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"Welcome to the Duelist Kingdom. Let me assure you that this tournament is 100% genuine, and is not in any way an elaborate ruse thrown together at the last minute so that I can get my hands on an ancient Egyptian artifact."

This can be any sort of plot where an organized competition isn't a simple Tournament Arc, but rather has a behind-the-scenes plot going on. Sometimes the tournament starts out by looking like a mere framing device for the story, then is shown to have a sinister behind-the-scenes purpose. Other times the behind-the-scenes plotting is used as The Reveal. Most of the time, this trope is used as either a setup for a Summation Gathering or the Big Bad's climactic attack on the hero. If there isn't some deeper hidden purpose to the tournament (and there really is just a Framing Device at work) then this isn't the trope you're talking about.

Regardless of the exact type of tournament, this often results in whatever reward was promised to the winners being a ruse. At the worst the tournament is Unwinnable by Design. Sometimes its sinister purpose is derived from perpetuating the competition. See also Doom as Test Prize. One possible form an Extreme Sports Plot can take.

As this is a form of The Reveal, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Arachnid:
    • The Arachnid Hunt, a hit on a young assassin's life for a prize that is raised every time another participant is killed, also involves starting a zombie outbreak fueled by rape to allow the Organization to kill half of Japan's population. The Boss, who had manipulated Alice's whole life, attempts to force Alice into becoming her final Suzumebachi servant. Suzumebachi and Hanakamakiri were plotting to make Alice the new Boss, and Blattodea reveals that Kirigirisu also had plans of his own that required both Alice and Sasori to live.
    • In Caterpillar, the Death Caterpillar battle royale which lures the protagonist with the truth behind her sister's death is actually a "Pest Control" meant to weed out traitors and kill wealthy civilians who are obstacles to the Organization. At the end of Caterpillar, the Ageha ship is flat-out nuked to cinders.
  • The Battle Festival of the Kingdom of Eight from Buster Keel! is not a mere tag-team tournament, but a ploy of Dakki, one of the Shikyou, to find strong, element-wielding warriors to add to her cadre of servants.
  • In Case Closed, the Detectives Koshien is supposed to be a deduction challenge between the great Teen Detectives of the North, East, West and South, but Conan's and Heiji's friends learn it was all just a ruse after the detectives were already sent to the deserted island where the competition takes place, and the mastermind of the whole scheme was out for revenge against one of the detectives.
  • In A Certain Magical Index New Testament Vol 4, Baggage City holds the Natural Selector Tournament, a contest that uses the entire city as the battlefield. The city's rulers were planning to recruit the winners into their plans to declare war on Academy City. The tournament gets interrupted by the city being invaded by both the organization GREMLIN and the Kihara family. Interestingly, instead of the main characters entering the tournament, it is a bunch of people we have never seen before. Touma Kamijou doesn't show up to help until near the end, saying he caught wind of the situation here.
  • The Dragon Ball franchise has had many "World Martial Arts Tournament" arcs over the years. Sometimes they would lead to a bigger arc, and sometimes not.
    • Dragon Ball: The 21st Tenkaichi Budokai (the first one in the series) is a straight up tournament. At the 22nd, It's Personal between the Turtle and Crane Rival Dojos, at the 23rd the tournament is hijacked by Piccolo Junior, the son of Demon King Piccolo, at which point it becomes a battle for Earth's fate although Goku still treats it as a normal tournament.
    • Dragon Ball Z: As of the 25th Tenkaichi Budokai, the tournament is interrupted by the revival of Majin Buu, which leads directly into the final story arc of the series (this one example goes From Bad to Worse when Vegeta, in the middle of a Face–Heel Turn, has the wizard Babidi warp them back to the Tournament arena and starts slaughtering the spectators in order to goad Goku into fighting him).
    • Dragon Ball Super follows up with a Tournament of Power between the strongest fighters across the multiverse. The prize for winning is a wish on the Super Dragon Balls, planet-sized Dragon Balls with no limit on what they can wish for, even revival of those erased by the Omni King. If a universe's fighters are all defeated in combat, then the universe is erased from existence. The anime reveals that the Tournament of Power was ultimately a way for Zeno to decide on whether or not to simply erase all of reality, with the final wish, the revival and recreation of all beings and things destroyed over the course of the tournament, making Zeno decide to keep the universes, and according to the twin kings, had the winner wished for anything else they would have simply destroyed what was left.
    • Super Dragon Ball Heroes: Aeos, a former Supreme Kai of Time, holds the Super Space-Time Tournament, where teams from various timelines compete. She erases the losers and their timelines from existence because she believes multiple timelines are dangerous and wants to prune them down to one.
  • Fairy Tail: The Grand Magic Games arc reveals early on that the titular tournament is a cover for some kind of government conspiracy involving the Big Bad, Zeref, with Fairy Tail helping Jellal's guild find out what's going on while they enjoy the festivities. The conspiracy turns out to be an extreme but well-intentioned one that involves gathering magic from the tournament's fighters to power the Eclipse Gate—a time machine designed by Zeref—and use it to kill him before he first became immortal. This leads to a bunch of other timey-wimey goings-on when a version of Lucy and Rogue from two separate Bad Futures get involved, with the former trying to stop an invasion of dragons that come through the gate, and the latter trying to stop Lucy and use the dragons to usurp the Greater-Scope Villain, Acnologia.
  • In Gamaran, the Great Competition of Unabara is apparently a way to find out which of the 31 chosen schools is the strongest and which son will inherit the fief. Is actually a ruse orchestrated by Jinsuke Kurogane, so that his Muhou School can reinforce its lines with strong martial artists, eliminate the daimyo with nearly all his sons and use the surviving one as a puppet king so that they can use Unabara's riches to build up an army and challenge the Bakufu.
    • The sequel series, Gamaran - Shura has the Great Bakufu Tournament, an event in which one hundred chosen warriors, listed as the "Bakka Hyakken" (Hundred Swords in the Shogunate) can fight in a massive, Bakufu-sponsored tournament with the official title of "Strongest of the Land" awarded to the winner. The truth is, the Tournament has two purposes: first, kill the 1st Sword, Tadaie Hiramatsu, an inhumanly powerful and charismatic individual and the little brother of the Shogun and a threat to the current Tokugawa line. The second purpose is to rat out the remnants of the previously-mentioned Muhou School, still plotting to carry out Jinsuke's plan, and eliminate them. As a bonus, they also seek to hire strong warriors such as Iori and Gama into their ranks. The ploy becomes more overt when six members of the Shogunate's strongest assassin squad, the Genkai Tenpei, are introduced in the second round of the tournament.
  • The titular Steel Ball Run in the seventh part of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Although the organizer of the race, Steven Steel, is under the impression that it is truly a race, one of its "sponsors," President Funny Valentine, is the true organizer of the race, using it as a way to gather the Corpse Parts which will grant his country permanent protection from misfortune.
  • Kengan Ashura: The Annilhilation Tournament is not primarily a fighting ring for martial artists/combatants/assassins to duke it out and prove themselves the strongest; rather, it is meant to be an arena where big-name business owners wager on their representative fighters' skills in order to become the Kengan Association chairman, thus granting them the right to practically control the nation's flow of economy. Suffice to say, the scheme of the matches makes a fertile ground for subterfuge and conspiracy, as various factions plot to use more and more underhanded means to steal that coveted position, such as forcing other businesses to withdraw from the matches under the threat of boycott, or outright planning a terrorist attack to force the current chairman to cancel the match and hand over the position to the assailant.
  • Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: The "D of D Tournament", where both the bad guys (who organized the event) and the good guys are engaged in various activities behind the scenes which are as important as the tournament itself. The climax of these background activities takes place simultaneously with the final tournament battle between Kenichi and Kanou.
  • Master of Martial Hearts is a big time (and convoluted as hell) case of this. The tournament revolves around the "Platonic Heart," a mythical jewel that can supposedly grant any wish to a girl who acquires it. Every girl who loses the tournament is Mind Raped into an Empty Shell state before being conditioned into sexual slavery and sold. The entire thing is being conducted as a Cycle of Revenge by the daughters of two sisters who wound up on the losing end of a similar tournament organized by Aya's father, which Aya's mother won. The two cousins want the same thing their mothers got put through to happen to Aya as revenge against both of her parents, and they don't care about what happens to the other contestants.
  • Mobile Fighter G Gundam has the Gundam Fight, which occurs regularly every four years. However, in the 13th Fight we have the Devil Gundam getting loose and trying to destroy the planet, while several nations vie to find and take control of it for their own purposes.
    • The prequel manga Fight 7th shows that the 7th Fight had its own problems, with a terrorist trying to destroy the space colonies using a Wave-Motion Gun-equipped mecha based out of Antarctica, this leads to Japan's Shuji Kurosu and his allies later known as Master Asia and the Shuffle Alliance tracking him down and defeating him, but being disqualified from the Gundam Fight because they couldn't make it to the finals in time.
  • Naruto:
    • The Chunin Exam arc features a single-elimination tournament as the final stage of the exam. Initially, the idea is that the contestants will fight each other and that the judges determine who should be promoted based on the performance. However, it is soon explained that that function is more of an in-universe Excuse Plot to showcase competition between villages. Said competition affects incoming business for each village. The tournament is ultimately interrupted before the end of the first round by an invasion. In addition, the only competitor to gain the 'prize' of promotion to chuunin was a guy who surrendered in his one fight.
    • Besides the invasion plot and the display aspect, Gaara and Neji use the tournament for personal grudge matches. While killing is not encouraged in the tournament, it's not prohibited either.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi had a tournament whose hidden purpose was to gather evidence of the existence of magic and flood the media with it.
  • During One Piece's Dressrosa Arc, Donquixote Doflamingo sets up a tournament for the Mera Mera Fruit which belonged to Luffy's by-then dead brother Ace.. It's obviously a trap to ensnare Luffy and derail him from the plan to destroy Doflamingo's operations, as the Navy is waiting outside the Colosseum and losers are turned into enslaved Living Toys by a Devil Fruit user on Doflamingo's crew. The trap fails when Sabo, Luffy's thought-to-be-dead other brother switches places with him, allowing Luffy to attack Doflamingo's castle undetected. Then Usopp undoes the curse, Sabo wins the Mera Mera Fruit, and all of the other losers join Luffy to destroy the Donquixote Pirates, making the tournament Doflamingo's worst move ever.
  • In Pokémon the Series: XY, at the end of the Kalos League, Team Flare launches their plan, starting by attacking Lumiose City. The fact that their unwitting agent Alain entered and won wasn’t part of the plan, but it helps them none the less.
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena: The winner of the Rose Duelists' tournaments will hand over the godlike power of Dios to End of the World, then be promptly disposed of.
  • Variable Geo centers around a tournament for combat waitresses, where the grand prize is 10 million yen, a piece of prime real estate, and a year's worth of free advertising for the winner's establishment. If all of that sounds too good to be true, it isn't. The prize is a lure to bait unsuspecting entrants into being test subjects to determine which of them will make a suitably powerful host for Miranda's disembodied spirit.
  • Every Tournament Arc in Yu-Gi-Oh! to the point where a filler arc has a character comment in-story how refreshing it is to go to a tournament that's only a tournament (it still manages to get hijacked by a villain's scheme, but at least that wasn't in the host's plans).
    • The three tournaments of the first series were Duelist Kingdom (Pegasus wanted Kaiba's technology and the Millennium Items to resurrect his wife), Battle City (Kaiba wanted the God Cards and to beat Yugi, while Marik wanted revenge against Yami, who he mistakenly believes killed his father), and the kC Grand prix (said hijacked tournament.)
    • The GX Tournament in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX is a regular tournament, until the Arc Villain uses it to brainwash people and consolidate his cult's power. Amon Garam/Arian Gecko in season 3 also hosts a very small tournament, but it's used to overload the Arc Villain's Bio Bands. (Though this also endangers duelists' lives, as the Bands cause real damage to those dueling.)
    • Naturally, the Fortune Cup of Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D’s is a ruse set up by Godwin to round up the five Signers for their fated battle with the Dark Signers next arc. The WRGP later on is innocuous enough, but the villains use it as a catalyst for their plans.
    • And the World Duel Carnival in Yu-Gi-Oh! ZEXAL is used to gather Numbers. Tron and his kids take over the tournament and defeat people as part of Tron's plan to get to, and ultimately take revenge on Dr. Faker for his past betrayal.
    • Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V:
      • The Maiami Championship is largely a testing ground for Reiji to spot duelists to be his Lancers - people who will protect their Dimension when vanguards from Academia attack. The Battle Royale round of the tournament was made specifically to cover up Acamedia attacks in the city, while the Youth and Junior Youth portion of the tournament fight off the invaders. It's deconstructed in that once the Lancers had assembled after the end of the Junior Youth Battle Royale, the tournament is canceled, having fulfilled its purpose.
      • Played with during the Friendship Cup in the following arc. The idea behind it is that it's supposed to promote harmony between the rich Tops and poor Commons, as well as giving the Commons a chance at finding fame and fortune. The twist: anyone who loses (likely Commons, as Tops can afford better cards and training) will be sent to work in the city's trash for the rest of their lives, cleaning up after the Tops. The tournament is entirely a ruse to appease the Commons while still oppressing them. It's subverted when Yuya learns that this shocking revelation is actually common knowledge to the people of this dimension, and they don't think it's bad.
  • YuYu Hakusho:
    • The first tournament in the series is the Rando plot, where the competitors to be trained by Genkai wound up fighting single-elimination as the final qualifier. Yusuke is actually sent there to keep the serial killer technique-collector Rando from becoming her successor, not to win... although Koenma also calculated that this is the only way Yusuke was ever going to get any proper training. Meanwhile, if someone who couldn't be trusted with her skills had won, Genkai intended to kill him in a 'training accident.'
    • The Dark Tournament Saga is already pretty, well, Dark, but then it is revealed that the true purpose is for betting and power brokering behind the scenes.
    • The later Demon World Tournament is a complete aversion of this trope, especially considering where it takes place.

    Eastern Animation 

    Films — Animated 
  • The World Grand Prix from Cars 2 was actually organized by the Lemons just so they can zap all of the competing race cars with a deadly radiation cannon as an attempt to discriminate all alternative energy sources and force everyone back to using gasoline.
  • In My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks, the Dazzlings manipulate the school into holding a Battle of the Bands competition, so that they can feed on the conflict and find the source of the powerful Equestrian magic they sensed to supercharge their powers and take over the world.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Balls of Fury: A parody of Enter the Dragon, only this time it is a ping-pong tournament organized by a crime lord (who considers the game Serious Business enough to kill the contestants that lose), who created said tournament as entertainment for other criminals to enjoy while they browse and purchase his products (undetectable plastic guns, among other illicit items). This brings the attention of the FBI, who recruit has-been ping-pong player Randy Daytona to be part of an infiltration team.
  • In DOA: Dead or Alive, the villain's tournaments are used to collect fighting information to create sunglasses that turn the wearer into a master martial artist.
  • In Enter the Dragon, the hero participates in the tournament, but was actually sent there to uncover the evidence about the tournament organizer's criminal activities. The tournament organizer also attempts to recruit the winners into his organization as hired muscle.
  • Kamen Rider Decade: All Riders vs. Dai-Shocker: Decade arranges the Rider Battle tournament for the Kamen Riders to decide which of their world would be saved. By this point, however, Decade has already recovered his lost memories as the leader of Great Shocker, which means the whole competition was just to eliminate the All Riders from his plans of multiversal conquest.
  • In The Quick and the Dead, the gunfighting tournament is primarily a way for the Big Bad to eliminate any threats to himself and intimidate any of the locals who might try to oppose him. He knows that there is an assassin gunning for him and that the Kid is itching to take him on. The tournament is a trap for them to face him in the open where he can gun them down in a duel. It is implied that if anyone proves too much of a threat, his Mooks will gun that person down.
  • Super Hero Taisen GP: Kamen Rider #3, as the title implies, features a race of Kamen Riders. But right from the start of arranging the competition Kamen Rider Drive demands the high stakes: that should he, against all oddsnote  win, Shocker must return the timeline to what it once was.

  • The Tourney of Piers Anthony's Apprentice Adept series definitely turns out to have aspects of this. Even according to the publicly known purpose of the Tourney, it's the best way for an enterprising serf to rise in status; but in Stile's case it makes an even bigger difference, because the sentient Game Computer has plans that involve the fate of two worlds, Proton and Phaze. Also, the final fight between Stile and his enemy the Red Adept consists of a contest, which Red loses and therefore gets banished to the worlds outside Proton.
  • Fred Saberhagen's Berserker novel Berserker's Planet. A cult on Hunter's Planet regularly has tournaments where the contestants fight to the death. Little do the competitors know that the ultimate controller of the cult is a disabled Berserker which is doing its best to carry out its programming to destroy all life.
  • Deltora Quest - Book IV: The Shifting Sands. Leif, Barda and Jasmine enter in a tournament for money to continue their travels. The problem is, the tournament is a trap. After Jasmine wins, they are kidnapped by the evil Shadow Guards as a method of keeping the population quiet.
  • Doubly subverted in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Everyone thinks the Tri-Wizard Tournament is being used as a ruse to kill Harry during the contest, as the Tournament is notoriously dangerous and has claimed the lives of competitors in the past. In truth, it is rigged for him to win, so he can be captured at the moment of victory. Note that the Tournament itself isn't evil by design, just hijacked by the villains in that particular instance.
  • Knights of the Forty Islands: The team that first comes to control all 40 eponymous islands will be sent back home... NOT. Actually, the game is rigged so that no team can ever achieve victory, and the kids can never ever go home again.
  • The Grand Melee in The Rithmatist is a chance for Rithmatist students to show off what they've learned, with the winners automatically gaining positions of responsibility on the front lines of Nebrask. The students of Professor Nalizar look primed to sweep the competition but Nalizar himself is possessed by one of their enemies and they have exhaustively studied how to win duels, not pitched combat against multiple foes.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire occasionally uses this with jousting tournaments, as it's a large social gathering with an excellent excuse for lords and notable knights to meet in one place.
    • During "The Mystery Knight" (the third story in the Tales of Dunk and Egg series), a tournament that is thrown to celebrate a rich lord's wedding is actually secretly a gathering for conspirators trying to start a second Blackfyre rebellion.
    • The infamous Tournament at Harrenhal where Prince Rhaegar made off with Lyanna Stark was rumored to be one of these. The only reason King Aerys (who had not left his castle for some years as his paranoia and Sanity Slippage continued getting worse) attended was because he had been told that his son Rhaegar was gathering the nobles of the realm to plan for a coup. Whether this is actually true has not yet been confirmed; the court of Aerys II was infamously decadent and filled with political intrigue, and several lords were actively trying to push Aerys to disinherit Rhaegar and name Rhaegar's much younger brother Viserys the Crown Prince as part of a scheme to increase their own power and standing at court.
  • Twice in The Traitor Son Cycle:
    • The tourney in Harndon, which forms the backbone of book three, is actually de Rohan's excuse to kill the Queen and her champion in one fell swoop, cutting the head off the anti-Gallish resistance in Alba.
    • The tourney in the beginning of book four is an excuse for the Red Knight to get all the leaders of the Man/Wild alliance to meet without raising the Big Bad's (and other interested parties') suspicions.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Leverage episode "The Queen's Gambit Job", the heroes set up — and then rig — a blitz chess tournament as a way of distracting the mark of the week during a theft.
  • In the pilot episode of Metal Hurlant Chronicles the drones serving the dying king of a planet are holding a tournament to decide his successor. Except that once someone wins, they transplant the old king's brain into his skull.
  • This happened a few times on Tales from the Crypt, where a contestant in a contest murders the odds-on favorite, but finds out too late that the "prize" for winning is death. In one case, an actor literally kills for a chance to play Hamlet, but discovers that he was really auditioning to play Yorick [the skull]. In another case, a Beauty Contest contestant kills another, but discovers that the pageant is "Miss Autopsy".

  • The Odyssey: When Odysseus returns to Ithaca, he orchestrates an archery competition for the suitors that have been vying for his wife's hand while he was away. Odysseus wins the tournament, being the only man strong enough to string his old bow in the first place, to prove his identity. He and his son then proceed to massacre all the suitors who showed up for the tournament.
  • The archery tournament in the various versions of Robin Hood. It's simply a ruse for the bad guys to flush out Robin, knowing full well that he would not resist entering the tournament and winning it, especially if the prize is a kiss from Maid Marian.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In the Champions campaign The Great Supervillain Contest, the Crimson Claw sets up a competition among the Earth's greatest supervillains to determine which one is the most powerful. The prize is the Emerald Eye of Azog, which will increase the winning villain's already great abilities. What the villains don't know is that once the winner bonds with the Eye, it will take him over and turn him into a gate that will allow dangerous demons to come to Earth.

    Video Games 
  • Advanced Variable Geo: Like the OVA it loosely inspired, the VG tournament is simply a means for Miranda Jahana to field test her Designer Babies, by pitting them against the tournament entrants. Which also allows her to do away with any opposition she faces from those such as Yuka, or Miranda's daughter, Reimi.
  • Assassin's Creed: Odyssey: The Pre-Trials of the Minotaur arc in Pephka. While very silly at first (all three of the trials are nonsensical, and offer the chance to Bribing Your Way to Victory), it turns out the competition is, aside from being a massive scam, a way of luring any potential threat to the Cult of Kosmos to a cave where they can be murdered. The host is only going along with it because the Cult is holding his daughter hostage.
  • Bloody Roar can be best described as X-Men meets The King of Fighters. Each tournament revolves around diplomatic tensions between zoanthropes and humankind due to experiments being conducted on zoanthropes, behind the scenes. The tournament itself is merely a front to lure the strongest of their kind to be test subjects, by pitting them against others of their kind with legendary beast power... or genetically enhanced super beings.
  • Dead or Alive: We don't really get to see the story behind the tournament in the first game, but DOATEC are introduced in the second game. Since then, the tournament has served as a front for DOATEC to collect research for their experiments and take out anybody who might stand in their way.
  • Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories: Chapters 6 through 8 deal with a competition being sponsored by Overlord Zenon, where the winner of an upcoming Battle Arena gets a personal audience with Zenon himself. However, cutscenes reveal that Zenon had the arena held for two reasons: to eliminate potential threats by pitting them against each other, and to flush out Etna in order to deal with her personally. However, two factors complicate this: Etna, knowing she'd be singled out, sends in her Prinnies to compete, and the Masked Woman Serion, whom helped the team in Chapter 5, decides to keep quiet on Rozalin's presence within the competition. End result? Zenon is not only blindsided by Rozalin being there, but this gives Etna a perfect chance to jump in and fight him while the team escapes. This ends up creating The Reveal that the Zenon they've been fighting isn't the real deal.
  • The Fantasy Strike tournament is a rare heroic example. Its true purpose is to gather lots of strong people from all over the world in one place so they can be persuaded to help in the fight against the corrupt Flagstone government.
  • Golden Sun: The Colosso tournament is, in theory, a yearly event that does wonders for the Tolbi tourist trade, the winners getting fame, money and a job opportunity to join the palace guard. Before the tournament proper begins, Isaac rescues Tolbi's leader Babi from death and is put on the fast-track to participate. Babi recognized Isaac as an Adept, and used the tournament to confirm that he can use Psynergy, afterwards getting him to go to Lemuria and procure more of the Immortality Inducer that he's running short on. Shame he runs out before Isaac ever actually makes it there.
  • The first Guilty Gear took place during the Sacred Knights Tournament, where the contestants were to be used by Testament as blood sacrifices to revive the Commander Gear, Justice. Averted for later games, which opted for more complex plots.
  • This is pretty much The King of Fighters in a nutshell, most prominently during The Orochi Saga ('95-'97) and The Tales of Ash (2003-XIII), where the primary motive of the baddies is to unseal Orochi (although for varying, but no less equally evil purposes). This has happened so frequently that characters start lampshading why there can't be a regular fighting tournament that doesn't serve as the instrument for The End of the World as We Know It every once in a while.
    • The NESTS Chronicles ('99-'01) was also this too, but got complicated due to the in-fighting of the NESTS members who each had their own little plan.
    • The King of Fighters XII, which is considered non-canon, shows what the tournament would be like if there was no sinister force manipulating events behind the scenes. As it turns out, just a straight fighting contest.
    • Interestingly, the first Fatal Fury game, which is the first to portray the King of Fighters tournament, simply portrays the tournament as being a legit one held by Geese with no sinister motive behind it. It's only Terry, Andy and Joe who have an ulterior reason for entering — to get close to Geese. Geese himself doesn't interfere with the tournament at all and only makes his move, upon realising who the heroes are, after the finals.
    • Fatal Fury 2 then plays it completely straight, with Krauser simply hosting a tournament in order to find someone worthy of a good battle. He even enters it himself (beating all the characters left out of the sequel en route to the final)!
    • The King of Fighters XIV subverts this as the tournament really doesn't have anything going on behind the scenes. The backstory says the sub-boss, Antonov, bought up the rights to the "KOF" name and only uses them to host a tournament that is entirely within the spirit of the title. Thus, the twist is the final boss, Verse, who shows up during the tournament finals, has no connection at all to the tournament and is a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere.
  • The plot for Mega Man 6 involves a certain Mr. X, who is totally not a disguised Dr. Wily, organising a fighting tournament for robots with prizes for the laboratories developing them; Mega Man has to stop the eight finalist robots of the contest after Mr. X reprograms them to Take Over the World in his stead.
  • The Mega Man Battle Network series does this a few times.
    • In Battle Network 3, the organizer of the N1 Grand Prix turns out to be a WWW (a criminal organization led by Dr Wily) member, who's taking part in the tournament in disguise. His plan is to publicly broadcast his defeat of the world's best Netbattlers so people will fear the WWW.
    • In Battle Network 4, the true purpose of the final tournament is a recruiting operation for NAXA, to find a Netbattler skilled enough to stop a mechanized asteroid from destroying the world. This wouldn't normally qualify as sinister, except that one of the NAXA scientists is not-so-secretly evil and plans for the chosen Netbattler to fail so he can send in his own Navi and take control of the asteroid.
  • Interestingly, the original Mortal Kombat both is and isn't "just a tournament" (following some Ret-Canon post-movie). It "is" in the sense that the gathering of the warriors for the tournament itself has no pretense other than just a gathering of warriors but it "isn't" as well because each individual tournament counts towards a rolling total of wins or losses. Should a realm lose ten times consecutively in Mortal Kombat, then they forfeit the right to hold back an invasion by the realm they were competing against, and, well, Earthrealm has lost the last nine...
    • The sequel abides by this trope fully, though. The second tournament is merely so Shao Kahn can divert the Earthrealm warriors' attention away from their home realm by keeping them preoccupied in Outworld. His goal is to resurrect Sindel in Earthrrealm, the consequence of which plays out in the following sequel. After Mortal Kombat II, the entire concept of the Tournament Arc is dropped from the series altogether, symbiotically rendering this trope moot as well.
  • Granblue Fantasy: The titular race of the Platinum Sky event. Behind the scenes, there's a conspiracy to fix the race in order to profit off the bets, which is further connected to a secret research lab that the Society wants eliminated. Played with though in that the heroes (except those connected to the Society) are unaware of the conspiracy and are just focused on winning the race until the racer the conspiracy is backing is at risk of exploding and killing alot of people.
  • Chapter 3 of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door has Mario enter the Glitz Pit fighting arena, as the champions belt has the next Crystal Star for a buckle. A few fights in, Mario starts getting strange text messages, fellow fighters are disappearing mysteriously and the Crystal Star turns out to be a fake.
  • Persona 4: Arena is set up as a tournament hosted by Teddie. It's a Midnight Channel dungeon for Labrys, one of Aigis's sisters. And the Malevolent Entity/Hi-no-Kagutsuchi and Sho Minazuki are both playing with the whole thing, as revealed in the sequel.
  • Sakura Wars (2019) has the Combat Revue World Games, a biennial tournament between the Combat Revues of the world. A sudden demon attack, however, brings about a change in the rules of the tournament: not only would the mock battles be discarded in exchange for live battles, but any Combat Revue that loses the tournament would be forcibly dissolved, while the winning Revue would become the leader of a new globally-unified organization that would absorb the members of the defeated Revues. The tournament is also being used by sinister forces to locate the Imperial Key and summon the Archdemon.
  • In Street Fighter II, Bison's holding a tournament to get revenge on the characters who ruined his plans in Alpha 3. In Street Fighter IV, Seth from S.I.N. (Shadaloo Intimidation Network, the weapons division of Shadaloo) holds a tournament to gain data (and Ryu) to complete his BLECE Project, an unknown bioweapon. The tournament in Street Fighter III: New Generation/2nd Impact subverts this, though. The Illuminati is judging people the world wide to see who is fit to live in the new utopian world foretold in their ominous prophecy, but their leader Gill is a Well-Intentioned Extremist.
  • SNK vs. Capcom: Match of the Millennium has a tournament that actually turns out to be a project by both Geese Howard and M. Bison to gather powerful warriors to make into a clone army. The victor of the tournament would go on to fight three clones (Leona, Kyo, and Haohmaru if you're playing as a Capcom character or Morrigan, Zangief, and Akuma for an SNK character) before fighting Geese and Bison, then, finally, either an Orochi-empowered clone of Iori or a Satsui no Hadou-empowered clone of Ryu.
  • Tekken 2: Kazuya announces the King of the Iron Fist Tournament 2 to get rid of Heihachi and his other enemies. Tekken 3: Heihachi announces the King of the Iron Fist Tournament 3 to lure Ogre out in order to capture him using the contestants as bait. Tekken 4: Heihachi needs to get the Devil Gene to become immortal so he announces the King of the Iron Fist Tournament 4 to lure Kazuya and Jin out to obtain the Devil Gene. Tekken 5: Jinpachi announces a King of Iron Fist Tournament in the hopes that someone will defeat him before he is overtaken completely by an evil spirit and destroys the world. Tekken 6: Jin announces a new King of Iron Fist Tournament as part of the Mishima Zaibatsu's war against G Corporation, which is run by his father Kazuya, all of which was necessary to make an ancient monster physical in the real world and allow him to battle it to the death. Tekken 7: Heihachi announces another King of Iron Fist Tournament, this time to draw Kazuya out into the open and then do away with Kaz's Villain with Good Publicity status by broadcasting footage of his Devil form to the world.
  • The tournament in Virtua Fighter is actually a front by the J6 Corporation to gather research for their Dural program.
  • Way of the Samurai 4 has a battle tournament in the main story, which Chief Minister Kinugawa set up under the pretence of giving people a chance to join his Elite Mooks. It turns out the real prize is being Stewed Alive, and Kinugawa’s real goal was just to kill a bunch of people For the Evulz.

    Web Animation 
  • This is the plot for most of Volume 3 of RWBY. Much like the Goblet of Fire example above, it involves a legitimate competition with a storied history (the Vytal Festival) being co-opted by the villains for their own purposes. Once one of the competitors gets ripped to pieces on a live worldwide broadcast, quickly followed by both the stadium and the surrounding city of Vale being invaded by Grimm, the "tournament" part pretty much falls by the wayside.

  • Common in Tower of God, since the comic has a constant theme of competitions, as people race to the top of the Tower, but there's also a lot more going on, largely having to do with struggles of power and even the fate of the Tower.
    • In a relatively simple example, the Crown Game played near the beginning, which had the characters struggling for the privilege of immediately getting to advance to the next floor and had plenty of showing off of new powers and plotting to make advantage of the rules, is later revealed to have been a plot by the test administrator to get specific overpowered characters out of the Floor of Test quickly. It didn't work, though.
    • Yu Hansung reveals that all the tests on the Floor of Test are really meant to stop the advance of individuals who might be a destablising influence on the Tower if they went on climbing it. However, even that's only a cover for his real agenda, since he belongs to FUG, an organisation that wants to topple the Tower's power structure.
    • The "Hide and Seek" test on the Floor of Test is a Gambit Pileup. Yu Hansung is planning to have Bam fail it, and therefore gives a hint to Hoh that he can stop Bam from getting to advance in his stead by taking Rachel out. Endorsi Jahad is planning to make the Fishermen in her own team fail so that she can advance in their stead. Khun Aguero Agnes knows that someone is planning to make Bam fail by targetting Rachel, so he makes a plan to do the impossible by beating the Ranker they're competing against by a series of Kansas City Shuffles, only to secretly help the Ranker win after all in order to provoke him to protecting Bam and Rachel by saying that he (Khun) wants them to fail. (Phew.)
    • The final test on the Floor of Test is yet another attempt by Hansung to take out Bam. It works, Bam appears to die, and he's given a new identity and made to serve FUG. In the meantime, the test also serves as a cover for royal assassin Lo Po Bia Ren to get a chance to kill the rogue "princess" Anaak Jahad.
    • The Workshop Battle, on the instance that is shown in the comic, is really being run by elements in FUG and is meant to lure Jue Viole Grace into a trap so that he can be turned into a weapon. Those elements of FUG who want to use Viole as a whole are also doing their own counter-plotting.
    • When the protagonists are trying to get to the Hell Train, the competition set up to select people who get to enter turns out to be a distraction created by FUG to steal the whole train.
    • The marriage tournament for Baam's hand. The ten ruling families send their daughters to participate, mostly as proxies for their ongoing feud against one another. Then Ren has his proxy's mother kidnapped, causing her violent ex-husband to raid the hotel they're staying in and murder nine contestants while further corrupting his daughter.

    Western Animation 
  • The Jackie Chan Adventures episode "Re-Enter The J-Team" is a parody of Enter the Dragon, including the heroes entering a tournament to get evidence of criminal activity and the tournament being used to recruit people.
  • Season 4 of Ninjago is about the Tournament of Elements, organized by Master Chen in order to steal the elemental masters' powers and cast a spell to turn his followers into Anacondrai.
  • The premise of Ōban Star-Racers is that, every ten-thousand years, a Physical God known as the Avatar hosts a galactic racing tournament. According to legend, the winner receives "the Ultimate Prize", which is believed to be capable of granting any wish. In truth, the Great Race of Ōban was devised by the setting's Precursors as a method of selecting a new Avatar, when the current Avatar's ten-thousand-year reign is ending. By extension, the wish-granting "Ultimate Prize" is a false rumor, possibly originating from the truth being distorted over an unfathomable amount of time. The protagonist (who Seeks Another's Resurrection) doesn't take the revelation well.
  • Teen Titans episode "Winner Take All". A number of teen superbeings are teleported to an unknown location, where the Master of Games invites them to take part in a Tournament of Heroes that will determine which of them is the greatest young hero on Earth. What the competitors don't know is that when they lose, they're trapped within the Master's jewel so he can use their powers.