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Shocking Elimination

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"You guys raced hard. [I] Thought you'd be in the final three for sure."
Phil Keoghan, The Amazing Race (Season 19).

In competition-based Reality TV, certain contestants establish themselves as the front-runners very early in the season. They exude so much of the required skill needed to win, they've been the overwhelming favorite to win for a long time. It also helps that they're usually very likable. In fact, their victory is more or less a Foregone Conclusion.

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And then, they're eliminated.

Often in a measly fourth place.

Expect a huge outcry on message boards claiming the show is rigged or stupid or something along those lines. Expect the cameras to pan over to the other contestants with their jaws scraping the floor. Expect the powerless judges to look utterly miffed.

This trope is, of course, less surprising on shows where the contestants themselves vote. Putting a voting alliance together to knock out apparently strong competitors is an expected aspect, and one can expect the nail that stands out to be hammered flat, so to speak.

Sometimes, the shockingly eliminated contestants will prove that they shouldn't have been eliminated with a very successful post-show career. Other times, they will try to make it big outside the show, but only prove that their elimination, as premature as it was, was ultimately justified.

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Usually, a Shocking Elimination is linked to an Elimination Houdini, as the latter probably wouldn't exist without the former.

Sometimes may overlap with Non-Gameplay Elimination. Sometimes, an early favorite is actually eliminated because of factors out of their control. (Commonplace in shows such as Survivor where people often get hurt and are eliminated as a result of their injuries or ailment, or The Amazing Race where bad cabs often are a huge factor.) While the circumstances that leads to a Non-Gameplay Elimination can be shocking, it may just be the situation.

If an Elimination in a Fictional contest is treated as unexpected, it falls under Crack Defeat.


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Examples:

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    Esports 
  • In the road to The International 2016, OG had been considered the shoe-in favorite to win the Aegis, with two Major victories in Frankfurt 2015 and Manila 2016. With their star midlaner Miracle- becoming the first player to reach 9000 MMR, and the titles and teamwork to show for it, many thought it was a Foregone Conclusion that the European squad would dominate everyone in their path and take the Aegis. The group stage did show us that at first, finishing first with an 11-3 record, easily securing a spot in the Upper Bracket. They would face off against South Korea's MVP Phoenix, the only team who qualified for the Upper Bracket with a losing record of 6-8 (by sheer luck, the three teams below them were all 5-9). They would lose to MVP's extreme in-your-face style of Dota with their 5 melee RNG strat in Game 1, and their PA and Axe draft in Game 3, despite excellent drafts from captain Fly. Dropping down to the Lower Bracket, they'd face The Philippines's TNC Pro Team, quite possibly the underdog in this entire tournament. They would lose 2-0 thanks to a last-pick Huskar in Game 2 and albeit a great start from OG, the Filipinos would rally and make an amazing comeback, ending OG's run in TI at 9th-12th.

    Reality Television 
  • Almost every Elimination Houdini from American Idol got his or her status from outlasting at least one favorite to make the final two, if not win. These favorites include:
    • Tamyra Gray and Christina Christian (season 1, the latter getting help from the contestant being absent during her elimination). On Television Without Pity, "Tamyra'd" is the name of this trope for American Idol.
    • Frenchie Davis (season 2, due to disqualification)
    • Jennifer Hudson and Latoya London (season 3)
    • Constantine Maroulis (season 4)
    • Mandisa and Chris Daughtry (season 5. Daughtry outdid the three who beat him in record sales, afterwards)
    • Melinda Doolittle (season 6)
    • Michael Johns and Carly Smithson (season 7)
    • Siobhan Magnus (season 9, with the week after her elimination having the lowest amount of viewers in American Idol history.)
    • Pia Toscano and James Durbin (season 10).
    • Colton Dixon and Skylar Laine (season 11).
    • Averted with Jessica Sanchez (season 12), who was saved immediately after she was about to be eliminated. She ultimately made it to the runner-up spot.
    • Olivia Rox (season 15).
  • Elimination Houdini Wendy Pepper made it to Fashion Week on the first season of Project Runway... over fan-favorite Austin Scarlett.
    • Going into Fashion Week on the third season, Mychael Knight was the overwhelming favorite. Instead, he was the first one eliminated.
    • More recently, Terri Stevens, who had never before been in danger, was eliminated, thanks to a double elimination episode.
    • Viktor Luna placing third in Season 9.
    • Rami Kashou, who came in second in season 4 and was heavily favored in All Stars, didn't make it close to the finale.
  • Tre Wilcox won three elimination challenges on Top Chef: Miami, more than anyone else. Yet he finished 8th, thanks to one bad dessert.
    • Kenny Gilbert was eliminated in very similar circumstances (taking the fall as Executive Chef in Restaurant Wars) in season 7, after being a prominent rival of front-runner Angelo throughout the season.
  • On season 2 of Shear Genius, Glenn placed in the top 3 on three elimination challenges and never appeared in the bottom three. Predictably, the other designers were shocked when she left in 7th place over Elimination Houdini Nekisa.
  • Sabrina Bryan on Season 5 of Dancing with the Stars was pegged to be a finalist even by host Tom Bergeron. She was eliminated about halfway through in 6th, before the two individual dance part of the competition. She got the axe again in the All-Star edition, finishing eighth despite placing in the top two in judge's votes.
    • Simone Biles in Season 24 getting knocked out in the semifinals, despite getting a perfect 80 points from her dances that night. The other contestant in the final two was former Cubs catcher David Ross, who scored the lowest in his dances that night, but may well have the most fan support in the history of the show.
  • Strictly Come Dancing has at least one of these every season, especially with the onslaught of older contestants with two left feet in recent series. The latest (and possibly most shocking) example of this was the elimination of Jimi Mistry in week 6 of series 8. Whilst not the best dancer, he had gotten his best score of the series in that week and was easily one of the more enthusiastic contestants. However,he lost out to Michelle Williams who had been in the bottom two 3 times previously.
    • Aston Merrygold in the 2017 series. He's a young boy and member of a boyband who once was a judge on a dance show and was a preshow favourite. One poorly marked dance later and he's booted in tenth place.
  • The elimination of Maria Lawson from The X Factor 2 and Laura White from The X Factor 5 was Serious Business.
    • And on the American version, the double elimination of Drew and Astro, as well as Rachel Crow in the following week was a huge shock to fans. Death threats were sent to Nicole Scherzinger and Paula Abdul after Drew was voted off. Made worse by the fact that Elimination Houdini Marcus Canty was chosen twice; first over Drew by the judges and then over Rachel by the public vote.
    • Rachel's elimination was even worse than just being eliminated in favor of Marcus. Nicole Scherzinger, following in the footsteps of Paula Abdul who'd tried to abstain from a vote earlier in the season, voted to keep Marcus because she "didn't want to hurt his feelings". This sent it to deadlock and to the public vote.
    • Ella Henderson's elimination from The X Factor 9 also qualifies. From her first audition, Ella was considered THE favorite to win. In the final 6, she was up against: James Arthur, a highly talented singer/ guitarist and the second favorite, Jhamene Douglas, a handsome young singer with a strong voice and mass appeal, Union J, a One-Direction type boyband who gave a bad performance on the night, Rylan Clark, a camp joke act, and Christopher Maloney, a mediocre-at-best singer unpopular with the judges, but kept in by a legion of older fans. Most viewers expected that Ella would be safe against her mostly weak oppostion, but she ended up in the bottom 2 along with James. All four judges, and viewers everywhere, were horrified by this result, and the judges vote went to deadlock, with Ella going home. James went on to win.
  • In the UK charity version of The Weakest Link starring various Doctor Who actors, the first person eliminated, to most viewers' surprise, was Robot Buddy K-9.
  • Big Brother
    • Jeff in Big Brother 11. There was a large outcry when he was eliminated.
    • Mike in Big Brother 5, on a smaller scale, mostly because he actually could have been quite the powerful player, but was evicted first. The same goes for Brian in 10, who several fans thought "Yeah, he and Dan are gonna win" only for him to be put up on the block as a replacement for Jessie in week one.
    • This actually happened a bit with All Stars, in which some of the fans' favorites had been eliminated early, such as Nakomis, Jase, Diane, and Kaysar.
    • Nikki Grahame getting eliminated from Big Brother 7 was a huge shock considering all the housemates had to face the public vote as punishment for Jayne Kitt's rule breaking (Jayne herself was exempt from eviction that week or else it might have been her who was eliminated). Aisleyne and Susie were the favorites to be evicted that week. Even more surprising was that when previously evicted housemates were given a shot to re-enter the house and have one last shot at the final, Nikki received the majority of the public vote. Then she finished in fifth place.
    • Will in Big Brother All-Stars basically dominated the whole season with his best friend Mike "Boogie", and everyone expected him to win. Then, in the final 4, the girls they were shomancing caught on to their lies and he was sent packing.
    • Nick in Big Brother 15 was a very savvy player, forming and all-male alliance, pointing out they had over a 25% chance of winning MVP, and even targeted the only physical threat outside of their alliance. Unfortunately, Candice & Helen figured out there was probably an all-guy alliance, and he ended up being the second one out the door.
    • From the first season of Big Brother Canada comes a shocking vote that's technically not an elimination—because it was the vote to decide the winner. Topaz has been one of Gary's closest allies, but when her key is removed from the box, it comes out as a vote for Jillian to win instead. Cue Topaz interrupting the votes to insist that there must be a mistake or that someone must have tampered with her vote. After a commercial break to review the footage, production decides that Topaz indeed accidentally voted for Jillian to win and that her vote would stand. The kicker? That single vote determined the winner.
  • Happens almost every season to a very strong competitor on So You Think You Can Dance, usually around the final 6 contestants. Danny in Season 3, Will Wingfield in Season 4, and most recently Janette in Season 5. The presenter, Cat Deeley, has sometimes been noticeably shocked when she reads the results. When Janette was eliminated, one of the judges even said that he had thought she'd win the whole thing.
    • And going way back, Allison in season 2. Watch the video. Mary's teary eyed, most of the other contestants are in shock (especially her former partner Ivan) and Travis is literally bawling.
    • Season 6' elimination of all three tap dancers. It's shocking because this was dubbed by the producers and judges as "Year Of The Tapper" and it came about because during the first two weeks of the show the audience wasn't even allowed to vote like they normally would have.
    • Sara Van Gillern getting eliminated in the top 8 of Season three over Elimination Houdini Lauren Gottleib. This was only the last of Lauren's antics with the season. Early favorite Jessi was eliminated to raucous response after not being able to dance the previous night over Lauren,who the judges even called out on actually dancing for only half the time she was given to dance for her life.
  • Chance's elimination on I Love Money. Who knew Pumpkin would actually have the guts to do something big besides trash talking?
  • On The Mole, being eliminated was referred to as "execution." In Celebrity Mole: Yucatan, the promos repeatedly promised a "shocking execution." Later, in the second season of The Joe Schmo Show, the promo at the end of each episode promised "the most shocking elimination yet." This may have been an intentional bit of a good-natured fun-poking at The Mole, as both programs were made by the same production company, Stone Stanley Entertainment. These promos continued for several episodes until finally they said "the most shocking elimination yet... and this time, we mean it," then finally dropped the gag.
  • The Finale of Tough Enough 2 had the two male performers, Jake and Kenny Layne, surprisingly lose to the female competitors Jackie and Linda, despite advertising that there would be one male and one female winner each.
    • Despite losing Tough Enough, Kenny has become fairly well known on the independent circuit as Kenny King.
  • The first season of WWE NXT (completely scripted) pulled a Shocking Swerve and eliminated Daniel Bryan on the first elimination (along with two others) when he had been the favorite to win the season. He ended up being kept on the show for his own storyline.
    • A more shocking elimination was AJ from season 3 where the fans voted for who they wanted on the show. At the time AJ was arguably the most popular rookie that season. Even wrestling critics were calling her elimination a miscarriage of justice. AJ would eventually return to the main roster as the tag partner of season 3's winner, Kaitlyn. The other shocking elimination of the season, runner up Naomi, would eventually resurface, but as one of Brodus Clay's backup dancers.
    • A less shocking example, but still an example, was Derrick Bateman from Season 4. He was generally considered to be the best in ring technician of that season's rookies, his over the top personality, and having the backing of the best wrestler of his generation made him the most consistently over. However, it's less of an example because he actually managed to make it to the final three, and the other two, Johnny Curtis and Brodus Clay, were considered to be fairly good as well, but many thought Bateman would last until the end.
    • Bateman, fully recovered from the injury that caused his elimination, was reinstated in the competition during season 5. As that season's gone off the rails, it's impossible to know if he'll win.
      • It could be argued that he was the de facto winner since all the others were either formally eliminated or moved to the main roster. Bateman was the only one that remained when NXT changed its format but he was released soon after and eventually ended up wrestling in TNA as EC3.
  • In the revival of WWE Tough Enough, early on, Mickael was in the bottom three alongside his hated rival, Ryan (whose biggest challenge for the show was overcoming the Embarrassing Nickname "Skidmark" given to him by, ironically, Bill Demott). In order to decide who was leaving, "Stone Cold" Steve Austin made them cut promos on one another. Mickael choked, and Ryan buried him. Everyone was stunned, but whether it was Mickael's failing or Ryan stepping up to the plate depends on who you ask.
    • On the 2015 show, there was Patrick Clark. Not a particularly well known figure in wrestling but still one of the more experienced competitors, he and Tag Team partner Lio Rush being the first graduates out of Maryland Championship Wrestling's academy and quickly gaining the attention of CZW, Ring of Honor and of course "Tough Enough". Though only Clark was chosen for the show(no surprises there) he consistently placed among the top rankings week after week...and then was eliminated for failing to learn the value of humility. No less than Mick Foley and Booker T argued that it proved the contest was based more on popularity than any other merits.
    • In the 2015 season, The Miz was brought in as a new judge to replace the disgraced Hulk Hogan. The final three for his first episode consisted of the out-of-shape fan favourite ZZ, generic blonde Amanda and then Mada, who was possibly the most well-rounded of the remaining competitors and who had real potential for a future in the wrestling business. Miz made the bizarre decision to use his once-per-season save on Amanda "because she's hot", leaving ZZ to win the public vote and thereby eliminated Mada.
  • From Canada's Worst Driver:
    • Season Two: Colin's expulsion was truly shocking, not only for the audience but for the other contestants.
    • Scott's expulsion in Season Six was a surprise as well, considering it happened so fast.
  • This happens in both seasons of Top Shot. JJ Racaza was favored to win throughout the whole competition, but places third after missing a shot against a target with a pistol that he chose. Season 2 has Jermaine and Daryl, current and former marines, respectively, eliminated by Jay Lim, a golf instructor and amateur shooter.
  • Ayako Miyake failed on the third stage during her fourth entry in Kunoichi. Given that Kunoichi is just as hard as its male counterpart, what makes this shocking? On her first three tries, she won the final stage.
  • The Glee Project has done this twice already in its first season.
    • In week six, Ryan eliminated Marissa (whom many people agreed on as one of the strongest singers and most likable competitors).
    • In week eight, he eliminated Hannah, whom he'd just praised as a great actress, likable, and "the show" in a nutshell. Both girls had also won the challenges for that specific week, and both competed against people who did much worse in the video shoot or in the "last chance performance" than they did.
    • It's happened again in season 2; Ryan just eliminated Shanna, who had reached the final 6 without ever being in the bottom 3 until the week of her ouster.
  • MasterChef has many of them. Keep in mind that a lot of factors contributed to the argument of why one's elimination is shocking to fans.
    • Monti from MasterChef US Season 3 was one of the most solid competitors, consistantly turning out dishes that seemed far beyond her experience level. However, on her first time up for elimination, she was removed from the show in favor of Josh who had been kicked off previously, made his way back onto the show, and been a fair-to-middling competitor since then. Moreover, he won an advantage earlier in the episode after winning mystery box challenge but squandered it.
    • Season 5 had a few:
      • Kira; in the donut challenge, she was eliminated over a problem with her dough that made her donuts a bit tough, and for not having enough filling, but her donuts were still edible. By contrast, Courtney ran out of yeast after messing up her first dough and found herself begging for more, and though a contestant kindly gave her more, she proceeded to completely wreck her donuts by confusing her ingredients, using salt instead of sugar, a basic yet enormous mistake that turned her donuts into an inedible salt bomb, but the judges still chose to keep her.
      • Francis B.; despite being considered one of the early frontrunners by both the judges and contestants, he was eliminated in episode 7 after failing to produce an acceptable plate of spring rolls. His were overly greasy and inconsistent, but Cutter, who had already been in danger of elimination twice, served spring rolls that seemed to be just as bad, due to being soft, overly sweet, and having virtually no dipping sauce (which the judges stressed as being important). Since Courtney was spared over Kira in episode 4 seemingly due to having shown more potential, some felt that the same should have happened for Francis B.
      • Christine; many chefs felt that Ahran's Red Team should have won the challenge anyways, and then that Christine showed far more potential and leadership capabilities than Leslie, a controversial homecook int hat season; Christine was eliminated due to her truffles looking perfect but being too bitter, while Leslie — who had been in the pressure test four times — had truffles that looked disgusting but apparently tasted decent. If anything, Christine seems to have been the victim of extremely bad luck, given that out of the six people who took part in that pressure test, she was the only one who produced truffles that actually tasted bad (nearly everyone else produced truffles that looked mediocre-to-bad but tasted decent, while Cutter of all people nailed both the taste and appearance).
    • Season 8 also had some:
      • Newton; Yachecia made all the components of her Champagne Poached Oyster dish, but the pasta was overcooked and badly kneaded. Newton made both his oysters and pasta perfect, but he couldn't open his caviar jar. Many argue that he should have stayed over Yachecia for nailing the most important ingredients and the caviar was the only component they didn't have to make from scratch. In a later interview, Newton revealed that he was weakened by his previous stroke (weakness he tried to cover during the competition), which ended up affecting him in the last moments.
      • Daniel. While he did make several technical errors on his truffles, a lot of fans argued that he should have stayed over Jeff and Yachecia as he's proven to be more consistent than the two. While Jeff's case is still case of a very vocal Broken Base, it's added to the argument that Yachecia narrowly avoided elimination despite having an incomplete box (previously Brien was eliminated for having only four out of six cannolis, while Newton did better components but couldn't add the caviar in the last minute).
      • Gabriel. It's a similar case with Daniel above. His cannelloni had a lot of technical errors, but he's proven to be a bit more consistent than Yachecia who was on her second time in the bottom twice in a row, and Ramsay called her chicken and pork tortellini to be a terrible combination and her tortellini was too thick.
    • In Master Chef Junior:
      • Sammy and Henry were the first to enter the Top 10 for a while, but following two team challenges (where in the first one, everyone else is also saved, and in the second one, only the team that neither Sammy nor Henry was in won) and a very tough elimination challenge in the very next episode, they both ended up eliminated (with Ariana).
  • Coupled with Elimination Houdini, many viewers of 2014's My Kitchen Rules were surprised and outraged to discover that the surfer dad team Paul & Blair lost the semi-finals to the token Alpha Bitches Chloe & Kelly. To a lesser extent, Greek twins Helena & Vikki were more favoured to win the second semi-finals than the proud mums Bree & Jessica.
    • In season 6, there is the Texan father & daughter, Robert & Lynzey Murphey. The two had been fan favourites from the very start of the show, and the two achieved the highest score in their first instant restaurant by a very large margin. Unfortunately, the fared rather poorly in their next challenges, and were sent to Sudden Death in their second People's Choice Challenge, where they were eventually eliminated for losing the Cook-off against Queenslanders Rob & Dave.
  • Ru Pauls Drag Race:
    • Ongina from season 1 was eliminated after winning two challenges and placing high in the other two she competed in. This elimination was so hard that RuPaul had to actually step off set to think it through.
    • Jessica Wild from season 2, who placed consistently high and won the previous challenge. Even Tatianna, who had just won the lipsync, was shocked that Jessica was eliminated. Pandora Boxx's elimination shocked many as well since she had become a fan favorite.
    • Willam's elimination in Season 4 was arguably the most shocking, as she is the only person to be disqualified for breaking the rules, even though she consistently did very well through the season and actually won the challenge in the episode where she was eliminated.
    • Vivienne Pinay and Honey Mahogany's double elimination in Season 5, as it was the first in the show's history.
      • Laila Mc Queen and Dax ExclamationPoint's double elimination in season 8 as well.
    • BenDeLaCreme, a fan favorite and the first queen in Season 6 to win two challenges, being eliminated by Darienne Lake who had already lipsynced three times.
    • Max and Katya in season 7. Max was the first queen to win two challenges in Season 7, but lost due to one slip up during the Snatch Game. Katya had won or been high 6 of the 7 previous episodes and was a fan favorite to win.
    • From season 8, Acid Betty was eliminated after Snatch Game like Max, even though she had been high the first three weeks and safe week 4. Thorgy Thor had been high or safe every episode and was a fan favorite but was eliminated when she didn't even do poorly, she just didn't do as well as the other remaining queens. Derrick Berry's elimination wasn't shocking per se, but she was expected by many to make the Top 3 due to her fame as a Britney Spears impersonator, but unlike celebrity impersonators from previous seasons, Derrick was unable to break out of her "Britney box," which led to a shockingly mediocre showing.
    • This trope was inverted by Naomi Smalls and Chi Chi DeVayne, also from Season 8. In the preseason promos, both queens gave the impression that they'd be "filler queens" and many viewers expected them to be eliminated early. Instead, they both won a challenge each and placed higher than the three queens mentioned above, with Chi Chi reaching 4th place and Naomi making the Top 3. This is lampshaded by judge Michelle Visage, who admitted that she was not expecting the two of them to make it to the penultimate episode. Bob the Drag Queen and Kim Chi were always considered shoo-ins for the Top 3, but either Derrick, Thorgy, or Betty were expected to join them rather than Naomi.
    • Valentina in Season 9. Up until her elimination episode, she had never lip synced, had a distinctive personality, and was respected by fans for her looks. She was a favorite to win. Then, after a "film a pilot" challenge where she and co-challenger Nina Bo'bina Brown pretty much sleepwalked through prep and turned in a (very clearly) improv'd pilot, both were up for elimination, with Valentina lip syncing for the first time ever against Nina, who'd lip synced before. And then Valentina refused to take off her mask from her runway look during the sync, which clearly netted scorn from RuPaul - and when she did, it became clear she hadn't learned the words to the song. And that's how she left the show.
    • BenDeLaCreme, yet again, in All Stars 3. A slight subversion in that her elimination was only shocking to everyone else - including the judge panel - as she self-eliminated (according to the rules) as she felt that the competition had become too dramatic and confrontational and that another queen deserved a chance for the top spot. This promptly earned her the Fan Nickname of "BenDeLaChrist".
  • Ink Master has had a few:
    • Craig Foster from season 3. After winning two of the first four challenges of the season, being given an honourable mention for the other two, and being openly declared by the judges as "the man to beat", it was a massive shock to see him eliminated in 8th place.
    • Joshua Hibbard in Season 5. Despite winning best tattoo of the day more times than all of his opponents combined, including being declared as having the best chances at the Final 8 of his season, after it had came to light that he had broken some of the show's rules by bringing recreational drugs onto the set, he was disqualified from the game just hours after being declared as having the best performance in the challenge for the fourth time.
    • Eric Gonzalez was the first person picked out of 30 potential artists in the team picks at the start of Season 8, and despite having been declared as having given one of the best tattoos of the day in 3/5 challenges up to that point and having never been in the bottom, after one subpar performance due to contracting a cold, he was eliminated in 9th place.
  • In Battle for Dream Island, we have Teardrop, who managed to fall under this category twice. In season 1, she was picked by the contestants to be eliminated over Snowball, despite having 5 votes in the elimination against the latter's 18. In season 2, she got the prize on her first elimination, but also had the most dislikes due to a youtuber asking his subscribers to vote her, and ended up in measly 20th place. Fortunately, she is currently having a third run.
  • Eurovision Song Contest:
    • Technically, this one is Older Than They Think: in 1996, for the first and only time, every country interested in potentially competing sent their selected entries to an un-televised pre-qualifying round, from which twenty-two songs would join host country Norway's at the final. This system obviously couldn't last, as it was relatively cruel to make a country go through the usual song-and-dance of holding a national final when they wouldn't even have a guarantee of performing on the contest stage at all, but the nail in the coffin was that one of the eliminated contestants was Germany's Leon, whose song "Planet of Blue" seemed poised for success at the contest due to its modern sound (much like the UK's more successful Gina G and "Ooh Aah...Just a Little Bit"). Germany had never missed a contest before, had one of the largest Eurovision audiences (if not the largest), and were the EBU's biggest financial backers, so eliminating them cost a lot of potential viewers (although Germany still broadcast the final) and caused fears about budgeting. The EBU would introduce a new means of qualification the next year, but Germany wouldn't even have to worry there, as they would soon join the other major EBU financial contributors (Spain, France, and the United Kingdom, as well as Italy later on) in automatically qualifying for the final every year, regardless of the previous year's result.
    • The first really shocking semi-final elimination came in 2006, when Belgium's Kate Ryan, who had been a favorite to win with her song "Je t'adore," only finished twelfth in the semi. Likewise, Poland's Ich Troje, who had previously finished top ten in 2003 and were expected to do well once again, finished one spot ahead of Belgium, only six points behind tenth-placed Macedonia.
    • 2007 saw a whupping for the "Eurovision Old Guard": the only country with a long-established Eurovision reputation that wasn't pre-qualified and made it was Turkey, while the remaining Nordics (Denmark, Iceland, and Norway), the majority of Central and Western Europe (Austria, Belgium, Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland), and other long-time competitors (Cyprus, Israel, Malta) were pushed aside. It had also looked like an opening for perennially-unlucky Andorra to finally squeeze through with their well-received pop-punk song "Salvem el mon," but just narrowly missed the cut in twelfth place. Complaints about the Balkans and Eastern European countries pushing other countries aside led to the semis being split into two the following year.
    • 2008: Sweden narrowly averted this, as in spite of returning champ and possible contender Charlotte Perelli (formerly Nilsson) only finishing twelfth in her semi, a jury's saving throw allowed her to reach the final. Less lucky were Macedonia's Tamara, Vrčak, and Adam, who finished tenth in the public vote but were snubbed by the juries in Perelli's favor (the juries, however, would be Tamara's saving grace when she returned to compete solo eleven years later). Switzerland, a major fan-favorite, also bowed out prematurely, as did San Marino, whose debut became Vindicated by History as one of their better entries but finished dead-last in their semi.
    • 2009: Macedonia was once again spited by the juries after the public placed them tenth, with the saving throw being awarded to Waldo's People from Finland. Likewise, Croatia's Igor Cukrov and Andrea earned the judge's save in the second semi over the previous year's host country, Serbia. Other than that, there weren't many surprises in the semis, save for the Czech Republic's Gipsy.cz becoming only the second country to not receive any points in a semi-final.
    • 2010: Like San Marino and Andorra before them, Slovakia's Kristina with "Horehronie" became a big fan-favorite after the fact, but couldn't end their non-qualification streak, finishing second-last in the first semi. Finland striking out in the same semi was also considered a surprise. But the true shocking elimination came in the second semi, as usually-lucky Sweden failed to impress Europe with Anna Bergendahl's "This is My Life," leading to their first and only (to date) non-qualification.
    • 2011: The first year where multiple countries that usually got lucky struck out. The first semi, in particular, saw both Armenia and Turkey lose their 100% qualification streak, after both countries had finished in the top ten for the last four years. In the second semi, Israel's returning champ Dana International couldn't replicate her 1998 success or Perelli's good luck, as she became the first returning winner to not qualify for the final. Making things more nail-biting was that in both semis, the tenth-placed qualifier was only one point ahead of the eleventh-placed country, with Switzerland's 55 beating out Malta and Armenia's 54 and Moldova's 54 beating out Belgium's 53 - the closest finishes to date. Until...
    • 2012: Norway and Bulgaria both received the tenth-highest score of 45 points. Thanks to tie-breaking rules, the language-hopping "Love Unlimited" from Bulgaria's Sofi Marinova lost the coveted ticket to Tooji from Norway. Perhaps she took satisfaction in seeing Norway bottom out the scoreboard for a record eleventh time once they actually made the final.
    • 2013: Subverted, for the first time in years, by the Netherlands, who had found themselves seemingly doomed to semi-final purgatory for eight years in a row until Anouk broke the streak and then some with her song "Birds," which brought them to the top ten in the final and kicked off a near-uninterrupted (save for 2015) run of qualifications, culminating with a Dutch victory in 2019. Played straight with Montenegro's Who See in the first semi-final and the double whammy of San Marino's Valentina Monetta (back for her second of three consecutive appearances) and Israel's Moran Mazor in the second, all of whom were favorites to bring their respective countries back to the final. Additionally, it was the first time ever that every competing former Yugoslav republic failed to qualify for the final, with Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia joining Montenegro on the bench.
    • 2014: While Montenegro and San Marino finally earned their first qualifications in a smaller-than-usual field, it still was by a very tight margin for Valentina: her song beat Portugal's by a single point in the first semi. In the second semi, Israel's Mei Finegold, another major fan-favorite and possible contender for the win, found herself finishing second-to-last, which led Israel to revamp their selection system and return to the final the following year.
    • 2015: Denmark became the fourth country to strike out the year after hosting (following Latvia in 2004, Serbia in 2009, and Norway in 2011), while the Netherlands' promising two years of rebounding screeched to a halt when Trijntje Oosterhuis (and her questionable choices in wardrobe) struck out in the first semi. Ireland's Molly Sterling, also a favorite to return her country to the final, just missed out as well, as did Malta's fan-favorite Amber.
    • 2016: A shocking double-whammy of first-time non-qualifiers, as both Bosnia and Herzegovina (returning to the contest for the first time in four years, and the last time to date) and Greece missed out for the very first time. It was also a bad year for the Nordic countries, as all besides Sweden (who automatically qualified as the host country) failed to advance (and within them, Iceland and Norway were both favorites to qualify). Compare this to Sweden's last hosting gig in 2013, when all four managed to advance.
    • 2017: While not exactly related to qualification, it was the third year in a row where a country with a spotless qualification record was absent from the contest entirely (Ukraine in 2015, Romania in 2016, and Russia this time). Several major fan-favorites lost their expected slots in the final, with the most egregious examples being Finland's Norma John, Estonia's Kooit Toome and Laura, and Switzerland's Timebelle. Meanwhile, Latvia's Triana Park, who were considered contenders for at least the top ten, shockingly found themselves at the bottom of the scoreboard in the first semi.
    • 2018: Considered by fans to be the most difficult qualification round in Eurovision history, there were inevitably several dark horses and huge shocks. The first semi-final, in particular, has been dubbed by fans as the "Semi-Final of Death," often described as an "absolute bloodbath." The vast majority of the first semi's entries were well-received, so it was extremely difficult to tell who would advance and who wouldn't. Ultimately, it was bad news for Belgium, who had notched three top ten finishes in a row and were looking set for a fourth before shaky vocals and poor staging sent Sennek home early. Armenia and Greece were out of the game for only the second time in their respective histories, while Azerbaijan missed the final for the first time after ten straight years of uninterrupted qualifications (or, in 2012, automatic qualification as the host country). Additionally, Switzerland found themselves denied of a potential rebound for the second year in a row.
      • The second semi was considered a bit more of an even split between good and bad entries, but there were still shocks to be had. Romania and Russia both received their first-ever non-qualifications, likely due to unusually poor staging choices for the usually-successful countries (and a notably poor vocal from Russia's Julia Samoylova, who didn't really have her heart in it after being constantly manipulated by the Russian delegation and missing her ticket to represent them in Kiev the year before). The only other notable non-qualifier in the second semi was Poland, who had managed to turn a poor qualification record around for four years running until just missing out in 2018.
    • 2019: For the second year in a row, there were many examples of countries with poor qualification records rebounding (San Marino, North Macedonia, Belarus, and Switzerland, in particular, as well as the Czech Republic scoring their first-ever back-to-back qualifications), but a few more of heavy favorites exiting prematurely. The most notable ones in the first semi were Poland's Tulia and Portugal's Conan Osiris, both big fan-favorites for their rather unusual offerings. While the former came desperately close to claiming a spot in the final (missing by two points to Belarus), Portugal wound up polarizing voters, with the juries placing him last in spite of neighborly top marks from France and Spain's televotes. Additionally, Hungary's nine-year qualification streak came to an end when returning contestant Joci Papai (who had brought them their most recent top-ten finish two years prior) couldn't live up to the past hype (meaning that of the five returning contestants, he was the only one to miss the final - and ironically enough, he and Russia's Sergey Lazarev were the only ones that had qualified on their previous attempts!).
      • The second semi was considered the stronger of the two, which meant, like the first semi in 2018, there were bound to be at least a few shocking misses. Ultimately, Romania and Armenia found themselves with two non-qualifications in a row for the first time, which was embarrassing for both but especially so for Romania, given that they had a spotless track record prior to 2018. Lithuania's Jurij Veklenko, whose song was considered a borderline qualifier, played this very straight, as only one point kept him from qualifying over Denmark. Additionally, while the non-qualification didn't come as a shock to many fans given its low-key nature, Austria's entry was sent home for the first time since 2013.
  • Dragula: The elimination of Dahli in Season 2 Episode four was viewed as this by some fans. Up until that episode, she was always among the top contenders even if she was never a winner. While she did perform extremely poorly in the elimination, many fans expected the Boulets to give her another chance in the face of contestants with a much higher loss-win ratio. The elimination was controversial enough that the Boulets commented on it in a subsequent episode.

    Sports 
  • FIFA World Cup (Association Football):
    • In 2002, France didn't make it past the first round, despite winning the previous World Cup, in 1998.
    • In 2014, Spain was eliminated in the first round, despite having one of the stronger teams and being the winner of the previous World Cup. Likewise in the 2002 World Cup France were eliminated without so much as scoring a goal, despite being defending champions at the time.
    • Italy, one of the most successful national teams in the history of the World Cup, didn't even manage to make it to the first round of the 2018 World Cup.
    • Germany in 2018, even given for a clear decline in form and the retirement of all their true leaders prior to the World Cup, as they hadn't exited in its first round since just before World War II began.
  • The ultimate Shocking Elimination in the NCAA Men's basketball tournament finally happened in the first round in 2018 when 16 seed University of Maryland-Baltimore County defeated Virginia, the overall #1 seed, by 20 points, 74-54. Up to that point, 16 seeds had been 0-135 against 1 seeds since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
  • The Stanley Cup Playoffs 2019: All four number one seeds get upset by a wild card in the first round, the first time that's ever happened in any of the Big 4 sports. Even more shocking is that one of those number one seeds, the Tampa Bay Lightning, had the winningest season that year, won the President's Trophy for getting the most points, and were the favorites to win the Cup. (This was so unprecedented that the NHL, who runs a bracket contest every year, had to run a Second Chance Bracket contest for the first time because practically every entry in the first contest was broken.)

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