"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."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 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. Should one side actually come out on top or find out the other has fallen, it may lead to Sympathy for the Devil, Sympathy for the Hero, or an Antagonist in Mourning. 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 Competitors or otherwise less principled protagonists on the heroic side, or a Noble Demon on the villainous side. Compare Evil Virtues, wherein the heroes may recognize some admirable quality in an otherwise-villainous character. Expect to hear Combat Compliments. This can lead to The Only One Allowed to Defeat You, depending on the mindset of the character making this statement. See also Friendly Enemy and Evil Counterpart. Can overlap with Enemies Equals Greatness.
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- The DC Elseworlds story Superman: Red Son, in which the infant 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) Lex Luthor 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 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 "Imaginary Story" involved a minor villain named Dimension Master killing Lois Lane, and Superman having to deal with it. Dimension Master then has his 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 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 blue - collar criminals who 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 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 having two legs." Also doubles as a Crowning Moment of Awesome since Cold had no powers at the time.
- And in Rogues Rebellion:
Weather Wizard to Johnny Quick: "GET AWAY FROM THEM, YOU HALF - ASSED FLASH."
- Similarly, Charles Xavier and Magneto, despite wildly differing views on mutants and their role in normal (well, for the Marvel Universe) society, get on fairly well. When Grant Morrison 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 Not So Different accusations from his X-Men.
- Ra's Al-Ghul is the quintessential example of this in the Batman mythos. Ra's sees Batman as a worthy and honorable foe, someone who ultimately shares the same goal but is 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 offers Batman the chance to both succeed him as head of the League of Assassins and to marry his daugher, Talia. He holds the ultimate trump card against Batman - knowledge of his Secret Identity - but is 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, entertains an on-again-off-again romantic relationship with Talia.
- The Joker, 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 (usually) not mutual, by the way. While Batman refuses to kill the Joker because of 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 Fantastic Four, 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 ''none possess the luxurious prose and unmatched scientific acumen of DOOM!''. Indeed, a large part of Doom's characterization boils down to his Inferiority Superiority Complex and his belief that he must prove himself Reed's better. It finally comes full circle during the Grand Finale of the old 616-universe, where Doom finally admits that Reed is smarter than him.
- Iron Man also counts in this. Although Doom's never quite forgiven him for declining Doom's exceedingly generous offer to become one of Doom's minions, he seems to have gotten over that whole "destroyed your plans of domination for Camelot" thing, which is pretty impressive, considering that Doom isn't usually the 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 Black Panther 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 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). At the end of their very first meeting back in Astonishing Tales, Doom even mused that T'Challa might one day make a valuable ally.
- Doctor Strange 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.
- Enemy Ace Hans von Hammer is often portrayed as a Worthy Opponent. He is obviously inspired by the real-life Red Baron, mentioned below.
- Captain Marvel (no, 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 Thanos 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, 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 X-Wing Series comics, readers encounter the Baron Soontir Fel, the Empire's best pilot since Vader died. He's death on a pair of twin ionizing engines, but unlike nearly every other Imperial in the series, he doesn't wallow in evilness. Far from it: 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 Skywalker. Defeat Means Friendship, 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!"
- The Black Knight: Scrooge McDuck and Arpin Lusene have a Rich Victim - Gentleman Thief type of mutual respect in Don Rosa'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 G.I. Joe comic, Ace and Wild Weasel (with Lady Jaye and The Baroness 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 salute, then fly home (while their respective co-pilots ask, "That's it? We're just going to let them go?").
- Usagi Yojimbo is a celebration of samurai myth, so this trope appears several times.
- 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 Friendly Enemy and a few hints of a less professional admiration over the course of the series.
- Usagi's sensei, Katsuichi, has the same regard for Nakamura Koji.
- Marvel Comics have traditionally referred to their rivals DC as "The Distinguished Competition".
- 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 Le Rige is based on this trope.
- The airmen in 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 Foxe led the "Butchers of Holbrück."
- Magik has repeatedly shown she has a large respect for Doctor Strange'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.
- Advice and Trust: 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.
- Evangelion 303:
- Much to her chagrin, Asuka ended up seeing 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.
- HERZ: Asuka regarded Shinji as her greatest rival in piloting because she respected him deep-down.
- Once More with Feeling: 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 Jackie Chan Adventures and Teen Titans crossover fanfiction A Shadow of the Titans, Gadjo seems to view Jade as this. Since he's an Ax-Crazy Blood Knight, Jade is unsure whether or not this means he wants to be her friend or kill her.
- Hilariously subverted in the Firefly fanfic Forward, where the Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy Si Quan confronts River, sizes her up, and considers her a worthy opponent who can test his abilities. River disagrees, and shoots him in the head.
- Villain Protagonist Tyrin Lieph and the advisor to the krogan overlord, Halak Marr, in Mass Effect:The Council Era. A Villain Protagonist and Magnificent Bastard (well, he might not fit the Trickster part of the criteria, but that's it) plays Xanatos Speed Chess with a 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 Teen Titans fanfic Jewel of Darkness, resident Psycho for Hire 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.
- Nobody Dies: 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: 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 Imperfect Metamorphosis, Yuuka regards Yukari as this, partly because she's one of the only beings in existence with enough power and 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 unequal and in Yukari's favour as possible. Unfortunately, this annoys Yuuka, feeling Yukari broke the rules, and Bad Things happen.
- Subverted in episode 13 of Futari Wa Pretty Cure Dragon 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 Diamonds Are Forever).
- A running duel between Otto Skorzeny and Mad Jack Churchill in Uplifted involving: 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 Child of the Storm, Lucius Malfoy utterly despises Nick Fury (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 Man Behind the Man 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 Total Drama story, 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.
- Queen of All Oni: 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 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.
- Calvin and Hobbes: The Series has a variant of this trope when 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 Lyrical Nanoha fanwork Life After Hayate 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 Fate/Zero and Lupin III fanfic Just An Unorthodox Thief, 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 Bleach/Predator crossover 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 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, 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 Walkure Romanze, 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.
- Barragan of all people feels this way towards his killer in A Protector's Pride, acknowledging them as a fellow Kami and thus his equal. His killer? Orihime.
- In My Brave Pony: Star Fleet Magic III, Harkin sees Lightning as one.
- Sonic X: Dark Chaos 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 Pet the Dog 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 Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Terra sees Bass as this since they share the same power source, but Mega Man is beneath his notice.
- The Rise of Darth Vulcan: Shining Armor begrudgingly admits that the titular villain earned the respect and loyalty of the Diamond Dogs.
- In the Pony POV Series, ironically Chrysalis of all people invokes this when some upper class ponies use her shape shifting into her own corpse after Princess Celestia WINS their Beam-O-War 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 Nine Minutes, 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 Worthy Opponent and [he'd] hate to ruin the experience by killing [Luffy] when he's in such a sorry state."
- In The Bloody Ashikabi, both the Gringotts goblins and 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 Goa'uld Hegemony is forced to surrender to the Celestial Empire in 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.
- The First Evil in 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 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". It then makes a point to kill them to prevent this team from still forming, and then leaves confident there is now no one that can stop it.
- In Robb Returns, the Vale Clan leader that speaks with the Blackfish straight out tells him he is this.
- In This Bites!, 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, 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.
- Soul Chess: Aizen views Lelouch as his sole intellectual equal and was 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 merges with Hogyoku during the Final Battle, 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.
- Transformers Animated: Cybertronian Genesis: 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.
- Referenced and then spectacularly defied in A different weasel makes a difference. Loras Tyrell, sick and unarmed, demands the Night's Queen fight him:
Night's Queen: I only fight worthy opponents. (decapitates him)
- Dueling Trigger Finger has Gundham Tanaka see Espa Roba as this when he shows off his fraudulent psychic powers. However, this [[Cloudcuckoolander being]] Gundham, he assumes their real. Of course, the narrative makes it unclear if Gundham has caught on to Espa's trickery or not and just isn't saying anything.
- Rex initially sees Makoto as just a Warm-Up Boss for his later challenges against Espa and Joey. Not only does he change his tune and see Makoto as someone that can keep up with him, He doesn't get to go after his desired challenges against Espa and Joey because Makoto beats him.
- Ash leaves this impression on many of his opponents in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines. These include A.J, who gains a lot of respect for Ash for breaking his winning streak, and gym leaders like Brock, Lt. Surge and Erika, for his creative and unpredictable battle style.
- An inversion occurs during the Fuchsia Tag Tournament: Red, who was the first opponent to defeat Ash, learns that he has the ability to give his Pokémon temporary power boosts, but refuses to do so because he considers it cheating, and views Red in this light when he learns of his Victory Sight ability and how he's always constantly using it. Red on the other hand views Ash's attitude as a display of arrogance and disrespect for his opponents for not giving out his all. The two begin to see each other as unworthy opponents from then on.
- Rider from Of Relics and Men may disagree with Lancer's ideals but he respects his strength so much he intends to use Ionian Hetairoi - his trump ace - in their upcoming clash. He also looks forwards a battle against Archer as he suspects the other Heroic Spirit to be Chiron - who teached Achilles, whom Iskandar idolized very much.
- Throughout Traveler, Ash gains the respect of every gym leader he's faced, with almost all of them extending open invitations to come back for a rematch against their real team whenever he wants. The sole exception is Erika who isn't as much of a Blood Knight/Challenge Seeker as the others and after their first rematch, Ash agrees not to face her again, partially due to how easily he won.
- Harry Potter in For Love of Magic respects Adrastia Zabini as a fellow manipulator and intends to keep the game going between them even after he's enslaved her. Harry notes that she likely feels the same as they kept metaphorically circling each other like hungry tigers for years rather than avoiding each other as two dangerous people who weren't enemies. Notably, Harry doesn't extend any of this respect to Voldemort as he feels the man is too Stupid Evil to be interesting and can't even answer what he'll do once he conquers the magical world.
Films — Animation
- Peter Pan 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."
- Towards the climax of 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.
- Rango receives this from Rattlesnake Jake at the end of the film. "I tip my hat to you. One legend to another."
- Defied by The Joker in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, 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 Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, as evidenced by the scene where he subtly nods to him in respect and rides away on his own horse.
- In Superman/Batman: Apocalypse: Batman arms the hell-spores to destroy Apokolips, and will only disarm them if Supergirl is allowed to go free. 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 Strange Magic, The Bog King and 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.
- Game of Thrones:
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.
- 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.
Jaime: Brave man that Ned Stark, but terrible judgment.
- However, he also clearly has a lot of resentment for the "Honorable Ned Stark" for how he thinks he wouldn't even give him a chance to explain why he killed Aerys, and judging him as being a dishonorable wretch for this genuinely well intentioned and heroic action, despite Ned not being as squeaky clean as others believed.
- Few people manage to hold their own against Lord Tywin Lannister, and he shows a certain respect for each of them in return:
- He 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 and considers him a quality rival. 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.
- Robb Stark to Tywin, enough that he acknowledges that he badly underestimated Robb and how talented the Young Wolf is as a battlefield technician and that Robb is not going to lose through conventional means. Not bad for a boy of eighteen.
- While his hatred and contempt for Tyrion son is very evident, he still (ever so grudgingly) is aware of his son's intelligence, perception, and cunning, which is why he was willing to name him Hand in his stead and give him power during crucial times.
- He views his cup bearer at Harrenhal as more competent than all his advisers and she's one of the few people to get away with snarking at him, because Tywin enjoys that she's sharp and gutsy enough to match him. Of course ironies of ironies, what he doesn't know is that she's actually Arya Stark, the daughter of his archenemy. Whether he would have been more impressed with her if he'd known she was the runaway Stark daughter and managed to survive right under his nose, or just angered at her brazenness was never explored.
- Tyrion doesn't hate his adversaries and isn't above recognizing and praising their virtues, which allows him to analytically assess them, unlike the more dismissive Lord Tywin. Despite his tense interactions with the Starks, Tyrion acknowledges Robb's good qualities. Despite suffering a Kangaroo Court because of her Mama Bear tendencies, Tyrion has great admiration for Catelyn, acknowledging that she was a fierce woman who loved her children and he regards her and Robb's fates as a terrible crime. This is used against him during his trial. Several witnesses imply or outright state that he was a traitor because he did not express visible (or any) pleasure at the deaths of Robb and Catelyn. Quite the opposite, in fact. Because, a loyal Lannister would take joy in the deaths of their enemies, no matter how despicably they were killed.
- 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.
- Sandor lets Brienne know that he sees her as this when they meet again at the end of Season 7, noting that she came closer to killing him than anyone else.
- Out of everyone she's had turned to ashes and carbon; Daenerys seems disquieted at losing Lord Randyll Tarly's allegiance and acumen as a commander, even proclaiming that she respects how he will not trade his honour for his life.
- When he served the Mad King, Ned Stark apparently considered Ser Barristan Selmy this, holding him no ill will. In the present day, they are on the same side, Ned remarks he is glad they never met in combat, as he didn't feel that "a widow's life would suit [Catelyn]." Ser Barristan reciprocates the feeling, telling him that he's too modest and that he thinks that he's also a great warrior. He also says that he's seen Ned cut down 'a dozen great knights', probably at the Trident.
- Star Trek:
- 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 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 "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 Wrath of Khan, he was changed to a Big Bad with a serious grudge against Kirk, as the new world ended up becoming an inhospitable wasteland after six months due to a Negative Space Wedgie and his wife subsequently dying from brain slugs.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: 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.
- Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
Ikat'ika: I yield. I cannot defeat this Klingon. All I can do is kill him. And that no longer holds my interest.
- "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.
- 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 view Odo this way, and is eager for the respect to be returned. In the series finale, Quark wants to hear the words "you certainly were a worthy adversary," but Odo theatrically harrumphs and leaves. Kira tries to console him, but Quark is well satisfied.
"That man loves me. Didn't you see? It was written all over his back. [salutes with champagne and leaves]"
- Even the Affably Evil Villain Dukat also held an unrequited view of Sisko as this, until "Waltz" in which Sisko pushed Dukat to a Heel Realization, with the undesired effect of Dukat embracing his villainy and becoming unambiguously evil.
- Star Trek: Enterprise
- Just before dying, Silik calls Archer this.
- Commander Shran, an Andorian captain who seems to alternate being adversary or ally in each appearance, really enjoys having this kind of relationship with his favorite meddling "pinkskin," Jon Archer. Enterprise casts the Andorians as Romanticism incarnate, and Shran is an examplary model of it.
- Wonderfully played with on 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 The A-Team 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 The Colbert Report 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 Strawman Political who is casually dispatched by the other Stephen's Insane Troll Logic. Stephen once called a guest "a formidable opponent" as a Stealth Insult, implying an unfavorable similarity between their relationship and his alter-egos.
- Hauptmann Hans Dietrich of The Rat Patrol. 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 Blackadder between Lord Flashheart and Baron von Richthofen (played by 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 they're about to go over the top.
- FBI Agent Alexander Mahone, Worthy Opponent to Prison Break 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.
- The Wire: 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.
- 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).
- Delenn and Sinclair expressed respect for each other's race because of the Earth-Minbari War. Given future events, this has a bit of foreshadowing.
- FBI Special Agent Frank Lundy was this to the titular character in season two. Dexter even uses the term himself after 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 great friends.
- The West Wing:
You got one year to convince me not to vote for him.
- 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.
- The X-Files:
- 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 Samurai Sentai Shinkenger sees Shiba Takeru/Shinken Red as the biggest opponent for him and is very obsessed with fighting with him to the death. The same can be said for his Power Rangers Samurai counterpart, Deker.
- Before that, there was Grey from Choujin Sentai Jetman, who formed this type of relationship with The Lancer, Gai. Over the course of the show, the two dueled every time they saw each other. This culminated when 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 Not So Different.
- Ecliptor, from Power Rangers in Space, can count too; as can a few Power Rangers Lost Galaxy characters.
- On 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.
- Power Rangers Mystic Force had Koragg, who had a very fierce rivalry with Nick Russell, the Red Mystic Force Ranger. 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 biological parents.
- The Doctor, from Doctor Who, is seen as a Worthy Opponent by just about anybody with the slightest martial tilt to their culture. Notably, 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, "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. Naturally...
- In Terra Nova, 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.
- Sherlock: The whole reason 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 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: namely, ruining Sherlock's entire public reputation, hurting his loved ones, and 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.
- Person of Interest:
- 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 chess.
- Again in reference to Finch, Root uses the trope name when she contacts him at the end of 'Root Cause'. Her use of First-Name Basis (to a Properly Paranoid man who appears to use aliases to all but a select few) tells him and the viewer she's not exaggerating in this comparison.
- Spartacus: War of the Damned 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 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 Sherlock Holmes 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 The Flash (2014), when Felicity engages in a Hacker Duel 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 The Professionals. 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 Win Ben Stein's Money, if a contestant successfully won against Ben, he would tell them, "I'm impressed. I'm humbled. I hate you! Get out of here! You've done enough damage!"
- Discussed by Achilles in Troy: Fall of a City, when it's suggested that he missed the thrill of battle:
- 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.
- 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.
Myths and Religion
- Hector and Achilles of Homer's The Iliad. 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 I Love the Dead territory (see the trope's page in question).
- ...along with The Epic of Gilgamesh: the very reason Enkidu was created was to be Gilgamesh's best friend and Worthy Opponent and give him another way to expend his power and Super Strength besides sleeping with every woman in Uruk.
- Thor of Norse Mythology 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.
- When David Von Erich 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.
- Nikita Koloff started out as a standard Foreign Wrestling Heel, then became a Worthy Opponent to Magnum T.A.; when Magnum's career was ended by a car accident in 1986, Nikita became an Antagonist in Mourning, which eventually led to a Heel–Face Turn.
- Ric Flair ended his 1989 feud with Terry Funk 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 Terry Funk and The Undertaker have been known to see Mick Foley 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:
- Shawn Michaels — 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.
- Jeff Hardy 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.
- Shane McMahon — 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 Bring It gesture throughout the fight. After taking bumps on the steel stairs, the Spanish Announcers Table, and leaping from the top of the 20 foot cage, Shane had nothing left in the tank but his pride, and persisted with the Bring It 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.
- Cheerleader Melissa 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, CM Punk requested Matt Sydal and Delirious be his final two opponents in IWA Mid-South.
- Over the course of MsChif's career, Daizee Haze and Amazing Kong went from "worst enemies" to "favorite enemies". In SHIMMER, MsChif held up Serena Deeb as a worthy opponent, in direct contrast to Sara Del Rey.
- When Bryan Danielson came to Dragon Gate 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 did in fact return to DGUSA the next year and lost no more matches.
- 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.
- CM Punk became this for John Cena. Cena, the family friendly company man, runs opposite to Punk's more abrasive, Anti-Hero 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 WWE SmackDown roster, otherwise he would have also included Randy Orton 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.
- Jerry Lawler became this for The Miz 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 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 Bobby Roode, 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 Bobby Lashley, whom Roode thought of as this (but not MVP or Kenny King).
- Defied by Brock Lesnar, as stated by Paul Heyman 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 Roman Reigns, after their hellacious 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. Ironically, neither of them left 'Mania with the title; Seth Rollins 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 ROH wrestlers for being even smaller than James Gibson. Some of the the first people he won over, Jay Lethal, 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 Dave Meltzer called the greatest in pro wrestling history at New Japan Pro-Wrestling's Wrestle Kingdom 11 in 2017, Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega 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 Big Finish Doctor Who 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, he would have lain a trap and caught the beast.
- * Peter/Regulus and Caramon/Jacques in Yu-Gi-Oh! East Academy. 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 Fish out of Water in another part of the country.
- 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 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 Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. They epitomized Statistical dominance vs Championships , 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 The '90s.
- Many former 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 Wimbledon titles and in 2001 he personally thanked Federer for beating Pete Sampras who had been about to equal that record. 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 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 The Stanley Cup 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 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.
- 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 stronger spirit."
- In Warhammer 40,000, 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 an Ork needs a good enemy. Yes, a very old, 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 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 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 Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, it turns out that many of the servants of Khorne are absolutely delighted that Sigmar created the Stormcast Eternals - basically the Einherjar of Norse Mythology. After thousands of years of slaughtering defenceless weaklings, they've finally got a real fight on their hands.
- 1776 has John Dickinson for John Adams. When Dickinson 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 lead a standing ovation, saying, "Gentlemen of the Congress, I say, 'Yea, John Dickinson.'" In real life, Dickinson would go on to become a signer of the United States Constitution.
- Prince Hal in Henry IV Part 1 sees Hotspur as this and challenges him to a Duel to the Death.
- 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 Foe Yay) Aufidius immediately accepts Coriolanus' offer of an alliance.
- Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton view each other this way in Hamilton in the most amicable of senses. The two are never outright antagonistic towards each other 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.
Jefferson: "You hear this guy? Man openly campaigns against me, talkin’ bout, 'I look forward to our partnership.'"
- During The Election of 1800, 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.
Thomas Jefferson: "Hamilton’s a host unto himself. As long as he can hold a pen, he’s a threat."
- 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, 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.
- King George supposedly felt this way towards George Washington, acting legitimately sad 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…"
- Lancer (again, see above Fate/Zero entry) or Assassin for Saber in Fate/stay night. 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 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 Neutral Evil alignment actually doesn't really make much sense since he doesn't do anything even immoral. He is also a Graceful Loser even to True Assassin.
- Umineko: When They Cry:
- Despite their fierce and often ruthless battles, Battler often inspires the same respect he gains for his opponents. They include Beatrice, Erika and Knox, although the first one evolves into something more. Battler tries to extend this sentiment to Bernkastel right before their final battle, but she clearly does not reciprocate it.
- The extra material also implies that Belphegor and Leviathan hold Rudolf and Kyrie in high regards after their respective battles, a notion that is probably reciprocated.
- Ace Attorney:
- It is stated repeatedly throughout Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney that one of the primary reasons Phoenix became a defense attorney is that he could meet his childhood friend Miles Edgeworth in court, as Edgeworth is a prosecutor. Despite their positions as adversaries in court, their mutual desire for justice leads them to jointly take down quite a few criminals.
- In the fourth game, Apollo Justice gets his own Worthy Opponent, Klavier Gavin.
- Ace Attorney Investigations 2:
- The first case has Edgeworth assisted by 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, Dane Gustavia is deeply disappointed that Jeff Master was the one suspected of the murder, since he deeply respected Master as a fellow pastry chef and considered him a worthy opponent. 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.
- In The Empty Turnabout's third chapter, Athena has the chance to lie and render all of Apollo's efforts so far in the trial meaningless by testifying against his theory about Arts's murder, but prefers not to do that because it would be too easy and boring. She wants a fair fight against him sometime in the future, so she goes ahead and tells the truth, allowing Apollo to keep accusing Mary Adair.
- Father Bloodrage and the enemy commander in Looking for Group serve this role to each other.
- Dominic Deegan 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 rivalry isn't as bitter as it may be.
- King David, ruler of Callan, "father" of a Cosmic Horror, master mind-manipulator who put the other ancient, inhuman archmages under his power, and the series' (presumed) Biggest Bad is very proud of his successor mage Miranda Deegan (Dom's mom):
JosephWongKS: Final villain of the series, who's the first Archmage of his race and also the Kingnote 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 dragonheart empowerment. How very rare. You've got quite an arsenal on your side, Miranda."
...on 13 December: "My 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."
- The Order of the Stick:
- Hank seems to be one of these to Haley, to contrast her Arch-Enemy Crystal. In the Back Story, 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.
- General Tarquin views Roy as one, respecting him as an intelligent, resourceful warrior. It gets to the point that he appoints himself to the Linear Guild in place of Thog, who Roy does not view as either a proper Evil Counterpart 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? "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, so he orders his forces to kill him.
- Colonel Pranger's mercenary company, Pranger's Bangers, from Schlock Mercenary 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, due to Time Travel fun, Tagon's crew actually ends up hiring Pranger's Bangers for that same mission. There's a good deal of mutual respect between Tagon and Pranger.
- In True Villains, the Paladin sees the Living Legend Sebastian as this, but soon becomes disgusted by his Face–Heel Turn.
- Jack Noir and Bro Strider from 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. It takes Jack becoming a Physical God in order to defeat Bro.
- Vriska 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 kill the rest of her friends first; necessitating the Cosmic Retcon 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 Magikarp Power 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.
- Karin-dou 4koma: 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.
- In The Antithesis, 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 AJCO initially considered 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 My God, What Have I Done? moment after 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 in the wilderness, hiding from the Auditor.
- In the SCP Foundation, 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 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: "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 youï¿½ *spits* you disgust me. I don't even have the urge to strike you down.
- In one story, "The Warrior and the Dragon", 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 Deal with the Devil. The last test consists on sending 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 Antagonist in Mourning to honour a Foundation agent that he considered a worthy opponent after the agent had died.
- The Nostalgia Chick and Kyle Kallgren of Brows Held High. 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.
- After the fight with ZZ in Vaguely Recalling JoJo, he claims that Kakyoin had an impressive Boost Fire attack before dying.
- In 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 The Knights Who Say "Squee!" situation between the two.
- It's not uncommon for a fighter on Death Battle to acknowledge their opponent as one during the fight, either verbally or through action. Whether the sentiment is reciprocated or not varies, and it usually never stops the fight from ending in one of their deaths anyways.
- In Dragonball Z Abridged, Cell considers Goku one of these, and says that he's the only worthy challenge who can test his abilities. Their rivalry hits the point of full on Foe Yay, with Cell and Goku's dialogue coming off as homoerotic, and Cell commenting that "I'm going to miss [Goku] when he's dead." He also shows nothing but derision and scorn for nearly everyone else he meets and fights, with the sole exception of Tienshinhan, who despite being only human, selflessly and heroically held Cell back with his Shin Kikoho attack and nearly died in the process. Everyone aside from Goku is treated with derision, but Tien actually earned Cell's respect and loathing. Not even Vegeta (who managed to blow off Cell's arm with his Final Flash) managed to earn Cell's hate.
- The Anglo/American – Nazi War depicts an Alternate History where the Nazis defeat and dismantle the USSR, a stalemate ensues in 1943, and hostilities are only resumed in 1958. When the Allies begin to invade occupied Europe, the original Heer troops who conquered Europe before are pressed back into service. Despite their advanced age and outdated weaponry, their experience and methodical approach to battle earn them a few impressive performances and plenty of cred. This contrasts with the SS (who are Sociopathic Soldiers) and the Hitler Youth (who are just plain pitiable).
- Avatar: The Last Airbender
- Prince Zuko filled this role for Aang in the first season. In fact, after Zuko frees Aang from the Fire Nation (because 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, surprise surprise...
- Long Feng believes himself and Azula to be this after she turns his own men against him. 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.
- The Legend of Korra, Mako gets this from Amon, of all people, when he zaps Amon with lightningbending even while paralyzed by Amon's psychic bloodbending.
Amon: I'm impressed. No one has ever gotten the better of me like that. It is almost a shame to 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.
- Zaheer, also of the Red Lotus, has a lot of respect for Korra, despite being willing to poison her to death to further his cause - after his defeat, he tells her that she's far more powerful than she thinks she is, and honestly and sincerely helps her to overcome her PTSD. Which HE HIMSELF CAUSED.
- Robin and the second Red X in Teen Titans. 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 Eye Beams.)
- The Venture Bros.' Brock Samson and Molotov Cocktease are one part this, two parts really frustrating Foe Yay.
- Kim Possible:
- Grand Admiral Thrawn of Star Wars Rebels has a healthy respect for the Rebels that he is fighting against. This is in contrast to most other Imperials who dismiss the Rebels as weak, and thus regularly find themselves outmaneuvered by the "Rebel scum."
- Looney Tunes: Yosemite Sam of Looney Tunes is a "comparison only" case. At his best he was an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain Played for Laughs, however he was specifically created to be a far more malicious and active villain for Bugs Bunny than the rather pitiful Elmer Fudd.
- In a non-combat related example, look at Huey and the government agent in one particular episode of The Boondocks. 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 Vlad and Danny in Danny Phantom, but one episode had Skulker of all people declaring Valerie and Danny to be this. So much so that he hunted them both when he couldn't decide who was better.
- Samurai Jack 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 Valhalla. Eventually he developed the power to reshape rock with his mind and constructed a body for himself. He then crafted a Death Course 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 Proud Hunter Race of 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 Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? 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 Invader Zim are certainly worthy of one another; in "Room With a Moose" Zim even notes that he's telling Dib his evil plan because he's the only human smart enough to appreciate it. Doesn't mean they are particularly good at what they do though.
- Slab Rankle also refers to Zim as a Worthy Opponent when he manages to bypass his many, many security measures.
- Yogi Bear 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.
- Storm Shadow on G.I. Joe was usually portrayed this way. He eventually makes a Heel–Face Turn.
- In the Family Guy episode "Emission Impossible", Stewie and Bertram refer to each other as worthy adversaries.
- Dr. Robotnik tells Sonic that he's this in Sonic SatAM.
- Most versions of 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."
- Steven Universe: 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. This respect does not extend to the other Crystal Gems, as she initially refuses to fight "a defective Pearl, an overcooked runt, and a Fusion" personally, and later talks Garnet down before their duel on her ship for being a Fusion of two "weak" Gems trying to be strong. Her repeated defeats at their hands don't improve her stance on them, as she insists that the only reason she keeps losing is because they keep using Fusion against her (which, to her credit, is exactly what led to each of her defeats and her attempt to abuse it herself ends up costing her). Rose seems to have her respect for being the only Crystal Gem capable of fighting her by herself without using "cheap tactics" to get stronger.
- Several of the villains on Gargoyles are like this, owing in part to their frequently grey-shaded nature.
- Xanatos in particular has a lot of respect for Goliath and 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 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 Evil Knockoff of Goliath that will serve him, ranging from Mecha-Mooks that look like Goliath, a personal suit of Powered Armor that looks like Goliath, pseudo-Gargoyles, and finally an outright clone. Goliath really made an impression on him.
- 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 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.
- Macbeth and 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 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 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 Dexter's Laboratory, Rasslor, a wrestling alien voiced by Randy Savage, arrives and curb stomps 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 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: Danger Mouse.
- The Lizard King certainly considers Michelle to be a formidable opponent when they play Squid-Tac-Toad in the 3-2-1 Penguins! episode, "The Cheating Scales of Bullamanka".
- Karl of All Hail King Julien 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.
Real Life: Politics
- A less violent version can be found in Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly. They seem to be as close to friends as their differing viewpoints allow.
- Beating them out is James Carville, a high-profile Democratic commentator, and Mary Matalin, a Republican who'd served in the Bush (Sr.) Administration. They butted heads multiple times in political debates, but wound up getting married in 1993, and have been Happily Married since, though they admit they do not talk politics at home.
- 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 John F. Kennedy: Goldwater was looking forward to running against Kennedy in the 1964 election, and 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. The losing candidate's voters also tends to respect the winner of a presidential election and gives him a "honeymoon" period. A few elections subverted this trope, either because of incumbency, intense personal animus towards the victor (1860), legitimacy questions (1824, 1876, 2000), or both of the latter two (2016).
- Shawnee chief Tecumseh resisted the westward expansion of the United States and died in 1813 fighting as an ally to the British in the War of 1812. Yet his name was soon given to several people — notably Civil War generals William Tecumseh Sherman and 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 Philippe Petain collaborated with Nazi Germany during the World War II 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. Charles De Gaulle, 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 Free Communes of Northern Italy who rebelled against his rule, even giving him his nickname (meaning "Red Beard" in Italian) because 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.
- When Ron Dellums, a far-left Oakland Representative, retired from Congress in 1998, many Congressman, even his political opponents, expressed admiration for him. Tom De Lay, yes that Tom De Lay, said ,"one of the most giving, open and stalwart, a real stalwart man when he was Chairman".
- In 1909 the Indian revolutionary independence activist Madan Lal Dhingra, studying in England, assassinated a senior British official, Sir William Hutt Curzon Wyllie - which he considered a justified act of war in the effort to liberate India from British oppression ([https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Madan_Lal_Dhingra&action=edit]). At his trial he refused to express any regret or contrition, repeatedly declaring that he regarded his act as morally justified. His last words, when facing the gallows, were quoted as: "I believe that a nation held down by foreign bayonets is in a perpetual state of war. Since open battle is rendered impossible to a disarmed race, I attacked by surprise. Since guns were denied to me I drew forth my pistol and fired. Poor in wealth and intellect, a son like myself has nothing else to offer to the mother but his own blood. And so I have sacrificed the same on her altar. The only lesson required in India at present is to learn how to die, and the only way to teach it is by dying ourselves. My only prayer to God is that I may be re-born of the same mother and I may re-die in the same sacred cause till the cause is successful. Vande Mataram!'' ("I praise thee mother!"). Winston Churchill, a staunch upholder of the British Empire and specifically of British rule in India, privately expressed admiration for Dhingra's act and called the above last words "The Finest Statement ever made in the name of Patriotism". Churchill's fellow British politician David Lloyd George was also reported to feel much the same.
Real Life: Law Enforcement
- Officer Chuck Adamson and Neil McCauley.
- According to this article, Adam Worth, a Noble Demon thief who hated guns and never killed anyone, and William Pinkerton, son of Allan Pinkerton and the detective pursuing him. When Worth was finally captured, Pinkerton withheld information to get him a lighter sentence. When released, 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 name was considered a "gentleman thief" known for his politeness, his non-violent ways and his tendency to leave 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."
Real Life: Other
- Marvel Comics and DC Comics. Employees of each company often praise the others' works and the former has nicknamed the latter their "Distinguished Competition." In 2017, DC Comics tweeted their condolences to Stan Lee when his wife died.
- 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 Sony's VAIO line of computers that Sony was the only outside manufacturer he seriously considered licensing 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.
- When RAF fighter pilot Douglas Bader was taken PoW, Nazi ace Adolf Galland paid him the large compliment of allowing him to sit in a Messerschmitt Bf 109 as a guest of honour - and also kept a gun discreetly pointed at him just in case Bader took it into his head to start the engine and effect a daring escape. The two men remained friends for the rest of Bader's life and Galland was a guest at his funeral.