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Defeat Means Respect

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"The finest beating I ever took. My face was pulp. My guts pierced. My ribs messed up. When he came to finish me, I couldn't look him in the eye. He spared me, because he wanted me to live in shame. This was a great man. A great man. So I cut out the eye that looked away — sent it to him wrapped in blue paper."
Bill the Butcher, Gangs of New York

A villain spends his whole first appearance insulting or belittling his opponents. After a humiliating defeat at the hands of The Hero he starts to become nicer to those who have won and now considers them to be a Worthy Opponent. Sometimes it may take repeated losses to cause this in the case of a particularly stubborn villain.

Every Unknown Rival is motivated by this trope. This is also the idea behind the victims of The Bully: "You have to stand for yourself".

Distinct from Defeat Means Friendship because the opponent is still an enemy to the victor, but it can eventually evolve into friendship. Compare Graceful Loser and Touché.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Dragon Ball, this trope gradually replaces the previously–entrenched Defeat Means Friendship, beginning around the arrival of Piccolo but solidifying with the arrival of Vegeta. Played with for both of these, as they did eventually become friends — but Piccolo didn't even begin his Heel–Face Turn until he had defeated Goku, and even then, it was driven more by his And Then What? coupled with a new Morality Chain in Gohan. As for Vegeta, he managed to stick around for another three story arcs before finally becoming a friend, and even then, it was thanks to The Power of Love, and his continued presence in Goku's shadow remained a sore spot even then. As for the villains after Vegeta, this trope was played straight with Frieza and Cell, and Heel—Face Turns by later villains such as Majin Buu and Beerus often depended on context completely independent of whether or not they were ever outright defeated.
  • Dr. STONE: After losing the Grand Bout to Senku, Magma is bitter at first, since he feels he should be chief due to his strength, and several other characters think he's planning to kill Senku and become chief. He actually becomes a strong supporter of Senku and the Kingdom of Science (though not close enough to be considered a friend), especially once he sees what metal weapons can do.
  • Many of the major villains in Fist of the North Star, particularly Souther and Raoh. Ryuga is notable for not necessarily having anything against Kenshiro - his battle with him was more of a Secret Test of Character.
  • Hajime no Ippo: If Ippo doesn't outright make friends with his rivals after beating them, he at least manages to earn their respect. The first example of this came after he defeated Miyata in a sparring match, causing him to leave the Kamogawa Gym. Miyata explains that he didn't leave because he felt humiliated or angry over losing, but because if they're both in the same boxing gym they won't be able to fight each other properly as professionals, making it clear he views Ippo as a Worthy Opponent.
  • Dio Brando in JoJo's Bizarre Adventure always viewed Jonathan Joestar as his hated archenemy since they were boys. But after his vampire form is defeated (long story) and he's left with only a head, he yells at his minion to NOT mock the one guy awesome enough to defeat DIO. Even though he intends to chop off Jonathan's head and attach his own to the new body, he wants the make his enemy's death as painless as possible. Sadly, this respect isn't enough to make him spare Joestar's descendants from his evil.
  • Maken-ki!: Reached mutually between Azuki and her rival, Yan-Min.
  • In Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, Tohru earns the respect of the Dragon Busters after delivering a Curb-Stomp Battle to the entire gang (though this doesn't stop several of them from trying to bribe Kanna to find out her weaknesses).
  • Kyurem from Pokémon: Kyurem vs. The Sword of Justice defeats Keldeo even after Keldeo reached his Resolute Form, but he doesn't kick him while he's down. Instead, he lets him get back up and commends him on his power.
    • In the anime itself, many prideful trainers have this upon being defeated by Ash or another main character.
  • In Romeo × Juliet Hermione stops hating Juliet after learning she truly loves Romeo.
  • Discussed in Soul Eater. When Maka begins her second battle against Crona, she taunts Crona's weapon Ragnarok by pointing out the way he's talking about her suggests this trope.
  • Kagato in Tenchi Muyo! expresses admiration and respect for both the hero Tenchi and the goddess Tsunami, who granted him his power. See the page quote for Graceful Loser.
  • In Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, Viral, who starts off as utterly contemptuous of our heroes, respects his opponents more and more with each consecutive defeat.
  • Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs: Chris, a Kuudere archetype who is training to be a Master Swordsman, gets surprisingly warm with Leon due to Leon beating him in an arena duel. With Chris declaring that Leon’s skill is what he aspires to have. Indeed, in the Grand Finale of the Web Serial Novel version of the story, Chris uses lessons learned from how he was defeated by Leon to claim the title of Sword Saint from his father (earning his respect) and defeat the Sword Saint from The Empire using More Dakka (when Chris had previously had Crippling Overspecialization in melee).
  • Variable Geo: In the final episode, Miranda gives Yuka an ultimatum: either surrender her body to her, or watch as she killed her best friend, Satomi, by making her bleed out from the inside. When Yuka asks Miranda why she suddenly wanted her body, Miranda openly acknowledges the fact that Yuka's fighting ability and overall power likely exceeded her own, during Miranda's prime. Making her body the ideal specimen for her designs.
  • You're Under Arrest!: Strike Man comes to regard Natsumi as his arch-nemesis, whom he dubs as "the infamous Homerun Girl," after she repeatedly knocks each of his pitches out of the park. Their alleged rivalry is one-sided, as Natsumi thinks he's a nutjob, and would rather not have to put up with him.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Seto Kaiba thinks little of Yugi until the latter (or, rather, his Superpowered Evil Side) hands him his first Duel Monsters defeat. Since then, each one sees the other as a Worthy Opponent, with Kaiba considering Yugi the only one worthy of being his rival.

    Comic Books 
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: After Wonder Woman defeats their advance scouts, who were mostly violently goofing off disguised as Bill the Kid and Jessie James anyway, the pointy eared aliens who were planning a proper invasion of earth call it off when Wonder Woman requests it, seeing as she defeated their scouts and brought them back to them rather than kill them.

    Fan Works 
  • Fantasy of Utter Ridiculousness: While Suika Ibuki never becomes friends with Coop after her defeat, she becomes more willing to give him the benefit of a doubt once she's back to her old drunken self. During the Megas-Yuuka duel later on, she has this to say:
    Suika: "If it's not the Deva, it's the Destructor. You sure know how to pick 'em, big guy!" (takes a drink, then salutes Coop from afar with her gourd) "Cheers!"
  • After Sonic beats Knuckles in a sanctioned prison brawl in Prison Island Break Knuckles respects Sonic enough to form an alliance with him in the interest of escaping prison. Saying it's a case of Defeat Means Friendship is stretching the term a bit.
  • Star Wars vs Warhammer 40K: Saphran, a Space Marine Librarian, initially dismisses Jocasta Nu as a frail old lady. The first time he sees her stand up to him, he laughs and mockingly asks if the Jedi have grown so desperate that they've resorted to sending retired elders as Cannon Fodder to slow him down. Later on, when Jocasta ultimately fires the killing shot upon Saphran, his tone changes; she is the one who he chooses to say his final words to before he goes out laughing.

  • The Babysitter: Killer Queen: At the end of the film, Melanie's cult realizes too late that Cole's blood has been tainted now that he's no longer a virgin. In Max's final moments. he commends Cole for besting them again and for getting laid while he was at it.
    Max (grins proudly at Cole) "You fucking STUD!! I'm not even mad, bro." (makes chest thump gesture) "Respect!"
  • In Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Girard is seeking out someone good enough to defeat him. He embraces Ricky Bobby at the end.
  • In The Karate Kid (1984), this is the reason Mr. Miyagi agreed to Daniel fighting: not so Daniel could take revenge on the bullies, but so that he would put up enough of a fight to earn their respect. That Daniel ended up winning the tournament was an unexpected bonus.


    Live-Action TV 
  • Chicago Justice: Hank Voight respects ASA Peter Stone for being to the one to take him down and they're rather friendly to one another with no grudges on either side. In fact, Voight appears amused by Stone claiming that putting Voight away had been an easy case.

    Video Games 
  • In Mass Effect, the Reapers treat each cycle's resistance to being culled as futile (a speed bump at most), but by the end of Mass Effect 2 their leader Harbinger begins to acknowledge just how unexpectedly difficult humanity and Commander Shepard in particular is making this cycle. Leviathan notes that in the billion-plus years of the Reapers' existence, no one has ever given them as much trouble as Shepard. There are multiple times in Mass Effect 3 where Reapers will turn their dreadnought-killing guns away from entire fleets to target Shepard alone.
  • Khelgar Ironfist of Neverwinter Nights 2 is a stereotypical dwarven warrior who meets a group of warrior monks at an inn, and takes offense at them ordering water instead of booze. After challenging them to a fist fight and being thoroughly trounced, he winds up impressed by their skill and becomes fascinated with trying to become a monk himself.
  • The Elder Scrolls
  • This is a fairly regular trope in Grand Theft Auto games, particularly Vice City, where you set up a crew by proving you're better than each of your specialists in their specialty.
  • In Sonic Adventure 2, Knuckles and Rouge ended their rivalry over finding the missing pieces of the Master Emerald when Rouge grudgingly surrenders the pieces to him after their arguing and also when Knuckles saved her from falling into the lava which lead to their Almost Kiss. From then on, the two are belligerent acquaintances at best.
  • The Count goes through something like this in the Boktai series. The first time he faces you he remarks that you're nothing more than a meal to him, while the second time you face him he treats you as a genuine threat despite still hailing Ringo as his greatest adversary. By the third time, however, he finally acknowledges you as not only a powerful warrior but his new greatest adversary.
  • In Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening, several of the Temen-ni-gru guardians (Cerberus, Agni & Rudra, and Nevan) express admiration for Dante's abilities after he defeats them, and either willingly transform into Devil Arms for him to wield, or outright beg him to take them with him.
  • In Devil May Cry 5, after losing to Nero in the final battle, Vergil finally heeds Nero's demands to stop the Qliphoth rather than continue trying to kill Dante. That said, this is Vergil, so strength would be the only thing that would make them listen.
  • After three entire games of not remembering Luigi's name, Bowser finally vows to get revenge on Mario and Luigi after Mario & Luigi: Dream Team. It even carries over into the next game.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Legend of Korra, the Big Bad of the final season, Kuvira, refers to Korra as obsolete. After Korra manages to defeat her and save her life twice during the Grand Finale, her stance towards her enemy changes drastically. Korra is able to talk to her about how they aren't so different and convince her to surrender. Afterwards, Kuvira tells her forces to stand down, and she willingly gives herself up. She admits Korra is capable of a greater power than she ever could hope to achieve.
  • In Transformers: Animated, Megatron thinks so little of the Autobots that he never remembers their names. In the series finale, after suffering enough defeats, he declares if nothing else he'll destroy Optimus Prime. Optimus notes that that's the first time Megatron ever addressed him by name.
  • Tohru, usually The Big Guy of Jackie Chan Adventures, finds himself up against a trio of Sumo Wrestlers while undercover at jade smuggler Chang's fighting tournament in the episode "Re-Enter the J Team." The Sumoes positively dwarf the normally mountainous Tohru and proceed to mock such a puny opponent, only to find themselves the only J-Team opponents to be defeated (the other J-Team members got sloppy due to arrogance except for Jackie whose hands just couldn't break iron). At the climax of the episode, as the heroes face an army of Chang's henchmen, they're each confronted by their opponent's looking to enjoy delivering another beating. When Jade and Tohru find themselves confronted by the trio of scowling Sumoes, Tohru defiantly prepares to defend Jade... only for the lead Sumo to bow his head and ask permission to fight ALONGSIDE so worthy an opponent. Cue Oh, Crap! moment from the bad guys as Tohru and his back-up begin decimating Chang's army. Falls short of being Defeat Means Friendship because the Sumo Wrestlers never appear again.
  • In Wakfu, Goultard tells his pupil Sadlygrove the only way for him to earn Rubilax's respect and keep him from constantly trying to pull off Demonic Possession when unleashing his full power is to defeat him in his unsealed form, which is often the only way to gain a Shushu's proper respect. Dally does, and sure enough Rubilax, while still snarky, is a much more willing partner. Well, aside from the time he completely took over Dally's body and stuffed his spirit inside his sword prison, but considering the alternative was Dally dying for real, he wasn't too broken up about it when they switched back.