Follow TV Tropes


Bested by the Inexperienced

Go To

"To lose to a mere apprentice... I have been disgraced! Only death can remove this stain upon my honor."
Sir Gawain / Knuckles the Echidna, Sonic and the Black Knight

Sometimes all the experience and training in the world will not protect you. Sometimes luck is not on your side and even the top mercenaries in the world have nothing against luck. Sometimes someone can pick up a gun and manage to take out a few people.


There are four ways that this trope is in effect:

  1. Blind Luck: Someone with little to no training picks up a gun, fires and kills someone who is far better trained. Similar to Accidental Aiming Skills.
  2. Superior Tactics: The inexperienced use tactics that the elites were not prepared for. They may not be the best, but the elites can be surprised. Usually, this would be a Combat Pragmatist.
  3. Cheap Shot: A Dirty Coward shoots the experienced in the back. Falling under In the Back or other cowardly moves.
  4. Non Fatal: The non-lethal variety. Sometimes, a new guy in chess can put someone with practice in checkmate.

Note: cheating does not count because, unlike just being normally inexperienced, cheating means that there are rules being broken and no skilled person can really beat a cheater.

Different from The World's Expert on Getting Killed because that trope is about an expert on a subject being killed by someone/something they are knowledgeable about. This trope is about different levels of training between opponents.


Sister Trope to Beginner's Luck due to both having some degree of luck being involved. Can be joined with Unskilled, but Strong or Hard Work Hardly Works.

This is mostly a Death Trope, so be warned of unmarked spoilers.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Eyeshield 21: Most of the Devilbats are only in their first year of football and while some of them like Sena and Monta have experience that help transitioning to becoming aces they are behind the strongest team by miles in experience and talents. But they manage huge upset thanks to calculated risk and superior tactics of their quarterback Hiruma. One rival even notes most of their plays like option routes and wishbone are too advanced for high school football.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: In Stardust Crusaders, Jotaro faces off against Telence T. D'Arby, a highly skilled pro video gamer, in a baseball video game, despite having never played any video game before. He predictably bungles up most of the first round... until he finally says that he's "gotten the hang of it" and scores a home run, then proceeds to prove that it wasn't blind luck, just ridiculously fast rate of learning. It's only when Telence starts cheating with his mind-reading Stand that Jotaro starts cheating himself (via having his grandfather Joseph surreptitiously hijack the controller).
  • Vinland Saga:
    • Askeladd, one of the most skilled fighters in the manga, is killed when he's blindsided and stabbed in the stomach by Non-Action Guy Canute while busy with another foe. Subverted in that Askeladd's death was a Thanatos Gambit done for Canute's benefit; despite the wound he could probably have kept fighting long enough to take more people with him, but he stops when realizes Canute was the one to wound him.
    • In the second arc, Boisterous Weakling Olmar manages to kill one of Canute's housecarls in a Duel to the Death with a freak stab to the neck, despite being hopelessly outmatched. Subverted in that Canute had rigged the duel by using a third party to distract the housecarl at a critical moment, allowing Olmar to land the blow. Thorgil immediately realizes the duel was fixed when seeing the outcome.
  • In the final chapter of Holyland's story, Yuu, after battling his way to the top of the street fighters' hierarchy of badassitude, is taken down by a cheap shot from a random nobody with a knife trying to make a name out of having defeated the "Thug Hunter". The Stinger at the end of the Where Are They Now epilogue chapter reveals he survived.

    Comic Books 
  • Watchmen: Former superhero Hollis Mason (Nite Owl I) is killed by a gang of street thugs who over power him. Justified because its one against many and he is much older. But he still puts up a good fight.
  • Robin (1993): Edmund Dorrance, a Blind Weaponmaster who is skilled enough to give Lady Shiva a fun fight, is defeated in a fight by Tim while he's still in training due to Tim's meticulous planning. Tim was also careful not to run in, only approaching Dorrance after he had already fought and beat to death a more impulsive attacker.

    Film — Animated 
  • Cars 3: Non race car Cruz Ramirez switches out with Lighting McQueen and is able to win her first race against a number of experienced racers.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Collateral: Max, a cab driver who has probably never held a gun before that night, manages to get the best of Vincent, an infamous and deadly assassin. Vincent follows his training and shoots perfectly for center mass... only for the bullets to harmlessly embed themselves in the metal section of the train door between the two men. Meanwhile Max shoots wildly, and a lucky shot goes through the window and fatally wounds Vincent.
  • Lone Survivor: The Taliban kills three well-trained Navy SEALs and forces the fourth to run.
  • Predators: Non-Action Guy Edwin blindsides Isabelle, a trained soldier and sharpshooter, while she is distracted and stabs her with a knife laced with a paralyzing neurotoxin.
  • True Grit: Young girl Mattie kills Chaney, an experienced outlaw.
  • Red Dawn (1984): The Wolverines are able to kill Russian Spetsnaz. The Spetsnaz are the best of the best in the Russian military.
  • Rambo IV: A missionary kills a soldier with a rock.
  • Gladiator: Commodus attempted to invoke this; he stabs Maximus before their fight to ensure his unlikely victory and thus make it seem like the weaker/less experienced fighter would win. However, Maximus holds out long enough to kill Commodus before succumbing to his wound.
  • A New Hope: With the Informed Ability of Stormtroopers, Luke is surprisingly able to take them down. Not as surprising in later films.
  • The Professional: Formidable badass Leon is killed when Stansfield cowardly shoots him in the back of the head.
  • Whiplash: Andrew loses his position as lead drummer to Connolly. A weaker drummer. Zig-zagged since it was Fletcher's tactic to push Andrew to the edge.
  • The Terminator: Sarah Connor is able to beat an unstoppable death machine without any real training. Somewhat downplayed in that by the time she faces off with the terminator alone, it has been seriously damaged (in fact it's been blown in half) by Kyle Reese, who is not only an experienced soldier but has faced off with terminators before.
  • Logan: Wolverine gets his ass kicked and eventually killed by X-24, his perfect clone. While X-24 is a perfect clone, he doesn't have the experience that Logan has.
  • Green Room: Pat and Amber are able to kill a few Neo-Nazis without any 'real' combat experience. Pat went paintballing and used his tactic of rushing his opponents for that against the neo-nazis.

  • Savages: Pacist turned badass Ben is able to kill numerous cartel soldiers only about two days after learning how to shoot properly.
  • The Wheel of Time: After Mat (a fairly inexperienced combatant) manages to defeat two trained swordsmen with a staff, the teacher who observes this happen takes a moment to remind all the other aspiring swordsmen students present that the greatest Master Swordsman ever to live — an Empowered Badass Normal, veteran of 10,000 combats, who once defeated ten men simultaneously — lost only one fight, to a farmer with a quarterstaff. The point is to never underestimate any opponent, no matter their rank in life, their experience as a fighter, or what weapon they're using.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Wire:
    • In "Clarifications", Omar Little, a Karmic Thief who has spent a decade or more stealing from other criminals and survived numerous shootouts, ambushes, and other predicaments is killed when a kid he doesn't know shoots him in the back of the head to earn some street cred.
    • 14 year old Michael Lee is just being taken into a life of crime during the episode "That's Got His Own" when he is put into a simulated gunfight against Chris Partlow and Snoop, the top assassins/enforcers for the Stanfield gang, which has large swathes of Baltimore in an iron grip. It should be an Unwinnable Training Simulation, but by cleverly using debris in an abandoned building for concealment, Michael manages to lure them into an improvised trap and shoots them both with paintball rounds, winning the "fight".
  • House: Primarily in season four, super-genius House is proven wrong by younger doctors trying to gain a career.
  • Hannibal: In the Season 2 finale, Hannibal Lecter is able to escape from two well trained FBI agents.
  • Deadwood: As Truth in Television, Wild Bill Hicock was shot in the back while playing poker by Jack McCall, who was angry over losing to Bill at cards.
  • The Suite Life on Deck: When Cody is temporarily distracted during his chess championship, he puts London in charge. Despite being a Brainless Beauty, she pulls a move that wins the match against her intelligent and experienced opponent — unfortunately for Cody, this means she wins the title for herself instead of him.
  • Breaking Bad: Walter White is able to use his knowledge of chemistry to create an explosive substance and intimidate veteran cartel member Tuco Salamanca into working with him despite being a mere high school teacher.
  • The Two Ronnies: Played for laughs in one sketch where Ronnie Corbett's character, a squash champion, is incensed that Ronnie Barker's character, a newbie so clueless he can't even get the name of the game right, has effortlessly beaten him.
  • Several times in Highlander:
    • Richie manages to defeat Annie Devlin after Duncan has just begun training him. Duncan shows him how to counter Annie's favorite technique and it works.
    • Later, Richie gets his first kill against the 300-year-old Mako. Granted, Mako might have had the advantage until he wound up trapped by a broken piece of furniture, rendering him unable to maneuver as Richie came to kill him.
    • Duncan himself against the 1500+-year-old Grayson. Duncan is not inexperienced by any means, having been a soldier and warrior for several centuries, but compared to Grayson, who has been a warrior and warmonger all the way back to before the fall of the Roman Empire, he is at a disadvantage. He isn't sure he can beat Grayson until he actually manages to do it, and several seasons later members of The Watchers organization mention that they viewed Duncan's victory as an enormous surprise.
    • A stronger example involving Duncan is his very first fight against another Immortal, before he even knew what an Immortal was. He faced off against Kanewulf the Viking, an Immortal who was several hundred years old and much more experienced. Duncan beat Kanewulf by a combination of Beginner's Luck and pure rage, since Kanewulf had just killed his adoptive father, the Chief of his clan.
  • Star Trek: Picard: In "The End Is the Beginning", Dr. Agnes Jurati is a non-combatant, but she kills a Zhat Vash assassin by shooting him In the Back with a disruptor rifle.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Video Games 
  • Call of Duty: A non-lethal variation. In basic training, the player (usually the new guy) can outshoot a lot of guys practicing just because it's a player.
  • Pokémon:
    • While VERY unlikely, the player can be beaten by someone younger than them.
    • Conversely, the player characters can and will defeat trainers who have been training for far longer than them.
  • Sonic and the Black Knight: Sonic, an apprentice knight, manages to defeat a trio of Knights of the Round Table. The humiliation of being beaten by a "mere apprentice" is enough for Knuckles to be Driven to Suicide.
  • Until Dawn: A group of college students are able to kill numerous Wendigos with minimal knowledge in survival.
  • Most online shooters will have this but mostly from either luck in a one on one gunfight or because someone is sitting in a corner.

    Web Video 
  • Video Game High School: When Brain returns from being AFK, he kills The Law with minimum effort. Granted The Law was toying with him for being AFK and not fully paying attention.
  • Battlefield Friends: The N00b, of all characters, is the one who is able to kill the 100 Colonel. In fact, it's the only time the 100 Colonel is shown dying on screen.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
    • Played with when Aang first runs into Toph in an earthbender fighting competition while he's looking for someone to teach him earthbending. He uses airbending and beats her. However, neither knew the others skillset but both were the best, so whoever won would have been this trope. In the sequel series, Toph can now dodge airbending.
    • Much of Avatar consists of Aang, who is an excellent airbender (and the youngest airbender to ever be awarded the rank of master), but is still a 12 year old boy who has no experience with the special powers that come with being the Avatar and little time to train with any elements besides air overcoming seasoned combatants and masters of various elements.

    Real Life 
  • The NVA and Viet Cong in the Vietnam War were able to keep the better armed forces of the US at bay and eventually causing them to retreat due their knowledge and use of the enviroment.