, Naruto, Fu, Hinata and Haku in quick succession, despite Naruto attacking her with over 50 different jutsu using his shadow clones and Jinchuriki chakra, which she easily blocks and nearly kills the real one with just two raikiri in each hand. The fans were immensely shocked and compared her to a Dragon Ball Villain. Earlier, the main villian the Sasuke from the same future, demonstrated this by using His Susanno to fight off a transformed Gaara, Yugito and Killer Bee at once
  • In Naruto and the Last Vampiress, Orochimaru shows off how powerful he is by defeating Sasuke, Naruto and Hinata, despite the first two being much stronger than normal and the third being turned into a super powered vampire. Despite having his spine repeatably broken, being set on fire and suffering an exploding 1000 years of death, he just would not die.
  • In Percy Jackson; Olympus Divided, Artemis suffers this, being brutally defeated by, out of all people, Apollo.
  • In Moon Heir Part 1, to demonstrate how dangerous Ragnarok is, their first big action in the series was to destroy Camp Half Blood taking down baddass demigods like Nico, Annabeth, Clarisse and Thalia.
  • Ultimate Sleepwalker: The New Dreams features an example between the villains Bullseye and 8-Ball when they fight after being hired by rival crimelords who are having a Mob War. In the official Marvel comics, Bullseye is an Ax-Crazy sadist who's seen as one of the most dangerous street-level villains in New York. 8-Ball, on the other hand, is a classic example of C-List Fodder. When they fight, Bullseye plays up his supposed A-list status and mocks 8-Ball for his supposed C-list status, but 8-Ball wins the fight and ends it by knocking Bullseye's severed head into a trashcan like a billiard ball.
  • The Powers Of Harmony: First time we see Cetus in action, she defeats Celestia, and kills Grovi.
    • Likewise, Eclipse's first fight has her curbstomping Applejack, Granny Smith, Big Macintosh, and their Guards, even killing Strauss.
    • And the two of them working together easily defeat all of the remaining Mane Six and all their Guards, including killing Elo.
  • A Future of Friendship, A History of Hate: When Ruinate gets loose, he quickly overpowers the Princesses and takes the Mane Six (minus Twilight) prisoner. And then, when they actually have a chance to use the Elements on him, he's already attuned himself to them and shrugs the attack off. It takes help from Amity to give the ponies a chance to defeat him.
  • In Mass Effect Human Revolution, the AIA's Blacklight commandos have gotten their arses handed to them easily in three separate encounters with Adam, Johann and Hannibal.
  • Justice League of Equestria:
    • Mare of Steel: Rainbow Dash/Supermare's first fights with General Zod and Brainiac both go poorly for her, showing just how dangerous both villains are.
    • The Princess of Themyscira: Diana's first fight with the Alicorn Amulet-powered Ares, while evenly matched at first, still ends with her beaten into unconsciousness and needing to be saved by Soarin'.
  • In A New Order the first fight after Haruka's awakening as Sailor Uranus is also the first operation Jadeite is put in charge of. Haruka is several years older than the other senshi, trained in hand-to-hand combat, and an outer senshi (meaning she's supposedly stronger than the inners). In spite of this, the battle ends with her near death and in the hospital for several chapters though she did manage to kill the youma she was facing.
  • In the Jackie Chan Adventures and W.I.T.C.H. crossover fanfic Kage (part of Project Dark Jade, like Shadows Awakening below), The Queen briefly manages to take control of Jade and uses shadow-based Combat Tentacles to capture Caleb and the Elemental Power-equipped Guardians, with perhaps the only reason they survived being Jade retaking control when she saw her reflection in a puddle.
  • Shadows Awakening: The first fight between the J-Team and Daolon Wong's new dark chi warriors ends with the heroes being forced to retreat and escape.
    • Jade's tribe of Kunoichi Khan inflict this on Won's wizard Shadowkhan in turn, showing just how effective they are as Mage Killers.
  • In the first chapter of Waking Nightmares, one of the Nightmare Dogs (not even a named character) nearly kills Princess Celestia with one unexpected strike. In a later scene, Slenderman kills [RED] Demoman and [RED] Medic in one hit while they're ubercharged. (For non-Team Fortress 2 players, that means they're completely invulnerable.) The Doctor is hit by a verbal version when their enemies reveal that they know who he is... and aren't the slightest bit afraid. Until then, everything that has ever faced him and survived has learned to fear The Oncoming Storm.
  • In chapter two of Bait and Switch and the Foundry mission it's based on, this happened offscreen; only the aftereffects are shown. To drive home how much trouble Starfleet's having in the Beta Ursae sector block, the USS Defiant was badly damaged, but not irreparably, by a rogue Cardassian legate playing warlord.
  • In The Swarm of War, the Overmind’s first mental battle is against Ahzek Ahriman. That’s a ten thousand years old Badass with knowledge and power only surpassed by the Greater Daemons and Primarchs… and he barely manages to flee.
  • Nightfall: When Hades shows up he easily lays out Dave and Rose, and overpowers John and Vriska. With only Vriska and Dave managing to hit him. Jade steps in and brings the battle to a stalemate, and he's later whisked off by one of his "allies."
  • The Infinite Loops will usually play this for laughs, showing how a dangerous threat in canon is curbstomped by competent Loopers. It's been inverted on occasion, though, either to show that a Looper has no idea what they're facing or that things are just that serious.
  • In the Facing The Future Series, Vlad Plasmius and Dark Danny, two of the most powerful villains in the the Danny Phantom series that Danny would normally have problems against are completely overpowered by Danny's feral Super Mode on two occasions. He nearly would have destroyed them both (and himself) if not for Sam talking him down.
  • In Diamond In The Rough, Flandre is subject to this. She agrees fighting according to the spellcard rules, but when the Diamondback's beasts start to cheat, she loses because she refused to disobey the rules.

    Film 
  • Star Trek
    • Worf himself did not escape this trope when it came time for the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation to make it to the big screen. In Star Trek: First Contact, his ship (Deep Space 9's Defiant, a Super Prototype originally designed with the Borg in mind, if you're keeping track) is damaged early on against a massive Borg Cube and he is forced to hang out on the Enterprise for the rest of the movie. But averted for most of the movie when he proceeds to wreck every Borg drone he encounters.
    • Worf's grandfather suffered from this in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, only instead of getting physically beaten up he got owned in court whilst trying to defend Kirk and McCoy.
    • Other Klingons suffer from this tendency, too. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the opening sequence is three Klingon ships, all looking quite badass...and all three get taken to pieces in about ten seconds by V'Ger. For that point forward, Birds of Prey were about as durable as tissue paper.
    • In Star Trek Into Darkness, a bunch of Klingons (of course) ring it in as jobbers to show how powerful John Harrison is.
    • And the Enterprise itself, boasted as one of the most advanced ships in the Federation fleet, gets curbstomped by the Vengeance without even being able to fire a single shot back.
  • Just like his comic counterpart, Wolverine gets this treatment in the X-Men movie series. Magneto, Mystique, Sabertooth, Lady Deathstrike, and the Juggernaut all had their way with him throughout the series to show how tough they are. Good Thing He Can Heal!
    • In X-Men: First Class, When he confronts the First Class, Shaw kills one of them in the conflict. Who does he kill? The guy whose power is gaining the traits he needs to survive in any situation.
  • Terminator:
    • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day we see the T-800 (Arnold), the 6'2" unstoppable killer robot who for the whole last movie was one of the most menacing things ever put to film, get thrown around like a rag-doll by the considerably shorter and skinnier T-1000. Mainly at the end of the movie, though; earlier in the film he tends to keep the upper hand. For the most part, if its a gunfight, the impervious T-800 will win. If it's a fistfight, the intangible T-1000 will win.
    • Even more pronounced in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, in which the even stronger T-X repeatedly defeats the Arnold Terminator in direct combat. He gets blasted inactive by a bolt from her plasma cannon, thrown through walls, gets his head knocked off and reprogrammed by her, and only defeats her by blowing himself up as well.
  • The Jurassic Park movies gauges the danger-levels of characters against the T-Rex (the most well-known dinosaur even before the movies came out) in order to let the audience know how tough they were:
    • Muldoon takes on a T-Rex early in the first film and holds his own, but is then easily outsmarted and killed by the Velociraptors in order to establish them as more of a threat. Ironically, the T-rex later kills the Velociraptors.
    • A T-Rex is killed by the Spinosaurus in Jurassic Park III to show that it's tougher.
  • Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings is a powerful wizard, respected and feared by all. It is thus a very big deal when he is terrified of the Balrog in Moria and showcases the Balrog's power and the tragedy of Gandalf's defeat. Though he doesn't fight it, Legolas' reaction to the Balrog is this: when the camera cuts to his face after Gandalf says the name of the new threat, the elf prince who is unflappable and composed throughout the trilogy, who stares down massive armies, mighty trolls, and rampaging mumakil without batting an eye, is absolutely terrified.
    • Gandalf gets Worfed quite a bit throughout the movies. In The Fellowship Of The Ring, he's curbstomped by Saruman, though he gets to pay that one back in the sequels when he Comes Back Strong. The extended edition of The Return of The King has the Witch King shatter his staff, in the theatrical cut he 'merely' expresses apprehension at the thought of having to fight him. And in The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug, he's easily defeated by the Necromancer/ Sauron.
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi had his fare share of worf effects through the Star Wars series. Obi-Wan was killed the first time we got to see Darth Vader in action, was getting beaten by Darth Maul (alongside his mentor) until Maul picked up the Idiot Ball, and was beaten by Count Dooku twice.
  • In Enter the Dragon, we get introduced to Williams' ability to kick butt. He then faces the Big Bad, Mr. Han. It is the first time we actually see Han in action so naturally, this trope in invoked.
  • In The Rock, the elite SEAL team sent in against the renegade Marines is quickly ambushed and massacred, leaving behind only the two non-SEALs that were accompanying them.
  • In the 2011 film Warrior: We see Mad Dog crush his sparring partner with a spinning back elbow, only to be crushed himself by Tommy the first time we see him fight.
  • This is played with on a meta level in Wishmaster. The evil Djinn's victims include people played by horror film icons such as Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street), Tony Todd (the eponymous Candyman), and Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th). It's a little hard to believe that this casting was not deliberate.
  • In Pacific Rim, when Crimson Typhoon is introduced, its impressive combat record is listed along with a description of its ace pilots. When Cherno Alpha is introduced, it's revealed that not only is it a Mark 1 Jaeger, making it the oldest still functioning, but it's the largest and heaviest Jaeger around. It's also stated that the perimeter it was assigned to went 6 years without being breached by a Kaiju attack. During the Hong Kong attack, both Alpha and Crimson get to show off their skills, but are completely destroyed by the two attacking Kaiju, effectively spelling out just how dangerous they must be to eliminate such powerful Jaegers with so little effort. Gipsy Danger's ability to defeat both by itself (albeit one at a time, after they had split up) illustrates just how powerful it is, despite the rust it has in some inconvenient places.
  • From Van Helsing, Anna by Aleera, repeatedly throughout the movie. The above problem actually becomes an issue, as it turns Anna into a Faux Action Girl. For what it's worth, she gets even.
  • In Die Hard 2, Colonel Stewart's men kill the SWAT team sent to protect Chief Controller Barnes when he goes to activate the antenna array in the Terminal Annex. Only McClane is able to kill all of them to prevent them from killing Barnes, too.
  • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, anyone who faces against the titular villain is easily dealt with. Falcon suffered a Curb-Stomp Battle while in his wing suit, and Natasha, who put up one hell of a fight, was quickly overwhelmed by his combat ability and shot in the shoulder. The only exception to this is Steve, who early on defeated Batroc and an entire elevator filled with SHIELD agents entirely on his own. It's shown that Steve and the Winter Soldier are equals in one-on-one combat, due to being the only physically enhanced humans in the entire film. This is all to build suspense, as while Steve is the only one capable of defeating the Winter Soldier in combat, he is also the least capable person of facing against him, due to the Winter Soldier's true identity as Bucky Barnes, Steve's long-thought dead best friend.

    Literature 
  • In the Dragonlance series, kender are supposed to be immune to fear. Consequently, they're almost constantly having a strange, new, unfamiliar feeling to let the reader know something is so scary that even they got scared!
  • Feral of Soon I Will Be Invincible is a rare literary example of this. A ferocious tiger-man who's ended the entire careers of supervillains, and his entire plot importance consists of being beaten up by a baseline human, being blown away by a mad scientist, being knocked out by a mad scientist, being beaten up by mecha-insect aliens in a flashback, and being beaten up by a mad scientist again.
  • In the later novels of Alan Dean Foster's Flinx and Pip series, Pip suffers from this trope. Any time a serious threat to Flinx presents itself, the very first thing it does is restrain or otherwise deal with his minidrag.
  • The Giants in The Heroes of Olympus. Despite being stated to be the greatest threat Olympus has ever faced and three revealed being so far created as direct counters to the most powerful Olympians they have all be defeated fairly easily. Possibly justified in Porpheryion at least was not at full power. That and Percy is just that badass, so a villainous example of Overshadowed by Awesome?
  • In the final book of the original story arc in Warrior Cats, the newly-introduced villain Scourge kills Tigerstar when all of the Clans are gathered, for spite, to intimidate the Clans into complying with his demands, and (we learn later) for revenge.
  • The Star Wars Expanded Universe has the Nohgri, silent-stalking little commando people who are very good fighters. The same trilogy which introduces them has them accept Leia as the Mal'ary'ush, the Lady Vader, so some of them become her bodyguards. Very nearly every work set after that has them either inexplicably not present or getting tricked, out-tracked, and out-fought by everyone. Shada Du'kal even wonders if their reputation is exaggerated, although she at least is a Mistryl shadow guard, only had to get past one of them, and had a very novel way of tricking him. This is taken to ridiculous depths in New Jedi Order.
    • For Karen Traviss, the Jedi are hateful incompetent death-deserving people fit only to puff up her Mandalorians; hence they either convert, sit quietly and accept really pathetic Hannibal Lectures while being very impressed, or are curb-stomped. Every. Time. A connection to The Force which binds all things, shaves reaction times, oxygenates blood more efficiently, provides telekinetic abilities, enhances strength, and gives battle precognition sufficient to deflect blaster bolts into enemies with the narrow blade of a lightsaber is no match at all for the perfect warrior people with their beskar'gam armor!
    • What's the best way to show how strong a villain in the Star Wars Expanded Universe? Make him toss some Jedi around the room with his eyes closed and one hand behind his back. What's the best way to show how serious the situation is? Kill a few Jedi. In books, games, and comics, if a Jedi isn't a protagonist, he's fucked. Especially if he happens to meet Sith, Mandalorians, Grievous, Cad Bane, or extra galactic invaders.
    • In Legacy of the Force, they have their villain stab Kyle Katarn through the chest. Thankfully, this get's reversed, and Kyle's shown much more respect, in the Fate of the Jedi books.
    • Played rather straight in the Revan prequel to Star Wars: The Old Republic. The Sith Emperor casually kills a number of major supporting characters from Knights of the Old Republic, disfigures Revan and leaves him as little more than a charred mess. He is then kept alive as a power source for the Emperor, admittedly having some small influence over the Sith's mind which does help end the Great Galactic War, and is rescued during the game. But only so it can happen to him again at the hands of Imperial characters because his 300 years of imprisonment have driven him mad.
    • In Galaxy of Fear, Darth Vader is this once or twice. But it's used pretty carefully, considering - he's not part of the regular cast and never actually gets defeated, but he's definitely brought in so the reader can go "Whoah! Vader Curb Stomp Battles everyone! This guy must be tough!" In Army of Terror Eppon holds his own against him in a lengthy fight, countering his best moves but having his countered in turn, and that fight never concludes. The literal Darth Vader Clone is also on nearly-equal footing and is only beaten because he has no lightsaber, but that might be expected.
  • In the Star Trek novel The Return, Worf is pwned by, of all people, the risen Kirk, using a Klingon's best weapon. Consider who these novels are written by...supposedly.
  • Peter David uses this sparingly in Star Trek: New Frontier, mainly because the Excalibur's version of Worf, Kebron, is a veritable walking landmass. But being used sparingly, it's much more effective: When someone can topple Kebron, you know they're trouble.
    • In addition, in David's Starfleet Academy novels, guess which Klingon gets in a fight with which Brikar on their very first day there?
  • Harry Potter:
    • Mad-Eye Moody, master duelist who's put more Dark wizards in prison than any other Auror, has never won a serious fight in the text. True, his opponents are always either Voldemort's hardest core or Voldemort himself, but you'd think he'd save someone's butt given his street cred. He is killed in the first few chapters of the seventh book, for the sole purpose of showing how serious business everything now is, embodying this trope. In one of the movies, we at least get to see him briefly knock over a random Death Eater using some sort of magic from his cane.
    • John Dawlish is even worse: he was introduced by Dumbledore praising his combat skills before warning him that he was no match for him, and since then he has lost every single fight he had, getting trounced faster than anyone could see by Dumbledore, either summarily manhandled by Hagrid or terrified into helplessness when he beat up a group of Aurors that underestimated him, defeated off-screen by Dumbledore a second time, defeated off-screen by the Order of the Phoenix to lay a false trail, summarily curbstomped by an extra, and when he was sent to take Neville's grandmother hostage...
    Neville: Little old witch living alone, they probably thought hey didn't need to send anyone particularly powerful. Anyway, Dawlish is still in St. Mungo's and Gran's on the run.
  • The Literature/Goosebumps novella, Attack of The Mutant, has three ridiculous examples in a row. First, the Galloping Gazelle, an animal themed superhero with Super Speed, gets beaten by villain Molecule Man when the latter trips him and morphs into a leopard. The Gazelle runs in fear, while the titular mutant kills Molecule Man in the form of a pre-teen girl. Finally, the Mutant himself is destroyed when the protagonist Skipper tricks him into becoming a liquid(he can't reassemble himself in this state). And Skipper is twelve-years old.
  • In The Wheel of Time Nynaeve in canon is one of the strongest channelers in the world. When a channeler comes along who is the best at something, this is often established by noting that they're better at it than Nynaeve. This isn't as egregious as it might be, because she has very little training, and raw power is often shown to not be equal to skill or technique.
    • Balefire let the authors do this without actually losing the characters.
  • There are many examples in Steve Alten's Meg series where a Megalodon defeats equally large and dangerous predators (to the point of bordering on Villain Sue), but only the opening scene of the first novel qualifies (wherein Meg eats a Tyrannosaurus rex) because the marine reptiles are too obscure to the general public to be this trope.
  • Possibly lampshaded in Warhammer 40,000 novel, Daemon World. When a group of Word Bearer Chaos Marines board his ship, Arguelon Veq's first target is Vrox, an Obliterator (which, for the uninitiated, is a mutated monstrosity twice the size of regular Chaos Space Marines and can spawn weapons and armor from his body). After he kills Vrox with relative ease, he even comments that he was the least threatening of the Chaos Marines on board.
  • Discworld,
    • In Guards! Guards! Carrot goes into the Mended Drum to break up one of their regular bar fights. The other Watchmen with him expect to see bits of him start flying out at any moment. Instead, Detritus (a troll, which on Discworld are made of solid rock) is the first to fly out. Unconscious. Softer targets follow. (It was previously established that Detritus was employed at the Drum as a Splatter. Like a bouncer, but people thrown by a troll tend not to bounce.)
    • In Sourcery, the Sourceror Coin upon entering the Great Hall of the Unseen University asks the wizards who is the most powerful of them, so that he can duel him. Skarmer Billias, an eight grade wizard, steps up, seeing the challenge as a joke. After displaying his most powerful spell, creating a miniature of Maligree's Wonderful Garden, Coin counters by making the garden life-size and bringing all the wizards with him into it. After this display he incinerates Billias with a single thought.
  • In Animorphs, David subjects team leader Jake to this during their duel. Up until this point, Jake's tiger has been one of the most lethally efficient morphs the team has. Despite having a year's worth of battle experience David doesn't, Jake still loses. Badly.
  • Septimus Heap: Nicko Heap in Physik is mentioned to be strong enough to tackle virtually anybody, but when he tries to attack Queen Etheldredda, she just swats him out of the way.
  • Anyone Roran is sent to replace in Inheritance Cycle. Especially with Queen Islanzadi near the end of the final book.
  • The Dark Tower is an example of this trope taken Up to Eleven. Mordred Deschain, who was recently born (not just introduced, but actually born a few hours earlier) was able to take out Randall Flagg, Stephen King's ubervillain, within about three pages.)
  • Dune: The Imperial Sardaukar are the most terrifying and deadly warriors in the known universe, and their only real purpose is to establish how much deadlier the Fremen are by getting their asses handed to them at every encounter. When they attack Paul's sietch, they take devastating losses fighting Fremen who are not even warriors. The Sardaukar are never a real threat when Fremen are involved.

    Mythology and Folklore 
  • Tigers in East Asian fables tend to get sacrificed to show the badassery of various characters.
    • Oni are almost always depicted as wearing a tiger skin on some part of their body, or at least tiger-teeth jewelry.
    • The first thing Sun Wukong does when released from his imprisonment is beat a tiger to death and fashion a kilt out of his skin. Before that, he beat up the entire army of the Celestial Court. The really powerful beings that finally subdued him weren't in the mood to interfere until personally insulted or their IOUs were tapped.
  • In Greek Mythology, Ares is recognized as the god of war and embodiment of physical power, but tends to lose or get humiliated in nearly every story about him. He gets trapped and humiliated by Hephaestus when Ares and Aphrodite (Hephaestus' consort) are caught in an illicit love affair, fled from the monster Typhon, lost a boxing match to Apollo, wounded by the hero Diomedes with the aid of Athena forcing him to flee the battle, defeated by Hercules twice and stripped of his armor in one instance, locked in a bronze jar by the Aloadae requiring Hermes to free him, and defeated in battle with Athena by a rock to the head. Athena had a habit of humiliating him and Zeus generally said he was worthless. His humiliations are usually attributed to the Greeks preferring the more intellectual Athena and Ares being hated for embodying the chaotic and destructive nature of warfare. Oh, and Nike (Victory) usually sided against him. (In fact, the only gods who liked him were probably Eris, Aphrodite, and maybe Hades, seeing as deaths caused by war gave him more subjects.)
  • Aphrodite was the goddess of beauty and love, and the most beautiful goddess of them all, yet a lot of really beautiful women or semi-goddesses were frequently compared to her and proclaimed to either equal to her or even surpass her. For instance, there is Psyche who charmed Eros, Aphrodite's son, or Helena, Zeus's illegitimate daughter, whose beauty contributed to enhance, if not cause, the Trojan war.
  • Indra from Hindu Mythology started off as the supreme god, lord of heaven, and ultimate warrior. He rose to power by saving the world from an endless drought through slaying the demon snake Vrtra after breaking through the demons 99 fortresses with his Vajra or thunderbolt. Nowadays it's hard to find a story where he does not lose his throne, is completely ineffective in battle, or in some way humiliated. Even his one claim to fame has been retold with either Vishnu having to save him and practically handing him his victory.
  • In Russian Mythology and Tales, the Firebird is a magical creature that is supposedly nigh-impossible to catch. Some stories about hunting the Firebird do portray the hunt as just such an impressive quest, but almost as often the hero catches the avian almost as an afterthought.
  • This happens in virtually every text in Arthurian Legend. Every time a new knight is introduced, they prove how great he is by having him defeat a line-up of more established knights. Gawain gets this a lot, as does Percival.
  • Nearly every Robin Hood Child Ballad is a variation on the plot of a stranger defeating Robin in combat and thus earning his respect and being invited to join his merry band of outlaws. Read or listened to all at once, they become one long catalog of failure, with the great Hood getting his ass handed to him over and over and over. He even loses to Maid Marian.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • WWE has always had a "Big Man Who Loses" for new people to demonstrate their ability over. In the 80s, they used jobbers Dave Barbie and Rusty Brooks. In more recent years Kane has played this role. Sometimes Kane gets pushed and The Big Show or Mark Henry fills in for him.
  • The Undertaker is often the victim of this (as opposed to more conventional jobbing), which causes most viewers who have been watching WWE SmackDown! for more than a few months to conclude that Michael Cole has a very short memory.
    • The Undertaker is so good in this role, he doesn't even have to get beat to prove the new guy is credible. From Yokozuna to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin to Jeff Hardy, the easy way to establish a WWE wrestler as a legit main-eventer has been to have him stare into the Dead Man's eyes and refuse to flinch. (And when Mankind proved himself Taker's equal in psychological warfare, it made him an instant star.)
  • "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan practically made a career out of setting up the Big Invincible Monster for Hulk Hogan.
  • When Brock Lesnar debuted, within a week he was throwing the 350lb Rikishi around like a ragdoll. Within a month he was doing the same to the near-400lb Mark Henry. Within a year he was throwing the 500lb Big Show around with suplexes.
    • Lesnar also got to Worf Effect for The Big Show. Show went from being the Big Man Who Loses to the man who broke Lesnar's — the man who slaughtered Hulk Hogan — winning streak (with a little outside interference) overnight. That was partly because the tag line for the angle was "don't wake the sleeping giant" - a particularly unconvincing version of Worf Had The Flu.
  • Speaking of Mark Henry, that may actually be the best pro-wrestling example of this trope. Henry's been with the company for longer than anybody but DX, Kane, and The Undertaker, yet has been in the 'monster jobber' role for a long time even while being simultaneously pushed as legitimately the world's strongest man. In 2008 he even got his hands on the ECW Championship, and still lost a greater number of matches than any single person on that brand. Then in 2009, they suddenly bring him over to the A-show Raw, switch him to a good-guy role and have him cleanly pin the then-WWE-Champion Randy Orton...only to quickly drop him back down to the losing end of over half of his matches, even while he's a supposed "powerhouse" and the fans couldn't be cheering for him more.
    • Henry might have finally become an aversion. Since the Draft this year, he has been tear-assing through Smackdown, booked like the Juggernaut, culminating in his dethroning the aforementioned Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight Title at Night of Champions. The promos have made heavy mention that it's his first title reign in his 15 year (on and off) WWE career, so we may get a decent run with Henry as champ.
  • When Kane debuted, WWF had several wrestlers Worf Effect for him, most notably Ahmed Johnson and Vader. Using Vader for this was very controversial at the time, as Vader had built up years of monster credibility, and a lot of fans just plain didn't buy Vader being dominated in the ring at all.
  • In a very unusual setup, WCW had Goldberg and Meng Worf Effect for each other. Meng (Haku in WWF/E)would batter Goldberg all over the ring for roughly three quarters of the match, when Goldberg usually tossed opponents around effortlessly. Then at the point where Meng would usually apply the Tongan Death Grip and win the match, Goldberg would rally back, spear, jackhammer, pinfall. The two of them had surprisingly good chemistry in the ring together, and despite Goldberg winning every single battle between them, the fights were popular enough that Little Caesars shot a commercial with Goldberg and Meng putting aside their differences over a pizza.
  • Going into 2010, Beth Phoenix had been de-emphasized as the dominant monster heel due to her angle with "Santina" Marella as well as losing cleanly to other divas on the roster. In order to elevate her to the top of the women's division, WWE had two Worf Effect moments for her:
    • She entered the Royal Rumble and eliminated the Great Khali.
    • Delivered an almighty Glam Slam to the Women's Champion Michelle McCool and became the first person to pin her cleanly in over five months. To this day Michelle still hasn't beaten Beth cleanly.
  • It's a pretty standard formula for starting up a feud over the title. The champion is in a tag team match (sometimes it's a singles match) and the wrestler they want to push will get a surprise win with the champion taking the pin. Usually another tag match will follow with the same thing happening again. Next there will be some kind of #1 contender's match and the wrestler will get his/her official title shot (sometimes they don't even use a #1 contender's match if the wrestler beats the champion in a non-title singles match). However it can go either way whether or not the wrestler actually wins the title.
  • This is a very common way of establishing a new star in wrestling. Have him or her beat an older wrestler that fans know is tough. It doesn't always work, and it can backfire if fans are unwilling to accept the new wrestler as an equal of the older one.

    Roleplay 
Yu Gi Oh East Academy: Skull Knight seems to have been introduced solely for Sigmund to get his official Bad Ass license.
  • Marcus has been subjected to this no less than three times, being curbstomped by Peter, Yikzhekel and Haine.
  • And Denero gets his ass handed to him by David in the latters first duel in the show.

    Sports 
  • In combat sports such as boxing and Mixed Martial Arts, contenders on the rise are often matched up with "gatekeepers," who are reasonably tough veterans of the sport who will not be challenging for the title any time soon. Defeating a gatekeeper gives fighters experience and raises their stock in the public's eye.
    • This works even better - and is even truer to trope - when an aging former champion is used as a gatekeeper. The public recognizes the former champion, but doesn't know he's less capable than he used to be, so when the young gun mops the floor with him they easily believe he's championship material as well.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Used regularly in Warhammer 40,000 fluff and books. If the faction's not on the Codex cover, you'd better believe they'll be getting their asses kicked by whoever is. This can naturally lead to problems when the development cycle leaves factions Out of Focus for years to accumulate a long string of defeats, with no victories to counteract them.
    • Daemon Lord M'kar is a case that Depends on the Writer. Sometimes he's a terrifying threat, or when written by the infamous Matt Ward he exists to show up and get pantsed by the latest new special character needing some badass cred.
    • The most consistently Worfed thing in 40k has to be the the Avatar of Khaine, the physical representation of the Eldar's god of war. To date the Avatar has been killed by two different Primarchs, a Greater Daemon of Slaanesh (via possession, somehow), Marneus Calgar of the Ultramarines, the Blood Angels' Sanguinor, twelve bum-rushing Tyranid Carnifexes, the Blood Ravens four times over the Dawn of War games, and Maugan Ra, an Eldar.
    • Materials can be Worfs too: Adamantium is only ever mentioned in terms of how a given weapon can effortlessly slice through, while Terminator armor has a similar tendency to get ripped apart to show how dangerous a threat is.
    • An odd example is Ollanius Pius, who dates back to the oldest fluff. This mere human Guardsman intervened during the God Emperor's duel against his fallen son Horus, and though slain effortlessly, Pius' death showed the Emperor that his son was past redemption, inspiring him to defeat Horus once and for all. Later retcons tried to be true to this trope, and turned Pius from a human to a Space Marine Terminator to a Custodian Guard, but this is arguably missing the point: Pius' death was meaningful because he was no threat to Horus, yet he acted anyway and was killed for it. As of the Horus Heresy books, Pius is back to being a Guardsman, albeit an immortal warrior and peer of the Emperor instead of a normal human, perhaps as a weird compromise.
    • The Amazon Brigade Sisters of Battle have done this so often, some fans have accused Matt Ward of misogyny.
  • In the Ravenloft product line, a remarkable number of adventures require the player characters to rescue Dr. Rudolph van Richten when he's kidnapped, mind-controlled, committed to an asylum, or otherwise incapacitated...so much so, it mars his reputation as a shrewd and competent monster-hunter, to have gotten himself captured so many times. Probably a side effect of his being the most prominent non-evil NPC in the game setting, whom writers can't resist using in their scenarios, yet must hamstring to ensure he won't outshine the players' characters. This actually gets explained in Van Richten's guide to the Vistani. He's under a Vistani curse that compels him to go into dangerous situations and fail horribly in ways that get all his friends killed, but allows him to survive.
  • The eponymous Champions were shown lying beaten alarmingly often for the world's premier heroes in the game's 4th edition, in the interests of making whichever villain they were trying to promote look nastier. Nowadays the art usually shows the heroes putting up a fight rather than just having lost one.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has the Monarchs. Any time they appear on a card, it's them getting their asses kicked or about to get their asses kicked. This may be something of a backlash against their former Game Breaker status.
  • This is actively subverted in White Wolf's Werewolf: The Forsaken. The Rahu Auspice are the designated tough guy in any pack. What inborn ability do they gain for being Rahu? The ability to tell at a glance whether or not they could take a given opponent in a fight.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, a variation occurs, because of the metagame: If a card turns out to be a Game Breaker, there will be instant answers to it next set, though (as per the rules) there are always answers to everything. Storyline-wise, Lin Sivvi was a Game Breaker in the Masques block; she died at the very beginning of the Invasion block.
  • Exalted: the Bull of the North is recommended for this in Compass: North, while Return of the Scarlet Empress sets up as much of the Fivescore Fellowship as the Storyteller wishes to take out, and especially Chejop Kejak.
  • The first book in the Immortal Handbook series (an Up to Eleven modification of Dungeons & Dragons) shows two monsters battling on the cover. If you look, you can see the Tarrasque cowering on the background.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night
    • Happens especially on Servant Berserker. His Master makes no secret of his true identity as Hercules. He's called The Strongest Servant, he's top-tier in all the main factors that determine a Servant's strength (age, fame, and mana stores of his Master), with his Class enhancing his already insane power, attacks below 'A'-rank barely scratch him, and he revives 12 times before he can be Killed Off for Real. You'd think he's a shoe-in to win the Grail War. However, he is always eliminated half-way through any scenario, all to show how impressive some other character is or has become. Taking from a modified text above..."If those things took down Berserker in less than two minutes, what chance do we have?" Isn't it sad, Bahsahkah? To be completely fair, in the Fate arc, he took out Archer and nearly killed Shirou and Rin and he went out in a blaze of glory in Unlimited Blade Works tanking Gate of Babylon after Gate of Babylon to shield Ilya cementing how badass he actually is.
    • Although he's Hercules, having him become the Berserker Class may not have been Ilya's brightest decision - while it beefs him up in stats, the fact that Hercules already has the greatest physical statistics of any legendary hero makes these boosts minimal compared to most Servants who agree to be compatible with the Berserker class (most are considerably weaker fighters who gain a much bigger stat boost). Trading in your strategic and tactical fighting skills (and possibly a Noble Phantasm or two) in for almost worthless stat gains doesn't exactly make for the most balanced fighter in the conflict.
    • The true master of this trope is Lancer; he is established early on as being a Badass while fighting Archer and almost kills Shiro and delivers a badass one-liner immediately following, but it's all downhill from there. In the Fate route he is killed by Gilagmesh to establish how powerful he is. In Unlimited Blade Works he is forced to kill himself by Kotomine ordering him to do so with a Command Spell, though he does have his chance to shine immediately following this. Finally in Heaven's Feel he dies to establish True Assasin's cred. Although, his death in Heaven's Feel is because Dark Sakura cornered him, meaning he would've died by either True Assassin or Dark Sakura. If Dark Sakura weren't there, True Assassin would've been gone as fast as he arrived.
      • That said, failing to actually kill Shiro, who had next to no fighting and magical ability at the time, shows how terrible Lancer is to begin with, despite Shiro escaping the fight by summoning Saber.
      • His Gag in the Spin-Off Carnival Phantasm is essentially The Worf Effect taken Up to Eleven to Butt Monkey proportions.
    • Ultimate Example: Dark Sakura kills motherfucking GILGAMESH, the strongest guy in the whole series up to that point, while seriously wounded, confused, and scared. Then EATS him, taking his power.
    • Even Gilgamesh suffered from this. At the end of UBW, he and Shirou have an epic fight in Shirou's newly discovered Reality Marble and he loses. Admittedly he wasn't really trying(i.e. wasn't using Ea or wearing armor or taking advantage of his Gate of Babylon nearly as much as he should have been) until it was too late, but as a Warrior-King of Sumer, you'd think he wouldn't be outfought with swords by a guy who specializes in archery.

    Web Comics 
  • As this strip explains, Black Mage of 8-Bit Theater functions as both the Worf and the Butt Monkey. Probably from how he almost always uses one spell, that while powerful, can only be used once a day.
  • In Grrl Power, Concretia makes an entrance, complete with stats, an immediately blows away Mr. Amorphous and Achillies to show how bad arsed she is. Then in the very next page she is taken down by Math to show just how bad-arsed normal he is.
  • In Sluggy Freelance, Bun-Bun found himself used like this during "Dangerous Days Ahead". Getting his butt kicked by the monstrous CEO form of clone!Aylee was a major plot point because in the past, Aylee was not strong enough to win a fight with him.
    • Their first battle ended in a draw as they both collapsed from exhaustion, although Bun-Bun managed to slice off Aylee's arm before the end (it regenerated). The fact that "Aylee" was a clone whose evolution was controlled to make her stronger helps.
    • Oasis sometimes falls victim to this, as while she is a deadly assassin, she also loses against Clone!Aylee, and previously lost to demon-possessed Gwynn.
      • Finally, in June 2009 Bun-Bun and Oasis faced each other in a full-out fight. Who would be the Worf this time? Bun-Bun. It was likely decided by the fact that the storyline at the time was all about Oasis and it would have been cut anticlimactically short if she'd been the one to lose. Bun-bun had taken the advantage when it was solely about conventional means of fighting, but when Oasis' pyrokinetic powers are shown, the fight goes the other way.
  • In one of the prequel books of The Order of the Stick, the Order is about to face a guard monster, only to have it hit Roy with a roll of 2. Upon realizing that it can nail the party member with the probable highest Armor Class with such a low roll, they flee.
  • Sara and the other Time Monks from Errant Story. The author directly invokes the trope in a commentary comic.
    • Sara's jobbing seems restricted to magic-using enemies. For example, she gets caught by an unexpected bind spell, but once Meji frees her she takes down three elves in a handful of seconds.
  • In Homestuck, Equius, the strongest of the trolls, (he punched the head off an ogre with his bare hands!) is easily strangled to death by Gamzee as his first victim. This is arguably both a straight play and a subversion, since Word of God says he could have easily broken the bowstring with his STRONG neck, but didn't because Gamzee is a highblood and therefore had the right to kill him, at least in Equius' mind.
    • Hegemonic Brute. Biggest, toughest, meanest of the Derse agents, save Jack once he gets the ring. His Midnight Crew counterpart Hearts Boxcars devours the heads of his enemies whole and rips huge safes out of brick walls. Yet in the first iteration of the kids' game he's slain off-screen by the relatively harmless-looking and meek Parcel Mistress (using the sword his boss gave her, no less), and in the post-Scratch session decapitated in one sweep by Dirk Strider with only three panels worth of screen time.
  • Generally, the first action of a villain during the Yearly Bob and George Villain Kills Everyone storyline is to take out Protoman, who could be loosely described as a sort of robot Batman.
  • Elliot from El Goonish Shive suffers from this, even though the series isn't focused on combat. He built a reputation as a Bully Hunter and befriended two of the main characters through saving them from bullies and defeated the first antagonist of the strip. He then lost to Grace's brother Hedge, and embarrassingly so having been knocked out after one blownote .
  • Subverted in Girl Genius where a Dreen is described as powerful and scary by Jagermonsters, immediately before being squashed by a mecha of the Knights of Jove. Except in the next panel the Dreen is entirely unharmed and explodes the mecha.

    Web Original 
  • Every Memetic Badass is able mop the floor with God. Or, at least, engage in some sort of contest wherein the winner would be impossible to determine. (Or could not engage in the contest at all except as a form of solitaire.)
  • This would apply to the way Tex dominates Maine, Wyoming, and York in season 9, episode 10 of Red vs. Blue were it not for the fact that we're already well aware of Tex's badassery. To the other Freelancers, however, this is exactly what's going on. The show does a good job of averting this for the most part, however. Those that are skilled all appear completely competent even next to the absolute badasses, but the most badass of them still show clear superiority.
  • This particular effect happens to Yellow in Super Mario Bros. Z. Supposedly the toughest of the Axem Rangers X, not only does he get his first strike turned into a dud, he's also the first one of the group to be killed off when Mecha Sonic comes calling, followed quickly by the other four. Also, this effect happens earlier with the Koopa Bros. A couple episodes earlier, their Chaos Emerald fueled special attack decimated the heroes. Mecha Sonic blew through them like they were wet rice paper.
  • In the second season of Legion Of Extraordinary Dancers, they introduce Organization X, a group of Evil Counterparts to the heroes set up as the main antagonists. When episode 16 rolls around, they haven't actually gotten a chance to show off their skills in a fight just yet (Except for Fangz, who isn't actually in the episode). Episode 16 has them facing off against The Umbras, a group of identically dressed Mooks working for the Dark Doctor who are only introduced a minute or two before OX shows up, just enough to show that they're actually pretty good. It's a perfect set-up for this trope, but The Umbras end up wiping the floor with them.
  • In the David Blaine Street Magic parody videos, David Blaine starts out as a Reality Warper who keeps playing tricks on two L.A. idiots. Then, in the fourth video, Zaoza appears.
  • Worm:
    • On her very first night out in action, the protagonist plays a critical role in defeating supervillain and gang warlord Lung, who usually can take on many heroes by himself. To make things better or worse, we later learn that Lung once dueled and drove off a Hero Killer Kaiju, a feat that normally needs the local Physical God's attention.
    • Dauntless is a superhero who is able to imbue items with power. In-Universe, it is speculated that he will one day be able to surpass the Triumvirate. So naturally he is Too Powerful to Live and bites it fighting Leviathan.
    • The Interludes for arc 11 have the various members of the Slaughterhouse Nine kicking around both heroes and other villains, showing just why they're so feared.
    • The protagonist herself plays Worf's role for the supervillain Contessa in Chapter 24.2.
  • Noob
    • Want to show how difficult the new bosses in Horizon 1.1 are ? Have one of them beat Fantöm's team.
    • Ystos, the healer from Fantöm's team, worked as that for a radom Order player who quickly turned out to be Spectre (who hadn't even unlocked his new character's prestige class yet).


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alternative title(s): Worf Effect; Taking Down The Tough Guy
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