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Always Someone Better
aka: The Minnesota Fats

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"Smile like you've got nothing to prove
No matter what you might do
There's always someone out there cooler than you"
Ben Folds, "There's Always Someone Cooler Than You"

The character who is the best-of-the-best with a supporting cast that Can't Catch Up comes across someone even better than them; someone more powerful than the Super Hero, or more skilled than the Ninja, or smarter than The Professor, or richer and more important than the rich important guy, or a better banjo player than the master banjo player, etc.


It's not uncommon for the characters to be siblings, not unlike the Aloof Big Brother — e.g. Sam Malone's brother was more popular than him, Adrian Monk's brother was better at deduction. The classic better sibling is, of course, Mycroft Holmes, better known as "Sherlock Holmes' smarter older brother".

By the end of the story, one of three things has usually happened: the regular character has been totally humiliated trying to beat the other character; they have grown up and realized that they just don't need to be the best, and become happy being second best; or have bested their superior. The most common ways for besting them in action shows is by outwitting or tricking them, finding their Achilles' Heel, using a Forgotten Superweapon, getting into an Unstoppable Rage, or just a good old-fashioned David vs. Goliath confrontation. Sometimes, the character just has to get over their mental block/self-esteem issue, which was the problem all along.


This is generally just a one-shot character, but in continuing, action-oriented shows, this character can sometimes turn into a recurring villain or Big Bad with whom the Hero develops a rivalry. In many cases, the rivalry is entirely one-sided — either the rival doesn't know that their challenger exists or (much to the mortification and fury of the Hero) likes the Hero and considers them a friend, and thus doesn't enjoy competing with them; there may even be something the Hero possesses which the rival character envies. In other situations, the better character is a Jerkass who just loves to lord their superiority over the Hero.

Sometimes overlaps with The Ace. In a Monster Protection Racket, a character can seem this way before they're revealed. See also Always Second Best, Second Place Is for Losers, The B Grade and Always a Bigger Fish.


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Other Examples:

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    Comic Strips 
  • Beetle Bailey:
    • Sarge once gets beaten in a swearing contest by another sergeant, stunned by a word so bad even its symbol is censored.
    • Lt. Flap, who likes to dress outrageously colourfully, comes back from his holiday shocked. It turns out he's met his better — having visited a Liberace museum.

    Films — Animation 
  • Cars 3: Jackson Storm and the other Next Gen racers are practically designed to be faster and more powerful than Lightning's NASCAR-style generation. Cruz is also this to Lightning to a lesser extent, and this acts as part of McQueen's motivation to have her race in his place at the Florida 500.
  • In The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea, this is how Morgana saw her older sister Ursula, because of how their mother favored Ursula over her.
  • Monsters University: Despite his love and knowledge of the Scaring field, Mike becomes a Scare Assistant to Sulley, though he does get treated as an equal. And the benign Oozma Kappa gang end up becoming Scarers too.
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, Sunset Shimmer was sure she was the smarter one of Celestia's students, compared to Twilight Sparkle. After undergoing a Heel–Face Turn, she feels weighed down by not being able to figure out how the magic in the human world works in My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games, and she now actually feels that Princess Twilight is always going to be better than her, as she thinks Twilight could have already solved the issue. She also loses a math competition to Human Twilight, although just barely.
  • Woody and Buzz in Toy Story; Buzz appears to be better at Woody in everything when he first arrives. Though only because he's an upgraded toy while Woody is considered a relic. It's notably inverted in Toy Story 2 where it's ultimately revealed Buzz is an overproduced common toy (the shelves are overflowing with them), while Woody is a nearly one-of-a-kind invaluable collector's item.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Helen is this to Annie in Bridesmaids. It turns out that she's not-so-perfect after all, and far from what Annie thinks was upstaging her mainly out of thoughtless over-eagerness and a desire to fit in rather than maliciousness or competitiveness.
  • In The Dark Knight Rises, Bane is a downplayed form of this to Batman. He utterly destroys him in their first fight, and in their rematch, Batman is only able to beat him by disabling his mask. However, Batman was also in bad shape, deteriorating condition, and way out of his prime. Additionally, Bane's mask was initially a strength; it actually prevented him from feeling pain, which gave him an advantage until Batman turned it into a weakness.
  • In Excalibur, Merlin warns Arthur, "You must remember, there's always something cleverer than yourself." This was a particularly prescient warning since it was the first time Arthur faced Lancelot.
  • In Foxcatcher, the relationship between the Schultz brothers is partially shown this way, at least at the beginning, with Mark very much worried about being in Dave's shadow. This feeling is shared by John du Pont, who worries about seeing as just a branch of his mother's dealing.
  • In Gambit (2012 comedy), Martin Zaidenweber (Stanley Tucci) seems to be better at everything than protagonist Harry Deane (Colin Firth).
  • In The Good, the Bad, the Weird, Yoon Tae-goo, "The Weird" is this to Park Chang-yi, "The Bad".
  • The Hustler: As good as Fast Eddie may be at pool, he will not be satisfied until he has beaten the one player he sees as his possible superior, Minnesota Fats. Minnesota Fats was even the Trope Namer at one point.
  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi:
    • Master sushi chef Jiro's son Yoshikazu knows that when he eventually inherits the restaurant, he will always be seen as inferior to his father unless his sushi is twice as good as what Jiro made. Jiro himself mentions how he wishes he had Joel Robuchon's sense of smell and taste, imagining how good his sushi would be if he was as sensitive as Robuchon.
    • Jiro's second son Takashi mentions that although he serves the same food as his father at his branch restaurant, he has to lower his prices to keep customers coming in (of course, reducing it from 30,000 yen—that's $300—isn't that much of a hit), and has two Michelin stars. (Most chefs would kill for just one—but Jiro's original restaurant has three.note )
  • In The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi confesses that he is never at ease in fighting:
    Miyagi: Fighting, fighting. Same, same.
    Daniel: Yeah, but you knew karate.
    Miyagi: Someone always know more.
  • The title character in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance bullies everyone in town and causes trouble because he knows that none of them could best him in a gunfight. Any time Tom Doniphan approaches though Liberty does little more than mouth off a little because he knows that Tom would kill him if guns were drawn. Doniphan himself feels this way about Ransom Stoddard in regards to Hallie.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Iron Man 2: Tony for Justin Hammer, who just barely hides his resentment about always being second-best compared to Stark behind his faux grin.
    • Captain America: Civil War certainly has a few cases of this. Firstly Bucky is portrayed as an unstoppable killing machine, yet T'Challa defeats him three times. Then he himself is defeated by Captain America, providing another example.
  • Molly's Game: While Molly was quite accomplished at a young age herself, both of her brothers eventually eclipsed her in their father's eyes — at least, she seems to think so.
  • A non-combat version of this trope occurs in Yesterday. Ed Sheeran is initially impressed by Jack Malick's songwriting, but is gobsmacked and a little jealous when — on a three hour flight to Moscow — Jack "comes up with" "Back in the U.S.S.R." without the assistance of a guitar or a keyboard and turns it into an immediate hit. This leads to a song-writing contest where both men write a song in 10 minutes to see who is better. After losing to "The Long and Winding Road", Sheeran even calls Jack "the Mozart" to his "Salieri".

  • Jim Croce, twice, in two different songs:
    • In "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" the title character is a tough guy who learns a lesson at the end of the song when he gets beaten up by an even tougher guy.
    And it's bad, bad Leroy Brown
    The baddest man in the whole damned town
    Badder than old King Kong
    And meaner than a junkyard dog
    Well the two men took to fighting
    And when they pulled them from the floor
    Leroy looked like a jigsaw puzzle
    With a couple of pieces gone
    • In "You Don't Mess Around With Jim", Jim is a pool hustler who takes on and thoroughly beats all comers. Until one of them, Willie McCoy (who goes by "Slim") comes back around to get his money back. The final line of the chorus changes from "You don't mess around with Jim " to "You don't mess around with Slim."
    ''Yeah, big Jim got his hat
    Find out where it's at
    And it's not hustlin' people strange to you
    Even if you do got a two-piece custom-made pool cue.
  • In London in the late 60s, a young man fresh off the boat from America made the audacious request to jam with Cream... and ended up upstaging guitar god Eric Clapton. The young man's name? Jimi Hendrix.
  • Discussed in Robbie Williams' song "Loser", in which the opening lines are "There will always be someone better than you, even if you're the best". The song itself is about a man coming to terms with and accepting this fact, and putting an end to his attempts to outdo other people.
  • In "The Whole of the Moon" by The Waterboys the singer compares himself to someone else who exceeds him in everything he describes. However the song also implies that the other person was so brilliant they burned out so being second best might not be such a bad thing after all.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • The idea behind most championship title changes — given that the winner gets the victory by clean means (i.e., no outside interference or cheating).
  • El Canek, the unbelievable strongman who beat Lou Thesz for the Universal Wrestling Association's World Championship Belt and reigned supreme in Lucha Libre Internacional for over a decade. There was just one setback throughout this for him, but a recurring setback. Losing to Mil Mascaras.
  • Joshi (female Japanese) wrestler Mariko Yoshida is considered one of the best submissionists of either gender in pro wrestling, and beating her on the mat is essentially impossible for other pro wrestlers. Then Yoshida fought a (worked) wrestling match against Megumi Fujii - a legitimate MMA fighter who retired with a 26-3 record with 16 submission wins. Fujii countered all of Yoshida's best holds with relatively little effort. Yoshida's pride wouldn't allow her to stop going for submission holds no matter how often Fujii countered them. Finally Fujii reversed Yoshida's finishing move the Spider Clutch into her own Spider Clutch. Yoshida finally gave up on trying to beat Fujii on the mat and started using pro wrestling moves, eventually winning via backslide.
  • Kurt Angle was on the winning side of a very one sided rivalry with Mic Tierney in Memphis Power Pro Wrestling.
  • Triple H was forced to realize that Batista was this to him in 2005 after Triple H lost 3 straight ppv matches to him, even handing Triple H his first pinfall loss inside the Hell in a Cell (he had been in 5 before that, winning 4, and was not involved in the winning decision of the other).
  • The reason the Canadian Ninjas hate the Global Green Gangsters. Portia Perez and Nicole Matthews were the names most heavily associated with SHIMMER's tag team division until Kellie Skater, a Fearless Fool, started tagging with the dirty sneak Tomoka Nakagawa. After Matthews won the singles title, she and Perez went to 3G to inform them it proved the Ninja's superiority only to be laid out by Nakagawa. Their only solace was that neither member of 3G would win the belt until both teams had broken up.
  • This was the setup for Brock Lesnar's rematch against Goldberg at the 2016 Survivor Series — according to Paul Heyman, the fact that Goldberg is the only man he hadn't beaten kept him awake at night. And after a match lasting less than 2 minutes, Goldberg went up 2-0 before Lesnar finally conquered him at Wrestlemania.
  • CM Punk was this to Chris Jericho. From the end of his second WWE run to Punk's retirement, Jericho was never able to beat Punk in a one-on-one match. It was to the point that, when asking Paul Heyman for another match with Punk at Payback 2013, he outright admitted he needed to beat Punk, and after he failed with that match, he finally stopped trying, conceding that Punk was simply better than him.

  • Is happening very rapidly in ladies figure skating the last few years. Where before a top level skater could be a strong contender for years, skaters tend to dominate only for a season or two now. Not because their skills are necessarily recessing, but because there is a tech revolution with multiple female skaters now learning a variety of quadruple jumps.

  • In The Club, Laurie is widely regarded as the second best coach in the league. The best is the unseen Rostoff and the board is threatening to fire Laurie and hire Rostoff to replace him.

    Visual Novels 
  • SC2VN is based on the StarCraft II scene, so naturally it has this. A player in Master league is in the top ~2% of players, but Mach still refers to them as 'casual' and easily beats them. Mach, in turn, is in Grandmaster league (top 200 ladder players in the region), but still gets stomped by actual pros.
  • SOON: Atlas resents Fang, a former pupil, for her more successful academic career.

    Web Animation 
  • In Death Battle, fights between characters with a certain ability that defines them can come down to who can do so better
  • Subverted in Doctor Lollipop — Doctor Lollipop is obviously reluctant to call in Doctor Woodsman despite needing his help, and it initially seems to be because Doctor Woodsman is this for him. It turns out that it's because Doctor Woodsman is a squeamish dullard who's too concerned with the risk of hurting cute animals to actually do his job.
  • In Red vs. Blue, Agent Texas constantly showed Agent Carolina up at every turn, winning the Director's favor, which Carolina desperately wanted. Eventually, Carolina admits that Texas is just better than her, and accepts the Reds and Blues' help.
  • Two More Eggs stars Dooble, a weird little man who speaks in non-sequiturs, greets people with a quirky catch phrase ("Helloche!"), and shows up to solve people's problems in improbable ways, often without realizing it. Season 2 introduced a rival character, Renfrow, who has the same gimmick but always manages to show up first, even when Dooble tries to set up a problem that he can swoop in and fix.

    Web Comics 
  • A chapter of Book Wyrms actually invokes this. Considering that Gwendolyne is the product of generations of genetic selection and training all geared towards making the perfect warrior, she's probably isn't exaggerating much.
  • Homestuck:
    • Dave Strider has his inability to properly come to terms with this as his primary problem, manifesting mainly late into Sburb. He feels he can only dream of being someday as great as his Bro. When it's not Bro, it's Davesprite or some other future self. When it's not them (or rather, when he is them), it's John. He does not see himself as a hero, whereas he feels Bro and John are.
    • And since they're the same person, Davesprite has the same problem. He saved Alpha John from death, gave Dave a bunch of power-ups, and even dueled with the Big Bad, yet he still can't help feeling like a cheap knock-off of the "real" Dave.
    • And then there's the Alpha timeline, in which Dirk feels this way about having Dave as his older Bro and guardian. Even though Dave died hundreds of years before Dirk showed up.
  • I'm the Grim Reaper: Scarlet is an Action Girl who can take care of sinners easily. But she’s also a new reaper, and so Brook (who is more experienced than she is) beats her in a fight with ease.
  • Played for Laughs in Moonstuck with Blueblood, who ends up outdoing heroine Woona in several ways... despite never actually appearing in the comic proper.
  • Max Powers in PvP is, in Cole's own words, a better person than Cole in almost every way. Cole disliked him because he was a constant reminder of just how flawed a person Cole is in comparison.
  • Dora's brother Sven in Questionable Content is more popular with the opposite sex (often stealing Dora's friends) and better at earning money than his sister, a fact that bothers her to no end.
  • Played with in this Sam & Fuzzy.
  • Sidekicks: Dunkelheit was always second best to the hero Guardian and this bothered him so much that it eventually drove him to villainy. It's also heavily implied that he also felt inferior to his sidekick Darkslug, who was younger and more powerful than him.
  • In Tower of God:
    • One character is so frustrated about this and Can't Catch Up, that he decides to kill Rachel to stop Bam from climbing. When Bam once again proves his genius by saving her with a technique he had just been shown, said character gives up and commits suicide.
      Hoh: I've always asked myself: Why did God give that thing so much power… and me too little power to protect my friends?
    • This is also the reason why Arie Hon, considered the strongest of the 10 Family Heads, chose to follow Jahad. Before entering the Tower, Arie Hon challenged Jahad 10 times and lost 10 times, so he chose to serve Jahad as a result.

    Web Original 
  • Infinity, a very character from The Descendants is this for The Whitecoat and seemingly every other street level hero in New York.
  • The creepypasta "Lack of Empathy" is from the point of view of a sociopath who believes himself better than anyone. Once he realizes his neighbor Travis is also a sociopath, he begins making plans to kill him, furious at the possibility of this trope. Ultimately, he is caught off-guard and outdone by Travis's sister, Marian — who, as opposed to Travis and himself, is a psychopath.
  • LessThanThree Comics:
    • In Brat Pack, Firestorm is Lancer to Mr Perfect's Hero, and often finds himself in this type of relationship.
    • Played somewhat straighter with Captain Awesome, who is Mr Perfect's better, he even has the same powerset as Mr Perfect, albeit at a much higher level.
  • In you could make a life, David resents Jake for being a more successful and popular hockey player than him. This continues even after he admits to himself that Jake is a genuinely nice guy he wants to be close to.

    Web Videos 
  • When Jim Darkmagic's brother Percival shows up as an allied NPC in Acquisitions Incorporated, he claims to have one more spell in his spellbook than Jim, and for the rest of the encounter proceeds to cast whatever spell Jim just cast, but always dealing exactly one extra point of damage. Until the party throws him down a stairwell.
  • Jermaine performs this function for Lester in Awkward.. He knows it, revels in it, and lampshades it constantly.
    Jermaine: I win all the games, get all the girls, do all the dishes... I'll always beat you. You'll never be able to surpass my level of— YOU SUCK AT LIFE.
    Jermaine: Lester's such a great friend. I'm better than him at everything. Man, what would I do without him?
  • Hero House has Solid and Liquid and Snake, with Liquid always feeling outclassed due to his recessive genes.
  • In The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Lizzie feels this towards her sister... and it leads to a heartwarming Big Brother Worship.
  • The Nostalgia Critic thinks this, so he bitches out anyone that goes into his territory. Whether that's true or not is up for debate.
  • This has happened twice in the Noob backstory. Mist was the first player to become number one, but got overshadowed by Spectre both in terms of talent and reputation. Spectre trained Amaras then eventually left the game for personal reasons. A few years later, Fantöm won a duel against Amaras, who had remained number one all that time.

Alternative Title(s): The Minnesota Fats


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