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. "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.
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One of the cause-and-effect-chain Direct TV commercials goes thusly, with lines 5-7 exemplifying this trope:
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
Anime and Manga
Ace Pilot and Newtype Char Aznable in Zeta Gundam. Despite having more experience and low level Newtype gifts, as well as piloting a Super Prototype, he underperforms compared to Kamille, Amuro (who's rusty in comparison, yet still proves he's an Ace Pilot), Emma (after suffering from her own Worf Effect before getting the Gundam MK II as her primary machine, which takes her to a level of badass), Haman Kahn, Paptimus Scirocco, and Reccoa Londe.
The Mazinger series:
Mazinger Z: In the original manga, eighteen-meters-tall Humongous MechaMade of Indestructium Aphrodite-A was sortied to stop a mysteryous Humongous Mecha was rampaging throught a city and razing the half of it. That mecha was Mazinger-Z, controled by a Kouji Kabuto was learning the hard way Falling into the Cockpit is not a goo idea. When Aphrodite's fist failed in even denting the armor of the unknown robot, and she was easily tossed asside with a simple motion, Prof. Yumi knew that robot was extremely strong and dangerous.
Venus A was also used like a punching bag by the Mykene Warrior Monsters when it was needed showing how terrible they were.
UFO Robo Grendizer: Kouji Kabuto had been The Hero for two Humongous Mecha series, facing dozens of enemies and -often- emerging victorious. In the first episode he got shot down easily by Vegan mini-ufos, forcing Duke to reveal his true identity to rescue him. Kouji got subjected to The Worf Effect throughout the whole series.
Mazinkaiser: Both Mazinger-Z and Great Mazinger suffered this within the first two episodes, with both machines falling to Dr. Hell's Mechanical Beasts' army.
Naruto: Sasuke Uchiha suffers from this a lot, especially pre time skip. Kakashi, Rock Lee, Itachi, The Sound Four all beat Sasuke fairly quickly and easily with the latter two actually helping lead to his Face-Heel Turn. He still suffers from it post time skip, even getting hit with it 3 times in a row at the Kage Summit, and the fight with Killerbee...
Sasuke may count as a deconstruction pre-timeskip, since being repeatedly defeated led to him believing he was falling behind which eventually drove him to seek out Orochimaru for power. But it didn't help that no one stopped to explain to Sasuke about Naruto's unbelievable learning curve because Naruto originally couldn't control his chakra at all, and it was only his vast reserves that pulled off his main cloning jutsu. Said cloning jutsu sends all the experience of the clones back to the original.
Even characters who gave Sasuke trouble earlier in the series wound up getting the Worf treatment in some way or another. Rock Lee especially, since after curb stomping Sasuke, he proceeded to get an arm and leg absolutely destroyed by Gaara after suicidally opening his inner gates for a severe boost in strength, and narrowly avoid getting killed by Kimimaro after one spectacular Drunken Master display.
This also happens quite frequently to Kakashi Hatake, more so post time skip. In Part 1, Itachi Uchiha proceeds to curb stomp him. With ease. In part 2 Kakuzu had every advantage leaving him nearly helpless offensively (Kakashi, however, mentions that he could have won with the Mangekyo Sharingan, but would have ended up in the hospital again). We also see him nearly killed by Deva Path Pain who takes little to no effort to defeat him and set him up to die.
The ANBU black ops, despite being referred to as incredibly powerful, never seem to actually do anything other than lose.
This happens a lot in Naruto. Aside from the examples listed above, Orochimaru got curb-stomped twice by Itachi, once before the series, and again at the end of Sasuke's fight with Itachi. Deidara made his introduction by defeating Gaara, and then lost to Sasuke, who in turn got hammered by Killer Bee and the Five Kages (including Gaara). Probably the best example is when Pain worfed the entire Leaf Village!
One interesting case is Naruto's defeat of the Third Raikage. In this case, his victory was used not to show how powerful he had become, as his best attacks still failed to work, but how much he had progressed tactically.
In Beast King Golion, every encounter the titular robot has with a robeast who is a physical threat to Golion is an example of this.
Sailor Moon: Poor Mamoru. On top of being the anime's designated Distressed Dude, he also had the distinction of being a strange candidate for this trope because all he had going for him as Tuxedo Mask were his physical strength and agility, a cane, and roses that rarely had any magical properties. Needless to say, it wasn't terribly threatening when you saw the powerless guy in a suit get his butt kicked to try and show the bad guys were a real threat compared to the main characters who all have super powers. In the manga, he does have super-powers, as well as character development, but in the anime, well, even the show had fun with his designated appearance toward the end of the battle (followed by an overly long metaphor and call for Sailor Moon to use her final attack).
This even happened to his Literal Split Personality counterpart Moonlight Knight, who was effortlessly beaten down by the villain at the end of the story arc he appeared in for the sake of establishing how dire things had gotten. Needless to say, it wasn't that surprising considering just who he was split off from. At least Moonlight Knight had a sword.
Likewise, Sailor Jupiter and Sailor Venus fall victim to this a lot. Both introduced quite late in the series, Makoto in episode 21 and Minako in episode 29, and were shown to be considerably more powerful than Moon, Mars or Mercury. Sailor Venus's default attack was able to destroy a Negaverse forcefield in her debut episode. Naturally it's nigh ineffective against most villains after this episode. Meanwhile Jupiter almost always has to take the hits to demonstrate how dire the situation is. The fact that she's usually the first into the fight doesn't help matters. This first happened two episodes after Minako's debut where both of them got Worfed to demonstrate how Badass Kunzite is.
Just being the title character doesn't earn InuYasha an exemption from Worf duties. Generally any fight against a major opponent has to open with the same ritual: Inuyasha unsheathes his BFS; headlong running charge into opponent; sword gets blocked (either directly or by some magic force field), and sparks fly for several seconds; then Inuyasha gets thrown back to the practical horizon. (In this case, the big tough character often does prove capable of beating the opponent handily but still has to give them the chance to toss him. Perhaps it's etiquette?)
Somewhat unusually for this trope, Tite Kubo has sometimes used villains to establish power levels as well as the more normal use of this trope to use protagonists:
After Luppi's power level was established by fighting Hitsugaya's team, he is one-shotted by Grimmjow as soon as Grimmjow regains his full power to highlight the difference in threat level between the pair to the readers.
Szayelaporro and Aaroniero were in a prelude scene to the fourth film to establish the power levels of Hell's denizens.
Ichigo suffered this whenever it needs to be established a new threat is far beyond any threat he has previous faced.
When Byakuya first appeared in the storyline to establish Byakuya's power level.
When Aizen was first revealed as the villain, to estabish Aizen was a greater threat than normal captains were.
Ishida suffers this on occasion:
His first was to establish the newly-appeared Renji's power level.
He was one-shotted towards the beginning of the Lost Agent Arc to establish Tsukishima's threat level and it's actually ruse, because it was Ginjou who one-shotted him as a test to see if Ichigo could tell the difference between Tsukishima's attacks and Ginjou's.
Chad has suffered this several times as a set-up for Ichigo's fights.
After defeating several seated officers easily, Chad was easily defeated by Shunsui to establish the difference in power between a captain and a seated officer. This set up Ichigo's fight with Kenpachi.
When the Espada first appear, Chad is one-shotted by Yammy to establish Yammy's power level as a prelude to Ichigo also being defeated by Yammy.
When Grimmjow's group invades the human world, Chad is almost one-shotted by the Grimmjow's weakest follower D-Roy to establish the threat Grimmjow's team poses. This is a lead-in to all the fights Hitsugaya's team face and, in particular, leads in to Ichigo's eventual fight with Grimmjow.
Chad is one-shotted by Nnoitra to establish Nnoitra's threat level prior to Ichigo fighting him.
Rukia, after defeating D-Roy, is one-shotted by Grimmjow to emphasise Shawlong's point about the difference in power between fracciones and espada. It sets up Ichigo being defeated by Grimmjow.
Renji had his brand new bankai ruined by Byakuya in the first appearance of Byakuya's bankai to establish exactly what Ichigo would be fighting in the supposedly climactic battle of the Soul Society arc (prior to the real villain being unmasked, that is).
Komamura suffered this to establish that even the other captains couldn't do anything against Aizen.
When Aizen artificially jumped in power level Tite Kubo displayed the new power level by having him one-shot three very powerful shinigami at the same time. Urahara, Yoruichi, Isshin.
Kira was one-shotted to establish both the power level and the ruthless fighting styles of the story's newest enemies, the Stern Ritter.
Kenpachi was worfed in a swift off-screen fight to establish the power level of Yhwach in the final arc.
Vegeta is doomed to this role for most of Dragon Ball Z. After his Heel-Face Turn, his place in the plot is "lose to Recoome, almost lose to Frieza, lose to Frieza's final form, get killed by Frieza, lose to Android 18, lose to Perfect Cell, almost lose to Cell Jr, lose to Buu, and get the crap kicked out of him by Buu while someone else wins the fight.
Krillin suffers from this nearly as much as Vegeta. In Dragon Ball'sTournament Arcs, Krillin would ultimately lose to enemies Goku would go on to defeat or to Goku himself.
Nappa is on the giving and receiving end of this. First, he easily engages all living Z Warriors who have been training for a year to fight him and kills all but two of them, then he's tossed aside quickly when Goku arrives.
Yamcha seemed to be the caretaker of this role long before Vegeta showed up, especially in the tournaments in Dragon Ball, where he was always paired up in the first round against a then-unknown opponent whom everyone expected would be dispatched easily but would end up either winning the tournament (Jackie Chun, Tenshinhan) or being, well, God. Every instance ended with the other main characters in shock that someone like Yamcha was beaten. Unfortunately, this happened so often without giving him enough chance to win fights that, by the time the Z-era began, he had long since lost all credibility.
Piccolo has also suffered from this a few times. After fusing with Nail and fighting Frieza's second form on fairly equal footing, Frieza transforms and utterly trounces him. Likewise, in the Cell Arc, he rejoins with Kami and becomes a "Super Namek," proving himself too much for Imperfect Cell and an equal match to Android 17. Then Cell returns after absorbing several cities-worth of people, and effortlessly defeats and nearly kills him.
Both Piccolo and Vegeta get this in almost every single movie they appear in, usually right after a Big Damn Heroes moment for them.
GOHAN fell victim to the same fate in the Buu Saga. He was built up over the entire series as Goku's successor, and ultimately loses to Super Buu and gets absorbed, even after a significant power multiplier. Although, in this case, Gohan was winning by a lot until Buu absorbed a SS3 Gotenks and Piccolo. Like Gotenks and Piccolo, he was absorbed by surprise.
Not exactly, due to him being DOMINATED by Dabura.
Not really dominated, as Goku says that Gohan could've won his fight with Dabura had he not gotten reckless and careless, but he was, very clearly, not the same person who defeated Cell several years prior.
Even Goku wound up like this in late DB and early DBZ. Both Tao-Pai-Pai and and King Piccolo defeated him with little to no trouble in their first bouts with him forcing Goku to seek ways to get stronger to overcome them. Then at the start of DBZ when Raditz showed up, he took Goku out with one kick during their first encounter and spent most of their second curbstomping him.
Ultimate Muscle is another one of those series where every good guy except the main character seems doomed to lose every fight they get in. Dik Dik van Dik and Wally Tusket get a lot of Lampshade Hanging about their repetitive losses, but there's also Jaeger, whose ability is lauded far and wide...and who loses every single match he gets into. (Well, OK, he wins one, but that was where he was fighting on a team.)
In Cardcaptor Sakura, Kerberos finally returns to his awesomely Badass-looking true form...and gets hammered every. Single. Time. Often, it's explained by having Kero's creator be the one to send the threat to test our heroes, but not always. It'd be nice to have Kerberos's true form prove non-useless once in a while.
Somewhat lampshaded in the manga, near the end of the first arc, when they acknowledge Kerberos's vicinity makes The Earthy stronger, and Kero comments to himself "My true form isn't helping at all."
Happens to Asuka Langley Sohryu quite often in Neon Genesis Evangelion. Throughout the series, her achievements as a human and a pilot are often noted, however, she is never once shown defeating an opponent by herself. By the end of the series, she is Mind Raped by an Angel, and subsequently becomes so bad at piloting she suffers a nervous breakdown.
And in End of Evangelion, she finally manages to get her act together against the Mass Production EVAs only to get speared through the eye shortly before suffering one of the most Cruel And Unusual Deaths in the entire damned series.
Subverted in Rebuild of Evangelion, where Asuka makes her entrance by one shotting the new attacking Angel, just to throw this out the window and show us why she's considered an Ace Pilot to begin with. She does require help defeating the 8th Angel (Sahaquiel in this one), but teamwork between the three pilots was kind of the point of that fight, even in the original. And she can't be held accountable for being absent during the next two Angel battles. It remains to be seen how she will fare in the coming fights, but this isEvangelion we're talking about here...
In the manga, she also debuts by defeating an Angel by herself in what is stated to be a record time.
Saint Seiya's Big Guy Taurus Aldebaran devolved into this after his first fight, serving only to establish that the new antagonists could defeat a Gold Saint and were thus worthy of their place on the Algorithm. He ended up being killed offscreen in the last arc of the manga. At least he got a Tear Jerker and a delayed-effect Moment of Awesome out of it.
Even more ignominious: Shiryu's Dragon Shield, one of the strongest ever due to being submerged for millennia at the bottom of the holy Rozan waterfalls, is usually the first thing that cracks, splits, or outright shatters when he faces a new class of enemy.
Some sections of the fandom have made it a drinking game: if it's a movie or an OAV, drink every time Seiya faces the brand new Olympian Of The Week only to be swatted aside by the villain's top lieutenant with no effort whatsoever.
Meanwhile, after her first battle, poor Vita has often found herself on the receiving end of this. May it be a powered-up Nanoha forcing her to the defensive, or Nanoha giving her an Oh Crap moment with one attack alone, or Zest smacking her out of her Unison form, it's like she's receiving karmic backlash from her initial beatdown of the main character.
Some chapters later Vita got (rather quickly) trounced again by one of the new villains just to maintain the tradition.
Sanosuke Sagara from the Rurouni Kenshin was the first enemy to pose any sort of threat to Kenshin. He was superhumanly strong, almost invulnerable physically and wielded a BFS that would have made Cloud pull a muscle. His skills were so impressive he was worthy of becoming a regular cast member. Unfortunately for Sanosuke he had to take second string to the title character. In a short time it became a running theme that before an enemy could be considered a match for the Battousai, they first had to curb stomp Sanosuke. By the end of the series the people Kenshin goes toe to toe with laugh in Sanosuke's face and for shear amusement smack him around in unarmed combat (which is supposed to be Sanosuke's specialty).
Probably the best example of this would be the introduction of Shinomori Aoshi in the anime, who knocked out Sanosuke down with one hit when Kenshin gave Sanosuke a beatdown which included a Ryu Tsui Sen, arguably Kenshin's strongest attack at the time.
This doesn't happen so much in the manga, where the only ones to brush Sanosuke aside are Jin-E, Shishio, and Saito, the last of which inspires him to undergo Training from Hell to catch up. By the end, Kenshin notes that Sanosuke has become so strong that he doesn't have to keep an eye on him in battle.
During one of the final arcs in the manga Sanosuke is getting his ass handed to him while Kenshin does nothing but observe, a character tells Kenshin that he's truly heartless if he can watch his friend getting killed and not help him, to which Yahiko answers that, if it was anyone else (even someone Kenshin didn't knew) he would go help him without second though, but Sanosuke was the only one strong enough to not need Kenshin's help and because of that he was the only one suited to fight side-by-side with Kenshin.
The AD Police in Bubblegum Crisis. Despite having high-yield firearms, railguns, powered suits and combat helicopters they often cannot stop rogue Boomers. Their K11s did stop a BU-12B Combat boomer (both getting destroyed in the process, sadly, although the second one was pure jinx on the AD Police side) in "Blow Up", though. Leon sniped Largo before he could pulverize the Knight Sabers in an orbital beam of death, too. As the designated Badass of the team, Priss also suffers from this to some extent.
In One Piece, the Big Bad of the arc often does this to several of Luffy's crewmates before Luffy goes to fight him (Buggy did it to Zoro, Arlong did it to Zoro and Sanji, Eneru did it to Sanji, Robin, Zoro and Wiper, and Moria and Oars did it to the entire crew), typically to establish that he's too strong for anyone except Luffy to defeat. The villains often do it to minor characters to reveal just how strong they are, sometimes offscreen (for example, Mr. 3 supposedly captured a criminal worth 42 million, and this is revealed back when Luffy's bounty was 30 million).
On the other hand, the jailers get this during the Impel Down arc, especially the Demon Guards. One of the Demon Guards gave Luffy and the others some trouble in its first appearance, but all four of them were easily beaten in one hit in every encounter after that. They existed only to remind the audience that Luffy, Jinbei, and Crocodile are still really strong.
Before the Time Skip, the crew had real problems taking down a Pacifista. Now, Luffy can take them down no problem, and Zoro and Sanji attacked one together, each claiming to have gotten in a fatal blow.
To put it in perspective, to say that the Straw Hat crew "had a hard time" fighting the Pacifista would be an Understatement. They were forced to go all-out and each of them threw in an attack or 2 (some being more effective than others), but it still wasn't enough. Ultimately, the Monster Trio (Luffy, Zoro, and Sanji) finished it off with their strongest attacks. After the fight, the crew was completely exhausted. Had it not been for Rayleigh and Kuma, they would've been captured or killed by the Marines. Post-Time Skip, Luffy uses a single Jet Pistol to destroy a Pacifista, all while Zoro and Sanji take down another at the same time, which is essentially overkill, because either attack would have been enough. Please note that pre-Time Skip, the Pacifista that the Straw Hats fought together stop functioning, yet was still in one piece (leading them to think that it might get back up and start attacking again), but the 2 that were destroyed post-Time Skip exploded!
During the Water Seven arc, the crew had gotten themselves stomped in their first encounter with CP9. When the story gets to Enies Lobby, Luffy has a rematch with Bleuno, ranked as mid-level among the CP9 agents, and brings out new moves to stomp him, showing off just how much more powerful Luffy is.
Speaking of CP9, the Galley-La workers. They were established as extremely strong and capable of beating Luffy easily, yet once the CP9 members revealed their true identities, the Galley-la workers were tossed aside. Of course, it's probably safe to assume that Luffy's heart really wasn't in the fight after Usopp left, which is a fair enough explanation for him egtting kicked around by people he's established to be far stronger than.
The Straw Hat crew as a whole can be used for a variation of this. During the Whitebeard War following Impel Down, antagonists who had defeated the Straw Hats without question in their first encounters (Aokiji, Kizaru, and Mihawk) have their initial moves blocked almost effortlessly by Whitebeard and his officers Marco & Jozu, which quite clearly displays the weight class we're seeing for these characters. Further, Little Oars Jr. was defeated easily by the combined power of three Warlords of the Sea, when his zombified ancestor took all nine Straw Hats and then some.
Luffy's older brother Ace is also hit with this. Though he is quite strong compared to Luffy in both devil fruit and combat abilities, he's also used to show how much stronger certain characters are. In his backstory, Whitebeard easily defeated him more than a hundred times, Jinbe tied with him in a match that nearly killed both of them. Blackbeard also takes him down after a relatively short fight, and Akainu burns and eventually kills Ace.
Luffy's rival Smoker shares the same fate as Ace. While defeating Luffy and proving that he is a Worthy Opponent, he immediately gets worfed by Monkey D. Dragon. And usually when Luffy is about to be captured by him, a character with few or no feats shows up to save him from Smoker and by this proves his strength. In Logue town it was Dragon, in Alabasta he drawed with Ace, in Marineford Hancock broke his weapon and most recently was beaten first by Trafalgar Law and then by Doflamingo.
Of all the characters, the one closest to being the main villain got this. Blackbeard, among other things, was considered to be at the same level of one of the four most baddasses pirates in the world, this even was before he got his super powers, several characters had ben Worfed for the sake of his, and he's considered one of the only two enemies Luffy had ever ran away from, yet during the Impel Down arc he got badly trashed (like Voldemort-killing-Cedric badly) by a completely new character called Magellan who's in charge of the prision, it's important to notice that by the end of the very same arc that he got Worfed he came to be considered the most dangerous criminal in the world, and every named character ever wants his head, this Magellan dude is bad news. Notably, Magellan has one of the most broken non-Logia Devil Fruit powers in the series (up there with Whitebeard himself), and the team-up of Luffy, Crocodile, Jinbei and Ivankov has no choice but to flee from him.
Hody Jones, Big Bad of the Fishman Island arc, got hit with this badly. First he defeated a crew heading to the New World with relative ease, all while being restrained by chains, to establish that he is a serious threat. Then Zoro beat him. With one slash. Underwater. Meaning that Sanji could've easily defeated him if he wanted to, and he usually fights the third strongest antagonist. Even when he went One-Winged Angel, he didn't stand chance, easily getting his ass kicked by Luffy on land. Hell, when the fight was underwater, and Luffy couldn't swim and stuck in a bubble that restrained his movements, and trying to prevent a Colony Drop that was about to destroy Fishman Island, Hody still got his ass kicked. This is establish that while Hody would've been a good opponent pre-Time Skip, he is nothing compared to a New World-ready crew.
Eyeshield 21 this applies some players, most heavily the heavyweight linemen — considering how easily Gaou crushed Banba and the Pyramid Line (previously the standard for strength, tying with the Devil Bats' own center Kurita), Mr. Don (who can smack down Gaou with ease) should be strong enough to split an anvil by coughing at it!
Dynamis also has some trouble with this: after his debut, Nodoka steals his Reality Warper staff and uses it teleport away, Chachamaru obliterates his massive shadow summon, and later on he gets his ass kicked by Negi's Demon Form.
And now the whole of Ala Alba is suffering from this at the hands of the new Averrunci.
The go to Worf's in Ala Alba are Kotarou, Kaede, and Setsuna. Kotarou and Kaede were both made the Worf to Albireo in the Tournament. The event in the Chao arc that established her as a contender and Big Bad was that she outmaneuvered Kaede and Setsuna at once. Chachamaru also held this hat during the Magic World arc.
The Digimon franchise as a whole has Seraphimon. As an Mega-level Digimon, the leader of the Three Great Angels and one of the rulers of the Digital World in the Digimon Frontier continuity, he is incredibly powerful, but you'd only really know this if you're into the Expanded Universe. Whenever Seraphimon shows up in ananime or manga, he is promptly defeated (and outright killed in Frontier), demonstrating just how dangerous the new antagonist is. His debut appearance in the first of the Digimon Adventure 02 movies had him defeated by Cherubimon within thirty seconds of evolving, and that was with another Mega, Magnadramon, assisting him!
Digimon Adventure 02 also gave this same treatment to Angemon, Seraphimon's earlier Champion form. In the original Digimon Adventure he was frequently shown to be nothing short of a game breaker, killing two Big Bads where everyone else failed repeatedly, contributing to the defeat of a third and earlier easily fighting said third to a standstill in tandem with WereGarurumon, and regularly successfully fighting Digimon above his own level - whenever Angemon appeared, the natural response was "yay, we've won". Then came Digimon Adventure 02, where almost all of Angemon's appearances involved him getting the full force of the Worf Effect before Jogress-evolving into Shakkoumon (or HolyAngemon on two occasions, but that never lasted either) or sitting back and letting XV-mon/Paildramon/Imperialdramon do the real work.
The Kazekoshi team in Saki, which is the school to go to for Mahjong that boasts a massive lineup and a history of championships that was only broken last year by the Mahjong Demon called Koromo. They started the Finals with a massive lead over the opposition after Mihoko crushed everyone else in the first match without losing her gentle smile...then spent the rest of the finals bleeding away said lead as they proceeded to be every other school's punching bag, to the point where their representative in the last match spent most of her time there watching in horror as she gets stomped into the ground by everyone else. You know things are bad when their biggest moral victory during that period was that they managed to hold their lead against a complete beginner.
Team Fudoumine from The Prince of Tennis. The first rival team introduced, they were given an angsty backstory and were supposed to be serious competition. They wound up being this trope instead (first against Rikkaidai, then against Shittenhouji).
In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Manjoume gets the Worf treatment quite a bit—he's lost to Daichi, Amnael, Saiou, and Amon. All four of them beat Manjoume in their first shown duels, and with the exception of Amon none of them had a particularly hard time doing it. He also tends to duel Judai whenever Judai gets a new deck. His only wins before Season 2 were against Mooks, his brother (who isn't a duelist), and a Monster of the Week. He got more victories in Season 2 after his Face-Heel Turn, including against Daichi and Asuka, and he's the one who dueled and defeated the entire Obelisk Blue dorm. Still, said Face-Heel Turn was caused by, you guessed it, the Big Bad defeating him in a duel. Season 4 finally gives him a significant victory on his own when he defeats Edo.
Averted in the manga. Out of a dozen shown duels or so, Manjoume only loses two of them, one of which is against Judai and the other of which is against Ryo. The other duels we see him fight, he wins. However, he's still essentially undergoing the Worf effect on Ryo, as we haven't seen Ryo duel yet and he handily crushes Manjoume without taking a single point of damage. This is immediately after Manjoume's victory over Judai to boot.
You could probably say that both Judai himself and Ryo got this from Edo. (Judai did win his first duel against Edo, but even Judai was smart enough to realize that Edo had let him win. It was certainly the case in Edo's duel against Ryo; the only duel Ryo had previously lost was one where his opponent cheated.)
In Yu-Gi-Oh! season 1, Kaiba gets Worfed by Pegasus.
What's the biggest example of The Worf Effect in this franchise? Raphael. Just Raphael. The first (and one of only two) duelist to defeat the King of Games without cheating. Need I say more?
YuYu Hakusho does this with Kuwabara,who lost almost all his battles in the Tournament Arc to show how terrible the next team was. Averted against the final team though where he beat Elder Toguro
Despite being the heir-apparent to the Flame King Spitfire, Air Gear's Kazu has been summarily manhandled by Aeon Clock, Sora, Nike, Nott-Dagr, and several nameless Gravity Children throughout the series.
Dragonite in the Orange League Tournament (granted, Charizard was already weakened earlier by an Electabuzz);
Dusclops in the last Battle Frontier battle against Brandon. (Although for that one, Ash was planning on using Seismic Toss (A Fighting type move) to end it...but completely forgot that Dusclops is a Ghost-type)
There's also the episode "Charizard's Burning Ambitions", where it gets slammed twice with a stronger Charizard's tail, then slammed face-first into the ground, then kneed in the stomach...it just goes on and on until the Charizard's caretaker makes it give up.
Paul is used for this twice too. Wanna prove that Cynthia is untouchably strong? Watch her One Hit KO Paul's Pokémon one by one. Has Brandon been getting stronger? How about a 6-0 victory using only three Pokémon?
Ash's Torterra has fallen victim to this by losing every battle it's been in since it evolved to show just how powerful the other Pokémon is. This is mostly due to being moved aside in favor of Infernape.
Misty's Starmie is a pretty regular victim of this. Despite being the evolved form of Staryu, Misty's Staryu has been shown winning way more battles than her Starmie. In fact the only time Starmie hasn't gotten its ass kicked in a battle is during the Princess Festival. It's shown to be pretty useful when travelling through water or saving people's lives but once a battle starts...
Brock's Vulpix is a similar offender. Its introductory episode has it unleash a very impressive Fire Spin to curb stomp Team Rocket. It does it again a few episodes later, with an even shorter fight. Then it's made an example of by Jessie's new Lickitung, locked in a hopeless fight with its identical clone, used as an ineffectual delaying tactic against an illusory Teddiursa in Pokémon 3, demonstrates Skarmory's superiority over its type disadvantage, before finally getting in one last Curb-Stomp Battle against Team Rocket and subsequently Put on a Bus.
Speaking of the aforementioned Lickitung, in it's debut episode it curbstombs all of Team Rocket, gets captured with difficulty, then goes on to just as easily beat all of Misty's team simply by licking the Pokemon. It only loses because it's lick doesn't work on Psyduck and only caused it to use it hidden powers. Every appearance afterward it gets taken out just as quickly and easily as the rest of Team Rocket's Pokemon.
Iris's new Dragonite is the newest mon to join the Worf train. After proving even a 4x type advantage isn't enough to take it down, it loses to Ash's newly evolved Krookodile, the first to get knocked down when the Kami Trio came back, beaten by Drayden's Druddigon in the middle of its best attack and got laid out by Charizard when he returned to Ash's team.
In Pokémon Special, unless it's against a wild Pokemon or someone generic, Red's Poli tends to get knocked out the moment it pops out of its Pokeball. Especially kind of sad seeing how it's his first Pokemon (which he had for years before getting any other) and logically should be the strongest. No wonder Red uses Saur and Pika more often.
Also happens to Red twice. First defeated by the Elite Four to the point everybody wonders if he died in the process and later when Deoxys defeats his entire team.
Out of the Five-Man Band of the Kalos region, headstrong and physically-capable Y tends to be knocked around the most. Justified as it is stated that she's stronger than Tierno, Trevor, and Shauna while X isn't likely to get into the fray unless he's being directly targeted, meaning that by default she will be the first to jump in.
Poor Klan Klein of Macross Frontier is the Proud Warrior Race Girl of the series...and she follows quite closely in Worf's footsteps, getting kicked around fairly consistently despite also having several moments of startling competency.
Kai Suwabara of Yakitate!! Japan only seems to win Cooking Duels by default. Both times he went up against Azuma, he lost without even having his bread tasted.
Used in Fullmetal Alchemist against Major Armstrong by his sister Major General Armstrong. Not only does she get him in tears by standing on his foot, she knocks him through a wall during the battle for the Armstrong Estate.
Scar's defeat of Basque Grand is done for similar reasons, in order to demonstrate how Badass Scar is. This is justified in the Brotherhood anime, where we see that Grand's defeat has more to do with his not having all the information on Scar's abilities than anything else.
In his first appearance in Durarara!! Kinnosuke talks how police gets that kind of treatment in all kinds of fictions dealing with supernatural – they usually ends laying in their own blood to show how dangerous enemy is. However, he doesn't really mind, as this shows that people still believe that cops are strong and powerful.
Jellal Fernandes, officially recognized as one of the ten strongest wizards in Fairy Tail (until they recognize which side he's on, at least) is so powerful that Natsu need to absorb the ultimate magic Etherion in order to beat him. Midnight only needs to land one hit on the poor guy-and he does it off panel too. Erza is willing to say Worf Had The Flu but there are a good many other ways of arguing this one.
Erza is THE example for Fairy Tail. Generally considered one of the strongest wizards in Fairy Tail she seems to be taken out for a brief time once an arc to show how strong any given bad guy or super weapon is.
Natsu is also hit by this relatively often. If he's not fighting the Big Bad, it's likely he'll have a tough time against an opponent. Lucy is also hit with this, to indicate that her opponents are too strong except for Natsu or Erza to defeat.
Aranaut of Bakugan: Gundalian Invaders made a strong first showing in the previous season when a digital clone of him threw around one of the main characters like a rag doll. However, the Aranaut in GI has one of the WORST fight records in the show, quickly going from hot stuff to a bit of a joke, usually only winning with help or other circumstances.
Inazuma Eleven loves this, especially Kabeyama, Touko, and Tachimukai, whose special skills are almost useless in the long run against most of the opponents' abilities. Also, want to show how bad the bad guy team is? Have them beat a random team or even the heroes to 10-0 or worse within the first half. This however, can be avert easily after The Hero begins his speak of friendship and how fun soccer can be.
GO introduces us to Kurama and Sangoku, both of whose hissatsus (Sidewinder and Burning Catch, respectively) unfortunately fall victim to being used in order to show how strong the opposing team is, despite the fact that in Sidewinder's case, it's actually a pretty good hissatsu. At least Sangoku gets Fence Of Gaia later on, which proves to be decent at saving a few goals here and there.
Despite (or because of) his badass status, Mugen of Samurai Champloo is hit with this trope. He nearly lost to Oniwakamaru (though he was drugged before hand), lost to the monk Shoryuu once, was defeated and nearly killed by spear specialist Sara and was unable to land a single blow on Big Bad Kariya
Viral from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is said to be the commander of one of the units of the "Human Eradication Forces." In the manga, he was the one who wiped out the Black Siblings' home town. However, he almost always loses against Simon, Kamina, or the pilots of the Gurren that day. Once his Heel-Face Turn happens, he gets better.
Ranma, Ryouga, and Mousse of Ranma ½ get hit with this in the Pantyhose Taro and Musk Dynasty arcs. In the first scenario, the aforementioned villain is looking for a specific visitor to the Jusenkyo cursed springs, and therefore ends up crossing paths with them and defeating them handily. Ryouga even goes as far as calling him a "demon" when warning Ranma about him. In the second one, Mousse is quickly dispatched by a warrior with a penchant for throwing knives; Ryouga is turned into scenery by another warrior with strength even greater than his. Then Ranma himself is defeated by those warriors' lord, a Gender Benderki master.
In the H-animes by Pixy, this usually happens in the first five minutes of the first episode.
In the Tenchi Muyo! manga, Ryoko's usually hit with this stick, though it's not uncommon to see Tsunami on the sidelines. For Ryoko, she's usually taken out during the first half of a major storyline but comes back weakened enough that she can't solve any of the problems on her own. For Tsunami, it's usually something that would put Sasami in danger.
In Medaka Box, when Shishime Ithiko shows up, Superpower Lottery winner Anshin'in says she can hold him off for 15 seconds while the others run. And that's about how long she lasts, too. Not that running helps.
Supporting Protagonist Zenkichi Hitoyoshi can handle thugs and crazed kendo experts with ease, but he's occasionally used to show the threat of the next Arc Villain. Oudo easily subdues him with his Compelling Voice, Kumagawa toys with him during their fight, and he's even killed by the Gehyoukai. And the aforementioned Ihiko? Crushes him without a second thought.
A Certain Magical Index has had this happen twice to Accelerator, once to establish Amata Kihara as a certified Crazy-PreparedBadass, and once to show just how inconceivably powerful Aiwass is. In both cases Accelerator, who is otherwise one of the most powerful and dangerous characters in the franchise, barely escapes with his life. And how did the leader of GREMLIN establish their supreme power? By taking down the "Invisible Thing" effortlessly.
Index is also notable for Worfing God. God is currently the fifth most powerful entity in the franchise. That says something right there.
Almost similar to the Rito Revolto example below, the Dark Precure in Heartcatch Pretty Cure shows this off and gets one. In the very beginning, she's shown wiping the floor with Cure Moonlight, leading to her depowerment. Everytime she shows up to fight the other Cures, it's just the same, with Cure Sunshine's arrival only barely changing the balance. It isn't until Cure Moonlight is repowered that the Dark Precure is finally given this, which leads to a very painful Villainous Breakdown for her.
In Magic Knight Rayearth, whenever one of the trio is set up to fight an adversary on her own, the other two get one-shotted to show how powerful it is and how important it is that she defeat him/her/it.
The Silver Surfer is one of the most powerful beings alive. He has thrown energy blasts that have staggered Galactus, a man in a crazy hat who eats planets. He has taken hits from said man in crazy hat and lived. He's taken hits that would liquefy Earth and given them right back. This is why whenever a new cosmic menace is introduced, generally the very first thing that happens is someone pitches Silver Surfer in through a window.
To an end, despite (or perhaps because of) his Badassery, a good half of the numerous, seemingly omnipresent cameosWolverine makes in various issues involve him being beaten within an inch of his life and thrown through something. Fortunately, his Healing Factor fixes him up in a split, allowing him to move to the next. They're being serious when the Badass in question kills Wolverine, but given how much he's come back from, that will probably never happen.
The most notable examples for Wolverine is Gambit. Short after he joined the team, he got a chance at fighting (and winning) against Wolverine in the Danger Room in order to show "how badass the new guy is".
The shield is also destroyed by Loki in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. However, this is treated with a fair amount of realism, as Cap is unable to repair it and is thus forced to go without it for a number of episodes before the Black Panther ends up fixing it with some super science.
This trope might as well be called the Vision Effect, since this always happens to The Avengers' Vision.
Lampshaded in-univere. Cyborg eventually builds Reddy a new body made of self-replicating nanites, explicitly stating that he wanted to find a way to stop him from constantly being destroyed.
Subverted in one instance; An enemy tears apart Red Tornado, only for it to turn out that the writer for once remembered Reddy's robot body is a shell containing his real self- an wind elemental. The elemental, now freed, beats the crap out of his surprised enemy.
This frequently happens to the Martian Manhunter who is regularly rendered comatose by scanning the mind of any Big Bad. You'd think that after seeing "the greatest evil in the universe" some dozen times he would at least learn to stop looking into people's minds.
In the cartoon, the Martian Manhunter is almost REGULARLY shocked by an electric stick when he tries to sneak in. Needless to say, people no longer saw it as a big deal.
The Sentry of Marvel Comics. He was based on the Silver-Age Superman, more powerful than anyone, so mighty that he made the comics universe and the real world forget he had ever existed because he was so almighty that the mere memory of him would risk destroying the world. Now he's getting lunched by everybody. Including the Golden-Age Human Torch.
Taken to a ridiculous point in Dark Avengers - during first 10 issues. Sentry was killed THREE TIMES. Once by Morgana le Fay, once by his wife with his teammate gun, and once by Molecule Man. He keeps getting better.
Ares was supposed to combine the viciousness of Wolverine, power level approaching Thor or Hercules with being a military genius all the while being praised and feared as a massive threat. Instead he tended to serve as either someone to show how powerful a new villain was so Sentry could take care of it or was needed for a fight scene that Sentry was too powerful for. He would then lose said fight scene. This culminated in SIEGE where he was ineffective against the Sentry to show how dark the character had become. Trying to remember any victories he might have had against any meaningful opponents is much more difficult than all the loses he has had. He gets his ass kicked in his own mini and needs his daddy Zeus to bail him out.
The Avengers have had several characters serve this role over the years. Wonder Man is often joked to be this. Despite supposedly being as tough as Thor or Sentry he has a very poor record at winning fights, often only serving to make someone else look good. Thor, arguably the most powerful Avenger and one of the most powerful heroes, sometimes suffers from this to establish a new threat as being a real danger. Ares also served this to a point whenever Sentry wasn't around.
In Thor's own series Odin is frequently the victim of this trope. Being the God among Gods, whenever Asgard is under threat by the villain of the week either Odin has to be incapacitated prior (in which case he usually gets better and wipes the villain out with a wave of his hand at the last minute) or get his ass handed to him to show just how powerful the villain is before Thor wipes the floor with them.
Doctor Doom occasionally suffers this, whether from Dazzler and other new heroes, or to show how tough a new villain is (I.E. Millar's promise of a "Master of Doom"). Thank Kirby for Doombots, eh?
X-23 and Rockslide in New X-Men (and other appearances after the series end) they get stuck with this as they are the strongest and scariest team members...who are practically immortal. Rockslide has been blown up twice BEFORE his power became not dying to physical harm. And X-23 is just like Wolverine.
Incidentally, during New X-Men, the original X-Men cast ALL SUCK. If the students are around every move and strategy and power of the older cast is instantly wrong. In "Quest for Magik" the X-Men are all captured and held in an energy field unable to help and during "Messiah Complex" the X-Men have to hand over the fight to the students due to it being something Sinister's mooks didn't plan on.
Laura gets this particularly hard in Avengers Arena. Between her Healing Factor and its secondary effects (heightened senses, reflexes, etc) and Training from Hell by the Facility, she's easily the most dangerous and best-prepared to survive of the teens kidnapped by Arcade for his Murder World. And yet it still doesn't prevent her from having her ass completely handed to her by Apex during the group's first attempt to bring her down after her Face-Heel Turn.
In Star Trek: Countdown, the prequel comic to the 2009 movie, we see Worf again, 10 years after Nemesis and now a Klingon general. He gets impaled through the chest by Nero, but fortunately he was Only Mostly Dead.
In the latest Thunderbolts series, Headsman's tendency to get beaten up or otherwise neutralized even though he's the largest and most intimidating member of the team is, rather refreshingly, noticed by the rest of the team. He's constantly razzed by teammates Paladin and Ant Man, employer Norman Osborn regards him only with barely repressed disdain...once he suggested he get on his flying disc to deal with an airborne threat, only to be shot down with "Please, I've never seen you on that thing for more than 30 seconds."
Galactus sometimes gets this when the writers want to show how tough a new cosmic menace is. He got smacked down by the Beyonder andDoctor Doom in Secret Wars, and Krona in JLA-Avengers killed him and constructed a fortress out of his corpse. Tenebrous and Aegis take him out in Annihilation for Thanos.
General purpose Marvel Universe villains The Wrecking Crew now exist entirely for this purpose. They have an ounce of credibility from being old Thor villains with incredible strength and mystically powered construction weapons, but adamantly yelling that you've fought Thor doesn't mean much when you can be taken down by low-power heroes like Spider-Woman. Spider-Man once joked that everyone seems to beat them up sooner or later; subsequent encounters with the Runaways and The Punisher of all people have showed he's probably right.
Some writers have played with this, however... The team shares energy from a single pool. If the leader simply kept all the power for himself he would be a serious threat, but if nothing else the rest of the crew are True Companions, and he's not willing to leave even one of them depowered even if the power boost would make everyone else an actual threat.
If The Authority was better known than Star Trek, this trope would be called "The Midnighter Effect". Midnighter is essentially a Captain Ersatz of Batman with Wolverine's personality, and canonically the scariest and most dangerous Badass in the Wildstorm universe, yet he gets jobbed out in every single story arc just to demonstrate how much of a threat that arc's villain is.
In Captain Atom: Armageddon, it isn't Midnighter who is used this way to show how utterly outclassed everyone in the Wildstorm universe is when compared to Captain Atom, it's Apollo, Wildstorm's Supermanexpy. Midnighter doesn't even count as a threat to Atom, and is casually (and entertainingly) dismissed offhand.
In the rebooted Stormwatch, Apollo seems to have taken this role from Midnighter in a big way. In issue 7 he gets taken out twice, once at the beginning, then just as the issue is ending, as the bad guy they had (with difficulty) managed to capture escapes, taking Apollo with it. This is not new territory for him, however. In the Authority, he kind of has a habit of rushing into battle, and if he either has to expend all his stored energy and he passes out as a result, or is knocked across the room, you know the bad guy is tough.
Nightcrawler of the X-Men and The Flash of the Justice League begin at least half of the team fights they're in by getting backhanded into unconsciousness (they do much better when fighting solo). The reason for this is (1) due to their powers (teleportation and Super Speed, respectively) they're usually the first one to reach the villain, (2) the sooner they get taken out, the less time the reader has to think about how each could kill almost anyone before their opponent even knew they were in a fight, and (3) it demonstrates that the villain has reflexes akin to precognition just to be able to lay a glove on them...in theory. You see it enough times, it starts to look like they just 'port/run right into villains' outstretched fists.
In the very short span of time since Danger joined the X-Men, she's already been busted open by Ms. Marvel (Moonstone) and Emplate to establish how powerful they are. And knocked out by Selene's T-O virus.
In big DC events, The Spectre tends to stay out of the "mortal affairs" but when he does interfere, he tends to get taken out pretty quickly. Seeing as how if he could affect the Big Bad, he could turn them to dust just by looking at them, it's kind of necessary.
In the comic Gold Digger Stripe Gia, despite being one of the stronger good guys post-upgrade, has this happen to him all the time. Ironically back when he was a Badass Normal he did a lot better.
From Green Lantern, Kyle Rayner has this going for him at times, both during stories written by Geoff Johns. During the Green Lantern Rebirth story, he spent most of having the tar beaten out of him by Sinestro, until he's rescued by Green Arrow and later Hal Jordan. He does eventually land the finishing blow on Sinestro, but only while aiding Hal during their duel. In the Sinestro Corps War miniseries, Kyle has a chance to fight Sinestro again and prove himself, now with an enormous power boost courtesy of Ion, but his attacks just bounce and shatter harmlessly off Sinestro and he's easily curb-stomped and has the Ion entity ripped out of him. Both times he's used only to establish Sinestro as a major threat.
It plays off a trait that allows Kyle his moments of awesomeness. Kyle is the first Green Lantern to know fear and thus the first to discover the true nature of Parallax (saving Jordan from damnation.) He's also the Lightbearer for having restored what a possessed Hal Jordan destroyed, so Jordan's image needed some rehabilitating.
It's starting to become the norm. When Kyle meets Sinestro or they have a confrontation Sinestro always comes out better. When Kyle needed get Sinestro's help to save his girlfriend, Sinestro's daughter Soranik Natu the agreed to fight no rings to keep a truce GLC had with Sinsetro's Corps, Sinestro beat Kyle fairl easily. It's a bit jarring considering Kyle was trained in hand to hand combat by Batman. You would think Kyle could put up more of fight at least.
Kon-El, God damn it the poor kid gets the crap kicked out of him when he's not a main character in book, and at times even if he is.
In Superman Ending Battle he gets the crap kicked out of him by the Atomic Skull, whose powers seem to be being a moderately strong robot, some atomic fire shooting powers, and having his head on fire. Strangely enough however, it's not to show off how strong Superman is, it's to show how badass his father is; who shoots the Atomic Skull in the back of his head hurting him badly enough to be distracted until Superman could show up and toss him into space or something. That's right, Kon-El, Superboy was taken out by a villain who was defeated by a badass farmer with a simple shotgun.
Superman villain Doomsday. Following his impressive feat of killing Superman, the poor thing has had nowhere to go but down. Now he's brought out whenever a new Kryptonian shows up to point out how two Supermen are better (or scarier) than one.
They avoided this at first. In their first rematch, Superman's powers had increased and he was still out of his element needing help to win and facing near paralysis from fear (the story starts with Superman having nightmares about Doomsday, one of the very few times that he has actually been visibly scared of a villain for what they could do to him as opposed to what they could do to others), using a time travel device to chuck Doomsday to the end of time.
The second time required the entire League (and this time it was the A-list big seven) and all they could do is contain Doomsday in a transporter loop, being continually dematerialized between three transporters to keep him from cohering. It was only 10 years later, after the team that created Doomsday had left, that he started to suffer Villain Decay. Even they at first used Doomsday respectfully, making him the ultimate weapon against a new threat. It was only after he developed intelligence (because people were beating him through smarts) that he became vulnerable to being intimidated.
Manute from Sin City is normally an unstoppable villain, unless Frank Miller decides to make one of the heroes (Marv, Wallace, or Miho) look badass.
A curious case is Magog, a Canon Immigrant from Kingdom Come. He's supposed to be a meta with power on par with Superman, Alan Scott, and Power Girl. In practice? He usually ends up either jobbing to whoever the villain of the day is or falling prey to someone with mind control. He's already been whammied by Gorilla Grodd, Miasma, and the Brain Trust - all in a single year. And then Max Lord made the fourth time the charm and killed him to boot.
Batman has been used this way at least twice. When Green Arrow and Green Lantern came back from the dead, they both established that they were the real deal in short order by socking the Goddamn Batman square in the jaw.
In GA's case, it was implied to be both a gimme for Bats' shoddy treatment and another way of testing whether it was Ollie or an impersonator. The GL case, though, was actually a Shout-Out to Bats dropping Guy Gardner like a sack of potatoes in the JLI books on a regular basis.
Ultimate Thor from The Ultimates has over the years often played this role. Several sentences or an issue would be built up to establish how badass he is only for him to get taken out in about two panels. For every high showing he has there are three or more low ones.
Years ago, Eric Larsen had the Spider-Man villain Dr. Octopus deliver the Hulk a severe smackdown during the "Revenge of the Sinister Six" storyarc. In the story, "Doc Ock" was given extremely powerful adamantium limbs which made him far more dangerous. Hulk writer Peter David accused Larsen of a making a personal attack when he wrote that story and responded with a story written for the sole purpose of mocking Dr. Octopus. Larsen explained that it made sense to use the Hulk for the purpose of this very trope.
In IDW's Transformers Ongoing book, Black Shadow does this in record time. He's introduced as a "phase sixer," basically a planet destroyer in bot form. Then his notable battles are listed and (one panel per battle) shown, along with kill counts (one battle numbering in the billions). This is done to get him established as a supreme badass so that the Decepticon Justice Division's effortless takedown of him more impressive.
Lady Shiva from DC Comics. Supposedly the top-tier martial artist in the entire DCU, but after her run in The Question and as Batman's trainer in Knightfall, anytime she shows up is to prove how powerful someone else is.
The Sonic the Hedgehog series did this a lot to Bunnie Rabbot, the strongest member of the Freedom Fighters. If she wasn't beaten to a pulp by the villain of the storyline (for example, Mecha Sonic, the roboticized Sonic), then she's getting her robotic limbs taken over and used against her.
If you really wanna know how bad things'll get, apply The Worf Effect on Sonic. Issue 175 is the best example of this as Eggman beats the hedgehog to a pulp, then gladly goes on to turn Knothole into a massive crater.
Shadow the Hedgehog of all people is mostly this with Knuckles a close second, Shadow one of the most ultimate badasses in the franchise and Sonic's equal, gets his ass handed to him and beat up the most in a battle by himself, and he is usually saved by others like Sonic and other team mates often requiring help to win. Knuckles used to have chaos powers and was the avatar of god in Mobius. Then he got his powers taken away from him, and like Shadow needs help to beat even weak fighters like Fang and Snively. He lost to Snively in a battle with Sonic and Tails.
There is also a group that serves this effect: the Illuminati (a secret society composed by Iron Man, Reed Richards, Namor, Charles Xavier, Black Bolt and Doctor Strange). They are supposed to exchange information so they can coordinate their respective teams and prevent the great crisis. Still, when each new crisis begins (Civil War, Secret Invasion, Avengers Vs X Men), the Illuminati have a secret meeting where they decide that there is nothing they can do.
In the pages of ''Fantastic Four, the Thing is often at the recieving end of a beatdown anytime a new bad guy shows up. Thing is often the measuring stick for the most elite strongmen in the Marvel universe as well. If you're stronger than him, you're considered at the top of the strongman food chain.
If writers want to show that a telepath, Eldritch Abomination, or Cosmic Entity has REALLY powerful mental abilities, they have the character curbstompCharles Xavier in a mental battle. Since most every telepath in the Marvel universe has gone up against him at some point, this happens a lot, to the point where Xavier's status as one of/the most powerful telepath on Earth becomes more of an Informed Ability.
More generally, this trope is often combined with C-List Fodder when introducing new superheroes. One way of immediately establishing some 'street cred' for the rookie hero is to have him or her defeat a couple of obscure C- and D-list villains.
Original-creation and self-insertion characters in Ranma 1/2 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.
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.
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 trueBig Bad Zhan Zheng at the time, so this trope more works for him than them).
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.
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.
Mare of Steel: Rainbow Dash's first fights with General Zod and Brainiac both go poorly for her, showing just how dangerous both villains are.
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.
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.
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'sDefiant, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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◊.
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.
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 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.
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?
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 Eaterusing 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.
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.
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 trolls hit harder.)
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.
On the video commentary for the episode "Errand of Mercy" on the Star Trek: The Original Series Season 1 Blu-Ray, the Worf Effect is very clearly referred to by VFX designer David Rossi. He notes that the production staff consciously used Worf as the "measuring stick" by which the strength and Badass-ery of villains was determined. This was obviously not true for the Original Series itself, however, which predates Worf's creation by twenty years, making it peculiar that he would choose to bring up Worf in that context.
Although at times Spock would serve as a proto-Worf (however, unlike the Klingon the half-Vulcan usually wasn't KO'd, allowing him to strike back).
While Worf suffered enough to be the Trope Namer, it should be noted that his getting beaten up served a purpose at first: It was usually used to show that the threat could not be resolved by sheer force, but needed either diplomacy or technology to defeat or pacify. (Later, it became a matter of sheer habit on the part of the writers, though.)
Interestingly, Worf's predecessor as head of security, Tasha Yar, was killed by a monster purely as a demonstration of power. Seems Worf inherited it. If she'd stuck around longer, this trope might've have been called the Yar Effect. (One of Denise Crosby's reasons for leaving the show was not seeing enough action; seems the writers weren't comfortable with smacking a woman around each week).
In "Conspiracy", an adversary casually tosses around Riker, LaForge and Worf before Dr. Crusher calmly walks in and phasers his ass. Multiple shots at high setting were required, though, one lasting as long as three to four seconds.
In one episode of Deep Space Nine, Worf himself deliberately utilizes this trope by letting Martok defeat him in a duel so as to restore the crew's confidence in Martok. This scene echos the TNG episode A Matter of Honor, in which Commander Riker, on detached duty to the Klingon warship Pagh, intentionally provokes the Pagh's captain into backhanding him so the man could take back his command with honor. The episode also proves that a Klingon Promotion isn't always fatal.
In Deep Space 9, the Jem'Hadar were first introduced in a season finale that culminated in the destruction of the Odyssey, a Galaxy class starship and The Big Guy of Starfleet ships, sister to the USS Enterprise-D - also having a balding captain, interestingly enough - with the only Jem'Hadar ship lost in the engagement being the one that intentionally rammed it. One of the writers later admitted that he had drawn this parallel between the two ships to showcase the Dominion as a credible threat. Later episodes would have the Federation come up with successful countermeasures, though there is a period in which the Dominion ships are looked at with some apprehension.
The Defiant herself suffered this as well. In the first major battle with the Breen, the Defiant and over 300 other ships were destroyed to show how deadly the Dominion's new allies were.
Worf getting his butt kicked on the phaser range by Guinan who mentions she was using her other hand. Though at least he had a couple good excuses— he was distracted by his personal problems, number one, and number two—
Interestingly, in Enterprise's first encounter with The Borg, Picard orders Worf to stop a drone from interfering with the ship's systems, and Worf delegates the task to a subordinate...who the drone effortlessly throws across Engineering.
Worf is rarely a victim of this trope in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, as he went from tactical to command, but after he is captured by Jem'Hadar and forced to fight one after another, we see an interesting twist when their commander steps in as his final opponent: The commander is shown to be pretty badass when he beats Worf after all his subordinates have failed. But the real badass is Worf himself, who despite getting beaten to a pulp refuses to stop fighting. Leave it to the Trope Namer to use the Worf Effect to cement his place as a warrior of legend.
"I yield! I cannot defeat this Klingon. All I can do is kill him, and that no longer holds my interest."
In his review of TNG's "Darmok", SF Debris humorously theorizes that is the result of the Enterprise crew never letting him fight until they've already exhausted every other option, by which time the enemy is always prepared and kicks his ass.
This is a staple in Power Rangers and its original Japanese counterpart Super Sentai. Basically, whenever the show needs to introduce a new ranger, weapon, upgrade or robot, the rangers will face an insanely strong monster who wipes the floor with them, until one of the aforementioned things is introduced, after which the monster will be easily defeated.
In Power Rangers Mystic Force, Daggeron was unstoppable in his first two or three appearances, but after that, he suffered The Worf Effect often. Mystic Forcedid have tougher monsters than other seasons, and anyone who could beat on Daggeron could maul the main five, but he was always the first one in and the first one down.
This "Sixth Ranger Syndrome" can be seen in almost every season of Power Rangers — the new, super powerful extra Ranger debuts, defeats the enemy in a few hits, and two episodes later is jobbing out to anything thrown his way.
It tends to be more of a case of Can't Catch Up. The villains gradually get more powerful over the course of the show, and the team gets upgrades to compensate for their ever more threatening foes. The main team, that is. Sixth Rangers generally aren't given Super Modes or extra mecha to stay competitive, so they fall behind.
It's demonstrated especially well with poor Daggeron: he can only stand by and watch the Rangers in their new Legend Mode easily take out the guys who beat him up. Then we take it to mecha level, and the new Megazord that comes with it does the same to the machine that Daggeron's own couldn't stand up to.
Another recurring thing is that often a monster will show and effortlessly defeat the team, then the team gets some powerup and beats the shit out of it in round two. The same applies to the Zords. These new toys easily take out the monster that the old ones were nothing against. Three episodes later, the new weapon/mech is no tougher than the one it replaced at best, constantly getting thrashed at worst. Especially once something badder replaces it. At that point, it will only exist to get hit once so the Rangers can say "Whoa! Even the Super Megazord isn't enough! We need the Super Duper Megazord!"
Even this is experienced by you-know-who. Daggeron can take on a non-Ranger morphed form, previously seen only in flashbacks until one day he just starts using it in the present. It is quite powerful, so his Ranger suit serves the same purpose as the Megazord before last: morphed Daggeron gets Worf'd, oh noes, and then out of the flames bursts Ancient Mystic Daggeron! You start to wonder why he ever bothered with the spande...uh, tights.
This is also subverted as well. Most obviously in Power Rangers S.P.D. with the Shadow Ranger. He rarely fights (as he doesn't want the Rangers to rely on him) and when he does, he normally completely mops the floor with his opponents.
It wasn't even just being the Green Ranger; after becoming the White Ranger and the team's leader he usually managed to get taken out by the monster of the week fairly early in constant season 2 episodes, and in damn near every season 3 episode.
How's this for irony? In the first series, Rita's brother Rito Revolto likely handed the Rangers their worst defeat to date when he destroyed both the Thunder Megazord and the Tigerzord. Unfortunately for him, when they came back with the Ninja Megazord and challenged him again, he got his ass handed to him. In other words, the Rangers were Worfed by him, and then he, in turn, was Worfed by them.
Happens in Samurai Sentai Shinkenger and Power Rangers Samurai when the Big Bad decides to take action. Even the rangers' most powerful BFG couldnt even dent the guy. To add insult to injury; this happened past the point in the show where the rangers would normally receive more gadgets, which meant shit just got real...
Bobby Flay invokes this in his Food Network show Throwdown, where he finds a chef, trains in their specialty, and then challenges them to a cook-off. Despite being an Iron Chef, Flay loses most of the time; however, he's said that he wants to lose, since the whole point of the show is to give props to all the awesome chefs out there (he's trying to do something after a week of training that they've been doing for years). On Iron Chef America, though, he plays to win. And he still does win throwdowns on occasion.
Angel featured this to some extent with Illyria. After a few episodes of her beating the everloving snot out of everyone and being nigh indestructible (although she does get toned down a bit right before this incident), Marcus Hamilton shows up and beats her to a bloody pulp, with as little effort as Neo put into defeating Smith at the end of The Matrix.
Marginally justified, in that Hamilton was sent in after Illyria had been depowered; in fact, he actually helps arrange for her depowering, and deliberately doesn't go anywhere near her until she is.
The comics have a powerful demon easily rip off Angel's hands and feet with his bare hands. And Whistler rips Angel's stomach out.
This happens many times in general to Buffy and Angel. Although you occasionally have smart or crafty villains, it seems the writers' first choice is go with with someone who can smack these two around.
In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy gets her ass kicked by Glory several times. Also Buffy, for the first time, expresses doubt that she can beat an enemy.
Also used in Season 5 to emphasize Willow's newfound magical strength. Glory effortlessly knocks Buffy, the resident badass, around week after week; until the finale only Willow manages to make her feel pain.
Caleb: So, you're the slayer. The slayer. The strongest, the fastest, the most aflame with that most precious invention of all mankind - the notion of goodness. The slayer must indeed be powerful. [Knocks Buffy out with one punch] So, what else you got?
Adam is another villain to casually see off Buffy at their first encounter.
The first time Buffy tries to take down a Turok-Han, it beats her unconscious.
That was mostly because she was sleep deprived though, once she finally slept (like her premonition told her to do) she beat it rather easily.
Depends upon your definition of "easy". She gets her butt handed to her the first 90% of the fight before somehow turning the fight around and killing the guy (with help).
Spike is semi-vulnerable to this. His fights tend to start with him being beaten almost unconscious by whatever man/woman/fluffy rabbit he's fighting, then proceeding to destroy his opponent in the span of a few seconds. Of course, he likes fighting, so it's possible he doesn't go all out at first to avoid the fight ending too quickly.
Angel suffered this in seasons 2 (prior to his Face-Heel Turn) and 3, regularly getting his ass kicked or being the first member of the good guys' side to get taken out. He received much less of this treatment after moving to his own series.
Ka D'argo is the Worf of Farscape, in this aspect as well. The Alien of the week usually manhandles him, and D'argo ends up choking up black, poisonous blood, leaving it up to Crichton or Aeryn to save his life. This appears to have been mitigated by the writers by late season 2, however, as D'argo seems to win EVERY fight with relative ease, even with multiple, credible non-mook opponents.
A bit of Fridge Brilliance here. D'Argo had been chained to a wall for many years at the start and would not be nearly as strong or able as when he was originally a warrior. However, after a year and a half of being on the run and facing monsters on a weekly basis, it's not surprising he got back in shape.
Kamen Rider Decade gets this accusation in spades; check its individual page for details. In short, Decade's A Wizard Did It attitude with power levels - beyond even the norm for Toku - results in characters who should rightfully kick much ass go down in a hit or two to make their opponent look good. Decade is on the giving end of many of these, but that only makes it worse when someone he should be able to beat starts bashing him around. Also, the alternate version of Kamen Rider Kuuga who appears in this series rarely transforms and when he does, he usually gets smacked around, which does not make "Yuuseless," already a point of contention, any more palatable to the fans of the original Kuuga.
Want to prove yourself as a real tough guy in The A-Team? Knock out living wall of muscle B.A. Baracus. Ironically, this happened in the series pilot.
Sayid, as the toughest of the crash survivors, suffers from this to some extent in LOST, and has been taken down by Rousseau, Mikhail Bakunin and Keamy, the first two in their introductory episodes. He usually puts up a creditable fight, though.
Luckily, for many this doesn't threaten Sayid's legitimacy as a badass because Lost is often less about combat prowess and more about overall competence. Furthermore, there will usually be moments of awesome sprinkled around with regards to this character; many people pointed out that "only Sayid would put his forks and knives pointy-side up in the dishwasher, just in case" after an awesome fight in which Sayid kills some assailants by opening up the dishwasher and throwing them on the deadly silverware.
Derek Morgan is the "tough guy" in the series, however, while in earlier seasons you see him winning his fights, in later seasons he's often the beaten party. It leads to Reid joking in the season finale of season six (where Morgan was tackled by a member of the Un-Sub's team) that he needed to work out more.
Garcia, in a sense. Although she's not known for her physical skills, she's known- and renowned- for her computer hacking skills and wizardry. However, more often that not, when Garcia is actually tasked to outsmart a tech-savvy Un-Sub, the Un-Sub trips her up, usually by way of "one million proxy servers", forcing the team to locate the Un-Sub the old fashioned way.
Subverted in "The Internet Is Forever", where Garcia does manage to outsmart an Un-Sub (for once). Since the Un-Sub routes his connection through the same order of proxy servers, it became an easy trace, leading to Garcia terminating the transmission before the Un-Sub can kill his latest victim, becoming a Moment of Awesome for Garcia.
Castiel in Supernatural. Despite being an angel, he's usually the one getting his head kicked in.
Ironically, Castiel actually got more effective in combat as he got weaker. In season 5 he gradually loses his angelic powers as a result of being cut off from Heaven. Despite this, he still mows down angel mooks by the truckload, when the best Sam and Dean can ever manage is to temporarily banish them. Even after becoming completely human, he still defeats the Horseman Pestilence and manages to sucker punch Michael, who was pretty much untouchable up until that point. Compare this to season 4, where he's at full strength but still manages to lose just about every fight he gets in to onscreen.
Used to rather shocking effect in Stargate SG-1. The episode "Camelot" has the humans, Free Jaffa, and Asgard, the three most advanced races in the Milky Way, try to stop the Ori from invading through the Supergate. There are about sixteen ships there, later bolstered by reinforcements from the Lucian Alliance (procured by Teal'c by holding Netan at gunpoint). This still doesn't help, as while the Asgard ship is able to survive, a ha'tak can't survive even one hit from the Ori ship's main weapon, and a human 304 is only able to take two. Until "Unending" only one Ori ship had been destroyed, and that was by a clever trick. This gets better at the season finale when they get Asgard beam weaponry, but it still takes the Big Damn Movie for the war to finally be won.
SG-1 used this trope constantly throughout the series whenever a new force was introduced. The Goa'uld, the original antagonists for example were seen as all powerful...until the Asgard show up and can utterly dominate them. Then the Replicators appear, and can manhandle Asgard ships with ease. The Tolan also first appear to easily dispatch Goa'uld ships. Then Anubis comes onto the scene and obliterates them and is a credible threat to the Asgard who in turn get better ships and scare *him* off and then finally Ancient tech is revealed to be able to crush Anubis easily. About the only ones who haven't been Worf Effected in this manner are the Replicators, where their every defeat comes down to tricks, luck and Deus ex Machina.
Teal'c could be said to be SG-1's Worf. However he usually prevailed, and his defeats were mostly non-gratuitous serving to better develop his character.
Amped to ridiculous levels in the Stargate Atlantis finale where the human 304s armed with the same Asgard beam weapons that could destroy Ori ships in one shot cannot even scratch a Wraith ZPM powered hive ship and it only ends up being destroyed by a bomb in it's fighter bay, because apparently internal security is an alien concept to the Wraith.
There's a whole crossover episode subverting this with Teal'c and Ronon teaming up to stop a Wraith invasion of Earth.
In Law & Order: SVU, Det. Stabler's a pretty tough guy who's known for working over perps in the interview room. Frequently he gets knocked around, racked in the nuts, etc.
This becomes a plot point on Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon with regards to Sailor Venus. In the episode that she debuted, she was able to effortlessly defeat Zoisite with her standard attack. This made sense as she had the most experience as a Sailor Soldier compared to the other girls. Later on, though, as the rest of the girls awakened their full power, it became clear that Venus hadn't awakened hers yet since she was regularly getting overpowered by the standard Mooks. Sailor Mars even calls her out on it. Venus finally receives her Mid-Season Upgrade towards the end of the series, but she died of a terminal illness the next episode.
Several episodes of the BBC's Walking With... series follow the same pattern. As an opening a bad-ass dinosaur/scorpion/shark is shown hunting down some poor critter only for the real star of the episode to suddenly appear and bite them in half.
The episode that showed a massively oversized Liopleurodon jump out of the water and drag down an Eustreptospondylus (a European relative of Allosaurus) invoked this trope in hopes of trying to avert Atlantis Is Boring, since it focused on prehistoric sea creatures.
The first time a "future predator" appeared on Primeval, it broke into an enclosure at a zoo to kill and eat a full-grown lion.
And in subsequent episodes, the future predator itself would fall victim to this trope as it was killed by various other animals.
On Castle, Esposito occasionally suffers from this. As a former special forces soldier he should be the most tactically effective member of the team. As a result while he often is shown as the most effective in this regard, he is still fairly often defeated by tougher opponents. In one notable case Action Girl Beckett is much more successful in unarmed combat than he was.
In Teen Wolf, the quickest way to show that a bad guy/antagonist means trouble is to have them beat up or harass Derek. Poor guy...
Derek spent the whole first season being outclassed by the alpha and harassed by hunters that he couldn't harm for fear they would declare all out war on him. Even after he became alpha, the kanima easily disabled him. He can barely control his own pack. He once got taken out by Lydia. He was never pitched as the best or most trained, it's just the newly bitten wolves and most humans that can't match him. Worf could totally take Derek.
Episode ''Pusher'' of The X-Files: We realize that Pusher's Compelling Voice is very, very dangerous when he gets Skinner. It's double-subverted in Skinner's case. Pusher already killed a sheriff deputy and one FBI agent by Psychic-Assisted Suicide. Skinner was the only one who could resist him, but he ended beaten up anyway, and by Holly the tiny secretary on top of that.
An interesting example from Firefly. In Out of Gas, Mal has to rough up his pilot to get him on the bridge (It Makes Sense in Context), and Jayne, resident tough guy, is shown being visibly scared of Mal.
Jayne is also easily knocked out by River during her rampage in the Maidenhead bar in Serenity. Though to his credit, he did at least manage to get her in an arm-lock for a few seconds, which is better than anyone else in that fight did.
Wash: Start with the part where Jayne gets knocked out by a 90-pound girl 'cause... I don't think that's ever getting old.
Magnificent Bastard Klaus from The Vampire Diaries has been constantly hailed (by himself as much as anyone) as the most powerful and deadly being in the world, given that he's a thousand-year-old vampire/werewolf hybrid with the kind of strength and ability others could only dream of. Pretty much everyone is terrified of him, and his power is matched only by his arrogance. But with the introduction of Silas in season 4, we see Klaus subjected to an unprecedented Humiliation Conga in which he is pulverized in combat, brutally Mind Raped into submission, and forced to dig into his own back with a pair of pliers. When Caroline sees what a quivering wreck he has been reduced to, she is both gratified that someone has finally managed to Break the Haughty, and terrified at the prospect of Silas and his obviously formidable powers.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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 isnote
With the odd exception of the 5th edition Tyranid codex, which was mostly about Hive Fleet defeats, including that time the Phoenix Lord Maugan Ra took out a whole swarm by himself
. 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 fallensonHorus, 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 MarineTerminator 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.
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.
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.
Many examples in the Hopeless Boss Fight trope count as this - until you hit this, your characters have been reliably able to defeat everything that comes their way. But then comes the Hopeless Boss Fight and they don't even have a chance...
In one of the many odd plot choices made in 'Resident Evil: Code: Veronica, the series' biggest major antagonist, Albert Wesker, shows up after his supposed death in the first game, only now with superhuman physical abilities. The first thing he does is get his ass handed to him by that game's main villain, Alexia Ashford, in a show-off of their superpowers, and then run away so Chris Redfield can fight her instead. What follows is usually considered to be a laughably easy'' boss fight, as Alexia is extremely slow and easy to hit, with attacks that while damaging are easy to avoid, and she takes exactly three shots of the magnum to put down. If only the superhuman Wesker had been carrying a pistol!
Opalneria Rain from Grim Grimoire is a powerful necromancer and a respected teacher at the school, yet in every single repetition of the "Groundhog Day" Loop she is either killed or rendered unconscious, often by the main character (Three times and counting). You begin to wonder towards the end if she's offended some great cosmic force or something!
Halo 3: As the only competent human still alive besides the player character, Sergeant Johnson falling victim to this trope was inevitable. A Pelican gets shot down? Johnson was on it. Enemies storm the base? Johnson gets pushed back and you have to finish the job for him. Need a third team leader for a crucial operation? The normal human takes the riskiest spot, while the Super Soldier and the Proud Warrior Race Guy get targets that are not directly connected to the nearby enemy stronghold. It gets to the point where our Badass Normal becomes a Distressed Damsel of sorts — and a rescue attempt is mounted by the person whom you'd expect to fill the role.
Johnson seems aware of his status - when overwhelmed, he admits "there were too many, even for me"
The promo for Halo 4 shows the UNSC Infinity, the largest and most powerful UNSC warship ever built, going down from a single blast of the new enemy. According to the fluff, the ship incorporates not only the latest in human tech, but also tech acquired from the Covenant and the Shield World Trevelyan (i.e. Forerunner tech). It's also the training site for the SPARTAN-IV program (experienced soldiers enhanced Master Chief-style and given Powered Armor).
The Infinity itself gets to do this in the beginning of the Spartan Ops arc, when it jumps out of slipspace and rams into a Covenant cruiser, not even slowing down. Before, a Covenant cruiser by itself was more than a match for even several UNSC warships, and the Infinity literally cut through them like paper.
Vanquish also plays strict homage to this trope with Colonel Robert Burns, a gruff old cyborg squad leader who so happens to survive almost everything that the robot legion throws at him WITHOUT A HELMET.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption: Subverts this. The Berserker Lord can't be hurt by your weapon's standard fire and has to be worn down. You then see Ghor defeat a Berserker with two hits, making it seem like this trope but it but was really a weaker lookalike you can beat even faster than he did.
Played straight in Super Metroid twice the titular Super Metroid can not only take out enemies Samus can barely scratch in seconds but it is completely invincible to her bombs, power bombs, ice beam and everything else she can use normally. This escalates when Mother Brain then kills the Super Metroid without even using her strongest weapon...which was luckily transferred to Samus by the Super Metroid before it died.
Metroid: Other M features Ridley appearing again and scaring the shit out of Samus, making him seem like a credible threat. Later in the game, Ridley is owned by a creature you don't see until you fight it as the final boss - a Metroid Queen. You know it's not messing around because it killed Ridley.
Gears of War 2:Skorge's first act in the game is to leap onto the battlefield and immediately saws a tank in half. He then begins to solo both The Big Guy and a Mauve Shirt while the player character(s) can do nothing but watch. Granted, the exact ending of the conflict was never shown and The Big Guy wasn't actually killed, but still. His predecessor, RAAM, proved that he was Serious Business by killing your Lt effortlessly, though the Lt only really showed his Badass-ness in the same cutscene he was killed.
Both in-game and out, the Heavy in Team Fortress 2 is the biggest, toughest character in the game, able to soak up rockets like a sponge and kill multiple people in a second. ("He punched out all my blood!") Over the course of nine of the ten "Meet the Team" videos currently released, the BLU Heavy has been gibbed three times, shot to death by a level one sentry, headshotted by the Sniper, and beaten unconscious in three hits by a baseball bat. He is killed more often than almost anyone else anyone else (he can't hold a candle to the BLU Soldier, though), and commonly by things he could easily tank.
He reclaimed his throne as in-game resident badass after Valve increased his damage and tightened his firing cone; a week later, they released the Scout update - including a weapon whose sole purpose seems to be rendering the Heavy comatose with relative ease.
The Heavy can retaliate by calling on another of his gals and rob Scout of his greatest asset, so it's all good.
In gameplay, you may encounter Spy players who show just how good they are by stalking and killing Pyros, the class meant to counter theirs.
Also, before, the Ubercharge was one of the most tide-turning aspects of a game. You get a invulnerable, rocket/boolet firing monster mowing everyone down. Now? You get someone immune to damage, but not the push-back effects of explosions or the Pyro. In fact, the Pyro is considered to be one of the most effective Uber-counters. Good Pyros can effectively render an Ubercharge useless.
This counter has been countered once again, with an alternate form of Ubercharge that, while leaving you vulnerable to One Hit Kills, makes you immune to the deadly knockback.
Now, from Meet the Pyro, we learn that every single person on The Pyro's own team is afraid of him/her, providing this line:
Heavy: I fear no man. But that...Thing...It scares me.
You will know how dangerous Mr.Sandman is in Punch-Out!! as soon as you unlock the final fight.That is, by watching the 8-seconds clip that shows him effortlessly knocking out every other opponent you beat before him. When he enters the ring even Doc is afraid of him.
The player characters seem to fit that role in the later Metal Gear games.
In Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow, Dario proves easily able to defeat Julius as a way of showing how much more powerful he's become since the last time (Julius also got Worfed by Soma himself in the previous game). Later on, Dmitri defeats Arikado/Alucard, albeit by using Celia's sacrifice to cause him to lose control of his dark powers.
In another dinosaur example, the one-eyed T. rex in Dino Crisis 2 (Who was nigh invulnerable to your weapons, as well as taking on a tank and surviving gets ripped apart in seconds by a Giganotosaurus. This one is even more egregious than the Spinosaurus example above, as the Giganotosaur is depicted as so huge it can pick up the Tyrannosaur in its mouth and toss it around like a rag doll. A real-life matchup would be much more evenly weighted, as the real Giganotosaurus is only marginally bigger than T. rex, possesses a more gracile build, and lacks the Tyrant Reptile's bone-crushing bite strength.
In Tekken, ever since returning Back from the Dead, Kazuya Mishima has been suffering this a lot. He's beaten down by Heihachi, and then Jin consecutively. And if the newer bio of Tekken 6 is to be trusted again, someone beats him in the middle of the tournament (presumably Jin. AGAIN), opting him to leave the tournament to deal with the G Corporation. Then one of the leaked screenshots for Tekken 6's new Scenario Campaign had him being kicked in the ass by Heihachi. Was coming Back from the Dead really worth it?
Iji manages to do this on a species-wide scale. Granted, we only see the last major battle, but the backstory states that these wars have been going on for decades, so it still counts. Specifically, at the beginning of the game, the Tasen seem like a rather frightening, imposing warrior race, but once their ancient rivals appear on the scene they're absolute jokes.
In Final Fantasy VII SOLDIER is heralded in the backstory as a group of unrelenting hardcases who can mow down countless enemies with ease. In-game, however, the lower class members of this group are less than impressive, just another batch of Mooks for the protagonists to stomp.
Not just the lower class. While at the beginning you fight the 3rd Class (recruits) in the mid-game you're against 2nd Class and by the end you're easily dispatching SOLDIER 1st Class, the elite of the elite of which Cloud, Zack and Sephiroth are supposed to be from. By the time you fight the 2nd class the fate of the world is in your hands and personally gunning for the Strongest Soldier that ever livednote This may be justified by Shinra's policies at the time: prior to the beginning of the game, there were very, very few 1st Classes, limited to Zack, Sephiroth, Genesis and Angeal, all of whom are dead at the time. Shinra may be promoting relatively unqualified 2nd Classes to 1st Class to fill in the roster. And the party is also full of people with world-destroying power and materia, so that might help too.
Another example would be the Midgar Zolom. When you first encounter it, it's almost impossible to beat, and the game encourages you to evade it instead. When you get to the other side of the swamp where it lives, you find that Sephiroth already killed one and left it's remains dangling from a tree.
Enforced Trope. Kyousuke was well aware that the Alt had it's limits. One of the first things we see him do in the game is tactfully pointing out to his superior that his team's machines need some serious tune-ups. Later on after getting Worfed a couple times he puts in a request for a major overhaul to his mech in order to avoid this trope. Unfortunately, he doesn't get the green light until after the Alt is ripped apart by Axel.
If Mario fights in the opening of a game, he's getting a Worfing. A particular example is at the start of Super Mario Galaxy, when he doesn't even get in striking range of Bowser before getting blasted by Kamek. This despite Magikoopas being fairly minor enemies in their previous appearances (though it was Kamek, the Magikoopa leader, so it's not quite as egregious).
And, to tie it to an above example, in Brawl, the first fight is a quick slobberknocker between Mario and Kirby. Then, the two of them hold off incoming waves of Primids and such. Then...Mario's promptly shot by a cannonball. Just...blam, the most iconic video game character of all time, blasted off like Team Rocket to show that whoever the antagonist of the story is, they're serious (and the kicker is that he was blasted away by Petey Piranha of all people). This becomes the standard in any subsequent appearances Mario makes in any given cutscene... while Kirby and co. proceed tosteal the spotlight whenever possible.note Though it needs to be pointed out that this appears to be to make up for the lack of attention Sakurai gave to his own franchise in the previous games, as both Dedede and Metaknight were intended to be included right from the start, but were always the first things to be cut for either development time or game space. Not to mention Kirby being Nerfed in Melee.
Even Bowser himself is not immune to the Worf effect, but his Worfings are nearly exclusive to the RPG titles (such as Bowser's Inside Story).
Mario Party 3 provides not one but two non-RPG examples, with both Daisy and Waluigi (newly introduced to the series) giving Bowser a Worfing when they make their appearances in Story Mode. Of the two, Daisy's is by far the more humiliating; whereas Waluigi beats Bowser in an actual scuffle, Daisy merely reacts to turning around and finding Bowser standing right behind her by immediately punching him, out of surprise...which somehow is enough to launch him into the background, Team Rocket style. When asked why she hit Bowser, Daisy casually responds, "He was in my way!"
Mass Effect 2 did this to the Normandy: what better way to establish the Collectors than have them blow your trusty ship in half.
Whoever you take to fight the Shadow Broker gets this - he throws a desk into them with enough force to knock them out for the rest of the fight.
Mass Effect 3 when Kai-Leng is around he worfs somebody in a very specific way. When you finally fight him in gameplay, Kai-Leng is a decent but not particularly challenging boss, but during scripted sequences, he defeats Shepard repeatedly by essentially cheating: unable to put Shepard down himself, Kai-Leng will call in flunkies, gunships and more, almost pushing him into Dangerously Genre Savvy levels. He's effective because he recognizes his ineffectiveness. He also kills either STG major Kirrahe, Thane or the Salarian councilor despite Shepard being right in front of him. And takes the crucial Crucible data right under Shepard's team's nose with a gunship. Thankfully it makes finally giving him a proper fight that much more satisfying Breaking his sword and impaling the guy as a finisher just being the perfect way to end the douchebag.
To start, during the tutorial level, intended to take a new character from level 1 to 5, Kinetik is captured by mooks the player can easily handle, and during the battle with Black Talon, Defender gets permanently restrained and the player has to finish the fight themselves. The prologue has since been revised, removing the mission with Kinetik entirely and having Defender take on enemy reinforcements instead of being outright taken out of the fight.
Sonic himself suffered from this in Sonic the Hedgehog (2006). All of his encounters with Silver end with him being dispatched rather easily. In addition, Mephiles manages to kill him without much effort.
In Smoke's chapter of Story Mode, he faces off against Kitana and Sektor and triumphs without much difficulty. When they meet again (Kitana and Nightwolf's chapters, respectively), Kitana beats him alongside Cage, and Sektor treats Smoke like a ragdoll, with Smoke being unable to successfully land a blow before Sektor gets him into a chokehold and Nightwolf has to intervene.
If the Story Mode is any indication, Sub-Zero punked Kratos (PS3 version only) off-screen and put him on ice.
Sindel, having been empowered by Shang Tsung's soul/essence, attacks the heroes after the automated Lin Kuei warriors fail to kill them. It quickly escalates into a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown like no other. Nightwolf, Kitana, Sonya, and Cage are the only immediate survivors; one of them dies of their wounds and another has to pull a Heroic Sacrifice.
In Deadly Alliance, Liu Kang, the protagonist from the first three games, dies before Quan Chi and Shang Tsung can continue their evil plan.
The NCR Rangers are built up throughout the game to be a crew of ultra-badasses that only the best of the best get to join. Right before the final boss fight, there's a scripted sequence where two of them charge Legate Lanius, only to be immediately cut to shreds.
The Antivan Crows in Dragon Age are (allegedly) the greatest assassins in Thedas. Yet, every time they go up against the Warden/Hawke they get soundly defeated, just to prove how tough s/he is. This is somewhat justified in the Warden's case, as even the Crows are somewhat unwilling to go up against the people responsible for stopping Blights, so any assassins that any that take those assignments are either stupid or suicidal.
In the Mark of the Assassin DLC for Dragon Age II, while hunting for a wyvern, you end up coming across the corpse of a dragon that was killed in a fight with a wyvern, marking perhaps the first time in any Western RPG that has ever happened.
Fire Emblem is guilty of using this. In Fire Emblem Elibe: The Sword of Seals. General Cecilia who was established as Roy's teacher and one of the best generals in Etruria, promptly gets taken out in one hit by Zephiel. It gives you a sneak peek at how powerful he is and he even stays on screen for a couple turns afterwords to show off his stats.
In the Tellius series, right hand to the Beast king Ranulf takes beatings to show how outclassed he is.
Zig-Zagged in Fire Emblem 7. One scene, Athos uses Forblaze on Nergal. And while you can see that it does scratch him (Athos is at a magic triangle disadvantage after all) it forces Nergal to retreat. Next time you can have Athos confront Nergal, he can use more appropriate tomes and can even possibly solo the guy if need be.
Basilio gets hit with this twice in Fire Emblem Awakening. Despite being one of Ferox's two khans and having a huge army, the Valmese army nearly decimates his midway through the game, and the other characters even directly comment that Valm's army must be pretty strong if Basilio can't beat them.
In Dawn of War II - Retribution, during the Exterminatus of Typhon Prime, a Carnifex tries to flee from the planet. This completely pisses off a Chaos Champion who's offended that all these escapees aren't accepting the "honor of such a glorious death" and so he single-handedly kills the Carni with a synch-kill. While the Chaos Champion is a minor-boss, he's certainly no match for a Carnifex in-game or table-top. Your heroes will only take seconds to finish the guy off and hopefully collect a shiny from him too.
In World of Warcraft: Cataclysm, capital cities are generally safe havens, and very rarely have any dangerous NPCs in them (except as the result of griefers or Good Bad Bugs). So naturally, each expanion created events that results in attacks on capitals, and one of the first things Deathwing does after his return is attack Stormwind, for no (stated) reason other than to show he's a Not-So-Harmless Villain. And to chagrin of Horde fanboys, he doesn't even have the decency to burn it to the ground; he just melts some of the walls and burns the night elf neighbourhood.
Another example of this trope occurs in the previous expansion, Wrath of the Lich King. Dranosh Saurfang- also known as Saurfang the Younger- is shown during the cutscene at Angrathar, the Wrathgate to cleave down three reanimated Vrykul warriors at once when a normal warrior struggles with one. He then attempts to confront the Lich King only to have his axe- ironically an Arcanite Reaper, a devastating weapon in vanilla World of Warcraft- shattered by Frostmourne. The strike knocks him to the ground and ultimately kills him.
In the Hour of Twilight 5-man dungeon, during the final gauntlet before the last boss Archbishop Benedictus, if you look closely you can see various Earthen Ring NPCs the player met while questing in Cataclysm being killed off by generic trash mobs. This was presumably done to add a sense of urgency to the dungeon, but since the game does nothing to draw your attention to them, many players didn't even notice.
In Mists of Pandaria, the Klaxxi preserve some of their strongest warriors and greatest minds, the Paragons, in amber so that they can be released in times of great peril, such as when their empress is corrupted by the Sha of Fear and forces the Klaxxi to overthrow her to stop her from self-destructing their civilization. At the end of the Klaxxi quest line, after getting Exalted with the Klaxxi, one renowned warrior Paragon, Malik the Unscathed, so called because whereas most Klaxxi warriors bear their scars with pride, he came back with both eyewitness accounts of his valor and skill and no scars at all goes up against Imperial Vizier Zor'lok, an Empress loyalist and the first boss of the Heart of Fear Raid, and is instantly killed by Inhale.
The Three Sacred Treasures, very powerful weapons of light, were used in the first game and Uprising to defeat Medusa. When Pit uses them to battle Hades, Hades destroys them by blowing on Pit real hard.
Ziggy gets this treatment a lot in Xenosaga; the largest, most experienced and most physically intimidating of the main cast, he's nevertheless been thoroughly trounced in encounters with Margulis, Voyager and T-elos.
Chrono Trigger: Magus is probably going to be a Wake Up Call Boss for many players, if you don't know the trick to beating him he'll quickly curbstomp you. Later on he gets taken out by the Big BadLavos with no real effort on its part.
In Pokémon Black and White, N manages to defeat the regional champion in an offscreen battle to show how powerful he and his dragon really are.
Justified as a deconstruction of what happens when you call the Retired Badass out of retirement; it is clearly stated that not only was N very powerful, but Alder and his team were also badly out of practice, which also contributed to his loss. In the post-game, Alder shapes up and becomes a Bonus Boss.
In BlazBlue, Hakumen was The Leader who destroyed the Black Beast, which itself almost destroyed the world. Further, almost every character states how powerful he is, and it is often noted that he isn't even at full strength. Naturally, he loses every plot-critical battle, and is even bested by some of the weaker characters (even if they don't seriously threaten him), with most of his victories being cutscene based.
Final Fantasy XIII has Cid Raines. When Lightning (who ties for second best strength and magic in the whole game) attacks him, he blocks every single one of her hits with his gloved hand, proceeding to grab her gunblade, and use it as leverage to throw her back at the rest of the party. Needless to say, the following battle is a toughie.
Kingdom Hearts II uses this trope to establish the Nobodies as credible opponents. Over the course of the game, they constantly one-up the Heartless and even at one point best Maleficent.
Star Trek Online's two-year anniversary included the launch of the brand-new Odyssey-class flagship cruisers, including the Enterprise-F, with a great deal of publicity, fanfare and celebration. Eight months later and the Odyssey-class USS Houston shows up in the Special Task Force mission "Hive Onslaught", for the sole purpose of getting one-shotted by the weapons of the Borg Unimatrix ships. To make this example truly complete, the Houston is under the command of Worf's grandson, Admiral D'Vak.
In the original Doom, the barons of hell served as the Dual Boss of the first episode, scores tougher than any other enemy faced so far - they could take five rockets, when everything else was gibbed by a single one - and even when demoted to a more common enemy in the rest of the game and the sequel, with more monsters introduced, were among the most powerful foes and easily took the most hits to down. Yet the final level of the second episode started inside a room with four barons of hell gutted and hanged from a wall. The implications were made quite clear.
Mario and Link seem to get this in trailers revealing new characters to Super Smash Bros.. A price to pay, being two of Nintendo's biggest mascots.
In the Need for Speed: Rivals trailer that revealed the undercover cop, two cops in SRT Chargers are shown rolling a suspect in an Aston Martin with ease at the beginning of the video. Later on, when the race involving the undercover cop is underway, the cops in the Charger are sent as backup to apprehend a high-value target in a Lamborghini Veneno. When they reach the suspect, they're immediately tossed by it.
Early in .hack//G.U. Rebirth, Haseo is established as an utterly badass PKK, seen killing three P Ks with ease. In his first fight with Azure Kite, he furiously attacks him with everything and doesn't land a single blow before being beaten down in two hits and being reset to level one.
In Saints Row The Third the Syndicate kill Johnny Gat, establishing themselves as a threat. Admittedly he made them work for it.
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.
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 usingEa 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.
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.
HegemonicBrute. 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 and the exhaustion from one involuntary transformation that may have been precipitated by that blow.
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.
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.
It's worth noting that even in his fight in the finale, the one with the whole "World of Cardboard" Speech, he was interrupted by The Worf Effect.
In one DVD commentary, the creators described why this happened: They copied the frequency of Superman getting beaten up that they used before in Superman: The Animated Series. The creators said their mistake lay in following up these beatdowns with some other hero jumping in to rescue Supes—whereas in his own series, Superman would get knocked down, get back on his feet, and beat up his assailant himself.
Superboy is sometimes given this treatment in Young Justice to establish how powerful the new villain of the week is. For instance, to show how much deadlier Aqualad has become since his Face-Heel Turn, we're treated to a scene of him easily throwing Superboy to the floor and then violently electrocuting him until he's incapacitated.
Likewise, Black Beetle's entrance into the show has him curbstomping Batgirl, Robin, Superboy, Wonder Girl, Lagoon Boy, Bumblebee, and Miss Martian. Of course, it's subverted a moment later when Blue Beetle shows up and gives him an even fight.
Ironically enough, Superboy inverts this in his first Day in the Limelight while fighting Amazo. The entire team is getting their asses handed to them (obviously, since Amazo has already copied the powers of the entire Justice League), until Superboy thinks for a few seconds. When Amazo accesses Martian Manhunter's intangibility to dodge a robin-rang, Superboy sticks his fist in his head as he turns back to normal with the obvious result.
When Mammoth is introduced in "Drop-Zone", his first act is a Curb-Stomp Battle where he wipes the floor with Bane.
Happened to Thor in Fantastic Four to bring the threat of Ego The Living Planet. Sue Richards even makes a point to label Thor "the most powerful being on Earth", much to Ben's consternation. This example is an odd one because it was Thor's first appearance on the show — viewers who were already Marvel fans knew what a big deal he was, but everyone else needed Sue to tell them.
In Ben 10: Alien Force, you can always rely on Kevin, the physically strongest member on the team, to take the most damage in battle.
Happens to Prince Zuko on Avatar: The Last Airbender. He is the front row victim when Aang first taps into his Avatar State, he's taken down by the deadly Yu Yan archers with one single hit, and during the season one finale, he struggles to a victory in combat with Katara, whose abilities had risen to master levels offscreen. Later on that night, during their rematch under a full moon (which augments a Waterbender's power) Katara is able to abruptly neutralize Zuko's attack and KO him in a single stride. In the season two premiere, Zuko takes on his newly introduced sister, but is unable to land a single hit on her and has to be saved from certain death by his uncle.
Zuko gets stronger as he approaches his Heel-Face Turn, and is one of the world's greatest benders by the series' end, though. The aftermath of his battle with Katara seemed to show that they were actually evenly matched; she beats him under the full moon, augmenting her powers, but he beats her when the sun is out, augmenting his.
The Kyoshi Warriors have elements of this too, easily defeated by Zuko in the first season, then by Azula and her Quirky Miniboss Squad.
Averted versus Zhao. After the fight, the viewer knows that Zhao is less capable than Zuko by himself, while he is a greater threat because of his vast resources. But definitely a Worf effect in evilness, as we see that Zhao is a complete jerk, while Zuko is honorable.
This was pretty typical in Transformers: Beast Wars on both factions. Typically, when a new character would show up they would whoop some serious ass and be portrayed as an unstoppable force. This is notable in "Feral Scream", where first Dinobot gets cloned and made into a new Transmetal II Predacon and schools everything, then in the same episode Cheetor gets an upgrade and takes out the new Dinobot. In the next episode Cheetor resumed his typical, post-upgrade role and Dinobot's status was lowered to a more typical enemy.
Special mention must go to Rampage. As a rule, he's almost unbeatable in any episode, as long as he's important to that episode's plot. After Blackarachnea got her upgrade, she beats him without even using a GUN. TWICE. To put in perspective, every robot character in the show (except Transmutate) had some kind of gun, and rarely was there a fight where they didn't use it.
Bulkhead: He always shoots at me first! Blitzwing: Let's see how tough you are without your big bolt-brained bruiser! (fires a blast that knocks Bulkhead over) Bulkhead:Called it...
The Worf Effect is applied in a layering effect in Animated. There is a special tier of villains Bumblebee can take out by himself (the human villains, sad as that sounds), then a higher tier for the Robot Ninja Prowl and The Big Guy Bulkhead (The Brutes, Sixth Ranger Traitor and random Cons), then a tier that only Optimus has a chance against with the below serving as mere decoys. Starscream and Megatron cement their status as a tier by themselves by Starscream fatally wounding Optimus in the pilot and beating Optimus' superior with one shot...and then Megatron beating Screamer with one shot. Despite this very clear hierarchy, Bumblebee has charged head first at Starscream and Megatron by himself several times. They usually pick him up by the neck and fling him.
The Autobots themselves have a tendency to end up as victims. In the pilot episode, Starscream easily defeats all five of them, twice, which turned out to be the only fighting he did during the season. They also get thrashed by Blitzwing and Lugnut, and Megatron at the end of the 1st season. The irony is that the debut fights for all of the above, except Megatron, was the only time they are shown are how tough they are. In subsequent appearances, Starscream rarely ever did any fighting, and half the time it was getting thrashed by Megatron.
By themselves, the Dinobots have been beaten by Optimus' team, Meltdown and now Jetstorm and Jetfire.
Sentinel Prime is also victim of this. When he assists the Autobots, he has beaten the Headmaster and most of the Decepticons. At the same time he has lost to Headmaster, Blackarachnia and Blitzwing when he had to fight them himself. He also was beaten by the Dinobots when he tried to bully them.
In TransformersPrimeShockwave's new creation Predaking, estabilishes its creds by taking on both Bulkhead and Wheeljack, two of the most combat savvy bots in the whole show, and easily shrugging everything tossed at it as an annoyance. The thing barely notices Wheeljack's trusty grenades and the cannons from Ultra Magnus' ship, much larger than Wheeljack's that killed Hardshell, just throw it for a loop for a second.
Splinter from the 1980s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon was portrayed as a master of ninjitsu, but he got himself captured on a regular basis and had to be rescued by the Turtles as often as April O'Neil herself.
In the season six episode of the 2k3 cartoon, "Timing Is Everything" the show did this to the Utrom Shredder from season one. Directly after the events of "The Shredder Strikes, Part 2", he breaks out of the wreckage of the water tower, only to notice Leonardo and young, red-headed boy (Cody). As they begin fighting, Shredder notices that Leonardo is... different. Not long after, the turtle disappears into a portal with his companion. The Shredder soon follows him, ending up in the future with a small group of foot ninja... and gets his ass kicked by the turtles, Splinter, and Sh'Okanabo. Raph put it best as to why this happened.
Raphael: "Dude, we put the kabosh on you a long time ago! You're history!"
If the Gargoyles are fighting as a group, expect this to happen to Goliath. He usually recovers in time to get the final blow in on the antagonist, though.
It had a rare 3x combo in "The Phoenix Saga Part 2" : First, Wolverine plays his typical role by getting easily taken out by the Juggernaut. Then Juggernaut is easily tossed away by Gladiator (with the "what chance do we have?" line delivered by Jubilee). Finally, Phoenix shows up and Curb Stomps Gladiator. The Phoenix part mirrors the comics, where Phoenix takes out Firelord who had just taken out all of the X-Men.
In the first season there are a lot of moments where enemies take Storm out with a shock response from the other characters.
Most plot lines in X-Men the Animated Series went thusly. A. Arrival of enemy of the week. B. Wolverine snarling, declaring intentions of harm upon enemy, and deploying claws. C. Wolverine is seen tumbling through the air in such a fashion that the viewer could believe there was some kind of Pan-Galactic Wolverine toss competition and every bad guy was trying to out do the previous.
Magneto gets it from Apocalypse in X-Men: Evolution. He uses his powers to seize control of and hurl army vehicles, weapon emplacements, and drags satellites down from orbit to throw at his opponent. Apocalypse shrugs it off like it's nothing and (apparently) vaporizes Magneto before the X-Men's horrified eyes.
And, to complete the trio, in Wolverine and the X-Men, a little mutant girl is released from a stasis box by Juggernaut. The first (apart from the manner of keeping her in stasis) way of demonstrating her powers? She flings said Unstoppable Juggernaut a few miles away, knocking him out cold.
In Kung Fu Panda, the Furious Five are apparently the strongest Kung Fu practitioners around, and we hear loads of stories about awesome things they've done in the past. The only time we actually see them unleash their full skills in combat, they lose handily to Tai Lung.
Its even worse in Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness. Even Shifu gets pwned to many times to count, leaving the arguably least skilled member-Po to fight the baddie all on his own. Taken to insane amounts against Dodai's Iron Claws of Doom V2, the Five and Shifu are taken out in less than a minute. Po stalemates him. Despite having less training. Despite being the least skilled member. They want to make Po awesome and all...but throw the Five a bone! Throw Shifu a bone! Shifu has yet to beat his evil counterparts in a one on one fight! While Po's been able to do that every episode.
The short-lived Mighty Max had a character who fit this trope. The character's name was Norman who was supposed to be the bodyguard of the title character and a vastly skilled warrior with centuries under his belt (he inspired the legends of Thor, Hercules, Samson, and Sir Lancelot to name a few) despite the fact that most episodes featured him getting clobbered.
Raven tends to be on the receiving end of this. Despite that she's probablythe mostpowerfulmember, episodes which don't focus on her tend to feature her getting knocked out in one hit after she throws a few nearby objects at the Monster of the Week. Cyborg, since he's the biggest member of the group, also gets Worfed a lot. However, Raven's a bit of a Squishy Wizard (she's got some martial arts moves, but is physically the weakest of the team, since Beast Boy doesn't fight in his true form) and her powers can be a bit...finicky, to say the least. Taking her down is less a question of overpowering her, and more about exploiting her weaknesses. Plus, she doesn't actually actually use her telekinesis directly on people. Something about demonic heritage and the possibility of that leading her to sliding into evil.
Cyborg is supposed to be the tank of the team yet seems to always get knocked around on the show. Although he can take a hit we seldom see him dish them.
Huey Freeman from The Boondocks subtly takes on this role. Though his fight sequences are somewhat lengthy and he shows much martial knowledge, anytime he has fought anyone with some sort of training, he has ended up on his back and bleeding.
The entire series kicks off when Nightmare Moon kidnaps/incarceratesnote there is no word on what exactly she did, but so far it is best to assume that she took her out somehow. her, leading the Mane Six sets out to find the Elements of Harmony.
In the backstory, Celestia has been worfed at least once before that, possibly twice. When Discord is released from his prison, Celestia admits there is not a thing she can do against him, and he completely outmatches her, even stealing the Elements of Harmony from a secure cell right under her nose only she can supposedly access.
In the season 2 finale, she gets defeated by Queen Crystalis fueled by Shining's Armor's love, making it a double Worf Effect, since it was used to show how strong SA's magical power and love were as well.
At the start of Season 4, both she and Luna are easily taken out by... vines? Justified, because those vines are the creation of the aforementioned Discord.
Shining Armor himself gets on in the Crystal Empire storyline when King Sombra disabled his horn with a black magic.
The Mane Six are not immune to this either. The frontline fighters, Applejack and Rainbow Dash, always get their rumps kicked. Twilight's borderline Story Breaker Power doesn't save her from this treatment; in "Stare Master", she was taken out by a cockatrice and in "The Return of Harmony" her supposedly "failsafe" spell fails, probably because she attempted to fix the changes provoked by a Mad God. It doesn't help that she has many occasions on which she conveniently forgets to use (like teleport) or catastrophically messes up her spells like in "Swarm Of The Century".
The Wonderbolts swoop in to save the day both in "Sonic Rainboom" and in "Secret of My Excess". So far their "achievement" amounts to cutting a couple of Spike's spikes from the latter.
Luna charges the new Nightmare Moon head on in the IDW comics and gets instantly struck down hard, just to prove how much a threat she is.
In The Venture Bros. the neighbour happens to be a powerful necromancer who can summarily handle most threats as if they were farcical or annoying diversions from his everyday dad routine. A couple of monsters of the week do manage to utterly wreck him when they appear on the scene, for instance 'Mother' and 'Dr. Henry Killinger'.
Bodyguard Brock Sampson also manages to run over every opponent he faces (except for an ambush of mooks on a few occassions) but Molotov Cocktease proves her power by sparring with him successfully. Molotov is also Brock's recurring love interest - he has no interest in killing her, their fights are almost sadomasochistic in nature.
In the Animaniacs segment "The GoodFeathers" Pesto was the toughest fighter; they knew that their opponent was a threat if he took down Pesto which happened often.
Done in Kim Possible where Alien Invader Warmonga easily took on both Shego and Kim, the latter of which was wearing her Story Breaker Power battlesuit. Only a miracle allowed them to survive. Then in the Grand Finale, Warmonga returned with the more powerful Warhak who was able to knock both females out with a single punch. It was then reversed to show just how awesome Ron was by taking both aliens down with his Mystical Monkey Power.
In W.I.T.C.H.'s second season, if you weren't the Guardians, the Regents or Caleb, you were going to get Worfed. Elyon, Kadma and the Oracle end up getting captured by Nerissa due to her wonderful skills at The Plan.
Legend Of Korra has the Lieutenant. In the episode he's introduced in, he beats both Mako and Bolin in a fight, only defeated by Korra's surprise earthbending attack. The next time, he gets owned by Asami and electrocuted with his own kali sticks. The next time, he gets the drop on Lin Beifong... and then promptly gets thrown over the roof by Jinora, a ten year old girl. He comes back later though, and Naga takes him out. By this time, him getting owned is practically comedy. Until the series finale that is, when he discovers Amon is a bloodbender, and Amon most likely kills him by crushing his organs with bloodbending. Ow.
Also happens to Korra herself at various points throughout the 1st season. She's quite powerful, but the Metalbending police, Equalist mooks (twice), the Wolfbats, Hiroshi Sato in a Mini Mecha, Tarrlok, and Amon all manage to defeat her at one point or another. Though you could argue that in some of these cases she was at an unfair disadvantage.
The new Big Bad of season 2 the Anti-Monitor was killed by Aya and had its corpse taken over by her to estabillish that whatever she's going to do its going to be worse.
Garu from Pucca gets hits with this at times. Despite being a ninja who dedicates a lot of his time to training, he often gets defeated by the Villain Of The Week so that Pucca can save the day. Unfortunately, the writers do this a bit too much to the point that Garu sometimes comes off as a Faux Action Guy.
Iron Man in The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes. The poor guy just can not win a fight. It gets particularly bad when he shows up in specialized armors, supposedly beefed up to fight a specific opponent - his Hulkbuster armor goes down without even getting in a hit on the Hulk, and the Thorbuster armor suffers similarly against Loki.
The Gumball Guardians in Adventure Time. Their function is to shout "Evil Detected!" and then get beat up. At their most useful, they might buy Finn some time to defeat the bad guy. Most notable against The Lich.
Killer Croc in Batman: The Animated Series, is established as a super-strong badass just like in the comics. When Bane makes his debut on the show, he gets in a fight with Croc. The result? Killer Croc ends up in traction afterwards.