Two characters, or 2 factions (or occasionally more), try to fake a fight between each other. Either a third party or circumstance set them up (especially in an Involuntary Battle to the Death), or they need to make the other see that they're fighting, either for PR reasons or to distract them from something else, etc.
Maybe one or both of the them don't actually want to fight at all (either they're pacifistic, or one of them likes the other too much, etc) or one is so outmatched that there is no chance of them making it out alive.
To the people watching the moment, it looks like they really are fighting as they cheer for one of the fighters to succeed. That being said, there are times when the two fighter end up being pretty obvious that they are acting, yet their audience still ends up buying it. In a few of these staged battles (but not all of them), the two have a designated victor for their fight while the other takes the fall.
There are also staged fights where there is no assigned winner, either because they don't know who to give the win to, or their reason isn't for either to win. They could be trying to show some people why fighting is wrong, or they could be trying to provide a distraction.
Whatever the reason, the fight is faked for the benefit of one or both of the people involved. However, there are also moments where their staged fight will accidentally break out into a real fight (such as when one of them hits the other too hard, or one of them didn't realize it's meant to be fake), or even reveal to have been a real fight all along. When this happens, one or both characters may find themselves in a panic over the fact that they have to start fighting for real.
When it comes to live-action media, practically all fights are faked for entertainment. However, for a battle to count as this trope, it has to actually be acknowledged in-universe to have been staged by the two fighters.
See also Monster Protection Racket.
- Dragon Ball: For the final round of the the martial arts tournament in Dragon Ball Z, Mr. Satan is set to face off against Android 18, whom he realizes he has no chance of beating after seeing her fight Goten and Trunks who snuck into the tournament as Mighty Mask. However, 18 agrees to stage the fight into giving him the win in exchange for double the prize money. Mr Satan agrees and the two fight to make it look realistic to the audience with 18 having upper-hand moments to make the fight more interesting.
- Dragon Goes House-Hunting features a Gladiator Games where all the fights are staged in order to ensure maximum profits for the Arena's owner, Margrave.
- Subverted in Ultimate Muscle. When Kid Muscle finds himself having to go up against his father in a fight, he thinks it will be a piece of cake with the belief that the whole fight would be staged. As the two engage, Kid Muscle tells his father what to do during the fight, only for his father to do completely different actions. Soon enough though, Kid Muscle realizes that the whole fight isn't staged at all, and he attempts to back out.
- The Incredible Hercules: Hercules is asked by some Asgardians to dress up as The Mighty Thor and defeat Alfyse, Queen of the Dark Elves, because Thor is the only person Alfyse will yield to. However, Alfyse is also absolutely gorgeous, and she and "Thor" begin flirting, leading to the two of them sleeping together. In the morning, this backfires as Alfyse uses this to declare herself Thor's wife by ancient rite, and thus she can now invade Asgard and declare herself queen legitimately. To rectify this, the Asgardians find the real Thor, dress him as "Hercules" and have him fight Alfyse's husband "Thor" to thwart the invasion. The two men being Friendly Rivals, "Hercules" makes an offhand insult that he "won't hurt" his friend, but an insulted "Thor" suckerpunches him and their fight becomes a hilarious farce filled with both men trying to overpower the other using schoolyard tactics like a kick to the groin, purple nurple, and other silliness. Eventually, "Hercules" gets frustrated that "Thor" isn't taking a dive as promised, but "Thor" says that unless his opponent stops holding back, the elves won't buy it. After the fight finally ends, it turns out that Hercules (the real one) set this up so that from now on, everyone would know that "Hercules defeated Thor, once and for all".
- In Action Comics #600, Darkseid tries to throw Superman and Wonder Woman into a "Let's You and Him Fight" situation by having Kalibak impersonate Superman and attack Wonder Woman, while Amazing Grace, in the guise Wonder Woman, attacks Superman. When Superman and Wonder Woman meet again, they start fighting, and Darkseid believes he has convinced the heroes that they were attacking their enemy instead of each other...only to realize too late that Superman and Wonder Woman were pretending to fight, while they smashed their way into his throne room.
- In Superman #150, Lois Lane and Lana Lang, in an attempt to settle who Superman will ultimately marry, agree to stage a Duel to the Death to force him to choose between them. Superman is tipped off to their plan and builds robot duplicates for them to duel, scheming to trick each woman into thinking they've accidentally killed their opponent for real. It works, but Lois and Lana soon catch on to the ruse and take control of the robots and have them fight, duping Superman into rescuing his robots before revealing the charade.
- In Wonder Woman (1942) #177, Wonder Woman and Supergirl are kidnapped by Galactic Conqueror Klamos and ordered to battle to the death in a tournament to decide who will become Klamos' queen. Supergirl seemingly wins the duel and kills Wonder Woman, only for the latter to get up and attack Klamos, revealing him to be a robot controlled by his diminutive "assistant" Grok, and they had merely pretended to fight so that Wonder Woman could get close enough to expose him.
- Galaxy Quest: Jason and Alexander fake a fight to distract the guards and surprise them by suddenly attacking them instead of each other. Played with straight afterwards however, since they accuse each other of not pulling their punches and using the "fight" to vent their personal frustrations with each other.
- Parodied in A Million Ways to Die in the West during a barfight the main character and his friend stand aside and just roll their hands toward each other while loudly proclaiming that they're already fighting each other in order to avoid being actually hit during the barfight. Their plan goes wrong when one of them does hit the other by accident.
- 48 Hrs.: Near the beginning of the film a man stops his car close to a crew of prison inmates doing roadside cleanup and starts yelling racial epithets at one of the crew, a Native American. The two soon start fighting and are soon rolling on the ground wrestling with each other. Then they both produce guns that the motorist had hidden under his shirt and shoot the two guards who had been guarding the work crew. The entire fight had been a trick to help the inmate escape.
- In The Great Escape, two prisoners staged a fight to distract the guards so that another group of prisoners could sneak aboard a truck or join a group of Soviet prisoners that was leaving the camp.
- The Reluctant Dragon: Ultimately the case in the titular cartoon. The dragon has no interest in fighting Sir Giles as he doesn't wish to get hurt. However, Sir Giles finds a way to get the dragon to agree. During the fight, the two are shown goofing around rather than actually fighting during parts of the fight where nobody can see them, with the fight ending with Sir Giles thrusting his sword between the dragon's shoulder and the dragon playing dead.
- In The Road to El Dorado, Tulio and Miguel stage a sword fight, complete with requisite Flynning, to get away from some irate gamblers who had just realized that Tulio was using loaded dice against them.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King: In the film adaptation, Frodo and Sam, disguised as orcs, get forced into an army unit on the way to the Black Gate. When the unit is put up for inspection, Frodo realizes the inspector is suspicious of them, and they need to get away before they're found out. He tells Sam to start fighting with him. The sudden apparent violence riles up the orcs so much that Frodo and Sam are able to sneak away in the confusion.
- The Wheel of Time: When The Chosen One Rand needs an excuse to send his friend Perrin on a secret mission, they stage a very public shouting match that ends in Rand telekinetically throwing Perrin into a column and pronouncing him The Exile. Perrin's in on it but wishes he'd been a bit gentler with the throw.
- Shows up way back in an episode of The Rifleman, when Lucas McCain posts bail for an old friend arrested for drunk and disorderly conduct, despite said friend's vehement objections. Once out of earshot of the sheriff, the suddenly perfectly sober friend explains he'd actually wanted to go to jail because a member of the gang he'd been tailing for the US government was there and he'd planned to squeeze the man for some info. McCain, realizing the only quick way available to fix the problem, laments that he's about to lose $50, proceeds to engage the agent in a very public fight that causes Sheriff Micah to re-arrest the man, allowing him to proceed with his plan.
- The second misson of Call of Duty: Black Ops, starts off with Mason and Reznov pretending to fight in order to trick a guard.
- In Fallout 3's Mothership Zeta DLC, Somah's plan to escape the aliens' prison is to fake a fistfight then jump the aliens when they come to break it up. The Lone Wanderer can call it cliché, but it's the only plan they have, and thankfully it works.
- In the Breadwinners episode "Food Fight Club", Swaysway and Buhdeuce stumble upon the titular club run by T-Midi (known as "Muscle Daddy" in the club) who forces the duo to fight each other. The two initially pretend to fight, however T-Midi doesn't buy it for a second and gives them weapons. At which point they turn Ax-Crazy and fight for real, much to the horror of the former, who eventually considers them to be too rough after they knock out the head fighter.
- At least a couple of times competitors of Celebrity Deathmatch try to pull this off. Of course, since you can't fake hacking each other to death, the officials don't buy it and use threats to motivate them into fighting proper.
- In the episode of Doug "Doug's Big Brawl", Doug got into a fight with Larry and won. Neither Larry nor Doug want to fight again, but the other members of the AV club demand a rematch and threaten to kick out Larry if he backs down. Doug and Larry stage a fight on the school TV, conveniently knocking the camera to the side so that nobody can see the nonexistent fight, with Skeeter providing sound effects.
- In an episode of Hey Arnold!, Helga insults Big Patty several times; Patty retaliates by dragging Helga into a gym, messing up Helga's appearance, and then pummeling a mattress and a garbage can to make it look and sound to the students outside like she beat up Helga.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: Played for Laughs in the episode "No Weenies Allowed". After many failed attempts to get into the Salty Spittoon, SpongeBob is given the idea to fake a fight, so he gets Patrick to help him out. After having to remind Patrick that he is supposed to win, Patrick ends up beating himself up while SpongeBob watches him without lifting a finger. Upon which, Reg believes that SpongeBob destroyed Patrick without even touching him and lets SpongeBob inside.
- In "New Student Starfish", SpongeBob and Patrick decide to have a fist fight in the halls over a disagreement, only to accidentally invoke this trope when neither of their hits connect.
- In Tiny Toon Adventures, Buster Bunny and Dizzy Devil find themselves assigned an "antagonize the antagonist" project by their respective mentors. While they comply, reluctantly, at first, neither student really sees this as necessary given they're friends, and decide to teach their teachers a lesson by engaging in a bit of over the top mayhem that seemingly reduces them to atoms. While the distraught Bugs and Taz begin crying over seemingly getting their proteges killed, the two appear in a onscreen circle congratulating each other. Unfortunately Bugs and Taz being old pros means they're more than capable of noticing this and nabbing their students in turn.
- In The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Finale" Richard accidentally crashes a hijacked bus into Penny's backyard. Her father Patrick steps out to confront them and a crowd eggs them on to fight. They both agree to pretend to fight and act like Patrick is knocked out, but Richard accidentally knocks him out for real.