They have all the typical trappings of a rival, except their objects of jealousy don't take them seriously. Or even notice them most of the time. Or even recall their name, which just ticks them off even more. This character will do anything to be able to reach the level of their rival, regardless of the actual level of skill required.
Usually, the hero acknowledges their presence as comforting when a serious plotline goes down, no matter how annoying they were previously. They may even pitch in to help and establish a weird kind of friendship.
If the rival commands some level of respect, they may have a minion or two.
Extremely common with non-evil antagonists, giving writers a character who can be mean or obnoxious with impunity.
Compare But for Me, It Was Tuesday. See also We Meet Again, which is usually followed by a "We have met before?", much to the would-be-rival's chagrin.
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Anime and Manga
One Piece: Boa Hancock views Nami and Robin as rivals for Luffy's heart. Both girls have yet to even meet her in person.
Part-time model Sakiyama Kaori in Airmaster becomes an amateur wrestler, semi-berserker streetfighter solely to challenge Aikawa Maki. Slightly subverted in that she is too loud and crazed to fully ignore, to the point everyone memetically mentions her full name when she appears.
Ryuuka, the pompous rich leader of the Jihiyou rival house in Hanaukyō Maid Tai. In episodes 7 and 11 of the first series Taro doesn't know who she is, even though he met her in episode 4.
In Samurai Deeper Kyo, Kyo is approached by a man who had survived an encounter with him in the past. After being stunned by Kyo's swordsmanship, he trains constantly to match Kyo's level by cutting up anyone he comes across. When he meets Kyo in the plot, he proclaims that he has returned for revenge and Kyo responds with, "Who are you?"
Naga, in Slayers, considers Lina Inverse to be her rival in sorcery, but really just ends up being her sidekick. Naga occasionally surprises Lina with her knowledge of White Magic, is pretty darned good with Black Magic too, and in general is all but stated outright to really be Lina's equal in magic (excepting Lina's knack for the Dragon Slave spell), but she gets no respect from Lina, who treats her as more a one-woman Goldfish Poop Gang than even a sidekick. A big part of this is because Naga, for all her talents, happens to be several orders of magnitude flakier than Lina, which leads to her undercutting her own effectiveness. The fact that Naga introduced herself to Lina by suddenly challenging her out of nowhere, proclaiming they were rivals, when they had never even met before is another reason for Lina's lack of interest.
Momoko in Chou Kuse ni Narisou considers Nagisa to be her rival, but Nagisa doesn't learn of Momoko's identity until the second half of the series.
Variation: Haitani and Shirai, Urashima Keitaro's best friends at the beginning of Love Hina, disappear for a while once the plot gets going. Eventually, they reappear just to "see how Keitaro's doing", that is to say, mess up his life more. A Running Gag in the manga has the other characters constantly asking who they are and how they know Keitaro.
During most of Glass Mask, Maya is unaware that Ayumi sees her as a huge threat to her acting career. And as result, Ayumi sees her as the main rival. Maya, instead, sees Ayumi as an inspiration worth looking up to. It's not until near the end of the Anime series that Maya realizes this when Ayumi, herself, admits it. Once Ayumi confessed that she was thinking about letting Maya fall off a weak wooden bridge and die, but saved her at the last minute, the two end up fighting. Afterwards, they both declare each other rivals.
Might Guy to Hatake Kakashi in Naruto. Guy is the intense one, and whenever he brings up the "rivalry" Kakashi says something to the effect of "I'm sorry; did you say something?"
It's basically accepted that Kakashi acts like that because he doesn't terribly want to be Guy's rival, and really wishes he would just shut up and go away. That's why, when Kakashi chooses their 'competitions', he tends to pick something that will be over quickly and doesn't take any effort, like rock-paper-scissors. Not so much 'Unknown Rival' as 'Unwanted Rival'.
Alternately, the two are genuinely good friends and both enjoy the rivalship. Kakashi just pretends to ignore Guy because it gets such a good reaction. When the fighting gets serious, they fight well together.
Indeed, episode 219 of Shippuden seems to support this, as Kakashi does acknowledge Guy as his rival, and says that even after he's named Hokage (Which ends up not happening), he'll still make time for his challenges. All in all, Kakashi probably just wishes Guy wasn't so damned enthusiastic about it.
Humorously, Guy has Kisame as an Unknown Rival of his own. Guy can vaguely remember him, but never remembers his name until Kisame kills himself.
Which doesn't sound so hilarious in context as here.
Danzou was fiercely envious of the Third Hokage. He had a severe inferiority complex towards Sarutobi, especially during a flashback where he wasn't able to volunteer himself for a suicidal mission sacrificing his life for the rest of his teammates, but Sarutobi did. In his eyes, Danzou wasn't able to live up to his families and his own beliefs. Not to mention the Second Hokage naming Sarutobi his successor in front of Danzou, something he had longed for and bitterly desired for the rest of his life. However at the same time, he did respect the Third and was even on a First Name Basis with him. Which is actually kind of a big deal, because nobody else is shown to be on a first name basis with the Third. Hell, Danzo is the first person to actually use his first name in the entire manga.
Naruto himself was this to Sasuke at the beginning of the manga, as he was constantly trying to outdo Sasuke, but Sasuke didn't really care about him. As he got stronger Sasuke eventually acknowledge him. Unfortunately, to Sasuke, if Naruto could challenge him, it meant his own skills were inadequate, which contributed significantly to his defection.
Kiba has become this to Naruto (moreso in the anime, but it's there in the manga, too). Does he have a crush on Hinata? Or is it simply being ashamed of Can't Catch Up? Or is it just because the whole "Fox and the Hound" bit is supposed to be funny? Or is it simply because the two are both hot-headed, impulsive and ambitious?
Sakaki never notices Kagura's self-proclaimed rivalry, even when it is proclaimed to her face, in Azumanga Daioh. Despite that, Kagura doesn't take their rivalry personally and is nice to Sakaki even before they get to know each other. Kagura eventually moves on to establish a genuine rivalry with Tomo, as both have similar levels of energy.
This is probably because Kagura doesn't want a "rival"; She wants a "Rival!" in the dramatic, shonen manga sense. The kind where the two characters compete furiously in their chosen area, but leave the audience wondering "Are they gay?"
Gintama has Sougo Okita, the 1st captain of the Shinsengumi, constantly trying to kill his superior, vice-commander Toshiro Hijikata, just so he can take over his vice-commander position. Hijikata, in turn, never seems to take notice of any of this (even regarding Okita's attempts on his life as "unfunny pranks").
In the El-Hazard: The Magnificent World OVA, Makoto is largely unaware of Katsuhiko Jinnai's hatred for him. Whereas Jinnai thinks that Makoto has a secret vendetta against him, given the number of times that Makoto has coincidentally gotten in his way and/or pissed him off.
In Death Note, Near blatantly ignores Mello's attempts to beat him.
Ironically, Not So Harmless Mello ends up actually helping in the end, with his own death.
Kamina of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann seems to have a remarkably poor memory; when the recap episode shows his fight with Viral, he asks Simon if that really happened. This also works for his allies; Kittan is infuriated when Kamina doesn't remember him.
Yoko was also this for Nia for a few episodes, taken Up to Eleven when Nia kept on being better than everything than Yoko without even trying. The two of them became best friends at the end of the episode after Nia puts her faith in Yoko to rescue her.
Tachikawa Satoka from Gate Keepers 21 spends most of her non-BFS-swinging time talking to/critiquing/lecturing Badass Bookworm Isuzu Ayane only to get ignored, or ditched when her back is turned, much to her chagrin.
Haruka in Mai Hime and Mai-Otome (all adaptations) apparently has an ongoing rivalry with Shizuru, which Shizuru never seems to acknowledge. Late in the Mai-Hime anime, Yukino calls out Shizuru on it, saying that Haruka knew she could never hope to surpass Shizuru, but just wanted to be acknowledged.
Though it should be mentioned that Shizuru absolutely is the sort of person who would pretend not to notice just to screw with Haruka's head.
Cowboy Bebop inverts this trope with Andy, who is The Rival to Spike for one episode and never remembers Spike, constantly confusing him with the episode's bounty.
A Certain Magical Index: Mikoto hounds Touma on a regular basis trying to get him to fight seriously with her, having misinterpreted his mysterious ability to negate her lightning as a sign of some incredible power that he's holding back. His nonchalance toward her and her otherwise remarkable power is a blow to her pride as one of the strongest espers in the city. While no evidence he keeps forgetting her is shown, An instance of this occurs When he receives amnesia, which causes him to forget their meeting.
Because of Magic Versus Science and The Magic Versus Technology War, various magical organizations or individual mages try various plots to destroy Academy City, which are constantly foiled by Touma and friends. Other than the heroes and a few of Academy City's higher-ups, no one in Academy City is even aware that magic exists or that several science-hating mages want to destroy them.
Accelerator and Kakine. Kakine, as the #2 Level 5 esper, desperately wants to defeat Accelerator (the #1 Level 5). There's no indication that Accelerator even knew who he was prior to their fight.
Takumi of Initial D, for the first season or so, doesn't seem to really care that his enemies—and his friends for that matter—are quite envious of his racing skills; this is not helped by the fact that his first race came after five years of tofu delivery runs. His first race has him not caring about the racing aspect of drifting.
Hikaru no Go: Morishita considers himself Toya Meijin's rival, and strives to create the same rivalry between his students' and Toya's. Morishita's students are somewhat startled by the realization that the Toya school is largely unaware that there's a rivalry going on.
Also from Hikaru No Go, Kaga's backstory involved his numerous attempts to defeat Akira. Those ended when he realized, to his shock, that Akira had never considered him a rival - their difference in skill was simply too great.
For that matter, after Sai's first (and even after his second) game against Akira, Hikaru did remember the occasion and the guy, but didn't take him terribly seriously and was completely flummoxed by his 'rival!' attitude, since he hadn't even played those games of go and had no idea how important it was to Akira. Of course, most of the show is then consumed with their burning rivalry that was written in the stars.
Bakuman。 has a hilarious variation on this: the main protagonist sees genius mangaka Eiji as his rival, but Eiji's not ignoring him because he's conceited. It's because Eiji is such a total fanboy of the protagonist's work that he barely seems capable of understanding why he'd consider him his rival.
Eiji is conceited, but in a clueless, Genius Ditz kind of way, and he gets into the rivalry on a couple of occasions, since it is visibly true that they're both less commercially and critically successful, and having a harder time finding their voice than he is, and he wants to encourage them.
As Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata's project right after Death Note, it's milking the 'rival' thing Obata used to such acclaim in both Death Note and Hikaru no Go, and as an outrageously meta project, it's playing with it.
In Sgt. Frog, rival assassin Zoruru has some beef with Dororo, but Dororo doesn't remember him.
When Al faces off against Barry the Chopper in Fullmetal Alchemist, Barry gets rather annoyed when Al reveals he's never heard of Barry's infamous past.
Though they recognize each other when they meet up again. There's also Yoki, who starts out as a corrupt official who gets exposed and cashiered from the military because of Ed. When he and the brothers meet up again in Briggs, Yoki is outraged that they don't recognize or remember him.
Yoki: Don't tell me you forgot what happened in Yoswell!!
Al: Brother, did we meet any hobos in Yoswell?
Saki has Touka. While she considers Nodoka to be her great rival, Nodoka doesn't even seem to notice that she exists, which is a testament to her ability to ignore everything except the game itself considering how much Touka grandstands.
There's also Mihoko for Hisa, who played Hisa in an Inter-Middle tournament during their last year of middle school, and Hisa pressured Mihoko so much she accidentally opened her right eye- which she keeps closed due to it being a different color from her left- in surprise. Hisa then told Mihoko that her right eye was pretty, and Mihoko wanted to see her again to talk with her. Unfortunately, the next day, Hisa dropped out of the tournament due to unknown circumstances, changed her last name from Ueno to Takei, and did not recognize Mihoko when they saw each other again three years later. However, in the individuals match, after Mihoko opens her eye, Hisa finally remembers her.
In the wake of Nodoka returning to mahjong, her old schoolmates from Nara, the main protagonists of Saki Achiga Hen plan on entering the tournament and challenging Nodoka again, but neither she nor Saki notice at first. Howeve, toward the end of the manga, Koromo tells Saki about Shizuno, and just how dangerous Shizuno's innate talent is to Saki's playstyle.
There are such characters just in every Gundam series.
Yzak Joule to Athrun Zala, and in a degree to Kira Yamato, in Gundam SEED.
In the sequel Destiny, Shinn and Kira spend the entire series as faceless enemies to each other that only know each other by their Gundams. They do meet briefly, but don't know who each other is. This means that they only know each other by their actions in battle, and Shinn in particular without knowing of Kira's kind shy nature, believes that he's either evil or crazy and either way a very arrogant person that needs to be put down. Kira doesn't think much of Shinn at all, and when Shinn changes machines, doesn't initially even realize it's him he's fighting (while Shinn interesting immediately correctly assumes the guy piloting the new Freedom is still Kira back from the dead). When Shinn meets him again and is told who he is, the idea that this kind man was the guy he was fighting pretty much kills any remaining notion that his side was correct. Averted with Shinn and Athrun, and in fact pitted against someone that he couldn't write off as a faceless guy who he could believe to be evil (because Shinn knew Athrun was a good person at heart) Shinn couldn't quite muster up his usual performance.
Gundam 00 has many. In the first season, Patrick Colasour is this to Tieria Erde, while Neil "Lockon Stratos" Dylandy hunts down Ali Al-Saachez for personal issues. In season 2, Mister Bushido fills the role to Setsuna F. Seiei, his season 1 rival. Soma Peiris is this to Andrei Smirnov after he killed his father Sergei, while Andrei is this to Saji Crossroad for love's sake.
Laura from Mnemosyne is considered by Rin to be nothing more than a nuisance.
Happens twice to Mugen in Samurai Champloo; In the second episode, Mugen is confronted by the man whose arm he cut off in the first episode, who freaks out when Mugen says he doesn't remember him. To be perfectly fair, this apears to have happened just a week or so earlier and it's hard to imagine that week being so jam-packed with excitement that Mugen would lose track of all the guys he maimed. Second is in the three part finale, where the three brothers crippled by Mugen during the raid on the sugar ship converge on him; leader Umanosuke loses his mind even more than Ryujiro did when he hears Mugen has no idea what he's talking about. Again, it's hardly unreasonable to expect him to remember this since the sugar ship raid is one of the major formative experiences of his recent life.
But then again, Mugen's a self-centered blockhead.
Giriko to Justin. To an extent, Black Star to Kid, who only recently has gained any conceivable chance of posing a problem for one of the actual gods in the series. It takes Black Star's efforts putting his life in danger for Kid to a) fight him seriously and b) claim that he has potential. Before this he was fairly indifferent to the assassin's sense of rivalry.
In Neon Genesis Evangelion Asuka often comes across as this to Rei, especially where Shinji is involved. Subverted in that Rei's internal monologue indicates that she actually does consider Asuka something of a rival, but since thisisRei she gives no outward acknowledgment of this.
Ranma One Half has Ryoga Hibiki, who at first glance seems to be this; Ranma basically used to always get the piece of bread that Ryoga wanted at lunch when they were in school together, and then went to China after Ryoga was four days late for the duel that Ryoga had arranged over the bread. In series, though, he's actually The Rival. Tatewaki Kuno gets roughly the respect from Ranma that would put him towards this trope, but he's so thoroughly irritating that Ranma is perfectly aware of who he is. The closest the series comes to using this trope is the anime-only Villain of the Week the Frog Hermit, who is flabbergasted to discover Ranma had never even noticed that he and his father, while dueling at Jusenkyo, had broken the bamboo pole the Hermit was sitting on and dumped him into the Spring of Drowned Frog.
Peorth is this towards Belldandy in her introductory arc in Ah! My Goddess. It goes away once the gang gets Peorth to explain exactly why she's so angry at Belldandy.
Lupin III: Lupin and Fujiko are uniquely mutual examples of unexpected rivalry. Although it is usually a Mandatory Twist Ending for Fujiko to betray (anyone, including) Lupin, there are cases where Lupin refuses to give her the prize at the end. More rarely, he may have planned for her to trick him, having a contingency in place, surprising her.
In Fairy Tail, Evergreen was jealous of Erza for having the nickname "Titania" (townspeople were awed by her strength and called her that, meaning "Queen of the Fairies") and tried to kill her so she could take it. Erza defeats her and says that she never cared about that nickname.
Inverted and later played straight in Eyeshield 21 where initially Kotaro considered himself to be Musashi's rival despite having no idea who Musashi is. And later, after finding out, became the normal kind of unknown rival himself to Musashi.
We never find out the real identity of the real Eyeshield 21 ... until the Christmas Bowl.
Tajima is this to Hanai in Ookiku Furikabutte; Hanai uses his one-sided rivalry with Tajima as motivation to improve, while Tajima competes against himself.
In Sangatsu No Lion, Nikaidou treats Rei as his greatest rival since childhood. Meanwhile, Rei, while acknowledging his determination in respect, does not show any signs of taking Nikaidou's claims of being his rival all that seriously.
In YuYu Hakusho, Kuwabara was this to Yusuke before the story began, as shown in flashbacks. Kuwabara was obsessed with defeating Yusuke, but it took a few fights before Yusuke even started to remember his name. When the series begins, Yusuke still doesn't consider Kuwabara a serious rival, since he easily wins every single fight.
In the Nightwing comic, Nightwing has a "nemesis" in the form of Shrike who isn't quite unknown (they both underwent assassin training in their childhood, but Nightwing was undercover and Shrike wasn't) but Shrike is the only one who considers them archenemies. Even during their fight, while Shrike is trying to stab Nightwing to death, Nightwing just ignores him.
The X-Factor comics circa mid-1990s had a great deal of fun with this one:
Dick Chalker was a mutant who could turn himself into a manlike dinosaur creature. He used his powers to commit murder, robbery and postal fraud, and inspired hatred of mutantkind in the rest of the Chalker family.
All of this led up to an X-Factor annual issue where a mutant-hating former classmate of Strong Guy's showed up, having devoted his life to the dark arts and become a servant of Mephisto. In order to defeat X-Factor, he brought back their three greatest enemies from the dead — the three brothers who had died over the past three issues, none of whom had so much as been seen by X-Factor. So in the massive, climactic battle, an Unknown Rival resurrected three moreunknown rivals. When the villains introduced themselves, Polaris asked if they were sure they had the right X-team.
Strong Guy: That figures! Only we could have a bunch of "greatest enemies" that we never heard of.
Slyde. For a moment he had Spider-Man on the ropes! Read the issue (Spider Man Unlimited v3 #1, for the record), it's very entertaining. And in this case, Spider-Man does know who Slyde is; you don't have a guy as a decently recurring enemy for years without remembering him. He just regards him as little more than an occasional nuisance.
There's a similar scene in Ultimate Spider-Man, when Shocker manages to capture Spider-Man. Throughout the series, he was played up as a joke, a character who didn't even really qualify as a supervillain that Spidey would easily subdue in the opening pages of an arc to show "business as usual." While he has Spider-Man hanging upside-down he reveals that from his point of view, things weren't nearly so funny, revealing a level of anger and humiliation made only worse by the fact that Spider-Man never gave him a second thought.
In Venom's original backstory, he was just a reporter whose shoddy journalism was exposed by Spider-Man. Eddie Brock claimed to have interviewed the Sin-eater, but it turns out the guy was just a compulsive confessor, and Spidey caught the real criminal. Eddie snapped and held a grudge against Spider-Man that only got worse after bonding with the Venom symbiote. At this time Spidey had never even met Eddie face to face.
Amok, an Icelandic supervillain whose only appearance is in Superman: The 10 cent Adventure. He was stopped by Superman four years earlier. Understandably, this became the defining moment of his life. Just as understandably, Supes saw it as another five minute battle against a bank robber, and never gave it another thought. Amok is quite shocked to realize this.
Big Ron Gomz insists that he is number one on the JLA Most Wanted list, that he knocked Superman through a building, put the Martian Manhunter in a coma, and that he's the guy who broke Batman's back, but none of the Doom Patrol members he tussles with has ever heard of him.
Kearson DeWitt put Iron Man, or rather Tony Stark, through six kinds of hell during the "Armor Wars II" storyline; he was commissioned by the Marrs twins to take Tony out, but for him it is clearly, indeed emphatically personal. He rants and raves at Stark for some cruel injustice that was done to him - but when the story finally comes to a head, and - after a long and devastating battle - DeWitt's face is revealed to Tony, he does not recognize him. Atypically for the trope, this shocks him profoundly.
In the later three-annual-crossover "Assault on Armor City", it is revealed (in retcon, natch) that DeWitt is the son of an unrecognized engineering genius, whose designs - DeWitt believes - were stolen by Stark and formed the basis for Iron Man, while the true inventor died 'a broken and penniless man'. It's kind of a bum move which pulls the sting out of the original story.
During one Spider-Man story, he is attacked by C-list villain Will O'the Wisp. Spider-Man's response is "And you are...?" Wisp gives a rundown of every encounter they've had, to which Spider-Man repeatedly responds that he doesn't remember any of this. Subverted by Spidey's narration, where he reveals that he knows perfectly well who Will O'the Wisp is, and is just messing with him.
An Incredible Hulk Annual had a story of Coyote Cash, an arch-criminal who's foiled repeatedly over the years by various versions of Hulk, beginning with the Hulk accidentally crushing his get-away car while escaping from the Army. After a 3rd release from prison, he tracks down Rick Jones and destroys his house with a bazooka. While he makes a triumphant speech about "being ready for the Hulk", Hulk emerges from the rumble in trademark anger.
Hulk: I hope you're ready now, you stupid two-bit hood!
(Cash is meekly dragged away by police as Hulk watches.)
Hulk: I wonder who that guy was? It's a funny world, when you can be minding your own business and along comes some stranger to complicate your life.
Deconstructed in the graphic novel version (but not the film version) of Kick-Ass: Big Daddy doesn't actually have any personal connection to John Genovese; that's just a story he made up for Hit Girl to justify raising her as his sidekick. Big Daddy is actually just a comic nerd who wanted to be a superhero and chose Genovese as his arch-enemy more or less at random.
Sam & Max poke fun at this with Mack Salmon, a very angry fish in a bowl who has a bone to pick with the duo for "setting in motion the events which caused his current state." Neither of them knows who he is or what he's going on about (neither does the reader); they decide to just smack him around like any other ineffectual villain they come across.
In The Batman Adventures, Joe Chill spent the rest of his life in fear of Bruce Wayne taking revenge on him for the deaths of Thomas and Martha. Thing is, in this continuity Bruce never discovered the identity of his parents' killer. When Batman is unmasked while he is trying to save Chill from falling off a balcony railing, the latter panics and falls to his death. Batman is utterly baffled by this since he didn't recognize Chill.
Vyndktvx, a 5th dimension imp with Reality Warper powers uses them to make Superman's life a living hell and try to kill him. Superman has no idea why he hates him so much. It's because Mxyzptlk used his encounters with Supes to entertain the 5th dimension. Vyndktvx was jealous of Mxyzptlk's popularity and blamed Superman for it.
In Kira Is Justice, O is this, being Mello's counterpart. Justin doesn't even know of him, and the closet thing that O had done so far to challenge him was to send SIS agents to Chicago-partially to bring out L.
Earth and Sky: While Apple Bloom knows that Diamond Tiara doesn't like her, it's unlikely she realizes that DT views them as archenemies.
Baldwin Coster is this to Rhuna at the World Martial Arts Tournament in Dragon Ball X. He doesn't even recognise her, although in his case it's because he's so full of himself that he doesn't bother to remember faces. Add in his sexism and Rhuna's a blank doll to him. In the ensuing fight, Rhuna took extra special pleasure in reminding him who she was.
Films — Animated
Films — Live-Action
Odd example from The Fifth Element: Corbin, the hero, and Zorg, the villain, never actually meet in the entire movie, despite being clearly the good guy and the bad guy. It's not even clear that the two of them realize they're in competition with each other over the stones.
The closest they ever get to interacting is either when Zorg orders one million of his employees fired, a pink slip shows up in Corbin's mail tube in the next scene, or when Corbin and Co enter one elevator as Zorg steps off the one next to it.
Salieri in Amadeus hates Mozart with a passion. However, he never lets on that he does, and actually is rather nice to the younger man when they are in each other's company.
This is the case for the first half of The Man with the Golden Gun. James Bond is tracking down Scaramanga on the basis of the bullet carved with his number which was sent to MI6 and interpreted as a threat. The bullet was actually sent by Scaramanga's assistant Andrea, who wanted Bond to kill him, and Scaramanga even admits when he meets Bond that he has nothing against him.
In Big Fish, Ewan McGregor's character unknowingly grew up with a rival who was constantly overshadowed by him. They end up fighting over the same girl when they become adults.
Sort of happens in Black Swan. While Nina feels threatened by the new dancer Lily, Lily's not really threatened by her.
Enter the Dragon has the Big Bad confront two minor characters before he ever meets the protagonist of the movie, played by none other than Bruce Lee. Oddly enough, Lee was sent there for the specific purpose of bringing the villain down while the two minor characters were at the tournament for unrelated reasons.
The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy takes this to an extreme. Mild-mannered and mostly confused Arthur Dent is captured and accosted by Agrajag, who claims that Arthur Dent has killed him in every one of his reincarnations, including a bowl of petunias, a bystander at a cricket match, and one in a time and place Arthur has yet to visit.
This, as one may imagine, has left Agrajag rather unhinged, so that when Arthur insists that he's not doing it on purpose and the universe is just "playing silly buggers" with them, Agrajag point-blank refuses to believe it.
In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories he and Thoth-amon never actually meet and Conan is never the direct object of Thoth-amon's attacks. In The Phoenix on the Sword Thoth sends a demon to kill the man who enslaved him after he lost his powers who is leading an assassination attempt on then king Conan, actually inadvertently saving him although he also tells the demon to kill everyone with his erstwhile master thus putting Conan in danger again. In The God in the Bowl Conan just happens to be robbing the museum where a deadly gift from Thoth-amon to a rival is being kept. In The Treasure of Tranicos Thoth-amon is after one of several parties after the title treasure, Conan, once again just happens to inadvertently get in the way. In The Hour of the Dragon Thoth-amon is just mentioned by a group of Stygian priests seeking a way to combat him after his return to power.
In Warrior Cats, (spoilers for Rise Of Scourge and The Darkest Hour) Scourge desperately wants to kill Tigerstar, who has no idea who he is.
In Austin Grossman's novel Soon I Will Be Invincible, the relationship between the hero Core Fire and the villain Dr. Impossible is like this.
A Song of Ice and Fire has a couple of possible examples. Cersei very definitely sees Magaery Tyrell as a rival, but it is not clear whether Margaery is actually trying to undermine Cersei or not. It is certainly true that Margaery's family is trying to increase their power at Cersei's expense, but it is unknown if Margaery is knowingly assisting in their schemes, or is genuinely trying to be friendly with Cersei and is upsetting her largely by accident. The latter seems unlikely, since she is shrewd enough to immediately see through Cersei's plan to get her damned in trial by combat, and calls her a "vile, scheming, evil bitch".
Viserys Targaryen is one for Robert Baratheon: Viserys sees himself as the Big Good to Robert's Big Bad, but Robert (correctly) sees Viserys' sister Daenerys as more dangerous (though for the wrong reasons). Despite this, Robert still considers him a threat, but would likely reconsider this if he knew just how staggeringly incompetent and useless Viserys really is, making this a strange example of Viserys being a Partly-known Rival who deserves to be treated as an Unknown Rival, and probably would be treated as an Unknown Rival if Robert actually knew anything about him.
In The Fountainhead, Toohey considers himself Howard Roark's arch-rival. When he confronts Roark and asks him, "Why don't you tell me plainly what you think about me?", Roark replies, "I don't think about you."
Although Angel knows precisely who Lindsey is, he doesn't take him very seriously as a threat during the show's final season, while Lindsey sees himself as Angel's archrival. They eventually team up against a bigger threat, and in the end, when Lorne shoots Lindsey on Angel's orders, the only thing Lindsey's angry about is that he apparently wasn't important enough for Angel to kill personally.
Subverted with Sahjhan in season 3 who wants revenge against Angel, who has no idea who he is. In season 5 it's revealed Sahjhan really just wanted to keep Connor from killing him in the future, which he does.
Over on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the Trio start out this way. They gradually are noticed more and more, culminating in Warren's accidental killing of Tara. That got the Scoobies' attention. Specifically, Willow's.
And then there was Harmony who no one took seriously at first. She eventually got the gang's attention... well for a moment, but once Buffy saved Dawn, Buffy completely forgot about her. Harmony continued to think Buffy was after her though, even asking Spike to harbor her. Harmony even hid in a coffin when Buffy came to Spike's crypt once thinking that Buffy had found her and was going to kill her. Buffy was actually there to question Spike as usual and had no idea Harmony was even still around.
In Power Rangers Wild Force, Jindrax sees himself as having a grand rivalry with Taylor. Taylor... doesn't. After their Enemy Mine moment before Jindrax and his partner Toxica ride off into the sunset, Jindrax expresses regret that their 'famous rivalry' is over, and Taylor graciously says "Well, you were a... worthy opponent, I guess."
An interesting example is Nimueh from Merlin. Though she is a formidable opponent, most of her evil plans are done from a distance, and Prince Arthur never discovers who she truly is after she pulls a Decoy Damsel on him. She interacts only once with King Uther (who would be her major foe) but then dies in the season finale without any sort of confrontation with either Uther or Arthur. In fact, it's unclear whether they even know that she's dead.
It happens again with Morgana. As of the end of series 4, Arthur has no idea that Morgana killed Uther, resurrected Lancelot, enchanted Guinevere to cheat on Arthur, or brainwashed Merlin into trying to kill Arthur.
A Love Triangle variation occurs when Princess Mithian arrives at Camelot in the hopes of marrying Arthur. At this stage Guinevere is in exile, and although Mithian eventually tumbles to the idea that Arthur isn't interested because of another woman (asking "who is it that trumps a princess?" and "what great family does she come from?"), Guinevere never learns of Mithian's existence at all.
Mithian does return in season 5, but it's unclear in Gwen knows that Mithian was Arthur's former fiancee or if she just thinks of Mithian as a political ally that Arthur feels duty-bound to help.
MA Dtv took quite a few shots at Saturday Night Live, but the only time SNL ever even referenced MA Dtv was a Weekend Update bit where Seth Meyers made a joke referencing his brother Josh being a cast member on that show.
Community, Dr. Rich gained one in Jeff due to his Nice Guy persona and gifted ability at pottery.
This extends to Real Life where Community views itself and Glee as Dueling Shows. They make fun of them and its fans constantly bash Glee. Glee has never mentioned Community once and its fans seem unaware of the rivalry entirely.
Colbert: Ted Nugent has condemned your generation as lazy and apathetic. Your response?
NYU Student: Who's Ted Nugent?
Mad Men gives us Ted Chaough (pronounced like "Shaw"), who declares himself the rival to Don Draper. Draper had never even heard of the man when they first meet, although Chaough's challenge leads Draper to do some things to prove who's the better adman.
When Ken Cosgrove gets a short story of his published in a national magazine, Pete Campbell jealously attempts to get a story of his own published, even coercing his wife into meeting with an ex-boyfriend of hers who's a publisher. When Ken and Pete are named joint heads of accounts, Pete resents having to share the position, while Ken seems perfectly happy to share. Then when Sterling and Draper approach Pete about starting a new agency, Pete asks if they approached Ken with the opportunity first.
Not quite unknown, but in The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon spends a good deal of mental energy seething against his "arch-rival" Wil Wheaton. Wheaton, for his part, just laughs off Sheldon's challenges and easily defeats him whenever they come into contact. Lampshaded when Sheldon finds a new target for his wrath.
Sheldon: You've already signed something for me, Brent Spiner. Your name on my list. From this moment on you are my mortal enemy!
Wil Wheaton: Don't worry, it doesn't take up a whole lotta your time.
In his first appearance on The Suite Life On Deck, Bailey's ex-boyfriend Moose is entirely unaware that Cody a) has feelings for her and b) sees him as a romantic rival. Throughout the episode he is kind to Cody, doing things such as thanking him for trying to make Bailey feel less homesick and being reluctant to arm wrestle him for fear of injuring him. Cody, on the other hand, continually tries to show him up to impress Bailey, only to fail at every event, which Moose sees as fun competition.
Ah yes, my old friend You are a master of this game The hidden blade when you pretend That you don't even know my name Well played
Sometimes it's hard to tell If you even notice me Maybe it's just as well It's better you don't see The way I'm running just to keep your back in view In your shadow, waiting for the perfect moment
During the beginning of Lil Bow Wow's rap career, he made a few songs, calling out Will Smith for not making hardcore gangsta rap songs during his career. Will Smith, who's now more into acting than rapping, was unaware of Lil Bow Wow's jabs, until someone finally asked him about it in an interview. He ended the possible rivalry simply saying "I don't respond to children."
Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum started a feud with Primus because he thought their song "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver" was mocking his girlfriend Winona Ryder, and at a Soul Asylum concert renamed a song to "Les Claypool's a Big Fucking Asshole". Meanwhile, Primus mastermind Les Claypool pointed out that the song wasn't about her, and Ryder said she didn't mind anyways.
TNA, as part of its campaign to compete with WWE, markets itself as a Darker and Edgier alternative to WWE, being more violent and bloodier, even going so far as to make occasional not-so-veiled quips at their "competition". WWE responds by...going about their business as usual, not paying any mind to them.
Then there was that ridiculous and pointless storyline where BG James and Kip James as the "Voodoo Kin Mafia" would spend weeks mocking Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Vince McMahon. They would often challenge the three to a fight with $1 million on the line, wait a few minutes, then denounce them as cowards for not showing up. The three never gave any indication they were aware of this.
According to some backstage reports, this wasn't simply a "dig at the WWE" angle- this was a genuine attempt by TNA to do a crossover with WWE, the $1 million prize money was apparently real (while many of their top draws worked second jobs to pay the bills). They actually sent a message to WWE front office, asking if the head of the largest wrestling promotion in America and two of his biggest stars would appear on their show broadcast from Universal Studios. Apparently Dixie Carter was legitimately shocked when they ignored her, and kept checking at the TNA office to see if Vince had left her any messages.
Perhaps the most well-known wrestling example: Starting in the mid-nineties, Shane Douglas has spent over a decade running down Ric Flair. Flair barely paid him any attention. This didn't stop even after Douglas finally got a program with Flair in WCW in 2000 (and beat Flair twice).
He got this again in 2011, where The Miz was WWE Champion and was supposed to be the main event at Wrestlemania against Cena. Unfortunately for Miz, Cena and the audience were far more concerned with Cena's problems with The Rock. It wasn't until Miz ambushed and practically murdered Cena that anybody really remembered that he was actually in the equation at all.
The England vs. Germany football rivalry continues to rage harder and harder into the 2010s... or at least it does in England. The Germans could not care less about England and are much more concerned with their actual arch-rivals, the Dutch.
One thing about the 1966 match that did rankle with German fans for a long time was England's controversial third goal; as a result of that, when in a 2006 World Cup match a bad refereeing call deprived England of a valid goal, there was much celebration of a 40-year-old injustice being righted.
The city of Baltimore lost their longtime football team, the Colts, to the city of Indianapolis in the spring of 1984. The fans of the team have since sported a longtime hatred of the team for abandoning them, as well as the owners of the team (Robert Irsay at first, then his son Jim after Robert passed away). Since Baltimore gained a new NFL team (the Ravens), whenever the Colts have visited, they have been introduced as the "Indianapolis professional football team" (pointedly avoiding the nickname "Colts"), among other indignities. Those in Indianapolis have no particular hatred of the Baltimore Ravens (or the city of Baltimore in general), whether or not they are aware of the rivalry (many are).
Both fans and players of the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers have a bitter hatred of the St. Louis Cardinals due to the later team's constant success within their division (and for Brewers losing to the Cardinals in their only World Series appearance), but most Cardinal fans did not realize this, as they were more focused on the Arch-Enemy Chicago Cubs and the Friendly Rival Houston Astros. That was until players on the Reds (Brandon Phillips in 2010) and Brewers (Nyjer Morgan and Zack Greinke in 2011) started insulting the Cardinals. The fans became very aware of the rivalry after that.
Fans of the San Diego Padres absolutely hate the Dodgers, bitter at how Dodgers fans have a habit of traveling en masse to San Diego for games and often nullifying their home-field advantage, as well as how the Dodgers are simply their closest geographical rivals in general. Unfortunately for them, their hatred can never be reciprocated, as the Dodgers tend to save all their hate for the Giants, their ancient enemy.
In the NHL the Nashville Predators and the Columbus Blue Jackets both see the Detroit Red Wings as a major rival. The Red Wings on the other hand are focused on the other Original 6 teams, particularly Chicago, and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
NCAA Division 2 Lone Star Conference. Midwestern State University and Tarleton State University are hated rivals. Like, Red Sox-Yankees hated rivals. Both of them completely ignore West Texas A&M, who simply believe that both schools are their biggest rivals, and focus on each other. This even got taken to new heights in the 2012 LSC Championship semifinals (basketball), where TSU played WTAMU. WTAMU's fans even tried to invade Tarleton's side of the court. What did Tarleton do? Absolutely nothing. Not even attempt to drown them out.
2012's football season may have changed that. West Texas's student body "declared war" on MSU's student body in the build-up to the football game on the weekend of November 3, due to this game's winner likely winning the conference and the loser likely going to the dreaded Kanza Bowl (highest-ranked non-playoff teams go, but it's on a bad date and the weather is usually terrible). In the six teams played between the two schools' various sports teams that week, the home field advantage has been minimal, and the games have been rather violent where applicable.
In NCAA Football the Marshall University Thundering Herd plays this to the West Virginia University Mountaineers. Marshall fans consider this an important heated rivalry and the "Friends of Coal" bowl to be a must watch event. WVU fans consider their annual meeting a pointless game against a mediocre, obscure team.
N in Pokémon Black and White is this to the player character until he beats the champion and challenges you with one of the legendary dragons.
Nippon Ichi just seems to love this trope, examples include: Vyers from Disgaea, who was unflatteringly re-named "Mid-Boss" by Laharl during their first encounter and never referred to by his real name again, Axel from Disgaea II, and Alexander (referred to as 'asshat', or simply 'Alex', by Zetta) from Makai Kingdom. As befitting of their storyline status, these characters tend to fill the Goldfish Poop Gang mold to a tee.
Of course, neither of the latter examples can compare to the irony of the first, who happens to be the main character's dead father having temporarily returned to test his son's strength and character. Bet getting called "Mid-Boss" wasn't part of his plan.
Though Laharl never bothers to call Vyers by his first name, it is shown that Laharl shows respect to him at one point later in the game by referring to him with his title 'Dark Adonis' as Vyers repeatedly calls himself.
Another Nippon Ichi example: Odie in Soul Nomad & the World Eaters basically invokes this trope within half a minute of his first appearance. He shows up and immediately boasts to the hero about how awesome he is, gets angry when she ignores him, and then tries to kill her when he finds out that she honestly doesn't know who he is, calling upon an old farmer and his two dogs. Yep, you guessed it, they're the Goldfish Poop Gang.
Don Paulo has sworn revenge on Professor Layton. Layton has no clue why until the third game (Back when they were both in college, Layton had entered a relationship with Paolo's crush, who was completely unaware that Paolo was even interested in her).
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance had a knight called Kieran, who was the sworn (friendly...ish) rival of Oscar. Kieran constantly trained so that he could someday outdo Oscar; Oscar largely ignored this and only ever mentioned their alleged "rivalry" in order to manipulate Kieran into accepting a gift that he refused to take.
Keep in mind KIERAN LEADER OF THE FIFTH PLATOON OF CRIMEAN KNIGHTS! SECOND COMMANDER OF THE CRIMEAN ROYAL KNIGHTS! is a guy who shouts his name and rank at his opponents in battle, and wants to keep an axe given to him by his mentor on a mantel. Really, his ending for the 10th game sums him up perfectly "Kieran served the royal family with nearly fanatical verve. His voice could be heard from anywhere in the castle."
Sylvia and Fury are an amusing example in Geneology of the Holy War:
Sylvia: Hey Fury, you don't by any chance have a thing for Levin, do ya??
Fury: What? I don't. He's just... Prince Levin is an extremely important person to Silesia.
Sylvia: I seeee. So you don't mind if him and I go out??
Fury: No, I don't mind... (?)
Sylvia: Really?? You're not pretendin' t'not like him or somethin' are ya?
Fury: Pretend? What ar-... why would I need to pretend??
Sylvia: I don't know. Well, then I'm goin' after him.
Fury: Umm... whomever is to be the next queen of Silesia needs to have a little grace and dignity like our own Queen Lahna.
Sylvia: So you're sayin' I'm no good somehow!? How rude!
Fury: No, I'm just...
Sylvia: Hmph, Fine! You just wait and see!
Paul Phoenix in Tekken starts out as the only guy powerful enough to ever end up in a draw against The Hero (sort of) Kazuya Mishima, and he's even designated as The Rival in the first game. However, as Tekken evolves and the Mishima family starts to take most of the importance of the story, Paul is slowly thrown out of the picture in the rivalry. He still sometimes considers himself Kazuya's rival, but he's largely ignored, especially since he now focuses his rivalry on a bear, or ensuring that Hilarity Ensues, along with his Bruce Lee Clone of a friend, Law.
To make matters more interesting, Paul technically won the third Iron Fist tournament (Tekken 3), since he was the one who beat Ogre. He didn't stick around after the fight, though, which meant Jin got the credit after beating True Ogre.
Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, an early FPS game by Monolith (of earlier Blood and later F.E.A.R. fame) featured a Goldfish Poop Gang character named Samantha Sternberg, who would show up, try to kill you, promptly get blown to pieces, and come back again a few levels later for more. This was played for laughs in a plot that was otherwise reasonably serious (i.e. Samantha was the only character to inexplicably survive multiple encounters with the player, whereas nearly every other character would die when you destroyed their MCA). Notably, Samantha was determined to kill your character, whereas your character seemed to regard her as something of a weird annoyance, at least until she attacks you in an MCA while you're on foot.
In Valkyria Chronicles, one of your soldiers, Edy Nelson, dreams of becoming a famous singer and actress. However, Rosie is already a fairly popular singer, which rouses Edy's jealousy and prompts her to view Rosie as her number one rival. Of course, Rosie is completely oblivious to said rivalry.
This isn't just Gameplay and Story Segregation either. Rosie's Big Sister potential allows her to be buffed if Edy is nearby. Edy's Rosie Hater potential allows her to be debuffed if Rosie is nearby. Put the two together and Rosie will be stronger than normal and Edy will be weaker than normal.
Henry from No More Heroes. When he is first encountered, he kills the Rank 5 assassin Letz Shake before the protagonist, Travis Touchdown, has a chance to in a pre-organised fight. However, after the player defeats Henry in a final bonus battle, Henry reveals himself to be Travis's twin brother (although the ambiguous plot of the game means that this is not necessarily true).
Inverse Example: Street Fighter IV has Rufus, an obese but agile American warrior who spends the tournament pursuing Ken. However, he doesn't know what Ken looks like and is prone to mistaking others for Ken. Played straight in that Ken doesn't have the foggiest idea who Rufus is.
"Dynamite" Dan of the Daiku no Gensan series views Genzo as his rival. Genzo barely even knows he exists, and views him as just another of the Kuromoku-gumi annoyances he has to deal with.
In Iji, Komato Assassin Asha considers Iji to be his complete and utter nemesis after she beats him; Iji makes no comment except for a remark about being bountied. This changes after he kidnaps and later (possibly) murders her brother.
Paper Mario has Jr. Troopa, a baby Koopa Troopa that never left his eggshell. After being trounced by Mario in the first chapter of Paper Mario, he swears revenge, and returns to face Mario at the end of nearly every chapter. Goombario's tattle always seems to ridicule his persistence, and he never really plays any significant role in the plot. Mario's performance as the Heroic Mime adds much humor to Jr. Troopa's appearances and monologues.
The icing on the cake that Gilgamesh doesn't even seem to realise that Bartz has absolutely no idea who Gilgamesh is in this continuity; Gilgamesh misinterprets Bartz's look of confusion at his arrival as his being dumbstruck at seeing him again. Bartz only accepts his challenge because he feels it'd be a fun way to pass the time.
Gilgamesh: Steel yourself! For I am not the Gilgamesh you remember!
Similarly, Gilgamesh doesn't seem to recognize Squall, Zidane or Vaan despite having encountered them as a boss during his rift traveling shenanigans. Not that they do either.
In Tales of the Abyss, Dist is not actually this to Jade, but Jade likes to pretend he is - mostly because it really, really annoys Dist, which Jade clearly finds hilarious.
Lt. Carter Blake in Heavy Rain tries to see himself as a rival to Norman Jayden due to the fact that he dislikes and resents him like all cops. However, due to the fact of working together, Jayden doesn't acknowledge him as a rival.
In Baten Kaitos Origins, Giacomo is one to Sagi, after the Power Trio kicks his ass during the excape from Mintaka in the beginning of the game. Sagi, meanwhile, just feels sympathy for Giacomo's obsession.
Team Fortress 2 invokes this trope with it's "Nemesis" gameplay mechanic. Specifically, if you kill another player 4 times in succession without being killed by them in return, you will be designated their nemesis and have a flashing icon displayed over your head. Only that player will be able to see this icon (and if they kill you, they receive bonus points) and it won't appear over their head when you spot them. And, even though the nemesis in question will be notified that they're dominating that player after the fourth kill, enemy players' names are not shown outside of the kill feed (except when disguised while playing as a Spy), often leaving the only way to identify a player you've dominated as being the guy who repeatedly charges you brandishing a melee weapon.
In Nancy Drew: The Captive Curse, one of the (many) criminals Nancy's put in jail vows revenge and tells her they will meet again. Nancy's response?
Well, there's a waiting list. I hope you're patient. Goodbye, Anya.''
Phoenix: ("Longstanding rival"...? When were we ever rivals, let alone "longstanding"...?)
In Fate/stay night, Issei considers Rin to be his arch-nemesis. Rin never responds to his enmity, which only makes him more suspicious and jealous. And on a less humorous note, Shinji has this going on towards Shirou, but this grudge reaches extreme levels fairly quickly.
Hatoful Boyfriend has Nishikikouji Tohri in Holiday Star and the drama CD. He's always trying to go after Shuu, and he's never able to even encounter him. Yuuya tells Shuu about one of his attempts, once.
Shuu: Nishiki...kouji... The client from four years ago? No, that's not right. The other witness from the third toucan trial... isn't right either, is it? Yuuya: You really don't remember? It's rare for Iwamine-sensei's world-renowned preeminent memory to be so troubled. Shuu : You're making too much of it. I won't remember each and every thing about anybirdie I have no interest in. Yuuya: Somehow or another, it looks like Nishikikouji Tohri has some catastrophically one-sided feelings. Life doesn't always go as planned.
Jango Fett from Darths & Droids is the Unknown Rival to Obi-Wan Kenobi, complete with Obi-Wan saying "Sorry? Do I know you?" as Fett prepares to gloat about his plans for revenge. Although unlike many of the other examples on this page, Obi-Wan really has never before met or seen Fett, or indeed had any inkling of the man's existence.
Las Lindas has Alejandra to Mora. This is more a Deconstruction of the trope, since Mora doesn't really care and is more worried about keeping her farm up and running, Alejandra's near-overwhelming desire to crush Mora into dust mostly just harms her mental state and her company's reputation and financial state.
Inverted in the webcomic The Order of the Stick, in which main character Roy Greenhilt is the Unknown Rival of the Big Bad Xykon, who's vaguely aware that there's a guy called Redpommel or something who swore revenge on him for some reason or other. Even after Roy personally thwarts his plans and destroys his body and lair, the most he gets from Xykon is the page quote.
And also the case with Ian Starshine, who thinks his own plan to topple Tarquin is significant to the latter, to the point that he (very, very falsely) believes that Elan was sent by Tarquin to infiltrate the Order of the Stick to get close to Haley and then, by extension, Ian himself. The real reason Ian was being held by Tarquin? Bozzok was paying him to. Other than that, Tarquin didn't care about him. Tarquin does later frame Ian for assassination, but it's over a petty argument and to "test" Haley. That's right, not only is Tarquin not trying to get to Ian through Haley, he's doing the exact opposite: trying to get to Haley through Ian!
In The Wotch, Cassie is this to Anne. Anne is oblivious to most of the goings-on in her world and just sees Cassie as a friend, not realizing that she's jealous about Robin's affection.
In Something Positive, Ollie sees Davan as his Arch-Enemy. Davan wasn't even aware that Ollie hated him until Ollie recently confronted him and declared that they were enemies. This is because Ollie blames Davan for derailing Ollie's theater career years ago when it was really Ollie's own incompetence that did it. Davan is actually a bit upset by this.
Van Von Hunter has a recurring character named Vengeance Joe who swears revenge against the title character... for failing to introduce himself when they passed on the street.
The Monarch, of The Venture Bros., considers Dr. Venture his mortal arch-enemy and embarks on several attempts to kill him and his sons for no particular reason. Through most of the first season, the Ventures repeatedly undercut the Monarch's claims to be their most hated foe. By the end of the second season, however, their status as nemeses has become much more solidified, though Dr. Venture still doesn't really care for him.
Also from Venture Brothers, Henchman 21 is convinced that he is destined to destroy Brock Sampson, who almost always responds to 21's exposition with "Who are you again?"
Leonardo Leonardo in Clerks: The Animated Series, whose plots against the clerks were always inadvertently defeated, even though they didn't realize he considered himself their sworn enemy. ("Well played, clerks, well played!")
Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law: X the Eliminator started out as a villain hired to steal Birdman's crest. After years of failure, X becomes an obsessive stalker, initially unknown to Birdman.
In Rocky and Bullwinkle, the protagonists seem completely unable to recognize the show's only recurring villains, Boris and Natasha. It helps that the villains are spies who deliberately try to stay covert, and they typically only meet the heroes face-to-face in disguise (paper-thin or otherwise; doesn't matter too much when the heroes wouldn't recognize you if you were wearing no disguise at all.) Rocky occasionally remarks that he recognizes Boris' voice, but that's the closest they ever get to remembering the villains between episodes. This even continues into the movie!
In Transformers Animated, Megatron has this towards Optimus Prime. He knows who he is, and might have a certain degree of respect for him, he just can't be bothered to learn Prime's name.
Megatron saw the Autobots in general as his enemy rather than having a specific nemesis - not even Ultra Magnus as the Autobot leader. He never even calls them by their names unless he has to. It's only by the final episode that Megatron develops a very personal beef with Optimus for thwarting his plans, thus establishing the true rivalry they're famous for.
When Generation One Megatron creates a clone of Optimus Prime (which he controls by remote control) and tries to use it to infiltrate the Autobot base, this nearly gives him away. He calls the other Autobots by the wrong names (like addressing Ironhide as "Bumblebee") and acts like he barely knows them, causing them to quickly become suspicious.
The original Hunter from Gargoyles wanted to kill Demona as revenge for slashing and scarring his face. During his final fight with Demona, Demona confesses that she doesn't even remember that act, that's how insignificant it was to hernote She was hiding in a barn when the stableboy stumbled on her, slashing at him before fleeing into the night. The later Vinnie Grigori pursues Goliath throughout the episode "Vendettas", wanting revenge on Goliath and the Manhattan Clan for unknowingly causing a lot of trouble for Vinnie. He ends up shooting Goliath with a cream pie, then walking away with Goliath still having no idea who he is.
Vinnie Grigori is arguably a subversion of this trope, because it's only the narrative device that leads us to see him as a deranged, obsessed rival. (He is a bit deranged and obsessed, but in a less serious way than most examples of this trope.) In the grand scheme of things, his reasons for hating the gargoyles are both justified and yet not all that bad. They got him fired twice, wrecked his motorcycle, and cost him his driver's license - that sucks, but it's not on a par with facial scarring or repeated killing through reincarnation. His ultimate retribution, a pie in the face, is proportionate if not merciful. Besides which, he actually managed to track them down, which is a minor Crowning Moment of Awesome, all things considered.
Teen Titans has Control Freak, he thinks he's an important villain, but the Titans don't think much of him. He is rather peeved when he's not put on the "list of notorious villains" and the Puppet King is.
Barry from The Tick, who is annoyed at the titular hero for having 'stolen his superhero name' while the Tick doesn't take him very seriously at all (and considering the things the Tick doestake seriously, that's saying something).
The situation is different when Homer changes his name:
Burns: Ah! Max Power! How's every little thing? Homer: You remembered my name! Burns: Well, who could forget the name of a magnetic individual like you? Keep up the good work, Max!
Homer experiences the other side of this trope with Frank Grimes, who hates Homer's guts, while Homer thinks they're friends, but only in the first act. And then his son, who takes revenge on Homer, "How is old Grimey?"
On Kim Possible, Dr. Drakken can never remember Ron Stoppable's name- although he may have just trouble with sidekicks in general, as seen when Kim teamed up with her mom:
Dr. Drakken: And so, Kim Possible and her... sister? Dr. Possible: Is he hitting on me? Kim: No, sidekicks really confuse him.
This is something of a recurring theme among Kim Possible's enemies. The only ones who can remember Ron's name are the Seniors, and that's only because they ASKED. They're polite that way.
SSJ: We are being followed! It is Kim Possible, and her sidekick-type-friend whose name escapes me. SSS(Leaning out the helicopter window): What is your name again, young man? Ron: It's Ron! Ron Stoppable! SSS: That's it!
Monkey Fist remembers Ron too, but then he's more Ron's enemy than Kim's in the first place.
Professor Dementor seems to regard Dr. Drakken as a second-rate wannabe, though at least he remembers Drakken's name.
In the Wheres Waldo? animated series, Waldo and Wizard Whitebeard are completely unaware of Odlaw's existence.
Dr. Destiny on Justice League. When the Justice League originally busted him, he was just another of LexCorp's many mooks. He wants revenge for this. They have no idea who he is, or why he's so intent on killing them.
Beck: So now you know, it's me. Spider-Man: Right, um, who are you again? Beck: You put me away! Spider-Man: Wow, really? Heh, cool! Beck: Don't pretend you've forgotten, I was the Chameleon's right hand man! Spider-Man: Oh right, on the boat! You were...dressed as the crewman! Beck: As the waiter!
On Jimmy Two-Shoes, the eponymous character considers Lucius a friend. This is because he's such a pollyanna that he's completely unaware of just how much he is loathed by him.
The title characters of Phineas and Ferb usually have no idea they're doing anything wrong with their outlandish projects, so they don't seem to understand why their older sister, Candace, is so dead-set on getting their mother to see them. They even help her sometimes, unaware that her goal is to get them grounded for as long as possible.
In the South Park episode "Crippled Summer" Nathan is this to Jimmy.
Cartman is this to Wendy in "Dances With Smurfs". He regularly calls her out and shames her publicly only for her to...go about her business. Everyone but Wendy sees this as a big deal. It's not until the end of the episode that she responds and she absolutely destroys him.
In some episodes of Spongebob Squarepants, the titular character doesn't seem to acknowledge Plankton as an enemy.
On Doug, the titular character thinks of Guy Graham as a rival, particularly because Guy also has his sights set on Patti Mayonnaise. However, Guy is completely unaware that he's such a burden to Doug.
In the Adventure Time episode "Duke of Nuts", a red squirrel hates Jake because Jake never prints the squirrel's letters in his advice column. The squirrel considers Jake his mortal enemy, while Jake has no idea the squirrel even exists. When the squirrel appears again in the season five episode "Princess Potluck", he is even more fixated on Jake, and Jake still doesn't know who he is.
Squirrel: You son-of-a-blee-blob! JAAAAKE! Jake: Hey...you.
Not quite unknown, but Dr. Horrible does go out of his way at one point to emphasize to Johnny Snow that they are not nemeses and that Snow is barely a blip on his good-guy radar.
PC Gaming magazines seem to be full of articles about why consoles are vastly inferior to PC. An issue of PC Gamer had an article on building a perfect gaming rig for under $600, which concluded with the line "Take that, consoles!" This seems to be a fairly one-sided sentiment on the part of PC gamers. For the most part, people that prefer consoles don't really see a rivalry with PC.
Back when it was still a parody magazine, Cracked relished in taking pot shot after pot shot at MAD. Not once did MAD ever even acknowledge that Cracked existed.
This didn't extend to Real Life; MAD publisher William Gaines was so acutely aware of knockoffs that he had a voodoo doll in his office, and each pin was labelled with the name of a different magazine. To Cracked's credit, theirs was the only pin left in the voodoo doll by the time Gaines died in 1992.
A variant in Brad Jones'sKung Tai Ted skits. After being attacked by a hitman sent by bitter rival Solomon in his The Angry Dragon review, Ted pledges to find and defeat him. However, he takes so long in doing so that by the time he manages it in Golden Ninja Warrior, Solomon has long since forgotten about him.
In the Let's Play of Princess Maker Lizzie Shinkicker earned the rivalry of Wendy because her magic prowess was slightly better then the rest. Every encounter with Wendy was hilariously short, as Wendy was a Squishy Wizard and Lizzie was well-rounded enough that she could often defeat Wendy in one hit from her sword. Cube even comments on Wendy's desire to beat Lizzie as a "suicidal delusion."
Not entirely; it does have an article on us. You see? We rate. We're badass.
True Capitalist Radio has Ghost's enthusiastic and entirely one-sided vendetta against Alex Jones.
There's a couple of cases in the Whateley Universe. One is Phase and Golden Girl- Golden Girl wants to be the boss of her martial arts class, but Phase continually blows her out of the water by combining his weapons, his damn good powers and his gift for strategy. Phase really doesn't care about Golden Girl beyond 'she's an occasional annoyance', because he has real problems to deal with, while Golden Girl despises Phase utterly.
Another is Nemesis and She-Beast - She-Beast's father, Dr Diabolik, attacked a city and ended up killing over a hundred people, one of whom was Nemesis' grandfather. Nemesis blames Jadis personally, and Jadis' only response to her declaration of war was 'Take a number and get in line, bitch.'
In March 2009 New York Radio station WXRK changed from a rock format to Top-40. They then immediately positioned themselves as the The Rival to established Top-40 station Z-100. Since then they've been bashing Z-100 constantly in commercials, including a shameless ripoff of Mac's "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC." ads, and a spot accusing them of supporting hip-hop artist and domestic violence accusee Chris Brown. If Z-100 has noticed, they have yet to show it.
This happened briefly in Seattle too in the mid-'00s. A new alternative station popped up with a lineup of DJs that was almost exclusively formerly with the alternative station that had existed in Seattle for around a decade and a half at that point, and their ads and listener testimonials repeatedly made a point of noting how the more popular alternative station sucks now. The more popular station never, ever acknowledged their existence and the upstart alternative station was gone within a year.
Almost every political assassination. Bobby Kennedy's last words might as well have been "Who are you?"
Uwe Boll is reportedly trying to start a rivalry with Michael Bay. Bay is... unimpressed.
It got to the point where Boll challenged Bay to a 12-round boxing match, and Bay responded by saying that he'd "never even heard [Boll's] name till last week when he made threats and rants" and called him "a fucking idiot".
Due to differences between regional dialects, he had no idea what she was even trying to say to him until Angry Joe and others translated for him.
Pepsi seems to be this to Coke. Most of their ads are in the form of a Take That, trying to show how Pepsi is superior, while Coke's ads just show people having fun while drinking Coke, and never even mention Pepsi. The Irony of the whole thing is that by showing Coke products in their ads, Pepsi is effectively advertising for Coke as much as they are themselves, because most people don't pay close enough attention to commercials to pick up more than basic messages like logos and names.
This may not have been true in the past, as the flavor change known as "New Coke" in the 1980s was a direct reaction to Pepsi's growing popularity. "New Coke" met with mixed popularity, to the point that the company had to later reintroduce the original formula as "Classic Coke". Eventually, the new formula was phased out, and "Classic Coke" regained the "Coke" name. One of the bestselling books on the subject of business in the 1980s was called "The Other Guy Blinked", about how Pepsi's market challenge scared the Coca-Cola company into moving away from what had made them successful. The entire debacle was the subject of much news coverage, and of many comedians' jokes.
In the First-Person Shooter genre of video games, the developers of the Battlefield games view themselves as rivals against Call of Duty and want to take their throne as King of FPS games away from them. This has created a chasm between Battlefield fans and Call of Duty fans where the former claim that their games are a more unique FPS and CoD is generic and doesn't deserve all the sales and popularity it has as a franchise. Call of Duty's response? Its developers were quite surprised to hear that developers and fans of the Battlefield games even care all that much about it and doesn't see why the two franchises can't learn from each other and make the industry as a whole stronger.
The relationships between the three big video game makers, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft is very interesting, as none of them seem particularly interested in each other. Nintendo pays the other two little to no mind, Microsoft generally advertises as being the best option without acknowledging the other options, and Sony, interestingly enough, advertises as being the best, but doesn't mention what they're the best at.
Except for the Xbox Kinect and Playstation Move being deliberately designed to capitalise on the success of the Wii.
An interesting example of this happened with the reveal of the Xbox One and Playstation 4. When fans complained about many of the features of the Xbox One, Microsoft responded with a very "take it or leave it" attitude and basically said that the customer would have to either buy an Xbox One or be stuck in the past. When Sony took advantage of the bad press and based their E3 presentation around unfavorably comparing the One to their PS4, Microsoft seemed to suddenly realize they have competition and backpedaled on nearly every infamous feature they'd announced.
The Entertainment industry seems to have a bone to pick with the Internet. Justified, as there's much piracy and whatnot going on online. The users of the internet in general couldn't care less... until they tried to force through SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA, that is. And even ACTA wasn't that well-known until the controversy surrounding SOPA and PIPA in the U.S. got people worldwide to take notice.
North Korea had been constantly threatening the United States and South Korea with nuclear war early in 2013. Judging by the comments on news stories about these threats, most Americans were unaware why North Korea was suddenly so angry at them and were not at all intimidated.
In general the entire justification for their military government is the inevitable American invasion, when America has barely thought about them for 50 years and has no reason to do so. This specific case appears to have been something the NK leadership made up so that after the posturing they can say the Americans backed down.
In the late 19th Century, the thought of annexation by the US was a huge issue to Canadians. Politicians won elections campaigning against it, political cartoons were circulated in Canadian newspapers depicting Canada or Britannia kicking Uncle Sam to the curb, etc. Meanwhile, most Americans weren't focused on Canada, caring much more about the Civil War, the conflicts with the Native Americans, and military interventions in Central America. There were only two times that the United States actually made any attempt toward annexing Canada: once during the War of 1812, and once before the US technically existed. After that, US expansion was uniformly aimed westward, not northward.
The leading Canadian politicians of the era were Genre Savvy enough to keep the state of affairs firmly in this trope. Their goal was to make sure that the United States did not start looking north as a direction for expansion. The Northwest Mounted Police were established primarily to make sure that Canada could justify its claims over the areas that would become Alberta and Saskatchewan and a transcontinental railroad was built to solidify this claim. However, Canada never tried to claim any territory to the south which was claimed by the United States. This resulted in any Americans who tried to look north to quickly decide that it would be too much of a headache when they could go west instead.
When Hugo Chávez was alive, he fancied himself and the "Revolution" he led in Venezuela as the biggest enemy of USA, deprecating the "Empire", rejecting American humanitarian help, antagonizing with every American functionary he could and insulting whoever was the States' President at the time. Suffice to say, the feeling wasn't mutual. The thing was perfectly summed up in a political cartoon◊ which depicts Chavez as a gas station employee insulting car driver George W. Bush while the latter says "Whatever, I don't understand a word of what are you saying... fill up the tank, boy!"
His successor as President of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, has continued the pattern.
Several political analysts see the traditional Anti-American feeling prevalent in South America as a form of this trope. While not denying the controversial policies applied in the region, and the justified hate several citizens of certain countries have against USA; the truth is that, more often than not, the countries that obsess the most against the USA tend to be the ones who have had less direct American intervention during their history. Most Americans don't even know about it.