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->''"I regret that we meet in this way. You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend."''
-->-- '''Romulan Commander''', ''Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries'', [[Recap/StarTrekS1E14BalanceOfTerror "Balance of Terror"]]
%% One quote is sufficient. Please put additional quotes to the quote sub-page.

When the hero and the villain clash repeatedly, over time they may develop respect for their opponent's abilities. After all, their adversary is able to keep rising to oppose them battle after battle. In the heat of battle the hero or villain's true capabilities and determination could be revealed. Or perhaps one of them was simply [[ChallengeSeeker looking for a challenge]]. For whatever reason, the battles have created a sense of respect (which may or may not be mutual).

This leads to a declaration by one of the two that they have found their adversary a worthy challenge, or some variation of that. It can be privately said or publicly admitted; what matters is that the character in question acknowledges and respects their opponent for their skill.

This declaration is more commonly made by villains than heroes, given that the villain's less scrupulous nature doesn't exactly help earn a hero's respect. The exceptions to this tend to involve {{Spirited Competitor}}s or otherwise less principled protagonists on the heroic side, or a NobleDemon on the villainous side. Compare EvilVirtues, wherein the heroes may recognize some admirable quality in an otherwise-villainous character.

Expect to hear [[CombatCompliment Combat Compliments]]. This can lead to TheOnlyOneAllowedToDefeatYou, depending on the mindset of the character making this statement. See also FriendlyEnemy and EvilCounterpart. Can overlap with EnemiesEqualsGreatness.

* WorthyOpponent/AnimeAndManga
* WorthyOpponent/{{Literature}}
* WorthyOpponent/LiveActionFilms
* WorthyOpponent/RealLifeCombat
* WorthyOpponent/VideoGames


[[folder:Comic Books]]
* The DC {{Elseworlds}} story ''Comicbook/SupermanRedSon'', in which the infant Comicbook/{{Superman}}'s rocket ship crash lands in the Soviet Union and Kal-El is brought up to become a Communist leader, the American scientist (and, later, President) ComicBook/LexLuthor is Superman's Worthy Opponent, impressive for a man with no superpowers. Their rivalry is much more personal than the international politics they are embroiled in, and though they are constantly seeking to destroy one another, Superman, at one pivotal moment, refers to Lex as "old friend". Lex, the irony lost on him, at one point muses that he and Superman could have been close allies had Superman been raised in America.
** Every incarnation portrays their relationship this way. Luthor is the one person Superman can't defeat with strength and Superman is the one person Luthor can't [[ScrewTheRulesIHaveMoney control with his wealth.]]
** This is only true of the post crisis continuity, since the golden and silver age Luthor was a known criminal rather than the perceived philanthropist he is now.
** One [[WhatIf "Imaginary Story"]] involved a minor villain named Dimension Master killing Lois Lane, and Superman having to deal with it. Dimension Master then has his [[VoluntaryShapeshifting shapeshifter]] wife briefly disguise herself as Lois just to further torment him. At this, Dimension Master is suddenly defeated by ''Luthor and Brainiac.'' Supes asks in astonishment why they are helping him, and they tell him that even though they are his enemies, they ''respect'' him, and [[EvenEvilHasStandards they couldn't stand watching D.M.'s pointless cruelty.]]
* Captain Cold, the Rogues, and {{The Flash}} have this going on, if Cold's lines in Forever Evil and the Rogues Revolution / Rogues Rebellion storylines are any indication. After all, the Rogues are a bunch of [[PunchClockVillains blue - collar criminals]] who [[ThouShaltNotKill refuse to kill]] unless the person was someone who really had it coming or broke their rules, like Owen Mercer, who broke the no killing rule, and Inertia, who made them break it themselves. A lot of their dialogue with The Flash and the fact that they allied with him in Revolution only adds to this.
--->Captain Cold [[spoiler:to Johnny Quick after shattering his leg]]: "See, The Flash and I got mutual respect. That's the difference between you and them. Besides him [[spoiler:having two legs.]]" Also doubles as a CrowningMomentOfAwesome since Cold [[spoiler:had no powers at the time.]]
** And in Rogues Rebellion:
--->Weather Wizard to Johnny Quick: '''"GET AWAY FROM THEM, YOU HALF - ASSED FLASH."'''
* Similarly, [[Comicbook/{{X-Men}} Charles Xavier and Magneto]], despite ''wildly'' differing views on mutants and their role in normal (well, for the MarvelUniverse) society, get on fairly well. When Creator/GrantMorrison blew up Genosha, Xavier even went to help Mags clean up. Since about 2005, and Xavier's slow and self-imposed eradication of his ethics, he's getting some rightly NotSoDifferent accusations from his X-Men.
* ''Franchise/{{Batman}}'':
** ComicBook/RasAlGhul is the quintessential example of this in the ''Batman'' mythos. Ra's sees Batman as a worthy and honorable foe, [[NotsoDifferent someone who ultimately shares the same goal]] but is [[UtopiaJustifiestheMeans not willing to do what is ultimately necessary to achieve it]]. Such is his admiration of the Dark Knight that Ra's, when he is not fighting Batman in a sabre-duel to the death or setting a deadly trap for him, frequently and repeatedly [[WeCanRuleTogether offers Batman the chance to both succeed him as head of the League of Assassins]] and to [[MadScientistsBeautifulDaughter marry his daugher, Talia]]. He holds the ultimate trump card against Batman - knowledge of his SecretIdentity - but is [[EvenEvilHasStandards above revealing it to his other enemies for the sake of leverage]]. Batman, however, does not seem to reciprocate these feelings, at least to the same extent, as his stoic and inflexible moral code prevents him from seeing Ra's as anything but a madman and a monster. He does, however, acknowledge and take advantage of Ra's' code of honor, and despite the inherent friction of the situation, [[DatingCatwoman entertains an on-again-off-again romantic relationship with Talia]].
** ComicBook/TheJoker, to an even greater degree. He sees Batman, not only as a worthy opponent, but as "the only human being that can keep up with him." The feeling is ([[DependingOnTheWriter usually]]) not mutual, by the way. While Batman refuses to kill the Joker because of [[ThouShaltNotKill his one rule]], he just sees the Joker for the murderous psychopath he is and accords him no praise.
** The Riddler ''lives'' to go head-to-head with Batman, the only person he believes to be a worthy challenge for his intellect. Some fans believe this makes him stupid for constantly giving away clues to what he's going to do, but the Riddler doesn't care about money or material objects. All he cares about is having his Worthy Opponent's full attention and the thrill of the game.
* There's also an incredibly minor subtext of this in ''ComicBook/FantasticFour'', between Reed Richards and his '''ARCHNEMESIS!!!''' Doctor Doom. The two of them regularly top canon and fanon lists of the smartest men in the Marvel Universe, and Reed steps in and out of feeling guilty for what happened to Doom in college. Part of it comes from the fact that they don't have to talk down to each other -- smartest men in the world and all that.
** Doom still does anyway, for [[LargeHam ''none possess the luxurious prose and unmatched scientific acumen of DOOM!'']]. Indeed, a large part of Doom's characterization boils down to his InferioritySuperiorityComplex and his belief that he must prove himself Reed's better. It finally comes full circle during the GrandFinale of the old 616-universe, where Doom finally admits that Reed is smarter than him.
** IronMan also counts in this. Although Doom's [[ItsPersonal never quite forgiven him]] for [[EvilCannotComprehendGood declining Doom's exceedingly generous offer]] to become one of Doom's [[EliteMooks minions]], he seems to have [[MakesUsEven gotten over]] that whole "[[KingArthur destroyed your plans of domination for Camelot]]" thing, which is pretty impressive, considering that Doom isn't usually the [[ThisIsUnforgivable forgiving sort]].
*** He respects Tony enough that when he was believed dead, Doom declared a national day of mourning in Latveria.
** It's been noted several times that ComicBook/BlackPanther is one of the few superheroes Doom truly respects, as he is an accomplished ruler and scientist in much the same way Doom is. In the ComicBook/{{Marvel 2099}} continuity, Doom helps resurrect one of the previous Black Panthers as a {{cyborg}} out of respect for T'Challa (though Doom being Doom, he makes sure the situation benefits him as well).
** ComicBook/DoctorStrange teamed up with Doom in his final (and successful) attempt to rescue his mother's soul from Hell. Though it was a reluctant partnership at best (Strange had just beaten Doom for the position of Sorcerer Supreme and tradition mandates that the winner owes the runner-up a favor), they walked away with a grudging respect for each other.
** The Champion of the Universe declared The Thing to be a worthy foe after Thing refused to give up despite being hopelessly outmatched and even managed to give him an injury.
* Comicbook/EnemyAce Hans von Hammer is often portrayed as a Worthy Opponent. He is obviously inspired by the real-life Red Baron, mentioned below.
* [[ComicBook/CaptainMarVell Captain Marvel]] (no, [[IAmNotShazam not that one]]), after Nitro exposed him to a certain gas, developed cancer. On his deathbed, Mar-Vell was visited by many heroes and champions, but by none of his own creed (little pun there). Yet he was visited by ''a Skrull high commander'', the people who had been in war with his species since fuck knows when, who then ''commemorates'' him with the highest honour an opponent of the Skrull could have.
** But wait! There is more! As Mar-Vell reaches Death's door...He sees ComicBook/{{Thanos}} [[OmnicidalManiac of Titan]], who was dead at that time. He walks up to him and says that an end like this was unworthy of his greatest enemy and then proceeds to battle him, [[TheUndead calling forth upon the souls of defeated enemies of the Captain]] until he reaches Death, and hence, relief and rest from life's burdens. Some say this is Starlin's best work.
* In the ''ComicBook/XWingSeries'' comics, readers encounter the Baron Soontir Fel, the Empire's [[AcePilot best pilot]] since Vader died. He's death on a pair of twin ionizing engines, but unlike [[CardCarryingVillain nearly every other Imperial in the series]], he doesn't wallow in evilness. Far from it: [[WhatYouAreInTheDark he knows what he is in the dark]] and is moral, devoted to his wife, and just generally isn't hateful. When the Rogues shoot him down, he asks to speak in private to Wedge Antilles - the best New Republic pilot since Skywalker left to go Jedi-ing - and compares himself to [[http://asylums.insanejournal.com/scans_daily/367889.html Skywalker]]. DefeatMeansFriendship, and Fel's wife is Wedge's sister and only surviving relative, and the Empire that Fel was so loyal to is dead...
* in the ''2000 AD'' title ''Meltdown Man'' Nick Stone is this to Leeshar, the only other non-decadent human in their world. After arranging for some security for the decadent humans in his city...
--->Leeshar: "I said stand aside! I'm going after a ''REAL HUMAN BEING!''"
* ''ComicBook/TheBlackKnight'': Scrooge [=McDuck=] and Arpin Lusene have a Rich Victim - GentlemanThief type of mutual respect in Creator/DonRosa's comics. Lusene is a very good sport about losing, and Scrooge admits that the Frenchman is the greatest threat his fortune has (which says a lot, coming from him).
* In one issue of Marvel's ''[[ComicBook/GIJoeARealAmericanHeroMarvel G.I. Joe]]'' comic, Ace and Wild Weasel (with Lady Jaye and TheBaroness as co-pilots) accidentally encounter each other while flying their jet fighters one day. They spend the entire issue using every trick they know to try to shoot the other out of the sky. At the end, they both realize that they're completely out of ammunition. They fly their heavily-damaged planes past each other close enough to [[ItHasBeenAnHonor salute]], then fly home (while their respective co-pilots ask, "That's it? We're just going to let them go?").
* ''ComicBook/UsagiYojimbo'' is a celebration of samurai myth, so this trope appears several times.
** [[TheDragon Captain Torame]] in "The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy" has this relationship with Usagi; both are good samurai (Torame exemplifies loyalty and he'll stay by his lord's side even though he knows his lord is wicked) and express regret that they have to be enemies.
** Usagi and the Neko ninja Chizu have progressed through this trope into FriendlyEnemy and a few hints of [[DatingCatwoman a less professional admiration]] over the course of the series.
** Usagi's sensei, Katsuichi, has the same regard for Nakamura Koji.
* Creator/MarvelComics have traditionally referred to their rivals Creator/{{DC|Comics}} as "The Distinguished Competition".
* [[ComicBook/UltimateSpiderMan The Death of Spider-Man]] arc averts this big time. Peter is faced against the Sinister Six with a bullet in his hip and takes the time to say Electro was his greatest adversary and it was an honor to fight him. But naturally this being Spidey he says he didn't really mean it and he doesn't even give Electro a second thought.
* The chase in [[http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Rige Le Rige]] is based on this trope.
* The airmen in ''ComicBook/{{Arrowsmith}}'' don't kill enemy airmen who have been rendered harmless, and when they're able to recover their opponents' corpses, they are returned to their own side for the funeral. This is contrasted with what their bombings do to enemy ''civilians''.
--> '''Fletcher:''' I wonder if they'd been so eager to [return the corpse] if they knew [[spoiler:Foxe]] led the "Butchers of Holbrück."
* [[ComicBook/IllyanaRasputin Magik]] has repeatedly shown she has a large respect for ComicBook/DoctorStrange's prowess in the mystic arts despite being on opposite teams at the moment. She even takes lessons from him in the past to control her powers better.

[[folder:Comic Strips]]
* Parodied in [[http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2004-08-01/ this]] ''ComicStrip/{{Dilbert}}'' strip.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
* ''Fanfic/AdviceAndTrust'': Asuka regards Shinji as hers: he is nearly as good as her, and he can challenge her in the battlefield, forcing her to improve her piloting and fighting skills and perform better. After getting together she looks forward to make him fight hard to keep up with her, and when he feels glum because he seems unable to match her, she cheers him up and encourages him to keep chasing her.
* ''Manga/{{Evangelion 303}}'':
** Much to her chagrin, [[FieryRedhead Asuka]] ended up seeing [[LoveInterest Shinji]] like her greatest challenge after their first meetings.
** Mari sees Asuka like this. She realizes that the red-haired girl is at her level and finds her exciting, like a really challenging summit that she wants to climb. Asuka is not impressed, though, and she only wants to beat Mari.
* ''Fanfic/{{HERZ}}'': Asuka regarded Shinji as her greatest rival in piloting because she respected him deep-down.
* ''Fanfic/OnceMoreWithFeeling'': Asuka finds both Shinji and Toji to be these when it comes to verbal sparring; Shinji in terms of wit, and Toji in terms of tenacity.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/JackieChanAdventures'' and ''WesternAnimation/TeenTitans'' crossover fanfiction ''FanFic/AShadowOfTheTitans'', Gadjo seems to view Jade as this. Since he's an AxCrazy BloodKnight, Jade is unsure whether or not this means he wants to be her friend or kill her.
* Hilariously subverted in the ''Series/{{Firefly}}'' fanfic ''Fanfic/{{Forward}}'', where the ArrogantKungFuGuy Si Quan confronts River, sizes her up, and considers her a worthy opponent who can test his abilities. [[spoiler: [[WhyDontYouJustShootHim River disagrees, and shoots him in the head]].]]
* VillainProtagonist Tyrin Lieph and the [[ManBehindTheMan advisor]] to the krogan overlord, Halak Marr, in ''Franchise/MassEffect:The Council Era''. A VillainProtagonist and MagnificentBastard (well, he might not fit the Trickster part of the criteria, but that's it) plays XanatosSpeedChess with a [[TheChessmaster Chessmaster]] for the control of the galaxy. Halak even admits that if the two had been born of the same species, they would've been unstoppable as a team.
* Katara and Azula in ''Avatar The Last Airbender Revised''. Over the course of various battles and confrontations, the two develop a begrudging respect for each other.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/TeenTitans'' fanfic ''FanFic/JewelOfDarkness'', resident PsychoForHire [[TheBrute Guerra]] views Cyborg as this, as he was the only one of the Titans to provide him with a decent fight, and actually managed to defeat him. It gets to the point that, during a fight with Robin, Guerra compares his fighting style with Cyborg's, and while he loses all interest in the Titans after his contract with Midnight expires, he's still looking forward to a rematch with Cyborg.
* ''Fanfic/NobodyDies'': Zeruel appears to consider Shinji Ikari to be this. According to the Angels, Zeruel actually fears Shinji, and this is why, when he attacks, he singles Shinji out among all other opposition. Shinji himself is rather astonished by that revelation.
-->'''Shinji:''' That... that thing killed three Cherubim, took a nuclear missile to the ''face'' and it's ''afraid'' of me?\\
'''Armisael:''' [[AC:You have battled the Father. You have slain more of that which you call Angels than any other. You are the one whom the Angels fear, Pilot Ikari. He is coming to do battle with you, as you are the only one upon the Earth whom he feels is his equal.]]
* In ''FanFic/ImperfectMetamorphosis'', Yuuka regards Yukari as this, partly because she's one of the only beings in existence with enough [[RealityWarper power]] and [[ManipulativeBastard cunning]] to challenge her, and takes great pleasure in setting up this big show before their actual battle. The feeling is '''not''' mutual however, and Yukari does everything she can to ensure their showdown is as ''un''equal and in Yukari's favour as possible. Unfortunately, this [[BerserkButton annoys]] Yuuka, feeling Yukari [[EvenEvilHasStandards broke the rules]], and Bad Things happen.
* Subverted in episode 13 of ''FanFic/FutariWaPrettyCureDragon'' after Cure Dragon kills the man in black by burning him alive. He then uses deliberately sarcastic language to describe what had happened, e.g. "a glowing tribute" (a phrase borrowed from ''Film/DiamondsAreForever'').
* A running duel between Otto Skorzeny and Mad Jack Churchill in {{Fanfic/Uplifted}} involving: [[spoiler: A truck with a Gestopo agent used as a battering ram, Machine Guns, Pistols, Churchill's famed Compound Bow, A sword fight and a fist fight.]]
* In ''Fanfic/ChildOfTheStorm'', Lucius Malfoy utterly despises Nick Fury ([[ItsPersonal and the feeling is very much mutual]]), but he repeatedly notes that he reluctantly respects Fury as the closest thing he has to an equal, despite the fact that he's a muggle, admiring his intellect, ambition and ruthlessness (Fury was a young Agent when they first met, liaising with the Order of the Phoenix. After the First War, Fury made Director in less than ten years and apparently became the ManBehindTheMan in the American Wizarding World, and possibly the most powerful man in the Western Hemisphere. And depending how you tot things up, he may not even have turned 40...). Fury doesn't reciprocate the reluctant respect, though he is grimly aware of what Malfoy is capable of.
* The ''WesternAnimation/TotalDrama'' story, ''[[Fanfic/LegacyTotalDrama Legacy]]'' has a delayed example. After ten years, the more mature Heather is finally ready to admit that a once-despised rival was in fact a valuable teammate before the merge and a formidable opponent after.
* ''FanFic/QueenOfAllOni'': [[EnigmaticMinion Blankman]] shows a certain amount of respect towards Jackie during their fight in the Vault of Endless Night. To the point that even though Jackie outmatches in physical combat, he refuses to just shoot him (he brings out his sword, but that's just pragmatism). When they encounter each other again a few chapters later in the Hall of Ice, Blankman is [[TheRestShallPass willing to let the others pass]] if Jackie consents to a rematch.
** Tarakudo felt this way about Hiruzen, the Eldest of Shadowkhan. When they faced each other in combat at the climax of Tarakudo's rebellion against the Oni Elders, Tarakudo tried to convince Hiruzen to defect, and when he (barely) defeated him, ordered his troops to treat his body with respect.
* ''Fanfic/CalvinAndHobbesTheSeries'' has a variant of this trope when [[ThePrankster Socrates]] is cloned:
--> '''Socrates 2:''' It's been so long since I met a worthy adversary.\\
'''Socrates 1:''' You've only been alive for a few days!
* The LyricalNanoha fanwork ''Fanfic/LifeAfterHayate'' has Signum discuss Chrono Harlaown's father Clyde with a great deal of affection, more than even Clyde's wife usually shows. This is because he beat the Wolkenritter twice, something no one else had ever done.
* The LightNovel/FateZero and Lupin III fanfic ''Fanfic/JustAnUnorthodoxThief'', this trope is both apparent frequently and weaponized by Assassin/Lupin. The most apparent use of it is between Assassin/Lupin and Zenigata as usual and weaponized against honor-bound Servants like Lancer.
* The ''Manga/{{Bleach}}''/''Franchise/{{Predator}}'' crossover ''[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9172924/1/To-Prey-Upon-the-Dead To Prey Upon the Dead]]'':
** The fanfic has this between Ichigo/Dead Eye and Kenpachi. After their hours-long fight, when Kenpachi is about to win, he regretfully tells Ichigo that he'd rather spare him so [[BloodKnight they can fight again]] but that Yamamoto would probably kill them both if he did. When Ichigo is about to win, he assures Kenpachi that he'd be honored as the most worthy of prey he has ever hunted (and likely ever will hunt) and that his memory will be passed down through Ichigo's clan. Fortunately or unfortunately, [[spoiler:neither gets to kill the other as Unohana steps in and keeps Ichigo from killing Kenpachi. Her reason? If Ichigo kills a captain, Yamamoto will kill him and she wouldn't get her chance to fight him]].
** Earlier, a group of humans are sent back to Earth, never to be hunted again, as a reward of being the greatest of prey for not only surviving the hunt but also killing the Super Predators hunting them.
* In ''VisualNovel/WalkureRomanze'', Lisa and Akane consider each other worthy opponents after they fail to win in a jousting match due to both of them being unable to gain the upperhand against the other.
* [[AGodAmI Barragan]] of all people feels this way towards his killer in ''Fanfic/AProtectorsPride'', acknowledging them as a fellow Kami and thus his equal. His killer? [[spoiler: [[RealityWarper Ori]][[RetGone hi]][[CrowningMomentOfAwesome me]].]]
* In ''[[FanFic/MyLittleUnicorn My Brave Pony: Star Fleet Magic III]]'', Harkin sees Lightning as one.
* ''FanFic/SonicXDarkChaos'' has numerous examples.
** After being beaten in Episode 66, Astorath strongly respects Sonic and his friends as warriors - to the point where after he defeats them in Episode 75, he spares their lives.
** Tsali considers Venus one of these, as she's "the only Seedrian who ever put up a good fight."
** Jesus Christ respects Astorath for his honor and his PetTheDog tendencies, even though the two are archenemies on opposing sides. And although he hates Maledict on principle, he privately respects Satan's intelligence and cunning.
* In ''FanFic/MegaManDefenderOfTheHumanRace'', Terra sees [[spoiler:Bass]] as this since they share the same power source, but Mega Man is beneath his notice.
* FanFic/TheRiseOfDarthVulcan: Shining Armor begrudgingly admits that the titular villain earned the respect and loyalty of the Diamond Dogs.
* In the ''Fanfic/PonyPOVSeries'', ironically [[ItsAllAboutMe Chrysalis]] of all people invokes this when some upper class ponies use her [[spoiler: shape shifting into her own corpse after Princess Celestia WINS their BeamOWar to zap her off guard]], to say how "they knew" Princess Celestia was weak. This lessens Chrysalis' win, so she rambles about how much trouble she had to go through just to get her scheme this far because Celestia is THAT GOOD!
* In ''Fanfic/NineMinutes'', Crocodile manages to (temporarily) kill Luffy and notes both after killing him and when Luffy comes back yet again that he honestly respects Luffy's determination. He even offers to let Luffy simply walk away as "It's been so long since [he] had such a WorthyOpponent and [he'd] hate to ruin the experience by killing [Luffy] when he's in such a sorry state."
* In ''[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/9976928/1/The-bloody-Ashikabi The Bloody Ashikabi]]'', both the [[Literature/HarryPotter Gringotts goblins]] and [[Anime/{{Sekirei}} Karasuba]] view each other as the only worthwhile opponents they've had in a long time. It's the main reason Gringotts thinks so highly of Harry and his group.
* When the time finally comes that the [[Franchise/StargateVerse Goa'uld Hegemony]] is forced to surrender to the Celestial Empire in ''[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10917821/1/The-questionable-burdens-of-leadership-of-a-troll-Emperor The (Questionable) Burdens of Leadership of a Troll Emperor]]'', Yu is pleased to note that at least he lost to an enemy he could respect. However, this is entirely one-sided as by the time the Goa'uld surrender, Naruto was only willing to allow it because he'd become so bored with the war.
* [[BiggerBad The First Evil]] in ''[[http://members.chello.nl/~jg.temolder1/stories/Chosen_to_Destroy.htm Chosen to Destroy]]'' easily and openly admits that if things had gone as planned (namely, Buffy staying dead after facing the Master), the team of [[Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer Faith, Xander, Willow, and Giles]] would have almost certainly defeated it and might have even found a way to permanently destroy it. Unfortunately for them, Buffy didn't stay dead and thus prevented the formation of "the greatest demon hunting team the world has ever known".
* In ''FanFic/RobbReturns'', the Vale Clan leader that speaks with the Blackfish straight out tells him he is this.
* In ''FanFic/ThisBites'', [[spoiler:Lucci]], of all people, decides that the moment he can, he's cashing in all his vacation time so he can find Luffy and have the fight of his life. Jabra agrees with this assessment. Several chapters later, when his fight with Luffy concludes, [[spoiler:Lucci]] smiles and states "It was a hell of a fight" before losing consciousness.
** Zoro admits after defeating Kaku that he was the best fight he'd had in a long time.
* ''FanFic/SoulChess'': Aizen views Lelouch as his sole intellectual equal and was [[VillainousBreakdown enraged]] when Lelouch refused to acknowledge him towards the end of their second confrontation. On Lelouch's end, while he does seem to respect Aizen's abilities and reciprocates their relationship as "rivals", it's ultimately trumped by his sheer hatred of the man for all the pain and suffering he's caused for Lelouch and others. Eventually, when Lelouch [[spoiler:merges with Hogyoku]] during the FinalBattle, allowing him to finally fight Aizen as an equal, he demands that his comrades leave, supposedly so they aren't at risk of his new powers; however, it is somewhat implied that the real reason Lelouch wanted everyone gone was so that he could finally finish things with Aizen once and for all. In turn, Aizen remarks that things are as they should be -- one-on-one with his greatest rival, so they can finally decide who is the superior one between them.
* ''FanFic/TransformersAnimatedCybertronianGenesis'': Megatron and Optimus Prime, just like in canon. In Megatron's trophy room, he reserves a spot between the helmets of ''the two Magnuses'' he has personally defeated in combat just for Optimus, all but stating that, to him, defeating Optimus would be his greatest triumph.

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* Towards the climax of ''Disney/{{Mulan}}'', when Mulan reveals that it was she who destroyed the Hun army, Shan Yu is surprised to see "the soldier from the mountain" appear before him, but his tone is almost awestruck, rather then incredulous. And then he comes at her, not wasting any time with the usual "I've been beaten by a woman" stuff male villains usually spout when facing a female opponent.
* WesternAnimation/{{Rango}} receives this from [[TheDreaded Rattlesnake Jake]] at the end of the film. "I tip my hat to you. One legend to another."
* {{Defied|Trope}} by SelfDemonstrating/TheJoker in ''WesternAnimation/BatmanBeyondReturnOfTheJoker'', as he is about to finally kill off Bruce Wayne/Batman.
-->'''The Joker:''' Adios, Brucie. I guess I should salute you as a worthy adversary and all that, but the truth is I really did hate your guts. ''*blows raspberries at Bruce*''
* This is essentially the view the Colonel has of the wild horse by the end of ''WesternAnimation/SpiritStallionOfTheCimarron'', as evidenced by the scene where he subtly nods to him in respect and rides away on his own horse.
* In ''WesternAnimation/SupermanBatmanApocalypse'': Batman arms the hell-spores to destroy Apokolips, and will only disarm them if [[spoiler: Supergirl is allowed to go free]]. {{ComicBook/Darkseid}} is ''furious'' at first and thrashes him, but Batman still doesn't back down. The dictator smiles and commends Batman on his strength of character.
* In ''WesternAnimation/StrangeMagic'', [[BigBad The Bog King]] and [[TheHero Marianne]] start out hating each other but quickly learn that they're evenly matched in dueling, and admit to having fun.
--->'''Marianne''': You know, I really enjoyed our fight.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/GameOfThrones'':
** Littlefinger and Varys seem to enjoy verbally sparring with each other and clearly see each other as the only other person on their mental level.
** Jaime sees Eddard as one in regards to swordfighting. He admits that he's heard of Eddard's reputation and wants to test his mettle. When he finally gets the chance to square off with Eddard, a guard screws it up by interfering.
** Lord Tywin considers Lady Olenna to be his intellectual equal and recognizes that she's the true head of House Tyrell, as he deals with her directly when arranging a marriage between their two families, and not with her son Mace, who is technically the Lord of Highgarden. Olenna then praises Tywin for living up to his reputation.
*** It's most notable when Tywin visits Highgarden, and he blows off the rest of the people there to take a stroll in the gardens with Olenna. In spite of being leading figures in separate sides of a civil war, the two are chatting away like old friends. It is one of the few times Tywin looks anything remotely resembling happy.
** Despite suffering a KangarooCourt because of her MamaBear tendencies, Tyrion has great admiration for Catelyn.
--> '''Tyrion:''' I admired her... she wanted to have me executed but I admired her. She was a strong woman and she was fierce when it came to protecting her children.
** Robb Stark to Tywin Lannister, enough that he acknowledges how badly he underestimated Robb and how talented the Young Wolf is at war. Not bad for a boy of eighteen.
** As of "Hardhome", the Night's King sees Jon Snow as this, being intimidated enough by his killing of a White Walker in single combat to go down to the docks of the Hardhome settlement personally to raise all of the dead Night's Watchmen and Wildlings from the battle as wights as a show of force.
* ''Series/{{Star Trek|The Original Series}}'':
** The Romulan commander in the episode "Balance of Terror", who tells Kirk that under different circumstances they could have been friends. This episode was specifically inspired by the movie ''The Enemy Below'' (see the Film subpage).
** In the episode "The Squire of Gothos", it is clear that Trelane regards Kirk in this manner. Indeed, Trelane treats the entire encounter with Kirk and the Enterprise crew as an elaborate game.
** It is extremely common throughout the [[Series/StarTrekTheOriginalSeries original series]] (and its movies) for the opponent to be a Worthy Opponent of Kirk or, at the very least, have a very healthy respect for him (albeit one full of hatred). Most notable of these was Khan Noonien Singh, originally a Worthy Opponent of Kirk-- as well as the only one who was also an actual Earth-man (vs. simply a metaphor); in "[[Recap/StarTrekS1E22SpaceSeed Space Seed]]", the two Worthy Opponents parted in mutual respect and honor, with Kirk dropping all charges against Khan and granting him his original wish of a new world to command.
** In the movie ''[[Film/StarTrekIITheWrathOfKhan Wrath of Khan]],'' he was [[CharacterDevelopment changed]] to a BigBad with a serious grudge against Kirk, as the new world ended up becoming an inhospitable wasteland after six months due to a NegativeSpaceWedgie and his wife subsequently dying from brain slugs.
* ''Series/StarTrekTheNextGeneration'': Also Romulan, Commander Sela was Data's Worthy Foe - a concept the series constantly beat us over the head and chest with whenever Sela showed up.
* ''Series/StarTrekDeepSpaceNine'':
** "By Inferno's Light". Worf has spent the last several days fighting Jem'Hadar in death matches. When he finally faces the biggest and most badass of them, his refusal to quit makes the Jem'Hadar back down.
--> '''Ikat'ika:''' I yield. I cannot defeat this Klingon. All I can do is kill him. And that no longer holds my interest.
** The Jem'Hadar seem to hold the Klingons as a whole as a worthy adversary. The first Jem'Hadar encountered by the Deep Space 9 crew was disappointed seeing that a Klingon was not amongst them. What makes this even more impressive is that the Jem'Hadar hadn't even encountered the Klingons yet. They'd simply heard of them through word of mouth from prisoners captured from other Alpha Quadrant colonies.
** Starfleet Engineers are respected by the Dominion as the undisputed masters of technology, fabled to be able turn "rocks into replicators."
** Quark viewed Odo this way, and thought the respect was returned, although even in the finale it seemed that Odo did not view Quark as at all worthy. Quark was visibly hurt by this.
** Even the AffablyEvil {{Villain}} Dukat also held an unrequited view of Sisko as this, until "Waltz" in which Sisko pushed Dukat to a HeelRealization, with the undesired effect of Dukat embracing his villainy and becoming unambiguously evil.
* Just before dying, [[spoiler: Silik]] of ''Series/StarTrekEnterprise'' calls Archer this.
* Wonderfully played with on ''Series/{{Farscape}}'' as Scorpius talked a lot of his respect going against John Crichton and how the man is quite obviously an intelligent, capable and quite probably brilliant tactician. So you can imagine how it felt when Scorpius had to work with the crew of Moya and was utterly stunned to realize Crichton had absolutely no idea what the ''hell'' he was doing most of the time and his victories were pretty much just plain blind luck with zero planning whatsoever.
* Of the three men who pursue ''Series/TheATeam'' over the course of the first four seasons, only Colonel Decker actually seems to view the team (particularly Hannibal) in this way. He has a definite grudging respect for them. Hannibal, in turn, actually seems to admire Decker's relentlessness.
* Played with in ''Series/TheColbertReport'' segment "Formidable Opponent," in which Stephen asserts that the only person worthy of debating him is ''himself''. Two versions of Stephen hold a debate over the current topic, with each side color-swapped red and blue. In a subversion of the trope, one side is always a StrawmanPolitical who is casually dispatched by the other Stephen's InsaneTrollLogic. Stephen once called a guest "a formidable opponent" as a StealthInsult, implying an unfavorable similarity between their relationship and his alter-egos.
* Hauptmann Hans Dietrich of ''Series/TheRatPatrol''. Though he was rarely able to stop the Allied commando unit, he was smart and always honorable.
* Mr. Wolf, leader of a bank-robbing team of former Marines, who engages in an epic duel of wits and will with police negotiator Horst Cali in ''Kill Point''.
* Hilariously subverted in ''Series/{{Blackadder}}'' between Lord Flashheart and [[RedBaron Baron von Richthofen]] (played by [[{{Series/TheYoungOnes}} Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson]], respectively).
-->'''Baron von Richthoven:''' Ah, and the Lord Flasheart. This is indeed an honour. Finally, the two greatest gentleman fliers in the world meet. Two men of honour, who have jousted together in the cloud-strewn glory of the skies, face to face at last. How often I have rehearsed this moment of destiny in my dreams. The panoply to encapsulate the unspoken nobility of a comradeship.
-->'''Lord Flashheart: (Shoots him)''' What a poof!
** However, Blackadder and Captain Darling, who detest each other for most of the series, approach this in the final episode, when [[spoiler: they're about to go over the top]].
* FBI Agent Alexander Mahone, Worthy Opponent to ''Series/PrisonBreak'' protagonist Michael Scofield in the second season. Mahone frequently expresses his professional admiration of Michael, and is the only person that Michael really fears will catch him (out of, you know, the entire United States law enforcement community). However, while he fulfills every other requirement to a T, Mahone subverts one aspect of the trope by being genuinely committed to killing Michael, and offs a fair few other characters along the way.
* ''Series/TheWire'': Detective [=McNulty=] is proud to be chasing clever criminals, since stupid criminals make stupid cops. Especially evident in his grudging respect for Stringer Bell.
** Also demonstrated between Omar Little and Brother Mouzone (two extremely skilled street tacticians and killers). Made most apparent in how they both let each other walk once their business is finished: Mouzone giving him his most prized weapon and Omar simply giving him a wink back (even after he sees the torture inflicted by Mouzone on his lover).
*** One could argue that these two respective characters are the only ones who one-upped each other in the entire series.
* Delenn and Sinclair expressed respect for each other's race because of the [[Series/BabylonFive Earth-Minbari War]]. Given future events, this has a bit of {{foreshadowing}}.
* ''Series/{{Dexter}}'':
** FBI Special Agent Frank Lundy was this to the titular character in season two. Dexter even uses the term himself after [[spoiler:Lundy's death in season four.]]
** Isaac Sirko sees Dexter this way in season 7. He also believes that under different circumstances they could have been [[NotSoDifferent great friends]].
* ''Series/TheWestWing'':
** Republican presidential candidate Arnold Vinick. He had an almost sure-fire way of beating Santos but didn't use it, simply because it would have been dishonourable.
** During that campaign season, many of the Democratic characters on the show admitted to want to vote for him, especially during the debates with the Democratic presidential candidate Matthew Santos.
-->''You got one year to convince me not to vote for him.''
* ''Series/TheXFiles'':
** In the episode "Pusher", the supernaturally persuasive Robert Patrick Modell is looking for this. He finds it in Mulder, whom he then tries to destroy (it fails). In the sequel episode, Modell's sister tries to pick up where he left off.
** In "Two Fathers", The Cigarette Smoking Man reveals that he sees Mulder as this by telling his son ''"You pale to Fox Mulder."''
* Fuwa Juzo from ''Series/SamuraiSentaiShinkenger'' sees Shiba Takeru/Shinken Red as the biggest opponent for him and is very obsessed with [[DuelTotheDeath fighting with him to the death]]. The same can be said for his ''Series/PowerRangersSamurai'' counterpart, Deker.
* Before that, there was Grey from ''Series/ChoujinSentaiJetman'', who formed this type of relationship with TheLancer, Gai. Over the course of the show, the two dueled every time they saw each other. This culminated when [[spoiler: the two had their final duel (which Gai won), and ended with Gai lighting a cigarette in remembrance of Grey. In the end, they were NotSoDifferent.]]
* Ecliptor, from ''Series/PowerRangersInSpace'', can count too; as can a few ''Series/PowerRangersLostGalaxy'' characters.
* On ''Series/{{Psych}}'', master thief Despereaux is impressed when Shawn is the first to figure out that his "robberies" are really just taking stuff so the owners can cash in on the insurance. Seeing Shawn a bit let down by this, Pierre decides to become a thief for real. He and Shawn clash a few more times but also work together as clearly Despereaux appreciates Shawn's smarts and the challenge of beating him.
** Wonderfully played with in how Detective Lassiter was convinced ''he'' was Despereaux's main rival, having been chasing the man for years. When they finally meet, Lassiter is stunned to realize the thief has absolutely no idea who Lassiter even is.
* ''Series/PowerRangersMysticForce'' had Koragg, who had a very fierce rivalry with Nick Russell, the Red Mystic Force Ranger. [[spoiler:The rivalry ended when Koragg was revealed to be Leanbow, Udonna's husband. Nick initially thought it was a trick, especially after Leanbow was briefly turned back into Koragg and proceeded to pick a fight with him, only for the rivalry to finally end for good when it was revealed that Leanbow and Udonna were his ''[[{{Irony}} biological parents]]''.]]
* The Doctor, from ''Series/DoctorWho'', is seen as a Worthy Opponent by just about anybody with the slightest martial tilt to their culture. Notably, [[ScaryDogmaticAliens Dalek]] machinery that normally needs to scan in pure Dalek DNA to work will also accept the Doctor's testimony of an individual's Dalekness instead.
** In the Master's first appearance in the series ("Terror of the Autons") he actually uses the phrase "worthy opponent" to describe the Third Doctor.
** While not precisely canon, [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bhh9BNbyCuM "The Destiny of the Doctors"]] has The Master express this sentiment toward his longtime adversary. Interestingly, he does not feel this way about ALL of The Doctor's incarnations. He talks smack on Four, Five, Six and Seven, but seems to genuinely have great respect for Three. One and Two also seem to fall under Worthy Opponent.
** The Doctor actually viewed Sec, ''a Dalek'', as this. He considered Sec the "cleverest Dalek ever", the only one capable of redeeming the Daleks. [[RedemptionEqualsDeath Naturally...]]
* In ''Series/TerraNova'', when Taylor and Mira have to team up to save themselves from some slashers, Taylor finding out Mira's backstory leads them both to this understanding. When they've survived, they peaceably go their separate ways back to their communities.
* ''Series/{{Sherlock}}'': The whole reason [[ManipulativeBastard Moriarty]] messes with Sherlock's life. Sherlock doesn't seem to mind- in fact, he rather enjoys their game- until his friends' lives are threatened. Also a pretty brutal deconstruction. Moriarty is so smart that only one man can really challenge him: Sherlock Holmes. As a result, he's so fanatically devoted to taking him down that he will go to any lengths to win: [[spoiler:namely, ruining Sherlock's entire public reputation, hurting his loved ones, and [[AteHisGun shooting himself in the mouth]].]]
* In ''Baa Baa Black Sheep'' (now called ''Black Sheep Squadron''), the episode "Hot Shots" has Col. "Pappy" Boyington facing off against long time rival Tomio Harachi. After they manage to shoot each others' planes down and both bail out, they meet on the shore of the island they both land on and share cigarettes and chocolate while they await rescue.
* ''Series/PersonOfInterest'':
** There's a variation. Carl Elias laments that it's hard to find a worthy opponent in prison, then finds one when Harold Finch agrees to visit him from time to time. It's not a typical example of this trope because Elias is referring to [[SmartPeoplePlayChess chess]].
** Again in reference to Finch, Root uses the trope name when she contacts him at the end of 'Root Cause'. Her use of FirstNameBasis (to a ProperlyParanoid man who appears to use aliases to all but a select few) tells him and the viewer she's not exaggerating in this comparison.
* ''Series/SpartacusWarOfTheDamned'' Crassus clearly respects Spartacus for rising to what he is now, his skills as a warrior, and his brilliancy as a leader. At the end he's defeated Spartacus' forces [[spoiler:and lost to Spartacus in personal combat]], and is clearly in awe of him. Spartacus for his part, clearly recognizes Crassus as his most dangerous foe and seems to have a grudging respect for that. However, he also hates everything that Crassus stands for, namely Rome.
* The typical dynamic between Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty reflecting this trope is curiously subverted in the 1980s-1990s ''Series/SherlockHolmes'' series starring Jeremy Brett; while Moriarty appears to regard Holmes as this, Holmes appears to view Moriarty with nothing more than fear and contempt.
* Lampshaded in ''Series/TheFlash2014'', when Felicity engages in a HackerDuel with the Bug-Eyed Bandit.
-->''"She's '''good.''' She's like my nemesis. …I've never had a nemesis before. I kinda like it."''
* Subverted in ''Series/TheProfessionals''. Cowley says of a KGB opposite number whom they've just killed; "Terkoff. He was a good man." As his partner has just been shot by Terkoff, Doyle angrily points at where Doyle is lying and snaps, "Yeah? Well, there's a better man back there!"
* In ''Series/WinBenSteinsMoney'', if a contestant successfully won against Ben, he would tell them, "I'm impressed. I'm humbled. I hate you! [[GetOut Get out of here!]] You've done enough damage!"

* The Folksong "Vive el matador" has the matador praise the bull as a Worthy Opponent.
* ''The Devil Went Down To Georgia'' and its sequel do this with Johnny and the Devil.
* [[{{Peanuts}} Snoopy]] and the Red Baron view each other this way in ''Merry Snoopy's Chistmas'' by The Royal Guardsman, the Baron making Snoopy land to offer him a Christmas toast.
* The 19th Century opera "Prince Igor" by Alexander Borodin, taking place in the semi-legelndary times of Medieval Russia, includes a dialogue between the Polovtsian Khan Konchak and his enemy, the Russian Prince Igor of the title, who had been defeated and captured by the Polovtsians. The Khan asks Igor if all is well (''Konchak's Aria'') and he replies that the falcon cannot live in captivity. Konchak says that as Igor did not ask for mercy he is not a prisoner but an honoured guest equal to a Khan. Igor reminds him that he too knows what it is to be a captive. Konchak offers Igor freedom if he will promise not to wage war on him again, but he refuses saying he cannot lie. Konchak regrets that they were not born to be allies. They would then have captured all of Russia. He summons the Polovtsian slaves to entertain Igor and himself and offers Igor his choice of them. As the slaves dance the Polovtsy sing of Konchak's glory (''Polovtsian Dances''). In a later part of the opera Igor manages to escape, which makes the Khan respect him all the more.

[[folder:Myths & Religion]]
* Hector and Achilles of Creator/{{Homer}}'s ''Literature/TheIliad''. Hector was an honorable man and considered a worthy foe by many of the Achaean heroes fighting at Troy. Achilles had no such feelings for the man; he spent the early parts of the war pissed at his own leaders and the later parts in nothing less than a homicidal rage toward everyone after Hector killed Patroclus, and spent a lot of time and effort trying to desecrate Hector's corpse. Although he did relent after he'd taken his revenge and cooled down a bit. Achilles actually seemed to think more of Hector's father, Priam, as a worthy opponent (in the overall war) when the latter came to beg for his son's body for proper burial. Achilles agreed to allow Hector the honor he deserved, but Priam's love for his son and his bravery in coming alone to the Greek ships also got to him.
** Also, the Amazon queen Penthesilea to Achilles. In fact, this, according to some commentators at least, goes all the way into ILoveTheDead territory (see the trope's page in question).
* ...along with ''Literature/TheEpicOfGilgamesh'': the very reason Enkidu was created was to be Gilgamesh's [[HeterosexualLifePartners best friend]] and Worthy Opponent and give him another way to expend his power and SuperStrength besides sleeping with every woman in Uruk.
* Thor of Myth/NorseMythology once visited a Jotun who offered him three challenges to test his legendary strength: to pick up the Jotun's pet cat, empty a largish drinking horn, and wrestle with the Jotun's old nurse. Thor could barely raise one of the cat's paws off the ground, took three superhumanly huge draughts from the drinking horn but couldn't come near to emptying it, and was thrashed by the old nurse. The severely frightened Jotun informed Thor that he had, in fact, just succeeded in lifting the head of the Midgard Serpent, lowered the worldwide sea level, and put up a very good fight against the personification of Old Age. The Jotun told him this while escorting him from his kingdom, upon which he congratulated and complimented Thor and hightailed it home.
** This story varies depending on the retelling. Another challenge that is often including (always three challenges, including the drinking horn) is an eating contest, where Thor strips his meat down to the bone, but in the same time, his opponent completely consumes the meat, the bones, and the plate itself. This was the personification of Fire itself.

[[folder:Pro Wrestling]]
* When David Wrestling/{{Von Erich|Family}} died in 1984, Michael Hayes praised him as one on World Class' TV show. The Von Erichs and the Fabulous Freebirds were bitter enemies at that time.
* Wrestling/NikitaKoloff started out as a standard ForeignWrestlingHeel, then became a Worthy Opponent to Magnum T.A.; when Magnum's career was ended by a car accident in 1986, Nikita became an AntagonistInMourning, which eventually led to a HeelFaceTurn.
* Wrestling/RicFlair ended his 1989 feud with Wrestling/TerryFunk by submitting the Texan in an "I Quit" match. True to his word, Funk shook Flair's hand, saying "you're a hell of a man, Ric Flair."
* Both Wrestling/TerryFunk and Wrestling/TheUndertaker have been known to see Wrestling/MickFoley in this light, largely because of the amount of punishment the man is willing to take in the course of a match.
* 'Taker also has recognized several wrestlers for their unmitigated courage in facing him, especially if they are far below his weight class:
** Wrestling/ShawnMichaels -- nobody ''ever'' came as close to ending the Streak as Shawn Michaels did at ''[=WrestleMania=] XXV'' at that point in time, until it was broken.
** Wrestling/JeffHardy had a high stakes match against The Undertaker and was able to set the rules as his specialty, a ladder match. Though he started the match strong, fighting smart using the rules to his advantage, Undertaker completely overpowered him and won the match, then delivered another finisher to add insult to injury. When Jeff got back up after that, 'Taker hit him with a second finisher, got on his motorcycle, and proceeded to leave. When Jeff got up after ''that'', shouting "You ain't broke me yet, Taker!", The Undertaker returned, prepared to strike him down gain... then raised his arm as a worthy fighter, congratulating him for his spirit, before riding off to ''Hardy's'' theme music.
** Wrestling/ShaneMcMahon -- after the better part of a decade out of the company entirely, Shane returned as the prodigal son for his birthright, and was thrust into a match against 'Taker, with both of their legacies and careers on the line, at ''[=WrestleMania=] XXXII''. Shane had a month to prepare, and was 46 at the time, going into the (51 year old) Undertaker's specialty match, Hell In A Cell, in 'Taker's home state. Though Shane was far from Taker's toughest opponent, he still put up a fight, reversing some of 'Taker's moves, and persisting with the BringIt gesture throughout the fight. After taking bumps on the steel stairs, the SpanishAnnouncersTable, and leaping from the top of the 20 foot cage, Shane had nothing left in the tank but his pride, and persisted with the BringIt gesture, twice. The Undertaker looked kindly on Shane, in sharp contrast to the "I'll do what I have to do" demeanor before the fight, and calmly patted Shane on the cheek before finally finishing the match.
* Wrestling/CheerleaderMelissa regards Looney Lane, Nikki The NY Knockout and Sara Del Rey as worthy opponents. Del Rey and Lane do not feel the same way about Melissa but one out of three's not too bad.
* As his time on the circuits was coming to a close, Wrestling/CMPunk requested Wrestling/MattSydal and [[Wrestling/HunterJohnston Delirious]] be his final two opponents in IWA Mid-South.
* Over the course of Wrestling/MsChif's career, Wrestling/DaizeeHaze and Wrestling/AmazingKong went from "worst enemies" to "favorite enemies". In Wrestling/{{SHIMMER}}, [=MsChif=] held up Serena Deeb as a worthy opponent, in [[TakeThat direct contrast]] to Wrestling/SaraDelRey.
* When Wrestling/BryanDanielson came to Wrestling/DragonGate USA he thought it may soon be the end of his days on both the independent and foreign pro wrestling circuits and to be given the most difficult match possible. After facing Naruki Doi, Danielson acknowledged him as a worthy of that description. This was proved true when Danielson [[HesBack did in fact return]] to DGUSA the next year and lost no more matches.
* [[Wrestling/IvelisseVelez Juliette The Huntress was briefly halted her tracks]] by Samuray Del Sol at Chicago Style Wrestling as he kept, genuinely, clapping for her after escaping her holds.
* [=LuFisto=] thought this way of Ayako Hamada, granting her a shot at her nCw Femme Fatales Title Belt because a match with her was "A dream come true."
* On a promotional level, Japanese based Ice Ribbon viewed the roster of UK based Pro Wrestling Eve this way.
* Wrestling/CMPunk became this for Wrestling/JohnCena. Cena, the family friendly company man, runs opposite to Punk's more abrasive, AntiHero character. Yet they generally respect each other, even if they disagree with the other's methods. In the ring, they're shown to be on the same level.
** Cena himself outright stated on an episode of RAW in 2011 that Punk was the only man in the entire ''company'' that could go toe-to-toe with him. He was obviously ignoring the ''Wrestling/WWESmackDown'' roster, otherwise he would have also included Wrestling/RandyOrton onto that list, seeing as Cena has acknowledged Orton in the past as the same.
** Cena has on record stated that Chris Masters is the physically strongest opponent he has ever faced. Masters is the only competitor who has legitimately rendered Cena unconscious, and he has done so three times.
* Wrestling/JerryLawler became this for Wrestling/TheMiz up to their match in Elimination Chamber 2011. The Monday before the match, The Miz announces that Lawler's mother passed the Saturday before and gives him his deep condolences. Instead of bad-mouthing him, Miz takes the time to state that he doesn't want this passing to get in the way of their match and to have a good fight (although thanks to Michael Cole, it didn't turn out to really ''be'' a good fight).
* Bruce Santee had this opinion of Jon Davis, to the point that after beating him in Vintage Wrestling via roll up, Santee felt bad for him and requested a rematch at the earliest opportunity using the excuse no one paid to see roll ups and their match should end with one of them laid out.
* At the tail end of Wrestling/{{TNA}}'s 2014 (and Spike TV deal) Eric Young stated that if he had to name a professional wrestler in the world at the time better than Wrestling/BobbyRoode, he wouldn't be able to do it. He then rhetorically asked "Is Eric Young as good Bobby Roode" and basically said "yes". They were competing to challenge World Heavyweight Champion Wrestling/BobbyLashley, whom Roode thought of as this ([[TakeThat but not]] Wrestling/{{M|ontelVontaviousPorter}}VP or Kenny King).
* [[DefiedTrope Defied]] by Wrestling/BrockLesnar, as stated by Wrestling/PaulHeyman himself. Brock Lesnar respects ''no one''. The only wrestler to have ever come even remotely close to have anything from him that resembled respect was Wrestling/RomanReigns, after their hellacious ''Wrestling/WrestleMania'' match for the title where Roman took a beating comparable to the one Cena took, and still managed to go at it with Lesnar. [[spoiler:Ironically, neither of them left '''Mania'' with the title; Wrestling/SethRollins decided to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase ''mid-match'' after Reigns managed to knock down Lesnar, making it a triple threat match, and then pinned Roman to become champion.]]
* Despite being an All American wrestler prior to turning pro racking up title belt and tournament wins in his first pro year and already having won over crowds across three countries Lio Rush was automatically disrespected by most Wrestling/{{R|ingOfHonor}}OH wrestlers for being [[PrejudicedForPecs even smaller]] than James Gibson. Some of the the first people he won over, Wrestling/JayLethal, Jay White were those he failed to beat, as the effort ''they'' had to put in made them realize his wins weren't flukes and take interest in how good he'd be in two years.
* After putting on a match that [[Wrestling/TheWrestlingObserverNewsletter Dave Meltzer]] called the greatest in pro wrestling history at Wrestling/NewJapanProWrestling's Wrestle Kingdom 11 in 2017, Wrestling/KazuchikaOkada and Wrestling/KennyOmega exemplified this trope. Omega called the victorious Okada the best wrestler in Japan and possibly the world, while Okada called Omega the greatest foreign wrestler in NJPW history.

* The ''AudioPlay/BigFinishDoctorWho'' play ''Davros'' has a scene where Davros reveals he thinks the Doctor is not only worthy, but actually ''superior'' to him. He recounts a time on Skaro when he tried to catch a rodent with his bare hands and failed. He says had the Doctor been in his position, [[MagnificentBastard he would have lain a trap and caught the beast.]]

* * Peter/Regulus and Caramon/Jacques in ''Roleplay/YuGiOhEastAcademy''. Both of these duellists view each other with a great deal of respect despite being rivals.
** To a lesser extent, Marcus has this attitude towards Peter, though it is far from being reciprocated.

* In college football, few rivalries are as heated as the one between the Texas Longhorns and the Texas A&M Aggies, whose fans often sport shirts with the Longhorns' logo's horns sawn off. However, when they aren't actually ''facing'' each other, both teams will occasionally show a little in-state solidarity. During the 2006 Rose Bowl championship, when the underdog Longhorns defeated the favored USC, some Aggies fans donned t-shirts with an image of their rival's logo with bandaged horns and the caption "Today Only: Gig 'Em, Horns!"
* However, the college football rivalry (and to a lesser extent, the rivalry in other sports) between Army and Navy has to be the best example of this. Although the two teams are fierce rivals on the field, and cries of "Beat Army!" and "Beat Navy!" are heard year-round, they have high respect for each other, knowing that in a few years, they could be fighting alongside each other on a real battlefield. At the end of each game, the winning team joins the student body of the losing team in singing that school's alma mater, and then the losers join in with the winners to sing theirs.
** The rivalry between these two schools and the Air Force Academy is a lesser, but still strong, example, as is the Division III Secretaries Cup between the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine Academies.
* Some British football rivalries can take this form at times, particularly if the teams in question share a town, such as Liverpool and Everton, or a particular region, such as Newcastle and Sunderland, particularly if fans of each team are playing the FishOutOfWater in another part of the country.
** Glasgow Rangers and Glasgow Celtic are attempting to recast the Old Firm rivalry as this in an effort to curb anti-sectarianism, with mixed success. The rivalry in question is rooted in [[TheIrishQuestion ethno-religious conflicts]] [[OlderThanTheyThink far older]] than mere football.
* Almost every hockey fight between two enforcers, whose main job is to fight and add toughness, is this. All of them follow an unwritten code and respect the other player for their efforts.
* The rivalry between legendary basketball players Larry Bird and Earvin "Magic" Johnson is the ultimate example between athletes. After first meeting in college in the 1979 national championship game, Bird and Johnson revitalized the struggling NBA during the 1980s, meeting in the NBA Finals three times and winning a combined 8 NBA championships and 6 MVP awards between them. Their rivalry was a proxy for multiple cultural issues in the United States at the time: West Coast vs. East Coast, Hollywood glitz and glam vs. blue collar work ethic,[[note]]Bird and Johnson, both emphatically working-class Midwesterners despite their different backgrounds (Bird being a white hick from rural Indiana, Johnson being the son of a black GM autoworker from Michigan's moderately-large capital), found this somewhat confusing, although they did embrace it to some degree (Johnson in particular loved the LA lifestyle).[[/note]] even the racial politics of black (Johnson) vs. white (Bird). Johnson claimed that the 82-game season was divided into two levels of importance, with 80 regular games, and two games against Bird. Similarly, Bird said that the first thing he did every morning was check the newspapers to see how Johnson had done. However, despite the rivalry, the two had great respect and admiration for each other, and eventually developed into friends (starting around 1986, when they filmed a Converse commercial together). Bird was the man who formally inducted Johnson into the Basketball Hall of Fame during the induction ceremony; on the occasion of Bird's retirement, Johnson attended and described Bird as a "friend forever".
* Similar to the Bird/Johnson example, we have UsefulNotes/WiltChamberlain and Bill Russell. They epitomized Statistical dominance vs Championships , [[EnthusiasmVsStoicism the charismatic larger-than-life attitude vs politically militant disciplined stoicism]], playing for many teams vs staying with one, and individual brilliance vs the consummate team player. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird faced each other 37 times, Chamberlain and Russell faced each other 142 times. Outside of basketball, they were great friends, though the friendship soured after 1969 and was only revived in TheNineties.
* Many former UsefulNotes/{{Tennis}} players express approval at Roger Federer breaking their records, but particular mention must be given to Björn Borg. Borg holds the record for the most number of consecutive UsefulNotes/{{Wimbledon}} titles and in 2001 he personally thanked Federer for beating Pete Sampras who had been about to equal that record. [[CrowningMomentOfHeartwarming Six years later Borg turned up to watch Federer equal the record and publicly congratulated him]].
** Speaking of tennis, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras played against each other 34 times before they retired, with Sampras winning 20. Especially during Agassi's late career revival, journalists freely admitted Agassi gave it his all every time they faced off. If he lost, it was nothing he did wrong, it was a matter of the better player winning. Even after retiring, Agassi and Sampras remain close friends.
* The [[UsefulNotes/NationalHockeyLeague Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings]] have one of the most storied rivalries in professional sports, meeting in over 800 games since they joined the league, however their relationship has gradually moved much more towards that of Worthy Opponents in recent years. Despite their history there is a great deal of mutual respect for each other, particularly in contrast with more recent rivalries such as the one the Hawks currently have with the Vancouver Canucks and the Wings had with the Colorado Avalanche in the 90s, each of which are/were much more overtly hostile. The outrage over Detroit moving to the Eastern Conference following the 2013 season was rooted greatly in a belief by fans of both teams and even the sport as a whole who believe that meetings between them almost always result in the best hockey anyone will ever watch. The one thing that people are almost universally happy about with the realignment is the potential for the two to meet in UsefulNotes/TheStanleyCup Finals which has not happened since 1934, in the Original Six era.
* In the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. The two teams are rivals in the AFC North, and they really cannot stand each other - their rivalry is said to be one of the most bitter in the NFL. However, both teams are also willing to admit that the other is generally a very tough team to beat and that [=Ravens/Steelers=] games are always hard fought. Some even say that the rivalry helps to keep both teams at the top of their game, and that's why both teams have been among the NFL's most consistently successful franchises since the mid 2000s. And oddly, the longer the rivalry endures, the less bitter it gets - although the teams still can't stand each other, they both take great pride in how the Ravens[=/=]Steelers rivalry is considered hands down the best rivalry in the NFL, and the Cincinnati Bengals have, for various reasons, become the [[HateSkink more hated enemy]] of both teams.
* Springing up after the 2016 World Series. The Cubs and Indians were both overcoming major long-time losing streaks and finally had a shot at victory. Things were tied in Game 7 going into extra innings when the Cubs finally saw an opening and won. Many Cubs fans expressed admiration for the Indians and their fans. Even thought the Cubs hadn't won in over a century, they said the victory wouldn't have been as sweet if they hadn't gone down to the wire against an equally talented team.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* TabletopGame/{{Traveller}}: the Sword Worlders and the Aslan in Darrian service believe in this so much that they have a system of bars for them to visit each other when they are not busy killing each other.
** In one side-story, it was told how there was a clan dispute that was to be solved by an Aslan style (with claws) duel to first blood between two female Aslan. One of them was completely untrained but she held steady while her opponent circled around. Finally, her opponent nicked herself on the newbie's claw and said "I submit to the [[{{Determinator}} stronger spirit]]."
* In ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'', Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka thinks this way of Commissar Sebastian Yarrick, to the point that, after he captured and tortured him for a while, he let him escape because [[BloodKnight an Ork needs a good enemy]]. Yes, a [[BadassGrandpa very old]], [[BadassNormal almost entirely unaugmented human]] is considered a Worthy Opponent by the largest, meanest Ork in the entire galaxy. However, Yarrick is ''disgusted'' by the Ork and has devoted his life to hunting him down and killing him by any means. In fact, for Orks, "favorite enemy" is the closest term they have to "friend".
* Infernal TabletopGame/{{Exalted}} can burn off Limit by adopting an enemy as one of these and taking steps to haul them into conflict. The Act of Villainy in question is even referred to as "Best Enemy Recognition", and was developed for the Yozi Szoreny, who would periodically spare his Solar opponents because he didn't want to lose such interesting foes.
* Hanse Davion and Takashi Kurita of ''TabletopGame/BattleTech''. The two would feud bitterly on the battlefield, but also respected each other's prowess as warriors and never underestimated each other. Their fights were notable for being largely 'above the table' in a setting where espionage was rampant. In fact, when Kurita's beloved wife fell seriously ill, Davion sent a secret message to Kurita with well wishes for her speedy recovery. Contrast this to the mutually disrespectful relationship between Maximillian Liao and Hanse Davion, or Takashi Kurita and Katrina Steiner.
* In ''TabletopGame/WarhammerAgeOfSigmar'', it turns out that many of the servants of Khorne are ''absolutely delighted'' that Sigmar created the Stormcast Eternals - basically the [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Einherjar Einherjar]] of Myth/NorseMythology. After thousands of years of slaughtering defenceless weaklings, they've ''finally'' got a real fight on their hands.

* ''[[Theatre/SeventeenSeventySix 1776]]'' has John Dickinson for John Adams. When Dickinson [[spoiler:refuses to sign the Declaration, saying he cannot in good conscience sign such a document while still hoping for a reconciliation with England, he then says that while he cannot sign, he "regards America no less than does Mr. Adams" and vows to "join the Army and fight in her defense"]]. Adams' response to this is to [[spoiler:lead a standing ovation, saying, "Gentlemen of the Congress, I say, 'Yea, John Dickinson.'"]] In real life, Dickinson would go on to [[spoiler:become a signer of the United States Constitution]].
* [[InadequateInheritor Prince Hal]] in ''Theatre/HenryIVPart1'' sees [[HonorBeforeReason Hotspur]] as this and challenges him to a DuelToTheDeath.
* ''Theatre/{{Coriolanus}}'': Coriolanus and Aufidius acknowledge quite near the start that they respect each other greatly ("He is a lion I am proud to hunt"), which is why (along with absolutely bucket loads of FoeYay) [[spoiler: Aufidius immediately accepts Coriolanus' offer of an alliance.]]
* Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton view each other this way in Theatre/{{Hamilton}} in the most amicable of senses. The two are never outright antagonistic towards each other [[spoiler: until the end, that is]], but often butt heads over their opposing philosophies and often find themselves on opposite sides of issues. Despite this, both highly respect each other, even if they do view the other as being wrong.
** During The Election of 1800, [[spoiler: after Jefferson beats Burr in the Presidential Election, Burr attempts to act this way, but Jefferson subverts this trope, stating that there's no value in being friendly to an opponent.]]
-->Jefferson: "You hear this guy? Man openly campaigns against me, talkin’ bout, 'I look forward to our partnership.'"
** Despite this, Jefferson seems to hold this opinion towards Hamilton, initially seeing him as an easy opponent, but, as the play moves on, he slowly becomes more frustrated at Hamilton's opposition, to the point that in The Adams Administration, [[spoiler: after Hamilton loses his seat as Secretary of the Treasury, Jefferson of all people is the one to remind everyone that Hamilton is still a political threat, no matter what position he holds.]]
-->[[spoiler: Thomas Jefferson: "Hamilton’s a host unto himself. As long as he can hold a pen, he’s a threat."]]
* King George supposedly felt this way towards George Washington, acting legitimately sad [[spoiler: when Washington resigns and expressing doubt that any other American could fill his shoes.]]
-->King George: "There’s nobody else in their country who looms quite as large…"

[[folder:Visual Novels]]
* Lancer (again, see above ''LightNovel/FateZero'' entry) or Assassin for Saber in ''VisualNovel/FateStayNight''. The first is so disgusted by his Master that he turns on him in both routes he plays a part in and is also rather tetchy about Archer's [[ChronicBackstabbingDisorder tactics]] and lack of pride despite his ability. Assassin lets Shirou go and helps fight off Archer, as he has an agreement with Saber to fight again and therefore will not allow Archer to give him an unfair advantage. His NeutralEvil alignment actually doesn't really make much sense since he doesn't ''do'' anything even immoral. [[spoiler:He is also a GracefulLoser even to [[BodyHorror True Assassin.]]]]
* ''VisualNovel/UminekoWhenTheyCry'':
** Despite their fierce and often ruthless battles, Battler often inspires the same respect he gains for his opponents. They include [[spoiler:Beatrice, Erika and Knox]], although the first one [[spoiler:evolves into something more]]. Battler tries to extend this sentiment to [[spoiler:Bernkastel]] right before their final battle, but she [[SoreLoser clearly does not reciprocate it.]]
** The extra material also implies that [[spoiler:Belphegor and Leviathan]] hold [[spoiler:Rudolf and Kyrie]] in high regards after their respective battles, a notion that is probably reciprocated.
* ''[[VisualNovel/AceAttorneyInvestigationsMilesEdgeworth Ace Attorney Investigations 2]]'':
** The first case has Edgeworth assisted by ''[[ProfessionalKiller Shelley de Killer]]'' of all people. The reason being that the murder victim (a bodyguard) was one of the very few people badass enough to ''stop'' a de Killer assassination. This really struck a chord with de Killer, who is usually able to kill his targets without getting a scratch on him, and he wanted to help get justice for such a skilled opponent.
** In the third case, [[spoiler:Dane Gustavia]] is deeply disappointed that Jeff Master was the one suspected of the murder, since [[spoiler:he]] deeply respected Master [[spoiler:as a fellow pastry chef]] and considered him a worthy opponent. [[spoiler:He]] was actually trying to frame someone else, but an accident caused the victim's body to be discovered early in a place that made Master look suspicious.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* Father Bloodrage and the enemy commander in ''Webcomic/LookingForGroup'' serve this role to each other.
* ''Webcomic/DominicDeegan'' has one in Celesto Morgan. Although he is only treated that way for a combination of 'increasingly possesses cosmic powers' and Dominic just being that nice a guy, because an overview of his conduct and associates over the course of the series would give Dominic every right to ''loathe'' him utterly.
** The guy '''blew off Dominic's leg in revenge for saving his life and soul'''. Well, actually, revenge for being right when Celesto was wrong, but still.
** The fact that they're each the only powerful seer the other one knows and keep running into each other in extreme contexts mean that they ''get'' one another in ways no one else does, which may be part of why their [[TheRival rivalry]] isn't as bitter as it may be.
** [[spoiler: King David, ruler of Callan, "father" of a CosmicHorror, master mind-manipulator who put the other ''ancient, inhuman'' archmages under his power, and the series' (presumed) [[BigBad Biggest Bad]] ]] is very proud of his successor mage Miranda Deegan (Dom's mom):
--->'''[[Website/SomethingAwful JosephWongKS]]:''' Final villain of the series, who's the first Archmage of his race and also the King[[note]] ''elected'' king![[/note]] of the most dominant and magically power nation in the world, on 5 December 2012: "No, it's Miranda Deegan. I've under-estimated her too often. Never again."\\\
...on 11 December: "A [[InstantAwesomeJustAddDragons dragonheart]] empowerment. How very rare. You've got quite an arsenal on your side, Miranda."\\\
...on 13 December: "My [[NinjaPirateZombieRobot undead dragon]] is distracted and my battlecasters' magic is deflected. Very good, Miranda."\\\
...[also] on 13 December: "Let's see if you accounted for this... Excellent, I expected nothing less from you, Miranda."
* ''Webcomic/TheOrderOfTheStick'':
** Hank seems to be one of these to Haley, to contrast her ArchEnemy Crystal. In the BackStory, he warns Haley that Crystal will be after her when she leaves the thieves' guild, and when they meet again as opponents, they clearly have some mutual respect.
** [[EvilOverlord General Tarquin]] views [[TheHero Roy]] as one, respecting him as an intelligent, resourceful warrior. It gets to the point that he [[spoiler: appoints himself to the Linear Guild in place of [[TheBrute Thog]], who Roy does ''not'' view as either a proper EvilCounterpart or Worthy Opponent]], just to get the chance to fight Roy himself. When the ''entire Order'' (minus V) assaults him (thinking he's Thog thanks to some quick acting) Tarquin's response to seeing five high-level adventurers charging straight toward him? [[BloodKnight "Magnificent."]] This is later deconstructed when Tarquin sees that Roy is so effective that he believes that he is preventing his son, Elan, from achieving his full potential as a hero, [[spoiler:so he orders his forces to kill him.]]
* Colonel Pranger's [[PrivateMilitaryContractor mercenary company]], Pranger's Bangers, from ''Webcomic/SchlockMercenary'' functions as a one-time opponent in the House Phica story arc; they're portrayed as equally competent and equally skilled, if not more so, than the protagonists. Later on, [[spoiler:due to TimeTravel fun, [[TheCaptain Tagon]]'s crew actually ends up ''hiring'' Pranger's Bangers [[SetRightWhatOnceWentWrong for that same mission]]. There's a good deal of mutual respect between Tagon and Pranger.]]
* In ''Webcomic/TrueVillains'', the Paladin sees the LivingLegend Sebastian as this, but soon becomes disgusted by his FaceHeelTurn.
* [[BigBad Jack Noir]] and [[TheAce Bro Strider]] from Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}. They are an unusual case, since they are not Worthy Opponents because of any sort of warrior camaraderie, but because Bro is quite simply the only person who could fight Jack to a standstill in single combat. [[spoiler:It takes Jack becoming a PhysicalGod in order to defeat Bro.]]
** Vriska [[spoiler:[[CreateYourOwnVillain orchestrates Jack's ascension]] so she can have a Worthy Opponent.]] Although she is able to fight him on equal terms, he takes a moment to [[spoiler:kill the rest of her friends]] first; necessitating the CosmicRetcon of that part of the timeline.
** Caliborn sees Jake English as a potential Worthy Opponent, because Jake's title as Page of Hope gives him the chance of a MagikarpPower great enough to challenge Caliborn at the apex of his own strength.
** On a more general level, this is a requirement for a Kismesis (i.e. Hate-romance) in Troll culture. One must both hate the enemy and respect them for a proper Kismesissitude.
* ''Webcomic/KarinDou4koma'': Seren and Tamaryu's previous incarnation acknowledged each other as worthy opponents at the conclusion of their battle to the death, hence how well they get along in the present.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* In ''Literature/TheAntithesis'', Yahweh, the leader of Heaven, and Lucifer, the leader of Hell, become friendly enemies when a Civil War between the angels and demons tragically force them to oppose one another. Previously, both had worked together as scientists in Heaven's main corporation for Technology and Science, 'The Plexus', and though now friendly enemies, they still strive for the same objective: peace between Heaven and Hell.
* While A_J of ''Roleplay/{{AJCO}}'' initially considered [[CrusadingLawyer Egg]] to be a 'foolish, pathetic little girl' she changes her mind after the trial, which sees Egg beating A_J fair and square without ever having to lie, cheat or bribe. This admiration eventually leads to A_J having a MyGodWhatHaveIDone moment after [[spoiler: she expels Egg from the nuclear bunker into almost certain death. She ''runs out after her'' when she realises what the consequences of her actions might be.]]
** The feeling is not entirely mutual, but Egg certainly gained a little more respect after spending a night with her [[spoiler: in the wilderness, hiding from the Auditor.]]
* In the ''Wiki/SCPFoundation'', there is SCP 076-2, or Able, who was upset when one of the Agents at his holding facility was killed by an explosion meant to contain him. The reason being that the Agent was one of the few who could keep up with him and he felt that he deserved a death in combat.
-->'''Interviewing Scientist''': "Why does his death bother you? You've [[OneManArmy killed many humans before]], why is he so-"
-->'''Able''': "Different? Because, unlike you [Sumerian word, untranslated], he was a challenge, a real enemy."
-->'''Interviewing Scientist''': "Why would that be good for you? Every time you have awoken you've tried to escape. He was responsible for apprehending you several times. Surely you must be glad he's dead."
-->'''Able''': "[[BlueAndOrangeMorality I would hardly expect you to understand]]. Do you know, he managed to shoot me in the head over [censored two-digit figure] times? A man like that deserves to die in combat, so close to his opponent he can feel his breath. Not in some [Sumerian words, untranslated] destruction ordered by cowardly kings and princes safe in their palaces. The rest of you� [[SpitefulSpit *spits* you disgust me]]. [[NotWorthKilling I don't even have the urge to strike you down]].
** In one [[Awesome/SCPFoundation story]], [[http://www.scp-wiki.net/the-warrior-and-the-dragon "The Warrior and the Dragon"]], [[CoolVersusAwesome Able got into a fight with SCP-682]]. Able came very, very close to killing the thing, too. When he inevitably resurrected inside SCP-076, he claimed it was the best fight he had in ages, and wanted to celebrate with his team over a pizza.
** There is also SCP 738, a set of two chairs and a table that offers people a DealWithTheDevil. The last test consists on sending [[EvilLawyerJoke one of their lawyers]] to deal with him. Forty-one hours later, the lawyer falls unconscious due to exhaustion, while in the middle of a discussion over the exact meaning of the word "shall", after having drafted at least nine hundred pages of the agreement they were going to reach. An envelope in one of the lawyer's pocket has a note saying "Please come back any time. I haven't had so much fun in years."
** SCP-1638 was created by an AntagonistInMourning to honour a Foundation agent that he considered a worthy opponent after the agent had died.
* WebVideo/TheNostalgiaChick and Kyle Kallgren of WebVideo/BrowsHeldHigh. Both snobby, self-righteous and think they're better than everyone else, she beats on him but is pleasantly surprised to see him call her out over it (even if she does ignore it), and she's his inspiration for reviewing but knows how awful she can be.
** Creator/MaraWilson stated in the Chick's ''Matilda'' review that her rivalry with the WebVideo/TheNostalgiaCritic was "organic". [[spoiler: This is after she's told that he's sorta dead, which disappoints her.]]
* After the fight with ZZ in ''WebVideo/VaguelyRecallingJoJo'', he claims that Kakyoin had an impressive Boost Fire attack before dying.
* In ''Franchise/{{Noob}}'', Spectre seems to have a tendency to develop this with his opponents. When he decided to quit the game as a Coalition player, he decided to give Heimdäl, his rival at the time, one last duel against him. When Heimdäl found out it was a farwell duel at the end of it, his first reaction was "If you're having problems in real life, I hope it's nothing serious". In the main timeframe, Spectre eventually comes back and seems to develop such relationship with Fantöm, his former student's rival, before even fighting against him due to a mutual TheKnightsWhoSaySquee situation between the two.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender''
** Prince Zuko filled this role for Aang in the first season. In fact, after Zuko frees Aang from the Fire Nation (because [[TheOnlyOneAllowedToDefeatYou Zuko needed to be the one to capture him]]), Aang says something very similar to the Romulan Commander quote at the top of this page. Zuko responds by flinging fire into his face. But, about two seasons later, [[HeelFaceTurn surprise surprise]]...
** Long Feng believes himself and Azula to be this [[OutGambitted after she turns his own men against him.]] [[MagnificentBastard She, however, nearly laughs at the notion.]]
--->'''Long Feng:''' You've beaten me at my own game.\\
'''Azula:''' Don't flatter yourself. You were never even a player.
* ''WesternAnimation/TheLegendOfKorra'', Mako gets this from Amon, of all people, when he [[spoiler:zaps Amon with lightningbending even while paralyzed by Amon's psychic [[PeoplePuppets bloodbending]]]].
-->'''Amon''': I'm impressed. No one has ever gotten the better of me like that. It is almost a shame to [[DePower purify]] someone so talented. ''Almost''.
** Ghazan from the Red Lotus in Book 3 sees Bolin as this, commending him on learning to bend lava and tells him to do his best in their fight.
** [[EnlightenedAntagonist Zaheer]], also of the Red Lotus, has a lot of respect for [[TheHero Korra]], despite being [[UtopiaJustifiesTheMeans willing to poison her to death to further his cause]] - after his defeat, he [[YouAreBetterThanYouThinkYouAre tells her that she's far more powerful than she thinks she is]], and [[EnemyMine honestly and sincerely helps her to overcome her PTSD]]. Which HE HIMSELF CAUSED.
* Robin and the second Red X in ''WesternAnimation/TeenTitans''. One could argue that Slade considers Robin a Worthy Opponent but Robin simply sees Slade as a diabolical villain.
** X also has a crush on Starfire; in one episode, he pinned her, then called her "cutie" and remarked that the "only crime" between them was that they hadn't gone on a date. (However, her response was to blast him with her EyeBeams.)
* ''WesternAnimation/TheVentureBrothers''' Brock Samson and Molotov Cocktease are one part this, two parts really ''frustrating'' FoeYay.
* ''WesternAnimation/KimPossible'':
** Kim and [[TheDragon Shego]]. They're like sisters.
** [[ThisLoserIsYou Ron Stoppable]] has [[HarmlessVillain Dr. Drakken]], Lord Monkey Fist, and Steve Barkin...
** Drakken pretty much admitted it in the GrandFinale, when [[NeverSpeakIllOfTheDead he thought Kim was dead]]:
--->"Farewell, Kim Possible. You were a worthy adversary. You were indeed All That..."
* In a non-combat related example, look at Huey and the government agent in one particular episode of ''WesternAnimation/TheBoondocks''. Yes, Huey is suspicious of the man, who may or may not always be watching, but they both understand where the other is coming from and engage in calm and intelligent conversation. The agent even mentions at the end of the episode that if Huey ever needs to talk about something, he'll lend an ear.
** In the "Red Ball" episode, Huey gains another one who even calls him this: Ming, another 10-year-old trained into being the perfect kickball machine and the only one to match Huey's skill, and is the whole reason Huey participates in a kickball game for his whole town. The two's final standoff results in both getting cracked bones and STILL CRAWLING TO THE FINISH.
* The straight example is [[EvilCounterpart Vlad]] and Danny in ''WesternAnimation/DannyPhantom'', but one episode had [[TheHunter Skulker]] of all people declaring [[AntiHero Valerie]] and Danny to be this. So much so that he [[HuntingTheMostDangerousGame hunted them both]] when he couldn't decide who was better.
* ''WesternAnimation/SamuraiJack'' had his share of these.
** One episode had a Viking warrior who had fought Aku centuries ago and lost. Just because he's a dick, Aku placed him in an unbreakable crystal, sealed him inside a mountain, and gave him eternal life, preventing him from ever achieving an honourable death in battle and entering [[WarriorHeaven Valhalla]]. Eventually he developed the power to reshape rock with his mind and constructed a body for himself. He then crafted a DeathCourse inside the mountain to ensure that only a warrior strong enough to beat him would ever be able to reach him. Even though he must fight without holding back or else he won't be accepted into Valhalla, Jack is able to put him down, for which he is grateful.
** Another episode had Aku travelling to an alien planet and enlisting some of its inhabitants, a [[ProudWarriorRaceGuy Proud Hunter Race]] of [[CatFolk cat-men]], to capture the elusive samurai. It takes them the entire episode, but they eventually scored a success. Unfortunately for Aku, the hunters believe that any prey who can give them such a challenging and glorious hunt deserves to run free.
** And who could forget the Scotsman?
* The titular character of ''WesternAnimation/WhereOnEarthIsCarmenSandiego'' is sometimes depicted as viewing Zack and Ivy in this way, genuinely liking them and enjoying the long-standing battle of wits she has with them.
* Zim and Dib from ''WesternAnimation/InvaderZim'' are certainly worthy of one another; in "Room With a Moose" Zim even notes that he's [[JustBetweenYouAndMe telling Dib his evil plan]] because he's the only human smart enough to appreciate it. [[FailureIsTheOnlyOption Doesn't mean they are particularly good at what they do though]].
** [[AllCrimesAreEqual Slab Rankle]] also refers to Zim as a Worthy Opponent when he manages to bypass his many, ''many'' security measures.
* ''WesternAnimation/YogiBear'' viewed Ranger Smith as this. When Ranger Smith left the park to enjoy an inheritance, Yogi quickly became melancholic due to the lack of challenge in stealing picnic baskets.
* ''PeterPan'' has Captain Hook, who views Peter as this. Peter doesn't really care, but when Hook thinks he's killed Pan, he says "So passes a Worthy Opponent."
* Storm Shadow on ''GIJoe'' was usually portrayed this way. He eventually makes a HeelFaceTurn.
* In the ''WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy'' episode "Emission Impossible", Stewie and Bertram refer to each other as worthy adversaries.
* Dr. Robotnik tells Sonic that he's this in ''WesternAnimation/SonicSatAM.''
* Most versions of [[{{Franchise/Transformers}} Megatron consider Optimus Prime]] a worthy advisary as both a warrior and strategist.
** "There will be no war on this day, Optimus Prime; You have earned Galvatron's respect."
* ''WesternAnimation/StevenUniverse'': [[TheBrute Jasper]] seems to have this approach towards Rose Quartz, albeit in a rather abrasive manner given her first line on the topic is about "beating [Rose] into the ground". She does confess to respecting Rose's tactics, and seems to have a specific inclination towards only fighting things that fit her personal standards of worthiness. She initially refuses to fight the Crystal Gems personally, and later seems to try to talk Garnet down before their fight on the ship. It remains to be seen if losing to the Crystal Gems gives her newfound respect towards them.
* Several of the villains on ''WesternAnimation/{{Gargoyles}}'' are like this, owing in part to their frequently grey-shaded nature.
** [[TheChessmaster Xanatos]] in particular has a lot of respect for [[WarriorPoet Goliath]] and [[FriendlyEnemy actually rather likes the guy]], not that it'll stop him from making Goliath a pawn or target of his latest scheme; the respect is a bit more grudging on Goliath's end, but it's still there, and Goliath is generally willing to [[EnemyMine ally with Xanatos]] if that's what it takes to defeat a greater threat. Tellingly, many of Xanatos' schemes in the series consist of creating an EvilKnockoff of Goliath that will serve him, ranging from MechaMooks that look like Goliath, a personal suit of PoweredArmor that looks like Goliath, pseudo-Gargoyles, and finally an outright clone. Goliath really made an impression on him.
** [[NobleDemon Macbeth]] is also one of these; he's one of the only humans who can match Goliath in hand-to-hand combat, but he also shares a similar code of [[ProudWarriorRaceGuy warrior's honor]] and though he's clashed with the gargoyles on several occasions- and would likely do so again if his goals called for it- there's little real malice, and a good deal of respect, on both sides.
** [[NobleDemon Macbeth]] and [[KnightInShiningArmor King Arthur]] (yes, THAT King Arthur) see the other as this. When under the spell of the Weird Sisters, at hearing he'll get the chance to fight Arthur, Macbeth say he always wanted to test himself against "The Best". And after Arthur shows himself still worthy of wielding [[CoolSword Excalibur]], Macbeth accepts the defeat without a fight. Arthur in turn praises Macbeth's skills as a warrior and offers him a position on the new [[OrderReborn Knights of the Round Table]]. Macbeth declines, stating he'd been a king too long to be subservient to another, but that he's more than willing to give Arthur aide whenever the man should need it.
* In a skit for ''WesternAnimation/DextersLaboratory'', Rasslor, a wrestling alien voiced by Wrestling/RandySavage, arrives and {{curb stomp|battle}}s the Justice Friends. He refuses to fight Monkey initially, considering him to be too weak, but he acquiesces. Monkey doesn't fare too well in the battle either and Rasslor eventually beats him too, but [[{{Determinator}} Monkey refused to give in the whole fight]]. Hence, Rasslor is impressed and doesn't destroy the Earth.
-->'''Rasslor''': Incredible. I could crush your body, I could smash your bones, but I could NEVER break your spirit.
** Said segment was an homage to a Marvel comic where The Champion of the Universe admitted he couldn't "defeat" The Thing in a match after defeating all of Marvel's other heroes.
* A fourth-dimensional demon plans to subject the world into chaos and issues a challenge to the only champion it deems worthy of attempting to defeat it: DangerMouse.
* The Lizard King certainly considers Michelle to be a formidable opponent when they play Squid-Tac-Toad in the ''WesternAnimation/ThreeTwoOnePenguins'' episode, "The Cheating Scales of Bullamanka".
* Karl of ''WesternAnimation/AllHailKingJulien'' considers Julien to be this before they've even formally met. For the most part he is extremely gracious in defeat as defeat as this only serves as proof that Julien is a brilliant foe worthy of a brilliant mind such as his own.

[[folder:Real Life: Politics]]
* A less violent version can be found in [[Series/TheDailyShow Jon Stewart]] and Creator/BillOReilly; they seem to be as close to friends as their differing viewpoints allow.
* Politicians almost always invoke this trope when acknowledging an opponent they've just defeated, and occasionally under other circumstances such as their opponent's retirement or death. In 2010, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was ousted after a successful leadership challenge by his deputy Julia Gillard. Opposition Leader Tony Abbott described Rudd as "a worthy opponent" and said "he deserved better".
* George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev called up Bush to tell him it was his last day in office; his resignation meant the end of the Soviet Union. Still, Bush related, "There was a kind of sadness. Of course it was Christmas time, and I felt that a friend was hurt, and I wasn't happy about that."
* Barry Goldwater and UsefulNotes/JohnFKennedy: Goldwater was looking forward to running against Kennedy in the 1964 election, and [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxnecmOWI-s was crushed by the assassination]].
** The two were such good friends outside of their jobs that there was even some anecdotal evidence that the two planned to campaign ''together'', having a long series of debate-style campaign stops.
** Goldwater, an amateur photographer, always cherished a candid photograph he took of Kennedy during a White House reception. Goldwater sent Kennedy the photo, only to have the President return it to him with a friendly inscription urging Goldwater to become a professional photographer!
* In the convention of US Presidential and other races, once the final results are published and the loser phones the winner to concede defeat, in this conversation they are expected to treat each other as worthy opponents - whether or not they actually feel this way.
* Shawnee chief Tecumseh resisted the westward expansion of the United States and died in 1813 fighting as an ally to the British in the UsefulNotes/WarOf1812. Yet his name was soon given to several people -- notably Civil War generals [[FourStarBadass William Tecumseh Sherman]] and [[AwesomeMcCoolName Napoleon Jackson Tecumseh Dana]] -- and also to at least two US Navy warships, eight towns and townships in America, and a mountain in Vermont.
* The French Marshal UsefulNotes/PhilippePetain collaborated with UsefulNotes/NaziGermany during the UsefulNotes/WorldWarII and headed the Vichy regime. After the liberation of France in 1944, Pétain was taken by the retreating German Army and brought to Germany. However, he refused to further collaborate with the Nazis and insisted upon being allowed to leave. Finally, he was escorted to the Swiss border. Rather than try to seek asylum in neutral Switzerland, Pétain proceeded directly to the French border and gave himself up to the new government in his homeland - knowing that he would face treason charges. UsefulNotes/CharlesDeGaulle, Petain's staunch foe, conceded that Pétain's decision to return to France to face his accusers in person was "certainly courageous". That might have contributed to De Gaulle's later decision to have Petain's death punishment commuted.
* Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa was seen as this by the [[https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medieval_commune Free Communes]] of Northern Italy who rebelled against his rule, even giving him his nickname (meaning "Red Beard" in Italian) because [[BadassBeard his red beard was just that awesome]]. They respected him so much that after (barely) defeating him in battle they ''refused to go for full independence'', instead settling for a large autonomy that was somewhat ''less'' that what they had when Barbarossa started trying to impose his absolute rule.

[[folder: Real Life: Law Enforcement]]
* [[http://www.cracked.com/article_20627_6-movies-you-wont-believe-are-based-insane-true-stories.html Officer Chuck Adamson and Neil McCauley]]
* According to [[http://www.crimelibrary.com/gangsters_outlaws/cops_others/pinkerton/6.html this article]], Adam Worth, a NobleDemon thief who [[DoesntLikeGuns hated guns]] and [[ThouShaltNotKill never killed anyone]], and William Pinkerton, son of Allan [[PinkertonDetective Pinkerton]] and the detective pursuing him. When Worth was finally captured, Pinkerton withheld information to get him a lighter sentence. When released, [[TheAtoner Worth]] heard about the Pinkertons' public relation problems due to their aid in strikebreaking and helped them retrieve a famous painting he'd stolen.
* Similarly to the above, Charles Earl Bowles, A.K.A "Black Bart" (who despite the [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast name]] was considered a "gentleman thief" known for his politeness, his non-violent ways and his tendency to leave [[CallingCard poetry]] at the sites of his robberies) was once described in a police report as follows: "A person of great endurance. Exhibited genuine wit under most trying circumstances, and was extremely proper and polite in behavior. Eschews profanity."

[[folder: Real Life: Other]]
* Creator/MarvelComics and Creator/DCComics. Employees of each company often praise the others' works and the former has nicknamed the latter their "Distinguished Competition."
* Similarly, the three big video game companies generally have a hefty respect for each other and will rarely criticize each other beyond the occasional joke. When Satoru Iwata (Nintendo's president and a great video game designer in his own right) died, both Sony and Microsoft posted tributes to him.
* Steve Jobs was so impressed with [[http://www.theverge.com/2014/2/5/5380832/sony-vaio-apple-os-x-steve-jobs-meeting-report Sony's VAIO line of computers]] that Sony was the only outside manufacturer he seriously considered licensing [[UsefulNotes/AppleMacintosh Mac OS X]] to. He approached Sony, but the deal fell through when Sony decided it didn't want to support two operating systems. Apple also ported Mac OS X to a VAIO laptop internally before the company switched to Intel.