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Evasive Fight-Thread Episode

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"Hey, we never did settle who's the Fastest Man Alive..."

When Cast Speciation isn't strict enough, or characters just have vaguely similar amounts of damn near anything, inevitable comparisons will be drawn between them. This might even get acknowledged by the writers and a subsequent episode will pit their abilities against each other. Although they get acknowledged, villains tend to lose. The audience may find it a little convenient, but they've been seasoned to expect that.

In contrast, heroes of equal footing are harder to write for; it's safer to concede a tie, or set up a situation which distracts or prevents a clear-cut judgement. Often, if the contest is interrupted at the start of the episode, the show will set it all up again at the end but fade to credits before it starts up again. See Left Hanging and No Ending. Let's You and Him Fight is a convenient (and thus overused) set up because the heroes can simply identify the real bad guy before a winner can be decided. When the plot requires that one character unambiguously win, the story will often intentionally invoke Worf Had the Flu or some other external explanation to make it clear that the results don't necessarily imply the winner is more powerful overall.

While this is usually just a dramatic device, especially for characters who are Strong as They Need to Be, a lot of fans take this much more seriously, spawning the infamous fanwanky and subjectivity-filled fight threads in online discussions.

See also The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny. If it's a moral argument that gets evaded rather than a physical fight, that goes under Debate and Switch.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • An omake in Fullmetal Alchemist has Mustang's team speculating as to who would win in a fight - the Colonel, or Ed. This eventually leads to said fight, and the omake was adapted into the 2003 anime. Mustang wipes the floor with Ed in both versions.
  • At the end of the Battle City arc in Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yugi and Jonouchi begin a duel to resolve the question raised by their previously unresolved duel, which Yugi had thrown to save Jonouchi's life. They agree to wager the Red-Eyes Black Dragon. The episode ends before the first card is played, leaving it unresolved, though the fact that Jonouchi has his Red-Eyes Black Dragon back in the next arc would suggest that he indeed won.
  • The The Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny Series Finale of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX features Judai vs Yugi. However, the cards in play heavily suggest that Judai lost, but on his own terms. And the important part was that he was finally having fun with the game again anyway.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions, Yugi and Kaiba's duel is inconclusive, with Yugi apparently wiping him out, Kaiba somehow hanging on, and Aigami interrupting it before it can conclude. The movie also ends just before Kaiba and Atem duel in the afterlife.
  • Variable Geo builds up the long awaited showdown between Yuka and Satomi, for the V.G. Tournament's championship bout. Except it immediately cuts the end credits right as the match begins.
  • Ami and Michiru in Sailor Moon, who happen to have water based abilities, held a swimming race at the start of the episode. Michiru is is offended and rude when its heavily implied Ami deliberately slowed down to result in a tie. Haruka chides Michiru for being over-competitive, as Ami just wanted to be friends. The two start a new one at the end of the episode, though Michiru never does actually apologize or reference the situation ever again.
  • The entire final episode of s-CRY-ed is a continuation of the fight between the two main characters, Kazuma and Ryuho, which had been interrupted on several different occasions. The second-to-last scene of the episode (and the series) has both characters severely injured. It is never explicitly stated who won the fight, although it is popularly believed that Kazuma triumphed based on the fist made by the victor (which is the only thing we see, and in silhouette so that we can't be absolutely sure whether those are Kazuma's scars).
  • Lyrical Nanoha:
    • Subverted in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's. Fate and Signum's battles were always interrupted with neither one getting an upper-hand, and on the last episode, the two promised one another to have a rematch sometime in the future to finally decide the better fighter. Thus, the season ends with the question of who's stronger left unanswered, right? Well, while that was the last anime episode of the season, there was still one Sound Stage episode left, and it revealed that those two had more than one rematch, with Signum kicking Fate's ass in the vast majority of them.
    • In a straighter example, a supplementary manga chapter of StrikerS had Signum mentioning a combat tactics exhibition she had with Nanoha which quickly escalated into a bloody brawl. She mentions that the fight ended without a conclusion. This same chapter also involved everyone being compared, trying to determine who was the strongest. No actual fights occurred, thanks to Nanoha redirecting their curiosity with a Logic Bomb.
    • And in a special StrikerS chapter released a few years later and set a few years later, Nanoha and Signum get a rematch in another TSAB sponsored event, this time, with the fight shown in full. It began with the two of them fighting with just the basics before going at it with everything they got for the final minutes. It ends in a draw after both of their last attacks hit home. However neither Signum's new Unison or Nanoha's Starlight Breaker (or higher Blaster system levels) are used just to stir things a little more.
    • Also at the end of StrikerS, Captains vs. Forwards grand royale and we never saw it, bummer.
    • ViVid Strike!: The final episode ends right before Einhart and Fuka's match in the Winter Cup. We don't get to see any of the fight, but it's revealed in the third OVA that Einhart "went to the U-19 undefeated."
  • Naruto:
    • Averted with the first series ending, when a fight between Naruto and Sasuke (and NOT a friendly one either) ends with Sasuke knocking Naruto out. Though there's is much Fan Wank over whether it is because the winner is "better" or because his opponent pulled his attack. Regardless, in their next encounter Sasuke's superiority is firmly established.
    • Played sort of straight on two later occasions: first when Suigetsu and Kisame decide to fight while Itachi and Sasuke are fighting 1-on-1, which is both completely off-screen and turned out to have been interrupted, but Sasuke tells Suigetsu that he's not strong enough yet. Second, when the fight between Sasuke and the Raikage is interrupted by Gaara stopping an attack by the Raikage that would kill Sasuke but get himself killed shortly thereafter, and Sasuke exits by causing a cave-in. The anime avoids the former by showing that before being interrupted Kisame would easily take an advantage (as Sasuke had assumed), because Suigetsu's ability to turn into water to avoid damage is useless against Kisame, as he can simply use Samehada to suck up his chakra anyway.
  • Averted in the manga of Yakitate!! Japan. In the space between two international Cooking Duels, the members of the Japanese team decide to have a practice battle between themselves. But then, a message arrives saying that the next duel has been hurried and is gonna start right away.
  • This happened to Jushiro Ukitake from Bleach twice. One was the battle he and Shunsui Kyoraku had against Head Captain Yamamoto. Supposedly, they were two of the first to become captains and were chosen by Yamamoto himself, but we never get to see how powerful they are in comparison because the episode ends, and by the next episode Aizen's treachery is revealed, and they stop fighting each other to fight the real Big Bad. Though, the fact that they could hold their own against the man who made Nanao faint just by looking at her is saying something. The other was when his Lieutenant Kaien Shiba was possessed by a hollow, and Ukitake said he would destroy Kaien's body to destroy the hollow inside and save Kaien's soul, but he collapsed from an attack of his illness before the first blow was exchanged. It's a little different though, in that Kaien dies afterward by Rukia's hand.
    • The Fake Karakura Town arc kind of remedies this, slightly, until Ukitake is impaled by Wonderweiss. Just after telling Kyoraku he's well enough to fight, and defending his mate from Starrk. Kyoraku and Yamamoto have been pulled well out of Informed Ability territory as Combat Pragmatists of differing kinds.
    • The anime and manga also likes to tease at Byakuya VS. Kenpachi. Neither has had an all out battle with each other, and both are pretty much counterparts to the other. The briefly fight in a filler arc, but it's inconclusive, as Byakuya leaves. Canonically, they ALMOST fight for real, but are interrupted by Yammy, and then decide to focus on kicking the crap outta him.
  • At the end of Hoshin Engi, Shinkohyo implies that he is still a match for Taikobo after he has returned to being Fukki, an extremely ancient and powerful being, but decides that since the winner would be left with nothing left to do once their fight is over, he will just save it for later, leaving the issue of how a fight between them would go unanswered.
  • One Piece: The Strawhat Pirates are occasionally set up to determine who's the strongest of them (though, the captain is usually considered to be, but earlier Zoro was quite close to him) Anyway, none of them were conclusive so far.
    • A particularly humorous example is Luffy and Zoro's fight, caused by a misunderstanding. After brawling for a bit they charge at each other...and are then both punched out by Nami, who tells them to knock it off.
    • The fact that the duel between Luffy and Usopp actually played out to the end was a surprising aversion, given how horribly mismatched the combatants were. Of course, the other surprise of the fight was that Usopp could give his monstrously-powerful opponent a run for his money.
    • It happens multiple times during the Marineford arc, with combatants breaking off off panel (Jimbei vs Gecko Moria, Ivankov vs Kuma, Crocodile vs Doflamingo, Curiel vs Gecko Moria)
      • Averted in the anime version of Marineford. Due to Adaptation Expansion, the fights end much more conclusively, with Jimbei defeating Moria, then losing to Hawkeye. Due to the chaos, winners and losers are still separated before a finishing blow, but the victor is made clear.
    • The fight between Luffy and Katakuri ends with Katakuri collapsing on his back and Luffy taking his leave, though whether it's because Katakuri genuinely couldn't fight anymore or because he threw the fight after being won over by Luffy's unrelenting spirit is not made clear.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi appears to have one of these between Jack Rakan and Nagi Springfield, although considering that Jack is the one telling the story, and Nagi was considered the World's Strongest Man, it might be a case of Unreliable Narrator.
    • Negi and Kotaro seem to have one of these going: Negi narrowly defeated Kotaro in their first battle, and ever since then they've had a number of sparring and training matches, with no clear victor. Although once Negi starts training in Black Magic, Kotaro himself thinks Negi would win.
  • Fairy Tail:
    • We're told that Erza can defeat Natsu easily. When they agree to a match, they're both prepared to give it their all, with the crowd gathered around excitedly. The match is then broken up by more powerful magicians to arrest Erza. When Natsu wants to have their battle afterwards, Erza says she's tired and doesn't want to fight. Natsu attacks her anyways. She takes him out with a single punch.
    • A rather funny version happens in a bonus chapter after a Tournament Arc: the two guild's two teams that competed in the game figure they need a way to decide which is the strongest, seemingly setting up a fight between Erza and Laxus. Before the end of the first page we find out this is "decided" based on a game of rock-paper-scissors (Erza loses).
  • Shortly after Dororo's introduction in the Sgt. Frog manga, Giroro tries to take out Koyuki, unaware of her relationship with Dororo. Though Dororo is reluctant, it quickly becomes clear he can't go easy on his friend; fortunately, Natsumi interrupts before either one lands a decisive blow.
  • In Gundam Build Fighters, heroes Sei and Reiji swear to have a decisive showdown with their Friendly Rival Yuuki Tatsuya in the World Tournament. This doesn't happen because the Big Bad puts Yuuki (as Meijin Kawaguchi III) under Mind Control for the final battle. In the final episode, Reiji says that fight didn't count, and challenges Yuuki to a real final battle — but that fight ends inconclusively too, since the destruction of the crystal that created the Plavsky particles means the Gunpla Battle machine shuts down in the middle of the fight. More important than the actual resolution, though, is the fact that the brief fight shows that Sei's piloting skills have gone from terrible to world-class, demonstrated by the fact that he was just about to land a decisive blow on Yuuki's Exia just before the machine shut down.
  • In Toei's Yu-Gi-Oh! (first anime series), Yugi and Kaiba's first duel is reworked into a draw so neither side wins.
  • Played for Laughs in My Hero Academia. The first episode of the third Anime season features an original plot where Class 1-A gets permission to use UA's swimming pool, and the boys of the class end up getting into a swimming competition. It comes down to the three strongest members of the class — Midoriya, Bakugo, and Todoroki, who still have some rivalry simmering from the School Festival arcnote . They get ready, leap off the starting blocks...and plummet into the pool like rocks, because Aizawa-sensei used his Power Nullifier and told the kids to leave, since their time at the pool was up. The others beg him to just give them a couple more minutes to finish the race, but Aizawa very firmly says "no".
  • Bakugan: Episode 2 of New Vestroia, after a bit of exposition, turns into a fight between Dan and Ace that never gets resolved.
  • Baki the Grappler: The crossover between Baki Dou and Kengan Ashura ends this way. Doppo is about to fight Pa Paing in a flashback, but the chapter cuts back to the present day before a single blow is struck, and Doppo evades the question when asked "who won".

    Comic Books 
  • Batman:
    • Batman can win against many opponents, on account of him being so Crazy-Prepared. Provided he knows who he's up against and he has a little time, he can almost always work out a way to beat his opponent.
    • There is a legend that in the late '80s DC had a memo posted in the editors offices that indicated that anyone with their own comic could defeat Batman once and only in their own comic, and only if he was surprised. Beyond that there was said to be a list of 5 characters that could beat a prepared Batman in his comic but that these battles were to be saved for big events only.
    • Interestingly, Batman has been defeated, repeatedly, in his own comic. Specifically, the first time he fought Bane, he was absolutely destroyed. In any case, it took a while following the 1960s TV series (where, by structure, he was captured and put in a death-trap at the end of every episode) to rebuild to the idea that the guy with the shark repellent might have a chance against a living god.
    • While it's not mainstream canon, we do get to see Batman and Superman actually go at it in Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. The aged Batman uses x-ray activated homing missiles, a powered exoskeleton, sonic scramblers, acid-to-the-face, the tank version of the Batmobile (driven by Robin), a synthesized kryptonite arrow (fired by the one armed Green Arrow), and then is helped by the Sun (source of Superman's power) being blotted out thanks to a recent nuclear blast (that Superman was caught in and not yet recovered from). In the moment of victory, with his hand around Superman's throat, Batman's heart gives out and Superman appears to win by default. Except it's shortly revealed he stopped his own heart in order to fake his death. Reminding Superman that there's at least one human being who actually can beat him was just icing on the cake.
    • In The Dark Knight Strikes Again, the fight in its predecessor is reduced to a Curb-Stomp Battle over three or four pages, where Superman doesn't have a chance, to the point of mockery.
    • Unfortunately for Batman, in Dark Knight III: The Master Race, Itís revealed that Superman was holding back the whole time and could've crushed Batman at any time he wanted, despite how Crazy-Prepared Batman was at the time. Naturally, when Batman sees this, he realizes that his previous "victories" against Superman are now completely moot at best and fake at worst.
      Batman: (internal monologue) Dear god...that sonofabitch...he's been holding back. All these years.
    • In Batman: Hush Batman fights Superman with nothing but a Kryptonite ring, but he doesn't actually win. He just keeps Superman occupied until Catwoman can threaten Lois Lane and break Poison Ivy's hold over him. He states that he could tell that his friend was holding back unconsciously because it's such a deeply ingrained characteristic to not hurt people. When he's actually under the influence of Max Lord, he puts Batman into traction.
    • Despite at least 3 chances to have seen an outcome, we have yet to truly see who would win a fair fight between Batman and his closest Marvel Universe equivalent in badass, Captain Americanote . See:
      • Batman technically won the fight in Marvel Versus DC, but it was only because of an environmental hazard got Cap distracted (a burst water pipe in the sewer they were fighting in).
      • In the WWII-era pastiche crossover between the two, they stopped as soon as they realized their opponent (they were in their secret identities) was actually Batman/Captain America.
      • Then there was JLA/Avengers, where the two initially begin to fight but soon stopped within the first few seconds when they both came to the conclusion they were probably being played... though Batman did come to the conclusion within that time that Cap would've probably won had the fight gone on longer. The question does eventually come up again...
        Prometheus: "I'm Prometheus. I've just uploaded Batman's fighting skills. That'll be more than enough to defeat you.
        Captain America: "Oh?"
    • Swamp Thing has had the gumption to beat Batman twice, once when Batman wasn't prepared (he thought the superpowered swamp monster was just a guy in a funny suit) and once when he was (he brought plant poison to the fight and outfitted the Batmobile with giant plant cutters, but underestimated Swamp Thing's regenerative powers). Both times Swamp Thing spared Batman, as he realized Batman meant well and was just trying to protect Gotham from what he saw as a threat.
    • A fight between Batman and a brainwashed Cassandra Cain ended this way.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
  • Averted in the Crossover between Savage Dragon and Hellboy in which Dragon was clearly shown to be stronger. The issue was co-written by both character's creators.
  • There was a one-shot comic entitled Spider-Man vs. Wolverine released in the eighties where the two characters fought without a clear winner (it ended in a deadlock and was broken up by bad guys). Later, a Marvel Comics Presents story with the same title also showed an inconclusive fight (Spider-Man attacked a person whom he thought was impersonating Wolverine and stopped after a few traded blows once Wolvie proved he was the real deal). Though, in Secret Wars Spidey basically took on all of the X-Men and was winning before the Professor X mindwipe (though he had Conservation of Ninjutsu on his side then).
    • Spidey has a similar relationship with Daredevil despite the two of them being close friends. They would always fight to a standstill. Often, Spider-Man would be hindered in some way (mind-controlled, wounded, etc.) in order to make the fight more even since he had Super-Strength and DD didn't.
    • After the return of the original Green Goblin, Norman Osborn, and the revelation of the original Hobgoblin, Roderick Kingsley, the two had a heated confrontation that dodged any answer as to who was superior in any particular way. Kingsley ends up fighting a proxy Green Goblin for much of the story; a brief altercation with Osborn is interrupted by a fire; Osborn's refusal to get his hands dirty during the story removes the possibility of a straight-up fight. The evasiveness even extends to the villains' planning skills - Kingsley ultimately gets away scot free after pulling a successful Batman Gambit on Norman, but along the way Osborn saw through all of Kingsley's deceptions and bought out Kingsley's corporate holdings. By the end, both villains win in a tangible way without settling the question of who is superior in any respect.
  • This does not stop with super teams, either. Usually, every super team goes up against another super team at least once with no clear team being the victor. However, individual members can sometimes have clear victories. More often than not, there will be an equal number of teammates on both sides once the dust settles.
    • The New Warriors once fought X-Force with no clear winner, although there was a double-KO when Speedball and Cannonball collided.
    • In JLA/Avengers, while many heroes on both sides defeated their counterparts, no team was ever the clear winner by the end of the miniseries.
    • The Fantastic Four once fought X-Men and, despite being clearly outnumbered, held its own and there was never a winner of the fight.
    • The Avengers also went up against the X-Men a few times with similar results.
    • This trope was averted in the X-Force/X-Factor fight during the Executioner's Song Crossover. X-Factor defeated and captured the X-Force, bringing them in for questioning on the whereabouts of Cable.
  • This trope is often averted when The Punisher fights other heroes, perhaps due to his Anti-Hero status. Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Captain America have all had clear victories over Frank Castle.
  • Superman:
    • In the Silver Age and the Bronze Age, virtually every race between Superman and The Flash ended ambiguously as a draw for one reason or another. In their first race, the two deliberately tie in order to frustrate a gambling syndicate; in their second, none of the spectators can agree on the winner because it looked like a different outcome from different angles. However, the Post-Crisis comics quickly averted the trope by having Wally West outrun Superman, a result that has stayed consistent in every race since regardless of which Flash is involved and where the characters are otherwise in terms of Power Creep, Power Seep. The fact that the pair used to be neck-and-neck was explained by Flash with the fact that "those races were for charity."
    • Although most of the time they are evenly matched, it was rumored for a while -by Batman himself- that Post-Crisis Supergirl was more powerful than her cousin. In "Girl of Steel", Kara's evil clone gloats that she can defeat Superman, but Kal replies he'll win if she forces him to go all out. Dark Supergirl challenges him to test his theory, but their argument is interrupted by Batman, and the matter is left unresolved.
    • In The Great Darkness Saga, though, Supergirl proves to be more resilient than Superboy when both of them engage Darkseid... albeit Darkseid proved he's more powerful than either of them anyway.
    • In Snickers promotional comic "The Fastest Women Alive", Supergirl and Jesse Quick race each other for charity across the world. Though, Parasite interferes with their racing, and readers never have to see who wins.
    • Subverted in Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man. Lex Luthor and Doctor Octopus manipulate Superman and Spider-Man into fighting each other, subtly bathing Spidey in red sun radiation to give him an edge. Spidey holds his own until it wears off, at which point he becomes utterly outmatched.
    • Also applied to the sequel in which during a fight with the Incredible Hulk, Superman brushes off all of his attacks and removes a mind control device he found on him before the fight gets too serious.
  • After the first battle between Thor and Incredible Hulk in The Avengers #3, Stan Lee felt unsatisfied with the resolution - floodwaters separate the two combatants before the fight can really get started. He later wrote an issue of Thor in which Thor comes across a group of children arguing over which of the two is the strongest. Thor sits with them and recounts the previous battle, but now much longer and more elaborate than previously seen in the Avengers, adding extra wrinkles (such as Thor deciding to battle Hulk without his hammer and Odin granting him five minutes to do so). While the fight still ends inconclusively, Thor tells the boys that the fight was not simply a question of who was the strongest, but that there were many factors that could have swung the fight in either direction. Stan himself seemed to be suggesting that this was more dramatically interesting than having a definitive winner.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender:
  • In Identity Crisis, as Deathstroke is tearing his way through a team assembled to help Elongated Man take down Doctor Light, he grabs Green Lantern's ring-bearing hand and wonders if his superior intellect could actually force the ring to work for him. The question is left unanswered after Green Arrow stabs him in his bad eye.
  • Deadpool:
    • Deadpool once got into a Yo Momma fight with Spider-Man, and as he was building up to the ultimate zinger that would leave Spidey completely crushed, he left, claiming he'd achieved his goal of distracting him.
    • Deadpool vs. The Punisher: Frank is pronounced the winner of the first two issues (due to shooting Deadpool), Deadpool the winner of the next two (due to getting Frank to crack a smile), and the winner of the last issue is you, the reader!

    Fan Works 
  • In The Flash Sentry Chronicles: The final scene in "Magic Duel" has Twilight and Trixie preparing for a friendly duel to see which one of them is the real "number one princess student". The chapter ends just as the duel begins, with the winner never revealed.
  • In This Bites!, Brook challenges Cross to a duel to determine the "One-Sword Master" of the Strawhat Pirates (since Zoro and Leo use 3 and 2 swords respectively), though it turns out to be a cage match the Strawhats are using to collect bets. They never get to fight, as between Captain Bearington and Hawkin's Evil Sword Shichiseiken joining it, it ends up in an unseen fight between Zoro and Shichiseiken which caused much damage to Skelter Bite.

    Films — Animation 
  • Animal Soccer World conveniently ends with a tie, preventing either side from being shown as superior. A follow-up match is announced, but the movie ends shortly after, so its outcome is unknown.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Sadako vs. Kayako ends with Sadako and Kayako both possessing the main character and becoming a new curse.
  • Rocky III, at the end of the film, a private, untelevised match between Rocky and Apollo. Ultimately averted years later in Creed when, though the fight is still not shown, Rocky admits that Apollo won.
  • Freddy vs. Jason is pretty much an evasive fight thread movie, right down to its ambiguous ending.
  • A fair amount of outrage was generated in The Phantom of the Opera fandom when the Gerard Butler version had Raoul beat the Phantom in a sword-fight outside the masoleum.
  • Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man depicts a climatic battle between the two Universal monster classics. The fight ends when both monsters are caught in a flood with no winner.
  • Roughly half the Godzilla movies involved him fighting a different monster from a different movie. Perhaps the most famous example would be King Kong vs. Godzilla where both monsters fall into the ocean and the end of the fight isn't seen on camera. King Kong is later shown surfacing from the ocean and swimming away and Godzilla isn't seen again at all, ambiguously implying that King Kong might have won. The spiritual sequel Godzilla vs. Kong averts this. It shows that under no uncertain circumstances, Kong is defeated by Godzilla, even on even ground, losing both duels against the Monster King. Kong does put one hell of a fight both times and redeems himself by destroying Mechagodzilla (which was kicking the crap out of Godzilla) at the end, however.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • As expected, The Avengers has some of its members fight or almost fight upon meeting one another. Iron Man fights Thor who later fights The Incredible Hulk with no clear-cut winners. Captain America deflects Thor's hammer when he breaks up his fight with Tony and even challenges Iron Man to a fight but nothing comes of either conflict. This is averted in the fight between Black Widow and Hawkeye as Black Widow renders Hawkeye unconscious (although he was both under mind control and severely sleep deprived at the time...)
    • This trope is averted in The Avengers sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron. Iron Man, now wearing a special suit designed to fight the Hulk, actually manages to beat him in a pretty brutal match. Meanwhile, Scarlet Witch manages to Mind Rape the entire team at one point or another, with the exception of Hawkeye, who sees her coming and electrocutes her. Quicksilver beats Hawkeye twice with the element of surprise, but Hawkeye beats him using surprise in their third encounter.
    • Averted in the climactic fight of Captain America: Civil War: an enraged Iron Man vs Captain America and Bucky. While Tony is mostly interested in murdering Bucky, it escalates into a vicious brawl that only ends when Steve shatters Tony's arc reactor.
    • In Thor: Ragnarok, Thor and Hulk get a rematch after their fight in The Avengers was interrupted. Only for it to be interrupted again by the Grandmaster activating Thor's Shock Collar after Thor awakens his true power and starts to take the upper hand.
  • DC Extended Universe:
    • Averted in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Batman definitively wins the titular fight before the two team up.
    • In both Justice League and Zack Snyder's Justice League, Superman has Resurrection Sickness and fights Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash and Cyborg. He easily overpowers them all and it stops only because Lois Lane shows up and gives him a Cooldown Hug.
    • In the 2017 theatrical version of Justice League, Flash and Superman race to see who is fastest (not one of the usual charity races; the Flash just wanted to know who'd win, and Superman obliged.) When the race starts, the two run past the camera almost instantly, and that's all we see of it, never learning the winner.
  • Street Fighter has two examples.
    • Ryu and Vega's initial cage match is interrupted by Guile arresting everyone. They briefly fight during the prison riot and settle it for good in their match near the end of the film.
    • Chun-Li gets several hits in on Bison when she catches him off-guard. When he prepares to fight back, everyone else busts in and distracts Chun-Li, allowing Bison to escape and gas the heroes. They never get a rematch.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In a Pair of Kings episode, we never do get to find out which twin was born first. To make matters worse, commercials aired for weeks prior promising we'd find out, and the whole episode was drummed up big time.
  • Stargate Atlantis:
    • Ford and Ronon go toe-to-toe on two separate occasions but the audience never gets to find out which one would win, mostly because Ronon is replacing Ford.
    • Ronon, being The Big Guy, also gets to spar with Teal'c, The Big Guy of Atlantis' sister show, Stargate SG-1. Gate fans have likely been waiting for this since the day Ronon was introduced. Neither has the upper hand when Carter breaks it up. Well, Teal'c does manage to draw first blood after an hour-long fight, but still, very even. Bonus points to Teal'c for being over a hundred years old by the time the fight takes place.
  • In The X-Files, a fight between Skinner and X comes to an ambiguous conclusion. Both actors still insist they would have won.
  • Averted in the Angel episode "Destiny": when Spike gets his body back, it takes a matter of hours for him and Angel to come to blows (though the bad guys helped arrange it). The clear winner is Spike, which doesn't much help the confidence issues Angel was going through. He even makes a point to Gunn that, in all the times he had previously fought Spike, this was the only time Spike won.
  • In the final episode of Kamen Rider Kiva, the eponymous hero and his half-brother have a fight - at the suggestion of their mother — in order to work out their past aggression (since most of the way through the series they were mortal enemies). The scene cuts away before we see who won, but since it was a Lighthearted Rematch it really doesn't matter.
  • Kamen Rider Decade's Rider Vs. Rider fights are filled with nothing but this. Every time a fight begins, it will never be finished. Someone will always interfere, or they will simply retreat. In fact, there was one episode where Decade and ShinkenRed were about to transform and fight each other, but were interrupted. The only time Decade ever won a Rider Vs. Rider fight was when that rider happened to be the Big Bad of a world, a summon from Diend, or when he taps into his Superpowered Evil Side. The only Decade Vs. Rider fight he did win outside of these conditions was against Imperer.
    • Averted in the first movie, where the entire point is a Rider tournament. We see brief flashes of several fights, but see (or learn) the outcomes of the ones that matter. Decade vs Black RX? RX dominates most of the fight, but Decade wins in the end. Kuuga vs X-Rider? Kuuga wins it. Decade, Diend, and Kuuga vs V3, Super-1, and Black? Diend punks out early, Kuuga gets eliminated Taking the Bullet for Decade, and Decade takes out all three opponents at once through clever use of his AttackRide: Illusion card.
    • Subverted in Heisei Rider vs. Showa Rider: Kamen Rider Taisen feat. Super Sentai: For most of the film, the Showa Riders want to kick the Heisei Riders' asses, but that gets put by the wayside when it turns out that the hatred was mostly faked as part of a plan by Rider #1 and Kamen Rider ZX to defeat the Badan Empire. After Badan is defeated, the Showa Riders approach the Heisei Riders and say they have unfinished business... remember that mostly faked hatred? An ending was filmed for each side, but he Heisei Riders won an online poll and thus their version was screened in theaters; both it and the Showa ending can be found on the DVD and Bluray release of the film.
  • Averted in the Power Rangers: Dino Thunder Reunion Show. The main three Ninja Storm Rangers are brainwashed by Lothor and walk all over their Dino Thunder counterparts. The second time is closer to the trope: they start off using their out-of-suit powers, and the other Ninja Storm Rangers intervene and de-brainwash their friends before anyone morphs. Somewhat justified in the former battle, as the Ninja Storm Rangers had more experience than the Dino Thunder ones. Also, being ninjas, they had continued to maintain peak physical conditioning since the end of their series, even without the aid of Ranger powers, while the Dino Thunder Rangers were otherwise ordinary high-school students.
  • Averted in Merlin. Arthur can beat anyone in combat... except Lancelot.
  • The TV versions of The Green Hornet and Batman once had a fight along with their respective sidekicks. Legend has it, Robin was supposed to defeat Kato while Batman and Green Hornet stalemated. Bruce Lee (Kato) refused to do the episode unless it was changed. The studio relented and there was no clear winner in either fight. To say that Bruce Lee refused is a bit of an understatement — rather, he was furious that his character was to lose and loudly proclaimed on set that when the cameras rolled, he was going to give Burt Ward a genuine beatdown. The producers pacified him by changing the script to have the fight end in a draw.
  • The Arrowverse:
    • In the first major crossover between Arrow and The Flash (2014), Oliver has to fight a Hate Plague-influenced Barry. Oliver fights merely to contain Barry and the latter is cured before there's a clear winner. The episode ends with them just starting a friendly rematch. A later crossover states that Barry won the rematch, but Oliver jokes that since there were no witnesses to the fight, Barry doesn't have the evidence to back that claim.
    • During the "Invasion!" crossover, the Flash has to go up against a Brainwashed and Crazy Supergirl. Barry doesn't actively try to fight Supergirl; instead he tries to avoid her as best he can and, like with the earlier fight with Oliver, Barry deals with her by breaking the brainwashing. The fight does show that while Supergirl is Nigh Invulnerable, can withstand the Flash's Speed Force lightning (his only major offensive move), and can almost match his speed; the Flash is better at using that speed to react, change course, and dodge her attacks. It's also possible that he was specifically holding back his speed so she could keep up, as he was luring her to a specific location.
  • In season 14 of NCIS, the two "alpha"-type characters, Torres and Reeves finally acknowledged their overlapping skills, rivalry and mutual respect by arm wrestling - to the derision of the female agents - however, the contest was aborted, unresolved, by the intrusion of a case and their assignments.
  • In the second season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, we finally get a fight between probably the two best fighters on the show at this point, Spartacus and Gannicus, who both use the same fighting style of Dimachaeri (two short shorts). The fight is so evenly matched that they lose both their swords and resort to fists before picking up their swords again. The fight only stops because they are interrupted, with neither looking worse for it, and then never fighting each other again.
  • Cobra Kai: After spending several seasons alternating between enemies and allies, Daniel and Johnny get to talking and realize that, although coming to blows a few times, they've never had a proper rematch of their fateful fight from 30 years ago. So they set it up to decide once and for all who is the better fighter and has the superior training methods. With the score tied at 2-2, the match ends on a Double Knockout, keeping up the show's theme that the two of them are not as different as they'd like to believe.
  • Averted in the Smallville episode "Run", which ends with the inevitable Clark/Bart race, and at first it looks like they're evenly matched. Then Bart grins and kicks into superspeed from Clark's perspective.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • One easy way to generate hype for a match on pay-per-view: initially announce the match on TV, and have it be interrupted early in some way. Particularly more effective if what the TV audience has seen is better.
  • Another common technique used by bookers is to take the participants in two or more different feuds and pair them up in a Faces vs. Heels tag team match. It gives the fans a taste of what each of the pairs can do when they get time against each other, but leaves them wanting more.

    Video Games 
  • This is a recurring theme in Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals where protagonist and fated hero Maxim, an incredibly skilled swordsman, is constantly challenged by other famous warriors, including fellow party members Guy, Selan, and Dekar, to see if he is truly the best. Such duels either occur off-screen with no clear winner given or are never able to occur at all (though it is usually implied that Maxim would indeed win these fights). The trope is even subtly parodied when Maxim first meets Guy and they challenge each other to a duel, and just as Guy leaps into the air to strike the first blow, monsters literally teleport into the middle of town and the two must join forces to fight them.
  • Happens a lot in Street Fighter between Ryu and Ken. They've had several off-screen fights to determine who's stronger, with the overall results being a tie, as near as can be determined. It's also subverted in the case of Oro and Akuma: Oro is shown to be much stronger than Akuma is.
    • One overarching instance with Ryu and Ken zig-zags. In Street Fighter Alpha 2, Ken's Final Boss is Ryu himself. Ken canonically defeats Ryu, as is the case with most of the storylines in that game, but notices that Ryu wasn't giving it his all (Ryu was preoccupied with his previous encounter with Akuma from his Arcade Mode path and the revelation of the Satsui no Hadou inside of him), and instead bequeaths his hair tie to Ryu, which helps gets his buddy out of his funk and becomes Ryu's headband in the II series. Ken also vows to not marry his then-girlfriend Eliza until he defeats Ryu in a decisive match; while it's unknown how Ken fared in the Second World Warrior Tournament, the sequels show Ken and Eliza married with a son named Mel, so it's commonly assumed that Ken did have his rematch and win.
    • This happens again in Street Fighter IV, but instead between Akuma and Gouken. After sealing away the Satsui no Hadou within Ryu in his ending, Gouken is attacked by Akuma for his meddling, Akuma having long since wanted Ryu to accept the dark power and give him the deathmatch he craved. Given that Gouken's Power of Nothingness allows him to No-Sell the Shun Goku Satsu and backstory materials note that Gouken had already handily beaten Akuma once before (technically twice; Gouken spared Akuma in their rematch, which allowed Akuma to "kill" him with the SGS), some have taken this ending as an explanation for not only the lack of Evil Ryu in the III series, but Akuma's lack of interest in Ryu in 2nd Impact and 3rd Strike.
  • Ensemble Stars! features a lot of battles between different units (or, more rarely, other groups of characters such as clubs or even individual idols), but apart from generalities like fine being on top, the actual popularity rankings tend to be pretty vague and the characters usually won't take too much stock in any particular live. For example, in Quarrel Fest Akatsuki faces up against fine and will disband if they lose. Naturally, they win, but it's pointed out afterwards that basically everything was leaning towards an Akatsuki win here (fine had been doing a lot of lives recently and was tired, Eichi wasn't in top physical shape, the live's theme perfectly fit a unit based on traditional Japanese culture like Akatsuki, and finally the fact that Akatsuki was fighting for its very existence), so if anything they would've been a laughing stock if they didn't win.
  • In the finale of the story mode of Tekken 7, Akuma and Devil Kazuya battle it out. Ultimately the fight ends with the both of them unleashing their ultimate moves on each other, with no clear indication of who won.

    Web Animation 
  • For part of the flash series TOME, whenever The Hero and The Rival attempted to fight, they were interrupted by the silent, mysterious, obscenely powerful Giga.
  • Red vs. Blue:
    • Tex and Carolina. The first time they fight, they're just running toward one another when they're interrupted by the Director shouting "Allison". The second time, they actually do get to fight, but they're interrupted again, this time by the ship plowing into a planet from outer space. And Maine throwing Carolina off a cliff. Carolina ends up saying Tex is stronger, but she was facing 50+ Texbots at the time.
  • Happens a couple times in 1 Minute Melee, the first time between Lucario and Renamon, which ended in a double KO. Also happened in Megaman vs. Samus, where Megaman defeated what was thought to be Samus, before that "Samus" turned out to be SA-X, who furiously attacked Megaman before the real Samus showed up to help Megaman take it down.
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged: During the Cell arc, several videos featured the protagonists of other series showing up to battle Cell, including Yami (Cell managed to Rules Lawyer him into Rage Quitting) and Kenshiro (His Hokuto Hyakuretsuken managed to wipe the smug off Cell's face, but he regenerated). Then Saitama and Genos show up. Genos goes first, and you can guess how that goes, and as Saitama steps up, Cell makes the mistake of saying when the tournament takes place, prompting Saitama to realize there's a sale on that day, meaning he won't be able to make it to the fight, so he picks up Genos and leaves.

  • Subrosian and Wise_Mankey (Characters who show up in many sprite comics hosted by The Fallout Shelter, but do not appear to have comics of their own) had a rivalry, which they were given a chance to settle in Akuma TH's "Last Chance" event. However, their fight was interrupted by Silver Fox, who was there to settle his own grudge with Subrosian. He managed to defeat both of them (Along with the referee), and was then defeated by Cream the Rabbit and Big the Cat, which Subrosian and Mankey found so embarrassing that they couldn't bring themselves to continue the match.
  • A recurring theme in The Hero of Three Faces is that true heroes will only seriously fight each other if one of them is mind-controlled, brainwashed, or otherwise mentally incapacited, and then the other one will win.

    Western Animation 
  • Parodied in the end of an episode of Undergrads where Nitz and Gimpy get into a heated war over who is better at trivia, culminating in a showdown in a trivia tournament. Their tournament gets interrupted and the episode ends with everyone laughing, but just when you think the trope's going to come into play, Gimpy gets one final line:
    Gimpy: And just so there is no confusion, I was winning the tournament when we were interrupted. So I won, and Nitz lost! Heh, loser.
  • DC Animated Universe:
    • In Superman: The Animated Series, the for-charity footrace held between Superman and the Flash gets detoured by the plot. The episode ends just as they start it over again. An episode of Justice League Unlimited takes place in Coast City's Flash Museum, which has a display about the race containing a big trophy, leading to the Wild Mass Guess that Flash won. Justice League's second season episode "Eclipsed," firmly establishes that Flash can reach speeds that Superman can't — they need to get something moving close to the speed of light, and Flash is the only one who can manage it. The charity race also happened before the Speed Force event in Justice League Unlimited, which makes it clear that the Diniverse's Flash is, in the very least, several orders of magnitude faster than Superman... Though it would likely kill him to try doing it again. Averted by the versions of Superman and the Flash in Young Justice according to Word of God. Since Superman has Combo Platter Powers and superspeed is the Flash's only superpower, Greg Weisman says it makes the most sense to him that the latter is faster.
    • Similarly, in Justice League Unlimited, "Grudge Match", a fight between Huntress and a mind-controlled Black Canary is interrupted when the mind-control tech is destroyed; at the end of the episode, they decide to go at it again, but the episode ends before the first blow.
    • In yet another Justice League Unlimited example, Superman wins via wits even though it's made fairly clear that in a straight-up fight between Superman and Captain Marvel, neither the Man of Steel nor the World's Mightiest Mortal have the upper hand. This is mostly a fan bonus legacy nod to how similar the characters were originally in the comics, though you will have nitpickers complaining the Diniverse Superman is inconsistently weaker in this adaptation. It also serves as a bit of a deconstruction of the "Who would win in a fight?" concept, as it's made clear that it's Lex Luthor who gains the most from two good guys pounding each other. It's also a nod to the comic Kingdom Come, where Superman fights a Luthor-manipulated Captain Marvel - especially obvious with Marvel using the magic lightning against Superman, who is vulnerable against magic. Both fights pretty much ended the same way, though.
  • One Looney Tunes short featured a race between Speedy Gonzales and the Road Runner. The results were obscured when Sylvester and Wile E. Coyote, who had been chasing the duo through the whole cartoon, accidentally overtook them in a rocket car and crossed the finish line just before them in a cloud of dust. An overlap of this with Dark Horse Victory. Though Speedy came in second place, beating the Road Runner in that race.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Thanks to an unauthorized online leak, much anticipation surrounded the sword fight between Jet (twin tiger-head hook swords) and Prince Zuko (dual dao sabres). Before it came to a clear finish, the two were interrupted by the Dai Li, and Jet was arrested.
  • Subverted, of all the crazy places, in The Simpsons. At the end of "The Great Wife Hope", Bart challenges Lisa to a fight to settle the bad blood between them. They jump at each other and the scene freezes and breaks to the start of the credits, only to subvert the trope and unfreeze a few seconds later as Lisa lays Bart out with a single punch.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic: "Fall Weather Friends" revolves around Applejack and Rainbow Dash competing to determine who is the better athlete between the two of them. Rainbow Dash wins the most events in an "iron pony" competition between the two of them, but after Applejack objects that Rainbow has an innate advantage in some of the events due to the latter being a Pegasus, they decide to settle the matter once and for all in a marathon footrace. The race eventually devolves into the two of them pulling dirty tricks on each other, delaying them both until they wound up tying for last place. At the end of the episode they reconcile their grudge and decide to re-run the race fairly, but the credits roll right after they get started. Their rivalry is still going strong as of "Castle Mane-ia".
  • Regardless of his speed compared to The Flash, Robot Chicken has Superman in a race with Santa Claus. Similar to the Superman: The Animated Series version, in which the Flash and Superman's charity race was interrupted by villains, the episode ending with them racing again, the outcome never to be learned by fans. It aired the very same week as the Justice League (2017) movie's premiere (in which, after the world is saved, Flash challenges Superman to a race, the scene shifting after they run past the camera, leaving the outcome unknown.)
  • The cartoon The Wild Chase is about a race between the Roadrunner and Speedy Gonzales. Unfortunately, it ends shortly before the end of the race, leaving the winner uncertain.