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The Worf Effect

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"He's the guy who's here to act tough so new characters can wreck him when they're introduced thus proving to the rest of us how amazing they are! Like Wolverine or Worf."
Red Mage, 8-Bit Theater

Want a quick way to show how dangerous one of your unknown characters is? Simple, make them do well or win in a fight with a character that the audience already knows is tough. This establishes them as willing to fight and marks them as sufficiently dangerous.

For new villains, it's common for them to pick up the toughest character among the heroes (usually The Big Guy) and hurl them across the room or otherwise take them out in one blow, thus showing that they are the real deal. It's even a genuinely good strategy — take out the biggest and toughest in a group, and the rest will accept how tough you are instead of having to prove it over and over. When used sparingly and appropriately, this is a powerful way to establish said villain as a serious and credible threat, leaving the audience thinking, "Wow, they just beat up Worf! They must be bad news!" But if the same character is repeatedly used as the target of displays like these, then the character begins to look weak, and if abused, their reputation as the "biggest, toughest" etc. begins to look more like an Informed Ability than anything else.


Worf Had the Flu is sometimes used to justify Worf's poor showing. The Worf Barrage is when an "ultimate" attack or technique is defeated this way instead of a character. If a new villain introduces themselves by beating the previous villain, that's Make Way for the New Villains (a subtrope). If this happens to a major villain following a Heel–Face Turn on their part, that's a Redemption Demotion. When Worf gets beaten emotionally rather than physically, that's Break the Badass. Applied to an entire military? You may get a Red Shirt Army. If the defeated badass is a Professional Killer, that's Assassin Outclassin'.

Compare Badass in Distress and The World's Expert on Getting Killed, both of which can overlap. Killing off a Red Shirt or two is a slightly different method for achieving a similar effect. If the character beats up a whole army, Conservation of Ninjutsu is probably at work. Hopeless Boss Fight, when the Worf Effect is shown in a form of Boss Battle. Contrast Fight Dracula, in which a writer has a pre-established character (as opposed to a new one) demonstrate their awesomeness by fighting Dracula (but not necessarily winning). See also the analysis page for some side analysis of this trope. Also see Horrifying the Horror when a monster is scared by an even worse monster.


Named for the tendency in Star Trek: The Next Generation for hostile creatures to do that very thing to Worf. Also known in Professional Wrestling as "jobbing".

Note: Please don't use this trope whenever someone loses a fight. It only applies if it serves the purpose described above.


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  • One of the cause-and-effect-chain DirecTV commercials goes thusly, with lines 5-7 exemplifying this:
    When your cable TV company keeps you on hold, you get angry …
    When you get angry, you go blow off steam …
    When you go blow off steam, accidents happen …
    When accidents happen, you get an eye patch …
    When you get an eye patch, people think you’re tough …
    When people think you’re tough, they want to see how tough…
    And when they want to see how tough, you wake up in a roadside ditch …
    Don’t wake up in a roadside ditch

    Fan Works 
  • Similar to the Jurassic Park examples below, Rise of the Galeforces applies this trope to the Turret Raptors, who are quickly defeated by even the youngest members of the main cast. Ditto for the local Eldritch Abominations, e.g. Dynacide.
  • Disgaea: Jewel of the gods:
    • Epic is an example. He's introduced by taking out an immortal, giant enemy that Laharl, Adell, and Mao couldn't beat. After that he gets dominated by Etna, a reaper, Baal's minions, Baal's right-hand man Fried, Baal, Raiden, and Alex, mixing in some Butt-Monkey status along the way.
    • Ash also gets this treatment. After he and Marona joined the group, he gets taken out fairly quickly in fights, mainly against Baal, or when he fights one of the item gods.
  • Deconstructed in the Pony POV Series with Spitfire. The repeated failures of the Wonderbolts to actually succeed in their heroic attempts begin to take their toll on her confidence and send her into a Heroic BSoD. Rainbow Dash snaps her out of it by reminding her that, even if the Wonderbolts can't do the actual heroics, they are still heroes because they inspire ponies who can.
    • Dark World!Spike gets hit with this pretty bad for a while, as his superior strength and flame breath are one way or another made ineffective — Tom is literally Made of Diamond, the blackbirds could regenerate near instantly, and by the time the Valeyard was out of his protective shield, Spike had already been disabled (he lampshades the last one). However, the trope is ironically subverted during the fights with Odyne!Cruelty and Nightmare Eclipse/Paradox, the two strongest opponents in Dark World, as Spike manages to be as effective as everyone else.
  • Abyssgreymon in the Digimon fanfic Transcendence: Digital Curse worfs everyone from the first two Digimon adventures plus two other champions without even being touched. He apparently does this without wanting to or trying.
  • In Fractured, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands crossover, this happens to the Reapers who are set up as The Dreaded in Mass Effect canon. Justified In-Universe since weaponry from the Trans-Galactic Republic is considered orders of magnitude more powerful and their Deflector Shields are better—unlike kinetic barriers, they block both energy and physical weapons.
  • Each of the Big Bads in the Azula Trilogy prove themselves to be threats by being able to match or defeat one of the heroes — Azun defeats Zuko in Heart, Wei Ming goes toe-to-toe with Azula in Path, and Jian Chin defeats Aang in Soul (though the latter two were possessed by true Big Bad Zhan Zheng at the time, so this trope more works for him than them).
  • In Child of the Storm, the Winter Soldier swiftly establishes himself as a One-Man Army and underlines his status as The Dreaded with his entrance. At first, the characters hear the guard animals, a Chimera and a Nundu (a gigantic magical leopard), attack something. Then their roars are cut off and the Winter Soldier enters with their heads in his hands. A Chimera's only been successfully slain once in history and a Nundu takes one hundred trained wizards to bring down.
    • A later example of this is Gravemoss. In his opening scene, he mentions having once fought in-universe Memetic Badass Stephen Strange, and this, along with his other heinous actions, establishes him as being very powerful and dangerous. But then they have a rematch during the Final Battle of Book 1, where Strange defeats him while multitasking. Then it turns out that this trope was actually being invoked: Gravemoss, knowing he's outmatched, draws on Chthon's power and Chthon pulls a Grand Theft Me, but that makes him vulnerable to getting hit by an Infinite Mass Punch that sends him into Jupiter's orbit.
    • In Ghosts of the Past, Harry and Carol get KO'd in one shot by Sinister and Maddie Pryor, who then kidnap them. As one is a teenage Supersoldier and the other a Person of Mass Destruction with Psychic Powers, including a pretty good Psychic Block Defense, this neatly establishes just how powerful and dangerous they and the Red Room are - however, it's explained that Harry was so surprised that it left him open to being sucker-punched. The rematch between Harry and Maddie is much closer, though it's made clear that she will eventually beat him... which is fine, because actually winning isn't part of his plan.
    • And then the tables are turned when Sinister and the Red Room get handed a Curb-Stomp Battle by the Avengers and Wanda Maximoff.
    • It's made very clear that Voldemort is an Adaptational Badass, having leeched off some of Harry's magical and psychic powers, and matching Harry in a psychic brawl (though when Harry gets serious in the rematch, he gets flattened). But then he meets Dracula... who suppresses his powers without any sign of visible effort, and makes it clear that if they do team up, they will do so with Dracula in the driving seat, not as Voldemort's lackey or pawn.
  • In The Troll War series, after Equius Zahhak resigns from the human Starfleet and then explains his reason: "I have been...reviewing your documentaries and the history of your spaceships, John. And I will not be the 'Worf'." John Egbert convinces Equius to stay, not by telling him that Star Trek was fictional, but by promising he won't let the fleet "Worf" him.
  • In Uninvited Guests, this is invoked by Hitsugaya in order to beat Aizen's Plot Armor. Enter "the Dark Lord Wolfington," who is definitely not Komamura in a mask.
  • Inner Demons: Twilight manages to turn Princess Celestia to stone by accident even before her Face–Heel Turn, which gives a good idea of just how powerful and dangerous her Queen persona will later be. Which is proven true when one of the first things Queen!Twilight does is completely wipe the floor with Princess Luna.
    • The first time we see one of Queen!Twilight's lieutenants fight the protagonists, Scootaloo not only beats Rainbow Dash in a race, but leaves her unconscious in a ditch. Said lieutenant goes on to successfully fight the rest of the Element bearers and their allies, and very nearly defeats them, only being stopped by Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie's Elements evolving to armor.
    • Speaking of which, an inverted example — every time one of the Element bearers succeeds in getting their elements to evolve to armor, they easily Worf whatever they're fighting. The only exception is Rarity's offscreen fight with Trixie, which she loses, but even then it's implied that the fight was even enough that Queen!Twilight had to step in to end it.
  • Ultimate Sleepwalker: The New Dreams features an example between the villains Bullseye and 8-Ball when they fight after being hired by rival crimelords who are having a Mob War. In the official Marvel comics, Bullseye is an Ax-Crazy sadist who's seen as one of the most dangerous street-level villains in New York. 8-Ball, on the other hand, is a classic example of C-List Fodder. When they fight, Bullseye plays up his supposed A-list status and mocks 8-Ball for his supposed C-list status, but 8-Ball wins the fight and ends it by knocking Bullseye's severed head into a trashcan like a billiard ball.
  • The Powers of Harmony: First time we see Cetus in action, she defeats Celestia, and kills Grovi.
    • Likewise, Eclipse's first fight has her curbstomping Applejack, Granny Smith, Big Macintosh, and their Guards, even killing Strauss.
    • And the two of them working together easily defeat all of the remaining Mane Six and all their Guards, including killing Elo.
  • A Future of Friendship, A History of Hate: When Ruinate gets loose, he quickly overpowers the Princesses and takes the Mane Six (minus Twilight) prisoner. And then, when they actually have a chance to use the Elements on him, he's already attuned himself to them and shrugs the attack off. It takes help from Amity to give the ponies a chance to defeat him.
  • In Mass Effect Human Revolution, the AIA's Blacklight commandos have gotten their arses handed to them easily in three separate encounters with Adam, Johann and Hannibal.
  • Justice League of Equestria:
    • Mare of Steel: Rainbow Dash/Supermare's first fights with General Zod and Brainiac both go poorly for her, showing just how dangerous both villains are.
    • The Princess of Themyscira: Diana's first fight with the Alicorn Amulet-powered Ares, while evenly matched at first, still ends with her beaten into unconsciousness and needing to be saved by Soarin'.
  • In A New Order the first fight after Haruka's awakening as Sailor Uranus is also the first operation Jadeite is put in charge of. Haruka is several years older than the other senshi, trained in hand-to-hand combat, and an outer senshi (meaning she's supposedly stronger than the inners). In spite of this, the battle ends with her near death and in the hospital for several chapters though she did manage to kill the youma she was facing.
  • In the Jackie Chan Adventures and W.I.T.C.H. crossover fanfic Kage (part of Project Dark Jade, like Shadows Awakening below), The Queen briefly manages to take control of Jade and uses shadow-based Combat Tentacles to capture Caleb and the Elemental Power-equipped Guardians, with perhaps the only reason they survived being Jade retaking control when she saw her reflection in a puddle.
  • Shadows Awakening: The first fight between the J-Team and Daolon Wong's new dark chi warriors ends with the heroes being forced to retreat and escape.
    • Jade's tribe of Kunoichi Khan inflict this on Won's wizard Shadowkhan in turn, showing just how effective they are as Mage Killers.
  • In the first chapter of Waking Nightmares, one of the Nightmare Dogs (not even a named character) nearly kills Princess Celestia with one unexpected strike. In a later scene, Slenderman kills [RED] Demoman and [RED] Medic in one hit while they're ubercharged. (For non-Team Fortress 2 players, that means they're completely invulnerable.) The Doctor is hit by a verbal version when their enemies reveal that they know who he is... and aren't the slightest bit afraid. Until then, everything that has ever faced him and survived has learned to fear The Oncoming Storm.
  • The Affectionate Parody of common MLP cliches A Series of Stories has the frequency of this happening to Princess Celestia and Luna as one of the first tropes it lampoons. A Parody Villain Sue that is a parody of every MLP villain cliche ever (a black and red Alicorn with a shattered world Cutie Mark and running on The Power of Hate named Ruin) shows up with the intention to crush the Princesses. The Princesses are more annoyed than threatened due to this being apparently a common occurrence, and after killing him in an offscreen battle complain about villains always coming after them due to trying to invoke this trope. Worth noting is the author loaths this trope due to how overused it can be.
    Princess Celestia: I blame Queen Chrysalis for it. It's annoying; you lose once to a supercharged Changeling Queen in a room crowded with innocent civilians, and suddenly everypony thinks they can defeat you.
  • In chapter two of Bait and Switch and the Foundry mission it's based on, this happened offscreen; only the aftereffects are shown. To drive home how much trouble Starfleet's having in the Beta Ursae sector block, the USS Defiant was badly damaged, but not irreparably, by a rogue Cardassian legate playing warlord.
  • In The Swarm of War, the Overmind’s first mental battle is against Ahzek Ahriman. That’s a ten thousand years old Badass with knowledge and power only surpassed by the Greater Daemons and Primarchs… and he barely manages to flee.
  • Nightfall: When Hades shows up he easily lays out Dave and Rose, and overpowers John and Vriska. With only Vriska and Dave managing to hit him. Jade steps in and brings the battle to a stalemate, and he's later whisked off by one of his "allies."
  • In AAML: Diamond and Pearl Version, during Ash’s gym battle with Candice, Charizard loses to Abomasnow despite the type advantage, with Word of God noting that it would be boring if Charizard could make a clean sweep and justifying this loss as Ash hasn’t spent as much time regularly training with Charizard recently in favour of training some of his newer Pokemon.
  • A literal example of this occurs in Lost in the Woods, as the Enterprise crew get a taste of how dangerous the Reavers are when a single Reaver stays conscious after multiple phaser blasts set on stun and manages to inflict a dangerous cut on Worf’s stomach that damages his sash before they finally knock it out.
  • The Infinite Loops will usually play this for laughs, showing how a dangerous threat in canon is curbstomped by competent Loopers. It's been inverted on occasion, though, either to show that a Looper has no idea what they're facing or that things are just that serious.
  • In the Facing the Future Series, Vlad Plasmius and Dark Danny, two of the most powerful villains in the Danny Phantom series that Danny would normally have problems against are completely overpowered by Danny's feral Super Mode on two occasions. He nearly would have destroyed them both (and himself) if not for Sam talking him down.
  • In Diamond in the Rough (Touhou), Flandre is subject to this. She agrees to fighting according to the spellcard rules, but when the Diamondback's beasts start to cheat, she loses because she refused to disobey the rules.
  • The Equestrian Wind Mage:
    • Sombra is the only villain to appear in Season 1 whom Vaati is unable to immediately curbstomp. In fact, Sombra ends up curbstomping him in their first fight, and their final fight is a draw until Vaati gets his hands on the Crystal Heart.
    • Ganondorf easily wins the first battle of Season 2, using the Triforce of Power to overpower Vaati and No-Sell the Elements of Harmony.
    • Later, Ghirahim hands Daring Do her ass in the special episode that features her.
    • Discord doesn't fair very well against Majora's Avatar. Though unlike the above examples, the CMC ultimately help him turn the tables and beat the Avatar.
  • In the Fairly Oddparents fanfiction, Never Had A Friend Like Me, Bob resists even Norm's genie's magic, and even more terrifyingly destroys Norm's lamp, which even Jorgen couldn't do (though that was because of Da Rules).
  • The Devil May Cry/Blood+ crossover When the Devil dies, the Diva cries, the antagonist group proves its strength in their first fight to the extent that Dante and Saya end up having to escape rather than continue fighting; Dante is especially irked, because this is the first time that has ever happened to him.
  • Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness:
    • Apoch and Astreal Ezrana have a reputation as being "the perfect shield and the perfect sword." Said reputation starts to become an Informed Ability as the series goes on, with more and more people proving able to block and survive Astreal's Hand Blasts and shatter Apoch's barriers.
    • In Act II chapter 23, when the gang fights Kiria in the Snow Woman Village, he easily curb-stomps all of them to the extent that Tsukune is forced to unleash his inner ghoul just to stand a chance. Even then, Kiria ultimately comes out on top, and it's only because Kiria decides that Tsukune could be useful to his plans that they get out alive.
    • Jovian and Jacqueline Kikion are set up as Invincible Villains with impenetrable barriers and unblockable energy attacks, with their power levels being outright described by Akua as immeasurable. Come Act IV, and it turns out the new Apoch's Laser Blade can cut through their barriers and deflect their attacks.
    • The first sign of just how tough a rylo is in Act VI? Kurumu using her Princess of Hell Super Mode doesn't even faze it.
    • The rylo is also on the receiving end of this; in Act VI chapter 25, Astreal uses the Artimus Arrow spell, which completely obliterates the supposedly Nigh-Invulnerable demon with one shot.
  • Friendship Is Magical Girls:
    • Sunset Shimmer dominates her first fight with the mahoushoujo in Magic 5, only being defeated when the girls activate the Elements of Harmony and use them to weaken her.
    • Both fights with Royal Changelings go very poorly for the girls, with them only winning by virtue of a new mahoushoujo awakening.
    • The first fight with the Shadowbolts in Loyalty 3 only ends because Gilda is enraged by Spike's presence and leaves to plot a new strategy.
    • After the mahoushoujo manage to defeat the Shadowbolts easily in their rematch in Loyalty 4, you might start to think they're not as threatening. Come Loyalty 9, this gets flipped on its head, as thanks to gaining Lunar Seal-powered mahoushoujo forms, they nearly kill Applejack, and only lose because Starscream doesn't fight, and Spike mutually fights Gilda into a bloody mess.
  • Zigzagged in Sonic X: Dark Chaos;
    • Tsali manages to defeat Super Sonic one-on-one in the opening scene. However (unknown to Sonic), he was wounded and only barely won. Come Episode 64 when he fights Sonic, Shadow, and Eric in their Super forms, it doesn't take long for him to lose horribly.
    • Maledict is quickly shown to be an Invincible Villain who curb-stomps the heroes into the floor. Then comes in Dark Tails, who grows so powerful that he shrugs off all of Maledict's attacks. It's a good thing Sonic and friends end up allying with him.
  • Guardians, Wizards, and Kung-Fu Fighters:
  • Pokémon Reset Bloodlines: Several of the later battles of Ash's Pokémon have them suffer from this to show off their opponents' strength. Examples include:
    • Primeape and Boldore both lose to Blaine's Mega Houndoom rather easily.
    • Boldore later loses to a Golisopod after it dodges her Z-Move using Substitute.
    • Against Giovanni in the Viridian Gym, Tauros and Kingler go down without scoring a single win.
  • Dekiru: The Fusion Hero!: Several canon characters suffer this to show how powerful Izuku's fusions are. For example:
    • The Sludge Villain is nearly obliterated by one explosion from Katzuku (the fusion of Izuku and Katsuki).
    • During the Heroes vs. Villains exercise, the hero team of Momo and Izuku was losing badly to the villain team of Tenya and Shoto. Then they fused into Moku, who decimated their opponents in seven minutes, winning the match with twelve seconds to spare.
    • Tsuzuru, the triple-fusion of Izuku, Minoru, and Tsuyu, not only manages to incapacitate Nomu, but also knocks away and captures Shigaraki and Kurogiri as well when rescuing Aizawa. The defeat was so humiliating for Shigaraki that he decided to ditch his plan altogether.
  • The Weaver Option:
    • Lelith Hesperax makes her debut by destroying a C'tan shard which had previously annihilated an entire fleet with a single swing of her blade before handily defeating Trazyn. She's also revealed to have previously defeated Primarch Rogal Dorn in single combat and after her duel with Taylor she permanently kills several Daemon Princes.
    • Slaanesh manifests in an Avatar and proceeds to dominate a fight against Lelith by simply overwhelming her with sorcerous attacks. This is despite the limitations of working through an Avatar and its recent weakening due to the raid on Commorragh.
  • In The Fifth Act, Genesis realizes just how obscenely strong Cloud is when he hears him fighting Sephiroth and investigates to find the latter going all out, on the back foot, and losing.
  • In the Alternate Tail Series, Mercator Garten's first introduction has him capture Freed (an S-Class candidate) before the other Fairy Tail wizards could react. Even after Freed escapes and teams up with Gajeel, he easily handles the two of them and almost defeats them until Mira arrives. And even then, a combined attack from all three only breaks his spell-created shield, leaving him unharmed.
  • A Shadow of the Titans:
    • Not even Superman can breach the Oni's barrier around Jump City. Possibly justified by the fact that Superman is often depicted as vulnerable to magic, so it working on him isn't unheard of.
    • The mutated Kitten is so strong that a desperate Jade is barely able to harm her during their fight. Though the fact that this is Jade's first serious bit of combat since losing the Pig and Dragon talismans does play a significant part in that.

  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, anyone who faces against the titular villain is easily dealt with. The Falcon suffered a Curb-Stomp Battle while in his wing suit, and Natasha, who put up one hell of a fight, was quickly overwhelmed by his combat ability and shot in the shoulder. The only exception to this is Steve, who early on defeated Batroc and later an entire elevator filled with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents entirely on his own. It's shown that Steve and the Winter Soldier are equals in one-on-one combat, due to being the only physically enhanced humans in the entire film. This is all to build suspense, as while Steve is the only one capable of defeating the Winter Soldier in combat, he is also the least capable person of facing against him, due to the Winter Soldier's true identity as Bucky Barnes, Steve's long-thought-dead best friend.
    • Word of God from director James Gunn is that this was the exact reason The Other was killed off in Guardians of the Galaxy.
      James Gunn: So that’s part of it, and then part of it is the fact that you’re setting up this incredibly powerful character, but you don’t want to belittle the actual antagonist of the film, which is Ronan. You don’t want him to seem like a big wussy. So how do you make that work? And that’s why Ronan kills The Other. I thought that was interesting, because we’ve had the Other, who’s obviously very powerful even in comparison to Loki, and then we see Ronan wipe his ass with him.
    • A heroic inversion for Vision in Avengers: Age of Ultron: although to him it's a meaningless but polite gesture, his ability to wield Mjolnir - which the other Avengers, including Quicksilver, couldn't wield and Captain America could barely move - cements both his power and status as a pure, good being (although Tony and Cap later both argue that because he's AI, it doesn't count).
      • Earlier in the film, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch both easily overwhelm the other Avengers: Quicksilver is too fast for Captain America to keep track of, and Scarlet Witch is able to implant psychic visions in Captain America and Thor and force Banner to Hulk out.
    • Ant-Man: Scott makes it to the roof of the Avenger's Headquarters only to be confronted by The Falcon. In quick succession, Scott enters the Avengers HQ, defeats Falcon in a one-on-one fight, and escapes to reveal he successfully completed the mission. Being able to hang with Falcon proves his mettle as a superhero on par with the Avengers.
    • In Captain America: Civil War, franchise newcomers Black Panther and Spider-Man both take on powerful heroes and win; the former chases Captain America, Falcon, and Bucky across Bucharest and only stops when all four are arrested, and the latter steals Captain America's shield, catches Bucky's metal fist with one-hand, webs both him and Falcon to the floor, and even comes up with the plan to take down Giant-Man. Both show how powerful they are and that they are able to go toe-to-toe with the other Avengers. However in Spider-Man: Homecoming Tony states that Cap was holding back against Spider-Man because he was a kid.
    • In the first act of Thor: Ragnarok, Hela quickly kills Volstagg, Fandral and Hogun from the previous two movies to show how deadly she is. She also wields and subsequently destroys Mjolnir in her first scene before hijacking the Bifrost as Thor and Loki escape and throwing them off to Sakaar.
    • Avengers: Infinity War: Wanna show just how strong Thanos is after years of buildup as The Dreaded? Have him wipe the floor with the Hulk in a fight and kill the very powerful Heimdall and Loki. All in the opening scene. Oh, and he defeated Thor before the movie even started.
    • Avengers: Endgame: To show that Thanos is still no slouch even without the infinity stones, he's the first person in the MCU to damage Captain America's shield with his BFS.
  • Star Trek
    • Worf himself did not escape this trope when it came time for the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation to make it to the big screen. In Star Trek: First Contact, his ship (Deep Space 9's Defiant, a Super Prototype originally designed with the Borg in mind, if you're keeping track) is damaged early on against a massive Borg Cube (on-screen, at least, as it's implied that it's one of the only ships still intact and even at fighting capability from when they first clashed with the cube at the edge of the Solar System! "Tough little ship", indeed) and he is forced to hang out on the Enterprise for the rest of the movie. But averted for most of the movie when he proceeds to wreck every Borg drone he encounters.
    • Other Klingons suffer from this tendency, too. In Star Trek: The Motion Picture, the opening sequence is three Klingon ships, all looking quite badass...and all three get taken to pieces in about ten seconds by V'Ger. For that point forward, Birds of Prey were about as durable as tissue paper.
    • In Star Trek Into Darkness, a bunch of Klingons (of course) ring it in as jobbers to show how powerful John Harrison is.
      • And the Enterprise herself, boasted as one of the most advanced ships in the Federation fleet (a few years prior), gets curbstomped by the Vengeance (A brand-new, so logically even more advanced) without even being able to fire a single shot back. An understandable outcome for a cruiser versus a battleship. Khan also mentions later that the Vengeance was specifically designed for that kind of overwhelming Warp ambush, previously thought to be impossible.
      • And as if that weren't bad enough, Star Trek Beyond has the Enterprise get torn apart by a swarm attack, with what's left of her crashing on Altamid.
  • Just like his comic counterpart, Wolverine gets this treatment in the X-Men Film Series. Magneto, Mystique, Sabertooth, Lady Deathstrike, and the Juggernaut all had their way with him throughout the series to show how tough they are. Good Thing He Can Heal!
  • In X-Men: First Class, when he confronts the First Class, Shaw kills one of them in the conflict. Who does he kill? The guy whose power is gaining the traits he needs to survive in any situation.
    • After looking almost infallible previously in the prequel movies, Quicksilver shows up in the final battle of X-Men: Apocalypse just to put up a bit of a fight before falling to the Big Bad.
  • Terminator:
    • In Terminator 2: Judgment Day we see the T-101 (Arnold), the 6'2" unstoppable killer robot who for the whole last movie was one of the most menacing things ever put to film, get thrown around like a rag-doll by the considerably shorter and skinnier T-1000. Mainly at the end of the movie, though; earlier in the film, he tends to keep the upper hand. For the most part, if its a gunfight, the impervious T-101 will win. If it's a fistfight, the intangible T-1000 will win.
    • Even more pronounced in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, in which the even stronger T-X repeatedly defeats the Arnold Terminator in direct combat. He gets blasted inactive by a bolt from her plasma cannon, thrown through walls, gets his head knocked off and reprogrammed by her, and only defeats her by blowing himself up as well.
  • The Dark Knight Rises: Just how formidable is Bane? He literally broke The Batman in a Curb-Stomp Battle.
  • In Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019) the fiery pterosaur Rodan is shown to have immensely destructive capabilities, obliterating a small town with the gust of his wings just by flying over it, and effortlessly destroying a squad of fighter jets shooting at him. And then King Ghidorah shows up, who very quickly turns the tides and tears into Rodan like an eagle seizing its prey...
  • The Jurassic Park movies gauges the danger-levels of characters against the T. rex (the most well-known dinosaur even before the movies came out) in order to let the audience know how tough they were:
    • Muldoon takes on a T. rex early in the first film and holds his own, but is then easily outsmarted and killed by the Velociraptors in order to establish them as more of a threat. Ironically, the T. rex later kills the Velociraptors.
    • A T. rex is killed by the Spinosaurus in Jurassic Park III to show that the latter is tougher.
    • Played with and ultimately subverted in Jurassic World; the I. rex gets the upper hand and soundly trashes the old T. rex, but a timely distraction from Blue gives the T. rex room to recover and overpower the I. rex. Although played straight earlier on: one of the first victims of the I. rex is an Ankylosaurus, a large herbivore with an armoured shell and a heavy bone club on the end of its tail, which gets killed very quickly and messily by the abomination.
  • Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings is a powerful wizard, respected and feared by all. It is thus a very big deal when he is terrified of the Balrog in Moria and showcases the Balrog's power and the tragedy of Gandalf's defeat. Though he doesn't fight it, Legolas' reaction to the Balrog is this: when the camera cuts to his face after Gandalf says the name of the new threat, the elf prince who is unflappable and composed throughout the trilogy, who stares down massive armies, mighty trolls, and rampaging mumakil without batting an eye, is barely able to contain his fear.
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi had his fare share of worf effects through the Star Wars series. Obi-Wan was killed the first time we got to see Darth Vader in action, was getting beaten by Darth Maul (alongside his mentor) until Maul picked up the Idiot Ball, and was beaten by Count Dooku twice. He nearly becomes fish food thanks to Jango Fett, though he managed to put up much more of a fight than against Dooku. The one in Attack of the Clones is justified via Worf Had the Flu; the novel describes Dooku as rested and fresh, while Obi-Wan is exhausted from the Battle of Geonosis.
  • In Enter the Dragon, we get introduced to Williams' ability to kick butt. He then faces the Big Bad, Mr. Han. It is the first time we actually see Han in action so naturally, this trope in invoked.
  • In The Rock, the elite SEAL team sent in against the renegade Marines is quickly ambushed and massacred, leaving behind only the two non-SEALs that were accompanying them.
  • In the 2011 film Warrior: We see Mad Dog crush his sparring partner with a spinning back elbow, only to be crushed himself by Tommy the first time we see him fight.
  • This is played with on a meta level in Wishmaster. The evil Djinn's victims include people played by horror film icons such as Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger from A Nightmare on Elm Street), Tony Todd (the eponymous Candyman), and Kane Hodder (Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th). It's a little hard to believe that this casting was not deliberate.
  • In Pacific Rim, when Crimson Typhoon is introduced, its impressive combat record is listed along with a description of its ace pilots. When Cherno Alpha is introduced, it's revealed that not only is it a Mark 1 Jaeger, making it the oldest still functioning, but it's the largest and heaviest Jaeger around. It's also stated that the perimeter it was assigned to went 6 years without being breached by a Kaiju attack. During the Hong Kong attack, both Alpha and Crimson get to show off their skills, but are completely destroyed by the two attacking Kaiju, effectively spelling out just how dangerous they must be to eliminate such powerful Jaegers with so little effort. Gipsy Danger's ability to defeat both by itself (albeit one at a time, after they had split up) illustrates just how powerful it is, despite the rust it has in some inconvenient places. Striker Eureka is also defeated in the battle but is not an example; it was taken out by a specialized attack that the other nuclear-powered Jaegers were immune to. Incidentally, the scene also serves to reveal that Kaiju are developing ways to counter individual Jaegers - not just the specialized weapona above, but Odachi's acid breath counters Cherno's dense armor, and its prehensile tail can grab Crimson Typhoon's head.
  • From Van Helsing, Anna by Aleera, repeatedly throughout the movie. The above problem actually becomes an issue, as it turns Anna into a Faux Action Girl. For what it's worth, she gets even.
  • In Die Hard 2, Colonel Stewart's men kill the SWAT team sent to protect Chief Controller Barnes when he goes to activate the antenna array in the Terminal Annex. Only McClane is able to kill all of them to prevent them from killing Barnes, too.
  • In Kingsman: The Secret Service, after the original Lancelot's introduction shows off his badass credentials by having him effortlessly slaughter a room of bad guys without spilling a drop of whiskey, Gazelle suddenly and quickly kills him to establish how formidable she is.
  • Snatch. Gorgeous George is very muscular and uses unorthodox attacks while training. He gets one-hit KO'd by Mickey.
  • The first hour of Predator establishes that the team of commando mercenaries is made up of the absolute deadliest men on Earth as they slaughter a guerilla encampment made up of several dozen Mooks. This is used to highlight just how dangerous the titular alien is when he shows up and starts effortlessly slaughtering them one-by-one. The Worf Effect is especially well outlined in the means by which the Predator picks off the members of the team.
    • Blain Cooper (aka 'Old Painless') hasn't got time to bleed; the Predator stuns him with its first attack and messily eviscerates him with its second, making him both feel pain AND bleed.
    • Hawkins, who exhibits situational awareness around himself so effectively that even while he's reading a newspaper he catches a balled up wrapper thrown at him from outside his line of sight without looking. The Predator catches him completely by surprise.
    • Billy, their tracker, fears no man, yet is plainly terrified by this opponent. Although he exhibits his own moment of truly bad ass awesomeness by staying behind to buy his team time to escape, and facing it by himself.
  • Hobbs & Shaw has Brixton's punches send Hobbs and Shaw flying. Word of God is that this was deliberate, and Idris Elba playing Brixton is probably meant to play into that.
  • Samuel L Jackson is infamous for playing badasses in movies, so at the end of the movie Jackie Brown when the titular character asks bail bondsman Max Cherry "Are you scared of me?" The answer was obviously "yes". Having just killed Samuel L. Jackson's character, Ordell Robbie, puts her in the same category of lethality as Emperor Palpatine, King Kong, a hyper intelligent shark and the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.
  • A common trope in horror movies, especially slasher movies, is to kill off The Big Guy early, in order to establish the killer as somebody who can overpower even the toughest of the heroes. For the same reason, police officers who show up in such films aren't long for this world.
  • Swelter includes Stillman, a character played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, whose one and only fight scene is a quick and systematic defeat by the weaker but more ruthless Kane.

  • In Animorphs:
    • David subjects team leader Jake to this during their duel. Up until this point, Jake's tiger has been one of the most lethally efficient morphs the team has. Despite having a year's worth of battle experience David doesn't, Jake still loses. Badly.
    • Rachel is the The Big Guy, and her grizzly bear morph is terrifyingly powerful. She uses it to fight a crocodile at one point, and it not only trounces her, but Cassie (as a squirrel) and Marco (as a llama) as well, though the last two admittedly aren't combat animals. The crocodile is itself Worfed, when Ax shows up and effortlessly cuts the thing in half.
  • InThe Dark Tower, Mordred Deschain, a villain who was recently born (not just introduced, but actually born a few hours earlier) was able to take out Randall Flagg, Stephen King's ubervillain, within about three pages to demonstrate his menace.
  • Discworld,
    • In Guards! Guards! Carrot goes into the Mended Drum to break up one of their regular bar fights. The other Watchmen with him expect to see bits of him start flying out at any moment. Instead, Detritus (a troll, which on Discworld are made of solid rock) is the first to fly out. Unconscious. Softer targets follow. (It was previously established that Detritus was employed at the Drum as a Splatter. Like a bouncer, but people thrown by a troll tend not to bounce.)
    • Discworld's Lord Vetinari sometimes gets this. When the baddies hurt him or catch him unguarded and unprepared, you know it's serious. Although when you think about it, he probably gets hurt/poisoned/turned into a lizard/otherwise out of the baddies' way without a handy plan to save himself more often than not. But since both the characters and the readers are still left with the impression that he's a cool badass character who always has everything under control, you could say it works.
    • In Sourcery, the Sourceror Coin upon entering the Great Hall of the Unseen University asks the wizards who is the most powerful of them, so that he can duel him. Skarmer Billias, an eighth-level wizard, steps up, seeing the challenge as a joke. After displaying his most powerful spell, creating a miniature of Maligree's Wonderful Garden, Coin counters by making the garden life-size and bringing all the wizards with him into it. After this display he incinerates Billias with a single thought.
  • Ghost-kicking, Hell-strutting Virgil from The Divine Comedy fails horribly to protect Dante from the demons of Dis, creating real suspense that they'll make Dante stay in Hell forever. When all seems lost, the thousand demons scramble away in fear at the sight of one angel. The angel who knocks down all their fortifications with a light push from a stick, strictly establishing that the powers of Heaven are unrivaled by those of humanity and Hell.
  • In the Dragonlance series, kender are supposed to be immune to fear. Consequently, they're almost constantly having a strange, new, unfamiliar feeling to let the reader know something is so scary that even they got scared!
  • In The Dresden Files, in Peace Talks: The Fomor real leader Ethniu show how dangerous she is by Sparta-kicking Queen Mab, a 5 on the Super Weight scale and effectively a personified force of nature through several walls without using any magic. Battle Ground continues the trend: an assembly of other supernatural heavies (each one an order of magnitude more capable than the protagonist at least) concludes that the only way to take down Ethniu is by attrition, i.e. having everybody throw everything they have against her while she demolishes them one by one, hoping they'll do enough cumulative Scratch Damage to exhaust her.
  • Dune: The Imperial Sardaukar are the most terrifying and deadly warriors in the known universe, and their only real purpose is to establish how much deadlier the Fremen are by getting their asses handed to them at every encounter. When they attack Paul's sietch, they take devastating losses fighting Fremen who are not even warriors. The Sardaukar are never a real threat when Fremen are involved.
  • The Emperor's Gift: Grand Master Joros of the 8th Brotherhood of Grey Knights is a highly experienced warrior who Hyperion describes as one of the Brotherhood's finest duellists, often able to analyse an enemy's next blow before they make it. When he faces the Space Wolves' Great Wolf, however, Logan Grimnar is able to sprint across a hall and kill Joros with a single blow from his power axe before the Grand Master can get his sword halfway drawn.
  • In the later novels of Alan Dean Foster's Flinx and Pip series, Pip suffers from this trope. Any time a serious threat to Flinx presents itself, the very first thing it does is restrain or otherwise deal with his minidrag.
  • The Goosebumps novella, Attack of The Mutant, has three ridiculous examples in a row. First, the Galloping Gazelle, an animal themed superhero with Super Speed, gets beaten by villain Molecule Man when the latter trips him and morphs into a leopard. The Gazelle runs in fear, while the titular mutant kills Molecule Man in the form of a pre-teen girl. Finally, the Mutant himself is destroyed when the protagonist Skipper tricks him into becoming a liquid(he can't reassemble himself in this state). And Skipper is twelve years old.
  • Harry Potter:
    • Mad-Eye Moody, is touted as one of, if not the, greatest Aurors of all time, responsible for putting more Dark wizards in prison than any other Auror. He has never won a serious fight in the text. Granted he is a Retired Badass by the time of the books, and his opponents are always either Voldemort's hardest core or Voldemort himself, but you'd think he'd get a chance to beat up on someone, just to make him look good. The first book he appears in he actually got kidnapped and spends the entire book locked away while a Death Eater is impersonating him, and in the Seventh book he is killed in the first few chapters for the sole purpose of showing how serious business everything now is. In one of the movies, we at least get to see him briefly knock over a random Death Eater using some sort of magic from his cane.
    • John Dawlish is even worse: he was introduced by Dumbledore praising his combat skills before warning him that he was no match for him, and since then he has lost every single fight he had. You can't really count losing to Dumbledore against someone, but he also gets summarily manhandled by Hagrid and terrified into helplessness when he beat up a group of Aurors that underestimated him, defeated off-screen by the Order of the Phoenix to lay a false trail, summarily curbstomped by an extra, and when he was sent to take Neville's grandmother hostage...
    Neville: Little old witch living alone, they probably thought they didn't need to send anyone particularly powerful. Anyway, Dawlish is still in St. Mungo's and Gran's on the run.
    • Tonks, Sirius, and Kingsley were all established to be talented at magic. However, the three are defeated one by one by Bellatrix Lestrange at the end of the fifth book. It doesn't stop there! When Dumbledore joins the fray he rounds up all ten of the Death Eaters in the room in a matter of seconds, with the exception of Bellatrix who is able to deflect his spell and escape.
    • Even Harry gets this on occasion. Though he is shown many times to be an advanced duelist for his age, he is completely unable to land a single hit against Lord Voldemort or Severus Snape. He doesn't do much better during his duel with Bellatrix and only survived his first two encounters with Dolohov because the latter got distracted.
  • The Giants in The Heroes of Olympus. Despite being stated to be the greatest threat Olympus has ever faced and often being direct counters to the most powerful Olympians they have all be defeated fairly easily. There is some light justification in that they may not be at full power (for Porpheryion this is explicitly the case). There's also the fact that defeating a giant explicitly requires a God and a Demigod working together, but with so many demigods running around the limitation isn't really that significant. There might also be a degree of Overshadowed by Awesome, as slaying Giants is a relatively minor bullet point on Percy's list of accomplishments.
  • There are many examples in Steve Alten's Meg series where a Megalodon defeats equally large and dangerous predators, but only the opening scene of the first novel qualifies (wherein Meg eats a Tyrannosaurus rex) because the marine reptiles are too obscure to the general public to be this trope.
  • Septimus Heap: Nicko Heap in Physik is mentioned to be strong enough to tackle virtually anybody, but when he tries to attack Queen Etheldredda, she just swats him out of the way.
  • Feral of Soon I Will Be Invincible. A ferocious tiger-man who's ended the entire careers of supervillains, and his entire plot importance consists of being beaten up by a baseline human, being blown away by a mad scientist, being knocked out by a mad scientist, being beaten up by mecha-insect aliens in a flashback, and being beaten up by a mad scientist again.
  • In Space Marine Battles, novel Fall of Damnos, the Ultramarines are on the receiving end of a long string of these, to showcase just how dangerous the Necron threat is.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • The Nohgri, silent-stalking little commando people who are very good fighters. The same trilogy which introduces them has them accept Leia as the Mal'ary'ush, the Lady Vader, so some of them become her bodyguards. Very nearly every work set after that has them either inexplicably not present or getting tricked, out-tracked, and out-fought by everyone. Shada Du'kal even wonders if their reputation is exaggerated, although she at least is a Mistryl shadow guard, only had to get past one of them, and had a very novel way of tricking him. This is taken to ridiculous depths in New Jedi Order.
    • For Karen Traviss, the Jedi are hateful incompetent death-deserving people fit only to puff up her Mandalorians; hence they either convert, sit quietly and accept really pathetic Hannibal Lectures while being very impressed, or are curb-stomped. Every. Time. A connection to The Force which binds all things, shaves reaction times, oxygenates blood more efficiently, provides telekinetic abilities, enhances strength, and gives battle precognition sufficient to deflect blaster bolts into enemies with the narrow blade of a lightsaber is no match at all for the perfect warrior people with their beskar'gam armor!
    • What's the best way to show how strong a villain in the Star Wars Expanded Universe? Make him toss some Jedi around the room with his eyes closed and one hand behind his back. What's the best way to show how serious the situation is? Kill a few Jedi. In books, games, and comics, if a Jedi isn't a protagonist, he's fucked. Especially if he happens to meet Sith, Mandalorians, Grievous, Cad Bane, or extra galactic invaders.
    • In Legacy of the Force, they have their villain stab Kyle Katarn through the chest. Thankfully, this gets reversed, and Kyle's shown much more respect, in the Fate of the Jedi books.
    • Katarn was on the opposite side in his first game. It was very fashionable in the 90s to have the protagonist of a game go up against Boba Fett and defeat him. Dash Rendar did the same.
    • Played rather straight in the Revan prequel to Star Wars: The Old Republic. The Sith Emperor casually kills a number of major supporting characters from Knights of the Old Republic, disfigures Revan and leaves him as little more than a charred mess. He is then kept alive as a power source for the Emperor, admittedly having some small influence over the Sith's mind which does help end the Great Galactic War, and is rescued during the game. But only so it can happen to him again at the hands of Imperial characters because his 300 years of imprisonment have driven him mad.
    • In Galaxy of Fear, Darth Vader is this once or twice. But it's used pretty carefully, considering — he's not part of the regular cast and never actually gets defeated, but he's definitely brought in so the reader can go "Whoah! Vader Curb Stomp Battles everyone! This guy must be tough!" In Army of Terror Eppon holds his own against him in a lengthy fight, countering his best moves but having his countered in turn, and that fight never concludes. The literal Darth Vader Clone is also on nearly-equal footing and is only beaten because he has no lightsaber, but that might be expected.
  • Star Trek:
    • The Return, Worf is pwned by, of all people, the risen Kirk, using a Klingon's best weapon. Consider who these novels are written by...supposedly.
    • Peter David uses this sparingly in Star Trek: New Frontier, mainly because the Excalibur's version of Worf, Kebron, is a veritable walking landmass. But being used sparingly, it's much more effective: When someone can topple Kebron, you know they're trouble.
    • In addition, in David's Starfleet Academy novels, guess which Klingon gets in a fight with which Brikar on their very first day there?
  • In Super Minion, a team of elite monster exterminators go into the sewers under E13 trying to rescue prisoners from a puppeteer super. Despite being cleared to use their most powerful and restricted weapons, they get scattered and nearly wiped out just from the native wildlife and barely even encounter the minions of the actual puppeteer. Tofu and Nicole generally have no trouble navigating the sewers, and Nicole can handle almost any of the monsters.
  • The Sons of Progress strongman from Super Powereds. Despite having a power enhancer increase his strength by a factor of dozens at least beyond what was already superhuman, his most incredible accomplishment is making Titan take a step back. He doesn't even noticably hurt him, although Roy had apparently never seen any strongman make him step back.
  • At the end of the second Twilight book. Edward attacks the Volturi to try to keep them from using a psychic attack on Bella and is promptly smacked down to show why they're so feared.
  • Possibly lampshaded in Warhammer 40,000 novel, Daemon World. When a group of Word Bearer Chaos Marines board his ship, Arguelon Veq's first target is Vrox, an Obliterator (which, for the uninitiated, is a mutated monstrosity twice the size of regular Chaos Space Marines and can spawn weapons and armor from his body). After he kills Vrox with relative ease, he even comments that he was the least threatening of the Chaos Marines on board.
  • In the final book of the original story arc in Warrior Cats, the newly-introduced villain Scourge kills Tigerstar when all of the Clans are gathered, for spite, to intimidate the Clans into complying with his demands, and (we learn later) for revenge.
  • In The Wheel of Time Nynaeve in canon is one of the strongest channelers in the world. When a channeler comes along who is the best at something, this is often established by noting that they're better at it than Nynaeve. This isn't as egregious as it might be, because she has very little training, and raw power is often shown to not be equal to skill or technique. Be'lal is shown to be a better swordsman than Rand, who is himself a Master Swordsman.


    Mythology and Folklore 
  • Tigers in East Asian fables tend to get sacrificed to show the badassery of various characters.
    • Oni are almost always depicted as wearing a tiger skin on some part of their body, or at least tiger-teeth jewelry.
    • The first thing Sun Wukong does when released from his imprisonment is beat a tiger to death and fashion a kilt out of his skin. Before that, he beat up the entire army of the Celestial Court. The really powerful beings that finally subdued him weren't in the mood to interfere until personally insulted or their IOUs were tapped.
  • Similarly to the above example, it's common in Sub-Saharan folklore for monsters to kill pachyderms (elephants, rhinoceroses, etc.) to show how dangerous they are. This also occurs in European folklore, with the death-dealer being dragons or unicorns.
  • Greek Mythology:
    • Ares is recognized as the god of war and embodiment of physical power, but tends to lose or get humiliated in nearly every story about him. He gets trapped and humiliated by Hephaestus when Ares and Aphrodite (Hephaestus' consort) are caught in an illicit love affair, is terrified into retreating from the monster Typhon, loses a boxing match to Apollo, ends up wounded by the hero Diomedes with the aid of Athena forcing him to flee the battle, gets defeated by Hercules twice and stripped of his armor in one instance, is locked in a bronze jar by the Aloadae requiring Hermes to free him, and is defeated in battle with Athena by a rock to the head. Athena had a habit of humiliating him and Zeus generally said he was worthless. His humiliations are usually attributed to the fact that the best preserved and recorded myths came from Athens the city of the other major deity of war. This extends to the other good record keeping Greeks preferring the more intellectual Athena and Ares being hated for embodying the chaotic and destructive nature of warfare. Oh, and Nike (Victory) usually sided against him. (In fact, the only gods who liked him were probably Eris, Aphrodite, and maybe Hades, seeing as deaths caused by war gave him more subjects.)
    • Aphrodite was the goddess of beauty and love, and the most beautiful goddess of them all, yet a lot of really beautiful women or demigoddesses were frequently compared to her and proclaimed to either equal to her or even surpass her. For instance, there is Psyche who charmed Eros, Aphrodite's son, or Helen, Zeus's illegitimate daughter, whose beauty exacerbated, if not caused, the Trojan war.
  • Indra from Hindu Mythology started off as the supreme god, lord of heaven, and ultimate warrior. He rose to power by saving the world from an endless drought through slaying the demon snake Vrtra after breaking through the demons 99 fortresses with his Vajra or thunderbolt. Nowadays it's hard to find a story where he does not lose his throne, is completely ineffective in battle, or in some way humiliated. Even his one claim to fame has been retold with either Vishnu having to save him or practically handing him his victory.
  • In Russian Mythology and Tales, the Firebird is a magical creature that is supposedly nigh-impossible to catch. Some stories about hunting the Firebird do portray the hunt as just such an impressive quest, but almost as often the hero catches the avian almost as an afterthought.
  • This happens in virtually every text in Arthurian Legend. Every time a new knight is introduced, they prove how great he is by having him defeat a line-up of more established knights. Gawain gets this a lot, as does Percival.
  • Nearly every Robin Hood Child Ballad is a variation on the plot of a stranger defeating Robin in combat and thus earning his respect and being invited to join his merry band of outlaws. Read or listened to all at once, they become one long catalog of failure, the great Hood getting his ass handed to him over and over and over. He even loses to Maid Marian.
  • Throughout the early Bible stories (those also in the Torah) the big, powerful empire around is Egypt. Several times the Israelites prove the superiority of their God over this greatest early empire, either by saving it from future famine (Joseph) or freeing an entire subjugated ethnicity despite all of Egypt's might (Moses).

    Professional Wrestling 
  • This is a very common way of establishing a new star in wrestling. Have him or her beat an older wrestler that fans know is tough. It doesn't always work, and it can backfire if fans are unwilling to accept the new wrestler as an equal of the older one.
  • Bobo Brazil basically said this when the Body Press magazine was interviewing the opponents of Pampero Firpo, saying you had to beat him to have any kind of future.
  • WWE has always had a "Big Man Who Loses" for new people to demonstrate their ability. In the 80s, they used jobbers Dave Barbie and Rusty Brooks. In the 2000s Kane played this role. Sometimes Kane gets pushed and The Big Show or Mark Henry filled in for him. The Great Khali as well after his initial two pushes.
  • WCW also had a few big jobbers-to-the-stars (to name a few, Roadblock, Rick Fuller, and Kevin Northcutt) who sometimes squashed people on WCW Saturday Night and the syndicated shows but only appeared on Nitro to worf. Ron Studd seemed to exist solely to set up The Giant.
  • The Undertaker is often the victim of this (as opposed to more conventional jobbing), which causes most viewers who have been watching WWE SmackDown! for more than a few months to conclude that Michael Cole has a very short memory.
    • The Undertaker is so good in this role, he doesn't even have to get beat to prove the new guy is credible. From Yokozuna to "Stone Cold" Steve Austin to Jeff Hardy, the easy way to establish a WWE wrestler as a legit main-eventer has been to have him stare into the Dead Man's eyes and refuse to flinch. (And when Mankind proved himself Taker's equal in psychological warfare, it made him an instant star.)
  • "Hacksaw" Jim Duggan practically made a career out of setting up the Big Invincible Monster for Hulk Hogan.
  • When Brock Lesnar debuted, within a week he was throwing the 350lb Rikishi around like a ragdoll. Within a month he was doing the same to the near-400lb Mark Henry. Within a year he was throwing the 500lb Big Show around with suplexes.
    • Lesnar also got to Worf Effect for The Big Show. Show went from being the Big Man Who Loses to the man who broke Lesnar's — the man who slaughtered Hulk Hogan — winning streak (with a little outside interference) overnight. That was partly because the tag line for the angle was "don't wake the sleeping giant" — a particularly unconvincing version of Worf Had the Flu.
  • Speaking of Mark Henry, that may actually be the best pro-wrestling example of this trope. Henry's been with the company for longer than anybody but DX, Kane, and The Undertaker, yet has been in the 'monster jobber' role for a long time even while being simultaneously pushed as legitimately the world's strongest man. In 2008 he even got his hands on the ECW Championship, and still lost a greater number of matches than any single person on that brand. Then in 2009, they suddenly bring him over to the A-show Raw, switch him to a good-guy role and have him cleanly pin the then-WWE-Champion Randy Orton...only to quickly drop him back down to the losing end of over half of his matches, even while he's a supposed "powerhouse" and the fans couldn't be cheering for him more.
    • Henry might have finally become an aversion. Since the 2011 Draft, he has been tear-assing through Smackdown, booked like the Juggernaut, culminating in his dethroning the aforementioned Randy Orton for the World Heavyweight Title at Night of Champions. The promos have made heavy mention that it's his first title reign in his 15 year (on and off) WWE career, so we may get a decent run with Henry as champ.
  • When Kane debuted, WWF had several wrestlers Worf Effect for him, most notably Ahmed Johnson and Vader. Using Vader for this was very controversial at the time, as Vader had built up years of monster credibility, and a lot of fans just plain didn't buy Vader being dominated in the ring at all.
  • In a very unusual setup, WCW had Goldberg and Meng Worf Effect for each other. Meng (Haku in WWF/E)would batter Goldberg all over the ring for roughly three-quarters of the match, when Goldberg usually tossed opponents around effortlessly. Then at the point where Meng would usually apply the Tongan Death Grip and win the match, Goldberg would rally back, spear, jackhammer, pinfall. The two of them had surprisingly good chemistry in the ring together, and despite Goldberg winning every single battle between them, the fights were popular enough that Little Caesars shot a commercial with Goldberg and Meng putting aside their differences over a pizza.
    • When Goldberg first joined WWE, one of his first matches was against Rodney Mack. Mack had been on a fairly significant undefeated streak. Goldberg still beat him in the usual 30-second squash.
  • The reason Havok&Hatred assaulted Big Van Missy after she squashed Sean Hanson in a loser leaves WSU match.
  • Going into 2010, Beth Phoenix had been de-emphasized as the dominant monster heel due to her angle with "Santina" Marella as well as losing cleanly to other divas on the roster. In order to elevate her to the top of the women's division, WWE had two Worf Effect moments for her:
    • She entered the Royal Rumble and eliminated the Great Khali.
    • Delivered an almighty Glam Slam to the Women's Champion Michelle McCool and became the first person to pin her cleanly in over five months. To this day Michelle still hasn't beaten Beth cleanly.
  • Again, Wade Barrett said this was the reason he had The Core attack The Big Show when they debuted on Smackdown.
  • Chavo Guerrero, Carlito, John Morrison, the over Seven Foot Dementus and Mil Mascaras all fell to the first WWL World Heavyweight Champion Monster Pain, to set him up for a feud with Blue Demon Jr. Downplayed in that Morrison had a victory over Pain prior and Dementus put up a very good fight.
  • It's a pretty standard formula for starting up a feud over the title. The champion is in a tag team match (sometimes it's a singles match) and the wrestler they want to push will get a surprise win with the champion taking the pin. Usually another tag match will follow with the same thing happening again. Next there will be some kind of #1 contender's match and the wrestler will get his/her official title shot (sometimes they don't even use a #1 contender's match if the wrestler beats the champion in a non-title singles match). However it can go either way whether or not the wrestler actually wins the title.
  • Tamina Snuka often fills this role in WWE's women's division. She's quite limited in the ring but benefits from Muscles Are Meaningful - so she can be presented as The Dreaded in order to make others look better by beating her. She has often found herself being used as a bodyguard for other title contenders.
  • Ric Flair played this role when Umaga debuted on WWE Raw.
  • This was pretty much the go-to for establishing a new villain in Hulk Hogan's 80s and 90s runs. A villain would appear and beat the tar out of the Hulkster outside of a match. But naturally, once the official match to settle the score happens, it goes pretty much the way they always do, with Hulk mopping the floor with the guy.

  • Yu-Gi-Oh! East Academy: Skull Knight seems to have been introduced solely for Sigmund to get his official badass license.
    • Marcus has been subjected to this no less than three times, being curbstomped by Peter, Yikzhekel and Haine.
    • And Denero gets his ass handed to him by David in the latters first duel in the show.

  • In combat sports such as boxing and Mixed Martial Arts, contenders on the rise are often matched up with "gatekeepers," who are veterans of the sport who can be described as "good" but will not be challenging for the title any time soon. Defeating a gatekeeper gives fighters experience and allows them to ascend the championship ladder without sacrificing the careers of fellow contenders. In boxing, gatekeepers will usually swim around the bottom of the top ten ranking or just below, and may even get a title shot, but they'll almost never win and mainly serve as reasonably good names on someone else's resume. Prime examples of boxing gatekeepers include Earnie Shavers, Chris Arreola, and Dereck Chisora.
  • Journeymen serve largely the same role, except less so. Journeymen are supposed to be reasonably tough and experienced, above local fighters and 'bums', but not high enough to be ranked. Beating up a few decent journeymen generally gets you into contender status, when your next challenge will be a gatekeeper. Career journeymen pride themselves on the ability to *lose* convincingly, so their opponent looks impressive instead of the journeyman just looking like a bum.
  • In boxing, aging former champions in their late 30s or to mid 40s (being too past their prime to win but still tough enough that beating them is beyond the ability of most) are often fed to a new contender on the rise in order to give them a credible name on their resume with relatively little risk. Former IBF heavyweight champion Tony Tucker was a perfect example, losing to John Ruiz, Herbie Hide, and Orlin Norris in rapid succession while aged 38-39 (he beat on journeymen in between these fights to prove he wasn't completely shot), each of whom later became a world champion. Or former WBA and IBF champion Tim Witherspoon, who aged 39-43 went on a losing spree against the likes of Ray Mercer, Larry Donald, Jimmy Thunder, Andrew Golota, and Monte Barrett (against, he racked up a bunch of victories in between these fights against journeymen). This doesn't happen as much in MMA due to old fighters being considered more viable there.
  • In NCAA Football, the University of Michigan Wolverines, the team with the most wins in college football history, has fallen into this role in recent times. The Wolverines have lost almost every game against a top-10 ranked opponent in the since 2012 (a current 1-14 record). Sportscasters will note the team’s storied history, but their opponents and rivals will use their eventual victory as proof of their program’s strength. This has increased with the hiring of Jim Harbaugh as head coach; a Michigan graduate and former quarterback who was brought in to bring the team back to its glory days and secure marquee wins.
  • In sports leagues with promotion and relegation systems any club that has spent a long time in one league without moving up or winning a championship is a good example of this, as they have been good enough to avoid relegation but not good enough to actually move on. Any team from a lower flight that wants to avoid being sent back will have to be able to contend with them and any team going for a championship will have to be able to consistently beat teams of this class. Everton in the English Premier League is a good example of this, having spent more time in the top flight than any other club but has yet to win the Premier League. Its less common in leagues with fixed membership where taking a couple losing seasons is considered to be far less of an issue and there is no real need to cling to a middle position in order to keep your spot in the league. This is considered either a bug or a feature depending on what side of the Relegation vs franchise debate you fall on.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Used regularly in Warhammer 40,000 fluff and books. If the faction's in the pages of a Codex, but not on the cover, you'd better believe they'll be getting their asses kicked by whomever isnote . This can naturally lead to problems when the development cycle leaves factions Out of Focus for years to accumulate a long string of defeats, with no victories to counteract them.
    • Daemon Lord M'kar is a case that Depends on the Writer. Sometimes he's a terrifying threat, or when written by the infamous Matt Ward he exists to show up and get pantsed by the latest new special character needing some badass cred.
  • Materials can be Worfs too: Adamantium is only ever mentioned in terms of how a given weapon can effortlessly slice through it, while Terminator armor has a similar tendency to get ripped apart to show how dangerous a threat is.
  • An odd example is Ollanius Pius, who dates back to the oldest fluff. This mere human Guardsman intervened during the God-Emperor's duel against his fallen son Horus, and though slain effortlessly, Pius' death showed the Emperor that his son was past redemption, inspiring him to defeat Horus once and for all. Later retcons tried to be true to this trope, and turned Pius from a human to a Space Marine Terminator to a Custodian Guard, but this is arguably missing the point: Pius' death was meaningful because he was no threat to Horus, yet he acted anyway and was killed for it. As of the Horus Heresy books, Pius is back to being a Guardsman, albeit an immortal warrior and peer of the Emperor instead of a normal human, perhaps as a weird compromise.
  • The hilarious amounts of worfs Kaldor Draigo plowed through is what contributed to his Mary Sue status, as his codex entry in 5th edition had him all but dance on Tzeentch's ass on how badly he stomped Daemon Champions (including carving a name into a Daemon Primarch's chest). The books later expanded on all of this providing context, while the later 7th edition codex omitted them completely.
  • Probably the ultimate worf is the Imperial Guard. The standard Guardsman is armed with a laser rifle akin in terms of power to a modern battle rifle while being just as pin-point accurate as you'd expect a laser to be, and armoured in flak jackets and helmets impervious to civilian/police firearms and even capable of stopping high-powered rifle rounds and shotgun blasts; this is stuff that modern special forces would kill to get their hands on. Yet against just about everybody else in this setting, these remarkable weapons are derided as "t-shirts and flashlights", and Guardsmen die in droves. It really does hammer home the fact that if any of the armies of 40000 attacked Earth in real life, all the combined might of every nation's military wouldn't last long at all.
  • Emperor-class Battle Titans are generally seen as some of the most powerful things the Imperium has, short of the God-Emperor in his prime. It's a war machine the size of the Statue of Liberty, it bristles with weapons, and its rules are essentially an exercise in excess because it'd be easier to make a Titan costume and stand on the table than actually make a scale miniature. Naturally, pretty much every time an Emperor Battle Titan has shown up, it's gotten destroyed.
  • All the Greater Daemons, Bloodthirsters in particular, have suffered from this quite a bit. While named Bloodthirsters generally escape the fate, killing one of the countless unnamed Bloodthirsters in a duel is a pretty popular way to make it clear how tough someone is.
  • In the Ravenloft product line, a remarkable number of adventures require the player characters to rescue Dr. Rudolph van Richten when he's kidnapped, mind-controlled, committed to an asylum, or otherwise much so, it mars his reputation as a shrewd and competent monster-hunter, to have gotten himself captured so many times. Probably a side effect of his being the most prominent non-evil NPC in the game setting, whom writers can't resist using in their scenarios, yet must hamstring to ensure he won't outshine the players' characters. This actually gets explained in Van Richten's guide to the Vistani. He's under a Vistani curse that compels him to go into dangerous situations and fail horribly in ways that get all his friends killed, but allows him to survive.
  • The eponymous Champions were shown lying beaten alarmingly often for the world's premier heroes in the game's 4th edition, in the interests of making whichever villain they were trying to promote look nastier. Nowadays the art usually shows the heroes putting up a fight rather than just having lost one.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has the Monarchs. Any time they appear on a card, it's them getting their asses kicked or about to get their asses kicked. This may be something of a backlash against their former Game-Breaker status.
    • Behemoth, The King of All Animals, is similarly unlucky, suffering humiliating losses on Threatening Roar, Lucky Punch, and Cross Counter.
  • This is actively subverted in White Wolf's Werewolf: The Forsaken. The Rahu Auspice are the designated tough guy in any pack. What inborn ability do they gain for being Rahu? The ability to tell at a glance whether or not they could take a given opponent in a fight.
  • While they did not fight, Antediluvians and Cain from Vampire: The Masquerade qualify. Antediluvians are one step from omnipotence, all of them have at least one 10-level discipline which allows them to do anything connected to it. Several were close to wiping out the whole population of Earth. Most lack any semblance of morality. Yet all of them become frightened from even a mention of their progenitor.
  • In Magic: The Gathering, a variation occurs, because of the metagame: If a card turns out to be a Game-Breaker, there will be instant answers to it next set, though (as per the rules) there are always answers to everything. Storyline-wise, Lin Sivvi was a Game-Breaker in the Masques block; she died at the very beginning of the Invasion block.
    • How did Khans of Tarkir establish that Surrak Dragonclaw was badass? Have him punch out a bear. On a Common card, no less, so it was likely that anyone who bought more than 1-2 boosters worth of KTK would see it. Then Sarkhan altered the timeline. In the new one, the people who had been the Khans were all over the place: Anafenza was a ghost, Zurgo little more than a living musical doorbell, Sidisi a zombie (albeit one that still had ambitions), Narset had actually done pretty well and awoken as a planeswalker, and Surrak...was still badass, as shown by art of him punching out a dragon.
    • The Gatewatch had a year-long introduction in which they took out two of the Eldrazi Titans and then bound the third (admittedly with its help), in order to 1) resolve that particular plot arc, which had been hovering in stasis for half a decade, and 2) establish how much the faces of the five colours of mana could achieve if they worked together; while all the characters were individually known qualities and most had been the viewpoint character for a block or two, this was the first time they had worked as a concerted unit rather than bounced around having their own adventures. Then they had the trope turned back on them by Nicol Bolas, a major contender for Magic's Big Bad and a character who hadn't appeared on a card in eight years, most of which had seen the player base expand and sales go up; to establish his credibility with the people who hadn't been playing in 2009 and remind people who had that he was a ridiculous powerhouse, Bolas took down the entire Gatewatch, making sure to hit each one in their own specialty for bonus showoff points.
  • Exalted: the Bull of the North is recommended for this in Compass: North, while Return of the Scarlet Empress sets up as much of the Fivescore Fellowship as the Storyteller wishes to take out, and especially Chejop Kejak.
  • The first book in the Immortal Handbook series (an Up to Eleven modification of Dungeons & Dragons) shows two monsters battling on the cover. If you look, you can see the Tarrasque cowering on the background.
  • In BattleTech, there was a time period during the early Clan invasion until just before the Fed-Com Civil War where new 'Mechs such as the Clan Omnis or advanced-tech Inner Sphere assault 'Mechs had to quickly make names for themselves. In these cases they were often shown destroying an Atlas, otherwise revered as one of the biggest, toughest, and most dangerous Battlemechs around. This is justified because while the Atlas is a famous mech with a fearsome reputation in-universe, it's not actually that great of a mech and therefore it's pretty easy to build something that's more powerful than it is (or at least designed to take advantage of the Atlas's weaknesses), especially if the new mech has more advanced weaponry and equipment. The original example of this is in the write up for the Grand Titan, a mech of equal size to the Atlas that was described as having in its debut in the Solaris VII gladiator games as having delivered a Curb-Stomp Battle to one. This was almost certainly the result of a rigged match, as the Grand Titan is actually a very inefficient machine that would have serious trouble against an Atlas at any range.

    Visual Novels 
  • Fate/stay night
    • Happens especially with Servant Berserker. His Master makes no secret of his true identity as Hercules. He's called The Strongest Servant, he's top-tier in all the main factors that determine a Servant's strength (age, fame, and mana stores of his Master), with his Class enhancing his already insane power, attacks below 'A'-rank barely scratch him, and he revives 12 times before he can be Killed Off for Real. You'd think he's a shoe-in to win the Grail War. However, he is always eliminated half-way through any scenario, all to show how impressive some other character is or has become. Taking from a modified text above..."If those things took down Berserker in less than two minutes, what chance do we have?" Isn't it sad, Bahsahkah? To be completely fair, in the Fate arc, he took out Archer and nearly killed Shirou and Rin and he went out in a blaze of glory in Unlimited Blade Works tanking Gate of Babylon after Gate of Babylon to shield Ilya cementing how badass he actually is.
      • Hercules is actually a strange case of Worf Had the Flu. The Berserker class is generally regarded as a trap option, as while it greatly strengthens servants summoned under it, it ALSO tends to remove their capacity for critical thought, and disables most of their strongest abilities. The only real exceptions to this rule are people like Beowulf, who aren't truly insane but are "berserkers" in combat, or people like Kiyohime, SF!Jack, and Spartacus, who are inherently insane and must be summoned under Berserker to show their strength. Archer Hercules in Fate/strange fake demonstrates perfectly how much more powerful he is when he's allowed thought.
    • Early in UBW, Servant Rider is hit by this trope. Although being regarded as one of the strongest Servant, she is killed off-screen with "Just one blow" by Caster's Master Kuzuki Souchirou, who is a mere human with his strength enhanced by Servant Caster's magic. A similar fate will almost fall upon Servant Saber, regarded as the strongest servant.
    • The true master of this trope is Lancer; he is established early on as being a badass while fighting Archer and almost kills Shiro and delivers a badass one-liner immediately following, but it's all downhill from there. In the Fate route he is killed by Gilgamesh to establish how powerful he is. In Unlimited Blade Works he is forced to kill himself by Kotomine ordering him to do so with a Command Spell, though he does have his chance to shine immediately following this. Finally in Heaven's Feel he dies to establish True Assassin's cred. Although, his death in Heaven's Feel is because Dark Sakura cornered him, meaning he would've died by either True Assassin or Dark Sakura. If Dark Sakura weren't there, True Assassin would've been gone as fast as he arrived.
    • Ultimate example: Even motherfucking GILGAMESH, the strongest day guy in the whole series, has suffered from this in Heaven’s Feel Dark Sakura kills him while seriously wounded, confused, and scared. Then EATS him, taking his power.
  • Starting in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Dual Destinies, when there were multiple playable characters, Apollo becomes a downplayed version of this, being the first of the main lawyers to have to face the game's main prosecutor and demonstrate how good a prosecutor they are. Downplayed in that he does end up beating them in the end, but it is still a very close victory in both cases.

    Web Comics 
  • As this strip explains, Black Mage of 8-Bit Theater functions as both the Worf and the Butt-Monkey. Probably from how he almost always uses one spell, that while powerful, can only be used once a day.
  • In Grrl Power, Concretia makes an entrance, complete with stats, an immediately blows away Mr. Amorphous and Achillies to show how bad arsed she is. Then in the very next page she is taken down by Math to show just how bad-arsed normal he is.
  • In Sluggy Freelance, Bun-Bun found himself used like this during "Dangerous Days Ahead". Getting his butt kicked by the monstrous CEO form of clone!Aylee was a major plot point because in the past, Aylee was not strong enough to win a fight with him.
    • Their first battle ended in a draw as they both collapsed from exhaustion, although Bun-Bun managed to slice off Aylee's arm before the end (it regenerated). The fact that "Aylee" was a clone whose evolution was controlled to make her stronger helps.
    • Oasis sometimes falls victim to this, as while she is a deadly assassin, she also loses against Clone!Aylee, and previously lost to demon-possessed Gwynn.
      • Finally, in June 2009 Bun-Bun and Oasis faced each other in a full-out fight. Who would be the Worf this time? Bun-Bun. It was likely decided by the fact that the storyline at the time was all about Oasis and it would have been cut anticlimactically short if she'd been the one to lose. Bun-bun had taken the advantage when it was solely about conventional means of fighting, but when Oasis' pyrokinetic powers are shown, the fight goes the other way.
  • In one of the prequel books of The Order of the Stick, the Order is about to face a guard monster, only to have it hit Roy with a roll of 2. Upon realizing that it can nail the party member with the probable highest Armor Class with such a low roll, they flee.
    • Explicitly lampshaded in this strip.
    • Slight alteration by Redcloak, when he takes out a tribe's number 2, in front of the number one, and then turns to the chief and says something like, "Oh, he was your chief, wasn't he?". The real chief immediately surrenders to avoid death.
  • Sara and the other Time Monks from Errant Story. The author directly invokes the trope in a commentary comic.
    • Sara's jobbing seems restricted to magic-using enemies. For example, she gets caught by an unexpected bind spell, but once Meji frees her she takes down three elves in a handful of seconds.
  • Homestuck:
    • Equius, the strongest of the trolls, (he punched the head off an ogre with his bare hands!) is easily strangled to death by Gamzee as his first victim. This is arguably both a straight play and a subversion, since Word of God says he could have easily broken the bowstring with his STRONG neck, but didn't because Gamzee is a highblood and therefore had the right to kill him, at least in Equius' mind.
    • Hegemonic Brute. Biggest, toughest, meanest of the Derse agents, save Jack once he gets the ring. His Midnight Crew counterpart Hearts Boxcars devours the heads of his enemies whole and rips huge safes out of brick walls. Yet in the first iteration of the kids' game he's held in a headlock by Dad Egbert and later slain off-screen by the relatively harmless-looking and meek Parcel Mistress (using the sword his boss gave her, no less), and in the post-Scratch session decapitated in one sweep by Dirk Strider with only three panels worth of screen time.
      • Dirk himself becomes a Worf later on when he gets badly beaten by the ascended Caliborn, and has to be bailed out by Jake's Hope bomb.
    • Jack Noir. He was the main antagonist of the first five arcs, the reason why both the kids and the trolls' sessions turned to shit, and was shown to be able to take on people with god-like power as well as destroy two universes. He gets in a fight with John while in a dream bubble. John manages to beat him back for most of the fight and humiliate him with a silly hat, before PM comes back to chase him across the universe.
    • Jade Harley is the most powerful God-Tier kid in the series. She has abilities derived from the Green Sun, the power source of the First Guardians, as well as God-Tier, and is capable of effortlessly shrinking planets down to small size. As it turns out, not even the Green Sun can match the fully unleashed power of hope from Jake English of all people.
  • Generally, the first action of a villain during the Yearly Bob and George Villain Kills Everyone storyline is to take out Protoman, who could be loosely described as a sort of robot Batman. More often than not, the nigh-indestructible "Demon"-class robots, Nate and Chadling, would also be reduced to their goo state at this stage, meaning that unless they merged with another character, they wouldn't be contributing too much.
  • Elliot from El Goonish Shive suffers from this, even though the series isn't focused on combat. He built a reputation as a Bully Hunter and befriended two of the main characters through saving them from bullies and defeated the first antagonist of the strip. He then lost to Grace's brother Hedge, and embarrassingly so having been knocked out after one blownote . Elliot also suffered from this in Nanase's introduction, where her badass cred is established as being the only person able to defeat Elliot in combat.
    • Nanase herself also suffer the Worf Effect indirectly. Her Guardian Angel spell made her able to pretty much curb-stomp Abraham, but then when she assumes it against Not-Tengu Ellen is able to tell she's lying when she said she could take it on singlehandedly. In addition, Magus schemes to keep Nanase away from his plan, and when one character presumes this is because she'd be able to defeat him, he replies that it's actually because he's far more powerful and doesn't want to hurt her.
    • Elliot further suffered from this effect even after his Next Tier Power-Up through his Cheerleadra spell (which turns him into a busty Flying Brick). He is almost killed by a dragon and spends more or less his time "fighting" a griffin just flying away from it. Somewhat justified in that while Elliot is a skilled martial artist, he explains that all of his combat training simply doesn't translate well to having superpowers, in particular being able to fly.
  • Subverted in Girl Genius where a Dreen is described as powerful and scary by Jagermonsters, immediately before being squashed by a mecha of the Knights of Jove. Except in the next panel the Dreen is entirely unharmed and explodes the mecha.
    • The Jagermonsters themselves tend to suffer from this a lot. They're a Proud Warrior Race whose three favorite pastimes are fighting enemies, fighting friends, and fighting each other, but they have a tendency in the series to encounter menaces that can lay them low, sometimes without even noticing them.
    • Warrior Princess Zeetha is often injured or defeated to show that she's up against something serious. The Monster Horse Beastie, Baron Klaus Wulfenbach, a drugged-up Zola and a Geister have all defeated her at some point.
  • A minor example in The Story of Anima, but Pocket is the first heroic Animus to be identified as such. And despite being Jade's personal bodyguard, his opponent completely overpowers him.
  • Guilded Age: Byron is billed as "the Berserker" and generally treated as the most competent member of the group, but he's usually also the first to go down (one way or another) when things get sufficiently serious.
  • In Kuro Shouri, this happens often to Hisaki. In the first chapter he is established as being competent in martial arts, but gets beaten easily by the first villain to show up. That being said, after a certain point he stops being the strongest character there and the trope no longer applies.

    Web Original 
  • Every Memetic Badass is able mop the floor with God. Or, at least, engage in some sort of contest wherein the winner would be impossible to determine. (Or could not engage in the contest at all except as a form of solitaire.)
  • This would apply to the way Tex dominates Maine, Wyoming, and York in season 9, episode 10 of Red vs. Blue were it not for the fact that we're already well aware of Tex's badassery. To the other Freelancers, however, this is exactly what's going on. The show does a good job of averting this for the most part, however. Those that are skilled all appear completely competent even next to the absolute badasses, but the most badass of them still show clear superiority.
    • Earlier in the series, Season 8 to be exact, Tucker had taken a huge level in badass, to the point that many fans thought he might be able to give Tex a run for her money. When he finally meets up with her, even with the rest of the Reds helping him, it turns out he's not even close. He still manages to keep his dignity by being utterly defiant throughout the entire beatdown.
  • This particular effect happens to Yellow in Super Mario Bros. Z. Supposedly the toughest of the Axem Rangers X, not only does he get his first strike turned into a dud, he's also the first one of the group to be killed off when Mecha Sonic comes calling, followed quickly by the other four. Also, this effect happens earlier with the Koopa Bros. A couple episodes earlier, their Chaos Emerald fueled special attack decimated the heroes. Mecha Sonic blew through them like they were wet rice paper.
  • In the fangame series, Sonic RPG, Sonic himself gets hit with this rather often. He's on the brink of losing to Chaos 0, only surviving thanks to Shadow's interference, is unable to defeat Eggman's latest mech without going Super, gets one-shotted by Ristar (unless he goes Super) is easily defeated by Reala, and is also easily defeated alongside Shadow in their first fight against Seelkadoom (both of the latter fights he was in his Super Form for).
  • In the second season of Legion of Extraordinary Dancers, they introduce Organization X, a group of Evil Counterparts to the heroes set up as the main antagonists. When episode 16 rolls around, they haven't actually gotten a chance to show off their skills in a fight just yet (Except for Fangz, who isn't actually in the episode). Episode 16 has them facing off against The Umbras, a group of identically dressed Mooks working for the Dark Doctor who are only introduced a minute or two before OX shows up, just enough to show that they're actually pretty good. It's a perfect set-up for this trope, but The Umbras end up wiping the floor with them.
  • In the David Blaine Street Magic parody videos, David Blaine starts out as a Reality Warper who keeps playing tricks on two L.A. idiots. Then, in the fourth video, Zaoza appears.
  • Worm:
    • On her very first night out in action, the protagonist plays a critical role in defeating supervillain and gang warlord Lung, who usually can take on many heroes by himself. To make things better or worse, we later learn that Lung once dueled and drove off a Hero Killer Kaiju, a feat that normally needs the local Physical God's attention. Though it's somewhat justified by the nature of Lung's power: he gradually grows stronger over time, and against the aforementioned Kaiju he had enough time to equal its power.
    • The Interludes for arc 11 have the various members of the Slaughterhouse Nine kicking around both heroes and other villains, showing just why they're so feared and collectively given the same threat rating as the aforementioned Kaiju.
    • The protagonist herself plays Worf's role for the supervillain Contessa in Chapter 24.2.
  • Noob:
    • Fantöm is famous for taking down the game's at-the-time Final Boss by himself, when the challenge was intended for a team of at least four players.
    • Want to show how difficult the new bosses in Horizon 1.1 are? Have one of them beat Fantöm's team.
    • Ystos, the healer from Fantöm's team, worked as that for a random Order player who quickly turned out to be Spectre (who hadn't even unlocked his new character's prestige class yet).
    • The third novel, that was Tabris' debut in the franchise, had him kill General Helkazard, the setting' most powerful human character, who's overshadowed only by the gods themselves.
  • RWBY:
    • During the Volume 2 climax, Team RWBY has to split up to stop a train from breaching the kingdom's defensive walls. Neo's first fight in the show is against Yang, the team's power-fighter. However, Yang is barely able to land a solid hit on Neo, who is acrobatic and keeps dodging or deflecting Yang's attacks. Neo's taunting style of fighting also aggravates Yang's quick temper. When Neo defeats Yang and renders her unconscious, she doesn't suffer a single injury from Yang.
    • In Volume 1 Episode 8, the entirety of team RWBY and most of team JNPR spend most of the episode taking down a Nevermore, a giant bird monster, and a Death Stalker, a giant Scorpion monster. In the Volume 2 finale, Coco destroys several in a few seconds with her minigun. Coco is then effortlessly trashed in Volume 3 to show how tough Mercury and Emerald are compared to the students of the school they've infiltrated.
  • Retroactively done by Hercule/Mr Satan on the show Death Battle regarding his series of origin. He actually is a very competent and accomplished fighter in his own series, even being declared the World's Strongest Man. His main problem, however, is that his home series happens to be Dragonball where, because he can't use Ki Manipulation, he is nowhere near the level of power of the series regulars such as Goku or Krillin. This helped him secure the win against Dan Hibiki because, unlike Dan, he has actual skill as a martial artist.
  • In Episode 21 of Project Mouthwash's Bleach (S) Abridged, Urahara directly references the Worf Effect by explaining it to Chad as a reason for not training him. He subsequently agrees to help Chad train after being amused by Chad's comment that the Worf Effect applies perfectly to Renji.
  • Parodied in this Forbes article speculating on the events of Avengers: Infinity War:
    Steve: Oh my god, Thanos has just murdered Iron Man, the central character to this entire Marvel Universe thus far! I would have thought Tony was untouchable, but Thanos just killed him!
    Scott: Wow, if he can do that, he really must be the great and powerful villain that we all suspected that he was!
    Thor: Right you are, tiny friend! This Thanos character is indeed beyond any mere foe we have ever faced!
  • This headline from The Onion: "Flu Takes Down Biggest Guy In Office As Warning To Rest Of Staff"
  • SCP-682, from the SCP Foundation, is a giant lizard proven via many in-page tests to be unkillable, to a degree that even supposedly "foolproof" methods just take longer for it to recover from. Yet in later SCP pages it is killed off to show how dangerous the SCP or situation in question is, or even just for laughs.
  • A similar thing can be said about SCP-001: Swann's Proposal given that they're the writers of the wiki. Despite this, now it seems like the only purpose they have is to serve as a meta-benchmark for pataphysical skips. Case in point; SCP-5500: Death of the Authors.
  • The Adventure Zone: Balance has Kravitz, aka The Grim Reaper, who spends the first half of the Crystal Kingdom-arc laying waste to our heroes. Legion knocks him out of the fight in a single hit, signifying just how strong they are. When the Hunger begins to make its attack on the planar system, the Astral Plane is one of the first planes affected. While pulling Magnus back from the brink of death, Taako spots Kravitz drowning in the corrupted Astral Sea, barely able to keep his head above the water until he's pulled back under.
  • Parodied in Girlchan in Paradise!! with the character of Yusuke, ostensibly the main rival of the protagonist. Like a lot of tough, edgy, angsty rivals who strive to be the strongest, his main role in the show is to throw himself at any given threat and then lose badly. This has at one point included a flight of stairs.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Worf Effect, Taking Down The Tough Guy


Mr Sandman vs everyone

In his character introduction cutscene, Sandman beats all the boxers Little Mac fought.

How well does it match the trope?

4.77 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / TheWorfEffect

Media sources:

Main / TheWorfEffect