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Tough Act to Follow

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"If there's one thing history has taught us (besides not to piss off people called Genghis Khan or put lead in your water pipes) it's that if you're going to make something incredibly good that becomes frighteningly popular, make sure it's the last thing you ever make in your entire life because otherwise you get to spend the rest of your creative career struggling under the weight of high expectations and bricks."
Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, Spore Review

A work which attains such overwhelming success that it dooms its creator's later efforts to languish in its shadow. The follow-up may have its own merits, but fans will dismiss it because it doesn't stand up to the original.

Essentially the creative version of typecasting.

May overlap with Author Usurpation, which is when the work is so popular that no one is aware that the artist made anything else — and if they are aware, they don't care. Contrast Protection from Editors, for when the new creations do suck but get published anyway, or need more work if they're not going to suck but no one dares tell you this. Compare with Glory Days. See also First Installment Wins, Sophomore Slump, Post-Script Season, Follow-Up Failure, and One-Hit Wonder. Contrast with Breakthrough Hit, when a successful work leads to a series of hits. If fans become split over this, it will lead to a Broken Base. This will often lead to sequelitis and/or contested sequels. Frustration over this trope may cause Creator Backlash. If the creator views any subsequent work(s) as superior to the overshadowing "masterpiece", then it may also be a case of Magnum Opus Dissonance.

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    Anime & Manga 
  • None of Ryosuke Takahashi's works after Armored Trooper VOTOMS managed to achieve the same level of acclaim and longevity as that aforementioned series, with Yoroiden Samurai Troopers coming the closest (but even that didn't last past the early nineties). As a result, he's ended up handling most of VOTOMS' prequel and sequel OVAs.
  • Bartender: According to Hanegashima, every cocktail is a Tough Act to Follow. Either you underperform, and the customer will never return, or you do your best, and your customer will come back, and expect you to do even better.
  • Battle Angel Alita: Last Order is an example. The original Battle Angel Alita was a huge success; it was translated into English and became a must-read manga classic for people getting into the genre. The sequel is nowhere near as successful and only survived mainly because of dedicated fans of the original giving it a cult following.
  • After Paru Itagaki decided to bring her breakout work Beastars to a rather abrupt end, she would eventually begin work on a few new projects, a new serialization of Beastars's sister series Beast Complex, a short dramedy manga Botabota, and a weekly series called Sanda, none of which reached the heights or interest of her biggest work. In the case of Sanda, despite having 4 printed volumes and counting, it doesn't even have its own page on The Other Wiki. And despite Beastars's Audience-Alienating Ending, people are still hungry for more of this series. Paru posting about Sanda on Twitter typically generates extremely mild interest at best, while posting anything Beastars-related typically generates quite a bit. It's clear her biggest work's popularity and acclaim, as well as how its end left fans unsatisfied, has cast a shadow in her career she is yet to get out of.
  • Following the cult success of Blood: The Last Vampire and Blood+, CLAMP was entrusted to work with Production I.G on their own version, Blood-C. However, the overall reception of the franchise was mixed, coupled with the low BD/DVD sales of the TV series and the movie bombing in the Japanese box office despite the latter being funded by the Japanese government. This also affected CLAMP's later works.
  • Every series in the Digimon franchise following the original Digimon Adventure has been notably controversial for some reason or other, also making this a case of First Installment Wins.
  • After Captain Tsubasa ended its original eight-year run on Weekly Jump, creator Yoichi Takahashi attempted to do different sports-related manga such as Legend of Sho (tennis), Ace! (baseball) and Chibi (boxing), but none of them ever caught on. Takahashi ended up going back to Captain Tsubasa and doing sequels and spinoffs to his most popular work.
  • Akira Toriyama has created quite a few short manga since Dragon Ball, but they've barely registered on most people's radars. It might be because they're almost all limited series, though. He's never even attempted another ongoing since Dragon Ball ended, partially for fear of not living up to it. He does avert this trope in the video game realm, where he remains quite popular as the head artist for the cult classic games Chrono Trigger and Blue Dragon, as well as the long-running Dragon Quest series. His earlier series, Dr. Slump, was a huge success in its native Japan, and was considered the tough act there.
  • Tetsuo Hara pretty much struggled to escape the shadow of Fist of the North Star for most of his career after it ended. With the exception of Hana no Keiji, which lasted a full three year run, all of his follow-up titles for Weekly Jump (Cyber Blue, Kagemusha Tokugawa Ieyasu and Takeki Ryūsei) ended up being cut short. Hara would end up leaving Weekly Jump in the mid-90's and spent the rest of the decade working on a string of also short-lived titles for other manga anthologies before eventually forming the manga editing company Coamix in 2001 with his former editor Nobuhiko Horie. Fist of the Blue Sky, a prequel to Fist of the North Star, would serve as the flagship title for Coamix's first manga anthology, Weekly Comic Bunch, but Hara's own struggle with keratoconus (which left him blind in the right eye) forced the title from being changed from a regular feature to a semi-weekly one halfway during its run and the story ended in an inconclusive matter when Coamix broke up with publisher Shinchosha, resulting in the discontinuation of Comic Bunch in 2010. Hara moved on to his current title, Ikusa no Ko: The Legend of Oda Nobunaga, which began serialization in Coamix's subsequent anthology Monthly Comic Zenon in 2010, although he would also end up supervising the sequel to Fist of the Blue Sky, Regenesis, which began in 2017.
  • Gunsmith Cats was a very popular Girls with Guns manga and did good enough to get a well made 3 episode OVA that also became very popular. The follow up Gunsmith Cats Crash, was rejected by most fans for it being just silly action with no focus on plot and character development like the original.
  • Jewelpet:
  • Yudetamago ran into this after concluding Kinnikuman.
  • Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's was a major improvement from the first series for many fans. StrikerS, however, wasn't that popular with fans because it didn't live up to the complexity and awesomeness that was A's. The manga sequels and movies have suffered from this as well.
  • Yoshiyuki Tomino had this problem with Mobile Suit Gundam. He became very bitter over this, but has lightened up considerably since working on ∀ Gundam.
  • Gundam tends to suffer from this as a whole, depending on how well or poorly received the previous series was. It's not unknown for a series to suffer poor ratings during airing and then be Vindicated by History later, after everyone's gotten over the "not as good as Gundam Whichever" reactions. Sometimes the creators deal with this by making their series such a departure that there's no way to compare it—such as the Darker and Edgier Mobile Suit Victory Gundam being followed by the unabashedly Super Robot World of Ham that is Mobile Fighter G Gundam.
  • After Neon Genesis Evangelion, Hideaki Anno tried to make "serious" films, and publicly bashed both Evangelion fans and otakus in general. He never managed to make anything as widely successful or influential as Eva, and eventually gave in and created the Rebuild of Evangelion series over a decade later.
  • This is probably the reason why Eiichiro Oda has said he won't do anything else after One Piece is finished. (Of course, he'd have to actually finish One Piece first...)
  • When it comes to the Pokémon movies, only the first (mainly in its original Japanese version) and third are regarded as the best (though the eighth, fifteenth and twenty-first movies are almost as well-regarded). All the others have been seen as So Okay, It's Average at best, and have grossed less in Japanese theaters.
  • Pretty Cure:
    • The HeartCatch Pretty Cure! series, considered to be one of the best seasons in the entire franchise, due to its Darker and Edgier plot and having even more over-the-top fight scenes compared to its predecessors has left the few seasons after it as part of this trope.
    • Pretty Cure All Stars movies get hit with this as well, as DX3 (which was released shortly after HeartCatch finished) and its fans argue that its over-the-top moments make the succeeding New Stage series seem lacking by comparison.
    • Not only is Go! Princess Pretty Cure considered the best thing since HeartCatch, but its successor Maho Girls Pretty Cure! also averted this trope (at least in Japan).
  • This is believed to be the reason why Rurouni Kenshin author Nobuhiro Watsuki was not (and likely will never be) able to have another series which runs longer than 10 volumes, the magic number where Buso Renkin ended publication. Gun Blaze West was cancelled after only three.
  • Naoko Takeuchi was less than well received after having completed Sailor Moon, and never managed to finish anything else afterwards, leaving several Orphaned Series behind.
    • On the subject of Sailor Moon, the third season of the 90's Sailor Moon series, Sailor Moon S ended up being this for towards its follow ups, SuperS and Sailor Stars, being Darker and Edgier with an amazing character and compelling characters.
  • Saint Seiya fell victim to this. Kurumada's first runaway hit was Ring ni Kakero, a boxing drama although with its share of Shonen elements. Saint Seiya was the closest he got, but it lost popularity and was forced to conclude with a Bittersweet Ending. A few of his works have tanked and the only series post-Kakero he was able to end on his terms was B't X.
  • After Sazae-san had become a huge success and the most viewed anime ever (a record which remains unbeaten to this day), Machiko Hasegawa created a new comic strip called Granny Mischief about an old woman who always spent her time creating trouble for her fellow man with all kinds of pranks. It's just as funny as Sazae-san, but never became quite as popular.
  • Director Kazuki Akane started strong with The Vision of Escaflowne, which became wildly popular (even broadcast on Fox Kids in the United States), and remains to this day one of the most iconic anime from the 1990s. His next project was Geneshaft, which was seen by few and hated by most who did. His next creation was Heat Guy J; most who know of it know only about how much Geneon paid for it (as much as FUNimation paid for Fullmetal Alchemist (2003)) and how poorly it sold. Next came Noein, which fared better in popularity and reception, but only modestly. His latest work was Birdy the Mighty: Decode, which sold very poorly in Japan.
  • Office Academy, the company behind Space Battleship Yamato, made several forgettable series such as Space Carrier Blue Noah that failed to gain recognition inside or outside of Japan, unlike Yamato.
  • Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and Code Geass did this for the Super Robot Genre and Real Robot Genre respectively, resulting in the two shows combined being a tough act to follow for the mecha genre as a whole — in the decade since, no mecha show has managed to approach the popularity of either series.
  • Quite possibly the reasoning for nothing but more Yu-Gi-Oh! from Kazuki Takahashi. And even then, his input has fallen from writing the manga (Yu-Gi-Oh!), to having major input and plot work on the anime (GX), to just doing character designs (5Ds, Zexal, ARC-V, and VRAINS).
  • The Unicron Trilogy zig-zags this a bit. Transformers: Armada isn't exactly a masterpiece and has a very slow beginning, but partway in it found its footing and dramatically increased in quality. This created decently high hopes for its sequel Transformers: Energon; hopes that Energon, having a very rushed Troubled Production, could never meet. The final installment, Transformers: Cybertron, ended up inverting this trend; Energon's disastrous launch left a very low bar that Cybertron, with its strong Character Development and plotting, was easily able to jump over.
  • The first season of Aikatsu! is widely regarded as the best season of the series (if not the entire franchise) in terms of writing, character development and world building in spite of the less-than-stellar animation. Some of the franchise's most iconic songs, namely "Diamond Happy!" and "Calendar Girl", also come from this season. The following three seasons and reboot series Aikatsu Stars! are generally considered to be significantly weaker in the aforementioned categories despite the improved animation. Stars! got hit even harder with this as it completely tanked to the point Bandai Namco lost money on it and is running the risk of becoming a Franchise Killer. Aikatsu Friends! is a second attempt at reviving the franchise, but its optics are not looking too good.
  • The Chaos;Head anime was the first to be adapted in the Science Adventure Series (to mixed reviews). After that, the Steins;Gate anime was released, to mass critical acclaim and being listed as one of the top anime of all time on various anime database sites. None of the adaptations after Steins;Gate (Robotics;Notes, Occultic;Nine, and Chaos;Child) have managed to capture the same level of success.
  • Irodori's run on Kemono Friends. After gaining massive popularity with its grounded approach to the plot and gateway status to the rest of the franchise, no other media associated with it before or after could match that level of acclaim. Tomason was a definite victim of this, especially since they picked up the reigns for Season 2 after Tatsuki's firing and ran against Irodori's immediate next work. To say it had a lot to live up to was barely scratching it.
  • Many people were surprised to hear that the author of Fullmetal Alchemist, one of the most high-rating manga and anime of all time and a very dark adventure story, would be making a slice-of-life dramedy about a boy going to an agricultural university, Silver Spoon, and it clearly had its previous work's shadow looming over it. Many were pleasantly surprised that Silver Spoon turned out to be just as high-quality as its predecessor in its comedy and character-driven drama and exploration.
  • Negima! Magister Negi Magi was very well regarded (save for the ending) during its run, and its sequel UQ Holder! has had nowhere near the same amount of popularity or success. Fans have speculated that certain plot points and characters from Negima were added to bring back fans of the previous series, as it wasn't nearly as related to the previous series in its earliest chapters.
  • The Boogiepop Series is a Trope Codifier of the light novel medium, and because of its huge impact Kouhei Kadono never really managed to create another series that was as successful.
  • Your Name blew away every previous work by Makoto Shinkai, becoming the second-highest grossing anime movie in Japan (behind only Spirited Away) and the highest-grossing anime movie of all time worldwide. There was simply no way his next work, Weathering With You, could possibly have been able to match it, and despite being considered a very good movie in its own right, everyone more or less agrees that it didn't. Unless he manages to do something truly unbelievable, Your Name is presumably going to loom over Shinkai this way for the entire rest of his career.
  • Yuki Urushibara has had trouble replicating the success of Mushishi, widely considered one of the greatest manga of all time, during the rest of her career. Her next series Waters was a Short-Runner that didn't make it a year due to fan disinterest, and she ended up not writing anything for almost a decade before returning with When the Cats Face West...which also ended up flying under the radar and ending in a short time.
  • Why the Hell Are You Here, Teacher!?: The first teacher, Kana Kojima, is perhaps the most popular in the series, enough that later arcs are often compared unfavorably to hers. Many readers want to see her and Satou become the central focus of the story again, or would have preferred that instead of introducing a new couple for each volume, the story should have focused entirely on her evolving relationship with Satou, although the pair of Tanaka and Tachibana, of the original four pairs, seems to be almost as highly regarded.
  • Death Note: On a character level, many feel that Near and Mello wouldn't be so divisive if it weren't for the fact that they're the successors to the nigh-universally beloved L. It's hard to imagine any character meant to take over his role in the narrative would've gotten a warm reception from fans, at least at first. While Near is still hated by a large segment of the fandom, Mello is generally agreed to be an interesting character on his own merits. (Which doesn't mean the fanbase has forgiven the creators for killing L off in the first place...)
  • Following the unbridled success of Kuroko's Basketball, Tadatoshi Fujimaki went right back to the Hot-Blooded sports genre with his follow-up series, Robot × Laserbeam. Except it turns out the usual shounen sports clichés don't really work when applied to a manga about golf, which is known for being a slow-paced and non-confrontational sport. Combine the odd combo with an unpopular timeskip and readers growing tired of the aforementioned sports manga clichés, and the manga found itself cancelled a little over a year after it began.
  • Influential director Mamoru Oshii is known for his philosophical, slow-paced works, but he actually started with the zany comedy of Urusei Yatsura, pretty much the Trope Codifier for Magical Girlfriend. After more than three decades, and a hiatus that lasted since 2009, he came back to his roots in the 2020s with Vlad Love, a wacky comedy starring a girl with a Magical Girlfriend of her own, a vampire lady. However, despite his pedigree, the series failed to gain much attention and was generally considered as a So Okay, It's Average example of slapstick that tries too hard to be zany and funny, with characterizations and plots seemingly coming right from the early 2000s if not the 1990s.
  • After the success of Naruto, Masashi Kishimoto went on to create Samurai 8: The Tale of Hachimaru. While he acknowledged that people would be hesistant to accept a new work from him, he still hoped people would come to enjoy it regardless. Unfortunately, Samurai 8 was nowhere near as popular as Naruto, as it was cancelled after only ten months of serialization.
  • Satsuki Yoshino hit it big with Barakamon, and was decently successful with the high school Spin-Off Handa-kun, but afterwards constantly struggled to find success with works that weren't about Sei Handa and company. Yoshi no Zui kara, which contains heavy autobiographical elements about the writing of Barakamon itself, made it three years but only three volumes thanks to Schedule Slip, and 18 Eighteen only lasted for a year and a half, and both works were criticized for relying way too much on Barakamon-style rural humor.
  • Mix has a double whammy of this: it's not only the long-awaited sequel to Touch, one of the most popular manga and anime series of all time, but also the first work by Mitsuru Adachi to be adapted to anime after Cross Game, which was critically acclaimed and is widely seen as his best work. Reviews largely reflected this sentiment—while most reviews noted that it was a perfectly fine series, it didn't come close to matching the legacy of its predecessors.

    Comic Books 
  • Art Spiegelman when it comes to his "comix" duology Maus. He has been quite vocal about how he never expected the "monument to my father" to become so popular, nor did he expect that his later works would be greeted by wishes for Maus III.
    Spiegelman: I'm proud that I did Maus; I'm glad that I did it. I don't really regret it. But the aftershock is that no matter what else I do or even most other cartoonists might do, it's like, well, there’s this other thing that stands in a separate category and it has some kind of canonical status.
  • When it comes to Batman origin stories, the clear favourite is Frank Miller's "Batman: Year One". It modernised Batman's original origin with a noir atmosphere, phenomenal art from David Mazuchelli and was a tightly plotted crime drama with a layered deuteragonist in Jim Gordon. Batman origin stories following it, in all media, tend to be negatively compared to it. This is especially the case with "Batman: Zero Year".
  • Jim Starlin, who thanks to his masterful work crafting The Infinity Gauntlet, has every comic book given to him compared to it and rarely in a favorable light.
  • After Kurt Busiek's historic Avengers run, Geoff Johns took over the title, only to quickly quit and jump ship back to DC due to Executive Meddling. Chuck Austen followed Johns' run, and was widely considered to be one of the worst writers in the franchise's history. Sales fell so sharply that Marvel cancelled the book with Avengers Disassembled and allowed Brian Bendis to reboot it as New Avengers, which was a much stronger seller.
  • Chris Claremont on the X-Men; only a bare handful of writers have managed to carve an identity out on the X-Books that did not have Claremont's shadow hanging over them. Similarly, everything Chris Claremont himself has done since then has been inevitably been declared not as good as his original X-Men run.
  • Green Lantern has Ron Marz, who made the book a hit with the introduction of Kyle Rayner as Green Lantern. When he left the book, he was replaced with Judd Winick, whose run started to bleed readership. Following him was Ben Raab, whose run was so reviled that many Rayner fans blame him (in addition to Winick) for sinking the sales of the title and basically forcing DC to bring Hal Jordan back as Green Lantern to stop the bleeding.
    • Green Lantern also has Geoff Johns, who brought back Hal Jordan (without displacing any other human Lantern) and the Space Cop stuff, while also expanding the mythos to include multiple Lantern Corps, and turning the franchise into a gigantic space opera that became central to the DCU. The stuff that followed by Robert Venditti is not looked highly upon, nor are any of the Green Lantern series that take the space opera approach. Green Lanterns gets a pass for having the characters focus on Earth and being more about everyday superheroics, but that's about it.
  • The Incredible Hulk (1968): After Peter David's decade and change run on the title, Joe Casey had the task of following up on him before the title ended after six issues. The final story even begins with a fourth-wall breaking moment where Casey even addresses how the deck was pretty stacked against him from the start.
  • Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis inevitably have every series they launch compared to their classic Justice League International run, no matter how different their new projects are. They finally gave in and accepted this, as they started writing a new Justice League spin-off as part of the New 52.
  • Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster never created anything that people remembered to nearly the extent of Superman. Same with Batman's creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger (who created most of Batman's traits and key characters though Kane got sole credit due to a contract stipulation until 2015 when Finger was finally given co-creator credit on Batman associated media).
  • Cullen Bunn had the unfortunate luck of writing for Agent Venom right after Rick Remender's run, which was praised by fans and critics alike. While plenty of people liked his work on the title, it was almost universally viewed as a step down in quality and the book ended up being cancelled right in the middle of resolving its Myth Arc.
  • Christopher Priest basically redefined Black Panther in every way and to this day his run is considered by many to be the greatest book Panther has ever had. He was followed by Reginald Hudlin, whose work was immediately hit by the this trope in full force. His run initially outsold Priest's by quite a bit, but as time went on, sales fell sharply. A relaunch stunt involving T'Challa's sister Shuri taking over as the lead didn't do much better, and the title was eventually cancelled under new writer Jonathan Maberry.
  • Sombra's issue of My Little Pony: FIENDship Is Magic was very well received, being well written and giving what fans wanted from his backstory, and set the high bar against which the subsequent issues would be measured.
  • Daredevil:
    • Some feel that every era lives uncomfortably under the shadow of the Frank Miller era, who redefined Daredevil into the gritty noir character known today and established much of his expanded mythos and acclaimed stories, such as the Hand, Elektra, "Exposé" and "Born Again".
    • Any Daredevil run following the hugely successful Bendis and Brubaker eras. Both were massively successful mega hits and award winners, and the follow-up, Andy Diggle's run, is as a result not looked highly upon. Waid's run gets a pass for being very tonally different than the Bendis and Brubaker runs, but the Soule run that followed got this treatment for not living up to all three runs, as well as the hit Netflix series.
    • Despite following those two, Mark Waid's Daredevil run is now also this. Noted for its more lighthearted and optimistic tone, while still maintaining a darkness and drama to itself, the run is noted for being a much more different take on the character that didn't eschew the darkness, but addressed it directly. It's also liked for the focus on supporting characters like Foggy Nelson and Maggie Murdock. Following this run, the idea of a darker Daredevil run was not only negatively compared to the Bendis and Brubaker eras but also the more optimistic Waid era.
  • Anything X-Force related following Rick Remender's Uncanny X-Force. While the previous run had its fans, it has a very big Broken Base for being almost a parody of what X-Force is (mutants who kill to protect other mutants). Remender portrayed this and didn’t glorify it, and in fact deconstructed the entire idea of a mutant kill squad, while still allowing for character development. He also masterfully implemented X-Men history into his run. The runs that followed... well, they’re more traditional X-Force runs (meaning style over substance and grimdark galore), and just aren’t considered as good. To put it lightly: Uncanny X-Force is considered not only the best X-Force run, but also one of the best X-Men comics of all time, while every X-Force run that followed is barely remembered.
  • Ed Brubaker's Captain America was lauded as a great reinvention of the character and his mythos, combining political commentary with a sleek spy-fi angle while having lots of twists and turns. It's also noticeable for having Bucky Barnes not only Rescued from the Scrappy Heap in retconning him into a much darker character, but turning him into a Breakout Character by making him the new Captain America. The series was an audience and critical darling and brought the character into a new century. Every run that's followed has been negatively compared to it. Rick Remender's run was considered So Okay, It's Average pulp sci-fi when it wasn't loaded with widely disliked retcons and Nick Spencer's run became controversial for the sheer volume and unsubtlety of its political commentary before it pulled a Cosmic Retcon to turn the titular character into a Nazi (and made an event out of it).
  • Grayson was a Better Than It Sounds spy series about Dick Grayson operating within an organisation determined to find out the secrets of superheroes. While originally loathed for not having Dick as a superhero, a cover depicting him holding a gun and cancelling the then-ongoing Nightwing series, come release, it gained popularity very quickly, and helped launch the career of Tom King and provide some mainstream work for Tim Seeley. The series was liked for its fundamental understanding of the character despite its strange situations, playful yet very strong dialogue, as well as actually doing something new and refreshing with a Batman character. The series ended and was followed by Nightwing (Rebirth), written solely by Seeley. While not considered bad, it's considered a fairly standard Bat-family superhero comic, and the absence of King is very noticeable, as Seeley had Dick narrate every issue. To say Grayson fans aren't wowed is putting it lightly.
  • Similarly, Tom King faced this. Not only did he have to follow-up the beloved Grayson, but he also had to follow-up the Hugo-nominated, Harvey and Eisner Award-winning The Vision (2015), his acclaimed reinvention of Omega Men and sleeper hit Sheriff of Babylon. These were all comics that were hits in a single year. Eventually, his sole project would be as the main writer for the Batman (Tom King) ongoing. The series is known for its Broken Base, and a lot of it is the Hype Backlash from readers who had heard about King but hadn't read him. The dialogue is considered not as skillful as in Grayson, Omega Men or Sheriff, it's not considered as original as any of the mentioned works and hardly does anything revolutionary with the character, which kind of became King's whole thing thanks to all his popular superhero works doing those things. King himself jokingly acknowledged the possibility of this trope taking effect.
    Tom King: Realize I'll never be on this many year list things again. You're only the new guy with new ideas once. Grateful to be on this ride now.
  • The Flash:
    • Mark Waid's run developed Wally so that he became more than just Barry Allen's successor as the Flash, having him grow and mature across the entire run. It also featured what is considered one of the most realistic relationships in superhero comics in Wally's relationship with Linda Park. Not only that, but it introduced the concepts of the Flash Family, unifying DC's speedsters into one family dynamic, while also introducing beloved speedster Bart Allen (Impulse). Waid introduced the concept of the Speed Force, which has become central to the Flash mythos and gave the franchise a more mythical element. Waid's run told larger than life stories that could span across time and space, or just focus on one city, but all were steeped in strong character work. His run is considered the definitive run on the franchise, and nothing that follows is looked as highly upon, including Waid's own returns to the book.
    • Geoff Johns' run is considered this too, though is also considered not as good as Waid's. Johns brought in a smaller scope, focusing on world-building with Keystone City and Central City. Johns' run is also known for its strong villains, bringing back the Rogues, setting up some new characters, and bringing in fan-favourite villain Hunter Zolomon, a character that is considered incredibly sympathetic yet monstrous, and incredibly powerful without being overpowered, along with having an interesting motivation and personal relationship with Wally, to the point that every evil Speedster has been negatively compared to him. Johns' run is also known for how it gradually built up over time, with almost every arc leading to an epic conclusion. Like Waid, subsequent Flash works are often negatively compared to Johns' run, including Johns' own subsequent Flash work with Barry Allen (Wally's predecessor as the Flash).
  • Greg Rucka's run on Wonder Woman (Rebirth) has resulted in every run after it (and it was the first of the series) being negatively compared to it. It reintroduced Wonder Woman's post-Crisis origin while updating it to incorporate the Cheetah and was very well-liked for being sentimental and heartfelt while never being boring, and interesting inclusion of the Greek Gods that incorporated more recent and nuanced interpretations of them. The following runs are disliked for either being boring, bringing back Wonder Woman's disliked New 52 origin or disliked interpretations of the Greek Gods.
  • Judd Winick's take on the second Robin Jason Todd, who he brought back and turned into sympathetic anti-hero Red Hood in the Under The Hood story arc. His run became so popular that the succeeding writers tried to emulate it to mixed results and even acclaimed writer Grant Morrison was not able to reach the same level of popularity as Winicks.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes managed to be this for its entire medium. Ever since it ended in 1995, there have been dozens of comic strips released with varying degrees of reception, but not a single newspaper comic (or even webcomic) has been as beloved or made as much of a mark as Calvin and Hobbes. The comic strip has also been this for its creator, Bill Watterson, who retired from cartooning after ending the strip in 1995 and went many, many years without writing or illustrating anything to be sold to the public.
  • Prior to this, the comic-strip tough act was Long Runner Peanuts, which went from a small daily strip to a franchise including animated specials, feature films, comic books, and even amusement parks and which altered the format and expectations of the comics page from gags or adventure serials, running almost fifty years with one artist. It even both predated and outlasted Calvin and Hobbes, the only paradigm-shifting daily comic that had anywhere near the impact.

    Fan Works 
  • Rhyme and Reason was the first Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers Fan Fic ever written that was meant to be a Fan Fic, but it was also on the verge of staying the only one of its kind. Since there were no other CDRR fics around, it was seen as the reference for everything to follow. However, it used to be the longest of all CDRR fics, it's very well written, and it's also very intense. After all, it tied for Best All-Time Fanfic with Of Mice and Mayhem at the Golden Acorn Awards for several years in a row until both were declared ineligible to give other fics a chance. When it was released in spring 1996 after some two years of writing and several months of proofreading and editing, the Rangerphiles believed that all CDRR fics to come had to live up to these high standards. As they felt they couldn't write anything even close to it, they decided not to write anything at all.
    It wasn't until 1997 that another CDRR fic was published. The Robo|\|erd's series The Adventures of Gadget Hackwrench is vastly different from Rhyme and Reason, and it demonstrated that CDRR fanfic doesn't have to try its hardest to mimic this masterpiece in any way to be worth reading. The number of CDRR fanfics grew quickly from then on.
  • Malaysian artist ayyk92 will probably never be able to top Bowsette's humongous memetic success, which even spawned a fan event in Japan (where the character is known as Koopa-hime) and a fairly long entry on The Other Wiki.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Disney Animated Canon:
    • One of Walt Disney's early successes was the cartoon short The Three Little Pigs (which featured the song "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?") Other follow-up cartoons with the same characters were less successful, which prompted Walt to comment, "You can't top pigs with pigs."note 
    • Following Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' massive success, the only other films from the canon released during Walt's lifetime to have been immediately successful both critically and financially were Dumbo, Cinderella, Peter Pan, and 101 Dalmatians. Even worse is that it wasn't only because of how high Snow White set the bar, but because many of the other films were not immediately successful for a variety of reasons (for example, Pinocchio, Fantasia, and Bambi were released during World War II, while Alice in Wonderland and Sleeping Beauty, as well as Bambi, also received mixed reviews at best). At least Walt did live to see some of his films undergo re-appraisals.
    • The Sword in the Stone would probably be better known today if it hadn't been released between two of Walt Disney's biggest animated hits, 101 Dalmatians and The Jungle Book (1967).
    • The Rescuers Down Under had a very tough act to follow in The Little Mermaid and boy, did that turn out ugly (receiving mixed-to-negative reviews and flopping at the box office, getting overwhelmed by Home Alone). Down Under is today one of Disney's obscurities, barely known by the general public (also being followed by Beauty and the Beast), although it has become a Cult Classic in its own right. Heck, it is even generally considered to be even better than its predecessor, The Rescuers in practically every way.
    • In The '90s, Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules were the three films immediately following The Lion King (1994). These are also the three most controversial 1990s Disney Animated Canon entries, although Hercules was received much better than Hunchback, and both were received better than the decidedly So Okay, It's Average Pocahontas. Mulan and Tarzan in turn were received better than Hercules and Hunchback. All five, however, are usually as fondly remembered by children of The '90s as the earlier canon installments.
    • Fantasia 2000 came a whopping sixty years after Fantasia. To say this trope was fully into effect at the time of the release is putting it mildly. Even Roy E. Disney asked that viewers not take it as the same art piece the original was intended to be.
    • Bambi II tops that with a world record sixty-four years after the original film. Compared to most other Disney sequels, it is actually something of a Cult Classic, though naturally pales against one of Disney's first and most iconic animated films. It should be noted that Disney also considered and turned down sequels for Dumbo, Pinocchio, and even Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. What a bad time to be Vindicated by History.
    • Ironically reversed in between the releases of Home on the Range and The Princess and the Frog. Range wasn't well received by the entire Disney community and audiences alike (despite getting at least mixed to average reviews from critics, according to a 54% on Rotten Tomatoes... no joke!), Princess could be nothing but spectacular compared to it.
    • Big Hero 6 got hit with this for similar reasons to The Sword in the Stone. While the movie itself was far from a failure, it does tend to get overlooked because it was released in between the cultural phenomenon Frozen and the enormously popular Zootopia, both of which made over a billion dollars at the box office. It also leads into the problem of optics: Frozen and Zootopia were sleeper hits that weren't expected to make anywhere near as much money as they did, while Big Hero 6 was a superhero movie made during a golden age of superhero movie profitability, so while its $657 million gross does make it one of the biggest movies ever for Disney Animation, it also made it the lowest-grossing major superhero film of 2014. Its opening weekend was in fact considered so unremarkable that the Hollywood trades didn't even focus on Big Hero 6 taking the #1 spot in the U.S., but rather on Christopher Nolan's hugely-anticipated Interstellar "embarrassingly" taking the #2 spot behind a Disney cartoon. It doesn't help that people in countries like the UK had to wait months before it came to cinemas there, by which point most people had either watched it illegally or just lost interest.
  • Pixar:
    • Up:
      • Due to how well-loved this movie is, practically every Pixar film following it is compared to Up, leading to all sorts of reactions along the lines of, "It was good, but not as good as Up."
      • In a weird way the prologue of the film can act this way to the rest of the film. It's not uncommon for people to say that the first 10 minutes were so well done the rest of the film can feel disappointing by comparison.
    • Lee Unkrich admitted to waking up physically ill from worry while directing Toy Story 3, afraid he would screw up the series. He turned out to be wrong, as the third film was able to get extremely positive reviews by the fans and critics alike. Unfortunately, that warm response has made Toy Story 3 this for Pixar; their next film, Cars 2, was the company's first outright failure with critics, while Brave didn't exactly help matters (in spite of it still garnering positive reviews and winning the Best Animated Feature Oscar for 2012, it was a surprise win over Disney's better-received Wreck-It Ralph), with Monsters University being the studio's lone standout of the period (the critically better-received of the trio).
    • The Good Dinosaur fell into this rut. The film's delayed release resulted in it debuting just five months after Inside Out, the film that was heralded as Pixar's return to form and one of the greatest family films of the decade, if not of all time. As a result, the movie was generally well-received, more so than Pixar's Cars 2 beforehand, but not nearly as much as its predecessor and only around the same lines as Brave and Monsters University.
    • Expectations for Finding Dory were extremely high, both due to coming 13 years after its predecessor Finding Nemo and the fact that it would center on fan-favorite Dory.. Consensus-wise, Finding Dory isn't seen as epic-scale as the hype led expectations for it to be, but is still regarded by many to be a worthy follow-up to Finding Nemo nonetheless (especially with its record-breaking box-office results, such as the highest-grossing animated film in North America since Shrek 2).
    • The announcement that Toy Story 4 was in production was met with an extremely polarizing reaction within mere minutes, especially from those who thought that the aforementioned Toy Story 3 was the perfect ending for the franchise and that any further movies would be stomping all over said ending (or, at the very least, were skeptical that 4 would garner as enjoyable or emotional of an experience as 3 did). In spite of this, upon release, the movie was ultimately a success with critics and fans and regarded to be just as good as the first three movies (though some still swear up and down and all-around that the third movie should have been the end of the franchise).
    • Onward is a lesser case. Everyone agrees it's a good movie, but the problem is that Pixar set the bar too high. Then came it being the lowest-grossing Pixar film due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, and the much more acclaimed Soul coming later that year to push Onward a bit further down.
  • Pixar's rivals at Dreamworks Animation are also liable to suffer this as well:
    • Shark Tale came out just after Shrek 2 became a smash. The film's attempt to be a more mature story (with the death of an instrumental character) didn't tune in with either audiences nor critics, and was received much less favorably. This film also followed Finding Nemo, and got two negative labels: being called a mess of all of the negative clichés for which DWA has been derided, and having the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score out of all of their movies. It didn't help that the studio's following film, Madagascar would become wildly popular.
    • Monsters vs. Aliens was a milder version, as it was sandwiched between Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon, with both becoming notable for marking Dreamworks' turn into more story-based films.
    • The studio entered a devastating rout after Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted: A few films like The Croods, Mr. Peabody & Sherman and How to Train Your Dragon 2 became modest successes although neither got much notice. On the other side, Rise of the Guardians, Turbo and Penguins of Madagascar became notorious bombs that almost bankrupted the studio. After Penguins was released, DreamWorks's PDI branch was closed while COO Mark Zoradi (a 30-year Disney vet who had only joined the studio months earlier), and CCO Bill Damaschke were fired. By 2015 however, Home (2015) gave studio a badly-needed boost and Kung Fu Panda 3 became as successful as the series' previous entries.
    • Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After also struggled to live up to the well received first two movies in the series.
    • It's thought that Ruby Gillman, Teenage Kraken coming off the heels of Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, widely regarded as one of the greatest films the studio has ever made, was one of the contributing factors in Ruby Gillman ultimately becoming one of the studio's biggest box-office failures in the studio's history. After The Last Wish told an ambitious story dealing with very deep themes, while also featuring incredible animation and a spot-on sense of humor, Ruby Gillman featuring a more conventional story and themes (which wasn't helped by the trailers spoiling much of the movie's few genuine surprises) resulted in audiences being much less interested in seeing it.
  • My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Rainbow Rocks is considered a Surprisingly Improved Sequel and Growing the Beard to the Equestria Girls Spin-Off. Its sequel, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games, had a lot to live up to. Opinions are divided regarding how well it compares.
  • Warner Animation Group
    • The LEGO Batman Movie had the bad luck to follow the critically acclaimed The LEGO Movie. While Batman is seen as a good movie, which turned a profit at the box office, it's generally considered somewhat of a step down, with much lower tallies than TLM.
    • Storks was an even bigger example, being Warner Animation Group's second movie, and its first entirely original property. This movie had a different crew behind it, and was met with far less praise from critics, as well as having to contend with The Magnificent Seven on opening weekend. While it was ultimately the more profitable film thanks to a lower budget and far better overseas numbers ($109.7 million compared to The Magnificent Seven's $68.9), it was still considered a disappointment by Warner Bros.
    • The LEGO Ninjago Movie failed to win over critics who enjoyed both of the two previous theatrical Lego movies, with reviews calling it too generic, with less effort to appeal to older audience members. These turned it into WAG's first movie with a Rotten RT score, as well as its first box-office bomb.
  • Marcell Jankovics's Johnny Corncob was a sensation in his home, being the first Hungarian animated feature and a celebration of the greatest work of his country's greatest poet. His other films, Son of the White Horse, Song of the Miraculous Hind and The Tragedy of Man were met with more disinterest — White Horse was a flop and Tragedy took almost three decades to finish due to the lack of support. Pannonia Film Studio itself would produce bomb after bomb after bomb in the wake of Corncob until films like Vuk the Little Fox and Cat City brought them back to top. At least Son of the White Horse is better regarded now, having become an international Cult Classic.
  • More and more this trope continues to bite Laika in the behind. While they do received plenty of praise and respect for their Stop-Motion efforts, none of their later films have yet to reach the critical and financial success of their 2009 breakthrough hit Coraline, which continues to cast a shadow over all of their work to this day. Laika's subsequent films have gone on to become just comparatively modest successes or outright flops. 2019's Missing Link was the most egregious victim yet, having made only $27 million on a budget of over $100 million.
  • Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz: The Surprisingly Improved Sequel nature of the film and how it stands above the average Tom and Jerry Direct to Video flick make it likely that any movie following it would have felt like a letdown. Franchise Killer Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory would have been poorly received by just about any standards, but coming on the heels of this film just emphasized that failure for many fans.

  • The Boeing 747, upon its first flight, was the world's largest passenger aircraft. Known as the Queen of the Skies, it has changed aviation forever and it's still going strong for more than 50 years. By the time Airbus unveiled the A380 however, times have changed. Although it is bigger than the 747, it couldn't keep up with the demands such as fuel efficiency and passenger load. Also, there are fewer A380 orders compared to the 747 and its family. Even worse, there are some airports capable of handling a 747, but not an A380! After more than a decade since its launch, Airbus has decided to halt its production and some airlines started to retire the A380 and focus on smaller planes which are more fuel efficient and feasible than the A380. This shows that future jumbo passenger aircraft couldn't match the impact and success of the Queen.
    • The 747-400 variant is this for the 747 family. Since its launch in the late 80s, it has become the most successful 747 variant, outlasting its predecessors. Although more airlines are retiring that variant, including Delta and United, the 747-400 is still around, with British Airways being the largest operator. When the new 747-8 is launched, in spite of the success of its cargo variant, its passenger variant isn't as big of a hit as that of the 747-400.
  • W. C. Fields once said that the only act he couldn't follow onstage was The Marx Brothers. He is known to have appeared on the same bill with them only once, during an engagement at Keith's Orpheum Theatre in Columbus, Ohio, in January 1915. At the time, the Marx Brothers were touring "Home Again", and it didn't take Fields long to realize how his quiet comedy juggling act was faring against the anarchy of the Marxes. Fields later wrote of the engagement (and the Marxes):
    They sang, danced, played harp and kidded in zany style. Never saw so much nepotism or such hilarious laughter in one act in my life. The only act I could never follow... I told the manager I broke my wrist and quit."
  • An unusual version: When Jim Henson died in 1990, his friends and family hosted an elaborate memorial service in New York's Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Few present were entirely prepared for Big Bird to show up in formal attire and just barely manage to sing a heart-wrenching rendition of "Bein' Green." He concluded the song by looking at the ceiling and saying, "Thank you, Kermit," before walking away and leaving the entire cathedral in Stunned Silence. The next speaker was Henson's longtime friend and collaborator Bernie Brillstein, who was faced with basically doing the impossible - so he decided to acknowledge as much, and was met with a great deal of relieved laughter.
    Brillstein: Jim told me: "Never follow the bird."

  • Most of Pat Lawlor's pins after The Addams Family and Twilight Zone are unfairly dismissed by players just because they fail (or are perceived to fail) to live up to the lofty standards set by those two blockbusters.
  • Popeye Saves the Earth just happened to come after big successes in pinball like the aforementioned The Twilight Zone and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Though far from the best game ever made, it was critically ravaged like it was the worst. This affected the manufacturer quite heavily, as this string of successes prompted arcade operators to pre-order pinball machines in large quantities sight unseen, confident that whatever was released next would be just as good. However, the weak early response to Popeye Saves the Earth by players terrified these operators, knowing they had paid a lot of money for Popeye Saves the Earth without the ability to return them. Some arcade game historians say that Popeye Saves the Earth falling below expectations scared enough operators from buying pinball that it was a direct cause of the industry's near total collapse a few years later.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Starrcade 86 was the last hurrah of Jim Crockett Promotions, and perhaps, the National Wrestling Alliance, as the NWA would survive but never again reach such heights. JCP, though, was dead within two years. Of course, this was somewhat deliberate, as Vince McMahon was hard at work to ensure Starrcade '87 would flop, going so far as to create another pay-per-view (Survivor Series) for the sole purpose of running against it and telling all the cable companies that picking Starrcade meant they wouldn't get WrestleMania IV the next yearnote .
  • This typically happens on a PPV when the best match of the night isn't the main event. Shawn Michaels was particularly guilty of this throughout his career, hence his nickname "The Show Stealer".
    • WrestleMania III: Downplayed with the Randy Savage vs. Ricky Steamboat Intercontinental champions. That match is considered one of the best of all time and one that helped shape the WWF’s reputation as an actual wrestling organization rather than an entertainment company. That being said, it hasn’t overshadowed the main event between Hulk Hogan vs. André the Giant: While it was generally considered to be a bad match at the time, that has long been eclipsed by its historical significance as a clash of the titans.
    • WrestleMania 13: A pretty weak Mania that was saved by arguably one of the greatest matches in the event's history: the submission match between "Stone Cold" Steve Austin and Bret Hart. The intensity, the work rate, the psychology, the booking, the finish, the post-match angle, and the fallout were all perfect. It was so great, that it pretty much overshadowed the rest of the matches of the card, including the forgettable main event headlined by Sycho Sid and The Undertaker.
    • King of the Ring 1998: The infamous Hell in a Cell match between The Undertaker and Mankind. This match is so iconic that most people don't even remember that this wasn't the main event of that PPV, which was "Stone Cold" Steve Austin vs Kane in a First Blood match, nor the titular tournament that took place that night, which was won by Ken Shamrock.
    • WrestleMania X8: The Rock vs Hulk Hogan. This is a weird case in that though it headlined the PPV, it wasn't the main event because it didn't go last like it was supposed to. Instead, management lobbied for the title match between Triple H and Chris Jericho to go last instead.
    • WrestleMania XXV: Shawn Michaels vs The Undertaker. They showed up everybody, and the crowd was effectively dead for the rest of the night. Understandably, their rematch next year was made the main event (aided by the fact that it was HBK's retirement match). The rematch is itself an example, while it was also considered one of the best matches of all time, it's not quite as highly regarded as the first one.
    • Money in the Bank 2011: CM Punk vs John Cena. This match got a five-star rating from Dave Meltzer — the last time the WWE managed that was the first Hell in a Cell match between HBK and the Undertaker (which was also Kane's debut). While every match Punk and Cena had together afterwards easily clocked at four stars and above, it's kinda hard to match this one for a variety of reasons, mainly being the atmosphere just isn't as charged as it was in Chicago (CM's hometown, by the way), and the stakes just weren't as high, lowering the drama factor. It's not helped that this is considered to be one of the best matches WWE has put on in years (with some even going on to say that it's the best match in WWE history).
    • WrestleMania XXVIII: Triple H vs The Undertaker in Hell in a Cell with Shawn Michaels as the special guest referee. In a 'Mania headlined by The Rock vs John Cena, this is the match that everyone thinks about.
    • WWE NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn: Bayley vs Sasha Banks. The fact that it was a Divas match of all things made it more surprising, but afterwards many consider it to be the greatest women's match in WWE history (despite the fact that it was on a developmental brand), and one of the matches of the year. In fact, the biggest, glaring flaw that everyone saw in the Finn Bálor vs Kevin Owens ladder match, a sure show stealer on any other card, was the fact that it had to follow this one, and that match was relegated to a footnote. It was so good that their rematch got to headline the next special, making history in the process. Like with Taker/HBK, while the sequel was also considered amazing, most people still prefer the first.
    • WrestleMania 29: CM Punk vs The Undertaker. In a 'Mania headlined by The Rock vs John Cena, this is the match that everyone thinks about. Granted, this one is debatable seeing as not only was it the best match, many believe it was the only good match on the card (besides the always decent Daniel Bryan match).
    • WWE NXT TakeOver: Dallas: Sami Zayn vs Shinsuke Nakamura. Expectations were already high enough considering the resumes both had, and this was Nakamura's debut match and Zayn's last NXT match, but then both men proceeded to blow those expectations out of the water. An instant classic, this match is nigh-universally considered the best match in all of 2016's WrestleMania weekend and one of the forerunners for match of the year. Even the highly anticipated Asuka vs Bayley match for the NXT Women's Championship wasn't able to live up to it, nor was the rematch for the NXT Championship between Samoa Joe and Finn Bálor, and both, under normal circumstances, would've been sure fire contenders for match of the night.
    • Battleground 2016: Sami Zayn vs Kevin Owens. Great spots, perfect storytelling, and an emotional ending, it was the perfect match to cap off their rivalry (for now). What makes this even better is that this show had The Shield Triple Threat for the WWE Championship on it, and that was an amazing match as well. The fact that Zayn and KO managed to steal the show from one of the most anticipated matches in WWE history is nothing short of astounding.note 
    • WWE Roadblock: Dean Ambrose vs Triple H. Though it was mainly this in regards to Roman Reigns vs Triple H at WrestleMania 32. It was absolutely no secret that most fans wanted Ambrose in the main event that year. While the company wasn't willing to relent on Reigns, they gave a title match to Ambrose at a WWE Network special as compensation, while Reigns was out for his deviated septum. The match Ambrose had with Hunter ended up being the main forerunner for Match of the Year until Nakamura/Zayn happened at Dallas. Ultimately, the match Reigns and Hunter had wasn't able to live up to it.
    • WWE NXT TakeOver: New Orleans: The entire event was this for the then-upcoming WrestleMania 34, and arguably for every NXT TakeOver special from here on out. Already having its own Tough Act to Follow in NXT TakeOver: Philadelphia, which ended in a five-star classic between then-NXT Champion Andrade "Cien" Almas and Johnny Gargano (the first WWE match to get this rating since the above-mentioned Cena/Punk match seven years ago), New Orleans completely outdid Philadelphia, with only one match clocking below four stars, and being bookended by two five-star matches; the opening match, which was an epic six man-ladder match to crown the first ever North American Champion, and the main event, which was the long-anticipated unsanctioned grudge match between former tag team partners turned bitter Arch-Enemies Johnny Gargano and Tommaso Ciampa.
    • WrestleMania 34: Ronda Rousey and Kurt Angle vs Stephanie McMahon and Triple H. Yes, really. Blowing even the best expectations out of the water, this match completely undid the entire crowd, and Ronda went from being derided by the IWC to their newest darling almost as soon as the match was over. It was so good that even Dave Meltzer felt that WrestleMania should've been over after that. Not even the highly-anticipated AJ Styles vs. Shinsuke Nakamura match (which had the added handicaps of a dead crowd and Hype Backlash) could live up to it.
    • At the 2018 all-women's Evolution PPV, the main event was Ronda Rousey vs Nikki Bella and - while most critics found it to be a fine match - it had only a month of build-up. And it had the bad luck to follow an incredibly intense Last Woman Standing match between Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair - who had been feuding since the summer, and Becky was enjoying her biggest surge in popularity yet. It's generally agreed that Ronda vs Nikki was only put as the main event to give the PPV the star power to convince WWE to have it in the first place. The Last Woman Standing match was thirty minutes, full of high spots and officially crowned Becky Lynch as the Smackdown Women's Champion (there had been fears that Charlotte would win the belt back) - while the main event was only fifteen minutes and tainted by the build-up making Ronda Unintentionally Unsympathetic.
    • WrestleMania 38 saw two of the biggest X-Pac Heat-magnets in Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair face off to the collective apathy of the fandom. While many will say the match itself was decent on its own, the disdain the crowd had for both along with following two match of the year candidates in Becky Lynch vs Bianca Belair and Seth Rollins vs Cody Rhodes (the latter being Cody's return after his time in AEW) back-to-back made them less enthusiastic to cheer either woman, with the only reason most of the crowd hadn't clocked out was the anticipation for "Stone Cold" Steve Austin's possible (and eventually confirmed) in-ring return.
  • WCW in regards to TNA. TNA was originally created to fill the void that WCW left — the problem was that the times had changed and a lot of the stuff that made WCW so big were either regarded as passé or had their flaws magnified by TNA's attempts to rehash it. Then they started emulating the stuff that killed WCW during its disastrous final years (not-so-coincidentally, this was when Vince Russo returned to the booking team), and somehow made WCW look better in comparison.
  • The NXT women's division as a whole pulled this on the main roster women from the 2014-2015 period. NXT started giving the women time to wrestle, feuds that had meaning, fans were into them and the matches were usually hits. The match that really put NXT's women on the map - Charlotte vs Natalya at Takeover - was followed by a series of lackluster matches in the feud between A.J. Lee and Paige. General consensus was that the main roster women's matches were okay, but had no chance of overshadowing NXT. The 2014 TLC PPV was the worst offender, taking place only five days after an NXT special.
  • The annual Royal Rumble PPV always has the titular match as the main event. By nature of the match's design, the Royal Rumble keeps the crowd constantly active, wearing them out by the end when they finally reach the winner. As a result, the rare occurrence where the match isn't in the main event has the following matches having to endure dead crowds. This problem only got worse during the 2018 Royal Rumble PPV, where there were two Rumble matches thanks to the historic, first ever women's Royal Rumble. Because of the novelty of the match, the women's match was the main event that year and the men's match was placed in the middle of the show, exhausting the Philadelphia crowd for the following two matches. The women's match managed to wake them up, but needed the aid of a proportionally larger amount of nostalgia/surprise entrants than the usual Rumble match (going by the formula of the men's match) to do so.
  • Lisa Marie Varon - in her 'Victoria' persona - had her first major feud against Trish Stratus. Considered one of the most intense women's feuds in WWE, it involved hardcore matches, table matches and street fights, and a memorable segment where Trish was knocked out with a steel chair! It climaxed in a triple threat at WrestleMania XIX (involving Jazz as well) also considered one of the best women's matches at the event. Although she became Women's Champion again, and stayed with WWE until 2009 (and had a decent run in TNA for another few years after that), she still couldn't recapture the intensity of that first feud. It didn't help that her character became Denser and Wackier, and was more often treated as a joke.

  • Microsoft Windows:
    • Throughout the The '80s and The '90s, Windows slowly but steadily matured, staring out as a highly limited graphical environment for MS-DOS and growing into a more capable, fully-fledged operating system. Windows XP, released in 2001, represented the culmination of this maturity; it completely ditched any sort of dependency on DOS and was based on the previously business-oriented Windows NT codebase. Since NT was built from the ground up to be a multitasking OS with protected memory and improved dependency management, it had greatly improved stability compared to prior, DOS-based releases of Windows. In spite of some notable remaining flaws (especially when it came to security), many users thought it was "good enough", especially after many of these issues were ironed out by service packsnote . Microsoft seems to have been aware of this, and thus sought to make XP's successor, Windows Vista, into a revolutionary product packed with cutting edge features that would entice even the most die-hard XP fans to upgrade. Unfortunately, this made Vista into an overly ambitious project that ended up releasing in an unfinished state despite its protracted development time. Users and hardware manufacturers both refused to adopt it due to its high hardware requirements, buginess, instability and incompatibility with existing hardware and software.
    • Microsoft followed up Vista with Windows 7, which many described as "What Vista should have been," or "Vista with the kinks worked out." It had all of Vista's improvements to security and graphics, but with the stability and compatibility of XPnote , leading it to become Microsoft's new Tough Act to Follow. Indeed, they struggled to follow up 7 much in the same way they struggled to follow up XP. Upon its reveal, many bashed Windows 8 for shoehorning an interface designed for phones and tablets into an OS primarily used on desktops and laptops. While Windows 10 managed to Win Back the Crowd to a significant degree, it still had a few controversial elements such as forced updatesnote , and a shift towards a "software as a service" model that pushes things like advertisements in the OS and brings privacy issues through increased data collection, all of which makes some Windows users long for the Golden Age of 7.

  • Any team that was led to success by a standout athlete has trouble after he goes away - best example being the Michael Jordan-less Chicago Bulls.
    • Or the Denver Broncos without John Elway. It's actually eerie how similar those two turned out: Jordan was universally regarded as basketball's greatest player, while Elway was a top class quarterback. Both retired in 1999 after winning championships, and neither team has truly recovered. (Of course, Jordan came back with another team, but we prefer to not think about that)
    • Another would be the Miami Dolphins without Dan Marino, and the Buffalo Bills without Jim Kelly. The San Francisco 49ers managed to avert this after losing Joe Montana due to Steve Young proving to be a worthy successor, but became a straight example once they no longer had Young or Jerry Rice.
    • Subverted by the Green Bay Packers, who were lucky enough to have the equally exceptional Aaron Rodgers waiting in the wings to replace Brett Favre (much like how the aforementioned 49ers were able to replace Joe Montana with Steve Youngnote ). On the other hand, this means that 2020 first-round draft pick Jordan Love, who was named the starter after Rodgers was traded ahead of the 2023 season, has a really tough act to follow, as he's not only following Rodgers (which would already be a pretty big shadow in itself), but, in a sense, the combined legacy of the Favre-and-Rodgers duo.
    • In Formula One, Ferrari after Michael Schumacher. Or any other team.
      • Schumacher's career after he returned to the sport after retirement. The most race wins in Formula One history, most driver championships and all around legendary. Naturally it would be impossible for him to live up to his own record since he hadn't raced in F1 for a number of years and he wasn't in a team as good as Ferrari. Initially he got some flak (which everybody noted for being unreasonable) for not being his "old self" but his post-retirement career has been respectable. Fortunately, this made Kimi Raikkonen's return to the sport easier as people accepted that they couldn't expect too much - his post-retirement career has been equally respectable.
      • In Brazil, any Formula 1 driver after Ayrton Senna; that included his nephew Bruno. Rubens Barrichello in particular got some flak for being the new Brazilian driver but unlike Senna not having his prowess, powerful car or luck, until, that is, he pulled the proverbial rabbit out of his hat by beating The Stig.
      • This got nearly avoided with Felipe Massa, especially during the 2008 season where he briefly was unofficially World Drivers' Champion for about 10-30 seconds, before Lewis Hamilton managed to finish in the points to become Champion by one point.
      • In the UK this has an odd occurrence, having produced so many successful drivers means that not one of them is overwhelmingly considered to be the greatest (Moss, Clark, Stewart, Hill, Mansell and Hamilton all being equally well regarded for example) but the commentary partnership of Murray Walker and James Hunt (or Martin Brundle) and the BBC's use of "The Chain" as the theme song for the coverage are so etched into the public mind that any other suggestions will always be compared to that.
    • Every Brazilian National Football (Soccer) Team after the Pelé-led team of Mexico 1970. The winning teams of 1994 and 2002 have come close, but since Korea-Japan the team has been increasingly beaten in any World Cup they are in, leading to the "Verde-amarela"'s infamous 7x1 loss against Germany in the 2014 World Cup.
    • Argentina and the "Maradona Curse": Diego Maradona's infamous doping-related retirement in the 1994 World Cup led to the downfall of the same team which had won two World Cups in 1978 and 1986, and the last two (South) America Cups, their 1993 championship being the most recent trophy for the "Albiceleste". And while they got the upper hand in Brazil '14, they were crushed by Germany in the finals, while beaten one year later by Chile in the 2015 Copa América (and one year later as well in the "Centennial Cup"). This has gotten to the point Messi has been mocked for his subpar performance for his national team while being Barcelona's superstar. Only in 2021 he got a title with the senior Argentinian teamnote  by breaking that Copa América drought, and followed that up by winning the World Cup in 2022.
    • Also in soccer: For a long time, the USA women's national team was this after the groundbreaking World Cup champions of 1999. Despite four Olympic golds since then, it took 20 years for the team to completely exit the shadow of the 1999 team. The 2011 World Cup team came close, but lost to Japan in the final. The shadow finally lifted in 2015, when the USWNT dispatched longtime nemesis Germany in the semifinals and got revenge against Japan in the final. It went away decisively in 2019, when they dominated what by all accounts was the strongest women's field ever assembled to repeat as champions.note 
    • English examples. England's 1966 World Cup winning squad (the England team of later years has been more notorious for its failures). Liverpool in the 1980's (after being crowned champions in 1990, they would have to wait until 2020 for their next league title), Manchester United's 1999 Treble winning side, Arsenal's Invincibles from 2004.
    • The New York Yankees will never be as loved as when they had Babe Ruth. They probably will never even be as loved as when they had Mickey Mantle. Respected, maybe. Feared, yes...
    • Bill Mazeroski, the Hall of Fame second baseman for the Pittsburgh Pirates, called his walk-off home run to win the 1960 World Series to complete an upset of the Yankees "a curse in disguise." He was never a prolific hitter, and outside of Pirates fans, people saw only that home run, not realizing he is the best defensive second baseman to have ever played the game.
    • Roger Maris, after breaking Babe Ruth's single season record for home runs claimed the rest of his career would have been "a helluva lot more fun" had he never done that.
    • Any league with a salary cap essentially forces this as any team with a surprisingly good year is forced to get rid of half their players since they're now demanding pay raises, especially if they win the championship. Aversions happen in teams that are centered around a few key players or have excellent general managers.
    • When legendary goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel left Manchester United in 2000, the Red Devils had a tough time finding a 'keeper good enough to replace him; Mark Bosnich and Massimo Taibi were busts, Fabien Barthez was good but inconsistent, Roy Carroll wasn't good enough, and Tim Howard only became a star after he was transferred to Everton. In 2006, United finally got a star GK in Edwin van der Sar; some even consider him better than Schmeichel left. This was averted when van der Sar retired in 2011; while replacement goalkeeper David De Gea initially had some struggles, he eventually adapted to the Premier League and became one of the best, if not THE best, 'keepers in the world (while becoming Spain's own replacement for Iker Casillas).
    • The other big #23 of basketball, LeBron James, caused this twice to the Cleveland Cavaliers, as the team became a bottom-feeder following both of his departures.
  • Manchester United manager cases:
    • No manager has yet been successful at replacing Sir Alex Ferguson. Fergie's replacement David Moyes was an abject failure, turning a title-winner into a mid-table side, while Moyes's own successor Louis van Gaal was widely derided for boring tactics, underachievement versus smaller teams, and a host of disappointing signings.note  Next came José Mourinho, who basically destroyed his reputation with even more underachievement, plus conflicts with players and management, that saw him sacked after a poor start to the 2018–19 season. The ship was righted to a certain extent when former United star Ole Gunnar Solskjær was hired as caretaker manager, improving things to the point that the "caretaker" label was removed near the end of the season, and after a shaky start to 2019–20 leading a youthful side to a third-place finish and Champions League football for 2020–21, but the jury is definitely still out on that.
    • The managers who came after Matt Busby's retirement in 1969 suffered from this: Wilf McGuinness was out of his depth, Frank O'Farrell didn't get along with the players and made some terrible signings, Tommy Docherty relegated the Red Devils (he did bring then back to the top flight, though, made a couple of title challenges and won the FA Cup) Dave Sexton's style of play was sleep-inducing, and Ron Atkinson, despite never finishing lower than fourth and winning two FA Cups couldn't knock Liverpool off their 80's dominance. Ferguson himself was close to being another failed successor to Busby, but an FA Cup win in 1990, followed by great signings (Peter Schmeichel, Andrei Kanchelskis, Denis Irwin, and Eric Cantona) and a legendary batch of Academy graduates, ensured that he would successfully live up to Busby's legacy and outshine Busby himself.
  • Arsenal FC in two cases.
    • First, the 2003/04 Arsenal side became the first team since Preston North End in the late 1800s to win a league season unbeaten. At first, it seemed like Arsenal were due to take their place among Europe's elite, as they regularly made it deep into the Champions League, and even made a final in 2006. Following that Champions League final defeat, they have yet to return anywhere near those lofty heights again, and haven't even won the league since that 2004 invincible season. In fact, they've regressed to the point where they're currently fighting just to stay in the Top 7.
    • Second, the managerial succession following the stepping-down of Arsene Wenger. Wenger was the manager who led them to these titles, and even managed a few FA Cup wins in his final seasons. However, each coach that has followed him has done worse, both highlighting just how excellent of a manager Wenger was, and causing the team to slip further and further away from success again. First, Unai Emery seemed to be getting Arsenal going in the right direction, with a 22-match unbeaten steak in all competitions. But then the team started to slip, before losing a Top 4 finish and getting embarrassed 4-1 in the Europa League final by rivals Chelsea. He was sacked after a truly dismal start to the 2019/20 season. He was replaced by former captain and Manchester City assistant Mikel Arteta, who also seemed to start off on the right foot, getting Arsenal another FA Cup victory (going through Manchester City and Chelsea, no less). However, things turned sour when Arsenal yet again started off the season in horrid form, finding themselves in the lower half of the table heading into December, before the team turned it around, missing out on European football for the first time in literal decades. Next season, however, Arteta's side rebounded to put themselves firmly into the Top 4 race, with convincing wins against sides such as Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, and other competitors like West Ham and Wolverhampton Wanderers. While they are still a long way from reaching the lofty heights Wenger reached, it is clear that the side is on the right track.
  • Leicester City's 2014-2023 Premier League run is perhaps defined by this. A squad initially made mostly of cheap cast-offs led by a manager who never won a title in a 26 year career, they entered sporting legend by becoming the unlikely winners of the 2015/16 title. They followed that up with their 2016/17 season being the worst statistical title defence in over 50 years. They managed to regain their footing over subsequent seasons, reaching 5th in the 2019/20 standings and winning the FA Cup in 2020/21, before rapidly declining again and being relegated in 2023.
  • Tottenham Hotspur spent the first 20 years of the Premier League's existence as outsiders looking in on the success that other teams such as hated rivals Arsenal and Chelsea were experiencing. However, toward the mid 2010s, Tottenham's fortunes began to shift. Led by attacking talent such as homegrown Harry Kane and foreigners Heung-Min Son and Christian Eriksen and managed by young managerial talent Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs began to force their way into title race conversations and looked dead set to become a force to be reckoned with from then on. However, Pochettino never managed to guide Spurs to a trophy win in that time despite multiple Cup Final appearances, and he eventually was sacked after Spurs seemed to flounder not even six months after competing in the Champions League Final. Spurs have since faltered completely, failing to make even the Europa League the previous season and failing to make it out of group in the Europa Conference League in 2021, though they remain in the hunt for Top 4 to close out the 2021/22 season and Antonio Conte has since seemed to stabilize the ship. However, they are still a far cry from the team they were only two seasons ago.
  • This trope is partly the reason why Oakland Athletics fans hate current owner Lew Wolff. The A's former owners Charlie Finley and Walt Haas were nothing short of legendary; Finley was an eccentric yet successful owner who headed the small-market A's during their early 70's "Swinging A's" dominance (thanks in no small part to guys like Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson), while Haas became well loved due to his excellence as an owner (the late 80's-early 90's A's successes were under his ownership) and his constant presence in the East Bay community. Wolff, on the other hand, is a cheapskate who doesn't really care about the A's; his refusal to spend money was what caused the A's to constantly lose stars like Jason Giambi, Johnny Damon, Barry Zito, Yoenis Céspedes, and Josh Donaldson. If it weren't for Billy Beane's Moneyball-based genius, the A's in the 2000s would've become a bigger joke than their equally unsuccessful Oakland neighbors (the pre-Curry Warriors and the post-Gruden Raiders).
  • The Olympic Games are prone to this. Heaven forbid any athlete returning for their second, third, etc. Games doesn't match or improve on their previous performance—1992 Albertville gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi saw this coming a mile away and decided not to return for the 1994 Lillehammer Games.
    • Any sensational record in any sport. At the 1968 Summer Olympics, Bob Beamon set a world record for the long jump with a jump of 8.90 m. Prior to this, the world record had been broken thirteen times since 1901, with an average increase of 6 cm; Beamon's jump bettered the existing record by 55 cm. The defending Olympic champion Lynn Davies told Beamon, "You have destroyed this event." The record stood until 1991. Beamon himself never won another Olympic medal.
    • The absolutely daunting task that any future Olympic Games swimmer will have to face if they try to defeat Michael Phelps' record in Beijing 2008 of winning 8 gold medals in a single Olympics. As of Rio 2016, with 28 medals (23 gold, 3 silver, and 2 bronze) to his name, Phelps is the most decorated Olympian EVER in any event. And to top it off, by surpassing the 12 individual titles won by Leonidas of Rhodes in 152 BC, he also broke a 2168-year-old record set during the Ancient Olympic Games themselves.
    • Jamaica has been desperately searching for its next Usain Bolt since before the Rio Games, with him making it clear that they would be his last and not wanting to lose their well-established sprint dominance. Even so, regardless of nationality, it's unlikely his legendary record of three-peat victories in the 100m, 200m, and 4*100m will ever be matched or broken.note  In a neat demonstration, the following Games only had Jamaican men medaling in the 110m hurdles (the women performed better).
    • The 2000 US women's gymnastics team faced this going into the Sydney Games, knowing that they would be unlikely to measure up to the Magnificent Seven of 1996. Indeed, the USA didn't win a single women's gymnastics medal in Sydney — the team bronze medal that they were eventually awarded was given ten years later after the original bronze medal team was belatedly caught for cheating.
    • While the 2016 team, coming on the heels of the 2012 "Fierce Five", averted this, winning gold just like its predecessor (and performing even better), the 2021 team was sadly unable to follow the trend; they were the favorites for gold after the return of Simone Biles and their commanding victories in the 2018 and 2019 World Championships, but once the Olympics came around (following a year delay due to the COVID-19 Pandemic), Biles struggled and, on the day of the team final, found herself dealing with a loss of spatial orientation that forced her to withdraw from the team competition after one event (an uncharacteristically weak vault) due to the risk of injury; the team would finish in a stunning second place behind Russia in the team final.
    • The 1996 Summer Olympics ended up victims of this compared to the 1992 Summer Olympics, once lots of problems wound up marring things - extreme heat, poor transportation, a questionable mascot and the bombing attack that took place during the middle of the Games.
    • Following the 2010 Winter Olympics, the 2014 Winter Olympics suffers from this as a result of doping scandals and Russia's controversial LGBT laws.
  • As for personal tough acts to follow, quintuple Olympic ski jumping champion Matti Nykänen was a particularly sad case — not only did his sports career plummet with his failure in adopting the modern V style, so did his life. From The Other Wiki: since the 1990s, his status as a celebrity was mainly fueled (...) by his personal relationships, his "career" as a "singer", and various incidents related to heavy use of alcohol and violent behaviour. He ultimately died in 2019 at all of 55, less than three months after having been diagnosed with diabetes. Again, according to The Other Wiki: He reportedly did not adhere to a diet recommended to diabetics and continued to drink alcohol.
  • Brett Favre, after signing with the Minnesota Vikings, had the best season of his career, almost taking the team to the Super Bowl. The second season with them... well...
  • When Andy Roddick won his first Grand Slam and became the World No. 1 in 2003, he was expected to continue the dominant American tennis tradition on the heels of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. Unfortunately, Roger Federer shot to the top of the tennis world soon after and Roddick would never again win a Slam or hold the No. 1 position, but it's a sure bet that even if Federer hadn't been around to beat Roddick in four Slam finals, he would still have been doomed to fall short of Sampras's 14 Slams and Agassi's 8 in spite of being good enough to be included in the Tennis Channel's list of top 100 players.
  • Roger Federer was so good at making dominating the rest of the men's tennis tour look like a walk in the park for him for four years, winning 11 out of 16 Grand Slams in 2004-07 and being ranked No. 1 for a record-breaking 237 consecutive weeks, that him starting to lose more than once in a blue moon after 2007 was viewed by some fans and pundits as him "being in decline" even though he was still easily one of the top 2-3 tennis players in the world year after year. Federer himself said that he had created a "monster of expectations" after his loss to Novak Djokovic in the 2008 Australian Open semifinals was perceived as a disappointment because he had made the finals of the last 10 Slams.
  • In 2012, Novak Djokovic won one Grand Slam, the year-end championships, a total of six titles, and finished the year as No. 1, which would qualify as an incredible season by any reasonable standard — but since this came right after his otherworldly 2011 season in which he won three Grand Slams and went undefeated for over 40 matches, the general consensus of his 2012 season was that it was "good, but not as good as his 2011 season."
  • The 70s dynasty of the "Steel Curtain" Pittsburgh Steelers is not only hard to follow for the franchise itself, but also for most teams in the NFL, even the ones that succeeded in creating Super Bowl winning dynasties themselves. In the case of the Super Bowl, it's called the "Super Bowl Hangover"; the 2004 New England Patriots were the last back-to-back Super Bowl Champions, and, until the 2014 season, were the last team to win a playoff game after winning the Super Bowl the previous season. The latter part was broken by the 2014 Seattle Seahawks, who made Super Bowl XLIX, but lost to the Patriots.
  • Emma Raducanu was an 18 year old with few appearances in professional tournaments when she achieved one hell of a Dark Horse Victory in winning the 2021 U.S. Open emerging from the qualifiers, not losing a single set among the way. This made her an overnight superstar, with a huge boost on the WTA rankings and endorsement deals. And then 2022 had Raducanu alternating underwhelming performances (in no tournaments she won more than two matches) with injuries, culminating in her return to the U.S. Open having her downed in the first round, which would make the player who spend the year in the top 20 fall all the way to 73. Any player in her first full year on tour would struggle, but Raducanu had the increased pressure of entering that having already won a Grand Slam. Her post-match interview following the early exit had Raducanu highlighting "With perspective, actually as a 19-year-old, I've had not a bad year. To be top 100, if you told me that a year ago, I'd take it." and expressing relief that following so much disappointment, "the target will be off my back slightly" for the rest of the tour.
  • It's common in season previews to treat the last champion that retained its core players with "anything less than a repeat will be a disappointment for fans".
  • Any athlete who is the son or daughter of a sporting legend will be compared to their parent. This is subverted (or even inverted) by kids of athletes who outshine their parents in their sport, or even in another sport. Examples include:
    • Baseball: Barry Bonds (son of Bobby), Ken Griffey Jr. (son of Ken Sr.)
    • Basketball: Kobe Bryant (son of Joe "Jellybean"), Stephen Curry (son of Dell), Klay Thompson (son of Mychal), Tamika Catchings (daughter of Harvey)
    • American football: Peyton and Eli Manning (sons of Archie)
    • Association football: Frank Lampard (son of Frank Sr.), Erling Haaland (son of Alf-Inge "Alfie")
    • Professional wrestling: Randy Savage (son of Angelo Poffo), Jake Roberts (son of Grizzly Smith), Ted DiBiase (son of Mike DiBiase), Terry Funk (son of Dory Funk Sr.), Curt Hennig (son of Larry Hennig), The Rock (son of Rocky Johnson and grandson of Peter Maivia), Eddie Guerrero (son of Gory Guerrero), Bret Hart (son of Stu Hart), Randy Orton (son of Bob Orton Jr. and grandson of Bob Orton Sr.), Roman Reigns (son of Sika), Alberto Del Rio (son of Dos Caras), Bray Wyatt (son of Mike Rotunda), Paige (daughter of Saraya and Ricky Knight), Natalya Neidhart (daughter of Jim Neidhart), Carmella (daughter of Paul Van Dale)
    • Cross-sport: Chris Jericho (pro wrestling; son of NHL player Ted Irvine); Grant Hill (basketball; son of NFL star Calvin Hill); Patrick Mahomes (NFL; son of MLB journeyman Pat Mahomes); Lindsay Davenport (tennis; daughter of volleyball player and referee Wink Davenport); Sam Kerr (soccer; daughter of Australian rules football player Roger Kerr)
    • In Formula One Jacques Villeneuve is a curious example. He won the World Championship, and more races than his father Gilles, plus the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar championship. Yet, he still lives somewhat in the shadow of his father even though Gilles never won championships. Mostly this is because Villeneuve Sr. was a very spectacular and charismatic competitor tragically killed in his prime, driving for Ferrari. Also, Jacques' winning career in F1 lasted all of two seasons before he then spent the next decade in the midfield. Of the two, Gilles actually had a longer winning career. (a bigger F1 case is Max Verstappen, who got two titles when his father couldn't even win a race)
    • NASCAR: Richard Petty (son of Lee, himself a NASCAR great but not at his son's level). Likewise, Richard's son Kyle was this to "the King"; as while the younger Petty had a decent career he never reached the success of his father or grandfather.note  Sadly Kyle's son and Richard's grandson Adam Petty (who was likely the first ever fourth generation professional athlete) never got the chance to avert this, as a stuck throttle caused a fatal crash during a NASCAR Busch Series practice in 2000. He was only 19 years old.
  • With the conclusion of Rugby World Cup 2015, with the New Zealand team - the All Blacks - standing victorious once again, the retirement of rugby legends Richie McCaw, Keven Mealamu, Dan Carter, Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu and Tony Woodcock has rugby fans feeling this trope deeply.
  • The Edmonton Oilers have had an extremely tough time following the sudden departure of Wayne Gretzky in 1988. Everyone swore he couldn't be traded, but indeed he was, and the Oilers were left struggling to find their identity without him. Decades came and went with the Oilers struggling to even maintain a decent seasonal record, let alone find their next Gretzky (though they did win one Cup without him in 1990), before they finally seem to have struck gold with Connor McDavid, who to boot wears 97 on his jersey - just two away from the league-forbidden 99 (though the Oilers retired it on their own before the NHL at large did). Gretzky's 99 banner might not be all that big, but it certainly casts a huge shadow for McDavid and his teammates to skate under. He seems largely up for the task, though, guiding the Oilers farther than they had been in years in just his second season of playing for them in 2017. That's not to say there's no pressure on him to turn things around for this franchise, though...
  • After the Vegas Golden Knights subverted the usual expansion team performances by being victorious enough for a Stanley Cup final, the next time the NHL expanded again with the Seattle Kraken, analysts were quick to point out Vegas' instant success created big expectations bound for disappointment, specially when the Kraken were the typical "new team that ends among the league's worst". (ironically, they joined in the same season where Vegas finally faultered and missed the playoffs)
  • The FIFA World Cup has had several instances of defending champions that were knocked out in the first round of the competitionnote 
    • The first defending champion to be knocked out in the first round of a World Cup was Italy in 1950. A combination of external circumstances, such as not having any of the World Cup double-winning players (thanks to the Second World War), the 1949 Superga air disaster killing many of Italy's best players, and poor planning (travelling by boat instead of a plane due to the aforementioned event) led Italy to be defeated by Sweden (who would advance to the finals) and defeating Paraguay, which was not enough to go to the next round.
    • The second example happened in England 1966. Defending champions Brazil were pitted against Bulgaria, Hungary and Portugal, and only beat the first, who employed violent tactics to neutralize Pelé that took him out of the next game, where Hungary showed the messily assembled and coached team was not up to snuff. Portugal, the revelation of the tournament, going all the way to third place, took this even further while also aggressively ensuring Pelé stood pat.
    • The first and most noticeable example comes in 2002. After winning the 1998 World Cup at home turf as well as Euro 2000 and the 2001 Confederations Cup, France makes an embarrassing display not only by being knocked out in a group containing Uruguay, Denmark and first-timers Senegal, but also by failing to score a single goal (a draw against Uruguay and defeats to Denmark and Senegal). It was such a shocker that FIFA assumed France's terrible performance was due to defending champions not needing to play qualifiers, ending up unprepared. Ever since, the defending champion needs to play in the qualifiers to earn their place in the next World Cup. It seemed to go fairly well at first, as Brazil reached quarter-finals in the 2006 World Cup...
    • ... but then, it backfired spectacularly. In the 2010 World Cup, defending champions Italy were handed a very easy group, against first-timers Slovakia and second-timers New Zealand, as well as Paraguay... but ended up in last place by drawing against Paraguay and New Zealand and losing to Slovakia. The other finalist of the 2006 World Cup, France, also failed to get past the group stage (in a group with eventual fourth-placed Uruguay, Mexico and hosts South Africa) after drawing against Uruguay in the first game, and a team-wrecking scandal popping up as they lost against Mexico and South Africa.
    • The 2014 World Cup pitted the two 2010 World Cup finalists, Spain and the Netherlands, together alongside Chile and Australia. One of the toughest groups in the competition indeed, but Spain being knocked out with one game remaining, after being demolished 5-1 by the Netherlands (who finished third) and being defeated by Chile, was unexpected. They did win their third game against the also-eliminated Australia, however.
    • Germany has one of the most powerful national football teams, only being knocked out in a first round once (in 1938), and they had won the 2017 Confederations Cup without their best players. A mixture of the 2014 World Cup-winning team with the 2017 Confederations Cup-winning team ends up with Germany being knocked out in the 2018 World Cup group stage against Mexico (whom they lost 1-0 in the first game), Sweden (who they defeated 2-1 in the last play, after a comeback) and South Korea (whom they lost 2-0 during the final minutes of the game). This makes three defending champions being knocked out in a row in the group stages.
    • On a similar vein, the winner of the Confederations Cup has never won the following World Cup. Brazil in 1998 (winners of the 1997 Confederations Cup) and France in 2006 (winners of the 2003 Confederations Cup) have got the closest to breaking this trend, but both lost in the final match.
  • At least one men's singles figure skater has (semi-)joked that they have a Moment of Silence for whoever is unlucky enough to be skating right after Yuzuru Hanyu in competition. If the event allows it, after he finishes skating, fans will produce a "Pooh rain", throwing plush bears onto the ice as encouragement for him. While the immediate next skater has more time to prepare (as they have to clean up the ice), he would also be intimidated because Hanyu is almost guaranteed to be a Tough Act to Follow who had vowed the audience. He is considered by analysts to be an accomplished skater known for his ability to combine strong technique with mature and versatile artistry. 2006 Olympic silver medalist Stephane Lambiel described him as "the most complete athlete in figure skating, probably ever." He is a two-time consecutive Olympic champion (2014, 2018), a two-time World champion (2014, 2017), a four-time Grand Prix Final champion (2013–2016), a Four Continents champion (2020), the 2010 World Junior champion, the 2009–10 Junior Grand Prix Final champion, and a five-time Japanese national champion (2012–2015, 2020). Hanyu became the first male singles skater to achieve a Super Slam in 2020, having won all major competitions in his senior and junior career. Regarded as one of the greatest male figure skaters in history, Hanyu has broken world records nineteen times — the most times amongst singles skaters since the introduction of the ISU Judging System in 2004 — and many of the broken records were his own.
  • Maurice Ravel's "Bolero" has more or less been unofficially banned as ice dancing music since the 1984 season because it has become indelibly associated with the legendary Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean, who earned the only set of across-the-board perfect scores in figure skating history with their legendary free dance to this music. Even singles or pairs skaters who use it — and that is rare — invite comparisons to "Torvill and Dean" — something which no one can possibly live up to.

  • Gilbert and Sullivan struggled with this after the mega-hit The Mikado. Gilbert darkly suggested renaming their next operetta, Ruddigore, to Kensington Gore: Or, Not Quite So Good as The Mikado. Ruddigore was erroneously considered a flop in Gilbert's lifetime (the original run of Ruddigore was 288 performances, good by any standard except comparison to the 672 performances in the original run of The Mikado); Special Effect Failure on its opening night may have contributed to its underwhelming reception. 20th century revivals restored the work's reputation.
  • Meredith Willson's first Broadway musical, The Music Man, achieved great popular and critical success. Of his three subsequent musicals, each was less successful and less distinguished than the previous one, with his final show (1491) closing before reaching Broadway.
  • Two parts originally created by Ethel Merman were examples of this Annie Get Your Gun and Gypsy were classed as untouchable, while Annie would get 2 Broadway revivals once in 59 it sank without a trace and the 66 revival had Merman recreating the role, however in 1999 a major revised revival was better received. However Gypsy was better off after Angela Lansbury starred in the 1974 revival the show has been revived multiple times.
  • Mitch Leigh had an even worse record: all the musicals he wrote after Man of La Mancha were atrocious flops.
  • The Phantom of the Opera is this for Andrew Lloyd Webber — while several of his subsequent shows did decent/fine business in his native England (Sunset Boulevard also did well in the U.S.), he's never had another international sensation along the lines of Evita, Cats, Starlight Express, or Phantom. In 2010 he brought out a sequel to Phantom, Love Never Dies, but its reception has been extremely mixed.
  • For Lerner and Loewe, one reason Camelot disappointed so many people was that it was their follow-up to the sensation that was My Fair Lady.
  • Lionel Bart stuck it big with Oliver!, but his 5 other musicals didn't make such a impression. His first predates Oliver was a minor hit, then his first post-Oliver two musicals had minor runs in London, then the final two were costly failures, leaving him bankrupted and forced to sell his copyrights.
  • Boublil and Schonberg followed up Les Misérables with Miss Saigon, a critical and popular smash that introduced the world to a seventeen-year-old Filipina phenom named Lea Salonga. But not even Miss Saigon can top the longest-running, best-written, best-loved, best-known, and quite possibly best musical ever produced. Interestingly, Les Mis is so good that no one really cares what Boublil and Schonberg have gotten up to since - they wrote Les Mis and are therefore entitled to write whatever else they damn please.
  • Even though Stephen Schwartz was well known at the time, this could almost be said to apply to Wicked. Nothing he did before it even comes close to Wicked 's level of popularity and revivals of some of his older work (notably Godspell which is returning to Broadway) now carry the advertisement: "From the creator of Wicked" (with occasionally Pippin being mentioned as an afterthought).
  • Mel Brooks followed up his musical version of The Producers, which ran for six years on Broadway and set a record for Tony Award wins, with a Young Frankenstein musical that brought back Susan Stroman as director-choreographer and Thomas Meehan as co-writer on the book. Despite huge anticipation and ticket prices that topped out at $450 for the very best seats, it was dismissed as unable to live up to its source material and its stage predecessor by critics, was mostly ignored when it came to Tony nominations and won none of the three it received, and only ran for 15 months (counting previews).
  • Michael Kunze and Sylvester Levay's first musical collaboration was Elisabeth, the most successful German-language musical ever made. Their next musical, Mozart!, was much less successful. They had slightly better luck with their third, Rebecca, which is more popular than Mozart! but not nearly as popular as Elisabeth. Their fourth, Marie Antoinette (Musical), was a flop in Germany but had a much better reception in Japan. Their fifth, Lady Bess, has only been performed in Japan and there's no word of it ever coming to Europe.
  • Hamilton: In-Universe, there's, of course, George Washington. Even King George III laments that there is no one in the states who looms quite as large, before realizing that his successor, John Adams, will never be able to keep the union together.

    • The story was so, well, huge, that its successor line Hero Factory gets a considerable amount of hate for its bare-bones, simple-to-follow plot and minimalistic characterization. Complainers tend to overlook the fact that even so, HF's story is still a tad more complex than that of an average, non-licensed LEGO line, and its characters are among the most developed of any original-LEGO characters (if still far from Bionicle's). LEGO themselves consider HF a wholly separate entity — a line that occupies the same niche as Bionicle, but it's not a follow-up. Further, they deliberately set out to avoid creating another complicated universe such as that of Bionicle, partly because of this trope, but mostly because a simpler story is easier to promote to younger kids, which the Periphery Demographic has a hard time realizing.
    • BIONICLE (2015) was marketed towards fans of the old line in particular to help strengthen the brand. But the old fans felt the story was watered down and too kiddie, unlike the original which had actual planning put into it. The line was cancelled even before LEGO's three year house minimum due to historically poor sales.
  • Gogo's Crazy Bones, a series of collectible figures which mostly came in blind bags, was the first toyline created by the European toy company Magic Box International, and proved to be their most popular - upon its initial release in 1996, it became one of the biggest toy fads of the late 90's, and its original success was enough to get them to reboot the series in 2007, also to considerable success. Magic Box has produced several other, similar collectible toys throughout the years (such as Flick-to-Stick Bungees and Star Monsters), but none of them have ever met the same level of success as Gogo's Crazy Bones, usually only producing two series/sets of characters at the most (if even that), in stark contrast to Gogo's having way more sets than that.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • The best installment of the series is generally considered to be Trials and Tribulations. All later games heavily split the fandom but are almost never considered better. All other cases have their high points compared to those of these cases.
    • The last two cases of Justice for All invert this: The penultimate case, "Turnabout Big Top," is widely considered to be the worst case in the franchise's history, due to its cartoony nature and several Scrappy Mechanics that are featured. Thus, the case that follows it would have to be spectacular in comparison. Indeed, the next case is "Farewell, My Turnabout," widely considered to be one of the best cases in Ace Attorney history, rivaled only by "Bridge to the Turnabout."
    • The role of the prosecutorial rival has proven difficult to get just right over the course of the franchise and, unfortunately, the first game really nailed it with Edgeworth. Edgeworth had both sympathetic and unsympathetic qualities, had a dense and complicated personal past with Phoenix, and his character arc was the main plot of the game. He also had great animations and lines, whether he was being very smug or Not So Above It All. It worked so well that pretty much every subsequent prosecutor struggled to get out of his shadow, whether leaning too far in one direction or the other when it came to balancing sympathetic and unsympathetic qualities, having to squeeze their character arc in around a more-interesting main plot in which they are just a side player, going a bit too over-the-top with their animations and Courtroom Antics, or just feeling like they're retreading the same ground Edgeworth once did. None of them are helped by Edgeworth's incredible popularity seeing him join the story for at least part of most final cases (or even notably filling in for a sick Phoenix during the third game), further making them seem less interesting than he. That's not to say that other main prosecutors don't have their fan followings (Franziska and Godot being the most notable cases, themselves from the original trilogy rather than any of the sequels or spin-offs), but First Installment Wins is definitely in play where Edgeworth is concerned.
  • Danganronpa:
    • The Big Bad of the first game, Monokuma (AKA Junko Enoshima AKA the Ultimate Despair), is widely agreed by fans to be the best villain of the entire franchise, even better than their incarnations in other installments! The first two after, Monaca and Izuru, did get praise, but were still overshadowed. And the ones after them? Kazuo and Ryota of DR3 and Tsumugi of New Danganronpa V3 were flat-out hated by the fans, being considered weak, ineffectual, and outright stupid.
    • The second game in relation to the third. Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair is considered a big improvement over the original, and while the third game's gameplay improvements and bonus modes were well-received, the plot and characters are significantly more divisive.
    • From Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony, Kaede Akamatsu, the Decoy Protagonist of the game became this. Within her sole playable chapter, she was established as an Ideal Hero, and the one protagonist capable of giving a new spin to the already tired Danganronpa formula with her leadership and proactive attitude. But she is executed for committing murder in Chapter 1, and the real protagonist—shy, withdrawn detective Shuichi Saihara—quickly became a Base-Breaking Character for replacing her.
    • The second and third games' fifth cases are considered among the best in the series, particularly because the truth behind the "murders" is not at all how it first appears. The sixth and final cases are not nearly as well regarded, partly because of this trope, partly because of Ending Fatigue and, in V3's case, because of the controversial plot twists involved in the ending.
  • Tokyo Necro is seen as a solid entry in nitro+'s catalogue with much of the hallmark writing that is expected of them with quirky and memorable characters and heaps of Nightmare Fuel that they are known for. The problem? nitro+'s last big projects were the back to back releases of none other than Full Metal Daemon Muramasa and Steins;Gate, two of the most highly esteemed visual novels ever written. To say that Tokyo Necro had big shoes to fill is something of an understatement. As such, despite being seen as solid enough in its own right, it is constantly held back by being in its predecessors shadow.

    Web Animation 
  • DEATH BATTLE!: Being by far the most requested, longest, most extensively researched and most viewed of the Death Battle series to date, "Goku vs. Superman" casts a massive shadow over the rest of the series in terms of production, scale and fan excitement. Not that the other episodes aren't enjoyable, but they're more Overshadowed by Awesome. As of Season 5, that status seems to have been shifted to Thanos VS Darkseid. In a more Meta sense, Death Battle is this to every other series ScrewAttack has tried to release — after it was announced that the matchup after "Yang Xiao Long vs. Tifa Lockhart" would be revealed in the season finale for The Industry, many fans deliberately spoiled the ending of the episode by writing the matchup in the comments along with a message along the lines of "There, now you don't have to watch all this just to find out the next Death Battle. You're welcome!"
  • Red vs. Blue had continuously set those - Reconstruction was the point where the comedy series incorporated a dramatic plot and it worked, so Recreation being a more relaxed and laugh-focused season was deemed a step down; Season 10, closing both the ongoing plot and the tenure where Monty Oum made the series more epic with his action scenes, leaving much for new showrunner Miles Luna to live up to; and most importantly Season 13, to the point that not knowing how to follow the Bolivian Army Ending of the Grand Finale forced Season 14 to be an anthology so as not to attempt directly continuing the story.
  • In Mexico, the creator and animator Rulo Barrera has made several web shows and shorts in the past years, but none else compared when he made "El Consultorio del Dr. Goku" an flash animated show were Goku and Vegeta answered questions of real people e-mailed to him in many hilarious ways. With the 9th episode the series were definitively over but any subsequent series or short got the boot from fans and were not as half as popular like Dr. Goku was forcing a short sequel named Dr. Goku 2012 where he ran as president of Mexico, then he got other special in the holidays, then another shorter special after, after that due to high demand and poor reception, Rulo made a new YouTube channel and boot up Dr. Goku with a new format, a live talk show (like Space Ghost: Coast to Coast) but flopped badly and then come with a newer format, an slice of life like adventures of him much shorter than the original episodes.
  • Dr. Havoc's Diary is unfortunately overshadowed by the more popular and well-known The Most Popular Girls in School. Though to be fair, the former was only watchable on an American subscription site (Fullscreen) while the latter is everywhere on YouTube.
  • Similarly, The Brothers Chaps follow up series to Homestar Runner, Two More Eggs, didn't quite catch on in the same way that Homestar Runner did. While the latter is still going strong after Twenty Two years, the former ended up lasting only two.

  • Sean Howard has provided this as the reason why he's not writing any more webcomics. A Modest Destiny got very popular for getting very dark, and when he entered emotional recovery he didn't feel he could write like that any more. However, when he tries to write anything more lighthearted, he gets hate letter after hate letter from people demanding that he finish AMD rather than "waste time" on his new project.

    Web Original 
  • When Doug Walker retired The Nostalgia Critic after four years of internet fame in order to pursue a show that he'd been dreaming of doing for ages, the fanbase was split to say the least, with some enjoying it some thinking it wasn't as good as the Nostalgia Critic and others disliking it entirely. This divide ended up cutting into the show's profits and resulted in the return of the Critic, much to the dismay of Doug Walker himself, who loved Demo Reel, and wanted to focus on that project of his dreams; instead having to torch the thing and bring back the character everybody else wanted.
  • Honest Trailers by Screen Junkies consistently generates 1 million+ views for the channel. Other videos they produce, including Movie Fights can rarely exceed the 500k mark. Its gaming oriented spin-off ''Honest Game Trailers" suffered a similar fate following its relocation from Smosh Games to Fandom Games in 2019 and the decision to replace the original voice actor (though seemingly with his blessing) with a rotating cast of new Epic Voices (though Jon Bailey eventually returned in 2020). Though none of the new actors were considered bad by any means, many viewers still missed Jon's iconic voice.
  • The monumental success of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in August 2014 has yet to be replicated. The challenge returned in August 2015 but wasn't even 1/100th as popular as it was in 2014. Many other social media fads have been started; the only one that truly took off was "The Dress", and even then it wasn't nearly as big as the Ice Bucket Challenge. It's agreed that a phenomenon like the Ice Bucket Challenge can't be forced, but rather will have to take off organically through word of mouth.
  • Liana K's Lady Bits series was extremely well-received, and considered to be the best in her series examining feminism in video games - with the right amount of Edutainment. Her next project after that BOSSFIGHT got very divisive reactions when it was first uploaded; Liana later commenting that her viewers expected it to be another Lady Bits, and weren't sure how to take it.

Alternative Title(s): Big Shoes To Fill