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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. Whatever the case, the losing side is getting it hard.

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.

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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 which the surprised curb-stompee is likely to achieve. Also see Worf Had the Flu.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    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 broke 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.
  • 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.
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    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 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.

    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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 manage to inflict higher casualties than they take 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’re 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 is 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 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 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, he 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 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.
  • 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 seemed to be on the edge of winning and managed 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.
  • 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 in 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 kids 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 Jin 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 to 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 being curb-stumbed, 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 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 grab a weapon. And earlier in the fight, he managed to cost Ryback his knife when their tussle lead 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.

    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 insure 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 taking disproportionate casualties, before the Taurians were forced into a 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 around 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.
  • 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.)

    Theater 
  • 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.
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    Visual Novels 
  • 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.

    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.
    • 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 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.
  • 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.

    Webcomics 
  • 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's 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 AlternateHistory.com 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 upperhand but his attacks to just be feeding the parasite, who prompty 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.

 
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Alternative Title(s): Kerb Stomp Cushion

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Huey and Riley vs. Hateocracy

Huey and Riley Freeman are completely outclassed by the Hateocracy, but while Riley gets pummeled throughout and throughout, Huey impressively manages to hold his own.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

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Main / CurbStompCushion

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