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Hypothetical Fight Debate

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"I don't care if The Hulk could defeat the Man of Steel
I'm gonna rearrange your face if you continue to debate
Whether Logan's claws could pierce Steve Rogers' shield!"
Ookla the Mok, "Stop Talking About Comic Books or I'll Kill You"

One way to show just how nerdy some characters are is to have them idly debating who would win in a hypothetical fight between two fictional characters. The debate can be made even more pointless and absurd if the characters are non-violent or not even owned by the same company.

It can also be a debate about things other than characters, such as Enterprise vs. Star Destroyer, Pirates vs. Ninjas, etc. The key element is pretty much discussing Cool vs. Awesome. Sometimes, instead of a physical fight, they're more concerned with who would win in a rap battle.

A Sub-Trope to Seinfeldian Conversation (most of time, because in some cases the hypothetical case can involve characters that really exist within the work's universe).

Compare Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny, which is when it actually happens instead of being conversed. Not to be confused with a "Cavemen vs. Astronauts" Debate, which, while there may be overlap, is about a debate/discussion that gets out of hand.


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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • A Superman/Batman story had two kids arguing over who would win in a fight between the two heroes, eventually deciding that since neither of them would give up, they'd both lose, which is why it would never happen. It then reveals that Superman was listening, and dragged Batman out to hear it as well, because he thought they were pretty clever.
  • The Superman vs. Batman debate is presented in Superman: Up in the Sky to Superman himself, with a young girl asking which one he thinks would win. After first attempting to weasel out of the question by saying "The Joker", Superman gives his honest answer: Batman.
    Alice: How would he win?
    Superman: I'd let him.
    Alice: What?! Why?!
    Superman: If you knew Batman, you'd know. It'd mean a lot to him.
    Alice: So?
    Superman: He's gone through a lot. He deserves some happiness.
    Alice: Don't you deserve happiness?
    Superman: Winning fights doesn't make me happy.
    Alice: What does?
    Superman: My family, my work, my dog, this.
    Alice: This?
    Superman: You, Alice. Talking to you, seeing that you're good, that makes me happy.
    Alice: More than beating Batman?
    Superman: Yes. A lot more.
  • During a dinner party in Giant Days, Ingrid keeps asking Dean Thompson who would win in various superhero matchups, and the others can't tell if she's doing it to tease him or because she's genuinely interested. Later, when Esther has a job interview at a comic shop, she impresses the owner by repeating Dean's answer to a hypothetical fight between the Hulk and Wolverine. Esther gets the job, but laments that she'll have to pay Dean back later.

    Fan Works 
  • Daring Do: Page and Header discuss assorted mythological mashups, like who would win in a fight between between Nightmare Moon and Tirek. They're still at it in the Expanded Universe, adding Fuergott, Krastos and the Assembler into the mix.
  • In the NUMB3RS fic Deathmatch Colby and David do this during a stakeout, first Alien vs. Predator, David says Alien wins, Daleks vs Cylons, Cylons win, and when Ian Edgerton and Cylon is suggested, Colby says Edgerton since, according to him, when the Boogeyman goes to bed, he checks for Edgerton before sleeping.
  • From Superhero RPF about the members of the Young Avengers:
    Sassgardian (Loki): Who do you think would win in a fight? Billy (Wiccan) or David (Prodigy)?
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses: Fifth Path: When Byleth comes across the three house leaders in Chapter 1, Claude and Edelgard are debating whether St. Macuil or St. Cichol respectively.

    Films — Animated 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Stand by Me the boys discuss whether Mighty Mouse could beat up Superman.
    Teddy: Mighty Mouse is a cartoon. Superman is a real guy.
  • The Other Guys has a really quite hilarious scene where the two protagonists debate over a fight between a tuna and a lion.
  • Related example in Fight Club, where the two main characters are discussing which historical figure they'd like to get into a fistfight with and how they think they'd do. The one favors Abraham Lincoln for his reach and wiry strength. The other cites Gandhi.
  • In Roadie (a comedy featuring Meat Loaf in the starring role), Travis Redfish would often cite these when "Brain locked"; essentially, a Non Sequitur, *Thud* with a very delayed thud.
  • In Manic, what seems to be an intense argument during a group therapy session turns out to be an argument about whether Batman could beat Wolverine in a fight. (The therapist conducting the session asks everyone to please just concede that Wolverine is an animal in combat, and would probably win. But that he couldn't do jack against Superman.)

  • Parodied in "The Gypsies in the Wood", where Uncle Satt's Faerie stories have an insanely complicated class structure as an essential part of the text, leading to kids have similar arguments about orders of precedence.
  • Animorphs had Jake and Marco arguing over Batman vs Spider-Man, the point of contention being whether or not Spider-Man's webbing would slide off Batman's body armor.
  • X-Wing Series: Happens early on in Isard's Revenge, when Corran, Mirax and Wedge are discussing what Booster Terrik was up to during the Thrawn crisis (in short, avoiding Thrawn so the Empire wouldn't try to steal his Star Destroyer back from him).
    Corran Horn: "Booster versus Thrawn. Now there's a match I'd pay money to see."

     Live-Action TV 
  • Apart from the combatants being real-life people, this trope is the entire point of Deadliest Warrior.
  • The Big Bang Theory:
    • One episode had the characters reworking the battle of Gettysburg with additional units ranging from real-world military units to Hindu gods. The humor value of the discussion was ruined somewhat by a lack of research that had Sheldon accepting Leonard's spurious argument that Middle-earth's Orcs "are magic" and so would defeat Superman, who is vulnerable to magic.
    • There's a scene where the guys discuss the bravest person in the Marvel Universe.
    • The guys start to debate whether the White Witch or Billy the Kid would win a fight in a card game, and are persuaded to buy the cards to find out, telling themselves off for doing so.
    • In "Parking Spot Escalation", the men can't seem to agree over which one comes out dominant: mummies, zombies or vampires. Sheldon however is looked upon as that he knows the answer.
  • My Name Is Earl. Episode "Robbed a Stoner Blind": In the closing discussion, Randy and Earl philosophize who would win in a fight:
    Randy: Hey, Earl.
    Earl: Yeah, Randy.
    Randy: Who do you think would win in a fight — Muppets or Sesame Street?
    Earl: I don't really think they'd fight; they're both pretty peaceful.
    Randy: What if they had to, like in that head-chopping-off movie where there could be only one?
    Earl: Muppets.
    Randy: Okay. Muppets or Fraggles?
    Earl: Muppets.
    Randy: Okay. What about Muppets or He-Man?
    Earl: Just He-Man, or He-Man and his friends?
    Randy: Just He-Man.
    Earl: Muppets.
    Randy: That's who I had.
  • In the Saturday Night Live recurring sketch "The Superfans", the guys sit around discussing who would win things, with the answer always being "Da Bears!" (Or if it's basketball, "Da Bulls!") Or complete non-sequiturs like Mike Ditka vs. a hurricane.
  • Happens a few times on Corner Gas. Davis debates with a few people about who would win if Star Wars fought Star Trek. Also, Hank apparently has these types of debates with himself inside his head, such as who would win if a werewolf fought Wanda.
  • One episode in the second season of Game of Thrones has two redshirts having a humorous debate regarding who is the best knight in the realm, and their discussion is a Fandom Nod to debates that fans of A Song of Ice and Fire have had.
  • This is a Running Gag on The Finder. The hangout for the main characters has a chalkboard specifically for hypothetical debates. See the page image for one example.
  • There is a small running gag on NCIS about the rest of the team talking about who would win in a fight-resident Memetic Badass Jethro Gibbs and such crazy proposals as The Terminator and Batman... and Memetic Badass that he is, the rest of the team puts the odds on Gibbs.
  • Angel is the Trope Namer for "Cavemen vs. Astronauts" Debate. The astronauts don't get weapons, but the cavemen have fire. It winds up turning into a metaphor for the episode's events; cavemen win, which is a Tear Jerker in context.
  • One episode of Drake & Josh has the duo arguing who would win in a fight between Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff. Helen sides with Drake about it being Lohan, saying that Duff can't take a punch.
  • Warehouse 13 had two nerdy characters discussing what sounded like a complex topic but was actually about whether Vulcans or Klingons were stronger. One one of them was able to calculate that Vulcans were 47% stronger.
  • In Flash vs. Arrow, Barry/The Flash is infected with a Hate Plague so Oliver/Arrow is called in to handle the situation. During the fight, Cisco and Caitlin insist that Barry would win since he has superpowers, while Diggle maintains that Oliver's experience and superior tactical abilities would win out. The fight basically ends in a tie.
  • The Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation episode "Mutant Reflections" has Raphael and Michelangelo debate on whether Superman or Batman would win in a fight. Raphael thinks Batman would win, while Michelangelo believes Superman has the advantage.
  • An episode of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has Will and Lisa debating who would win a fight between Rocky and Rambo. They conclude that it depends on whether the fight takes place in the boxing ring or the jungle.
  • A Halloween episode of Friends has Monica dressed as Catwoman and Phoebe dressed as Supergirl arguing which of their characters would win in a fight. Like most Superman/Batman debates, they ignore the fact that Catwoman has no superpowers and that Supergirl's strong enough to move planets.
  • Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Season 3's finale has Harvey and Salem talking about movies, and doing this at one point.
    Harvey: "Of course Robocop can beat the Terminator."
  • In Seinfeld, Jerry and George debate who would win in a fight between the two of them. Elaine is asked for an opinion and submits that it would be George: "George fights dirty."
    Jerry: Really, what would you do?
    George: Pull hair, poke eyes, groin stuff, whatever I gotta do.

  • The song "Hot Girl in the Comic Shop" by Tripod devolves into an debate about who would win a fight between Spider-Man and the Hulk.
  • "Stop Talking About Comic Books or I'll Kill You" by Ookla the Mok:
    I don't care if The Hulk could defeat the Man of Steel
    I'm gonna rearrange your face if you continue to debate
    Whether Logan's claws could pierce Steve Rogers' shield

    Other Sites 

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Mass Effect:
    • As part of the idle banter between your squadmates in the first game, Wrex is fond of asking them who they think would win if they took on Commander Shepard in a fight. Kaidan will reply Shepard is his commanding officer, and can't imagine ever having to fight him/her. Wrex replies not only is that why Shepard is command, its why she/he would win. One of them eventually asks Wrex if krogan size up everyone (including allies) in a "who would win in a fight" way, and Wrex replies with a Blunt "Yes" (and his tone as unstated "You don't?" in it).
    • In the Mass Effect 3 DLC "Citadel", your squadmates argue over who of their two Krogan members would win in a fight: Wrex, a thousand-year-old battlemaster, or Grunt, a genetically engineered perfect warrior. In the same DLC, the aforementioned banter with Wrex becomes a Brick Joke if you take Wrex and Ashley / Kaidan to fight Shepard's clone. Kaidan also asks if Shepard agrees that he'd win if he fought Vega. Shepard just smirks, prompting Kaidan to ask "What if I fought dirty?"
  • Brothers in Arms: Allen, Garnett and Leggett have a Superman vs. Batman argument.
  • Command & Conquer fans asked about a fight between Kane and Tanya. Kane's actor answered:
  • Shin Super Robot Wars: While Domon Kasshu is busy chasing Master Asia and the Devil Gundam in Scenario 33 of the Earth Route, the rest of the group lightly place bets on whether the God Gundam could kick the R-1's butt.
  • Happens all the damn time in LEGO Marvel Super Heroes with NPC chatter. One of the best ones has to be when he asks "Who would win in a fight between Iceman and the Human Torch? Oh, wait..."
    Who'd win in a fight between a Quinjet and a Chitauri Chariot? Wait, whaddya mean I missed that?!
  • Minecraft: Story Mode has Olivia asking whether Jesse would want to fight either 10 zombie-sized chickens or 100 chicken-sized zombies. She will also present this to Lukas but he only answers if Jesse prevented him from leaving the shelter in Episode 1.
  • In Psychonauts, if you have Raz pester Coach Oleander continuously near the start of the game, he eventually asks:
    Raz: Hey, coach, in a life or death battle between Sasha Nein and a great white shark; the shark could see into the future and Sasha Nein was blindfolded, who would win?
  • Watch_Dogs 2: During one of the story missions, Marcus has a conversation with Wrench on who would win in a fight: Aliens or the Predator.

    Visual Novels 
  • In the second case of The Great Ace Attorney 2: Resolve, the famous Japanese novelist Natsume Souseki argues with his neighbor William Shamspeare over "who is stronger, Romeo or Juliet?" They even tussle in costume to decide the point, with Natsume as Juliet winning because of his "jujitsu".
  • In Misericorde, Sister Hedwig's first luncheon with the other nuns devolves into a hypothetical discussion of how many ducks it would take to overwhelm Sister Eustace in a fight, with Eustace claiming that she could hold her own against an infinite number of ducks indefinitely.

  • 8-Bit Theater has several examples:
    • The Fourth-Wall Mail Slot Twinkin' Out With Red Mage ran several columns dedicated to Red Mage answering "who would win" fights suggested by readers, starting Twinkin' Out 7: Superfight Spectacular. Reader suggestions ran the gambit anywhere from comic book heroes and villains to real life celebrities and historical figures, including Lincoln versus John Wilkes Booth and Gandhi versus Martin Luther King Jr. The feature concluded its 2004 run with a Superfight elimination tournament that pitted Wolverine against Link (the latter of which had just defeated a three-man team of Pyro, Superman, and God to reach the finals) in the final match which remains unconcluded five years later.
    • And don't forget the Flash animations featuring matchups between the webcomic's characters (removed from the official website, but still available here).
    • Also, once the comic spent two installments with Red Mage and Black Mage discussing on who'd win, Batman or Doctor Doom. Black Mage won the argument by pointing out that Villains Act, Heroes React, therefore Batman would only be fighting under conditions Doom chose; and that "Doom's machinations are such that even if Batman wins, his victory will somehow further Doom's schemes".
    • Another strip had the two discussing Bullseye vs. Green Arrow. Black Mage argues that even if he got off the first shot, Trick Arrows or no, Arrow would lose because he wouldn't kill Bullseye while Bullseye's return fire will certainly be lethal. Red Mage counters that Green Arrow would shoot down anything coming at him, even while firing multiple arrows at once. Black Mage says this is absurd, but the conversation suddenly stops when he's hit with multiple precision arrows fired at once.
  • In Penny Arcade, Tycho and Gabe are shown at each others' throats over a Batman/Harry Potter game of Funkoverse. Gabe thinks Tycho's claim that the World's Greatest Detective wouldn't be able to find Hogwarts is absurd, while Tycho shoots back that Hermione could just end Batman with a Killing Curse.

    Web Original 
  • DEATH BATTLE!: In the Red vs. Blue crossover episode "Meta Vs. Carolina", this is initially played straight in a conversation between Grif and Simmons. Caboose overhears and enlists Wiz and Boomstick to simulate the answer, turning it into Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny.
  • French Baguette Intelligence: The entire premise of "Mister Incredible vs Darth Vader Debate" is about who would win in a fight between Mr. Incredible and Darth Vader.
  • Homestar Runner:
    • In the early cartoon "The Interview", Strong Bad asks Homestar who'd win in a fight between The Cheat and Strong Sad. Homestar says that even if The Cheat had both hands duct taped behind his back, and duct tape over his eyes, and Strong Sad had a spear, he would put his money on The Cheat.
    • In "Date Nite", Marzipan and The Cheat go out on a date, and while making small talk they learn they've both always wanted to see a wrestling match between public radio personalities Ira Glass and Ira Flatlow.
  • The Nostalgia Chick and her friend Nella spent a whole episode debating Picard and Kirk, respectively.
  • On the promotional circuit for Thor: Ragnarok, Jeff Goldblum (who plays the Grandmaster) was asked to decide which of his previous characters would win if they were pitted against each other:
    • Calvin "Slick" Stanhope or Alistair Hennessey: Slick, as the more cunning down to the knife in his boot
    • Seth Brundle or Mac: Seth, not only because he has higher intellect and a pair of telepods to get the drop on someone with, but also because Mac is "a lover, not a fighter"
    • Freak #1 or Sidney "New Jersey" Zweibel: New Jersey, the smarter and purer-hearted of the two
    • Dr. Ian Malcolm or Professor Charles Brody: A draw as both characters are fearless (Malcolm confronts dinosaurs, Brody is willing to sniff a dog's butt)
    • Final round between the winning characters: Dr. Ian Malcolm, as the character about to appear on the big screen again in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  • In They Are Smol, a huge cultural passtime among the theocratic Karnakians is "Diarch Battles," literally arguing which of their popes would win in a fight. It's, strictly speaking, heretical, but considering that everyone up to and including the current Diarchs (the aforesaid popes) does it, it's not illegal.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • In one episode Bart asks Milo, the owner of a new comic book shop in town, who would win: The Thang or the Mulk. Milo asks Bart what he thinks. Bart is impressed that a comic shop owner would encourage discussion rather than pontificating.
    • In another episode, a group of nerds are tying up the phone line because some guy thinks Captain Picard is better than Captain Kirk and naturally this just won't stand.
    • In "Marge vs. the Monorail" when Lyle Langley asks Lisa's class if they have any questions, one kid asks him if Superman could outrun the Flash. When Langley specifies he wants questions related to the monorail, another kid asks him if the monorail could outrun the Flash.
  • In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Jaime and Paco discuss who would win in a fight between Superman and Batman, if Batman didn't have Kryptonite.
    Jaime: Trick question! Batman always has kryptonite!
  • Parodied in Family Guy.
    Peter: Lois, Parker Lewis Can't Lose. Don't even try and make him lose 'cause it's just going to be that much more embarrassing for you when you realize that he can't lose.
    Chris: Would he win in a fight with Batman?
    Peter: Well, Chris, think about what you're saying; Parker Lewis can't lose. Heretofore, Batman can suck on that.
  • Adventure Time: In "The Real You", 'Theoretical fightonomics' is a class taught in a worm college Finn and Jake visit. The lecturer seems to be a bit biased in favor of the Werewolf Queen.
  • Invoked and double subverted in Regular Show episode "Replaced". Mordecai and Rigby try to prevent their replacements from finishing their work by having them debate who would win in a fight between a two-headed dinosaur and a robotic Bigfoot. They both agreed that a robotic Bigfoot would win. Then Mordecai gets into a debate with them on why a two-headed dinosaur would win. It still didn't stop them from working.
  • The Venture Bros.: Henchmen 21 and 24 often had these arguments, on one occasion debating who would win in a fistfight between Lizzie Borden and Anne Frank. After 24's death, 21 bitterly shuts down a debate between two lower-ranked henchmen over who would win between Champ and Nessie by denying their existences but insisting that Ogopogo is real.
  • In the Freakazoid! episode "Freak-a-Panel" among the non-Freakazoid-related questions Freakazoid is asked at a Q&A panel is "If Superman fought Fred Flintstone, who would win?"
    Freakazoid: I would guess Superman. Unless Barney Rubble snuck up and hit him with a kryptonite club or something.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • In "The Origins", Gumball asks Darwin who would win in a fight between a shark and a thousand piranhas.
    • "The Roots" opens with Gumball and Darwin debating who would win if a crocodile fought a bear.

    Real Life 
  • Author Thomas Harris said two guys were arguing on his website over who would win, Hannibal Lecter or Mighty Mouse, and one guy said Lecter because Mighty Mouse wasn't real.
  • Early Christian missionaries in Scandinavia claimed that one stumbling block in converting the Norse to Christianity was that they kept asking if Jesus could beat Thor in a fight.
  • An early selling point of the Ultimate Fighting Championship was that it was a test of which martial art was the most effective in one-on-one combat with minimal rules. This eventually led to the creation of Mixed Martial Arts.
  • The "lion versus tiger" question.

Alternative Title(s): Who Would Win