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Curb-Stomp Cushion

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"We can't hold out forever, Kup, but we can give them one humongous repair bill!"

We are witnessing a Curb-Stomp Battle. Maybe the Imperial Japanese Navy has caught the American giant sleeping. Perhaps Skynet's forces are ripping the TechCom troops a structurally superfluous new behind. A hero from the stars might be having a tough time fighting a giant monster. Whatever the case, the losing side is getting steamrolled.

How do we show that it's not hopeless, or that the losing side isn't utterly incompetent? Give them some small victory to help counterbalance the stomping they're getting. A Curb Stomp Cushion is kind of like a Hope Spot, except that it doesn't necessarily give the impression that the good guys are gonna win, just that they're still capable of taking a few bad guys down with them, or fighting back hard enough to make sure that a powerful, nearly unbeatable foe doesn't get to walk away unscathed as a final middle finger. This can also serve to foreshadow that the until-now nigh-invincible enemies may not truly be as invincible as they seem.

If it is the villain at the losing end, this is likely to avoid Invincible Hero shades overcoming the winning hero, or even worse, nulling out the notion they are the defending side. Possibly also combined with Not-So-Harmless Villain.

See also Do Not Go Gentle and Pyrrhic Victory, the latter of which the surprised curb-stompee is likely to achieve. Also see Worf Had the Flu.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Accel World, Silver Crow's fight against Scarlet Rain, the Red King, goes about as well as you'd expect, considering that he's Level 4 and she's Level 9(just below the maximum of 10, which no one has achieved yet)- he's fleeing for his life for most of the battle and ends up defeated. However, Kuroyukihime is actually somewhat impressed that Silver Crow actually managed to force Scarlet Rain to dodge one of his attacks, given that her moniker of "The Immovable Fortress" means she doesn't have to move when fighting.
  • Aeon Clock in Air Gear is a Hopeless Boss Fight for Kazu and after playing around for a while he eventually gets serious and declares Kazu won't be able to lift a finger against him. He seemingly makes good on this boast by knocking Kazu out with a single, lightning-fast punch. As he's leaving the arena, he notices that Kazu was able to move one finger, flipping him off in the instant before the punch connected. Aeon notes that the finger is Kazu's victory.
  • In Black Lagoon, the anime-only version of Roberta's Blood Trail. Roberta's battle with the Grey Fox unit in the manga was a straight-up massacre, the OVA adaptation evens the score significantly: while she still manages to kill several of Caxton's men, she suffers significantly in the process, losing several limbs, an eye, and several fingers on her remaining hand, and is confined to the use of a wheelchair afterwards. No matter how much of an invincible Terminator you are, going up a heavily armored Special Forces unit with access to automatic weapons while using only a smooth-bore musket and absolutely no protection for yourself is not going to end well for you.
  • Bleach:
    • Renji's fight with Byakuya is one-sided in Byakuya's favor, but Renji manages to force Byakuya to his knees at one point and manages to hit him once with his sword before going down.
    • During their first fight, Grimmjow beats the living hell out of Ichigo until he can barely stand. Then Ichigo catches Grimmjow by surprise when he attacks him using Getsuga Tenshou, which only leaves Grimmjow with a wound across his chest. He is then dragged back to Hueco Mundo before the fight can continue, but Grimmjow later makes sure not to heal the scar in order to remind himself of what Ichigo did to him.
    • Isshin's fight with White (Aizen's experimental Hollow) drags on as he slowly loses the edge, ultimately being saved by the intervention of Masaki. To his credit, at this point, White had already killed several Shinigami before they could react, and Isshin did manage to cut off one of White's arms. Though Isshin was a Captain at the time, he could not fight at full strength because Aizen had snuck up on him and injured him in such a way that he could not use his Bankai. Had he been in tip-top condition, it is likely that Isshin would've won with moderate difficulty.
  • Chainsaw Man:
    • Katana Man handedly got the jump on Division 4, but it wasn't a one-sided affair as Aki actually managed to kill him, and the Ghost Devil was about to make quick work of him as well.
    • Makima is the first person to actually do visible damage to the Darkness Devil, but is still clearly incredibly outmatched. The moment she tries for a follow-up attack, it evaporates her arm, impales her, and might very well have killed her if she hadn't escaped.
  • In Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Zenitsu remains mostly on the defensive once Kaigaku gets really mad after he had enough of Zenitsu's newfound bravado, downplaying his "achievements" in becoming a mere substitute Upper-6 since all of that cost their master's life; Kaigaku showers Zenitsu with all remaining five Thunder Breathing forms amplified by his Blood Demon Art making all the thunderous elementals quite real, however, Zenitsu takes all of it without really counter-attacking for a while, revealing that what kept Zenitsu from going all out was that he honestly wanted to still see a way in which Kaigaku was not as a bad as Zenitsu thought he was - which was why Zenitsu tried to ask questions at first - once Zenitsu steels himself and truly gives up on Kaigaku, he unleashes his own creation, 7th Form: Honoikazuchi no Kami, destroying Kaigaku with that one attack, showing Zenitsu could have ended that fight whenever he wanted to.
  • Dragon Ball:
    • Dragon Ball Z:
      • This happens a couple of times during the fight with Freeza. Gohan manages to get in a barrage of shots during Freeza's second form, and Krillin manages to cut off part of Freeza's tail. In Freeza's final form, Goku manages to score a few good blows before Freeza powers up. And even after Freeza does, Goku's Spirit Bomb still does some damage.
      • This is later turned around on Freeza when he powers up against Super Saiyan Goku. Though Freeza gets in some good blows (even managing to nearly kill Goku right before the dragon revives everyone), he's still ultimately outdone, as Freeza loses power much too quickly to be a serious threat to Goku for very long.
    • It happens later on in the Cell Saga, too. The most notable occasion comes with Tien using his Tri-Beam attack to keep Semi-Perfect Cell at bay so that Android 18 could escape; though the Tri-Beam doesn't actually harm Cell, he's pinned down by it and can't move until Tien stops the attack. Made all the more astonishing because Cell's previous form had been shown effortlessly taking down a Kami-fused Piccolo and Android 17, and the Semi-Perfect form made quick work out of Android 16.
      Tien: I may just be a pothole in the road to you, Cell, but it will be one deep pothole.
    • Cell gets hit with it a second time after becoming perfect and effortlessly slapping Vegeta, who easily outmatched his Semi-Perfect form, around. Vegeta breaks out the Final Flash, which blows off one of Cell's arms and a good chunk of his torso, and had he not dodged at the last second, it would have killed him.
    • It happens again during Dragon Ball GT, in the Shadow Dragon Saga. Syn Shenron has just absorbed all the Dragon Balls and acquired the combined powers of all seven Shadow Dragons, becoming Omega Shenron, against whom Goku is completely outmatched. Then Goku breaks out his Dragon Fist, which not only makes Omega scream in pain but also manages to blast him to pieces. Though Omega shortly after regenerates From a Single Cell, he nonetheless admits that the Dragon Fist was a very painful attack, even if it wasn't enough to finish him.
    • Dragon Ball Super introduces Jiren.
      • His fight with Goku. He easily thrashes Goku - while the latter is using the Super Saiyan Blue / Kaioken X20 combo - across the battlefield, but Goku did manage to (barely) keep up with him, get a small hit in, and his Kaio-Ken boosted Kamehameha actually gave Jiren a minor Oh, Crap!. Of course, during all this Jiren never bothers to get really serious. Goku seems to have made it even when he gains his new form, but at this point Jiren uses more of his full power and simply pushes him back, whereafter the form gives out.
      • His fight with Hit similarly has Jiren utterly dominating most of the battle, but Hit still manages to get some painful hits in after he adapts to Jiren's fighting style. The fact that Jiren even bothered to take the offensive is already a testament to Hit's prowess, the fact Hit actually lasted against Jiren's assault is flat-out amazing. Hit actually manages to almost knock him out of bounds and use his time skip to paralyze Jiren, with Jiren having to put serious effort into escaping.
      • Likewise, his fight with Vegeta at first has Jiren dominating the fight at first, but once Vegeta manages to see through his Rapid-Fire Fisticuffs, he quickly turns the tables and even manages to land a solid blow on Jiren, something only Goku in his Ultra Instinct form has managed to do. note  However, Jiren quickly regains the upper hand and nearly rings Vegeta out with his Power Impact. Vegeta tries to finish Jiren with the Final Flash, but Jiren survives and blasts Vegeta away once again.
      • His final battle against Mastered Ultra Instinct Goku has the situation reversed for the first time. After breaking even with and overpowering the incomplete Ultra Instinct once his initial surprise wears off, Jiren finds himself completely overwhelmed by the new depths of power Goku has achieved and gets thrashed like never before. It's so bad that it triggers his memories of his childhood trauma, which causes him to unleash his full unrestrained power at long last. Surprisingly, it lets him break even with Goku again, even pushing him back at several points, but his own rage hinders his original efficiency and prevents him from taking down Goku. When Jiren finally snaps and attacks Goku's friends and family in the stand after learning that Goku draws his newfound resolve and strength from The Power of Friendship, Goku finally has enough and finally beats him down. The only thing that spares Jiren from being eliminated is the fact that the Mastered Ultra Instinct times out and leaves Goku barely able to move and the only thing that spares Goku from retaliation is when Frieza and 17 jump in for the save.
  • The anime version of Eyeshield21 hands cushion to every team that got destroyed in the manga. Aside from one case of Adaptational Badass, none of them make much sense.
    • Zokugaku Chameleon was able to stop one offense against Poseidon thanks to their only important player Habashira stopping a bland receiver, in the manga he can't stop anything since the Poseidon has their tall lineman block him.
    • The Yuuhi Guts all-star team (aces of different sports clubs mashed together) score one touchdown against Devilbats until Hiruma decides to use combination play to beat a team that doesn't know enough about football to counter it, in the manga Hiruma goes with this plan right away and the all-stars exchange their place with the regular starter after a forty points gap.
      • The manga version of the match features a legitimate cushion that does make sense when the real Guts come in while the fill-ins are down 0-40 and manage to score against Deimon, even though they still lose by more than 50 points in the end. This is universally considered to be much better than the anime version.
    • The Scorpions get some Adaptational Villainy where they kidnap Hiruma leaving Devilbats without their quarterback and strategist, they even break the replacement quarterback when they realize they are still losing. Suddenly out of nowhere, Hiruma shows up and secures the win (really not clear if he shot his way out of the kidnapping or the Scorpion's captain just assumed he was gone). In the original game, Hiruma is never "kidnapped" so they win without letting the Scorpion score a single touchdown
    • Taiyou's Sphinx shows their new line formation during their match with Hakushu's Dinosaurs which makes them a great offensive and defensive team before the Dinosaurs have Gaou (strongest high schooler/possibly man in Japan) send them all to the hospital. Again in the manga, Gaou crushes the line in the first play because he didn't suddenly stop existing for the first minutes of the match.
    • The Masaki Wolves is a joke in the manga while in the anime, their captain becomes an Adaptational Badass who can become stronger and faster if he hunts the ball, he then loses against Seibu's team when the runningback remembers he is the second fastest character in the series at the time and simply dodges him.
  • In Fairy Tail, the second time Acnologia shows up, he's confronted by Igneel. Acnologia tears him apart and it's obvious he's just stalling for time, but Igneel uses his last attack to tear Acnologia's arm off. And no, he doesn't regrow it.
  • In Fist of the North Star, Raoh's fight with Fudou is a battle between the Big Bad of the entire first half of the series and the at-the-time World's Strongest Man, and a relative Mauve Shirt introduced only a few arcs previously. Raoh enters the fight in complete confidence to settle an old score after an unfavorable bout with Kenshiro and even orders his henchmen to shoot him if he takes even a single step back. He inflicts a ton of damage to Fudou, and by the end of the fight, Fudou is so covered in wounds that he can barely stand. However, the fact that Fudou is able to stand up to him and even get in a few hits confuses Raoh at first... and then he looks into Fudou's eyes and realizes the strength of his spirit and determination, and that it's the same spirit of his rival Kenshiro. This shakes Raoh so badly that when Fudou makes his final charge, he actually freezes up and takes a step back, and Fudou's attack is only arrested by one of Raoh's minions shooting him. Though by all rights Raoh was destroying Fudou, that single moment of weakness, to Raoh and to Fudou, made the fight a loss.
  • Gundam:
    • The final battle in Gundam 00: A Wakening of the Trailblazer is shown like this: it's pretty clear the ELS are winning the overall battle, and the human forces are getting overwhelmed. But, there are lots of scenes of individual human forces destroying truckloads of ELS and not just the Gundam-piloting main characters. The ELS may be winning, but humanity is putting up one hell of a fight.
    • The final battle in Gundam Build Divers Re:RISE has Alus. Despite being heavily outnumbered by the Third Coalition of Volunteers, he still manages to surprise them with his sheer firepower, attacking GBN's servers directly and hijacking Hiroto Kuga's Earthree armour for himself. That being said, he ends up losing his advantage when millions more Divers, including the admins, enter the battle, push him back, and undo his damage. He manages to execute a Last Villain Stand, but only succeeds in taking May and Sarah out of the fight before Riku and Hiroto finish him off.
  • In Holyland, the first Masaki vs Yuu fight is clearly one-sided, but Yuu still manages to get in a few hits, including a solid kick that the other thinks might have cost a rib.
  • A few instances of this happening in Hunter × Hunter get more powerful characters interested in Gon and Killua. Gon actually landing a blow (and later successfully stealing his badge) impresses Hisoka, despite Hisoka being far more powerful and skilled. On the airship, Netero invites Gon and Killua to try to take a ball away from him. They have no chance since he's one of the most powerful beings alive, but Gon is satisfied when he forces Netero to use his other arm. When they run afoul of the Genei Ryodan they are once again totally outclassed. They put up a good enough fight to impress the Spiders, to the point that one of them even wants the two to join them.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Phantom Blood: Speedwagon manages to use a hat with spinning blades to inflict a single injury to Jonathan.
    • Golden Wind: Polnareff's second fight against Diavolo is as one-sided as the one in the past, but he actually puts up a better fight, figures a way around King Crimson's ability and came close to severely wounding Diavolo's arm despite having lost an arm and his legs.
    • Stone Ocean: Upon awakening Made In Heaven, Pucci was able to blitz through most of the heroes, even with Jotaro's Time Stop being useless against him. Jolyne was able to inflict an Eye Scream by catching him off guard.
  • Jujutsu Kaisen: Though beating Gojo was never an option for Miguel and he gets heavily pummelled during their fight, managing to continuously distract and tie down the strongest sorcerer in the world should be considered no less of an achievement.
  • Kengan Ashura likes this trope a lot, especially once the Annihilation Tournament kicks into gear. Even in fights where the outcome clearly isn't in doubt from the start, the loser still almost always gets in some big hits or manages to fight on their terms for a bit.
    • Okubo versus Agito: the narration notes that Okubo is a Jack of All Stats going up against a Master of All, the fight's overall back-and-forth suggests that Agito is mostly playing with his food, and narratively, Agito is set up as the Final Boss, so he can't lose this early in the story. But Okubo pulls off the first takedown, keeps up with Agito in a grappling match, and even after Agito declares he'll start fighting seriously, Okubo still manages to force him on the back foot via Confusion Fu and throw out moves that would probably kill a normal person.
    • At the end of Murobuchi Gozo's fight with Wakatsuki Takeshi, Wakatsuki outright declares that Murobuchi was an incredibly strong fighter and he spent the fight genuinely fearing him—he was just even stronger. Indeed, though Wakatsuki ultimately trashes Murobuchi and doesn't take any significant damage, Murobuchi still manages to keep up for a while and directly connect with "the world's fastest flying knee."
  • In Kill la Kill, episode 12, the seemingly invincible Nui Harime is completely trouncing Isshin Matoi, Ryuko's father, and ultimately kills him. However, before he dies, Isshin manages to slice one of Nui's eyes out while she's distracted by Ryuko's voice. This is the first time Nui drops her Stepford Smiler act, with her screaming in bloody agony. Even to this day she is very sore about this and Satsuki theorises that Nui wants to fight Ryuko largely out of revenge.
  • In The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2016), the final fight between Zant and Link is more one-sided compared to the source material. While Zant is able to confuse Link with his illusions and even land a blow on him, the bout ends with Zant's helmet and scimitar split apart. Link then sends him flying with one punch.
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
    • The fans of Signum, who has been curb-stomped in Magical Record Lyrical Nanoha Force, find a little solace in the fact that she managed to chop her attacker's right arm off in the process.
    • In ViVid Strike!, while Rinne makes short work of Miura Rinaldi, her opponent forces her to break her self-imposed rule of not using grappling attacks (which wasn't purely imposed out of overconfidence but to prepare herself for tournaments in which they aren't allowed).
  • The Final Boss Preview in Megalo Box has Yuri taunt protagonist Junk Dog so that he can beat him with only his left arm. After being jabbed around the ring for half the round, Junk Dog manages to get in a clean hit that forces Yuri to (instinctively) bring up his right to block it. This causes Yuri to take Junk Dog seriously as an opponent and the match is over seconds later. A second cushion shows up shortly after when Junk Dog is able to get to his feet and taunt Yuri from the ring as Yuri is leaving.
    Junk Dog: That's your 'real Megalo Boxing'? I'm not impressed. You couldn't even manage to kill a stray dog.
  • Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid: Tohru is noted from the beginning to be stronger than Ilulu, but she starts their fight on the defensive since she can't risk causing collateral damage to the surrounding city. However, it quickly becomes clear that Ilulu's attacks (despite looking painful) are failing to do any significant damage, and Tohru ultimately ends the battle with a single attack after Elma is bribed by Kobayashi into putting up a barrier.
  • In Naruto, during the introductory arc, Badass Teacher Kakashi Hatake hands New Meat Naruto and Sakura their respective rectums and even shows off his skill and experience by reading a book while doing it. Teen Genius Sasuke doesn't do that much better against Kakashi, but he at least manages to force him to put the book away.
  • One Piece:
    • Luffy is easily defeated by Crocodile in their first fight, in part because Crocodile's Logia ability allows him to phase through Luffy's attacks. Right before being left to die, Luffy manages to grab Crocodile's arm with a wet hand, establishing a weakness that would be exploited in later fights.
    • The fight between Luffy and Usopp was only ever going to end one way, but Usopp does manage to control the flow of the battle at first, landing successive attacks that set up him nailing Luffy with a massive explosion. It still only takes Luffy two hits to bring him down, but Usopp makes him work for those hits.
    • Franky against Spandam using Funkfeed. Franky manages to stop and even scare the sword, but it still draws a lot of blood from him.
    • Although Whitebeard manages to curbstomp Akainu with a few attacks, Akainu shows that he's no pushover by blowing off half of Whitebeard's face. Later, it's shown that Akainu is even capable of fighting off the rest of Whitebeard's crew by himself.
    • In Punk Hazard, upon learning that Vergo is a traitor and a spy for Doflamingo, Smoker puts his name at the top of his list, bolts to his location after guessing that he's heading towards Law in the SAD production room, and starts fighting him as soon as he finds him. While he lands several powerful blows, Vergo's endurance, durability, and Haki are still superior to Smoker's, who slowly finds himself losing as he fails to deal lasting damage while Vergo whales on him with impunity. By the end of it he admits to himself that he simply can't beat Vergo one-on-one, and steals Law's heart from Vergo so that he can finish the fight in his place.
    • Zigzagged with Law on Dressrosa. For the most part, he's outmatched by Doflamingo, though he manages to get a few licks in by rupturing Doflamingo's organs with Gamma Knife. Initially, this only seems to serve to make Doflamingo look stronger as he survives what should have been a killing blow, but the damage certainly helped Luffy as he stepped in to defeat the Warlord.
    • Seen with Big Mom, who was vaunted by many characters to basically be invincible to the point that a specific strategy was put into place to even try to kill her. When that failed, she became an Advancing Boss of Doom while chasing the heroes - that is, until Nami manages to absolutely fry her with lightning and some trickery. While it doesn't stop her for long, she becomes a lot less intimidating as the other heroes find their own ways to fight her.
    • A minor case with the anime version of Luffy's fight with Kaido. Like in the manga, Kaido defeats Luffy with barely any effort to show that Luffy doesn't stand a chance against the seemingly invincible Emperor of the Sea, but the anime makes the fight seem a bit less one-sided, such as Luffy landing a King Kong Gun on Kaido just before Kaido takes him down in one hit.
    • When Eustass Kid tries to attack the allies of the Red-Haired Pirates in Elbaf, Shanks intervenes before he can even start to fire his Damned Punk attack, cutting him down in a Single-Stroke Battle. But it wasn't - from our point of view - a complete curbstomp, because Shanks only went Straight for the Commander after seeing that Kid's attack would have killed a lot of his allies via his Observation Haki, and immediately targeted Kid before he could launch his attack.
  • One-Punch Man: The whole joke of the series is that Saitama is completely unbeatable, so when he gets his greatest boss fight yet in the form of Boros — an alien with godlike powers who comes looking for him because he can find no challenges anywhere else — what happens is that, get this, Boros does not die with one punch. One casual, not-really-trying punch, that is, since Saitama is never eally trying. He also manages to send Saitama flying to the Moon, but he just jumps back. So overall, the fight lasts for several pages, where usually Saitama defeats his opponents in one panel, even though Boros never stood any kind of chance.
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • Ash/Satoshi manages to be the first person ever to knock out Tobias's/Tokuto's Darkrai, who up until that point, swept every foe away singlehandedly, including all the Gym Leaders. Unfortunately, half his team has already been knocked out. Furthermore, Tobias sends out a Latios. While Ash ultimately loses, last Pokemon remaining Pikachu manages to take Latios down with it.
    • Also, whenever Ash battles an Elite Four member or Champion, you can expect him to get a hit in or at the very least adapt his strategy to better combat his foe, but ultimately he will lose and it will be obvious he never stood much of a chance. Averted during his battle against Lorelei (Prima in the dub), where Ash was completely beaten.
      • Finally averted when Ash battles Diantha with Greninja. It starts off as if it's going to play out this way, with her Gardevoir nonchalantly dodging Greninja's attacks... but Greninja keeps doing better and better, and after completing its Ash-Greninja Forme even takes the upper hand for a bit until the Power-Strain Blackout knocks out Ash and Greninja.
    • During the battle between Paul and Cynthia, Cynthia wins four-zero. Paul's first three Pokémon are easily swept aside by Cynthia's Garchomp, but Torterra actually manages to bring Garchomp to its knees with Giga Drain. Of course, Garchomp then proceeds to block Torterra's Secret Art and knock it out in one hit, but that's still more than most would manage.
    • During Paul's battle with Brandon, all of his Pokémon are beaten in one or two hits without getting any damage in, but Paul's Nidoking actually does rather decently against Registeel, eating a few attacks and getting a few super-effective hits in on its own. Even Brandon noted that Nidoking was strong.
    • In Pokemon 3 The Movie while Charizard is actually able to mostly outmaneuver and even land some strong hits against Entei, it's clear that Entei doesn't feel the attacks and they do little more than slow him down. Still there is one point where Entei roars in surprise after Charizard hits it with enough fire to engulf the entire tower!
    • During Alain's battle with Siebold, Alain's Mega Charizard X is handily beaten by Siebold's Mega Blastoise. However, Charizard gets a couple of decent hits in and does enough to impress Siebold.
    • The trend continues during Alain's battle with Ash. Ash's Greninja can't even hit base form Charizard, but is fast and powerful enough to keep him on his toes. Once both transform, Ash-Greninja actually gets a rather painful hit in and matches Mega Charizard's power, but still gets beaten.
    • When Ash finally battles Giovanni in Best Wishes, Pikachu uses a painful-looking Iron Tail to counter Persian's Shadow Claw. Then Persian swats him with Power Gem.
    • When the Sun and Moon gang travel to Kanto for an extracurricular class (a Gym battle, which they can't have in Alola) Kiawe, The Ace of the group, battles Brock. Although Kiawe's Tortunator initially holds its own against Steelix, repelling and countering it, the latter eventually assumes control of the battle, and one Mega Evolution later not even Kiawe's Z-Move puts much of a dent in Steelix (though as Brock even notes, that doesn't mean it didn't damn well hurt).
    • Team Rocket's Meowth is usually depicted as a pitiful battler and falls quickly. Odd times however he gets in a good offence before the inevitable beatdown occurs.
      • In "Jumping Rocket Ship", he lunges and uses Fury Swipes on Barry's Empoleon (a Steel-type who was blocking at that). Empoleon actually falls down in pain, before shortly getting back up and blasting him off with Hydro Pump.
      • In "Frenzied Factory Fiasco" Meowth challenges Pikachu to a Single-Stroke Battle. After an attempted dupe to capture Pikachu in his stolen Pokeball mid-air fails, he quickly improvises a Fury Swipes. After landing, Pikachu staggers to one knee visibly hurt, while Meowth stoically retracts his claws....and then faints inelegantly from Pikachu's Iron Tail. Note that this is thus far the only battle they've had throughout the entire anime series where Meowth actually managed to injure Pikachu.
    • The Team Rocket trio as a whole returned to their standard Goldfish Poop Gang status midway through the Black and White series after a long run having Took a Level in Badass. To maintain a Character Check however, they maintained this setup most of the time, getting beaten quickly by the twerps, but often still getting in the odd hit against them or being crafty or persistent enough to force them to improvise. XY similarly often kept up this trend early on, though after a while, full Villain Decay ensued and they went back to full-on Curb-Stomp Battles.
    • The Team Skull trio have a similar track record in Sun and Moon and regularly get their asses kicked. Tupp is left ecstatic when his Salandit gets in a hit against Ilima's Eevee however. One. Single. Hit. Eventually, Ilima has to politely point out that Eevee has already gotten back up, and blasts them all off with its signature Z-Move.
    • In the Alola League, Lillie is pitted against her brother Gladion, a battler masterful enough to defeat Ash and Kiawe on separate occasions. Despite her request that Gladion fight at full power, Lillie does hold on for a fair while with Snowy and uses clever strategies, managing a Hail and Snow Cloak combo to dodge Umbreon's attacks, and landing her Subzero Slammer Z-Move. Umbreon manages to tank it, however, and shortly defeats Snowy with one Iron Tail.
  • Even as early as the first arc of Ranma ˝, Kuno was already a total joke to Ranma. But in the first, fully acknowledged duel between the two, even though Ranma completely dominated the fight and won in a single attack that put KO'd Kuno and left him in bandages for days, Kuno did get one good slash of his bokken into Ranma's side, to the point that a gentle poke would make Ranma double over in pain.
  • Space Runaway Ideon: The human military is a Redshirt Army that stands no chance against the superior weapons and technology of the Buff Clan, but any time they do battle, the humans are always able to shoot down a few of the Buff Clan's smaller craft before being crushed.
  • In The Vision of Escaflowne when young pup Van and experienced knight Allen duel in their Humongous Mecha for the first time, everyone expects Allen to curb stomp Van, and he does. But as he's standing over Van, he's shocked to suddenly notice a gash in the side of his own mech.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has this in the form of Jounouchi's duel with Dark Marik during the semi-finals of Battle City. Now since this is the semi-finals and Jounouchi is facing off against the Big Bad of the arc, it's a Foregone Conclusion that he will lose, but the story has Jounouchi come within one move of actually beating him before collapse from physical exhaustion. The duel also showed that it took a massive physical toll on Dark Marik as well.
    • Similarly, the first time Yugi duels Pegasus, the latter's mind-reading powers make him almost invincible, especially when he takes control of Dark Magician. However, Yugi does deduce that the way he did it made another monster vulnerable, and he almost takes it out before the timer reaches zero, even though he was reduced to just playing the top card of his deck without looking at it.
    • Also, when Joey and Kaiba have their first duel, Kaiba's Battle Ox and its more powerful form Rabid Horseman tear apart Joey's monsters. Joey finally summons his ace monster, Red-Eyes Black Dragon, which destroys Rabid Horseman — and then Kaiba pulls out the Blue-Eyes White Dragon for the finishing attack.
      • However, during their rematch in Battle City, despite being handicapped by Kaiba at the beginning, Joey manages to hold his own a few times, most notably taking control of his best card.
    • Cronos in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX has a couple of these, especially after his Heel–Face Turn began in earnest. In both his duels with Pegasus and Camula, his opponent kept control of the Duel all the way, but he was able to get in some pretty heavy hits with his powerhouse Ancient Gears in the meantime.
  • In YuYu Hakusho, Younger Toguro at 80% of his strength effortlessly does a Punch Catch on an enraged Yusuke right after Younger Toguro killed Genkai and sends him flying away with a single punch. Younger Toguro is impressed when he notices that catching Yusuke's punch mangled his hand, seeing this as proof that Yusuke will be a Worthy Opponent after all.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman Vampire:
    • Batman and Dracula's fight. Batman finds himself unable to match Dracula's strength even with his own vampiric powers but is able to do some damage with his silver Batarangs.
    • Killer Croc is the only non-vampire to give Batman any kind of trouble, as his tough hide makes it harder for the vampire to bite him and he's strong enough to force the Dark Knight back for a moment, even if Croc isn't actually stronger than Batman.
  • The Button: Eobard Thawne/Professor Zoom breaks into the Batcave to attack Batman. Since Batman has no powers or prep time and Thawne has Super-Speed on par with The Flash, this goes exactly as you'd expect, with Thawne beating the shit out of Batman. However, Batman manages to stab him in the foot while he is gloating. Thawne recovers and beats him up some more, then he stops to gloat again and Batman lands a punch. Thawne then really gives him a beating.
  • In Superman storyline The Coming of Atlas, Atlas has just defeated the Super Family when Krypto joins the battle. Ultimately, Krypto is also defeated, but after a long fight which gave Superman time enough to recover and come up with a plan to beat Atlas.
  • In Contest of Champions (2015), Maestro's plan is coming to fruition, and he prepares to fight the Grandmaster one-on-one for his piece of the iso-sphere. Cut to four and a half minutes later, where Maestro is victorious, but he's also clutching his chest and barely standing, admitting the Grandmaster might have broken his arm and a couple ribs.
  • The initial battle in The Infinity Gauntlet between Earth's heroes and Thanos is a Foregone Conclusion due to Thanos having the complete Infinity Gauntlet, but Thanos turning off the sensory abilities the Gauntlet grants him, the heroes manage to get a few licks in. Drax the Destroyer and the Hulk both send Thanos flying; Spider-Man blinds him briefly with his webbing; and Thor outright presses Thanos briefly. More importantly, the Silver Surfer comes within inches of snagging the Gauntlet with Thanos distracted, which would have given the heroes victory. Thanos' shaken expression and immediate restoration of his full strength immediately afterward speaks volumes.
  • In Marvel Zombies, Magneto and later the Silver Surfer face off against dozens of superheroes. While both are eventually killed and eaten, they both inflict a fair amount of damage and take a couple of them out.
  • Rat-Man's battle against The Dragon (who has been brought to the Arena specifically to kill him, with the owners of the Arena telling him Rat-Man insulted his mother to make sure he'll kill him and make him suffer) is extremely one-sided, but Rat-Man, differently from everyone else before him, first dodges an attack with a Doppelgänger Spin, then takes a terrifying beating with a rock until the rock begs him for mercy because it's hurt from hitting Rat-Man's face so many times, and finally punches him square on the nose, leading the Man in the Spider Costume to recover hope and pull a suicide attack on The Dragon.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Collide: Mega Man and Sonic manage a decent blow against the Chaos Devil before getting completely pummeled and rescued by Duo.
  • Spider-Man: On one occasion Otto Octavius, as Superior Spider Man faced off against Terrax, a herald of Galactus. Now, Otto has the full powers of Spider-Man, his own advanced tech, an a keen strategic mind with a rich amount of experience fighting heavy hitters, so he actually manages to fight off Terrax for a decent while and inconvenience him somewhat, which considering the planet-shattering levels of power Terrax has is very impressive indeed. Ultimately Terrax still beats him savagely without getting seriously winded, forcing Otto to use the device Doctor Doom once used against the Silver Surfer to steal Terrax' power.

    Fan Works 
  • Ace Combat: Equestria Chronicles: The ponies successfully recapture Cloudsdale in chapter 14, defeating a griffin army group roughly twice their size, but lose at least ten fliers in the process.
  • Ruby's fight with Yuuki Terumi in Chapter 70 of BlazBlue Alternative: Remnant doesn't go her way at all, and ends with her being subject to a savage No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, but she's able to land a few decent hits, enough so that she actually causes Terumi to completely lose his cool.
  • In The Bridge, the recently transformed Monster X is able to land a few powerful hits that stagger Grand King Ghidorah, thanks to the Xilian military distracting the latter. He still fails to do any lasting damage, loses outright, and is overpowered entirely, until the second phase of the fight when X transforms into Kaizer Ghidorah to even the field.
  • Boldores And Boomsticks has Yang's fourth fight with Tapu Koko going this way. While all of the preceding fights were Koko either crushing her absolutely or spending the entire fight Just Toying with Them, Yang (after getting it slapped into her head that being Unskilled, but Strong will not work against a Physical God), uses tactics to fight the fourth time - and while she still loses, she actually impresses Koko. Hala sums it up like this after the fight.
    Laughing softly, Hala strode up and clapped a comradely hand on her shoulder, Lux and Sabra on his heels and likewise beaming with pride in their trainer. “Well done, Yang! Well done indeed!”
    “Wha-?” She stammered. “But- I didn’t-”
    “Of course you didn’t win!” the old man boomed. “He’s a god! But do you know how long it’s been since a non-Legendary has made him work that hard for his win?”
  • In The Butcher Bird, Tashigi goes up against Bosque Herman of the Nightmare Pirates, and while she initially fails to so much as force him to draw his sword (with him using Forged Body to deflect her blade) and loses Shigure when he actually does, she still manages to wound him twice, with her final blow being strong enough to drive him to one knee.
  • In Cards of Remnant, Pyrrha has Jaune face her in a card-only duel to test his skills with his real deck, the Onomatopoeia Gang. While Jaune is better with his real deck than he is with the Noble Knight deck he'd been forcing himself to use prior, Pyrrha is still Pyrrha and Jaune is ultimately unable to do a single point of damage to her life points. However, he is able to make some impressively clever counterplays throughout the duel, and even destroy his partner's ace monster, something even Yang had been concerned about facing before.
  • Child of the Storm:
    • During the Darkest Hour of the first book, HYDRA launches a massive strike against Hogwarts, the British Ministry of Magic, SHIELD, and governments worldwide. While they are very successful overall, their attack on Hogwarts is a complete disaster thanks to Harry waking up and warning the staff (and unleashing the Phoenix). Additionally, they lose quite a few of their limited forces across the globe, the SHIELD Helicarrier is crippled but doesn't explode, and while Zemo does curb-stomp T'Challa, the latter does get a few good licks in, with Zemo calling him a decent sparring partner. Meanwhile, their attack on the Muggle Prime Minister of Britain goes awry thanks to Agent 13, aka Sharon Carter's, badassery and her boss' Crazy-Prepared nature, while MI13 dispatched those HYDRA agents going after them and MI5, and the agents who attacked the Red Room never came out.
    • During the Bloody Hell arc of the sequel, Ghosts of the Past, Harry goes up against Dracula twice. In the first round, the straight fight, while the Vampire Monarch maintains the upper hand throughout the fight, Harry still manages to get several good hits in. In fact, if he'd been up against any other vampire, with less power or experience, he would have won - and it should also be remembered that Dracula has previously been a match for Thor.
  • An odd example where both sides are the sending and receiving end happens in a fight featured during one of the climaxes in Cinders and Ashes: the Chronicles of Kamen Rider Dante.
    • On Hoshi's side, while he's able to fight his foe on equal footing and managing to nearly defeat her, his opponent was able to strike him and put him in a position where she would have been able to kill him were it not for a last-minute save.
    • On the other side, his opponent was Altair, a character who canonically can't be beaten because she has a plethora of story breaker powers at her disposal, making any battle against her a Curb-Stomp Battle on the receiving end. The cushion in question being that Hoshi was able to land even a single hit on her without immediately getting destroyed.
  • Code Geass: Paladins of Voltron:
    • While the Paladins still get crushed by the gladiator in Some Assembly Required, this time around, they manage to win the fight.
    • The Paladins delivered heavy curb-stomps when fighting against Britannia. However, Nonette Enneagram in the Lancelot was able to put up a good fight against them.
  • Equestria Girls: Friendship Souls:
    • When Hurricane unleashes his Bankai, Sunset and her friends are completely outmatched, literally getting scattered by his winds. That being said, they still do manage to give him a good fight, and Ditzy even says that the fact that they managed to hurt him at all shows just how far they've come. Best shown near the end, when Sunset's final and most powerful attack actually manages to stalemate a direct hit from Hurricane's Bankai; though it quickly loses ground, it's much better than Ditzy's Cero, which was completely swamped without resistance.
    • Downplayed with Pinkie's fight with Cheese Sandwich. While she does give him a good fight and even manages to injure him, she still loses and it's clear she never stood a chance, even without Cheese using his Bankai.
    • Human Starlight's first fight with Sunset and her friends was much harder for her than the chapter would have you believe. Rainbow's attack actually made her hand go numb, and when Ditzy went all out Starlight states it was a good thing she was in an enclosed space (forcing her to scale things down) as she likely would've been soundly defeated otherwise.
  • The Good Hunter:
    • Chapter 6 presents us Daria Noharis and the Second Company VS The Good Hunter. Daria managed to kick the Hunter sideways and launch him a few feet away, yet she and the rest of her company are ultimately no match for his Holy Moonlight Sword.
    • Druella, the Fourth Born VS The Good Hunter in Chapter 7. Her flight means she naturally fares better in dodging the Hunter's deadly strikes, and, like Daria, she at one point succeeds in sending him flying. While it may seem that she took little direct damage, she is eventually overwhelmed by her wounds due to the magic within the Holy Moonlight Sword, and is left severely incapacitated. The fact that she narrowly avoids death is quite a miracle, though she's definitely not in good shape afterwards.
  • In Incarnation of Legends, Kojiro challenges the Radiance, an adventurer strong enough to take on the Legiones, to a one-on-one duel as soon as they meet. She quickly plows through his skill and speed-based defense with brute force, dislocating his shoulder and bending his sword in the process. But Kojiro does damage her helmet to the point that it cracks and falls to pieces, implying that he would have cut through her head had it not been there.
  • Jaune Arc, Lord of Hunger:
    • Due to being a powerful Force-sensitive in this fic, Jaune's sparring match with Cardin is one... in Jaune's favor. Instead of being humiliatingly defeated by Cardin like in canon, Jaune effortlessly runs circles around Cardin for most of their sparring match before sending him flying with a Force Push. Cardin briefly manages to turn the table when he knocks Jaune to the ground with his mace after the latter gets distracted, but all that does is make Jaune angry enough to tap into the Dark Side and end the fight by Force-choking Cardin into submission.
    • Out of everyone who Darth Nihilus curb-stomps in Chapter 18, Qrow is the only one who is able to put up an actual fight while also getting in a few lucky hits. His Semblance also trips up Nihilus twice at critical moments during their battle, allowing Qrow to last longer than anyone expected. Although he still gets swatted aside and fails to leave even a scratch on his opponent, Qrow proves to be so resilient that Nihilus actually expresses frustration at how much effort it's taking for him to beat what should be an easy opponent.
    • Darth Nihilus's showdown against Cinder, Emerald, and Mercury in "Death" also plays out like this. Cinder manages to take Nihilus by surprise and reflect his own Force lightning back at him before using her scimitars to break through his Aura. She, Emerald, and Mercury follow this up with a barrage of devastating hits on the Sith Lord's now-weakened body. However, even with all that, Nihilus still outguns the trio by a considerable margin and it doesn't take long for him to counterattack with a Force scream that sends all three flying. Once that's done, Nihilus quickly gains the upper hand and knocks out Cinder before finishing off Emerald and Mercury without too much difficulty.
    • Adam Taurus is on the receiving end of one when he comes face-to-face with Darth Nihilus. He initially holds his own rather well, outspeeding his opponent and dodging most of his attacks. Adam then follows this up by landing a blow that would've been instantly lethal under normal conditions. Unfortunately for Adam, Nihilus was fresh off from supercharging himself with the energy he drained from the Wyvern. Because of this, the Sith Lord easily tanks Adam's strongest attack and proceeds to grab him by the neck and drain his life in the span of a few seconds.
  • The Night Unfurls:
    • Kyril VS Luu-Luu as a husk in Chapter 16. He is able to end the fight quickly (i.e. within five short paragraphs) by stabbing her in the chest with his Holy Moonlight Sword, but not before being briefly pushed back, being tossed aside a considerable distance, and exchanging a good amount of blows as the two are determined to break through each other's guards.
    • Kyril, Sanakan, and Hugh VS Shamuhaza in Chapter 22, original version. It seems like the three hunters are dominating the fight at first, but Shamuhaza as an Eldritch Abomination proves to be a rather effective Mighty Glacier that can not only endure a lot of punishment from the three but also release a shockwave that launches all three of them back, even putting Sanakan out of commission. This exceeds Kyril's expectations... because he thought he didn't have to let a bit of his power out.
    • Kyril VS Mandeville's familiars in Chapter 30, original version. As a result of the unison and the heavy armour of this Dual Boss, Kyril has to dodge more frequently and score multiple blows before beheading the first one and slicing the second one in half.
    • Kyril VS Olga in Chapter 5, remastered version. Here, it is Olga who initiates the battle by attempting to One-Hit Kill him with fire, instead of heeding his warning for surrender. This merely singes a few spots on his clothes. Olga also manages to maintain a distance from the ever-dashing, ever-dodging Kyril for a while, even blocking a few hits from him with her barriers, but the moment he decides to Flash Step behind her and destroy both her barrier and staff, the battle is over.
  • One Hell of an Afternoon: While the Joker goes down hard, he does manage to burn Taylor horribly with one of his acid-squirting flowers. Had Taylor not been given healing abilities, she would've been killed.
  • Pokemon vs. Digimon: When Worlds Collide features the second generation Digidestined travelling to the Pokemon world to assist against Devimon after he escapes to that reality. Devimon easily defeats most Pokemon he faces in that world, but ultimately Ash's Charizard is able to do enough damage that Devimon acknowledges him as a worthwhile opponent, although he ultimately only retreats when the Digidestineds' Digimon regroup to drive him back.
  • Star Wars vs Warhammer 40K: The first Space Battle between the Galactic Republic and the Imperium of Man, known in-universe as the Battle of System K749. On the Republic's side are about 1,000 starships from the vaunted Kuat Drive Yards defense fleet, responsible for protecting the very shipyards that manufacture most of the Republic's war machines. On the Imperium's side are just over 200 warships consisting of the combined might of two whole Space Marine Chapter Fleets and three-quarters of an Imperial Navy sector battlefleet. Despite being outnumbered five-to-one, the Imperial Fleet easily massacres the KDY defense fleet with only 25 of the Republic's ships managing to escape in one piece. However, it's not a total rout for the Republic as they still manage to destroy about a dozen or so Imperial ships thanks to the creative tactics employed by a particularly imaginative and cunning clone captain.
  • In Stormwolf Adventures, many battles end in a decisive victory for one side, but not without visible resistance from the other.
    • Leah's first duel with Al Astor in a prequel of the series. She loses badly, and starts the proper series imprisoned because of that. However, she put up a fight good enough to force the Archdemon to reveal his true form before he beat her.
    • Finn vs Armilla. He loses and she kidnaps him, but he cuts off her left leg, making it more fragile and costing her her duel with Leah.
    • Lightning vs Zant. Lightning turns into his most powerful form and lands a punch hard enough to draw blood and send Zant flying. Zant still trounces him.
    • J'org vs Terex. The former lands a couple of hits and holds the enemy off before Terex kills him.
    • Hanzo vs Ranmaru. Ranmaru kills his foe by overpowering him, but his helmet gets broken in the process.
    • Ben Solo vs Grim Reaper. Mirroring the former's duel with Finn in Starkiller Base, he wounds the Reaper's right arm before getting slashed in the back and knocked out.
    • Jannah vs High Priest Kor. While she loses badly, and gets an arm chopped off, she still lands some hits and weakens Kor enough for Finn to both beat him and save Jannah.
    • Rey vs Jonnie Goodboy Tyler. Rey gets one punch in the face and otherwise humiliates and kills him.
    • Fake Stormwolf against the Legion in Malta. The former are on the run after the battle and lose many troops, but at least they destroyed the Gore Nest.
    • Pierre vs King Bulblin. Pierre has the upper hand for most of the battle and wins, but King Bulblin strikes him once with his axe and actually gets through his armor, wounding him.
    • Raven Eye vs Forge. The former loses his life and the latter loses an ear.
    • Finn vs the Stygian Champion. Finn wins with little difficulty, but he still gets slashed by the enemy's poisoned blades.
    • Leah vs Commander Rugah. She wins soundly, but not before being whipped in the face and having to turn hybrid.
    • Gray duels Irene in insult sword fighting. Irene is fabled as the undefeated champion of Fanterra. While she keeps the title, Gray actually wins a round, earning her respect.
    • The Battle of El Bueno Mundo. While Ace Ray, Ron and Rose have some good moments each, and their troops hold their own for a bit, Starfleet eventually captures the leaders and many troops and slaughters the rest.
    • Pierre against Abra. Abra deals no damage at all to Pierre, but he stalls him enough for him to not reach Celesto on time.
  • Super Mario Bros. Z: Mecha Sonic (Metallix in the reboot) beats the living shit out of Yoshi and almost kills him, but Yoshi got several good hits in, protecting himself inside an egg (with Mecha Sonic having a hard time destroying it) and even catching Mecha Sonic in a combo before the latter's significantly superior strength and speed caught up to Yoshi. Even moreso in the reboot, where Yoshi taps into the power of the swallowed Chaos Emerald to give an extreme retaliation in the form of deadly explosive eggs.
  • In Animorphs Redux, when trying to retrieve the morphing cube from David, Marco, Rachel, and Cassie end up facing Visser Three, two Hork-Bajir, and three armed human-Controllers while they're all in wolf morph. Marco explicitly muses that there's no way they can win such a fight, but he and Cassie manage to cripple the arm and leg of a different Hork-Bajir while Rachel manages to do some damage to Visser Three before Tobias, Ax, and Jake (in tiger morph) show up to even the odds.
  • In An Interdimensional Meet, when Supergirl, Barry Allen and Jay Garrick assist Team Arrow in the final battle in Iron Heights, Damien Darhk is able to score a few blows against Supergirl through his use of magic, but the two Flashes and Supergirl swiftly turn the tables and defeat him and all his H.I.V.E. forces.
  • Vow of the King:
    • ** Rukia lands a few hits on Ichigo, but he quickly puts her on the ground without taking much more damage than a broken nose.
    • Ichigo does well when fighting against Unohana, but she makes it clear that he wasn't ready to truly kill her. Once she gets serious, she pretty much manhandles him.
    • The dozens of clones of Unohana that Szayelapporo creates manage to cut off her arm and stab her a few times, but she easily hacks her way through all of them, later remarking how disappointing she found the fight.
  • At the climax of Hellsister Trilogy's second series, Supergirl goes up against Darkseid. It's clear from the beginning she is severely outmatched, but she gets several good licks in before going down, such as smashing him across the room and hitting him several times with her fists or her heat vision.
  • What If I Know Too Many Reasons I Can Be Strong?: Akaza and Kokushibo hold their own against Tanjiro and are able to both give and put up a decent fight even with him in Yoriichi Type Zero. Considering that his battles against other demons — including other Upper Ranks like Doma — have been rather one-sided, this is quite an impressive feat that makes it fitting for their status as the strongest members of the Upper Ranks in the first place.
  • Tamers Forever Series:
    • Although ChaosGallantmon dominates the Tamers for almost the entirety of their fight, he is still on the receiving end of an effective Dual Force attack from Sakuyamon and SaberLeomon.Even though he manages to keep fighting, it proves more effective than anything even the Sovereigns could do to him.
    • Also, despite being completely outclassed in their fight against Daemon, the Tamers still manage to get a few decent hits in.
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): Monster X (San and Vivienne Graham) gets this when being tortured by MaNi/Elder Brother — Vivienne manages to save San from being killed by MaNi and do some serious damage to MaNi, and they try to go down fighting before their Heroic RRoD hits.
  • The Ultimate Evil: When Valerie Payne is attacked in her apartment by Hak Foo, she's badly wounded by the muscular master martial artist. However, she manages to use Jackie's self-defence lessons to give him a few painful strikes, block one of his blows (much to the surprise of them both), and slash his forearm with a carving knife before he inevitably brings her to her knees.
  • In Power Games, Vita demolishes Nanoha in their first encounter. Despite this, Nanoha manages to break Vita's jaw, at the cost of breaking her own hand.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, the Stardroids' initial invasion is prevented from being a complete rout when Pluto takes damage from the Land Blazer and Bass is able to fight them on equal footing.
  • This goes both ways during the League of Villains' assault on the USJ in Erased Potential:
    • Izuku struggles against Shigaraki but still manages to land some good hits on him, in no small part due to Shigaraki's own arrogance and ignorance. In particular, Shigaraki decides to make a show of disarming him by disintegrating his eskrima rods — causing them to explode in his hands, severely injuring himself in the process.
    • Since All Might has yet to pass on his Quirk, he's strong enough to handily defeat the Nomu upon arriving, forcing the League into retreat. However, while they failed to achieve their primary goal, they also inflicted far more damage onto Class 1-A than their Canon counterparts managed, with over half of the class requiring immediate medical treatment for serious injuries.
  • The Immortal Game:
    • The Royals' attack on the Loyalists' base — the Loyalists take losses, but for the most part they escape, and Twilight Sparkle recovers from her Split Personalities in the process, so that's a bonus.
    • The second Battle of Ponyville looks like one of these, as even though Terra takes out Luna and wipes the floor with the Mane Six, they refuse to give up and get in plenty of hits of their own. It ends up as a subversion, as they actually manage to win, thanks to reigniting the Elements of Harmony and stripping Terra's power.
  • The Nuptialverse: In Direction, Applejack is unable to get in any effective hits on Red Hoof due to his extremely dense musculature and unexpected speed (Trixie having hired him for exactly this purpose), but a fortunately-placed pair of scissors allows her to momentarily escape his grip, and only her hesitation to shed blood prevents her from pressing the advantage.
  • In Spectacular Seven, Sunset Shimmer is being broken by the Big Bad, who is using the Archon Amulet to torture Sunset with dark memories in an attempt to bring out her Superpowered Evil Side. Sunset refuses to break, eventually giving a "No More Holding Back" Speech and launching the Big Bad into a wall by transforming into her Golden Super Mode. Faced with this, the Big Bad "goes to plan B" and just steals Sunset's soul from her body, the wall-launch being ultimately inconsequential.
  • Androgyninja's A Drop of Poison opens with Sakura and Sasuke sparring at the Academy. While Sakura suspects she has no chance against the 'top rookie' of their class, she manages to land two blows before going down. Unfortunately, Sasuke doesn't take it well and unleashes a blistering Breaking Speech about how she'll never be worth more than Cannon Fodder, destroying her crush on him.
  • In Patterns of the Past, Old Missie, Olesya's boss, puts up quite a fight against the Patternista when the villainess tries to kidnap her. When Ogden and Olesya go to her office, they find her desk overturned with boxes scattered all around and completely opened. Even when she is eventually kidnapped, she is a Defiant Captive who shows absolutely no fear and is more than willing to fight the Patternista the minute the rescue team gains an upper hand.
  • Zoro's duel with Mihawk in The Boy With Haki still ends with Zoro being defeated with ease. Unlike canon, however, he's unlocked haki and as a result, his ultimate attack manages to cut Mihawk's cheek.
  • Ancienverse:
    • DARC delivers one to the protagonists in their first major appearance, with Alain's Charizard able to get in a few hits, but ultimately being unable to do anything. Especially when Latios shows up.
    • Hau is on the receiving end of one from Ash in their first battle, losing 3-1. He's pretty good-natured about it, though.
  • Hyphen: Astra and May's "battle" against Steven in Petalburg Woods. Steven wipes out both of their zero-badge teams with just his Skarmory and spends most of the battle standing back and letting Skarmory's natural abilities and experience handle the whole fight. But the two had enough tactical skill to force Steven to actually try against them, if only briefly: right when they think they've gotten the upper hand, Steven orders Skarmory to use Steel Wing, and that ends the battle.
  • Traveler: Ash manages to take out two members of Cynthia's team at the cost of five of his own then almost beats her Garchomp while fighting four-on-one.
  • Essentially features in Power Rangers Mythos, when Tommy Oliver has to fight a brainwashed Adam Park, the two taken from different time periods so that Tommy is still the Green Ranger while Adam has trained with Tommy's future self. Tommy is the better natural fighter, but Adam's experience training with Tommy's future self allows him to predict some of Tommy's moves and counter them, to the extent that Tommy needs aid from his teammates to actually win.
  • Cinder loses her sparring match to Tai in Five Minutes to Midnight, but she puts up a very impressive fight and manages to score a few decent hits in, which is commendable since Tai is an experienced Huntsman and she's just a small child.
  • This is how the war with the martians started in Strike Witches Quest. The aliens opened the invasion with attacks on major cities and battlefields all over the globe, taking every nation on Earth by near-complete surprise and inflicting heavy damage on most of their civilian targets. But the battlefields they attacked mostly turned into Enemy Mine situations between the Axis and Allied powers, particularly at Stalingrad and Pearl Harbor. Moreover, the alien attacks on civilian targets were too successful — they killed off Hitler and Mussolini and gave Admiral Yamamoto an opening to wrest control of Japan from the maniacs in the IJA, paving the way for an early end to World War II.
  • In the Bronze Age Alternate Universe fic A Rabbit Clan's Fox, while the bulk of the Hopps clan (including Judy) is battling a skirmish on the outside of the burrow, a small warband sneaks into the burrow in an effort to kill or take away the kits into thralldom. Nick, who is Judy's thrallnote , is hiding with the children to keep them calm since they're fond of him. The warband is composed of five for five rabbit warriors and a stoatnote  mercenary; Nick is an adult male red foxnote  and as such a VERY strong, tough and frightening enemy to face. In a panicked frenzy that involves completely ignoring sword slashes and bludgeoning straight through weapons raised in defense (and the foes behind them as well), Nick manages to annihilate the entire warband, but due in no small part to catching them by surprise and immediately disabling one warriornote , and not without receiving grievous injuries.

    Films — Animation 
  • While Gaston in Beauty and the Beast is clearly on the losing end of the battle once the Beast snaps out of his Heroic BSoD and starts to actually fight back, he still manages to put up a decent fight for a little while.
  • The final confrontation of Corpse Bride has Barkis keeping Victor, who only has a fork, on the ropes with a saber. Nonetheless, Victor manages to jab his attacker with a fork a few times before he is completely overpowered.
  • Every fight Tai Lung gets into before Po in Kung Fu Panda establishes him as being great but not invincible. During the jailbreak he is almost stopped when the bridge is blown, The Furious Five all manage to land blows and Tigress and Viper go toe-to-toe with him for a short while before he pulls out his pressure point attack, and Master Shifu takes him on in a protracted battle.
  • Simba in The Lion King (1994) loses to his best friend Nala during all of their fights, but in their third fight as adults, he does a much better job against her than the first two times. At the beginning of the fight he manages to startle her for a moment when he lunges at her out of nowhere and tackles her hard to the ground, briefly pinning her before she manages to break free from his hold and fight back. He grapples with her evenly throughout the fight, despite her having more experience than him and this being the first real fight of his life. Finally, even though she ends up winning with the same move she used to beat him before, she was clearly taking the fight very seriously, unlike their fights as cubs where she easily beat Simba while laughing at him with little effort, and he managed to save his friends from her.
  • Mortal Kombat Legends:
    • Towards the end of the movie Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion's Revenge, Liu Kang battles Goro and while he gets horribly beaten and mauled at the end, he was able to outsmart the Shokan Prince before then with some hanging cloth, get in several good hits, and knock Goro through a pillar with his signature bicycle kick.
    • The sequel, Mortal Kombat Legends: Battle of the Realms, sees Raiden manage to do a flying tackle on Shao Kahn before suffering a Disney Death at Kahn's hands. Additionally, Sonya Blade also manages to get in some good hits and a chokehold on Shao Kahn before getting pulverized.
  • In The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Donkey Kong isn't able to stand up against Bowser despite being powerful, but he does manage to throw a punch that briefly sends him flying.
  • Toy Story: In the gas station fight, Buzz dominates the fight against Woody, but Woody does manage to knock Buzz to the ground and punch him three times in the head before Buzz closes his helmet on Woody's hand.
  • After messing with the poor box during the Darkest Hour of Robin Hood (1973), the Sheriff of Nottingham seemingly talks himself into a sound beating from the livid Friar Tuck, who shoves and whacks him stupid with a club. Even before Trigger comes to his aid, however, the Sheriff recovers and easily slices Tuck's club in half. Though Tuck still doesn't lose footing until Trigger intervenes, he is clearly panicking and fighting much more desperately.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Bringing Down the House: While Charlene wins the fight against Rich Bitch Ashley as expected, Ashley puts up a decent fight thanks to her Tae Bo classes.
  • Damage: John's fight with Jaime. Jaime starts off strong, but John gains the advantage early on via a nail gun and kicks the shit out of him. John still loses the fight, as Jaime refuses to stay down and John refuses to kill him, forfeiting the match.
  • Dune (2021): The Harkonnen attack catches House Atreides completely by surprise, destroying all of their spacecraft on the ground and forcing the survivors of the initial bombardment to charge into battle outnumbered and poorly armed. Despite this, Gurney Halleck still manages to lead the survivors in a glorious last charge, holding off the Harkonnens until most are cut down by the Sardaukar.
  • Fantastic Beasts: Newton Scamander's two encounters with Grindelwald is this. While he is very obviously outmatched by the greatest dark wizard in history, who would go on to give DUMBLEDORE a fight for his life, he still proves his worth as Dumbledore's protege by lasting noticeably better than anyone else who tries to fight him. Even the Auror Tina wasn't worth Grindelwald releasing any significant spell, while Newt at least makes him push on his offense and manages to block his electrical spells. In the second film, he alongside Theseus and Tina are shown to be able to block Grindelwald's blue fire whereas all others die instantly from it and end up managing to escape with their lives after Leta sacrifices herself.
  • Godzilla:
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: The Goblin King. He's about the only goblin that lands a good blow on Gandalf, swatting him off his feet. Before Gandalf gets back up and promptly kills him with three slashes.
  • Ip Man: All of Ip's opponents are clearly outclassed, but General Miura lands a few good hits and nearly manages to get him with a Ring Out.
  • Ip Man 4: Though Geddes manages to knock Master Wan out, it's not before the latter manages to throw him a few times, whereas he was earlier able to defeat a roomful of admittedly already tired and injured masters without a scratch.
  • In Independence Day, at dawn on July 3rd, Black Knight Squadron launches from MCAS El Toro to strike at the 15-mile-wide city destroyer hovering above the ruins of Los Angeles, they see their ordnance go off harmlessly on the ship's protective shield. The two dozen, or so, fighter planes are then engaged by a large swarm of more than a hundred small nimble defender craft that are also protected by their own shields. In the span of about one hour, what was supposed to be the opening phase of a counterattack is aborted as the operation turns into a one-sided slaughter in favor of the invaders. To make matters worse, as the main defensive force finishes off Black Knight Squadron, another massive swarm of defender craft is dispatched to El Toro, with the intent of destroying the base and anyone on it. Seeing what a disaster the operation was, Cpt. Steven Hiller manages to outmaneuver one of the craft that chased him from Los Angeles onto the Nevada desert, and he forces it to crash and captures the enemy pilot.
  • Hilariously invoked during Jackass: The Movie: the department store boxing segment between Johnny Knoxville and Eric Scott "Butterbean" Esch (a 425-lb. pro boxing champion) was nothing short of a full thrashing, but Butterbean willingly stopped in his barrage and offered Knoxville a free hit. He takes him on the offer with the biggest punch he can muster, to which Butterbean happily tanks it before continuing his ass-whupping.
    Butterbean: Here-here, hit me once at least. (punch) There you go! (continues his beatdown)
  • Jurassic Park:
    • During the infamous T. Rex vs. Spinosaurus fight in Jurassic Park III, the T. Rex actually manages to knock the Spinosaurus back at first and even bites down on into the Spinosaurus's neck before getting its own neck snapped.
    • The 1-on-1 T. rex vs I. rex battle in Jurassic World. The T. rex, well past her prime, draws first blood, shakes the Indominus around a bit, and actually makes her scream in pain, but when the Indominus pins her down, she suffers a savage mauling, and would've been killed if Blue the Velociraptor hadn't shown up.
  • Kick-Ass 2:
    • Hit-Girl lands some solid blows on Mother Russia but the much larger woman still dominates their fight until Mindy is injected with adrenaline.
    • Kick-ass versus the Motherfucker makes it clear that Chris has almost no fighting ability, unlike Dave who's been training. Chris gets the upper hand exactly twice in the entire fight: Once when two of his minions hold Dave down and once when he lands a surprise attack on Dave from behind. The rest of the time, he struggles to even hold his own.
  • Letters from Iwo Jima has the Japanese garrison on Iwo Jima hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned by a superior American invasion force. However, thanks to the defense-in-depth planned by General Kuribayashi, the Japanese managed to inflict higher casualties than they took for the first time in the war and make them pay in taking the island.
  • In The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, after the Ents are awakened and attack Saruman's fortress of Orthanc, they lay waste to his Uruk-Hai army. The Uruk-Hai do, however, manage to capture a couple Ents by pulling them over with hooks and chains. They also set one on fire, but he's saved by a well-timed dam break and flood.
    • In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, something of a minor criticism of the Theatrical cut is that Mordor's army manages to almost walk over Gondor's defenders at Minas Tirith, even though Gondor is supposed to be the most powerful kingdom still opposing Sauron - more powerful than Rohan. Sort of an unfair comparison, given that Isengard attacked Helm's Deep with 10,000 (well-equipped) Uruk-hai, while Mordor sent a mega-horde of something like a quarter million Orcs to attack Minas Tirith as the main thrust of the entire war. Thankfully this was fixed a bit in the Extended edition of ROTK, which has more time to show the tide of battle see-sawing back and forth as each side makes successful counter-attacks - thus adding in a Pillow to the otherwise Curb Stomp battle. Case in point, an Extended edition scene shows the Orcs' first attempt to use a regular battering ram against the city gates, which gets stopped cold with heavy losses by companies of Gondorian archers on the walls. The Orcs then have to regroup and bring up the super-battering ram known as Grond later that night.
  • Marked for Death: In the final battle, Steven Seagal's character John Hatcher curb-stomps Screwface just like any other opponent, but before that, Screwface disarms him twice and rams his head into windows, glass bottles, and a wall several times.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Avengers: Infinity War: The combined might of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and the Guardians of the Galaxy proves to be no match for Thanos and the power of the Infinity Gauntlet, but they sure as hell won’t go down without giving him one hell of a fight first. Even if Thanos does succeed in his goal of wiping out half the universe, in the end, he has lost everything in his quest due to the heroes’ resistance. His entire army and the elite Black Order are annihilated, his adoptive daughter sacrificed, the Infinity Gauntlet ruined, and the surviving heroes will surely come to avenge their fallen comrades in the near future. And he got a tiny cut on his cheek from Tony's rocket-assisted punch.
    • Avengers: Endgame manages to thrice have Thanos's unparalleled strength matched, by Captain America (who by using Mjolnir beats him a lot, until Thanos catches on and cuts off Cap's shield), Scarlet Witch (whose telekinetic powers break his sword and start to crush Thanos into his own armor, until he orders an orbital bombardment that takes her out), and Captain Marvel (who manages to No-Sell a headbutt and almost breaks the Infinity Gauntlet's hand, until Thanos takes out the Power Stone to power-up his punch to titanic levels).
  • MonsterVerse:
    • Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019): While Rodan loses fairly quickly to Ghidorah during their aerial battle in Mexico, he still manages to last roughly a full minute or two in a one-on-one confrontation with Godzilla's Arch-Enemy.
    • Godzilla vs. Kong, the first encounter between the two kaiju gives all the advantages to Godzilla. The fight is at sea, and Kong is chained to a container ship. Godzilla takes advantage in flipping the ship over, and Kong is only saved from drowning thanks to him being released from his chains. Despite being underwater he manages to repel Godzilla and turn the ship back on rightside up before taking the fight onto an aircraft carrier. He punches Godzilla in the face, which just serves to annoy him and cause him to slap Kong onto his back. As he's about to fire his Breath Weapon however a few jet fighters shoot at Godzilla and give Kong the chance to push him off the carrier. Which does Kong no good as Godzilla simply destroys the carrier and forces Kong into the water and nearly drowns him. Kong is up against a monster who is bigger, stronger, has the Homefield Advantage since he swims much faster than Kong and can breathe underwater. Despite that Kong does get a few hits in, even when they are fighting underwater, causing Godzilla to get serious.
      • The rematch between the two. This time Kong has the Homefield Advantage because they are fighting in a city where he can manuveur by leaping around the buildings and has an axe that absorbs the energy from Godzilla's Breath Weapon (something Kong has no defense against otherwise). By the end, Kong seems to have Godzilla on the ropes, but Godzilla in the end turns out to have been pulling his punches and reduces the fight to a one-sided beating that leaves Kong on death's doorstep. Despite that Kong managed to get a number of hits in throughout the fight and even when pinned under Godzilla's foot, after he's clearly beaten he gets in one last hit on a wound he made with the axe.
  • In the prologue of The Mummy (1999), Rick's French Foreign Legion don't back down in the face of the Medjai army, and their first several volleys take down several waves of horsemen, but the moment the Medjai start returning fire, the difference in firepower is obvious. The moment they jump the barricades, the battle is all but lost. But even as the rest of the legionnaires are getting slaughtered, Rick still takes out several enemies before he's forced to flee.
  • In the Taiwanese film, The Naval Commandos, the Taiwanese battleship Ning-hai is on the receiving end of a one-sided battle against the dreaded Japanese aircraft carrier, the Izumo. But before going down, the crew of the Ning-hai did at least shoot down a handful of the many planes launched by the Izumo.
  • Prey (2022): Most things that fight the Predator are taken out in short order, but in numerous cases, the alien's quarry manages to get a few hits in to show that it's not invincible. The Predator goes one-on-one with a grizzly bear, and although the alien ends up killing it in one punch, it's briefly knocked down and thrashed by the bear beforehand, while the French trappers that try and ambush it manage to inflict numerous minor injuries before it regains its bearings and slaughters them all. Even then, it's shown having to patch up all its wounds after the battle is over.
  • RoboCop: The first battle between Robo Cop and ED-209 is largely one-sided in the latter's favor. However, Robo Cop manages to rip off one of his opponent's arms.
  • Both of the fights between Rocky Balboa and Clubber Lang in Rocky III have elements of this. In the first bout Rocky starts strong, and at one point seems to have Lang in trouble, but Lang manages to cover up and then comes back to crush Rocky. In the rematch, Rocky outclasses Lang in round 1 by using Hit-and-Run Tactics and later knocks Lang out in round 3, but during the second round, Lang seems to be on the edge of winning and manages to knock Rocky down twice.
  • In Pokémon Detective Pikachu, even after regaining the ability to use moves, Detective Pikachu stands little chance of overpowering Howard-as-Mewtwo. However, he still manages to fend off Howard's attacks for some time and even stuns him temporarily with Volt Tackle, distracting him long enough for Tim to break Mewtwo free from Howard's control.
  • The fight between Mal and the Operative in Serenity starts off as a Curb-Stomp Battle, but once Mal gets the opportunity to fight dirty, he lands a few good hits. It doesn't do much, and it's only Inara's flashbang disguised as incense going off in the nick of time that stops the Operative from killing them.
  • Spider-Man 3:
    • During the fight with a symbiote-fueled Peter, Harry actually manages to get a few good hits in and even after Peter starts winning, he doesn't go down until one of his own bombs goes off in his face.
    • Before that, Sandman is able to hold himself against the symbiote-fueled Spider-Man until Peter gets pissed off and pummels him.
  • In Stardust, Septimus is out of his depth when he fights the three witches and is killed fairly easily when they stop playing. In the interim, however, his quick thinking allows him to throw his sword through one of them, killing her.
  • Star Trek: First Contact: As the Borg cube inexorably lumbers towards Earth like a metal leviathan, it shrugs off the attacks of the hastily assembled Starfleet ships - except for the USS Defiant, which is agile enough to dodge some of its fire, while still powerful enough to respond with pulse-phaser bursts that actually cause noticeable damage to the cube (the Defiant class was designed purely for battle, and described as just an engine with guns strapped to it). Everyone else is getting slaughtered, the Defiant is actually "fighting". Problem is that it's still just an escort ship, albeit a ridiculously overpowered escort ship, and the Borg cube dwarfs the largest dreadnought of any other race by a factor of ten - thus even the Defiant eventually gets overwhelmed, but its crew are saved by the timely arrival of the Enterprise-E.
    • In a more general example, Starfleet managed to keep up the running battle all the way to near Earth orbit and inflicted enough damage that the Enterprise's sensors on arrival registers it as "heavy damage to the outer hull, fluctuations in Cube power grid". Compare this to Wolf 359, where a Cube easily wiped out an entire fleet and to only light damage continued on towards Earth unmolested.
  • Star Wars
    • In the opening of A New Hope, at least two Stormtroopers are shot dead by lucky Rebels, keeping the skirmish in the Tantive IV hallway from otherwise being an outright massacre by the Empire. Leia also manages to kill one before she's captured, which was just a distraction from her real mission, helping C-3PO and R2-D2 to escape with the Death Star plans.
    • The Empire Strikes Back:
      • Yes, their entire base is destroyed, but 3 of the 5 AT-ATs (one by Wedge, one by Luke, and one by Hobbie who crashed his airspeeder into the bridge) are taken down in the process, and many of the transports escape the Imperial fleet.
      • The fight between Luke and Darth Vader ends very much on Vader's side but Luke does get him on the back foot a couple times. While this is partially because Vader wants to catch Luke but even when the Dark Lord takes off the kid gloves, Luke still gets a glancing blow in. It helps illustrate that Luke could beat Darth Vader at his best but that is very much not now.
    • Most Star Wars battles, even curb-stomp ones, tend to follow this pattern. At least one Republic AT-TE Walker is shown exploding during the Battle of Geonosis, for instance, and a number of rebel ships are destroyed even in the closing stages of the Battle of Endor.
    • The prequel trilogy ends with a canon-mandated cushion; although the Jedi are about 99% wiped out, Anakin Skywalker has become Darth Vader, and Chancellor Palpatine has gained more or less absolute power, Yoda and Obi-Wan are alive, Qui-Gon Jinn has managed to contact Yoda from the Force afterlife, and together they're going to be able to train Anakin's son Luke as a new hope for the galaxy.
    • The Force Awakens: Finn is an ordinary Stormtrooper turned Resistance fighter whose only experience with a lightsaber ended with him getting his ass kicked by a nameless Stormtrooper. Kylo Ren is a trained Dark Side warrior who slaughtered most of the New Jedi Order and has a customized lightsaber built for duels. Finn loses as badly as you'd expect but still manages to get a stab in (though it helps that Kylo was already injured).
    • Pretty much every battle in The Last Jedi goes like this. In the opening battle, all the Resistance bombers are destroyed, but not before taking out the First Order Dreadnaught. The First Order manages to blow up most of the escape ships fleeing to Crait and all their heavy cruisers, but Admiral Holdo makes them pay for it by ramming the Raddus into Snoke's flagship, the Supremacy, at light speed, bifurcating the sixty-kilometer-wide First Order flagship in half, along with many of the Star Destroyers flying near it.
    • Rogue One: The Rebels are wiped out to a man, but they manage to successfully transmit the Death Star plans to the rebellion. It then becomes a moot point when Tarkin orders the Death Star to fire on his own base, killing the last two rebels (Jyn and Cassian) along with presumably every Imperial troop left on the base, though even that is a Curb-Stomp Cushion since the Death Star's days are numbered.
  • Terminator:
    • The Terminator: The titular Killer Robot does have weaknesses despite its menacing appearance.
      • The Terminator vs. Ginger's boyfriend Matt. Matt gets predictably ragdolled, but there is a moment where the guy rugby-tackles the apparent home invader and manages to knock it back a few feet.
      • After the first time it chases Sarah and Kyle, the T-800 heads back to its hideout to repair the servos in its arm and eye. The 2nd time it's run over by a speeding truck, the T-800 is left with a noticeable limp, optical damage, and more flesh wounds.
      • While hiding in the same cheap hotel after the police station shootout, its synthskin starts rotting to the point a janitor asks if the smell is coming from a dead animal. It's reduced to being a metallic endoskeleton after a fiery gas tanker explosion melts the disguise, yet it still resumes its chase.
      • After Kyle jams another pipe bomb into the robot's frame, the T-800 loses its legs and left hand in the explosion, but the endoskeleton from the waist up still survived and tried to choke Sarah to death. It takes a hydraulic press to flatten the T-800 beyond repair.
      • In an example not directly related to the Terminator itself, the future war scenes show humans being curb-stomped, the biggest victory shown for humans being Kyle managing to destroy a single HK Tank. Then you remember that prior to seeing most of these scenes, dialogue established that humanity still won the war and the Terminator being sent back in time was a last-ditch desperation move on Skynet's part.
    • The opening scene in Terminator 2: Judgment Day shows many of the human forces being helplessly overrun and slaughtered by Skynet's machines. Shift to a mangled and helpless Terminator lying on the ground as a human trooper stands above it, taking aim to finish him off. Later in the same scene, there's a flying Hunter Killer that gets taken out with a rocket launcher.
  • Tora! Tora! Tora!: Amidst all the carnage the Japanese forces are wreaking on the surprised Americans, there are a few bright spots for the Yanks. Two fighters manage to make it into the air and engage some of the attacking bombers. Truth in Television, as seven American fighters on the island managed to get into the air during the attack to engage the enemy.
  • Under Siege 2: Dark Territory has Siegal's character, Casey Ryback, dominating The Dragon in their fight. But said dragon, does manage to land a solid kick to Ryback's face when the former tried to twist his ankle, knocking him back and allowing the former to grab a weapon. And earlier in the fight, he managed to cost Ryback his knife when their tussle led to them falling down the stairs.
  • A deleted scene in Watchmen shows Hollis Mason attacked by a group of thugs on Halloween night. While he still loses, he puts up a good fight and gets several hits in before being overwhelmed by multiple opponents. Notable for perhaps making the fight even more of a Tear Jerker.
  • The opening battle in We Were Soldiers between the French army and the Vietminh. Despite being outnumbered and ambushed, the French troops inflict heavy casualties and seem to be holding their own, until the Vietminh kill their commanding officer. The battle ends shortly afterwards with a massacre.
  • Wonder Woman (2017):
    • In the beachfront battle, none of the German soldiers survive, but they do take a few of the Amazons with them (including, notably, General Antiope.)
    • While it's clear that even with his Super Serum, General Luffendorf is no match for Wonder Woman, he still holds his own for a decent bit and at one point almost stabs her with her own sword.

  • Felix the Scout in Armor. He knows that those bastards (the mass of alien Ants charging his position) are going to get him, but not this bastard (blam) or this one (pow)... Turns out he's wrong...
  • The Emperor's Gift: Both Hyperion and Malchadiel are thrashed in seconds by Logan Grimnar, showing the difference in abilities between two young Grey Knights and a highly experienced Space Wolves Chapter Master. Hyperion, however, is able to stop Grimnar from killing Malchadiel and even nearly destroys his axe before the fight is interrupted.
  • Harry Potter has plenty of examples.
    • Though Dumbledore has the advantage throughout his duel with Voldemort, the latter still is able to dish out plenty of powerful spells and even keep Dumbledore somewhat on his toes, though it's heavily implied that Dumbledore is just holding him long enough for the Ministry to arrive, and given his Dissonant Serenity, probably could have wiped the floor with Voldemort if he'd wanted to.note 
    • Earlier, Dumbledore is able to disable the remaining fighting Death Eaters easily enough, except Bellatrix Lestrange who is able to casually deflect his spell (he does catch up to her and quickly disable her however).
    • Though Harry's duel with Bellatrix goes about the way you'd expect it to, he does get in one hit that knocks her down. This seems to amuse her more than anything, however.
    • In the sixth book, Alecto is sent running from Prof. McGonagall, though as Harry witnesses them duelling a few paragraphs earlier she was presumably able to hold her own against the transfiguration master at least for a while.
    • Though Voldemort murders ministry witch Amelia Bones, we are told that she went down fighting a good fight.
    • In the climax of the final book, the trio's bravery inspires the rest of the Order and the Hogwarts staff to finally stop fearing Voldemort and the Death Eaters and fight back, with Voldemort himself fighting against McGonagall, Slughorn, and Shacklebolt, and Bellatrix fighting against Hermione, Ginny, and Luna, and each trio holding their own against these previously unbeatable threats. True enough, it's shortly thereafter that Harry and Molly finish both of the villains off.
  • A Hero's War has an example with the monsters on the receiving end. The Minmay "Special Effects" team, testing out the latest experimental combinations of magic and explosives, achieves a thirty-to-one kill ratio against the zombies, but their own losses are harder to replace than the zombies' are, both in troops and in ammunition. Still, considering how the engagement might have gone without them, it's widely considered a success.
  • In the third novel of Mistborn: The Original Trilogy, the Big Bad is at the brink of victory right from the word go, and everything the heroes do seems to play into his hands. However, we are told several times of things that he has not succeeded in doing despite trying to - usually minor goals that would have sped up plans that were already advancing at a steady pace, but all the same, it hints that he's not infallible and that there might yet be some way to beat him.
  • Several of the Yuuzhan Vong's more overwhelming victories in the New Jedi Order novels are tempered by these sorts of actions. In most cases, the mitigating factor comes from the Vong's Attack! Attack! Attack! style and We Have Reserves mentality leading to huge casualties, such as during the Fall of Coruscant; it's easy to miss amidst the heroes' desperate flight from their home planet, but three waves of Yuuzhan Vong ground troops are totally obliterated, along with similar numbers of their warships. Other specific examples:
    • Edge of Victory: Conquest: The Jedi Academy has fallen, and Talon Karrde's smuggler fleet has taken heavy losses getting the students out — but they do get the students out alive, inflicting heavy damage in the process, and inadvertently spark the Jedi Heresy among the Vong's worker caste to boot.
    • Star By Star: Even though Coruscant has fallen and the strike team to Myrkr is devastated, their mission was successful, destroying the Hero Killer voxyn, and delivering the team a Yuuzhan Vong frigate which will help them take advantage of the growing heresy by impersonating a goddess.
    • Force Heretic: Remnant: The eponymous Imperial Remnant has suffered a devastating sneak attack to their capital, Bastion. The only relief comes when Luke Skywalker's small expedition accidentally jumps into the conflict, giving Pellaeon tactical advice that allows his damaged ships to obliterate a small Vong flotilla. On its own, this is a minor loss for the Vong, but it foreshadows how deadly the Remnant can be, even wounded, with a combination of Imperial pride and discipline and Jedi military intelligence.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion is full of these, as the Elves and their allies are doomed to lose against Morgoth. During the Battle of Sudden Flame, the breaking of the Siege of Angband is cushioned by Barahir's rescue of Finrod's host; Fingolfin managing to get a few good strikes on Morgoth (including delivering a permanent injury to his foot) before Morgoth defeated and killed him in their duel; the utter defeat at the Battle of Unnumbered Tears is cushioned by the Men of Hador's Last Stand protecting Turgon's escape; the Fall of Gondolin is cushioned by Tuor and Idril escaping with the remnant of its people; and the Kinslayings at Doriath and the Havens of Sirion are cushioned both times by Elwing escaping with the Silmaril. In all cases, these cushions come at the hands of Men.
    • This is actually something of a recurring theme among Morgoth and Sauron, his greatest servant. Men are constantly seen as being weak and useless, but often end up saving the day or at least cushioning horrific defeats. Even Sauron's final defeat is given to him by Men, who end the series by rising to ascension as the elves leave to head across the sea to Valinor, their time in the mortal world over.
  • In The War of the Worlds (1898), the human military is almost helpless against the invaders, but there are two small successes.
    • An artillery crew takes down a tripod but is incinerated afterward.
    • The torpedo ram HMS Thunder Child destroys two tripods and possibly a third before being destroyed itself. The crew's Heroic Sacrifice allows a fleet of small ships carrying refugees to escape.
  • In the opening scenes of the World War series, human troops get annihilated all over the world by the alien invaders. Then a plucky German Panzer squad ambush an alien tank column. In exchange for losing the last 4 tanks the main character is in command of, they kill a single enemy personnel carrier and a single enemy tank by exploiting the aliens' poor tactics. This is considered the most successful action against them of any kind, of the entire human-alien war so far. Obviously, as the story goes on, things get better for the humans as they develop innovative tactics such as the Russian dog bombs. Eventually the curb-stomping just plain ends and it becomes a more even war with lots of Rock Beats Laser.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Several battle scenes in Babylon 5 have this element.
    • Most notably, the Season 2 episode "The Long, Twilight Struggle" features a fleet of ships being ambushed by a large Shadow fleet. Amidst the ships getting cut apart left and right, you do see two of the ships concentrating their fire to wound a single Shadow Battlecrab - the first time one of these ships is seen damaged in battle.
    • The Earth-Minbari war was a generally one-sided stomping of humanity, with a single human victory being the destruction of the Minbari flagship Black Star in a minefield. Naturally, Sheridan was the one behind it. And the sore losers never let him forget it. However, the fluff implies that the Minbari did, in fact, sustain other casualties; it's just their casualties were significantly lower than that of the Earth Alliance. Depending on the source, the Battle of Vega, one of the first battles of the war, results in 1-3 destroyed Minbari ships, one of them being a Sharlin warcruiser being rammed by a prototype Nova-X battlecruiser (the future Omega destroyers).
  • Implied in the Mini Series of the Battlestar Galactica remake. Boomer mentions that the only ships proving effective against the Cylons are either obsolete models or overdue for repairs. That means that amidst all the carnage shown during the invasions, at least a few Colonial warriors were getting their own punches in.
  • Better Call Saul opens with one of these in the courtroom. Jimmy, a public defender, delivers a closing statement for his clients that is clearly well-thought-out and manages to do everything a lawyer should do: he downplays their actions, humanizes them and cites their youthful ignorance as mitigating factors, appeals to the jury's sympathy, and brings up pertinent facts from the case (Is it trespass if the door was open? Was it really a harmful crime if nobody got hurt?) that clearly shows off that he's very good at his job. Then we learn what, exactly, his clients were charged with: breaking into a morgue, cutting off the heads of one of the bodies, and having sex with the head. And then filming it. Needless to say, simply presenting the film overwhelms any argument Jimmy could possibly make.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: In "Tough Love", when Glory Mind Rapes Tara, Willow goes ballistic and attacks her in a Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Though Willow ultimately goes down, she's nonetheless able to injure Glory and make her scream in pain, something not even Buffy was able to do.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Euron kicked Balon's ass, but Balon managed to slash his face and give Euron a scar to remember him by.
    • When Daenerys Targaryen attacks the Lannister supply train with the Dothraki and Drogon, it's mostly a one-sided slaughter that shows us just how outmatched basic Westerosi soldiers are. Nonetheless, the Lannister line holds in places, we see plenty of Dothraki being killed, and most crucially, Bronn is able to wound Drogon.
  • In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Azati Prime", our heroes are attacked by four Xindi warships. Enterprise manages to destroy one Reptilian ship before the combined firepower of the other three reduces her to a floating wreck. The only reason she's not destroyed is that the Xindi Council calls off the attack.
  • Stranger Things:
    • In Season 2, Steve is able to get in a few good shots against Billy, before Billy clonks him with a plate and gives him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown after pinning Steve.
    • In Season 3, Hopper's first fight with Grigori has Hopper get completely punched all over but he manages to headbutt him and push him back into the desk.
  • Teen Wolf basically runs on this.
    • At the end of Season 1, Scott and Derek are soundly thrashed by the Alpha before Stiles and Jackson arrive, but they still both manage to land hits on him. Scott even briefly pins him to the wall and inflicts enough damage to force him to transform.
    • Likewise in Season 2, every fight against the Kanima ends up like this. Derek is usually the one doing the cushioning, but in the final episode it is attacked by Derek, Scott, and Isaac at once, and each of them gets in good hits. Derek even briefly outmaneuvers it, despite its speed.
    • The failed ambush in 'Frayed' in Season 3 goes thoroughly in favour of the Alpha Pack for the most part, but there are numerous cushions.
      • Allison arrives in a Big Damn Heroes moment and stops the Alpha Pack forcing Derek to kill Boyd.
      • Scott charges at Ennis and is able to stand his ground, despite the latter's strength.
      • Finally, Derek manages to near-mortally wound Ennis by throwing them both off a ledge.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • This summarizes Ricky Steamboat's Signature Style. While he did not get consistently pushed as a single's star and was often beaten to show how hard the champion would have to fight to retain against his next challenger, Steamboat rarely ever let anyone get sustain more than five offensive manuevers against him in a row, even if the only way Steamboat could retaliate was completely ineffective. For whatever reason, this clicked with the fans and made him an eternal baby face. Steamboat as a heel was something people refused to accept, as fans were too eager to see him make a comeback.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Inner Sphere achieved this a few times in BattleTech during the initial Clan invasion, typically via luring Clan forces into minefields, ambushes, or otherwise using smart tactics to counter the Clans' superior technology. This allowed the Inner Sphere troops to bleed the Clans a bit and ensure that defeated forces were able to retreat rather than being wiped completely out. As the Clan invasion carried on and lines got stretched, these tactical cushions eventually became so common that the Clans lost their momentum strategically trying to continually strike deeper into the immensely bigger Inner Sphere, eventually leading to actual turning points such as the Battle of Luthien.
    • The Reunification war became this for the Taurian Concordat. A 56-world Periphery State, the Concordat were invaded by the 1000+-world-sized Star League... And lost horribly. The cushion comes in that the Star League expected the Concordat to fall within a year or two. It took them 20 years, and the Star League military took disproportionate casualties before the Taurians were forced into surrender.
    • The short story "Three Points of Glory" revolves around this trope: The world of Sheliak, facing invasion by Clan Ghost Bear and having no military at all, decided to bid their All-Star (American) Football team in a Trial of Possession for the planet in the hope that the Clanners wouldn't know how to play. They quickly discover that not only do Clanners know how to play American Football, it's a favoured pastime for the Super-Soldier Elementals Clan Ghost Bear use for their team. The story focuses on the Sheliak All-Stars' attempt to score even a single point off their opponents while they're otherwise being flattened. The match ends 84-3, and Sheliak is handed over peacefully in the postgame.
    • One could argue this happened to the Clans at the battle of Tukayyid. While it certainly was a decisive victory for Comstar, it wasn't quite as one-sided as the memes and common fan sentiments might have you believe. The goal was effectively "best of 7" but Comstar only managed 4 victories. Both Clan Wolf and Clan Ghost Bear managed to defeat Comstar on their fronts, and Jade Falcoln inflicted so much damage in theirs Comstar was forced to call it a draw.
  • A lot of last-stand type scenarios in Warhammer Fantasy had this theme. Most notable was the Halting the Tide scenario during the "Storm of Chaos" event, where the defending force was almost guaranteed to be slaughtered, and the "cushion" was additional time for the main defence to prepare for Archaon's arrival. (A lucky or skilled defending player could also, flavourfully speaking, claim additional cushions, such as shooting Archaon off his Cool Horse, killing his underlings in large numbers, or even forcing Archaon himself to spend some time recuperating from battlefield wounds.)

  • Directly invoked by Enjolras and the other revolutionaries in Les Misérables; when they realize that no one is going to come to help them, and they are going to die, they promise to "make them bleed while we can". Given how quickly they go down shortly thereafter, it's unlikely they were very successful in this.

    Video Games 
  • ANNO: Mutationem: In Ann's first battle with Absalom, she was able to deliver a blow that sent him aback before she gets hit with a counter move combined with a Criss-Cross Attack.
  • The player themselves serves as one in Command & Conquer: Tiberium Wars when humanity meets the Scrin. The first mission introduces them in the process of utterly annihilating the city of Munich, and the entire defending GDI contingent along with it. Despite the defeat, however, the player does succeed in evacuating the local GDI council and discovers the aliens' inherent weakness to directed sonic energy in the process.
  • Wilhelm's battle with Schreiber in Dies Irae was pretty much a one-sided beat-down in Schreiber's favor. Despite this, he managed to keep getting back up to try and land a hit and eventually managed to pin Schreiber for the briefest of moments despite him losing pretty badly.
  • In The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim's Dawnguard DLC, the Hall of the Vigilant is destroyed by Clan Volkiharnote  after the player reaches level ten, with all residents killed. However, there are a few vampire and Death Hound corpses littered around the area, showing it wasn't a total massacre. The same later happens when the same group of vampires abduct a Moth Priest- one of his guards is found dead on the scene and the others are undead thralls in the cave where the Priest is held captive, but a few vampires died trying to seize him.
  • Crisis Core:
    • Although Sephiroth still has the upper hand, Genesis going all-out manages to put up a pretty good fight, doing much better than anyone else before him against Sephiroth, being able to actually push him back for a few moments, land solid blasts of fire spells even with Sephiroth blocking it, though it does little damage to Sephiroth, and block Sephiroth's energy blades.
    • While Zack is Doomed by Canon in his fight against Sephiroth, he does manage to hold his own for a decent length of time. If anything, this fight is actually the only reason why Cloud is able to get close enough to Sephiroth to stab him in the back and leave him open to being knocked into the Lifestream. Hojo even states that Sephiroth was actually giving it his all. (Considering Word of God, it's probably close to being his full power, but given that Hojo is such a Sephiroth fan and knows Angeal and Genesis, he would have known if Sephiroth was just using the same strength as he did with those two)
  • This can be done in-universe by Alpha 1 in an early mission of FreeSpace: during an important escort mission, the known enemy is suddenly and unexpectedly taken out by untargetable ships nearly impervious to the primary weapons available, who then turn on you. It is rather hard to destroy the strange ships... but if one pulls it off, the debriefing hails it as proving that the new enemy rampaging unchecked through Terran and Vasudan space can be hurt.
  • Half-Life has one in the HECU, and it applies in two ways.
    • Them against the invading Xen aliens. In general, the HECU are being overwhelmed, but as far as Gordon can see, they tend to win individual battles, suggesting that the aliens are only winning overall due to their superior numbers (an entire alien army vs a single special forces battalion). It's true that the marines are also enemies to the player (and everyone else in Black Mesa) but it's still not hard to be rooting for the humans during an alien invasion. Even when on the ropes, the HECU are still quite well-equipped and threatening, which Black Mesa showcases best.
    • Against Gordon, they also are one. Even if Dr. Freeman slaughters them in droves along his way, the first firefight is no cakewalk and it doesn't get any easier from there, even after more powerful hardware is acquired - they pull out their own big guns in the form of attack helicopters, armored fighting vehicles and a swarm of stationary turrets. And mines. Lots of mines.
  • In the backstory of the Halo series, this is the way the Human-Covenant war goes for about 30 years. The human military acquit themselves surprisingly well in ground battles due to their superior training and the Spartans. Heck, the Spartans are so feared by the Covenant that they call them "demons". But Covenant spaceships are much more advanced than human ships, so they win the space battles and glass the planet from orbit, rendering any human victory on the ground moot.
    • Even a few space battles are this, with the Covenant achieving only a Pyrrhic Victory instead of delivering their usual curbstomp to humanity. The battle for Reach cost the Covenant dearly, even if they don't like to show it; they concentrated five fleets to take the world in an unprecedentedly massive campaignnote  and, despite eliminating its Orbital Defense Platforms fairly early on, they lost over two-thirds of their ships. This is a particularly impressive feat for humanity because not only did they only have 152 warships to defend the planet against several hundred from the Covenant, but about 95% of those 152 warships were frigates and destroyers- which are individually outmassed literally a hundred times over by mainline Covenant warships like CCS-class battlecruisers. The losses in tonnage were grossly in humanity's favor during that campaign, probably hundreds of times over. The Covenant just have so many ships that they can sustain even that scale of losses and keep coming.
    • When the Flood take over High Charity in Halo 2, it's mostly a one-sided massacre that the distracted Covenant have no chance against, but we do see the Covenant kill a fair few Flood, just not enough to stop them.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Eyes of Heaven, some Great Heat Attacks have different cutscenes if used on certain targets.
    • If DIO uses his roadroller attack on Jotaro, he will briefly act during stopped time and fight back with Star Platinum for a moment. If the attack doesn't kill him, he will even mention it was a close scrape.
    • Likewise, if Funny Valentine has obtained the Corpse parts and is hit by Johnny's Perfect Golden Rotation or Gyro's Ball Breaker, he will use Love Train to stop the attack, albeit for a short while.
  • In The Last Remnant, Emma Honeywell is slain in a Curb-Stomp Battle by The Conqueror. However, she managed to draw First Blood against him, proving that he's not invincible.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails:
    • The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel: In the epilogue of Cold Steel II, the boys and girls compete in five swimming matches, but Laura and Fie are always sent out for the last four matches, resulting in the girls winning easily. Though the competition becomes a Curb Stomp Cushion if Rean manages to win the first match.
    • The Legend of Heroes: Trails into Reverie: Every Soldat trying to face Zoa Gilstein can only get a few blows in before being incapacitated.
  • Mass Effect 3:
    • Throughout the whole game, this is the best the races of the galaxy can do against the Reapers. They can score a victory here and there, but ultimately it's a delaying action until they finish building the Crucible.
    • Palaven, the turian homeworld, is taking a heavy beating, but the description of the war includes how the Reapers actually lost a few ships in the opening. While the Codex initially refers to the Fall of Khar'shan and the Fall of Earth for the first two fronts in the Reaper War, once Shepard visits the Turian home system, the Codex is updated with a third entry: The Battle of Palaven.
    • If you secure a krogan-turian alliance, it goes so far as to include The Miracle of Palaven. The joint forces manage to smuggle a bunch of WMDs into the Reaper processing ships. This gets millions of people killed, but they were doomed anyway and at least this way a large number of Reaper ships get to die with them.
    • Reading through the Codex also shows that Earth had one. Knowing the Reapers were coming in force, one of Earth's admirals positioned his fleet to fire on them as they came out of FTL. They lacked the firepower to sustain the assault, but humans scored first blood in the Reaper ambush of the Sol system.
  • Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault has Conlin, as well as several other sailors and Marines aboard the crippled USS West Virginia taking down at least a squadron of Japanese planes late into the attack. While it doesn't prevent the damage from being done, it does help to minimize said damage and give the USS Nevada the chance to at least beach itself.
  • Mega Man Star Force: Gemini Spark completely outclasses Mega Man in their introductory scenario, even when he separates them he can't beat them. When they leave, they congratulate him for the one hit he managed to get in on them.
  • Metroid Dread: Despite the opening cutscene battle against Raven Beak going very poorly for Samus, it still showcases the fact that she actually figured out his counters and weaknesses almost immediately. She skillfully dodges or parries everything he tries against her, and slowly wears down his shields until her missile deals enough damage to crack his visor.
  • Monster Hunter: World: A turf war between a Bazelgeuse and a Deviljho ends with the Bazelgeuse taking a beating, just like most other monsters... but also giving the Deviljho a faceful of its exploding scales.
  • In Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, Cal Kestis is utterly outclassed by Darth Vader and spends most of the encounter running away. He does manage to land one good hit on the Sith Lord with BD-1’s help… only for Vader to shrug it off and return the favor.
  • During the last mission of Metal Slug 3, the Rebel Army (who is pulling a Villainous Rescue) sends a ton of ships carrying their soldiers to the alien mothership. However, not a few seconds after liftoff, almost the entire first wave of ships is shot down by UFOs, and for the entire first half of the level they can be seen being dominated in the background. Still, not only does a sizable Rebel force manage to make it into the mothership, but they take out a few aliens themselves.
  • Saints Row IV: The Boss doesn't stand a chance against Emperor Zinyak once the latter starts using his superpowers, but they manage to get him to bleed first.
  • Yakuza: While Kiryu usually tends to easily demolish any enemy he fights, including even bosses, there does exists enemies who even he has to really try hard against, ranging from hardcore master fighters who are some of the best in the underworld who can inflict rather nasty damage on him to other lesser but still very formidable fighters who do have what it takes to give him an actual fight and leave him somewhat winded but still get beaten without getting too much in.

    Web Animation 
  • DEATH BATTLE! does its best to follow this trope. Even when dealing with the most one-sided victories, the hosts are able to draw up a script that makes the big fight last a third of the episode with a good number of passes with the Advantage Ball, with several episodes having the loser give one hell of a final showing before being overcome.
    • An arguable inversion occurs in the battle between Starscream and Rainbow Dash, probably the most curbstompy fight in Death Battle history, with the latter utterly toying with the former for the entire duration of the fight, even more than their stats might imply. This seems to be mostly for the purpose of the inherent Rule of Funny in seeing a small pony annihilating a giant robot, but is also somewhat justified, since due to the potency of his arsenal any good hit by Starscream could have theoretically annihilated Dash, if only he weren't too incompetent to land even one. Starscream lands all of two hits in the entire fight, one with his metal hand and one with the Null Ray, which does not damage organic beings and therefore only stuns and dazes Dash for a second or two. She is at least visibly worried about his final barrage of missiles, even though she winds up using it to her advantage.
    • Scrooge McDuck vs. Shovel Knight turns out to be a pretty huge one. From analysis, it appears that Scrooge's feats vastly outclass that of Shovel Knight's. Yet come the fight, and Shovel Knight nearly dominates the entire battle until Scrooge pulls out his Anti-Inertia Ray and Neutra-Friction Ray to seal the victory for him.
    • Likewise, Jotaro Kujo vs. Kenshiro also turns out to be a pretty big one. The analysis showed that the latter's offensive and defensive feats and fighting style gave him massive advantages over his opponent. During the fight, Kenshiro seemingly manages to gets only one glancing hit on Jotaro, while Jotaro holds the Advantage Ball throughout the fight as his Stand Star Platinum easily tanks or keeps Kenshiro at bay. That one hit was all it needed for Jojo to be already dead, thanks to hitting a pressure point that made him explode later.
    • And yet another with Optimus Prime vs. Gundam. From the analysis, it's clear that the latter stood no chance, yet in the actual fight itself, the loser puts up one hell of a fight, even managing to get the winner on the ropes and make it look like they were going to win for a moment.
    • The revised Link. vs Cloud fight is this, with Link being a Glass Cannon who answers to Cloud's brute strength with a massive arsenal of weapons and wits, and almost manages to take Cloud out in moments until Cloud finally gives him a One-Hit Kill.
    • DIO vs Alucard makes it clear in the post-analysis that the latter was horribly outclassed in strength, speed, and durability, as well as having no real counter against The World and even his strongest advantage (his superior Healing Factor) could be chipped away at it until his three million "extra lives" were spent. In the fight itself, Alucard completely horrifies Dio during the first half of the battle (especially when Dio nearly gets turned into dog food by Baskerville) and Dio spends most of it just playing keep-away and chipping at Alucard to wear him down to find his needed openings.
    • Downplayed in "Omni-Man vs. Homelander". Homelander can use a sonic attack, which is Omni-Man's weakness. But their power levels are so different this just means he drops Omni-Man out of the sky once, buying himself maybe half a minute more. The same when he gets the drop on Omni-Man once and manhandles him for a moment; Omni-Man just waits for it to be over before starting to toy with Homelander again.
  • Even though the Madness Combat series has every episode being a nearly uninterrupted Curb-Stomp Battle in favor of the respective protagonist, it often happens that even lowly Mooks manage to wear them down with the occasional successful ambush or lucky shot.
  • Volume six of RWBY gives us Cinder vs. Neo. It plays with the trope in that Neo does far better against her than anyone else, save for Raven (who happens to be a Maiden), and matches Cinder in sheer skill. However, Cinder was holding back her Maiden powers to keep a low profile, so when they take the fight to an empty alleyway, she makes it clear she could burn Neo to crisp very easily, forcing her to stand down.
  • In the original Super Mario Bros. Z, Yoshi lands a few good kicks on Mecha Sonic before getting totally demolished.
  • The first portion of Broly and Vegeta's battle (both as Super Saiyan 3) in Dragon Ball Deliverance does not go Vegeta's way as he's subjected to a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown and gets the tar kicked out of him. However, unlike their prior bouts, he lands several hits in and even knocks Broly around for a bit, a far cry from when he was easily defeated in the past.

    Web Comics 
  • In Ask White Pearl and Steven (almost!) anything, when Steven unleashes his One-Hit Kill attack, Rose was the only one able to withstand it, her shield blocking the attack while the others were poofed instantly.
  • Dragon Ball Multiverse features a number of these, by nature of the tournament format.
    • U9 Tenshinhan versus U4 Super Buu. Buu decides to be sporting and not attack for a full minute. Tenshinhan breaks out the Mafuba, which he executes perfectly, sealing Buu in a manner that bypasses his insane regeneration. Buu then returns, explaining that he's hidden pieces of himself around the arena that can regenerate into him, and having absorbed Piccolo means he knows how to reverse the Mafuba, but he still compliments the guy for trying. Tenshinhan then decides to just point-blank annihilate him, combining his four arms and his Kikoho to create a double-strength version of an already disproportionately powerful attack that turns Buu and the entire ring to vapor. When Buu demonstrates he can return from even that, Tenshinhan throws in the towel.
    • Cell (while holding back his power to his Cell Games level) versus Dabura. It's very evident that Cell is the more powerful of the two, due to his regeneration and greater skill, but Dabura still gives one hell of a show, able to get in the first hit, break Cell's forcefield, slice him open with his sword, and even nearly negate Cell's regeneration with his stone spit.
    • U9 Videl versus U8 King Cold. Though it's very evident that this Videl is a lot more powerful than "our" version, and gets to show off Kaioken and get in some hits with the Z Sword, it quickly becomes evident that she doesn't stand a chance, and she forfeits once he enters his true form.
  • In Kill Six Billion Demons fourth book, the Tournament Arc ends with 82 White Chain facing down God-Emperor Solomon David. Solomon so outmatches White Chain he spends most of the match copying her styles on the fly just to humiliate her, and shrugs off White Chain's most impressive attack before unleashing a brutal beatdown on her in return. However, White Chain is able to deliver a Cross Counter during Solomon's final attack that mildly bruises his cheek, something no one has ever done to him in his tournament before. Despite not qualifying for Victory by First Blood, the tournament crowd — being accustomed to Solomon always winning by un-cushioned Curbstomp Battle — hail White Chain as the victor even if she didn't actually win.
  • In The Order of the Stick, when Miko captures the Order of the Stick, she's able to defeat all of them (sans Durkon, who heals his party members instead of fighting back) with the help of her celestial steed Windstriker. Rich Burlew provided a play-by-play of the battle, which shows that a mixture of bad luck, being caught off guard and Miko taking out Vaarsuvius first led to their defeat. However, you can see in the last panel of the comic that Miko and Windstriker have some minor injuries; according to the play-by-play, Roy's full attacks heavily injured Miko and forced her to use her Lay on Hands to recover, while Haley managed to sneak attack Windstriker with Elan's rapier after he broke her bow.
  • In Peter Parker: Foreign Exchange Student, Izuku gets his ass thoroughly kicked by a Venom-controlled Peter, but not before breaking all of Venom's teeth with a kick after recalling some of Peter's advice.
  • During the Imperial Dalek invasion of Ziragalen in Second Empire, Anzollo engages the Imperial Fleet in space, all the way knowing he can't hope to win against the vast invading army. He still racks kill after kill and delays them long enough to allow Xenol to finish putting Ziragalen's main fortress on full lockdown and preparing for the assault.
  • During newbie Viole and veteran Urek's fight in Tower of God, the weaker Irregular gets a One-Hit KO… but while receiving it and protecting a little girl that somehow got into the fray, he actually manages to scratch Urek's cheek. With Urek being one of the most powerful beings in the Tower, that's something like managing to scratch Superman.

    Web Original 
  • Deviant: While Genesis gets her ass completely kicked by Terminus, she manages to actually do some damage and lasts longer than anyone really should've in her situation. This is pretty recognized in-universe afterwards.
  • A Hero's War: The first mission of the "Special Effects" (experimental weapons testing) team kills zombies at an unprecedented rate of thirty times their own casualties. They have to burn a lot of magic and hard-to-replace ammunition to do it, though, and the casualties on the human side are felt more keenly than the zombies losing a single army out of an endless horde. It was still a definite victory (and a valuable test of the new weapons).
  • The timeline New Deal Coalition Retained has a couple of examples once World War III breaks out:
    • In the Middle East, communist forces from Iran and Syria overrun northern Iraq and northern Israel, but take heavy losses to do so. Plus, the defenders in both countries manage to fall back to heavily prepared defensive lines, causing the advance of both invasions to grind to a halt.
    • The Warsaw Pact manage to invade all of Germany east of the Rhine, but at the cost of almost double the number of casualties suffered by NATO. This allows NATO to counterattack and take back significant chunks of territory.

    Web Videos 
  • The version of the Saiyan Saga Dragon Ball DC has the fight against Nappa turn out this way. The Saiyan has easily plowed through Earth's heroes, with only Aquaman and Batman being left by the end. Aquaman is badly injured, having lost a hand, but Batman says his plan requires Nappa to bleed. Despite his injuries, Aquaman manages to inflict a cut on Nappa before dying. The injury allowed Batman to put his plan against Nappa into action and defeat the Saiyan.
    • The climax of the Entity Saga sees the heroes already exhausted from previous fights when Rogal Zaar shows up. Despite that they force Rogal Zaar to resort to use the various traps he prepared as his physical strength and gadgets aren't enough. He tanks every attack thrown at him but is damaged by them, and gives time for the heroes to escape to Earth. Kakarot Kent and Batman stay behind. Batman doesn't have any powers, but he manages to save Kakarot from a fatal blow by hitting Rogal Zaar with Scarecrow's fear toxin and takes a hit that would have killed him, an act which caused Kakarot to turn into a Super Saiyan and demolish Rogal Zaar.
    • The Doom Saga has Gohan's debut fight against the Parasite. Gohan appears to have the upper hand but his attacks just feed the parasite, who promptly engulfs Gohan and starts to drain him of all his energy. Gohan releasing a massive energy burst that leaves him too exhausted to fight is enough to escape the Parasite. He's clearly lost but managed to survive long enough for Kakarot to save him.
  • In season two of Mortal Kombat: Legacy, Johnny Cage actually manages to hold his own against Evil! Liu Kang for a moment, despite being worn down and stabbed through the shoulder in his fight with Mileena just before this. Even Liu seems impressed by this, before he stops holding back. And a little bit later, Stryker briefly manages to K.O. Liu Kang with a taser to the back, before getting his ass handed to him.

    Western Animation 
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Pakku's duel with Katara in "The Waterbending Master". Katara is an untrained but very talented teenage waterbender, while Pakku is an Old Master with two generations of practicing and teaching Waterbending on his opponent. Katara does not even expect to win, only to make a point to Pakku, which she does by forcing the master to take her seriously as an opponent instead of simply Cherry Tapping her. Katara also wins the moral victory, as her necklace reveals to Pakku that she's the granddaughter of the woman he wanted to marry sixty years ago and causes him to re-examine his old views.
  • In the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode "Clash of the Superheroes", Batman and Krypto face down a Red Kryptonite-infected Superman, who has gone all mad dictator on Metropolis. Batman makes it clear to Krypto that there's no way they can beat him, that they just need to distract him long enough for the Kryptonite to wear off. Despite donning a suit of Powered Armor based on the one from The Dark Knight Returns and getting in a good few physical blows, Batman's no match for Superman, and the Kryptonite wears off just before Superman crushes his head like an egg.
  • In the Beast Wars episode "Power Surge", traitorous Predacon Terrorsaur gets an extreme power boost from a mountain of unstable energon, which allows him to defeat his leader Megatron in a standard Curb-Stomp Battle. When Maximal leader Optimus Primal confronts Terrorsaur with full knowledge of Terrorsaur's new power, he avoids suffering the same fate as Megatron by relying on a "hit-and-run" strategy, luring Terrorsaur into a rocky area and attacking from behind, driving Terrorsaur to run down his power boost while the energon mountain is destroyed.
  • The sequel series Beast Machines sees Optimus in a similar position for the final battle against Megatron, who is now using a body based on Optimus's old "Optimal Optimus" form where Optimus is in a weaker techno-organic body. While Megatron is too powerful for Optimus to defeat directly, at one point Optimus lured Megatron into a power plant and blew it up, causing an explosion that at least blew Megatron's left arm off for a few moments.
  • Bugs Bunny often outsmarted his foes with sheer ease. Every now and again however a brief of wit would bestow the villain and take Bugs by surprise to make things a little more tense (and likely to prevent Bugs from becoming insufferably smug). Allegedly the creative team deliberately made Bugs' foes slightly more challenging so the audience wouldn't start to see him as the bully of the feud. It was a common formula for the villain to always get in one slapstick blow on Bugs to start the feud at the beginning of the short, at which point a riled-up Bugs would prepare to do his worst:
    Bugs: Of course you know, this means war...
  • In Duck Dodgers in the 24˝th Century, Daffy is suffering a hard Curb-Stomp Battle at the hands of Marvin the Martian (who was designed to be able to give Bugs Bunny a hard time), but Porky Pig (as Daffy's "Space Cadet") is able to get in one hit on Marvin with a lit stick of dynamite as a "birthday gift". Amusingly the fight is actually decided by a second Curbstomp Cushion, as when Marvin and Daffy's battle ends up blowing up the entire planet, Daffy merely shoves Marvin off the leftover crater to "win".
  • Early episodes of The Dreamstone followed a rather Golden Age-esque format with the Urpneys usually suffering a total runaround from the heroes. By the closing points of the series however, the Urpneys, while still often outsmarted very easily, managed to prove more evasive in several episodes, with the Noops Immunity To Slapstick downplayed so they often suffered one or two blows pursuing them. Similar to said Golden Age examples above, this was likely done so the Noops looked more provoked.
  • Invincible (2021): In keeping with the original comic, the First-Episode Twist is when Omni-Man, the world’s greatest superhero, suddenly turns against and butchers his allies, the Justice League-ersatz Guardians of the Globe. In the original comic, this was an effortless Curb-Stomp Battle. Here, Omni-Man kills them all just the same, but they put up a substantially better fight, and by the end of it he’s been beaten so badly he loses consciousness and has to be hospitalized. He's back to full strength soon enough.
  • The Legend of Vox Machina: While Vox Machina get their collective ass handed to them by the Briarwoods, Grog's axe being enchanted with Pike's holy energy leaves a cut on Sylas that his Healing Factor can't recover from. Grog even says "I'll bet that hurt!" after the wound doesn't close. Keyleth also prevents Sylas from grievously injuring (or even killing) Pike with a well-placed wall of thorns.
  • When Luz duels Emperor Belos in the season one finale of The Owl House, it's obvious from the very beginning she's no match for him, as she has been witch in-training for only a few weeks while Belos has ruled the island with an iron fist for half a century and is said to be the most powerful witch in the world, and he easily trounces her while barely lifting a finger. However, his overconfidence allows Luz to get in one sneak attack which chips off a piece of his mask, proving to her he can be beaten. Belos is actually impressed but warns her not to try it again.
  • During Wendy's brawl against Cartman in the climax of the South Park episode "Breast Cancer Show Ever", Cartman manages to get a few good hits in against Wendy but still ends up with what he deserves. Granted this was likely as much to show Cartman Would Hit a Girl as to add tension to the fight.
  • Much like Bugs Bunny, Speedy Gonzales could often run rings around adversaries like Sylvester, and at fail of that, his Super-Speed made him Nigh-Invulnerable anyway. In the De Patie Freleng run of Looney Tunes shorts, however, his foes were often depicted as more persistent or Speedy more prone to error, leading him to take the odd lump back. Daffy Duck bizarrely enough was his most formidable opponent, having more moments of overpowering Speedy and even winning two face-offs against him, even if he still otherwise got comically outdone by the rodent.
  • The Venture Brothers: In "Pinstripes And Poltergeists", while 21 and Brock appeared evenly matched when their fight started, the aftermath implies Brock took the upper hand, resulting in a one-sided pummeling. Still, 21 managed to get a couple of hits in before losing, and Brock is impressed by seeing how much he improved after just one year.
  • Similarly to the Looney Tunes examples above, Tom and Jerry would usually end with Tom outsmarted and decimated by Jerry, but would usually get in the odd shot along the way (usually when Jerry was at risk of looking more relentless than Tom). He was even bestowed the odd Dark Horse Victory against Jerry to keep the formula that little more unpredictable. One example of Tom winning is the short where Tom can get a million dollars if he never hurt another animal with predictable results. Karma bites Jerry hard in the ass where Tom admits he's giving up all that money but, hey, he's happy beating on a very deserving mouse!
  • In Transformers: Prime Wheeljack and Ultra Magnus ended up facing the freakishly powerful Predaking in his newly revealed robot form. In Predaking's dragon form, absolutely nothing has proven to even damage him but merely slow him down, and while his robot form was a little easier to knock around he was still Nigh-Invulnerable to their most powerful attacks. Utilizing Bash Brothers they gave him one hell of a fight, but in the end, they were no match.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars
    • Sidious largely wipes the floor with Maul and Savage Opress at the end of 'The Lawless'. Nonetheless, both brothers manage to get hits in on Palpatine. After Savage's death, Maul is even able to outright press Sidious for a minute, Dual Wielding his lightsaber and the Darksaber. In the end, Sidious has to use the Force to crush Maul, rather than his swordplay.
    • 'The Rise of Clovis' has Anakin, a trained Jedi Knight, in a fistfight against Rush Clovis, a banker. While Clovis gets the snot kicked out of him, he does land a couple of solid hits on Anakin.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Kerb Stomp Cushion


Berserker and Gilgamesh

Berserker and Ilya perish after a hopeless struggle against Gilgamesh - but not before Berserker shatters Gil's "unbreakable" chains and gives him the scare of a lifetime.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / CurbStompCushion

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