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Badass Decay

Go To
1989: strong, and on a quest to save his daughter.
1999: weaker, and on a quest to buy baby items. note 
"I was once a badass vampire. But love, and a pesky curse, defanged me. Now I'm just a big fluffy puppy with bad teeth."
Spike, Angel note 

The process by which a badass becomes less of a badass. This can result in them simply losing more times than they win, being overshadowed by other characters who were once weaker than them, or have less and less opportunities to display their powers due to the changing nature and circumstances of the story, perhaps placing them in situations where their strengths are of little to no use.

Compare with Menace Decay, Motive Decay, Not Badass Enough for Fans, Villain Decay, and The Worf Effect. Compare and contrast Bait the Dog and Moral Event Horizon, where a Badass character loses their cool as a result of dog kicking.

Chickification is a gender-specific variant. Ukefication is a Yaoi Genre and Slash specific variant. Someone who undergoes physical Badass Decay may become a Perilous Old Fool. Nerf is when this happens due to changes in gameplay mechanics.

Also note that this trope applies when a badass decays within a single continuity. If an absolute badass in your favorite book is portrayed as somewhat less awesome in The Film of the Book, that's not this trope, it's Adaptational Wimp.

This is a YMMV item for subjective examples of when a character comes across as less "badass" due to Character Development (or Derailment). When it's an explicit plot point that a character becomes weaker than they were, you're looking at an inversion of Took a Level in Badass. See also The Taming of the Grue.


Other Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • A rare "objective" take on this in Angel Densetsu: Ogisu thinks he's suffering from this. Essentially he doubts if he is Badass because he keeps being defeated in battle once he transfers into a new school despite being undefeated previously. He is Badass but Ogisu is simply being Overshadowed by Awesome.
  • Assassination Classroom:
    • The God-of-Death loses a lot of his badass aura as the chapters moved along with The Reveal that both people he "killed" on-panel turned out to be alive and well. Chapter 133 offers an explanation: it turns out he wasn't the real deal that Lovro spoke of. The true God of Death was Koro-sensei.
    • Kayano being taken out early in the early stages of the class civil war (chapter 145 to be more precise) can be considered this. However, given the fact that she had just recently recovered from the side effects of the tentacles, this can be considered a Justified Trope.
  • Bleach:
    • Kon was introduced as a genuine problem and was actually considered a threat to the main characters. After the end of that storyline, he was quickly reduced to a Joke Character ever after.
    • Even Ichigo went through this, though it tends to zigzag. He ends the Soul Society arc being able to beat Captains and he blocks Yami's punch by holding up his sword, then slicing clean through his arm. Mere episodes later he can't even defeat a mook. Then he gets better and ends up being able to destroy the strongest Espada. He then manages to only scratch another Espada with his strongest attack. However, Ichigo's case is rather justified because his power fluctuates greatly (it goes to Hero to Zero and back), and it's based on how focused he is and how seriously he's taking the situation.
  • Cardcaptor Sakura: Syaoran Li was equal to, if not stronger than, Sakura when introduced and could handle threats almost single handed, having a much larger knowledge of the Clow cards. The anime actually adds to this by making him able to catch quite a few cards, including Dream, Freeze, Sand and Time. During the second part though, Syaoran loses the cards he collected and Sakura has all of them now, the threats faced by the group were now specifically designed by the not-actual Big Bad to be only subdued if Sakura, specifically, uses the cards, leaving Syaoran to periodically become a Dude in Distress, usually only handy when Sakura needed protecting as she dealt with things. This, however, was generally seen as a good thing by fans, as it led to Syaoran's Character Development and his romantic arc with Sakura and is considered justified, given the nature of the second half of the series.
  • Case Closed:
    • The Black Organization can come off as this as of late, due to the revelation that Bourbon is actually a spy. While this advances the character beyond the Evil Henchman role, it does come off as if majority of the Organization was, and might likely still be, filled with nothing but spies, people who were presumed dead and others who aren't as evil as one would think of them, including Vermouth who seems to have a real soft-spot for Conan. The only real threat that still seems to remain in the Organization is Gin, who is getting close to the Villain Sue category.
    • Jodie was vital in the battle of wits against Vermouth during her arc. Later, when Akai becomes a series regular, Jodie is just another FBI agent who along with the rest of them get fooled by the Black Organization before Conan and Akai clean up their mess.
  • In Danganronpa 3, a lot of people complain about this towards the Big Bad of the franchise who was supposed to be portrayed as a Manipulative Bastard and a Dark Messiah. However, after it was revealed that the Remnants of Despair fell into despair via brainwashing, a lot of people went on to believe this. She makes up for it slightly by talking Juzo down and leading Nanami and Class 77 - B into inescapable traps, but she still uses the brainwashing in the Class' case.
  • Digimon:
    • In the first season of Digimon, Angemon was easily the most powerful fighter on the hero's side, able to take on enemies who were a level above him in his Champion and Ultimate levels. But in most later Digimon media, Angemon, while still a powerhouse, is only slightly stronger than the average Champion level.
    • Zigzagged In Digimon Adventure 02. He makes a brief appearance to one-hit several Champion levels and at the same time showing off to one of the newcomers how far behind his league he was, but afterwards is shown no stronger than the rest of his teammates. Later on when Angemon temporarily Digivolves into his previous Ultimate level, he manages to hold his own against Blackwargreymon until he was forced to De-Digivolve, but later gains a new Ultimate level and became the first to critically injure him in his debut, but further appearances have them both no stronger than the other Ultimates.
    • Tailmon/Gatomon. In her first appearance, not only has she managed to convince a bunch of Ultimate Digimon to join Vamdemon/Myotismon’s forces, but she also fights Greymon, Garurumon, Kabuterimon, Togemon and Ikkakumon at the same time, all of whom were larger than her, toying with them and not even breaking a sweat. In later fights however, all of the fights she does in her Champion form are against Digimon relatively the same size as her or slightly taller; Zero Two puts this into full effect where she loses her Tail Ring, decreasing her powers to that of a Rookie level Digimon, and doesn't regain her strength until the very last episode of the series.
    • In the first Digimon movie, Omnimon wipes out an army of Diaboromon. In the second Digimon movie, Omnimon can't handle a swarm of Kuramon. Not only is Kuramon Diaboromon's weaker, unevolved form, there were fewer Kuramon than there were Diaboromon.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Vegeta starts out in Dragon Ball Z as an evil and downright sadistic badass, but as time went on and his number of friends increased, so did his overall morality. Even Vegeta himself seemed to realize he'd been defanged and had made a much better villain than a hero, and purposefully had one of the later villains try to turn him evil again. It didn't seem to quite take; after killing a nameless crowd and brawling a little with Goku, he was back to fighting baddies and topped it off with a Heroic Sacrifice. He got better.
    • This is actually evident with many reformed villains in Shōnen series. Sticking with Dragon Ball, Yamcha was once a feared bandit who rivaled Goku in martial arts prowess. He then spends the rest of the series doing absolutely nothing of importance. Unlike the other heroes below, Yamcha actually up and retires after getting a hole in his chest courtesy of Android #20/Dr. Gero. This is telling that, by Dragon Ball Super, he's become a baseball player full-time and is the only Z Fighter alongside Chiaotzu not to participate in the Universal Survival arc, replaced by Android #17. The manga of Super shocking averted this at long last with Yamcha curb stomping three prisoners Moro himself had empowered with Goku and Vegeta’s ki. Yamcha reveals he has been training in secret and states to the bewildered and humiliated aliens that he is one of the strongest beings in universe and they should damn well respect that.
    • In Piccolo's introduction to the series, he easily wipes the floor with Goku while in the weakest state he is ever in. He also nearly manages to take over/destroy the world. By the end of DBZ, he is relegated to teaching small children a magical dance, and later plays the Straight Man in a comic duo (him and Gotenks). Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero averts this as Piccolo gets a new form which easily defeats Gamma 2 who Piccolo believes to be around the same power as Goku and Vegeta.
    • Tenshinhan Played With this trope before it was Played Straight. He was once one of the most powerful characters in the early part of Dragon Ball and was one of the few humans who could match Goku in combat. While he does lose to Nappa (and is Demoted to Extra after), it's acknowledged if Nappa didn't dodge his Kikoho he could've died, and he still managed to slightly stand his ground against him. Later, while he is rendered largely useless compared to the Super Saiyans and Piccolo, him holding down Semi-Perfect Cell is something of a Signature Scene for his character for how brave and unexpectedly awesome it was, and in the Bojack Movie, while he gets stomped when Trunks goes Super Saiyan, the fight before then is pretty evenly matched, showing Tien is still a badass in his own right. Lastly, while he couldn't do any lasting damage, he still managed to briefly hold his own against Buutenks and save Dende. Given all of these opponents he faced were far more powerful than Tien (and the other humans did far worst against them), it made Tenshinhan come off as more badass to some despite being lower on the Super Weight scale than Goku, Vegeta, Gohan or the other villains. However, come Dragon Ball Super, Tien gets hit with this hard, having no character focus or awesome moments. Like with Yamcha, Tien does at least get to kick ass again in the Moro arc though.
    • Even Gohan suffers this, although not in as direct a path as Vegeta. At the beginning of Dragon Ball Z, he's implied to have great 'hidden power' and this is shown repeatedly throughout the Saiyan and Namek sagas, with him injuring or even fighting evenly with much more powerful opponents for short times. He fades from prominence in the Android and Cell sagas, but all the buildup eventually culminates in him becoming the most powerful character in the series in the Cell Games. By the time the Buu saga rolls around, however, he's a glorified punching bag, and though he eventually makes an attempted return to glory, it lasts about three episodes before he goes back to getting thoroughly destroyed. Kid just could not fill the old man's shoes. Possibly justified in Gohan's case in that he doesn't really want to be like Goku and really just wants to study and be a scholar like Chi-Chi wanted. This is taken to its logical extreme come Dragon Ball Super, when he cannot even hold a basic Super Saiyan form due to neglecting his training for so long. However, after the events of the Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' adaptation, which had Frieza kill Piccolo because his stagnation forced the Namekian to save his life, Gohan has decided to get back into training, so it seems that this trope might be subverted for him. In Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero, this trope has been very much averted where he gains the exclusive "Gohan Beast" transformation and kills Big Bad Cell Max.
    • The character who suffers from this the most is without a doubt Uub in Dragon Ball GT. Dragon Ball Z ends with him being built up to being the one to take Goku's place as protector of Earth. He even merges with Buu to regain the full power of Majin Buu, the strongest villain in the previous series, and yet after all that still fails to beat Baby Vegeta. In the end his greatest achievement was killing a few undead Saibaiman and a revived General Rildo.
    • Master Roshi suffers from this in the original Dragon Ball anime. At the start of the series he is one of the strongest people on the planet, even stronger than the protagonist Goku. By the Piccolo Jr. arc he is little more than comic relief. Justified as he admitted his mentor role was over when the new generation surpassed him so he retired. He still gets his badass moments, such as taking on Frieza's army in Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' and its Dragon Ball Super adaptation, and in the latter, joins the Tournament of Power and does well, taking out a number of dangerous opponents.
    • Frieza and Cell suffered this in the anime. Though the original manga never featured them again after their deaths, filler between the Cell and Buu Sagas had both once seemly-unbeatable foes get casually beaten by Goku and Pikkon. Then, in Dragon Ball GT, they team up to get revenge on Goku and then are both quickly beaten by him in under five mintues — in his base form while de-aged into a child, no less. Frieza got better in Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection 'F' and Dragon Ball Super, where he is actually portrayed as competent, but still is nowhere near the menacing threat he was in his own saga. As of the manga, Frieza's new form averts this trope as he defeats True Ultra Instinct Goku and Ultra Ego Vegeta in one blow.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • Minerva is usually accused to have suffered from this by the time of her reintroduction during the Sun Village arc. What started off as a fun, despicable, Jerkass Anti-Hero during the Grand Magic Games arc, has resorted to joining a Dark Guild for, among other things, the purpose of getting revenge on Erza for humiliating her during their tournament duel. The humiliation was bad enough, but by joining a Dark Guild with vague motivations at best, it ended up destroying what previously made her an interesting character. In addition, Chapter 388 possibly made this worse. Fans (for the most part) seem fine with Minerva's past, but think that her character wasn't explored enough to make her sudden change from revenge obsessed to self-loathing for being weak enough to fall to darkness convincing. As a result fans seem to think the character lost everything that made her interesting as a character to begin with.
    • Name almost any character from a Dark Guild and you'll have people making this claim about them due to never living up to the badass hype Mashima develops for them at the start of their story arcs.
  • Flame of Recca: This possibly happened to Tokiya Mikagami, who was at first a completely ruthless man driven for revenge, and in the Ura Butou Satsujin, he manages to give out many great performances. Come to the latter arcs of the manga, however, although time by time, he did awesomely, he also often became the recipient of Distress Ball, turning into him into the Distressed Dude TWICE.
  • In-Universe example: The center theme of one episode of Gundam Evolve is Char Aznable, after having used his "Quattro Bajeena" alias for a while, beginning to realize he's lost his edge. He has this realization during a training mission where his top-of-the-line, fully loaded Rick Dias is defeated handily by combat data of his old self in a Zaku II armed with just a Heat Hawk. This episode addresses the fact that Quattro in Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam isn't pulling off insane tricks and inducing pants-wetting at the mere mention of his name like he did in the original series. Probably has something to do with Redemption Demotion.
  • Quite a few members of the Ikki Tousen cast display this over the period of the third Great Guardians season. Most notably Kan'u Unchou suffers from Flanderization so badly that it cripples her badass status and she becomes mostly unrecognizable for the first few episodes. See also Ryofu Housen's display of this through Loss of Identity. Thankfully they "get better" later in the season.
  • Joseph Joestar from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, the protagonist of Part 2. In his late teens he was a fearsome and competent Hamon user, but by the time of Part 3 where he was almost seventy, he was out of practice in Hamon, but had since gained a Stand, Hermit Purple, though it was one of the weakest in the franchise and Joseph didn't use his Hamon much. While Joseph himself was Out of Focus in combat, he still had some awesome moments to shine, but was generally outclassed physically and in the case of his game with Daniel D'Arby, mentally as well. Ten years later in Part 4, he's been reduced to a senile, absent-minded elder, though it's been speculated that he's putting a bit of that on. He's simply too old to reclaim his former glory in Part 4, as he's pushing 80 years old. That said, he shows that even when he's worn down by old age, he's still a Joestar and has his badass moments.
  • Lampshaded in Jubei-chan season 2, with Shiro pointing out that in the first season that he could hold his own again jiyu's enemies to some new ones, who promptly mop the floor with him.
  • Kill la Kill: Tsumugu was a Badass Normal in his first appearance, being able to defeat and subdue the Life Fiber-empowered Ryuko mostly through strategy. In the following episodes he became more and more useless, not being able to defeat anybody even with the use of superior technology, until he barely had any screen time or lines in the final episodes.
  • Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force does this rather early on to Lady of War Signum, regarded as one of the more badass characters in the series. Cypha of Huckebein became the first to decisively defeat her, and gave a rather brutal finishing to boot. It's a bit early to say whether this trope is really in effect currently as Signum has not really been seen since and the incident could be a sort of Darker and Edgier version of Nanoha and Fate being defeated (and having their Linker Cores stolen) in A's. Signum has finally shown up again waking up at the hospital with Hayate, Rein, and Agito worried about her and generally having a sweet reunion with Hayate telling Signum that it's too early to join Reinforce Eins in heaven. While it's not the badass reappearance that many fans probably wanted, Signum still retains her credentials as she completely thrashed Cypha before she "Reacted" and the rest of the cast was defeated far worse (Nanoha and Fate were largely unscathed but poor Hayate was impaled completely out of nowhere by Huckebein's leader, who hadn't been seen until then, before she one-shotted Erio and Vita). It seems like a case of this for the main cast combined with absurdly broken villains and faulty new weapons...though there are now hints of a conspiracy involving the company that made those weapons so things are likely more than they seem for now.
  • Naruto:
    • Sakura Haruno starts off the Time Skip as the first member of Team 7 to go up against an Akatsuki, Sasori. She was hailed as the second coming of Tsunade, who'd she'd eventually surpass with her talent. Come next arc...she's knocked out at the starting bell after Four-Tailed Naruto smacks her hard enough that he almost kills her.
    • Sasuke Uchiha at the start of Part II. He was on another level than Naruto, Sakura, and Sai together, and he took over Orochimaru's consciousness when he tried to transfer his mind into his, battles the powerful Akatsuki member Deidara one on one and wins, (Ass Pull escape notwithstanding) and then fights Itachi and manages to impress him and force him to use his trump card, Susano'o to survive his Kirin. Then he faces killer bee and...gets pwned even with his full team AND is humiliated when he takes a tentacle of Killer Bee back to the Akatsuki. Then he faces the Kages, and puts up an impressive but futile fight against the Raikage, A before Gaara needed to save him. He fights Gaara, who blocks all of his Amaterasu strikes without even moving while simultaneously protecting his siblings and Darui. He is then nearly killed by Mei Terumi despite having a higher level of Susano'o available, needing White Zetsu to save him. And then Obito, while pretending to be Madara, had to save him from being atomized by Onoki. He managed to get some badass credentials back when he fought and beat Danzo Shimura despite Danzo holding back, the very fact he could hold out against Izanagi spam even Itachi complimented on. Then come Kakashi...he loses his sight fighting him when he gets Susano'o's final armor and before that is nearly stabbed by Sakura in the back. Then in the Fourth Shinobi World War Arc he takes down all Zetsus alone but is limited from fighting Kabuto with all of his power by Itachi.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • Manga Gendo makes for a debatable case, as he's much more emo and pathetic compared to his anime version but also much more cynical, cruel and insane. The same charge has been laid over his confession that he's a pile of self-hate with a social phobia in the end.
    • Some view Asuka's descent into madness as Badass Decay too, as she was established as an incredibly assertive and combative character, but then again, it also helped make her one of the show's biggest Woobies.
  • Nononono: Nono starts as a Badass Adorable Kick Chick who can throw heavy weights easily, but suddenly she becomes a Damsel in Distress who can't defend herself from a disgusting man, and a friend has to save her. After him saving her, she runs out and cries out his name again and again rather than helping him taking the creep down while he stabs her friend… even though it's shown early in the series that she's more than capable to do so. Sure she was nude, but there was fabrics hanging around she could've covered herself with… and giving the Training from Hell she gave herself, she would've been able to fight the man herself with instincts and reflexes alone.
  • One Piece:
    • Monster Chopper gets an aesthetic downgrade in badassery, because Chopper learned how to control this form. This means that instead of a rampaging murderous beast, you still have the adorable Chopper (in terms of personality, not appearance). Usopp even mentions how awkward this is.
    • Sanji, at least early on in the New World was subject to this. Largely thanks to a combination of Flanderization of his horniness and being frequently prone to The Worf Effect. Pre-Time Skip Sanji was consistently a Genius Bruiser badass easily as cool as Luffy and Zoro, could outsmart the likes of Crocodile, wreck various villains, save his entire crew from certain death multiple times and even when beaten like when fried by Enel’s God Juggernaut — could turn the defeat into a Crowning Moment of Awesome Made of Iron Heroic Sacrifice to save Usopp and Nami, similar to Zoro taking Luffy’s pain. However starting with Sanji’s Played for Laughs Humiliation Conga in Momoiro Island, Sanji became more of The Chew Toy and much less badass. The Fishman Island arc would exceedingly play up Sanji’s perverted qualities, with him almost dying from a Nose Bleed over mermaid bosom, while downplaying his cooler traits compared to Luffy and Zoro. Sanji at this point would also be repeatedly used to make the villains look intimidating such as Vergo who could crack Sanji’s tibia and Domflamingo who blocked Sanji’s attacks and almost killed him. Thankfully Whole Cake Island would give Sanji Character Rerailment downplaying his pervertedness and while he is beaten up a fair amount he’s still able grow as a person and even help Luffy block a strike from Yonko Big Mom herself. Wano continues inverting the decay having Sanji beat Kaido’s lieutenant Queen and get a Next Tier Power-Up (as well as fight King and Queen simultaneously in the anime). While Egghead sees Sanji at ground zero alongside Luffy blocking attacks from Elder Star Saturn and even making goddamn Admiral Kizaru have a Oh, Crap! after kicking his laser beam away.
    • Robin, even more so than Sanji gets a lot of this in New World; until Wano managed to undo the damage after many, many chapters. Pre-Time Skip Robin was easily one of the most badass women in the series and nigh-unbeatable in the Alabasta Saga as she effortlessly took down Pell, Vivi and Tashigi. She was no less competent joining the crew either with Skypeia having her curb stomp The Brute Yama all by herself. Nami and Usopp outright considered Robin just as much a superhuman freak of nature as each of the Monster Trio, whom she would frequently fight alongside (soon joined by Franky). While Robin did spend Water 7 and Enies Lobby captured, it was mostly under her own volition plus she was de-powered with Seastone handcuffs and after breaking out Robin snapped the spine Spandam whom was kidnapping her. Post-Time Skip however, Robin would be subject to Chickification as her role as Ms. Exposition took precedence over her combat badassery. The lowest point is certainly Dressrosa where Robin is turned into a toy by Sugar and then even after getting turned back spends the rest of the arc’s climax babysitting Rebecca rather than having a one-on-one fight like Luffy, Zoro and Franky. Not helping Robin either was the movies such as Strong World, Film Z, Film Gold and Stampede wherein Robin is treated more like Nami i.e needing to be rescued frequently with Sanji, Brook, Franky and Law all saving Robin’s bacon and carry her around like she’s luggage. Fortunately Wano arc would finally avert this with Robin saving Sanji from Black Maria and having a full on fight with the spider-woman, who even underlines Robin’s damsel qualities — only for Robin to gloriously prove her wrong by snapping Maria’s spine with an awesome new Super Mode.
    • Before the Time Skip, Smoker was an undefeatable Knight of Cerebus to Luffy, thanks to his Smoke Smoke Fruit powers. Luffy would try to exploit the elemental weakness of Logia-type Devil Fruit users, as seen with Crocodile and Enel, but he just couldn't figure out how to defeat Smoker. However, Smoker goes through a Humiliation Conga during the Punk Hazard arc after the Time Skip. Punk Hazard itself is a part of the New World, where having Haki proficiency is vital. He jobs nearly every fight he gets into because his opponents were better at using Haki than him and he relied too much on his smoke intangibility. Strangely enough, Smoker never fights Luffy at all during their time at Punk Hazard, although the latter would definitely hold his own now as he also learned to use Haki.
    • Many Logia users in general are this after the Time Skip, because they tend to rely heavily on their respective elemental defenses. They were once seen as nearly invincible, but now, they come across as Squishy Wizards in the face of novice Haki users. However, Logia users such as Kuzan (AKA former Admiral Aokiji), Kizaru, Fleet Admiral Akainu, and Blackbeard avert this trope, as they are each viewed as The Dreaded. Aramaki aka Green Bull is initially an exception as well as he’s introduced by effortlessly taking down Kaido’s Co-Dragons King and Queen… but unfortunately for Green Bull Shanks is also present at Wano and is able to make Green Bull surrender in groveling fashion with a blast of Conqueror’s Haki.
    • Gecko Moria, a former Shichibukai/Warlord of the Sea is acknowledged In-Universe example of this. In his prime during his youth (where he was muscly gothic hot shot rather than he gonkishly overweight Halloween monster we see in Thriller Bark) he explicitly rivalled Kaido, one of the top tier strongest beings in the series whom Luffy needed multiple attempts and a Next Tier Power-Up to defeat. While Moria did lose that fight in the past, he’s still displayed as a formidable threat when first introduced as he easily immobilises Luffy, Zoro and Sanji and takes their shadows. He’s also one of the few antagonists who comes closest to killing Luffy and co, as it’s only through good luck that Luffy able to make Moria spew up all the shadows which return to their owners before the sun evaporates everyone without one. Come Marineford however and Moria is considered an outright Butt-Monkey by the Marines and fellow Shichibukai as he’s unceremoniously beaten up by Jinbei and almost killed by Domflamingo who declares he’s too weak to continue being a Warlord. Moria’s luck only goes further down hill when he goes to Blackbeard’s Island Base to rescue Absalom, only to discover his crewmate is dead and he’s quickly defeated and imprisoned.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • Ash is often accused of this himself somewhat in BW. At the end of each region or so, then at the top of his game, taking down fully evolved Pokémon with ease, and in the case of DP, taking on a Mythical Pokémon with Pikachu and fighting it to a draw. Then when Ash travels to Unova and Pikachu has his strength drained by Zekrom, he has a hard time dealing with a starter Pokémon in his battle of the season. Ironically, BW is where Ash had one of his better win records, being his third-best overall.
    • In XY, Ash returns to form within the first two episodes. By the second episode of XY he took on (and successfully tamed) a rampaging Garchomp with just himself, his Pikachu, and his Froakie.
    • Ash's Buizel started out being able to take out Dawn's Piplup, Zoey's Glameow, and Ash's Pikachu one after the other, and showing a sort of joy in beating them. Now, it's a run-of-the-mill Lightning Bruiser that, while still enjoying a good scrap, doesn't seem anywhere near as strong as it did in its debut episode.
    • Downplayed with Brock. When introduced, he was a Gym Leader and a genuine threat. After joining Ash and Misty, his character became more and more softened and his battling became less and less frequent until DP, with the addition of his Crogunk and Sudowoodo.
    • Team Rocket also qualifies. In the second episode, they were a viable threat, and were even wanted by the police. But as the series progressed, they became less and less of a threat…As of Black and White, however, they've taken a level in badass, and have again become a viable threat. But then in X and Y, their badassery was still there, but overshadowed by their return to comic-relief.
    • Jessie's Lickitung. It started out as one of the most powerful Pokémon they ever owned; it easily defeated Ash's Bulbasaur, Brock's Vulpix, and Pikachu, before it was eventually defeated by Misty's Psyduck. In later appearances it was defeated easily by Ash's Pokémon, especially Pikachu, who previously couldn't even harm it. The only time it came close to the power of it's original appearance was when it took down a Nidoking (Though it needed Team Rocket's other Pokémon to slow it down first).
    • Though they're rarely individual characters, Legendary Pokémon often fall victim to this as weaker/less-impressive iterations appear later on (expect this to happen with older Legendaries). Case in point, Lugia: first introduced as a powerful and intelligent being capable of calming Physical Gods, the Johto series goes on to show a family of Lugia, none of which are as intelligent or even come close to matching the original's majesty and power. And the physical gods it calmed? They pop up a lot too, Zapdos in particular tends to get The Worf Effect as showcased in both Pokémon the Series: XY and Pokémon Journeys: The Series where Zapdos in both instances is almost easily beaten by Pokemon who had just recently evolved or aren't really experienced enough to take on Legendaries.
    • Alain stands out as the only rival Ash never beat at any point, and is, fittingly, one of the trainers in the Masters 8. Sadly, his match with Leon proves just how outclassed he is by the other characters (all but him are Champions), as Leon completely destroys his team, including his seemingly invincible Mega Charizard X, without much of a problem. He doesn’t even have to use Dynamax to defeat his Charizard!
  • Nanael from Queen's Blade seems to have gotten this treatment. Ever The Ditz, she one time surprisingly decides to take on three major demons all by herself, easily defeating them. Later she loses all too easily against one of them in battle. When entering the tournament she was given a bottle of milk by the head angel that would drain her of power if spilled. She quickly ends up spilling most of it.
  • Sailor Moon:
    • Tuxedo Mask also has this problem, but mostly in the anime. In the first season he starts out as Sailor Moon's personal Deus ex Machina, but as the Sailor Team gathers and begins to grow stronger, he starts to fall under this trope, being the only one not to receive power-ups on a regular basis. His manga self, on the other hand, performs the inverse, as in that continuity he starts out with no real powers, but manages to get a normal semi-powerful attack spell during the second series.
    • Kunzite is a particularly menacing and dangerous presence in the Dark Kingdom arc of the anime, forming shrewd plans to deal with his enemies and providing a more seasoned and experienced source of aid to his younger partner, Zoisite. After Zoisite dies, he attacks the Sailor Senshi and they just barely survive his onslaught. Then directly after this happens, Kunzite suddenly becomes the "main villain" for an arc and all this goes out the window. He comes up with particularly brainless plans to root out Sailor Moon's identity, all of which target seemingly random traits of women that naturally just cause him to zero in on the wrong girl. He also frequently gets outshone by the evil Endymion/Tuxedo Mask (and that is saying something). Though he does return to being competent for a few episodes once Endymion is put out of commission.
  • Sgt. Frog:
    • Giroro. Although Giroro still the only one who seems genuinely militaristic in the platoon, and is not afraid to terminate with extreme prejudice when irritated. (Fortunately Keronians are Made of Iron.) This is a show where all male characters inherently far weaker than their female counterparts, after all.
    • Viper. The first Viper is treated by the Keroro Platoon as a deadly serious threat, who easily captures one and brings the rest to their knees. From that point on, they seem to be a steadily decreasing threat, despite each successive Viper tending to 'upgrade' in some way.
    • Keroro in Tamama's eyes who laments that the legendary Gunsou san he's heard in stories is just a silly man child. Of course in that particular episode/chapter (episode 336 and chapter 140) the readers and Zoruru see a glimpse of Keroro we've never seen before.
  • Slayers:
  • Nearly the entire cast of Yu-Gi-Oh! suffered from this in the transition from manga into the anime.
    • In the original seven volumes of the manga, Jonouchi/Joey and Honda/Tristan being former gang members was a lot more obvious and only slightly less so later on, as they delivered quite a few beatings to kids their age and full-grown adults. For example, in the original manga, Jonouchi was an adept fighter, even though he wasn't a great gamer, due to living his early teen years as a gang member that had to fight to survive. He beats Bandit Keith up during Duelist Kingdom for trying to steal his cards. In the anime, Bandit Keith beats HIM up and he usually ends up looking like a wannabe thug. Dark Yugi himself was not someone to mess with, as he previously had a tendency to play Shadow Games with anyone who pissed him off, which usually ended with the loser insane, grievously hurt, or dead, that lasted until the end of Duelist Kingdom. Even Anzu/Téa could throw an Bitch Slap once in a while, and not just for dramatic effect, either. Then the anime and real life card game rolled around, and suddenly Yugi and Jonouchi are settling all their problems with Duel Monsters, while Honda and Anzu are reduced to cheerleaders.
    • Kaiba was also somewhat reduced in badassery during his transition from manga to anime, where he spends more time standing around being The Stoic. He does have a few good moments in the first season and in the occasional anime arcs that focus on him, but even those were a step down from trapping Yugi and his friends in a theme park designed specifically to make them die horrific deaths.
    • Mokuba. Again, the franchise from before and after the universe revolved around Duel Monsters can be considered two different series with curious name similarities. The old Mokuba was an Enfant Terrible and wanted to kill Yugi, being one of the better villains in the series, being a Knight of Cerebus in the manga. In the Duel Monsters anime, he mostly exists as a Morality Pet to Kaiba.
    • Insector Haga (Weevil Underwood) and Dinosaur Ryuzaki (Rex Raptor) were once lauded as regional champions, and to be feared. However, after their defeats at the hands of the protagonists, they became nothing more than comic relief. That is, until they got the superpowered Seal...
    • Jun Manjoume in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX suffers from this in Season 3, but gets better in Season 4.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • Bane went through a lot of this. After Knightfall, he went from defeating Batman to losing to everyone from Azrael to Judomaster's SON. Most significantly, his Super Serum venom quickly shifted to a Weaksauce Weakness where he was almost instantly disabled without a constant supply; beforehand, he was shown to still be very competent and dangerous without it. Gail Simone has been reversing most of this in Secret Six.
    • Jason Todd's character progression goes up and down more times than a roller coaster; he had a rough start both in universe and out. Replacing the vastly more popular Dick Grayson in addition to disobeying and antagonizing Batman caused thousands of fans to hate Jason's guts to the point where fans eventually voted for him to be killed by the Joker, though the vote was close and some fans were upset by Jason's demise. DC brought Jason back as the morally unstable gun toting inconstant Anti-Hero/Anti-Villain serial killing psychopath Red Hood who won over fans with his troubled backstory and the strain fighting him puts on the Bats. Alas when the DCU rebooted again Todd stopped being a violent Punisher-pastiche and rejoined the Bat-family. He changed his stance on killing criminals and was accepted with open arms despite maintaining his history as a serial killer who has made multiple attempts on his little brothers' lives.
    • Probably the worst case of this in comics comes from Killer Moth. When he was created, he was built up to be the "anti-Batman" and he was genuinely a credible threat to the Caped Crusader. However, his threat level fell apart when he became the target for Batgirl's first appearance. After that, he was considered a joke and not even his transformation into Charaxas during Underworld Unleashed could help save him. About the closest Killer Moth had been in any media to being a credible threat was during Teen Titans, and even then he got pushed around by his Bratty Teenage Daughter Kitten.
  • Deadpool: Deadpool in a lot of crossovers or being a Rogues' Gallery Transplant partly for publicity but also his villains fell from grace a while ago. Notable during the Daniel Way run where Deadpool took care of almost all of them without healing factor with ridiculous ease (particularly Slayback and T-Ray, the former giving Deadpool a mental breakdown when he saw him and the latter being his nemesis for a long time, being blown up despite healing factors as good as Deadpool's).
  • Doctor Strange: The Multiversal Conqueror Dormammu has been subjected to this to a more ridiculous degree than any other Marvel character over the years. In the old days he was able to one-shot the Phoenix Force, absorb many universes into his own realm that he rules as a god-tyrant, defeat the multiversal incarnation of Eternity (with help from his sister Umar), and likely killed The Trinity of Ashes and Slorioth, who threatened Eternity just by existing. He was also more than a match for several Hell-lords combined during a campaign to conquer their realms, and they had to use a specific weakness of his as a cheat in order to prevail. All of this outside of his own realm, wherein he is far more powerful. However from 2007 or so and onwards, he has been treated as a pushover that has been defeated or severely damaged by objectively enormously less powerful characters, such as Cyclops and the Howling Commandos.
  • Hellboy: A rather insignificant example of this is when it turns out Abe Sapien gets seasick in Drums of the Dead. Abe remarks, "Being in the water is different from being on the water" or somesuch.
  • Lenore the Cute Little Dead Girl: Ragamuffin is shown to eat a woman alive in the first issue. Due to his transformation in a rag doll, he dropped from a Magnificent Vampire to a cuddly toy, used to entertain Lenore. After he reverts back to his vampire form in issue 12, he is devoted to her and his sole purpose is her protection.
  • Marvel Universe: Happens on the cosmic scale as well, Galactus and the Celestials have lost A LOT of their aura of invincibility over the decades. Galactus gets trussed up like a turkey and used as fuel for a bomb in Annihilation and in JLA/Avengers was not only killed by the story's Big Bad but hollowed out and used as the Big Bad's fortress. Meanwhile Celestials have died from being eaten from the inside out by Many-Angled Ones during Annihilation and space bugs in the The Avengers 2018 edition, Celestials have also died from a single chop done by Thor's cursed axe and Apocalypse was even allowed to kill one OFFSCREEN. The cosmic hero Adam Warlock has degenerated from the Marvel U's version of Jesus to just another space guy with a Superpowered Evil Side, and Gladiator has fallen from the preeminent Superman Substitute of Marvel to one of the patron saints of The Worf Effect.
  • The Punisher: Nicky Cavella's first introduction in The Punisher MAX paints him as a suave, Affably Evil badass who smooth talks his partners and generally acts like a pretty decent guy (until he gets down to business), yet the mobsters of New York are terrified of him and he's done something to put him in charge of the two most dangerously psychotic killers in the mob. When his plans come crashing down around him, he isn't so cocky and smooth anymore and runs away while using the man he conned into helping him as a meat shield. Even so, he still seems like a pretty dangerous and effective villain (not least because he subverted Bond Villain Stupidity). But in his next (and last) appearance, he is the complete opposite of everything that he was in the first comic. He's whiny, stupid, smug and just creepy and weird. Readers do get to see his origin story, and one part of it is horrifyingly cool, but overall his badass credentials seem to have been left in his other pair of pants.
  • Robin (1993): Johnny Warren starts out as a truly terrifying mob enforcer who first runs into Robin after spending a day torturing a woman out of boredom while hoping the woman's boyfriend, who stole from his boss, shows up so he can torture and kill him too. He loses a hand in an explosion then gains immense magical power and becomes a Life Drinker after being possessed by a demonic object, and goes on a killing spree where he murders his family, bosses and a bunch of cops. Since he was by this point powerful enough to tank a kryptonian level threat and Robin would have no chance against him he ends up being unable to get over the pain of once losing his hand in a fight with Robin, causing his powers to hurt himself when he fights him rather than Tim. He then flees Gotham and sends minions after Robin before fading into obscurity.
  • Rose And Thorn: Thorn started off as a pretty badass (if gimmicky) feminist vigilante who went around kicking ass and teaming up with the likes of Lois Lane and Green Arrow. By the time the year 2000 rolled in, she had become an ineffectual joke who appeared as a recurring thorn in the side (pun intended) to Harley Quinn & Poison Ivy. It became something of a running joke where the duo would be attacked by Thorn while committing a crime, only to easily defeat her and leave her Bound and Gagged. A couple years later Gail Simone revived the character and made her into a cunning antiheroine who fought the Birds of Prey.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics): This happened with Metal Sonic. The "Version 3.0" had started out as something of a big threat. However, in the span of about 75 issues, that threat level disappeared quickly, becoming something of a joke. The fans, Sega and ultimately writer Ian Flynn got tired of that, though.
  • Superman:
    • The title character is a complicated case. At the very start of the Golden Age, Superman was a smug, hot-headed vigilante who bullied crooks and corrupt authority constantly. Gradually, though, his attitude mellowed down -he was nicer but was still a paranoid jerkass- as his powers increased steadily until becoming a planet-destroyer before the beginning of the Silver Age. Then, the 1986 reboot both nerfed his powers and softened his personality until turning him into Mr. Nice Guy.
    • Pre-Crisis Supergirl was one of the most powerful beings in the galaxy, as well as mature, experienced and self-assured hero because she was allowed to grow up. Then DC killed her off, and when she was reinstated in the main continuity, Kara was an insecure teenager girl who was definitely less powerful than her previous, godlike incarnation.
    • Golden Age Lois Lane was an intelligent Intrepid Reporter who was often able to save herself — though she (understandably) often needed Superman's help when dealing with superhuman-level problems and other things a normal human couldn't be expected to deal with single-handedly. In the Silver Age, she was watered down into a reckless, somewhat ditzy woman who frequently needed to be rescued and was obsessed with getting Superman to marry her. However, the Bronze Age mostly restored her old badassery.
    • During the earliest stories of his series Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen, the main character was a competent detective and Pintsized Powerhouse who might get a head start on beating up the bad guys before Superman got there and who, if captured, often found some way to alert Superman with or without his signal watch. As the stories progressed, he became more and more The Load. While this has been reversed over time, his reputation as extra baggage who largely exists as a Weirdness Magnet remains.
    • Doomsday was a villain created with the sole purpose of defeating the hero to raise sales. The problem with this kind of villain is that the fans will want to get more stories with him, and writers have to depower him so that the stories are not prone to Fridge Logic (if he could kill Superman once, why can't he do it again?)
  • Tintin: In his original appearance, Roberto Rastapopoulos was portrayed as an actually threatening villain, being a Magnificent Bastard who led a whole drug traffic in the first story arc in the whole series, almost succeeded in killing Tintin at several points. In Fly 714 for Sydney, he is turned into a comical villain who ends up accidentally revealing his whole plan under the effect of a truth serum and get heavily ridiculed, even failing to crush a spider. Might be intentional, however, as Hergé's purpose when writing this book was to deconstruct the adventure genre.
  • The Transformers (Marvel): The series solidified the idea of "to sell toys" in the fanbase, due to its heavy use of this. In general, when a character with a new toy debuts, they are treated as extremely dangerous and powerful and receive a fair bit of focus. Once their toy is off the shelves, they fall Out of Focus and their performance becomes a joke. The most famous such instance was Omega Supreme: in his first appearance, he was so big that other characters came up to his knee, and was strong enough that he fought all of Earth's Decepticons and completely curbstomped them. About thirty issues later, he was maybe a head taller than Blaster, and got taken down offhandedly in a single panel by Buzzsaw, who is about a tenth his size and was actually one of the Decepticons that Omega easily crushed in his first outing.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Etta Candy was hit hard by the death of her creator. Wondy's human pal had started out as a plucky, cheerful take no-nonsense, genuinely excellent fighter and leader who had a great sense of humor that tended to catch others off guard, but writers after Marston slimmed her down, prettied her up and made her generic and helpless. She recovered a little bit in Wonder Woman (1987) where she was reimagined as a member of the Air Force but was rather serious and not nearly as excited about or good at fighting. Her Wonder Woman (Rebirth) and other modern takes are generally a fine return to form for the leader of the Holiday Girls.
  • X-Men:
    • For the first three decades of publication history, the Juggernaut was a physically unstoppable villain empowered by the deity Cyttorak. Some of the notable feats include withstanding Thor's "godforce" unharmed, an attack that was earlier shown capable of severely injuring Galactus. Then during Onslaught the Juggernaut gets a taste of The Worf Effect, as he is knocked clean across two states and ends up comatose for several days just to show how badass Onslaught is. Things went further downhill as Chuck Austen wrote him as part of the X-Men. Juggernaut, who before had been capable of going for weeks if not years without air, food, or water, can suddenly drown in Austen's first story featuring him. There was absolutely no explanation for why the Juggernaut was suddenly very stoppable, and later authors have scrambled for a retcon to explain that. The latest line comes from Fear Itself: The Worthy, which says that Juggernaut's power goes "up and down on Cyttorak's whim". That is something that has never happened before, even when the Juggernaut went dimension-hopping with Doctor Strange and tried to kill Cyttorak when coming face to face with him.note  Or when the Juggernaut screwed up a bet between Cyttorak and other deities in The Eighth Day, he was confirmed to still possess unstoppable strength from Cyttorak's enchantments in the follow-up story The Ninth Day.
    • Exodus was originally created to be Magneto's successor as the top mutant threat to the X-Men and throughout the first half of the '90s he more than lived up to his lofty claim of being "Magneto's heir in spirit and in power", flattening all of X-Force in just his second appearance before starring as the Big Bad of the Blood Ties crossover in which he effortlessly defeated a fully-armored War Machine, matched and overcame the Eternal Sersi, and in the story's climax fought off virtually the entirety of both the Avengers and X-Men teams singlehandedly while also crushing the entire island of Genosha beneath the force of his telekinesis. Then he succumbed to Orcus on His Throne and spent a few years just sort of sitting around, until the Age of Apocalypse villain Holocaust was transported over to the regular timeline and the decision was made to have him fight Exodus sans his Powered Armor to show how strong he was (despite Exodus logically being able to defeat him with his telepathy if he'd just bothered to use it). Much like Juggernaut above, Exodus would be further dragged downhill by Chuck Austen, who wrote him as a very generic sort of baddie who struggled to match Havok and got told off by one of his own lackies, a teenage elephant boy. Unlike Juggernaut, this bizarre dip in competence has never been addressed, and later appearances only dragged him down further, with Messiah Complex using him as a victim of The Worf Effect (again) to build up Nightcrawler and Emma Frost. He's been handled with more respect since then, but is still written as being below Magneto in power, despite Blood Ties establishing him as Magneto's equal if not superior.
    • Surpassing both Juggernaut and Exodus in the Badass Decay awards is Sabretooth. Originally The Dreaded to Wolverine, Sabretooth first started falling from grace in the mid '90s when Wolvie gave him a forcible lobotomy. He spent some time in the X-Men's care due to this before regaining his original bloodthirsty personality, but the Sabretooth who was Always Someone Better to Logan was effectively gone. His next appearance had him being pitted against Wolverine by Apocalypse to see which of them was more fit to be his horseman and being decisively beaten. But then along came (you guessed it) Chuck Austen, who dragged Sabretooth down further into the depths of Harmless Villain territory. How harmless? Wolverine and the X-Men laugh at him when he invades the X-Mansion alongside Exodus and Juggernaut above, and a teenage mutant girl with no Super-Strength at all punches him out. For whatever reason, Chuck Austen seemed to be set on dragging as many Badass X-Men villains down into this as he could before leaving the X-books.

    Comic Strips 
  • Peanuts: Lucy van Pelt went from an ebullient ball of aggressive energy to a rather neutered figure in the later years. The biography Schulz and Peanuts claims that Lucy was largely based on the author's first wife Joyce; after they divorced, Lucy lost her powers.

    Fan Works 
  • Infinity Crisis features an In-Universe example, set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, where the Red Skull, upon returning to Earth through his new alliance with Thanos, notes how how HYDRA has gone from an army ready to conquer the world to the equivalent of an American corporation doing board meetings on plans they never follow through on.
  • Happens In-Universe with Tucker in Murderer's Row. At the beginning of the story, he's a feared and powerful inmate and an expert con man imprisoned for having gone Papa Wolf on the people who kidnapped his son. However, his injuries gradually catch up to him, and by Volume 3 he's a blind, weak old man unable to defend himself. He lampshades it, lamenting that he is no longer a badass.
  • In "Far From Home" from the Rose Redemption AU series, Rose regains a new body by possessing a forming quartz. She lacks her old strength as well as many of her original abilities. This is justified, considering that she was originally a diamond and is now inhabiting the body of a quartz.

    Films — Animation 
  • While calling her badass might be a bit of a stretch, Belle from Beauty and the Beast was shown to be an assertive young woman who isn't willing to take shit from Jerkass guys like Gaston. In fact, she's the main reason why Beast Took a Level in Kindness to begin with. In the direct-to-video midquels, however, she's portrayed as an air-headed Extreme Doormat who has to apologize for telling Beast that his bad behavior isn't acceptable.
  • Louise isn't nearly as courageous in The Bob's Burgers Movie as she is in the show, with an entire arc about needing to face her fears and become braver. When Chloe calls her a baby, Louise's response is to mope about it, when the Louise from the earlier seasons would have likely concocted an elaborate revenge plan (such as in "Ear-sy Rider", where she tried to have a biker gang cut off Logan Bush's ears after the latter stole her hat).
  • In The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Phoebus was at least of average intelligence and is reasonable in his attitude towards outcasts once he has some experience with them. In the sequel, he is easily hoodwinked, displays a worse attitude towards the circus folk than toward Gypsies in the original film, and generally gets in the way more than he helps.
  • Diego from Ice Age started off as with being a badass being his defining trait to getting his ass kicked repeatedly in the fourth movie.
  • Captain Gantu from Lilo & Stitch suffers from this. In the original movie, Gantu was a respected captain in the Galactic Federation. He stood 20 feet tall and was trained well in alien martial arts (and to a lesser extent, hula-dancing). Although he ultimately failed his mission to bring Stitch back to the Federation, he came particularly close, and generally left us with the impression that he was an overall competent, and badass character. Fast forward to later sequels and the cartoon series, where he becomes a one-man Team Rocket. Gantu has since been cashiered out of the Federation military, works under the employ of an anthropomorphic hamster, and is foiled on repeated occasions by the titular duo. On one occasion, he failed to succeed in an episode's mission when Stitch was incapacitated. He was foiled by a 6-year-old child. The anime Stitch! took him down even further than The Series did. He was indeed rather comedic and most often failed, but he was at least dedicated to his duty of capturing experiments, and he would rather spend time attacking his enemies than eating sandwiches. In Stitch!, his first 'formula episode' appearance has him arguing with Reuben over flavours of sandwich, he cries uncontrollably after a sad moment in a television show (and is upset when Hämsterviel switches it off so that he can try to get Gantu to do something), and can hardly ever be said to attack. He doesn't even use his blaster even with it in the holster. But here's the doom sign; when Hämsterviel is the one who's reprimanding Reuben all the time, you know you've fallen pretty dang hard.
  • The Lion King (1994): Scar's competence is noticeably diminished after he actually becomes King of the Pridelands. Gone is the charismatic, brilliant manipulator of the story's first half, replaced in the final half with a far less intelligent, spoiled brat of a tyrant instead. His laziness and self-indulgence alienated any potential followers, and his taunting of Simba during the final battle leads to him confessing to Mufasa's murder, giving his nephew and the lionesses the determination needed to turn the tables on him.
  • Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid goes from so badass that he does almost all of the action scenes in the first movie, to not even bothering to lift a sword in the direct-to-video sequel to rescue his infant child. Inversely, Ariel goes from being mostly a Damsel in Distress to taking Eric's sword off his belt while he's wearing it and rescuing said infant daughter while Eric stands back dumb-founded. Apparently it's impossible for both of them to be competent at the same time.
  • In Penguins of Madagascar, the North Wind is introduced giving a Curb-Stomp Battle to several mooks that had been giving the penguins trouble. They never do anything equally impressive after that. Though this can be partially attributed to their rivalry with the penguins impeding their effectiveness, even after they decide to cooperate with the penguins, they are quickly taken out of the fight in the final battle.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Xenomorph from the Alien series. Originally it was described as the unstoppable "Perfect Organism"... then in Aliens it was shown that Xenomorphs can actually be dealt with enough firepower and the powerful Hollywood Acid blood is now greatly weakened from being able to melt through various levels of a ship to now just scarring human skin... by the time Alien: Resurrection and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem came along the Xenomorphs pretty much became Glass Cannons that can be killed with a single headshot even by a lowly pizza delivery guy.
  • Alison Drake's (Ruth Chatterton) character towards the end of Female (1933). Sadly, this is a common set-up for pre-Code films, mostly those featuring strong or amoral female characters. Another example would be Lily Powers in Baby Face (1933).
  • Star Wars:
    • The prequel trilogy did this to Darth Vader... sort of. He only shows up properly at the very end of Revenge of the Sith, once "Anakin Skywalker" is done and over with, but the one time he's there features one of the most infamous Narm moments ever that really makes him seem less impressive. However, Rogue One undoes this, with a Mook Horror Show that reminds the audience just why he's The Dreaded as he slices through a whole corridor of random soldiers.
    • General Grievous gets this in an odd way. In Star Wars: Clone Wars he was a badass unstoppable Jedi killer. However, at the end of the series, his few remaining internal organs were severely mangled by Mace Windu, resulting in him gaining a chronic cough and seeming much weaker in Revenge of the Sith, as he was intended to become a Fallen Hero and a precursor of sorts to Vader.
    • Han shot first! Han Solo suffers from a rare case of retroactive Badass Decay, as the controversial bowdlerisation occurred in the 1997 re-release of the original trilogy.
    • Specifically highlighted and then subverted by Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi. Snoke mocks him for this early on for almost losing a fight to two untrained Force users and even tells him to take off the mask because he's no Vader. Kylo Ren's self-consciousness of his own badass decay forms a large part of his motivation throughout the film. By the end of the movie, Kylo has successfully killed Snoke and his entire Praetorian Guard (with Rey's help).
  • James Bond tends to attract this accusation depending on actor and audience interpretation. Let's just leave it at that.
  • Godzilla:
    • The eponymous Kaiju went from an unstoppable force of sheer destruction who had no equals to being beaten by King Kong, Mothra, and the newly introduced King Ghidorah... That said, Godzilla's track record remained quite high excluding those losses and would usually defeat his opponents in the end. Most modern interpretations try to split the difference, making Godzilla a Jerk with a Heart of Gold. For the most part, he's content to remain in the sea or on Monster Island if left alone. If humans piss him off, he will fuck up a few cities. If more hostile monsters step up, though, he'll gladly stomp their face into a few mountains. He's just like The Incredible Hulk, but bigger and charcoal gray instead of green (Though, Godzilla is sometimes green in a few depictions).
    • King Ghidorah went from being the ultimate evil in his film debut (Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster) to being The Dragon in the very next film. Also, he went from being a threat that took three monsters to defeat and over six to kill in the Showa era to being dispatched by Godzilla alone in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah.
    • The version of Godzilla from Godzilla (1998) was a devastating threat that terrorised New York City, then in Godzilla: Final Wars it came up against the Toho Godzilla and lasted, ooh, a whole 13 seconds before being thrown through the Sydney Opera House and toasted with atomic breath. A deliberate example, since the makers of Final Wars didn't particularly like the 1998 movie and the scene of its destruction is even called "Pretender to the Throne".
  • Pintel and Ragetti from Pirates of the Caribbean. While they were always comic relief, they had no problem with murder in the first film. In the two sequels they are just mischievous at worst. This is even given an in-story justification: After losing their immortality at the end of the first film, they are deliberately trying to avoid provoking people into doing things like shooting them. Also, Ragetti has become religious and is worried about his eventual fate.
  • Kevin Flynn in TRON: Legacy is noticeably less proactive when compared with his incarnation in the first TRON movie. This is mostly the result of having spent a prolonged period waging a Hopeless War against his own creation Clu, which has left him jaded, burnt-out, and despairing. Later in the movie, however, Kevin steps back up and exhibits some of the old badassery that characterized him in the first film.
  • Transformers Film Series: Megatron started to suffer from this in Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen, where he became less of a threat than in Transformers (2007) and was shown to be slavishly following orders from The Fallen. note  Also invoked in the sequel, Dark of the Moon. Megatron sustains his brutal injuries from the previous film's final battle, resulting in him being in a weakened state (both physically and psychologically). He hardly fights at all (instead commanding his Mooks and trying to find peace), and when he does fight, it's because a human girl manages to strike a blow to his ego, and while he does play a part in defeating Sentinel, Optimus rips Megs' head out in a matter of seconds. This is averted in the novelizations for both sequels, where he remains a legitimate threat with his own motives and (in DOTM) a worthwhile ally for Optimus in the final battle.
  • In Ip Man the title character was nearly untouchable; only the Four-Star Badass Big Bad landed any real blows. Not so much in the sequel. That the Old Master could fight him to a draw, fans could accept. A boxer punk managing to knock him down multiple times didn't get accepted as readily. It's justified, though, for people who do their homework; boxing doesn't look as flashy for the cameras, but it is still a disciplined martial art, and even if The Twister was merely a "punk" rather than the toughest, fastest boxer to come over from Britain, it's explicitly shown that the people in charge of the match kept changing the rules to put Ip at a disadvantage, and that Ip was forced to improvise when he couldn't rely on his prior training. In the third film the objective of his fight with a boxer wasn't to win but last a round which was easier to accept since it was Mike Tyson.
  • This happens to the hitman Vincent in Collateral. He goes through most of the movie as a cold blooded killer who shoots down enemies in seconds. When it comes time for the climax, he is gunned down by the cabbie hero who had never picked up a gun in his life. Lampshaded after a fashion and probably justified: His last words are to taunt the hero with how much better at this stuff he is.
  • A species example with the T. rex in Jurassic Park III. A subadult male is easily defeated by the Spinosaurus and gets no screen time other than their fight, essentially being replaced by the Spinosaurus. The film's consulting palaeontologist, Jack Horner, believed that the T. rex was a scavenger and the Spinosaurus was really the predatory animal. The idea has since been rejected by the palaeontological community at large, with a growing body of evidence that T.rex was an active hunter. Meanwhile, the Spinosaurus, whilst indeed a very large predatory animal, is now believed to have been more of a fish-eater that wasn't particularly suited for fighting other large land predators.
  • The Dark Knight Trilogy:
    • The Scarecrow starts off as the Big Bad of the first movie, only to be quickly demoted to The Dragon once the real villain shows up. That's not all that bad except the climax of the first movie sees him getting tasered by the main character's love interest within seconds of showing up. The next movie begins with him as a lowly drug dealer where he is taken down in the Batman Cold Open. The final nail in the coffin is his appearance in The Dark Knight Rises, where he doesn’t even bother to try another plan of his own or enter a combat situation or do much of anything at all, seeming content to just be a Troll to the protagonists by acting as a judge at Bane’s Kangaroo Court, sentencing each law enforcement officer to walk out on the ice and probably die regardless of what they say. He was at least some level of threat in the Dark Knight, albeit a very small one. By the final movie he doesn’t even have the influence to affect the plot in any way, because his role as a judge is completely superfluous and Bane’s plan would play out the exact same way with any random unskilled Mook in Scarecrow’s place. It makes some sense, though; he's a scrawny little psychologist with no physical prowess or weapon skills. In the beginning of the first movie, all he really has are connections, fear gas (which he only obtained in part through those connections), and a lack of morality (which isn't exactly rare in the Batman universe). When the League of Shadows and the mob went down and he lost his position at the Asylum, he lost most of what made him a threat in the first place.
    • In The Dark Knight Rises, Bruce's deteriorating health and a prolonged retirement from super heroics really hurt his efficiency when he shoulders the mantle again. The fact that Batman isn't as effective a fighter as he was is constantly discussed in-universe.
  • The basic premise of Hook, where Peter Pan has left Neverland for so long that he's no longer the badass he was and has to relearn everything to save his children.
  • Avengers: Endgame:
    • Thanos, Mad Titan and galactic conqueror, swiftly proves that the ending of Infinity War has taken its toll. He goes from an unstoppable Hero Killer who pulled off a The Bad Guy Wins to a crippled farmer who gets rolled over by what's left of the Avengers, and is summarily disarmed and decapitated.
    • After the five-year timeskip, Thor spirals into a bout of depression, alcoholism, junk food, and lack of exercise. By the time the heroes recruit him for their mission, he's developed a giant beer gut, and Tony doesn't believe he can wield their new Infinity Gauntlet in his current state.

  • In The Antithesis Qaira Eltruan begins Arc II as a genuine 'badass', who is cold and ruthless and devoid of all mercy and feelings. As the story goes on it is shown that he does have a heart, and his disguise as a ruthless unmerciful bastard is the result of terrible past experiences involving the death of his mother and other traumatic things he was forced to do as a militant leader. With Leid's help, Qaira slowly begins to feel compassion again, hence the decay of his badassness.
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses:
    • Happens to Feyre over the series. She starts out as a Badass Normal who can hold her own against faeries and other magical creatures; she is often physically outmatched but either thinks her way out of problems or holds out until help arrives. After becoming a High Fae she gains all their abilities and extra powers too, but she barely uses them of her own volition in the second book and spends a lot of the story in a Heroic BSoD; it's at least justified in this case because she's traumatized and not getting the help she needs. She recovers and gets better control of her powers by the third book, only for the decay to fully set in by the novella, where she becomes little more than a passive trophy wife who lounges around her mansions while everyone else does important things and lets her mate make decisions for her. Some readers have lamented that despite gaining faerie powers, Feyre actually comes off as far less badass than when she was 'just' a human.
    • Tamlin. Hoo boy. Even without his full powers in the first book he's capable of fighting off multiple enemies at once and shapeshifting into an intimidating beast form. He's a Badass in Distress in the third act because of the curse, though the moment the curse is broken he completely curb-stomps Amarantha. It's all downhill from there though, due to his deteriorating mental state and manipulation from other characters, culminating in his girlfriend starting a civil war that leaves his court in ruins and running off with his rival. As of the latest book, Tamlin spends most of his time patrolling his largely empty estate in his beast form or wallowing in misery, his house falling into disrepair.
  • Invoked in The Hellequin Chronicles when the main character loses a bit of his step, largely due to a knock or two to his confidence and the loss of a set of powers that he'd come to rely on. After it's invoked, it's reversed.
  • Journey to the West: At his height, defending Flower Fruit Mountain from heaven with his army, Sun Wukong was unstoppable, even in solo battles against many combatants. After spending 500 years under a different mountain, he loses against demons easily and often has to go to heaven for help.
  • Happened to Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal and Hannibal Rising. It has been observed that he "wins" in Hannibal, and eats that one guy's brain, but he also falls in love and wangsts over his newly added Freudian Excuse in the form of a dead little sister.
  • The title character of Artemis Fowl. Although thankfully this one has not yet fallen into wangst. Fowl has, however, kept what badassery he did have, and has yet to be as anvilicious as any of our heroes. The elves were parodies of other rather more anvilicious interpretations of the fairy folk. Spoofed in a later book, in which he travels back in time to match wits with... well.... himself. One exchange later and he's left stranded on a telephone pole with nothing more than the line "I hate me."
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events: Count Olaf, although not woobie-fied, is less and less scary as the books go on, and more and more ludicrous. How much of this was deliberate is unknown.
  • Elves have fallen into this over the ages. Norse mythology described them as peerless demigodly creatures, living in a world of their own. In Tolkien's Legendarium, they were a race of infinitely living people that surpassed every other race both physically and mystically while also by and large being genuinely good people. They had some spectacular screwups, but still firmly remained the Big Good of Middle-Earth. They left the world to humanity of their own will as they still had their own heavenly realm to leave for. Oh, and they were pretty much the most badass warriors of the world, fighting armies of not just orcs and trolls but dragons and demons. One of them even crippled the resident God of Evil in single combat, to the point where he was afraid to even leave his citadel afterwards. These days, elves usually portrayed as a good-looking and long-lived but frail and often physically weak Dying Race of delusionaly arrogant pretty boys and scantily clad girls, clinging to their past, obsessed with nature and being outshined by evolving humanity. Their divine connection became pretty much non-existent - video games, in particular, pretty much always assoсiate themes of angels and/or THE God with humans while elves worship nature or some kind of lesser vaguely pagan deities. In strategy games, they are also known to depend on various allies and fantastic creatures to fight for them, with actual elves being support and commanders.
  • Kisten from The Hollows novels suffers from a classic example of this. First presented as the scion of the most powerful vampire in Cincinnati bent on dangerously seducing the main character, he decays Spike-style over the series to becoming simply her romantic interest and then he suffers Redemption Equals Death.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Some fans insist that this is what happened to Han Solo. Although that may be a failure to realize that he still does as much (if not more) than he does in the movies, but he's occasionally useless compared to his wife, children, and brother-in-law, all of who are extremely gifted in the Force. It would probably be more accurate to say that they all Took a Level in Badass while he did not.
    • Mara Jade gets this too. There are some who didn’t like her going from Dark Action Girl ex-assassin wanting to kill Luke to being a Jedi Master and marrying Luke.
  • Kannwar, the immortal God-Emperor of a continent and the Big Bad of the Right Hand of God trilogy, gets this big time in the sequel trilogy. At the conclusion of the first trilogy he is only stopped in his war of conquest when the creator of the Universe personally intervenes, shooting off his remaining hand with an arrow. By the end of the second trilogy he's spent a lot of time wangsting with the girl he turned immortal in the first trilogy and been blown up and revived several times, more or less for laughs.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • The books have this happen to the Kingsguard. Once looked up to as shining examples of knighthood and the best fighters in the kingdom, they're now a joke, with all of them put in for political reasons rather than for fighting skill.
    • The Night Watch has a similar problem, it used to be a largely volunteer force with criminals conscripted for sheer numbers. Now there are almost no volunteers, even fewer knights, and numbers are so small they've abandoned most of their fortresses.
    • Cersei is a specific example as well. She was the primary villain in the first book, and was a noted schemer. Her plot to kill Robert Baratheon was very clever in how it came off as an accident. As the books go on, she's presented as more and more incompetent. At least Book 3 has her successfully twisting peoples' arms to testify against Tyrion at his trial. However, when Book 4 comes and presents her perspective, she's shown as a complete moron time and time again. Not only is she seeming to be more pathetic as a plotter, she actually comes off as less sympathetic when you see her point of view. In the past she was at least considered a devoted mother, but in Book 4 she seems awfully indifferent about her children except for how it impacts her. In fact, it's presented that since there was a prophecy that said all of her children would die before her, her concern for her children's well-being could have a much more selfish bent. In-Universe, other characters seem to note how awful she's become. Littlefinger predicted that she would ruin the realm, but not nearly as fast as she actually did. Her brother Jaime begins to wonder why he ever felt attracted to her once he realizes how pathetic and evil she is.
    • Robert Baratheon was, before the events of Game of Thrones, considered to be one of the finest warriors. By the time the series begins Robert has became a fat pathetic man who eats and drinks too much and is also a terrible king. The former led to the latter, as he knew he had to take the throne no matter how much he hated it to keep it away from worse hands, and trying to eat, drink and fuck the various pains he had away rather than do anything kingly brought him down to a shadow of what he once was.
  • Deconstructed in The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Japanese author Yukio Mishima, known for his intense prose. When Noburo's widowed mother falls in love with the Badass Sailor Ryuji, the smart yet emotionally detached Noburo declares him his supreme idol. What could be a beautiful romance takes a dark turn when Noburo's desire to be a real man mixes with his gang's sociopathic and sadistic tendencies. Ryuji is far from being anything like the Übermensch Noburo wants him to be; in fact he is an Understanding Boyfriend, and even makes a slight Character Development towards a full-fledged Nice Guy, even bordering on Marty Stu territory. He even quits his job for his new love and turns out to be a worthy follow-up to his mother's late husband. In Noburo's eyes, this is unforgivable Badass Decay. He and his gang treat it as Serious Business, eventually plotting to kill him to restore his honor.
  • Happened to the entire Tribe of Rushing Water by the third arc of Warrior Cats. In their first appearance, they were portrayed as powerful fighters who easily took down the warriors who wandered into their territory, only beaten by the mountain lion, Sharptooth. By arc three, they needed the Clans' help to deal with a group of intruders that none of their cave-guards could defeat.
  • Dudley Smith, the Affably Evil Magnificent Bastard from James Ellroy's LA Quartet, bedeviled the protagonists of those books with his brilliance and brutality in pursuit of his ultimate goal: gaining complete control of organized crime in Los Angeles with an eye toward systematically narcotizing LA's black population. When he shows up as a Villain Protagonist in Ellroy's second LA Quartet (specifically, the novels Perfidia and This Storm), he's much less impressive — still a brutal schemer, but frequently high off his gourd on opium and out-maneuvered by his opposition. He even gets a Humiliation Conga in the second book. The second Quartet is actually a prequel to the first, so Dudley's not at his peak Chessmaster powers quite yet.
  • Drizzt Do'Urden goes through this during the The Legend of Drizzt books around Transitions and The Neverwinter Saga with him no longer able to score epic victories over every opponent, frequently running away, and often achieving only a Bittersweet Ending or even outright failure. No reason has been given for this, though readers might infer it's due to the immense internal struggle he's undergoing due to the death of friends as well as Crapsack World nature of the post-Spellplague Realms.

  • Roger Waters was one of the major components of one of the greatest/scariest/craziest bands of all time. In the 12/12/12 concert, he spent the entire first song clapping his hands over his head and playing for the audience. He also had a bunch of preppy, smiling girls singing the second verse of "Another Brick in the Wall: Part II," and they weren't even supposed to be ironic.
  • Rise Against, one of the most hard-edged, rage filled bands made entirely of vegan socialists working today, covering "Making Christmas" from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Oh so hilarious.
  • Metallica was generally accused of this starting with The Black Album, although it wasn't very common until St. Anger — it was even complete with a documentary showing the previously badass kings of heavy metal going into therapy, and trying to bury the hatchet with their Big Bad. (But many, if not all, considered Death Magnetic a return to form)
  • Similarly, Megadeth began as a brutal Thrash band, spending the '80s making fast, heavy songs based on anger, hedonism, violence and horror. At the beginning of the following decade, Dave Mustaine purged himself of the drug habits the influenced the band's earlier music, and took their thrash sound in a more progressive and accessible direction with Rust in Peace and Countdown to Extinction, which brought the band commercial success and shifted lyrically to weighty political and personal issues. A different, more mature sort of Badass.

    It was after the more somber and introspective Youthanasia that the Decay began to set in; Cryptic Writings, unlike the albums before it, distilled everything about the band into a Lighter and Softer, dumbed-down product. The lyrics went from cerebral to childish, the music stripped of its intensity and reduced to simplistic radio fodder. The nadir was the disastrous Risk, a clumsy attempt at dated pop music that went in all kinds of failed directions. 2001's The World Needs A Hero showed the band attempting to steer themselves back on track but ultimately flopped with both fans and critics. And while the post-10-Minute Retirement album The System Has Failed did manage to Win Back some of The Crowd, their best days are still far behind them, as each following release merely repeated the same "autopilot" sound of the band banking on their glory days with less creativity and energy.
  • Similarly to Rise Against above, Twisted Sister of 80s hair metal fame went from being the bane of concerned parents everywhere and their lead singer delivering an eloquent and effective speech to the United States Congress while still in the clothes he wore after that previous night's concert, reading it from a piece of paper he folded up and put in his pocket, to making a Christmas album.
  • Any hip-hop artist who started as a badass gangsta rapper and transitioned into mainstream film & TV work gets accused of this, whether accurate or not.
    Gangstalicious: You know who my favorite rapper was when I was your age? Ice Cube.
    Riley: The dude that makes family movies? He was a gangsta rapper?
    Gangstalicious: He was so gangsta. I used to have dreams that Ice Cube came to my house and killed my whole family.
    The Boondocks
  • The Misfits went from singing songs called "Die, Die My Darling" and "Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?" to covering songs by 50s teen idol Paul Anka and 60s soul band The Drifters.
  • In 1967, this person was part of a certain band that, according to many, was one of the pioneers of Heavy Metal. In the eighties, he started out a solo career and was called "The Prince Of Darkness". But, somehow, he ended up in the Scary Musician, Harmless Music page, starring as a Henpecked Husband in his own Reality TV show. That man is Ozzy Osbourne.
  • Mötley Crüe sadly went from being hedonistic icons of the 80s heavy metal scene and one of the most memorable Hair Metal bands ever to the butt of jokes as the 2010s hit due to Vince Neil gradually losing his spark over the years, leading to the infamous 2015 Rock in Rio performance.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Professional Wrestling itself is an example. Back in the mid-1800s professional wrestling was a real competitive sport, and by the 1900s the highest ranked wrestlers had about the same amount of prestige that boxing and MMA champions have today. Real professional wrestling matches tended to be very slow-paced, however, and the sport slowly worked its way towards being more of a performance art when promoters started making rules to ban long static displays from matches. Promoters then discovered that the best wrestlers weren't necessarily the most marketable, and began fixing matches. By the 1950s, wrestling was more or less entirely predetermined. By the 1990s, wrestlers couldn't even claim prestige, or get endorsements, save a few in national promotions, (WWF Stone Cold, WCW Goldberg) and by the 2000s most champions of national promotions are largely ignored by the general populace, except maybe in their home countries.
  • American wrestlers were probably never thought of the best on the mat or at chain wrestling but used to be held up for great conditioning and work rate. Politically, the region also had a lot of say so in how bookings were done in the rest of the world thanks to the National Wrestling Alliance being stationed there. By the 1990s, wrestlers in the region were instead known best as showmen, the superior work rates thought to be in Japan and while the NWA remained respected in a few regions, it retained little authority.
  • In the 1930s and 40s, the top women wrestlers in the US were considered equals to the top men. Badass decay started in the 1950s but American based WWWA and AGWA remained the world women's standard. By the mid 1990s, the women wrestlers often had to leave the the US and Americas altogether just to wrestle on the under card and by 2001, promoters looked to Japan to try and get life flowing back. Joshi was inspired by the American scene, but it flipped to Japan having little need for foreigners and Americans wanting to be Joshi.
  • Rip Oliver was the top heel of Oregon during his prime. Across the NWA territories he was known as The Crippler for being hired to hurt baby faces and cemented his reputation when he was banned from Texas after breaking the hand of Mike Von Erich by dragging him out of the arena and slamming it in a door. The WWF decided the proper way to use him in their territory was as a jobber. He was buried so throughouly that no promoter ever managed to build him back up to his fomer glory.
  • The Undertaker lost a lot of his aura after his feuds with Ultimate Warrior, Hulk Hogan, Randy Savage, and Jake Roberts. He next feuded with nothing but sloppy big men such as Kamala, Giant González, Kama the Supreme Fighting Machine, and King Mabel. It took both Diesel and Mankind beating some badass back into 'Taker to finally get that back.
  • Speaking of Kamala, he's a great example of this. Before his WWF run he was one of the few men to ever bodyslam André the Giant, and when he first debuted in WWF he was a genuinely frightening monster. In the long run he never won any of his feuds (allegedly because Vince McMahon disliked him) and his threat level diminished. Then he got turned face and teamed up with Slick, and that was the end of Kamala being scary.
  • WCW mid-2000. Hulk Hogan was put in a feud with midcard wrestler Billy Kidman. Their matches usually consisted of Hogan whaling on Kidman to the point that it resembled child abuse, then something happening to enable Kidman to pick up a fluke win. This was badass decay for BOTH men. Kidman previously was a very popular midcard wrestler, and Hogan was Hogan. Now Kidman resembled a whipping boy, and the Boring Invincible Hero Hogan became a boring almost invincible hero.
  • Without a doubt, Kane from WWE. From the very beginning, Kane made his debut in the then-WWF as an unstoppable monster who destroyed everyone in his path. His badass decay began in the early 2000s when the writers tried to lighten his character up a bit by having him do comical imitations of other wrestlers like Hulk Hogan and Booker T. His character became considerably lightened up when he tag-teamed with the likes of the Hurricane and Rob Van Dam. Lightening up a wrestler in itself should not destroy their career but Kane's decline was more of a gradual process than something that happened overnight. He soon began jobbing to newly debuting monster heels like Batista and losing some of the menace that once made him a force to be reckoned with. Despite that, Kane still carried on as a high-ranking mid-card wrestler at worst, a powerful entity very few wrestlers could defeat without some sort of cheating tactic. Then the shit hit the fan when Triple H accused Kane of being a murderer and a necrophiliac, leading to an awkward and disgusting storyline involving Triple H in a Kane mask having sex with a mannequin corpse in a funeral home. Eventually, Kane was made to finally unmask on live-television in a second feud with Triple H and Evolution. It was downhill from there. Nowadays, Kane can be seen jobbing to various wrestlers that he would've demolished back in his masked Big Red Machine days (Edge, Randy Orton, Mark Henry, Rey Mysterio, etc.)

    Kane started to get better. In a 2010 angle where someone put The Undertaker in a vegetative state and Kane going out for revenge, he demolished main eventers on a weekly basis; beating Jack Swagger (heavyweight champ at the time), Big Show, Mysterio, and CM Punk. This included taking on Punk's entire stable, the Straight Edge Society, three on one, and dominating them, and sending Punk running from the arena. All of this without Kane being directly involved in the title picture. Then he won the World Heavyweight Championship from Rey Mysterio out of nowhere. Then it was revealed that he was the one who put The Undertaker in a vegetative state out of bitterness at being in his brother's shadow all his career. Then he would respond to his brother's return by Tombstone Piledriving him and getting the best of him at every opportunity. Then he would pin The Undertaker easily at Night of Champions. Then he would do it again in a Hell In A Cell match, setting up Paul Bearer to backstab him in the process. Then, he buried him a month later at Bragging Rights!

    After his remasking in late 2011, he completely got better. For a few months. He gave a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to Zack Ryder on several occasions and got in brutal feuds with Cena and Orton, even defeating Orton cleanly at Wrestlemania. Then decay quickly set in again. A plot involving a crush on A.J. Lee ensured that he lost any credibility that he had got back by remasking. He lost at No Way Out, failed to win at Money in the Bank, and was defeated by Daniel Bryan at Summerslam. He was next used for comedy purposes, attending anger management and eventually partnering up with the mega over Daniel Bryan to form one of the most memorable tag teams in years.
  • Tazz (or Taz). Initially one of the toughest, most brutal wrestlers in ECW, Tazz made his debut in the then-WWF by giving Kurt Angle his first ever loss. Very soon, however, Tazz's badass decay began when he began feuding with the announcers, Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler. After that was over, he became a glorified jobber. Though he did make a small comeback later on by winning the tag team titles with Spike Dudley, it was a little too late by then. After losing the tag team titles, Tazz stopped wrestling and joined the announce team with Michael Cole. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin mentioned in interviews that his talking down to Tazz wasn't right, but Tazz's decline was otherwise justified in that he did have a jacked-up neck that was getting worse over the years; after all he was part of the original ECW.
  • Goldust came into the WWF in 1995 as a bizarre, effeminate, gold-painted man who would psych people out and trick them to win his matches. When management decided in early 1997 to turn him face, they did so by showing that Goldust was just a character and the man behind him, Dustin Runnels was actually a caring family man. This breaking of the fourth wall turned fans off, and it didn't help that he stopped doing all the weird stuff that made people like him in the first place. Eventually, he reverted back to his old self (after some speed bumps) but never had the original success he had as Goldust.
  • Chris Jericho has undergone a lot of badass decay over the years. One may not notice nowadays with Jericho being pinned left and right by a number of younger generation superstars, but there used to be a time when Jericho was one of the most dominant wrestlers in the WWE who could take down any wrestler who stood in his path, only coming up short against the really big superstars such as The Rock, The Undertaker, Kane, and Triple H. During the Attitude Era, he was known for his incredible mic skills and memorable feuds against Triple H, Stephanie McMahon, The Rock, Chris Benoit, and Kurt Angle. His badass decay most likely began after Triple H defeated him and took the Undisputed Championship away from him. These days Jericho has been toned down incredibly by both the PG Era and restrictive ringwork by the injury-conscious WWE. Even wrestlers he could defeat with no problem in the past such as Edge or Christian are now pinning him cleanly and making him look like a chump. True he's won the world title a few more times in later years but it just doesn't feel like it's as big of a deal now as opposed to if he had won them during the height of his career from 1999 to 2001.
  • Doug Basham and The Damaja greatly benefitted from being the favorites of Danny Davis. They had a great look full of leather and spikes, as well as plenty of promo time where Doug Basham's talent shown through. Also, many women fawned over them and wanted to be their valets. But they didn't just have favoritism going for them; they were legitimately talented and Damaja had some of the best cardio in the business. Doug Bashama's charisma wasn't just on the mic or in his mouth but physically throughout his entire body. They thrashed and out wrestled opponents; beating them meant something. Then WWE made them Tag Team Twins, erasing their distinct look as a Tag Team. Then came scripted promos, cutting into their charisma. Then they were made into the lapdogs of a dominatrix. The Basham Brothers were still a talented tag team, but against any other team with any credibility copious cheating was the only way they could gain an advantage, much less win a match, and they cared more about their mistress than title belts (heels cheat to win, and are petty by nature, but most need to display some redeeming quality to get over. Everyone can't be the pyschophantic cowardly slimeball). Doug Basham tried going back to his old gimmick after the tag team was inevitably broken up but no amount of jobber squashes could get fans to take him seriously again.
  • Professional Wrestling has a most bizarre example in John Cena. In 2004, he was a street-wise thug (who happened to be a white rapper) who never backed down from a challenge, and fought rich bastard John "Bradshaw" Layfield while espousing "battle raps" which mocked anyone in a 15-mile radius. In 2005 and 2006, his overwhelming popularity led the writers to turn him into a Hoganesque superhuman with an inferiority complex who openly admitted he was inferior as a technical wrestler, therefore taking away everything that made him popular in the first place. It eventually got to the point where fans would cheer his opponent out of spite, no matter how evil that person was. Fortunately, the release of his movie The Marine allowed him to get back his never-say-die attitude, and he appears to be recovering from the setback. Slowly. The fact that WWE seems to be implying that he really is a marine based on his role in the movie doesn't help matters. In fact, most heels who became anti-heroic faces in the Attitude Era generally fall under this trope. More so when you consider said anti-heroes tended to have their most popular traits exaggerated when they become faces ("Stone Cold" Steve Austin wasn't a full-blown redneck until his turn, and The Rock didn't rely as much on his "sing-along" catchphrases). Cena's Self-Deprecation was largely a very mishandled attempt to appeal to the fans who had turned on him; additionally, it was mostly during his feud with Triple H, who is the head writer's husband and has had many feuds in which his opponent has sung his praises. Thankfully, this aspect of his character was dropped after Cena was given a clean victory over Trips.
  • The Sheepherders were vicious, savage brutes who terrorised wrestling promotions all over the world with bloody, violent hardcore matches. When Vince got ahold of them, he turned them into The Bushwhackers, a pair of happy-go-lucky loveable idiots with a trademark silly walk and habit of licking people. However, this was the run which they are best known and fondly remembered for.
  • As a general trend, the WWE's decision to rebrand their TV shows from TV-14 to PG in order to add family appeal has unfortunately resulted in some of this. In order to reach a PG rating, the WWE had to cut back on mature content: scanty clothing, innuendo, weapon use, blood, and especially swearing. Since there are fewer options available for faces and heels to emphasize badass characteristics during a feud, decay is more likely to happen across the board.
  • A peculiar example is Joey Abs of the Mean Street Posse. The Posse (Pete Gas and Rodney) were introduced as childhood friends of Shane McMahon, but quickly became utilized as comedy jobbers - they were somewhat smaller than most of their fellow wrestlers and they wore dorky sweater vests and khakis. After a couple months, Joey Abs was introduced as their heavy. He was pretty big, actually looked intimidating, and for his first couple appearances was treated like a genuine threat in the ring. For some reason the company soured on Abs quickly, and in short order he became portrayed as as hapless as Pete Gas and Rodney. To this day, WWE often references Joey Abs in self-deprecating, "what were we thinking?" spots.
  • In TNA, this is very common:
    • Abyss has gone from Kane clone, to a hybrid of Kane and Mankind, to a geek who asks if having Jacqueline on his lap makes him not a virgin anymore, back to indestructible badass, and now he's a 6'8" 300+ version of Dave Sullivan.
    • Samoa Joe, twice. The first was after losing to Kurt Angle at Hard Justice 2007 when Karen Angle predictably turned on Joe. The fans saw that turn two miles away, so they cheered for Kurt and Karen and booed Joe. The real damage didn't come until Joe cut a promo on Scott Hall at Turning Point, leading to his rebellion against TNA management. Unfortunately, he came off as whiny, leading the fans to boo him even more. He was losing left and right. Eventually, at Lockdown 2008, he got his badass cred back after beating Angle for the TNA Title.

      Alas, that didn't last long, did it? After losing the title to Sting (when Nash turned on him), Joe formed the TNA Front Line along with AJ Styles to counter Sting's new group: the Main Event Mafia. During that feud, the Front Line lost nearly EVERY SINGLE MATCH against the Mafia, with the exception of Lethal Lockdown. It was also during this feud where Joe became a member of the "Nation of Violence," which saw him sporting a tribal phallic symbol on his face, torture Sheik Abdul Bashir for no reason whatsoever and threaten to kill Scott Steiner. Again, the fans looked at Joe as a complete psychopath, and not the badass he once was, and Steiner's constant fat-shaming of Joe made it even harder to take Joe seriously. Then, he turned on the Front Line and became just another lackey for Kurt Angle.
    • Jay Lethal had a stretch where he pinned TNA Champion Kurt Angle clean, won the X-Division Title, and saved the aforementioned X-Division from Team 3D. The latter, he did ALL BY HIMSELF. During all of this, he was getting the attention of So Cal Val. Immediately after he got the girl, saved the X-Division, and got his title back, Sonjay Dutt wooed Val away from him. That was the beginning. Val remained undecided on who to shack up with, until she turned on Lethal, killing him for good.
    • The X-Division, whose title belt ranged from almost as to just as important as the NWA World title (a belt which also deserves its own entry) as a division with no limits that anyone could compete in if they could go hard enough, to flippy wrestlers with a weight limit. Basically top of the card to glorified cruiserweights banished from the main event and Impact altogether to the B show Xplosion. Austin Aries brought back some prestige, as he turned it from "not even worth mentioning in the same angle regarding the world title" to "glorified contract for a world title match". Seiya Sanada's run with the belt in the Japanese Wrestle1 Promotion, Samoa Joe getting the belt back and being treated as an equal to the World Champion and title defenses occurring in the main event again greatly improved the X Division's image.
    • Just like Abyss and Kane, AJ Styles goes up and down the badass roller coaster frequently. With him playing second fiddle to the retired Ric Flair, AS THE WORLD CHAMPION, NO LESS, it's safe to say he's on the down slope.
    • While it's rare to see this happen to so many people at once, the Knockouts Division had this happen to them. While they started out as huge ratings draws, being a bunch of badass Action Girls who could actually wrestle, which was a rarity on the wrestling scene, the corporate changes at TNA focused less on their abilities, and used them as Fanservice more and more often. Several incidents happened, ultimately leading up to many Knockouts leaving the company, leading to fewer actual wrestlers in the Division, which became the poor man's WWE Divas. The returns of Mickie James and Gail Kim and new acquisitions such as Havok and Rosemary got the Knockouts their own pay per view event, "Better than the divas!" chants in New York and back into Impact's main event on occasion.
    • Nigel McGuinness was a force to be reckoned with in Ring of Honor, the biggest complaint against him being his first baby face champion run relying too much on fighting spirit. Then his stint as Desmond Wolfe in TNA - after a very promising start in which he brutalized Angle - led to one humiliation after the other. This case was particularly harsh, as TNA started burying him after the fans voted him as the person they most wanted to see as their World Champion.
  • Ring of Honor had a rather abominable case of this with BJ Whitmer. He spent 2006 on the cusp of stardom, proving himself as a badass Determinator who bled for ROH against the invading CZW and stood victorious after a barbed wire match with the infamous Necro Butcher. But then, after losing to his longtime archenemy Jimmy Jacobs, Whitmer went on a losing streak that completely nullified the entire year of Badass cred that he had acquired. It didn't help that he came out of the losing streak by aligning with Smug Snake Adam Pearce, who nobody bought as a major threat; thus, Whitmer went from an independent and awesome hero to the thug of a weak and cowardly villain.
  • Jimmy Jacobs and his Age of the Fall stable had this kick in very quickly. They debuted by hanging Jay Briscoe upside down and letting his blood rain on the ring, but were quickly reduced to Dirty Cowards in subsequent confrontations with the Briscoe Brothers. They constantly ping-ponged between pathetic cowards and evil Determinators, but they completely lost their credibility in many fans' eyes when they began making Contemplate Our Navels Wangst video segments.
  • There was a case with Davey Richards. As soon as Rocky Romero joined the No Remorse Corps, Richards became the ass of many jokes between Romero and Roderick Strong. He'd have to leave and get training from Dan Severn to regain his credibility.
  • Batista's badass decay ultimately turned him into the poster child for memes in professional wrestling. There's too many to mention here, so you can see the respective pages.
  • Mickie James' badass decay started when she lost her WWE Women's Championship to Lita in late August 2006, who would then lose it to a retiring Trish Stratus. Once Trish retired, Mickie was eventually given Trish's character, thus losing her Loony Fan/Psycho Lesbian/Ascended Fangirl character in the process.
  • Mick Foley lampshaded in his autobiography how his Mankind gimmick went from insane pain-lover to doofy goofball in near-record time. He didn't mind as both interpretations were wildly popular, but he had to admit it ended up a lot different that he envisioned.
  • Almost everyone from The Ministry of Darkness bar The Undertaker and John "Bradshaw" Layfield.
    • Dennis Knight went from the deranged Mideon to the comedic Naked Mideon and "Bogus Mankind"; Nelson Frazier Jr. went from Mabel, King of the Ring, to Viscera, servant of The Undertaker, to Viscera, "The World's Largest Love Machine;" Ron Simmons went from tough world heavyweight champion (in WCW) to leader of the Nation of Domination to tag-team champion with JBL in the Acolytes, to beer-drinking redneck in APA, to some guy that walks around saying "Damn!" Viscera did come back with the terrifying new image of Big Daddy V. He now let most of his tattoos show and was unstoppable for a little. You also had his much clearer Jiggle Physics in this persona.
    • The Acolytes/APA were actually pretty over as Stone Cold-like tough guy faces and were usually on the fringes of the top feuds at any given time in 1999 and 2000. Mideon might not really count since he was a joke from the start.
  • The Hell in a Cell match was once the Gimmick Match where the most vicious of feuds went to end in a bang. However, around 2006, the Cell was built to be bigger, ensuring nobody was to try the spots on the top of the Cell such as the ones in HBK vs Undertaker, Mankind vs Undertaker, or Cactus Jack vs Triple H. The matches nonetheless remained intense and bloody until the Hell in a Cell PPV was created in 2009. This not only meant that the feuds in a Hell in a Cell match usually now lacked the history of intensity of past matches but that the new PG rating meant that all the viciousness of past matches would be gone, essentially just making the match a standard no-DQ match with a big cage obstructing the audience's view. While Hell in a Cell used to be a truly special match used maybe once or twice a year to cap off a really big feud, it's since become just another gimmick match with no real specialness to it.
  • After a promising start, this ended up happening to pretty much every member of Die Bruderschaft des Kreuzes except Lince Dorado, who was Rescued from the Scrappy Heap, and even then not really as though he earned respect from Chikara fans he still went from a super face to just another guy in a group who was often not included in their biggest matches. This was used most dramatically with Claudio Castagnoli, who got frustrated and quit the promotion altogether but perhaps most ironically with Daizee Haze and Sara Del Rey, who joined Die Bruderschaft for the purpose of defying chickification but ended up being knocked off in rapid succession by Eddie Kingston. Del Rey would regain most of her bad ass aura at the BDK's expense after a Heel–Face Turn in fact.
  • Sheamus went through this after awhile. After starting off strong, and winning the WWE championship in his first PPV match, he went down the card a little, but was still badass and netted another (albeit short), championship reign. Then came the 2010 King of the Ring tournament; despite winning said tourney, after becoming "King Sheamus" he started losing frequently (although to guys like Randy Orton & John Morrison, but still). Fortunately, he dumped the king regalia note  and has gotten much better. Since turning face in the summer of 2011, though, he's becoming even more bad-ass, going on a roll from that point onnote .

    Sadly, he fell into this again in 2015, which got even worse when he won the Money in the Bank briefcase. He was basically losing all his feuds, had no storyline direction, and was jobbing to midcard matches in some vein hope that the fans would forget about him to make his cash-in more shocking (instead, all it did was make them actively dread it). This was one of the main arguments the IWC made against Sheamus being champion in the first place, especially in comparison to Reigns, who's been booked like he's the second coming of John Cena. Sheamus has lost so much credibility that the fans have a hard time taking him as a serious threat to Reigns, while Reigns' character is bland and stale; there's effectively no reason to care about this feud at all.
  • In a slightly tragic real life example, Ken Shamrock went through this. The first UFC Superfight (now Heavyweight) champion, Shamrock was once known as "The Worlds Most Dangerous Man", and was signed to the then-WWF, where among other things, he was at one point considered as a candidate to win the WWF Championship from the departing Bret Hart, defeated The Rock at WrestleMania to win the Intercontinental Championship (the decision would be reversed when Shamrock refused to release the Ankle Lock) and won the prestigious King Of The Ring tournament. However, he would go on to sustain a serious neck injury at the hands of a debuting Chris Jericho, and was never the same. He would try to return to MMA, and while his old self briefly shined through, he just didn't have it any more. To this day he has refused to retire, despite the heavy toll steroids have taken on his body and losing far more matches than he's won (and on one of those occasions where he won, it was overturned afterwards when he tested positive for steroids after the match), and usually ending the fights as a bloody mess, a mere shell of the man he once was.
  • When Albert/A-Train returned to the WWE as Lord Tensai he was a mysterious and intimidating monster heel. It only took a few months before he was dancing the robot in a basque and thong...
  • Velvet Sky after her Heel–Face Turn lost all of the ruthlessness and Awesome Ego that made her so entertaining in the first place. Lampshaded when her former tag team partner, Angelina Love, returned to tell her that Velvet had gotten "vanilla" and boring. After she returned in late 2012, she became more badass.
  • While many had dismissed WWE's "Championships" already after The Great Khali's reign, 2011 was a particular bad year when The WWE Championship belt changed hands nine times in the span of seven months, also resulting in instant badass decay for Rey Mysterio Jr. and CM Punk, who each enjoyed zero day reigns during this stretch. It almost halted all the momentum built up by duplicating the ROH Summer Of Punk angle when drama over Kevin Nash and Triple H text messages were deemed more important that the title picture. Thankfully, Punk would turn things around for himself and the belt, going on to have the longest reign of the modern era after decisively knocking Alberto Del Rio and all other distractions away. The reign was long enough to outlast the reputation flattening of Ryback and give the champion importance again.
  • In SHIMMER, Madison Eagles slowly progressed from over sized jobber to towering madwoman who meticulously broke down challengers to straightforward technician of overwhelming power. In SHINE, she came in with much fanfare but started to be taken a lot less seriously due to losing three times in a row, getting half of her victories through luck as she couldn't even cheat effectively. Her SHIMMER run didn't slow, though, making this overlap with The Worf Effect. It also helped that after show eleven or so SHINE and SHIMMER were no longer in continuity with each other.
  • Any semblance of CM Punk being viewed as a legit badass was destroyed after his fight with Mickey Gall in the UFC, where Punk threw one punch, was taken down, and quickly beaten with virtually no resistance. It didn't help that the UFC started promoting Punk as their next big thing before even announcing an opponent. After two injuries during training delayed his debut, by the time the long awaited fight actually took place many people had grown sick of CM Punk and where immensely underwhelmed by his less than stellar performance.
  • You'd be hard-pressed to find a more prolonged, wasteful and easily-avoidable case than Bray Wyatt. When he debuted as the head of The Wyatt Family, Bray was terrifying despite not being a physically-imposing Wrestling Monster (although he commanded two in Luke Harper and Erick Rowan)- he was simply the scariest character WWE had created since The Undertaker was at his peak. Despite a terrible debut match against Kane, Bray and his family got massively over with the fans, with Bray managing to get cheered against not only divisive characters like John Cena, but even crowd favorites like Daniel Bryan, and the Family's popularity probably peaked during their epic 2014 feud against The Shield. Unfortunately, what WWE seemed to take away from this was that Bray was so popular that he could be used to put over anyone and it wouldn't negatively affect him, and eventually people started to notice that, for all his threatening talk, Bray loses all the time. He has a lamentable 0-4 record at WrestleMania and has lost effectively every feud he's ever had. Even winning the WWE Championship at Elimination Chamber 2017 didn't help because this only set up his betrayal by his then-acolyte Randy Orton, leading to an utterly ridiculous WrestleMania match where he summoned PowerPoint projections of maggots and centipedes onto the ring before losing to an RKO. Subsequent feuds with stars like Finn Bállor and even Matt Hardy have done nothing to elevate Bray, with most fans considering them to only be dragging down the other guy. Nobody is interested in the once-terrifying leader of the Wyatt Family any more because everyone knows he's always going to lose, because WWE just won't let him have any credibility!
  • Remember when Finn Bállor came to the ring in full demon body-paint and was the first ever Universal Champion? Now he smiles *constantly*, and tweets out pictures of himself rubbing butter on his abs or standing in a children's playhouse. The Demon hasn't even been seen for the better part of a year.
  • A company-wide one has been noticed by fans who observe the patterns- while development show WWE NXT (run by Triple H) has become THE premiere product that WWE produces, the company has a massive and obvious track record of promoting the top stars of NXT to the main roster then ruining them. The main roster is littered with the corpses of men and women who were incredibly over badass champions in NXT who have since been reduced to jokes, Jobbers or at best stuck in midcard hell, including many already mentioned here. Bo Dallas, Bray Wyatt, Tyler Breeze, Finn Bállor, Kevin Owens, Sami Zayn, Shinsuke Nakamura, Andrade "Cien" Almas, Bayley, Sasha Banks, Asuka... the list just goes on and on and on. Tag teams have it the worst- despite NXT presiding over a renaissance of the art of tag team wrestling in the WWE, every tag team that comes up to the main roster ends up reduced to jobbing for The New Day or The Usos or The Bar or whichever two unaffiliated singles stars are being forced to tag together this week for some reason. The Ascension, Gallows and Anderson, American Alpha, The Revival, SAnitY, the Authors of Pain, the Vaudevillains, no tag team has come up from NXT to have any credibility on the main roster scene (widely believed to be because Vince simply doesn't care about tag team wrestling at all).

    The consequence of all this is that NXT fans, while loving the product, greet every announcement of a popular star being called up from developmental to the main roster with dread, not excitement, predicting certain doom for performers who, while they put on some of the best wrestling in the world in NXT, they're fully aware Vince will just not know what to do with or be bothered treating with any respect once they're out of Trips' booking control. The Velveteen Dream is probably the foremost example of a top-level NXT star who the fans are absolutely deadset against being forced up to the main roster, because they just know he'll be turned first into a Camp Gay stereotype, then into a Jobber.
  • Crossed with Audience-Alienating Era. Heidi Lovelace was a Champion and main eventer in several promotions. Ruby Riott is lucky if she wins a match.
  • Crossed with Redemption Demotion: The Oddities went through this at the end of 1998 to the beginning of 1999, as they became a low midcard comedy act without a push.
  • Ahmed Johnson. So, so much. Before his injury, he was seriously over and looked like he might be the first African-American wrestler to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. He was at Goldberg-like levels of popularity. His frequent injuries, a terrible heel turn, and a reported bad attitude backstage led to WWE releasing him in February 1998, and he never recovered.

    Tabletop Games 
  • This inevitably happens in many card games due to a phenomenon known as "Power Creep," where R&D overpowers their new cards so much that older sets become laughably weak in comparison. Remember how powerful Base Set Charizard was in the Pokémon TCG? Nowhere near the title holder for HP or damage output now.
  • The entire drow race in the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms setting.
    • First they were sexy, intelligent, heavily matriarchal, and Always Chaotic Evil insane badasses with a small pantheon. Then we got the hero Drizzt (a fugitive from his culture). Due to the Dungeons and Dragons rules discouraging evil players, some players want to be drow because they're cool... but good-aligned and without the severe social stigma, despite drow being nearly always evil and Drizzt being a considerably-developed unique example of a good-aligned drow. Then we got the good aligned deity Eilistraee, and her entire clutch of (mostly) female drow worshippers who, naturally, danced naked at night. (Their chief priestess, Qilue, has a magic dress of invisibility.
    • Drizzt himself in the 2nd edition had rules written solely to make him more dangerous, such as, despite being in a Hit Point/Critical Existence Failure based combat system, having a flat chance of killing anyone in a single shot. It was a low chance, but he had a better chance of killing someone with a normal attack than he did of scoring a critical hit. In 3rd edition, he is a less than optimal build with very few special rules. This may or may not be a good thing.
    • Drow are a slightly odd case because they started off as a society of mostly-neutral people oppressed and managed by their massively evil and Machiavellian rulers and priestesses under the aegis of their malevolent goddess Lolth. One of the first sources to deal with them, The Vault of the Drow, described a lot about the Vault and the city therein, and they were a functioning if troubled society. Later sources removed nuance by promoting their entire society to Always Chaotic Evil dark elf badasses, until eventually different interpretations were built up again.
  • Another Forgotten Realms example: the Red Wizards of Thay. They used to be an extremely powerful and influential organization of (mostly) amoral/evil wizards. Now they are band of loosely connected merchant arcanists who make a, admittedly profitable, living trading magical items. This is a justified case: their own leader launched a coup in their homeland of Thay that his lieutenants the zulkirs did not want. When they rebelled against him he unleashed the Spellplague against his own followers. The last of the zulkirs then sacrificed themselves to prevent their treacherous leader's ascension to godhood. Without their leaders, and beset on all sides by their many enemies, the Red Wizards were forced to disband their once powerful organization and focus solely on their front business of magical item trading to survive.
  • Warhammer 40,000:
    • The Necrons and their C'Tan gods began as a supremely enigmatic group of Eldritch Abominations with ultimately unknown designs for the galaxy in general and mankind in particular. They had few unit selections and no real characters because the vast majority of their forces simply had not awakened yet, or at least had left no survivors to report their existence, and ended up with a reputation for being Creator's Pets due to their implication of being ultimately unstoppable, despite two other major factions being just as doomsday-ish. Then, starting with the Fifth Edition, they started getting development and have been subjected to a nonstop Worf effect by everyone with no end in sight. By 4th Edition, some parts of the fluff were just merciless and humiliating for the Eldar. 7th Edition reversed a lot of the damage and made them top tier to boot.
    • The Avatar of Khaine. A physical manifestation of the Ax-Crazy Eldar god of war. He used to be a nigh-unstoppable close-combat beatstick for the army, yet later fluff has it constantly being beaten and overwhelmed to make another character look more badass.
    • The God Emperor went through this after the Horus Heresy, rather understandably. Before that whole mess, he was the greatest psyker in the galaxy, a mighty warrior, a genius scientist and ruled over an impossibly vast interstellar empire. You could've called him a God without being accused of hyperbole or exaggeration. However, after he was wounded by Horus and had to go on life support... Well... Here's before and after.
    • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar: Nagash, arguably the most terrifying villain in Warhammer Fantasy bar Chaos Gods is currently suffering from a hard case of this in Age of Sigmar.
    • Any army with a Codex or Army Book designed in a previous edition will end up undergoing this as time marches on and they become less and less effective, to the point of being unusable, on the tabletop.
  • From Vampire: The Masquerade, we get the Sabbat. Initially portrayed as something like The Lost Boys, they get watered down slightly in that, indeed, they do have their own rules after all. An odd case, though, goes to the Tzimisce, the resident Body Horror masters. A poorly-received book posited that their powers were really an Eldritch Abomination plague, and this actually made them less awesome somehow. Later books ignored this in general.
  • This trope is inherent to virtually any campaign that actually gives stats to its gods. Some settings avert this by having enemies above a certain power level being unstatted, but killable if the players come up with a plausible means to do so. Others do their level best to spend five hundred to a thousand words saying "You lose" in attribute and skill form. Justifiable in some settings more than others — Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk have gods dying to mortals be rare, but not unheard of events, but there's no excuse for statting up Cthulhu in D&D.

  • Gettin' Down in Your Town:
    • While the Turtles were hit with Adaptational Wimp already, in Coming Out of Their Shells they actually got one fight scene and were able to save the day. In Gettin' Down in Your Town is only one fight scene... and it's when they have Casey fight for them.
    • Most versions of the Shredder are skilled fighters who take coordinated attacks from multiple fighters (even when Flanderization makes him goofier and less competent) to pose enough of a threat to him. Even in Coming Out of Their Shells, it took all four of the Turtles working together to banish Shredder to a Prison Dimension. Here though, Casey Jones manages to win in a fight against him barehanded.

    Video Games 
  • The King of Fighters: Terry Bogard, Ryo Sakazaki, and Robert Garcia were once the heroes of South Town in Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting respectively. But they've steadily been pushed further into the background and reduced to comic relief ever since joining the KOF roster.
  • In Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance, Naesala takes advantage of the Begnion senators' greed by looting their ships and selling the swag to the others. He also sells his best friend for a nice sum. Whether or not he's being truthful when he says he planned to rescue him is up to you. In the sequel Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, it turns out Naesala is just the poor victim of the blood pact. It is never explained how he was able to swindle the senators while being forced to obey their will. Notably, he gets ordered around by a thirteen-year-old girl.
  • Super Mario Bros.:
    • Bowser goes back and forth between this and taking a level in badass. He varies between a genuine threat to the Mushroom Kingdom and a Big Bad Wannabe that pines for Peach's love or a harmless villain that go-karts with Mario. Generally, the main platformer series portray him as the former, while the spinoffs portray him as the latter. The two RPG series play with this as well, despite him overall being somewhere in the middle in terms of Super Mario as a whole (less competent than in the platformers, but more competent than in other spin-off series). He had a massive downgrade between the first Paper Mario and its sequel The Thousand Year Door, where he was the Big Bad of the former and a complete joke in the latter, constantly having his cluelessness and tendency to always be two steps behind Mario Played for Laughs. He then gets even less threatening in Super Paper Mario. Despite the previous game treating him as a joke in terms of personality, it did at least give him a boss fight that established him as a combat threat on the level of the game’s main villains. Super Paper Mario, meanwhile, has him get defeated rather easily early on and then join Mario’s team for the rest of the game. He even carries over his more comedic and less threatening personality to boot. The Mario & Luigi games mostly invert it, where he goes from being an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain and then possessed by the actual Big Bad in the first two games, then gets Promoted to Playable and becomes somewhat more competent in Bowser’s Inside Story, and then successfully outwits the villain and takes over as the real Big Bad in Dream Team.
    • The Koopa Troopas. In every 3D platform game, they're significantly less threatening than they are in the 2D Mario games, even being completely unable to hurt Mario in Super Mario 64. Goombas, on the other hand...
    • Chargin' Chucks from Super Mario World in particular get hit with this hard. In their debut game, they were one of the most fearsome enemies in the game. They could chuck baseballs, footballs, dig up rocks, split themselves into three, leap high and forward, and took up to six hits to defeat. When they finally make their 3D Mario game debut in Super Mario 3D World, all they can do is, well, charge and only take two hits to defeat. It's easy to say they got rusty over the years.
  • Axel and Riku from the Kingdom Hearts series. Many suspect that the popularity of these characters and their expanded roles as a result are chiefly to blame for this.
    • In the first game his ambition, Riku's independence and pro-activity firmly cast him as an awesome Anti-Hero/Villain dedicated to saving Kairi no matter what the cost. That doesn't really work out. Thanks also in due part by the Reverse/Rebirth mode of Chain of Memories, in which he is pressured by an enigmatic and morally ambiguous Stealth Mentor into accepting the darkness in his heart which makes him more powerful but much less determined and proactive as a result, his independent spirit is all but absent in the sequel, where for the vast majority of the game he is content to play the role of the Black Cloak-wearing Mysterious Protector and wait for Sora to do the real hero work. Even in III despite being named the Keyblade Master by Yen Sid, he gets constantly overwhelmed by the Demon Tower even though Aqua previously defeated them, requiring Sora to save him.
    • Axel was a cocky Manipulative, Magnificent Bastard in Chain of Memories and in Kingdom Hearts II, became a wimp who got his ass handed to him easily, failed to really think things through despite previously showcased to be capable of extensive planning, and had an unhealthy obsession with a fifteen-year-old boy. Hell in III despite becoming a Keyblade wielder, his performance was even worse than the previous games as he was easily dispatched by Terranort and lost to Saix & Xion before Xemnas destroys his Keyblade, requiring Sora to save him.
  • In the original Backyard Sports games, Pete Wheeler could master everything with his blazing speed. He eventually degraded into being the same as the other characters, thanks to the pros. He also Took a Level in Dumbass.
  • Resident Evil:
    • The series accidentally did this in reverse to Rebecca Chambers, by giving her a badass upgrade in the prequel, where she's a player character and therefore pretty competent. Some time between then and running into Chris in the original game, she apparently snapped from the sheer horror around her and lost all her zombie-killing skills. It's played straight in The Stage and Vendetta, where she goes from part of an elite team of cops to a university professor. In The Stage, she is completely unable to shoot her former (now zombified) acquaintances, and is held hostage twice, with the villain lampshading it to boot. In Vendetta, the trailer even spoils she'll be held hostage again in an I Have You Now, My Pretty way.
    • Chris Redfield also had it bad for good time, despite being the frigging The Hero of franchise, when Resident Evil 2 introduced Leon S. Kennedy as the new protagonist Chris seriously degraded in popularity. Though Leon being a rookie cop and Chris being a trained veteran you’d think would seemly qualify Leon for The Scrappy inferior status, thanks the sheer coolness of Leon and quality of the games he stared in (Resident Evil 2 and the record breaking Resident Evil 4) Leon far surpassed Chris, who was left looking like a stock extra in G.I. Joe in comparison.
    • Resident Evil 5 did its best to inject life and coolness back into Chris, having him pull some pretty outrageously badass moves like matching Wesker in combat and literally punching boulders apart but despite this display Chris still lacked the quick wit and suaveness that the fans adored about Leon. Resident Evil 6 is his lowest point becoming a violent angsty alcoholic with amnesia after the death of his men who has to be talked back into action by his stock partner Piers. To be fair to Chris, Leon also goes through some emo funk in the same game and even some suicidal inclinations not remotely present before. Even in the Resident Evil CG movies, Chris draws the short straw only appearing just recently in Resident Evil: Vendetta, when Leon rocked the previous two movies and Chris is forced to share spotlight with Leon whom even saves Chris’s life during a Big Damn Heroes moment in the climax.
    • You can make a good argument for Jill Valentine succumbing to this. Like Chris, she’s an absolute badass in the first game and even more so in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, where she’s a One-Woman Army who defeats The Dreaded Implacable Man all by herself. In the following games she’s regulated to being just Chris’s hot partner such as Resident Evil: Revelations where she eventually gets captured and worse still in Resident Evil 5 she seemingly killed off in a Flash Back before the game even starts and used as source of Angst for Chris and replaced with Sheva. The Reveal that’s she the puppet of Wesker in what basically is a Hypnotize the Captive situation and has to be saved by Chris again isn’t satisfying in the slightest nor the fact she doesn’t get to kill Wesker alongside Chris and is only playable in the DLC. Even RE3 remake had Jill get clobbered around by Nemesis in cutscenes for the sake of drama forcing Carlos to save her butt five times unlike the 1999 version, where she’s the one who saved Carlos (while infected) and only succumbed her wound after kicking Nemesis’s ass. Capcom putting Jill Out of Focus in the series after RE5 also didn’t help matters.
  • There is a particularly ridiculous and instantaneous example of this in The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. In The Wind Waker, Tetra is a badass pirate who can certainly take care of herself and is secretly Princess Zelda, who fights alongside Link in the final battle against Ganon. In the sequel, she is put out of commission at the very start of the game, and at the end when she's freed, does nothing to contribute to the final battle.
  • Justified in the Crash Bandicoot series: Crunch Bandicoot made his debut as a gruff and cocky villain working under Doctor Cortex. After being knocked out of Doctor Cortex's control and joining the Bandicoot family, Crunch became The Atoner and softened his ways considerably in an attempt to be a positive role model to children.
  • Cobra from Silent Scope fell hard in just two games. In the first, you had to kill him while chasing him in a moving vehicle, with his hostage just inches away...whereupon he hijacks a trailer and comes after you again. (The only way to avoid this was to take him down in the stadium, which itself is at least the second hardest boss fight in the game.) In the second game, while he's still a tough nut, you only need to kill him once, and he's an absolute coward who hides behind a hostage the entire battle ( the fact that he's fighting two guys at once). In the third game, he's nothing but an afterthought you obliterate in the first mission.
  • A common criticism of StarCraft II is that this happens to the Queen of Blades herself at the ending. Dropping from one of the most powerful characters and queen bitch of the universe to a Damsel in Distress in one scene? The fans did not enjoy this at all. Reversed in the next part of the game, though.
  • Poor Mr. Cash. Not only a total badass, but the triumphant hero of Arkham Asylum: Living Hell. Then the Arkham Asylum video game came along and turned Aaron into little more than a foul mouthed Distressed Dude... Though this mainly because the game focuses on Batman. But since Cash is one of the few survivors of what happened, any of his actions were an Offscreen Moment of Awesome.
  • Played for Laughs in Viewtiful Joe with Alastor. In both games he starts out relatively badass, dying in some tragic way by the end of his appearance...and then after that he'll start whining and complaining about his part being over already and begging to be given more screentime.
  • In Dead Space 2, we first meet Ellie holding her own against a horde of Necromorphs, she protects Stross while Isaac is working on objectives in other areas of the Sprawl, and when Stross loses his mind and gouges out her eye with a screwdriver, her response is to find a length of pipe and bludgeon him. In Dead Space 3, she's the point of a love triangle subplot, spends the entire game unarmed, and Danik eventually uses her to get the Codex.
  • Played for Laughs in Hyperdimension Neptunia V when Neptune complains that she went from level 99 all the way back to level one (and yes, she really says it like that) while Nepgear, the protagonist of the previous game, is the Crutch Character but still at a low level.
  • In F-Zero GX, Black Shadow gets hit hard with this. His status as feared villain goes right out the window in the first cutscene of the story mode with the arrival of Deathborn.
  • In RuneScape, we have a trio of gods getting hit with this. Guthix, Saradomin and Zamorak were originally capital-G Gods with presumed near-omnipotence, the latter two only held in check by the former's threat to nuke the world if they intervened directly. They were also the source of the Protection Prayers, which are Game-Breaker abilities requiring bosses to have mechanics specifically to counter them in order to be a challenge at all. Now, Guthix is dead, and Saradomin and Zamorak are fighting in surprisingly small physical bodies (only the size of the game's largest bosses) with a surprisingly small and weak-looking Beam-O-War. Considering these were the guys who made the Wilderness by fighting at full power, you'd expect their Beam-O-War to at least level Lumbridge, if not create a World-Wrecking Wave, and cover whole map in blinding light.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • Miles "Tails" Prower, Sonic's right-hand man. In the Classic games he was a standard Tagalong Kid Sidekick but he could definitely keep up with Sonic and was just as capable as him taking on Eggman. In the Adventure series he undergoes major Character Development to stop relying on Sonic to always have his back and the result is him beating Eggman and saving Station Square by himself, and then going on to come up with a clever plan to disable one of the most dangerous superweapons in the Sonic universe. Nowadays he hardly fights and is more than content with just standing on the sidelines while Sonic handles all of the work; tellingly he's easily frightened by some Nightmares in Unleashed when he's done far greater feats in the past. What's more, in Sonic Adventure he's fully capable of defeating the dark god Chaos after it's already absorbed four Chaos Emeralds, but in Sonic Forces, he is utterly terrified of its most basic form. This is actually discussed in Sonic Frontiers as Tails comes to realize that being in Sonic's shadow negated those awesome moments and caused him to regress and he vows to step out and become a stronger person.
    • Once considered Sonic's equal and the respected guardian of a powerful artifact, Knuckles the Echidna has now devolved into a Butt-Monkey who always gets tricked by an outside party and is the embodiment of Dumb Muscle. He's hardly even an important character anymore, either. The fandom was burnt out on playing multiple characters and wanted to go back to just Sonic. Tails has gotten better since Sonic Colors; meanwhile, Knuckles is still a butt monkey, but Sonic Boom turns him into the funniest and most likable character. Of course, he stills suffers from flanderization and became nothing more than a piece of Dumb Muscle.
  • Usually, the Ottoman Empire in Victoria: An Empire Under The Sun. It starts the game as a Great Power, up there with France, the United States and, of course, The British Empire. However, the highly illiterate, hidebound and theocratic society has a tendency to not advance forward like Western world does. By the later period of the game's timeframe, they're generally pushovers. Of course, a player character can avert this, but they're harder to play as than some other nations.
  • The Borg and Species 8472 (here called the Undine) had a bouncing effect in terms of Decay in Star Trek Online. When they're first brought in, they're shown to be a much greater threat than before. However, a lack of appearance from the Undine neuter their badassness while Power Creep forces the Borg into this trope. The Undine later roared back in full force.
  • Pokémon:
    • The Psychic type has slowly been undergoing this over the years. In Pokémon Red and Blue, Psychic-types had high Special stats, allowing them to dish out Special damage as well as take it, were often fast, and had practically no weaknesses. That the strongest Pokémon in the game, Mewtwo, was a Psychic also helped. Pokémon Gold and Silver, however, not only split Special into two stats (elaborated on down below), but also introduced the Dark and Steel types, both of which resist Psychic-types (the former being a weakness and being immune to them). The Physical/Special split of moves introduced in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl also cut their effectiveness, making once viable moves now useless on them. Later generations added more and more powerful Ghost-, Dark- and Bug-type moves and Pokémon, giving them more threats to be wary of. While a few Psychic-types are still good, it's now mostly in spite of their type and not because of it, and they're nowhere near the Game Breakers they were in Gen I.
    • Pokémon Gold and Silver split the Special stat into two stats — Special Attack and Special Defense. A Pokémon's old Special became one stat, while the other was brand new. For some, this cut their usefulness - Gyarados' Special Attack was reduced, Flareon couldn't use special moves to work around its poor physical movepool as effectively anymore, and many special Lightning Bruisers (like the aforementioned Psychic-types) became Glass Cannons.
    • Around Gen V, the Dragon type was initially regarded as the best type in the game thanks to standout Pokémon like Hydreigon, Garchomp and Salamence, all boasting great stats and good movepools. The type itself also resisted many common types and had only two weaknesses - itself, and Ice. Gen VI introduced the Fairy type, which was immune to Dragon-types while super effective against them. The Dragon-type's usefulness plummeted (especially poor Hydreigon, who ended up with a 4x weakness to it).
    • Some Normal-types like Persian, Tauros and Snorlax were very good in the days of Red/Blue, with access to a wide movepool for type coverage, hitting most types for at least neutral damage, all around good stats. As the games went on (with changing game mechanics and Power Creep setting in with the introduction of more specialized Pokémon), most of those former Lightning Bruisers ended up becoming more of a Jack of All Stats with their movepools reduced in usefulness from before.
    • In Diamond/Pearl, Regigigas is fought at Level 70, making it a challenging battle. In Platinum, for whatever reason, it was lowered to Level 1, making it far less challenging to fight (but harder to capture... unless you have False Swipe).
    • Bronzong and Metagross were once very good, with only two weaknesses as Steel/Psychic-types (and Bronzong's abilities would cut that down to one, and the opponent wouldn't know which weakness was left). That changed with Gen VI, which removed Steel's resistance to Dark and Ghost. Subsequently, Bronzong and Metagross became easier to take down (and Metagross's Meteor Mash move had its power reduced).
    • Moves change in power, effect and accuracy across generations, potentially undergoing this. For example, in Red/Blue, Blizzard had 120 power and 90% accuracy, and Hyper Beam didn't require a recharge turn if it defeated a Pokémon. In later games, Blizzard's accuracy became 70% (and Gen VI made its power 110), and Hyper Beam now always requires a recharge turn after use.
    • Mewtwo, while not as extreme as other Pokémon, did undergo this for a while. Once the most powerful Pokémon, Mewtwo's ability to take special hits was cut by the Special stat split, the introduction of Dark-types, Steel-types, Blissey, and more Pokémon with similar or higher base stat totals made countering Mewtwo easier, and the physical/special split of moves made many once-good special moves become physical (which Mewtwo isn't as good with). Then Gen V gave Mewtwo a Secret Art that destroys Special Attack walls, and Gen VI gave it two Mega Evolutions with the highest base stats of any Pokémon (rivalled only by Mega Rayquaza).
    • Dark Void was once a true nightmare to face, being an 80% accurate move which puts all enemy Pokémon on the field to sleep, and while normally only learnable by Darkrai (which can also inflict damage on sleeping Pokémon with its Ability, Bad Dreams), Smeargle can also learn it. Pokémon Sun and Moon nerfed it hard by not only making it fail if used by anything that's not Darkrai (or a Ditto), but also dropping its accuracy to 50%, making it significantly less reliable. While Darkrai still has high Speed and Special Attack stats to remain a threat, it can't use its Ability as effectively as it once could (suffice to say, Smeargle feels the nerf hardest).
    • Many Pokémon from the first two generations had fairly balanced stats that let them serve as a Jack of All Stats, such as Golduck, Xatu, and Dewgong. As more games come out, many new Pokémon are more specialized and tend to reduce a lot of earlier Pokémon to Master of None status.
  • In Spyro: Year of the Dragon Bianca is a competent and rather powerful sorceress. In one of the handheld Spyro the Dragon games she is instead a performance magician.
  • Final Fantasy:
  • In Ōkami, the legendary hero Nagi slays the last head of the multi-headed dragon demon Orochi by himself, with the player character, the goddess Amaterasu, destroying the rest of the heads. His descendant Susano repeats this act against a reanimated Orochi a hundred years later. Unfortunately for Nagi, it is revealed in the sequel Ōkamiden that another god (the sequel's player character) slashed open the final head for him, negating much of his credit. To rub the salt in, Susano still manages to destroy Orochi's last head without any player intervention.
  • HK-47 is one of the very few enemies in Star Wars: The Old Republic the player fights more than once if they do all the Flashpoints, and he suffers from this in his second battle. In the first fight he's pretty much a Puzzle Boss multistage battle with an endless army of mooks behind him and can cause massive damage on his own, during the second he fights you completely alone, has no tricks to aid him, and while he is as powerful as any Flashpoint enemy that fights on his own and can still cause large amounts of damage it's not anywhere near as much as the first fight which is justified as he doesn't have the resources of The Foundry behind him the second time. While the player's group will just barely manage to beat HK after a tense battle the second fight is near effortless in comparison.
  • Dark Seed: While Mike Dawson's no Action Hero in the first game, he's still a brave and intelligent man who handles the situation without too much trouble. In the sequel, however, he becomes a whiny, cowardly manchild who uses Dark World gadgets to cheat at carnival games because he can't win them legitimately.
  • In The Lucky Dime Caper starring Donald Duck, Donald fought off bosses such as a bear and a lion and was armed with weapons such as a hammer and a disc. In the sequel, Deep Duck Trouble, Donald has neither of those weapons, so his basic method of attacking his enemies is kicking blocks at them or jumping on them. He also flees from bosses such as a gorilla, a shark, and a falcon instead of directly fighting them.

    Web Animation 
  • An interesting case concerning various GoAnimate "Grounded" videos. The target of the groundings start off as badass, being able to pull off all of their little stunts no matter how harmless or heinous it is, but the second they are caught, the badassness evaporates — once the red screen filter comes and the "OHOHOHOHOHOHOH!" starts flying, the person is helpless and they immediately run to their room to cry.
  • Red vs. Blue: Zero has Carolina, Washington, and Tucker, the most competent and badass members of the main cast, return just to get their asses kicked by Viper. Tucker and Washington spend the rest of the season hospitalized and not doing anything relevant, while Carolina is sidelined in a mentor role and, outside of a few badass moments, is still easily beaten by the villains.

  • Kevin & Kell:
    • Uber-wolf R.L. R.L. begins the strip as the most fearsome predator at Heard Thinners, Inc. He does not lose his hunting skills, but after his medical domestication and marriage to Kevin's ex-wife Angelique, R.L now allows his rabbit wife to keep him collared and leashed. He fears smelly retribution if he fails to be a good father to his twenty skunk step-children.
    • Later on, he's arrested for crimes against sapience, becomes a fugitive from the law, and as of 2019 spends his life holed up in a bunker, occasionally hunting like a beast for sport. A far cry from the Corrupt Corporate Executive Manipulative Bastard he once was.

    Web Videos 
  • Black Yoshi from SuperMarioLogan has suffered from this, going from a ruthless anti-hero gangster to a hilariously pathetic crybaby that constantly whines and begs for Mario to buy him the next Call of Duty game.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Back to the Future film trilogy, Marty McFly was breaking the time barrier and facing off against terrorists and western gunmen. In the animated series, he needs constant supervision from at least one of the Browns.
  • Rampage of Beast Wars, who starts out as a psychotic Mighty Glacier who Megatron barely keeps under control, due to being (among other things) unkillable. He is progressively nerfed after this, becoming one of the Predacon troops (if still psychotic) and gets knocked around by Depth Charge. He even loses his invincibility in the last episode for no apparent reason. That could have something to do with the Energon blades/spikes they were using still being in their raw, unstable state.
  • Ben 10:
    • The titular hero's nemesis and Evil Counterpart Kevin 11 suffers this through a toned down version of Redemption Demotion; in the original series, he was an 11-year-old Ax-Crazy Creepy Child who could actually stand against Ben of his own. The sequel Ben 10: Alien Force, taking place after a 5-year Time Skip, has him going through a Heel–Face Turn and becoming an Anti-Hero. While he remained useful, he was now unable to fully use his abilities which was later explained by the fact it was his powers that caused him to go psychotic when he abused them, resulting in him becoming ridiculously weak compared to before (just before his Heel–Face Turn, he fights Ben and is easily defeated). To sum up, he went from Ben's second most dangerous arc-foe to the weakest of the protagonists.
    • The protagonist himself went through this when the writers attempt to do a Character Rerailment on him in Ben 10: Omniverse. Sadly, this had the side effect to remove all the badassery he had gained over the course of the AUF era, making him an immature, clumsy, bumbling Idiot Hero who can't use the Omnitrix right even after all those years.
  • Gorgonzola from Chowder. At the beginning, he was more sarcastic and intimidating (to Chowder at least). Now he's a bit of a punching bag for the other characters, frequently getting his ass handed to him. People have said this happened when his master, Stilton, was introduced. To be fair, he wasn't seen in many episodes before that point.
  • Codename: Kids Next Door:
    • Number 4 started out as a competent badass who enjoyed a good fight every now and then and had some brilliant tactics to his plans, in later episodes he became very whiny, a lot less intelligent, and lost nearly every fight he was involved in.
    • Father lost a lot of his credibility after "Operation G.R.A.D.U.A.T.I.O.N", and lost it completely when his role as the sinister main villain was taken away from him by Grandfather in "Operation Z.E.R.O". Even after Grandfather was defeated, Father never fully recovered. Also qualifies as Villain Decay.
  • Skulker in Danny Phantom (Ghost Zone's Greatest Hunter) is able to take down nearly any ghostly beast—big or small—without any fear. He hunts for sport and Danny Phantom is his only real challenge; otherwise, he's competent. Then by the last season, in one episode, it's spurred away: his motivation to hunt Danny is just to impress his one-time girlfriend (who points out how horrible he does said job despite no evidence of such), and despite handling a giant ghost monster in the same episode, is unable to fight back against a regular teeny bird! A later episode had him running away from mutant unicorns instead of combating. Other episodes seem to depict him back to his badass self, but they're often minor.
  • Dog City: Rosie O'Gravy, dedicated cop and a true badass in her own right, suffered from this horribly as she got downsized into starring in segments featuring her niece Dot, cutting her out of the major stories.
  • The Dreamstone:
    • Within the duration between the first and second season premieres, Rufus devolved from a Cloud Cuckoo Lander Badass Adorable with a sword to a generic Useless Meddling Kid. Amberley ended up the same, most episodes ending with them getting Overshadowed by Awesome with the Dream Maker or the Wuts. They gradually reverted back in Seasons Three and Four, though still had fluctuations.
    • In the pilot and occasions in Season One, Zordrak was an effective Big Bad, often plotting schemes competently and sometimes taking control of the situation himself, generally only losing due to his Urpney minions' bumbling and cowardice when left to their own devices. By Season Two he is a complete Orcus on His Throne, relying on Urpgor for any brainpower and contributing little besides growling at the Urpneys to hurry up and get the stone.
  • DuckTales (2017):
    • Scrooge McDuck was once the poster child for Cool Old Guy, a worldwide adventurer who tackled any danger in both the original comics and the first cartoon. Even in the reboot series in the pilot he notably outsmarted a ghost, singlehandedly took on a dragon and led the family through Atlantis. After that, thanks to a combination of the show's Denser and Wackier tone and the focus shifting to the children characters, he's mainly relegated to either sitting out while everyone else handles the adventure or constantly needing to be rescued by the kids. Occasionally a moment comes up that shows he still has his old skills, but they occur much more sparingly here.
    • In the original show, Launchpad McQuack is one of the most dangerous members of the cast besides Scrooge himself. During the first season alone, he saves the triplets from hostile aliens, pulls off a supposedly impossible maneuver to rescue Scrooge during an aerial battle with the Beagle Boys, and successfully substitutes for a spy. The reboot version gets sidelined or becomes useless in a fight quite a bit more frequently, especially because he's also much ditzier.
  • Family Guy:
    • Stewie started the series as an aggressive, psychotic, evil genius plotting to take over the world and kill his mother, but by the fourth season, he became much more effeminate, petty, occasionally overly naive, and immature, seemingly abandoning his evil ways. Now his evil-ness is only occasionally mentioned, usually for a quick joke. Though this is unlike most examples, as this was probably because they didn't think it would be funny for much longer (on the other hand, many fans think that reducing him to a walking gay joke is even less funny.) The two-parter "Stewie Kills Lois"/"Lois Kills Stewie" addresses this Failure Is the Only Option issue. The ending reveals most of it was a virtual reality simulation he was viewing to see what things would be like if he did decide to commit himself to his ambitions right now. It turns out that though he could pull off world domination, in the end he'd be killed. (There's some funny Lampshade Hanging with Brian's comments on this story thus being a big tease.)
    • Joe Swanson has also suffered from this. In the beginning, while the show occasionally made jokes about his disability, he was a competent police officer who could hold his own in a fight despite being handicapped. After the show was uncancelled, while he still has moments of badassery, he is made fun of for his disability all the time and is often seen as being weak for it, to the point where the show outright said he wore diapers!
  • Hoss Delgado and Grim from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy fit this trope. Grim's first appearance in the first episode shows him as a terrifying spirit that collects people when it's their time to die. Starting in his very next appearance, he obeys the every command of Billy and Mandy, and things only get worse from then on. Hoss is more or less a competent badass in his first appearance, but in the TV spin-off Underfist, he lives with his mom in a trailer, is forced to work with several monsters just because Mandy says so, and he also gets beaten up possibly more than any other character in the story. He even admits that he has been wetting his bed for the last thirty years and a marshmallow bunny is the reason he hates monsters so much. A far cry from what he once was.
  • Skeletor from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983), a classic two-dimensional villain with no previous redeeming qualities whatsoever, abruptly turns good for no apparent reason other than "the Spirit of Christmas" in the He-Man and She-Ra Holiday Special. This had no bearing on later evil; it was just something the eighties did, apparently. Three words: Staff Child Psychologist.
  • Johnny Bravo: The title character started out with about average intelligence, and was a skilled enough martial artist to subdue a crocodile with his bare hands. While he was overconfident, reckless and socially inept, he was far from a complete punching bag. But in later seasons, he degenerated into a stupid, sexist, immature loser meathead who got repeatedly humiliated by six-year-olds. The final season, however, would make efforts to return him to his earlier characterization, undoing some of the decay he suffered.
  • The Legend of Korra: The seventy-year gap between its predecessor Avatar: The Last Airbender and Korra's present-day has seen The Order of the White Lotus change from a tight-knit elite group of Old Masters to a much more diluted Hero Secret Service charged with protecting Avatar Korra, who spends much of her time chafing under their limits and conspiring ways to Ditch the Bodyguards, often successfully. It is, however, justified in that those Old Masters are implied to be dead and that Korra is getting assistance in evading them from Reasonable Authority Figures Katara and Tenzin. Plus, the guys from the original series were the leaders of the White Lotus, while in Korra we mostly see the lower-tier members. This is even acknowledged in Book 3 by the villains.
  • Nala in The Lion Guard, probably in order to make the protagonists look better. She fought off a group of hyenas easily in the first film, but needed her son Kion to save her from three hyenas in the show.
  • Megan from My Little Pony in the first special was a rough cowgirl, with a bulky frame (for a 12-year-old girl, that is) and wasn't afraid of fighting barehanded against monsters or diving downstream to rescue a friend, without mentioning how at the end of the first TV special, she kills Tirac. Her second TV special turned her into a feminine Bishoujo girl and her Movie/TV series final redesign turned her into a boney girl who kept being overpowered by dumb enemies or falling for the dumbest traps and was nowhere as tough or competent as the original Megan.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Shining Armor went from a Captain of the Royal Guard to getting his butt constantly handed to him by the Big Bad and making a fool of himself in front of the main cast. It's actually gotten to the point where he cries at least once an appearance in later episodes. Ever since Flurry Heart was born he doesn't even try anymore, having gone from a character who would charge the likes of King Sombra and Lord Tirek despite knowing he was vastly outmatched to submitting and kneeling to Sombra without a fight, cowering in the face of a winterchilla (a giant rabbit) while his sister has to throw up a barrier instead, and outright being told to sit out the final battle against the Legion of Doom.
    • Princess Celestia also gets increasingly hit by this trope in later seasons. As a millenia-old Physical God, ruler of her own nation, and universally renowned hero with numerous Eldritch Abomination battle victories under her belt, you would expect her to effortlessly dominate virtually all threats the show's protagonists face. In the show's early run, she almost always had a good reason for why she didn't. Later on, however, she starts getting defeated for increasingly less convincing reasons — after all, there wouldn't be much of a story if she solved all of their problems effortlessly. This reached its head in the movie where she seems to just stand there and let herself get turned to stone whereas Cadance and Luna at least make attempts to fight back.
    • The Mane Six also go through this in the movie. While it's excusable for Rarity due to her being a unicorn against anti-magic armor, Applejack and Rainbow Dash in the beginning forget that they can fight off the bad guys, and even during the big fight all Applejack does is tie a rope around some mooks. Fluttershy also goes through this, despite being previously hinted at having just as much flying potential as Rainbow Dash. The most egregious of it happens to Twilight Sparkle in that she's rarely shown using any of the advanced magical techniques shown throughout the series, instead opting for basic levitation and magic blasts. When she's captured by Tempest Shadow, she doesn't think to teleport or at least turn herself into a small creature like a Breezy to escape, instead opting to blast at the cage she's in despite learning the hard way early on that the enemies' technology is resistant to magic. After Tempest's Villain Song, the most she does until her friends come to rescue her is sit around moping while her magic is taken, and after that the only thing she does by herself is save Tempest Shadow when the Storm King betrays her. In essence, she's reduced to a Damsel in Distress until she remembers she's the Princess of Friendship.
  • The animated incarnation of Popeye goes through this something awful. In the Max and Dave Fleischer cartoons, he's truly Nigh-Invulnerable like his comic strip counterpart, to the point where bullets will bounce off him (without having eaten spinach first). By the time Famous Studios starts making the cartoons, Popeye requires spinach to perform even the most mundane feats of strength.
  • The Powerpuff Girls (2016):
    • The girls have taken a huge blow to their power due to the emphasis on comedy and the lower violence levels compared to original cartoon. Bubbles has gotten her arm easily broken and her eye bruised by things that wouldn't even scratch her in the original continuity. The girls in general also tend to get more overwhelmed than before during fights and even get defeated by stuff they originally could beat more easily.
    • All of Mojo Jojo's threatening side seems to have been eliminated in the reboot. He is comedic relief at best.
  • It says something when you were more badass as a baby than you are after hitting puberty, as is the case with Tommy Pickles of Rugrats. With a declaration of "A baby's got to do what a baby's got to do," even when he was aware of the danger such as dealing with "The Junkfood Kid," he never failed to pull out his trusty screwdriver and lead his fellow babies to fun and adventure. Then came All Grown Up! where he's now just another kid with crippling fears, awkwardness and just being well, normal. Of course Tommy is no longer protected by Achievements in Ignorance and Improbable Infant Survival.
  • The Simpsons:
    • An In-Universe example occurs in one episode where a TV character who Homer shares his name with is downgraded from competent badass to blithering idiot, much to Homer's dismay.
    • Skinner. Early on his characterization revolves heavily around the fact that he's a veteran. He's seen being the Determinator Non-Giving-Up School Guy pursuing Bart. He also intimidates and then beats up two lawyers sent by Disney to close a fair at the school. Modern day Skinner is mostly defined by how he's bossed around by his mom, as well as his boring outlook on life.
  • Plankton from SpongeBob SquarePants went from a menacing threat that always came close to getting the Krabby Patty formula (and actually succeeds in The Movie) to an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain in the later seasons. At least part of this however is Played for Laughs as a result of amping up the negative qualities of the "heroes", especially his Arch-Enemy Mr. Krabs, often conveying them as Eviler than Thou (or at least more insufferable) to the point Plankton himself seems placid and down to earth.
  • In Star Wars: The Clone Wars:
    • General Grievous went from being the unstoppably badass Jedi killer introduced in Star Wars: Clone Wars to the moderately badass Dirty Coward he was in Revenge of the Sith. He tries to make up for it with becoming a Combat Pragmatist instead, with more-or-less success.
    • Savage Opress. During the Nightsisters and Brothers arc, he is initially capable of fighting Obi-Wan and Anakin at the same time, and even choking Dooku and Ventress in a moment of blind rage. In his subsequent appearances, Savage is usually no match for Obi-Wan or Maul, he is even humiliated by Obi-Wan despite having the help of his brother.
  • Brother Blood of Teen Titans is introduced as the suave, charismatic headmaster of the HIVE (a supervillain training center) using a combination of Mind Control and force of personality to make his "students" fanatically loyal and takes his defeat in stride. In his next appearance, he's making sloppy mistakes, cornball puns, and goes into petulant rages at the top of a hat- and now it seems he's also so cruel that no one would willingly work for him without Mind Control. Oddly, he also got to show off new powers and his amazing martial arts skills, so his fighting ability went up even as his competence and cool factor went down.
  • Total Drama:
    • Duncan started out as a bad boy jerkass from juvie who was able to intimidate most of the other campers. Come the next two seasons, possibly due to a Relationship Upgrade with Courtney, he starts to lose the intimidating aspect of him and occasionally gets his ass handed to him by some of the other campers. Two of which happen to Harold and Cody, the two nerdiest characters in the show. Although Duncan does get some of his badassery back late Season 3, when he teams up with Alejandro and starts acting like a Manipulative Bastard...but he fails at even that in the end. Season 5 builds an entire subplot around Duncan's badass decay. After being placed on the Heroic Hamsters team, he gradually gets "sucked into their niceness" and becomes a huge sweetheart, to his horror and everyone else's amusement. His desperation to prove that he is still bad leads to him blowing up Chris' cottage, resulting in his subsequent arrest and removal from the competition. At least his badass nature has been restored.
    • Scott started off as a devious, street-smart badass who viewed all of the contestants as objects to the point that he seemed like a genuine sociopath. A few episodes into season five, his tendency to be Book Dumb was Flanderized into full-blown idiocy, with all of his evil traits totally forgotten. Oddly enough, like Duncan, none of this happened until he got a crush on Courtney.
  • Starscream of Transformers: Prime, so very, very much. In the pilot, he was a genuinely frightening, comparatively cool-headed bastardly second in command unrivaled by any other Starscream to date as Cliffjumper found out. Later episodes have seen him as a sniveling coward whose fighting style is roughly 90% cheap shots and beating up badly weakened opponents, when he's not getting his ass kicked. Also, he's consistently upstaged and humiliated by Airachnid, and ruined in "Rock Bottom". Though to be fair he does pretty well in the second half of "Partners," the episode detailing his desertion. He plays Arcee so she doesn't consider him a threat before beating the scrap out of her. Too bad for him she got a Heroic Second Wind. Cementing his downfall, seasons 2 and 3 rather consistently portray him as bumbling comic relief. Although he does get very brief moments to shine, when Rule of Cool calls for it, these happen rarely and he tends to get outdone quickly. In one episode, even his own men call him out briefly on his cowardly attitude.
  • In The Venture Brothers, Brock Samson's love interest accuses him of going through this when he displays uncharacteristic interest in taking care of the kids rather than just guarding them. He is, however, still plenty badass.
  • Valtor (or Baltor, depending on the version you get), from season 3 of Winx Club, was a magnitude better Big Bad than his ridiculous predecessor Lord Darkar. Suave, fascinating, cool, powerful, and when he didn't use Mind Control for his deeds, he fought the heroines in first person (also since the Trix were quite ineffective). He blinded Layla, transformed Faragonda into a tree, made Tecna disappear in a black hole - even if all these events were resolved after a few episodes, they showed he was serious menace. At some point, the authors must have realized he was too powerful, and the fairies had to defeat him sooner or later; so, in the last episodes he became an increasingly stupid cardboard villain and, finally, his handsome appearance was revealed to be the disguise of his true form, a big ugly demon. One of the many wasted opportunities of season 3.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Spikeification, Took A Level In Sadass


Mudkip and Swampert

Mudkip can crush Boulders by standing on them, its final evolution as Swampert is able to drag a Boulder weighing more than a ton.

How well does it match the trope?

4.32 (19 votes)

Example of:

Main / BadassDecay

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