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Underdogs Never Lose

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"The clacks company was a big bully, sacking people, racking up the charges, demanding lots of money for bad service. The Post Office was the underdog, and an underdog can always find somewhere soft to bite."

The team that is expected to lose the critical game In-Universe will win.

The underdogs might be a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits out to Save Our Team or just average Joes in over their heads. But in the David Versus Goliath game, they will win, usually (and often literally) at the last second (always to the surprise of everyone but the viewer). This may involve Improvised Training, a Golden Snitch, or even Applied Phlebotinum if there Ain't No Rule against it.

In the case of a Based on a True Story film where the real-world team eventually did lose, the movie will cut away at their biggest win, frame their loss as a victory of another kind, or just say they won, and Hand Wave or ignore the less successful parts of their history. After all, Second Place Is for Losers.

This trope is most dominant in Western media. Sports-based Japanese animation is structured around Team Spirit and effort, and writers do their best to stay true to that and let the weaker team lose. Western writers and producers also write of Team Spirit, but they tend to express it as "if you have Team Spirit, then you will beat the other team."

Related to The Good Guys Always Win and the Hard Work Fallacy. Conceptually related to Invincible Incompetent. Can overlap with the Unspoken Plan Guarantee — both tropes happen because watching a foregone conclusion happen as expected, whether because it's part of the plan or because the expected winner is expected to win, is boring for the audience. The irony is that for a trope about subverting audience expectations, it is so commonplace that it does nothing to subvert the viewer's expectations. Also related to Conservation of Ninjutsu, where the team with fewer people always wins.

Super-Trope of Slow and Steady Wins the Race. See also Second Place Is for Winners, for cases where the underdog loses but scores a moral victory for going the distance. See also Disqualification-Induced Victory for cases where the underdog also loses but manages to win anyway due to their opponent's disqualification, and Defeating the Cheating Opponent for when the underdogs still win even though their opponents had been caught cheating. Contrast Champions on the Inside.


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Straight Examples:

    Anime & Manga 
  • The Black Bulls in Black Clover start off as the least respected and lowest-ranked of the Magic Knights squads with -30 stars. After Asta joins, they are inspired to become stronger and many of their members show their true potential as powerful mages. They face many foes from the Eye of the Midnight Sun and come out victorious afterwards, with all their accumulated accolades allowing them to jump to second-place in the annual squad rankings.
  • Excel♡Saga parodies the typical Japanese aversion in its Baseball episode by having Excel's team lose so badly the score covers most of the scoreboard in nines. They were actually doing fairly well until The Ace started playing. Their ace.
  • Eyeshield 21 will either avert, play it straight, or subvert it depending on what point in the series you're referring too. In the spring season, they won two games, lost two games, and tie one game. In the Tokyo Tournament, they only lost once. In the Kanto Tournament and Christmas Bowl, they play this trope as straight as can be.
  • Zig-Zagged in Food Wars!.
    • The protagonist is a no-name New Transfer Student who no one else really has much expectation of. He had won some of his matches (against Nikumi and Alice) and lost some (against Shinomiya and Hayama). Then it starts being slowly subverted once Jouichirou's backstory starts coming to light, giving several faculty members (and Erina) cause to start seeing his disadvantage as a pedigree.
    • The Polar Star Dormitory churned out the academy's best chefs in its heyday, making it the exact opposite of this trope, but ended up degrading into the Underdog bracket by the present day. The new blood fits the trope by managing to survive against odds, but as individuals, they tend to get defeated much more often than usual. This is best exemplified in the Regiment de Quisine, where it's Polar Star (novices) vs Central (hand-picked by Azami); they pull through but at the cost of over half of the members losing along the way.
  • Girls und Panzer: Oarai Academy is a nearly broke school with an abandoned tank club being freshly restored with a bunch of inexperienced crews, in a setting where everybody else treats the sport as Serious Business. All they have are 5 tanks (the training vehicles left over from Oarai's glory days; all the good tanks were sold off after the club was shut down), very few recruits, and a strategist who's considered an outcast of the elites.
    • True to the trope, they beat every other major team, no matter how overwhelming them are, at the very last seconds due to the protagonists' ability to act quicker in Double Knockout situations.
    • With that said, despite their spectacular track record in official tournaments, they tend to lose all practice or exhibition matches they get in, often in a humorous way. It's less Underdogs Never Lose and more Underdogs Only Pull Through When It Actually Matters.
    • After winning the Tournament and beating a University team, by the time of Das Finale, Oarai is no longer considered an underdog, but as the best team in the sport.
  • Raimon Soccer Club in Inazuma Eleven is always an underdog. The teams always narrowly win anything stronger by the last minute via the Power of Friendship. Unlike in the game, this team never has enough raw power.
  • Generally played straight in Kuroko's Basketball, with underdog team Seirin repeatedly winning games against teams and players talked up in-universe as being much more skilled, powerful, and/or experienced than them, including several members of the Generation of Miracles early on in the series. Eventually averted when Seirin loses to Wake-Up Call Boss Touou Academy in the Interhigh preliminary finals. Later played straight again in that they beat Touou at the Winter Cup.
  • Averted in the first season of Love Live!. Played straight in the second season, though it's not easy for μ's to win the Love Live contest, particularly as they're going up against A-RISE, who won it in season 1.
  • In Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha ViVid, the four main characters Vivio, Einhart, Rio, and Corona are not the only contestants, who participate in the Inter-Middle Championship for the first time. One of the others in Miura Rinaldi, a pupil of the Wolkenritter, who is, like Einhart, just two years older than the ten-year-old Vivio, Rio, and Corona. In her first match of the elite class, she fights the 18-year-old veteran Micaiah Chevelle, who has participated in the tournament for seven years. To surprise to everyone, Miura wins. And then, there is her third match, against The Heroine Vivio, a Handicapped Badass Clone Jesus and the daughter of Nanoha and Fate. Side character Miura wins. She defeats the main character of the series in the third preliminary match of a tournament.
  • Medaka Box: This is played with in regards to Kumagawa Misogi. In his own words, he never seems to win or get what he wants, but his awareness of this fact allows him to screw over others and create minor victories.
  • Naruto's battles against Kiba and especially Neji in the Chunin Exam. After that, he isn't regarded as an underdog anymore.
  • One Piece:
    • In general, everyone, especially the World Government, saw the Straw Hats of the underdogs of the pirate world, since they started off as nothing more than fresh-blooded upstarts who decided to challenge more and more dangerous threats. What they failed to realize was 1) how powerful each of them are, and 2) how good they are as a team. This led to many a villain seriously underestimating them and paying for it later, arc after arc... until the Sabaody arc, where the Straw Hats not only lose against Kuma, but they could barely land a scratch on him together. Fortunately, Kuma was not malicious, and instead recognized how weak they were and separated the crew to help them, which led to two years' worth of training and getting stronger.
    • After the Sabaody arc, the Straw Hats go right back to winning, but it's getting clearer that the enemies they face are much more powerful. This culminates in half of them facing Big Mom and her crew in the Totto Land arc while trying to rescue Sanji, a fight that they can't hope to finish even while together. However, it's zigzagged in that while the Straw Hats couldn't defeat Big Mom, the fact that they managed to get into an Emperor's territory, cause as much chaos as possible, and get out unscathed is seen as a huge victory in itself.
  • Played with in Pokémon: The Series:
    • Played straight a large majority of the time in regards to type matchups and unevolved Pokémon. No matter how impossible the matchup looks, the disadvantaged Pokémon will almost always overcome it, to the point where it can almost be considered an advantage to be at a type-disadvantage. This is often Lampshaded by more sensible characters who will comment on the bad choice to use the disadvantaged Pokémon.
    • Notably averted with Paul for most of the Diamond and Pearl series. Ash frequently puts his pride on the line by challenging Paul with Pokémon that are clearly outmatched, such as Turtwig against Honchkrow or Gligar against Gliscor, and gets hit with a hard dose of realism. Paul knows this about Ash and often goads him into making worse decisions in battle.
    • Zig-zagged in the Pokémon Leagues. Ash is generally the underdog against most of his rivals, who are usually more intelligent Foils to him, and typically comes out on top against the important ones (even the aforementioned Paul falls victim to this, though Ash is considerably more mindful of bad matchups in this battle). It's pretty much always subverted near the end, though, where Ash faces a stronger opponent and ultimately loses despite his best efforts. Except for Alola.
      • The Unova League notably has this happen against Ash when he battles Cameron. Cameron accidentally brought only 5 mons to Ash's 6, ends up facing half his team with only Riolu, and still pulls off the win after Riolu evolves midbattle. Subverted quickly after, as he gets beaten 3-6 in the next round.
      • Sawyer is another interesting case. While he is far more strategic than Ash, analyzing his habits and preparing counter-strategies for him, Ash is consistently portrayed as much stronger, easily beating him in all but one of their previous battles. Ash wins their final League match, but it's debatable who's really the underdog in this case.
  • Princess Nine brings the protagonist's team from narrow victory after narrow victory to the quarter-finals before Koshien Stadium, which they're trying to reach in order to prove that an all-girls team can compete on equal ground. Opposed to them is the best-ranked team and favored victors for the national championships at Koshien, which is also their own school's rival boys' team, giving them something extra to prove. It comes down to the final pitch at the bottom of the ninth, with their only chance left to push the game into overtime and score in the tenth inning. They lose.
  • Hilariously used in Saki where the reason Kaori was so successful during her turn was because she was a complete beginner in a table filed with professional players. Since she didn't even really know what she was doing, her discards looked very random in everybody else's eyes, making their attempts to read how the game would go based on the professional Meta Game fall completely flat in regards to her. Thanks to that, plus a decent amount of good luck, Kaori was able to dominate her table while stumbling all the way.
    • This actually a well-known phenomenon in any professional (or just Serious Business) game: You can't predict the opponent's Meta Game if they don't have a metagame. It is a phenomenon noted in Game Theory. Essentially, in many situations, there is usually a best choice and strategy. And more often than not, the only thing that can beat this is no plan at all as part of making a good choice in a game is based on what you know the other person to be doing. This is especially notable in games where patterns play a heavy part of the game like poker. The unseen corollary then becomes to switch to tactics that are particularly effective against new players.
    • Kaori's school, Tsuruga Academy, is also something of an underdog compared to Kazekoshi and Ryuumonbuchi; they only have five actual members and had to recruit the aforementioned Kaori to even be able to enter. When Momo, their vice-captain, wins the most points in her match against Sumiyo of Kazekoshi, Touka Ryuumonbuchi, and Nodoka Haramura (one of the protagonists and a relatively experienced mahjong player), her close friend Yumi makes it clear that she's quite proud of Momo. Unfortunately, Tsuruga does not make it to the nationals in the team or individual tournament.
    • Also played straight with Achiga in the spinoff manga, which defeats Bansei, which is undefeated on the prefectural level for about ten years, to advance to the nationals. Once there, they win the first match, get second to the prestigious Senriyama team in the quarterfinals, and in the semi=finals, not only defeat Senriyama but also get first place over the champions, Shiraitodai.
  • Simoun. At the start of the series, Simulacrum and its Simoun are portrayed as nigh-invincible from the perspective of the other countries, and we see them inflict heavy defeat after heavy defeat on wildly superior enemy forces in episode after episode until Rock Beats Laser in the end. It's this trope, only the underdogs aren't the protagonists.
  • Tamagotchi:
    • In episode 34 of GO-GO Tamagotchi!, Team Mamemepatchi (Mametchi, Memetchi, Kuchipatchi) arrive at the race later than the other competitors, suffer a bad start, spend almost all of the race trailing the other racers, but they end up being the only ones to finish the race.
    • Averted in episode 19 of Yume Kira Dream. In this case, Mametchi is the underdog in the tea robot competition. He makes it through to the finals, but loses to Righttchi.
  • Subverted in World Trigger. One of the series' high points is that it's a genuine mystery to as who'll win any types of Border Rank Battles, because the protagonists don't have Plot Armor going for them. In one of the series' more iconic scenes, Tachikawa flat-out states that it takes skill, tactics, and luck that win fights, not passion nor determination.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Pleasant Goat Fun Class: Sports are Fun episode 2, Weslie, Paddi, Sparky, and Wolffy hold a race. Weslie has a plane, Sparky has a car, Wolffy has a tank, and Paddi has nothing but his own two feet. Once the race begins, Sparky gets stuck in a hole, Wolffy bumps into a plant, and Weslie bumps into some vines. Paddi, who originally seemed the least likely to win the race, becomes the only remaining contestant and therefore the winner.
  • Simple Samosa:
    • Occurs in "Sumo Momo". Samosa is extremely weak compared to Sumo Momo, leaving him practically no chance to win the wrestling match... until Sumo Momo cracks the tip on the top of his head, causing him to beat up Sumo Momo and win the match.
    • Averted in "Sollid Survival". Samosa loses to Cham Cham.

    Films — Animation 
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie sees the eponymous hero challenge Donkey Kong with the promise the Jungle Kingdom will help against Bowser if Mario wins. Princess Peach thinks Mario is making a mistake, and her concerns are proven correct as Donkey Kong is many times larger than Mario, and the fight is initially a Curb-Stomp Battle in his favor, with Mario barely able to land a hit on the ape and even when he does, it has no effect. However, Mario's refusal to quit allows him to last long enough to grab a Cat Suit power-up, and the Super-Speed he gains from it enables him to turn the fight into a one-sided beating in his favor as he becomes too fast for Donkey Kong to hit.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Although it was the Rocky film series who popularized the underdog archetype to the modern cinema, the first and the sixth film actually avert the trope. With the protagonist, who had the will to win, who trained so hard, who needed victory the most, but ultimately lost the battle. Don't worry, he won something just as important.
  • Central to The Mighty Ducks movies. In the sequel, they are merely in over their heads but have a few "secret weapons" in the form of unlikely or impossible technical feats.
  • Shaolin Soccer has a team of shaolin monks with Charles Atlas Superpowers as the underdogs. In spite of their martial prowess, they all became real losers in the real world, and have no experience playing soccer before the film begins.
  • A subplot in Flubber involves the eponymous substance as the Applied Phlebotinum allowing the trope to play straight.
  • The special features and DVD audio commentary of DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story parody and mock this trope, which was used as standard within the film itself. The commentary claims that the original ending of the film had Globo Gym win and Average Joe's lose the competition, and there is even a deleted scene showing this "true" vision, and an over-the-credits clip included in the theatrical release has villain Dwight Goodman ranting at the audience and criticizing their need to have the film end on such a cliched note. The treasure chest full of money won at the end of the movie even has "DEUS EX MACHINA" written on it. However, comments from the creative team and the original script, which was included on the DVD, reveal that this is all tongue-in-cheek, as the plan was always for Average Joes to win at the end, even if the details changed in different versions of the script.
  • Godzilla vs. Kong builds up Kong as the underdog against Godzilla. Both Kaiju are massive, but Godzilla is the bigger and stronger one and has the advantage of his Breath Weapon. The initial fight between the two occurs at sea, giving Godzilla the Home Field Advantage, and he emerges the victor. The rematch occurs on land in a city where Kong is more able to take advantage of his greater mobility, and he has an axe that is able to absorb the energy from Godzilla's Breath Weapon. While he puts up a much better fight, ultimately, it turns out that Godzilla was toying with him, and when he gets serious, the fight turns into an almost completely one-sided beating in his favor.
  • High School Musical has the inexperienced basketball jock Troy and math geek Gabriella auditioning for the leads against professionally trained Sharpay and Ryan. The rest of the school is horrified and tells them to get back to where they belong. Naturally they win everyone over and get the parts.
  • Done in We Are Marshall, a movie based on the real-life decimation of a football team and the attempts to put another back together again. After the new team finally wins one game, we cut to the epilogue and find out that was pretty much it for them winning for that season...and many seasons after that before they finally became a decent team again.
  • Cinderella Man portrays the real-life comeback of Braddock. It milks Braddock's underdog status by giving the champ Baer a Historical Villain Upgrade, for which it received some criticism.
  • Mike Bassett: England Manager appears to play this trope straight, by having England beat Argentina in the World Cup when it looked as if they would go out. It's really more of a subversion, however, because it was only because of how appalling England's form had been since Bassett became manager that they were underdogs in the first place.
  • Saturday Night Fever included a scene where John Travolta's dance moves are completely inferior to a Puerto Rican couple's, but he is nonetheless declared the winner of the competition. This is quickly revealed to be a subversion, as the judge's decision was based on racism and Travolta's infuriated character gives his award to the deserving couple.
  • In Coach Carter the school basketball team qualifies for the state tournament as the lowest seed and get mocked by their opponents (who are much better on paper). They lose the game, though not until the final shot, and win the respect of their opponents. The students also emerge from the experience as overall better people, not just as better students.
  • In Here Comes the Boom, an overweight high school teacher, played by Kevin James, trains for a few months and then goes on to become a professional mixed martial arts fighter and wins a UFC tournament... after just a few months training.
  • The Eagle Huntress: Aisholpan, a 13-year-old girl, has ambitions to become an eagle hunter, and enters the annual eagle hunting competition that is a big deal for her tribe. Eagle hunting is traditionally the domain of 1) grownups, and 2) men. Does she win? Of course she does.
  • Escape to Victory: Zigzagged. The underdogs are Allied POWs playing soccer against the German National Team. The Allied prisoners are in worse physical shape and are facing a biased referee, while also being distracted by an escape plan. Ultimately, they achieve their moral victory by tying the game. They do score one more goal than the Germans, but one of their goals is disqualified, albeit unfairly.
  • The Hunger Games: Snow and Seneca have a discussion on this in regards to Seneca giving Katniss such a high rating. Seneca says that people like an underdog. Snow, however, does not. His following explanation about the manipulative properties of the Hope Spot suggests that he prefers the Career tributes to win because they treat it like a game (thus reinforcing the idea that it's not a horrible spectacle of death and violence). True volunteers like Katniss or normal tributes aren't as predictable.
  • The Fencer: The fencing team that Endel takes to the fencing tournament. They're underfunded, inexperienced, borrowing equipment, and their alternate fencer is about waist-high. Yet they manage to win The Big Game due to a last second touch by the aforementioned alternate.
  • Church Ball: The basketball team from the Mud Lake Ward, which has lost every championship for the last 19 years, defeats the more professional team from the Crystal Hills Ward.
  • The Russian film "Legend No. 17" ends right after the underdog USSR team manages to beat "the much praised Canadian professionals" in the first match of the summit series, omitting the fact that the series as a whole ended with the Russians losing.
    • Though to be fair, the Russians still consider the summit series as a whole a major underdog success - no one really expected the amateur team to come so close to winning the series (and doing even better in the following years).
  • Wimbledon: Peter Colt's career has been going downhill for a while, he's ranked 119th in the world when the movie begins and is making plans to retire after the current Wimbledon tournament. He's convinced that every match is going to be his last, but of course he makes it to the final and wins.
  • Down Periscope: The odds were already against Lt Cmdr. Dodge in the proposed wargame: He commanded an obsolete diesel-powered WWII-era sub vs. the entire East Coast fleet in a mission to launch a sneak attack on a target in Norfolk. Admiral Graham stacks the deck further by sticking Dodge with a crew full of castoffs and misfits. The things in Dodge's favor: Subs like the Stingray were virtually invisible when going silent, his mismatched crew provided vital individual skills and Vice Admiral Winslow had already given Dodge orders to "Think like a pirate" (i.e. disregard military protocol and even the rules of engagement and do what it took to complete his mission). Graham catches the Stingray, but not before they can get off a live shot at the Norfolk target, which struck true, giving them the win.

  • Played dead straight in Mercedes Lackey's Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms. A Genre Savvy troop leader recruits an army entirely of teenage girls knowing The Tradition (an ambient magical force in the land) will enact this trope and make them all fight like experts.
  • The CHERUB Series book "Divine Madness" has James try to envision himself "as the plucky underdog in a kids movie" during a Martial Arts exercise. Needless to say, he's one of the "losers" when it's all over.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • Harry Dresden is often the underdog, and usually wins in the end. At one point, he ends up fighting the Billy Goats Gruff (no, really), who are a fairy tale example, for beating the much larger and more powerful trolls. When Harry faces the eldest (and most powerful) brother, he acknowledges Harry as a fellow underdog.
      Eldest Gruff: I dislike being cast as the troll.
    • Dresden may be a subversion of this, as while he's normally in an underdog position, he's one of the smartest, strongest, and most clever wizards out there. It's gotten to the point where most powerful enemies are more concerned about him than the entire White Council. (Indeed, when Harry was considered 'missing in action', aka dead between Changes and Ghost Story, the amount of supernatural activity in Chicago went up.)
  • The Pit Dragon Chronicles initially ignores this, then mocks it. Heart's Blood is big, tough, and most certainly not an underdog.
  • In Unseen Academicals, the wizards win over Ankh-Morpork United, despite the fact that they've had less training, are a combination of fat wizards, an ape, an orc, and a boy who can only play football with tin cans, and play more fairly than much of Ankh-Morpork United. It helps that a supporter is willing to abuse some loopholes though. It also helped that by the end the United captain was so disgusted with the lunatics on his team that he deliberately gave them an opening for a winning point.
    • This can actually be broadened to the Disworld as a whole, where the Theory of Narrative Causality actively enforces this. For instance, the seven quasi-centenarian Silver Horde in Interesting Times fight against five armies and win, because they've been at this business so very long and outnumbered as heroes always are. The same Silver Horde, on being told to stand down by Captain Carrot, laugh and point out that they've got him outnumbered, until they remember that, by outnumbering a lone man who truly believes what he's fighting for, they're the bad guys, and bad guys share a common fate on the Disc...
  • In The Hunger Games we meet Katniss Everdeen who, along with her partner Peeta Mellark, represents the backwater District 12 in the titular Deadly Game. She not only outlasts her competitors, many of whom are trained professionals but even manages to make a mockery out of the rules by forcing the game masters to spare Peeta, thus marking the first time the Games have produced more than one winner.
  • 1066 and All That suggests that one reason the English were defeated in the Battle of Bannockburn was that they had been used to fighting against heavy odds but outnumbered the Scots four to one at Bannockburn.
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Zigzagged in Big Shot. Greg's basketball team is made up of students who flunked the tryouts for the good teams (and the coach's athletic son, who's quickly injured). They try hard, but fail to win a single game during the main season and only score a handful of points. Then, Susan enlists them in a two-day "second chance" tournament where all of the worst basketball teams from each league play each other, and each team that wins a game exits the tournament. All of the teams there are underdogs, but the other underdogs keep beating Greg's team, who end up as one of the last two there. They play against the Funky Dancers, five kids who have some athleticism and grit but are all pretty short and only have five players. This makes the Funky Dancers the underdog for most of the final game and they end up beating Greg's team, although Greg is transferred to their team beforehand to even the odds after a Funky Dancer is injured. So Greg gets to be on a winning team, but none of his original teammates do.
  • In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: Despite being very badly behind in points (due to Harry), Gryffindor wins the House championship for the year (due to Harry).
    • The motif is used again in the House Quidditich tournament and Triwizard Cup where Harry is an underdog and inverted in the World Quidditch Cup where the favourites, Ireland, win.
  • Slugfest:
    • Mrs. Finerty is a firm believer in this after having won her most notable past athletic experience (an Olympic swim race), despite being ranked forty-ninth among the competitors. She credits much of her success to the original favorite getting sick and wearing a borrowed swimsuit that was two sizes too small and made her swim faster so she could get out of the tight garment faster.
    • The Slugfest team at the flag football tournament is the only novice team to the competition and is being led by a School Idol quarterback, but is otherwise made up of inexperienced players. These players are the Class Clown, a geeky kid who only recently developed his first (small) bicep, a potentially germaphobic and very short water polo player, twins who are preoccupied with fighting each other, a Soapbox Sadie, and an athletic girl who broke her foot the previous spring and could break it again if she gets hit too hard. After a poor first half of the first game, they start doing well, though, and ultimately face off against the powerhouse Comets team. They lose by two points but get the trophy anyway after the Comets' quarterback confesses to being an ineligible player who lives outside of town limits.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Exaggerated in one episode of Green Acres where Lisa and Eb are watching a movie about a horse race with the underdog horse winning even though he was dead last without any mention of him pulling ahead. Eb tells a befudled Oliver that it's a case of dramatic license.

  • The William Tell Overture by comedian Spike Jones features a horse-race where the horse Beetlebaum remains in last until the very end of the race, where it makes a surprise finish as first place.
    • He has another song about a car race which is also won by Beetlebaum. Talk about an underdog.
  • The Underdog by Spoon features the refrain "You've got no fear of the underdog, that's why you will not survive."
    • Although, in context, that's less a case of "Underdogs never lose", and more "Underdogs sometimes win".
  • The music video of Katy Perry's Swish Swish involves a hilariously bad basketball team (about which the presenters explicitly say they have zero chance to win) that somehow manages to win against their incredibly well-trained opponents.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Often implied with Rey Mysterio Jr., having the moniker of "The Ultimate Underdog" and generally something of a bully magnet for heel wrestlers due to his small stature. Despite that, however, he is noted for his remarkable in-ring agility and fairly high success rate. While he suffers a large number of losses as well, it's usually made obvious that they are due to unfair stipulations or illegitimate tactics from his opponent.
  • It is a good bet to expect the wrestler who was displayed as weaker in the recent parts of a feud (taking beatings, fleeing his opponent, etc.) to score a win on the bigger stage. Bonus points if he is shown as injured pre-match.
  • John Cena at times seems like an exaggeration of this, as he's very often booked as the underdog against a new Wrestling Monster (bordering on Villain of the Week at times) only to dramatically "OVERCOME THE ODDS" against whoever it is, even if the guy he's facing, while imposing, is far less established than Cena. WWE does this so often, many times with Recycled Script, that it causes continuity errors, like commentators claiming Cena can't pick up guys like The Big Show and Mark Henry every time he feuds with them, even though he does every single time (this is especially bad with Big Show, who seems to feud with Cena on an almost yearly basis and the assertion that Cena can't pick him up is made and proven false almost every single time). But the strangest thing about Cena is his tendency to zig-zag this at the same time. One of the biggest rubs you can get as an up-and-coming wrestler in WWE is being booked to go over Cena, in which case Cena will be booked as a gatekeeper-type and the less-established guy will be the one playing the underdog. This can cause some serious whiplash, as Cena can go from playing the underdog against the newest monster heel to playing firmly established legend against an underdog, then back to playing the underdog against a different monster heel, in consecutive storylines.
  • During Lio Rush's winning streak in Ring of Honor, special attention was paid to his apparent weaknesses in contrast to the obvious strengths of his opponents before each of his upcoming matches. This was averted when the shot at television champion Tomohiro Ishii he should have earned by tradition was switched to a World title shot against the most dominant champion in pro wrestling, Jay Lethal.


    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy X's Besaid Aurochs are the worst team in the entire sports league. They lose so badly and with such impeccable frequency, their slogan has devolved to the pitiful, "Do our best!" It is possible to win the big game against the arrogant champs (the Luca Goers), thereby winning the trophy. However, the Auroch's Captain, Wakka, will retire from Blitzball regardless of the outcome. We can safely call this trope averted; the "reward" for beating the Goers is a handful of consumable items, anyway.
  • While not about sports, this trope is otherwise played straight in the Ace Attorney series. Every time an experienced attorney goes to court against a rookie attorney, the rookie always wins. This goes so far that in a flashback case with Mia defending and Edgeworth prosecuting, this being the first case that either of them has taken, the trial ends with no verdict, due to the defendant's sudden death. The only attorney ever shown losing their first trial is Godot. And it wasn't really even his first trial; just the first one he's prosecuted.
    • Mia and Edgeworth were both established as having perfect win records previously, and instead of creating a new, credible villain who'd then have to be introduced and summarily never seen again they just used an old character.
    • You're always on the role of the underdog in Ace Attorney cases, the prosecution is always better prepared and more experienced. According to videogame law, other than two trials that end with no verdict, you can never lose. Except for 2-4. But there, the client will demand a guilty verdict for himself once the assassin he hired learns that his employer was going to blackmail him. It's either life in prison or a very, very short life otherwise...
    • This trope becomes part of the plot in the Apollo Justice arc. Phoenix Wright gets disbarred from practicing law due to presenting forged evidence in court. You learn near the end of the game that Phoenix's friend, Kristoph Gavin, set Phoenix up for the fall since he was passed up for Phoenix in being Zak's defense lawyer for a trial (Zak chose his attorneys by playing poker with them and using the moment to read what kind of a man his opponent was). Kristoph was extremely angry that Zak passed him up, a man with a great track record and lots of experience, for Phoenix Wright, who he accused as a lawyer who purely wins cases through luck and bluffing to make up for lack of experience.
    • Though sadly not Truth in Television, court isn't always about being better, but being just. The defense is, luckily, the just side.
  • During Splatfests in Splatoon, the winner is determined by a point system. In the first game, the points formula was initially popularity % + (win % x 2), but later updates made wins give more points, with it eventually being worth 6 times the win percentage, which means even the biggest underdogs have a chance to win. The biggest underdog win to date in not only Splatoon 1, but the franchise as a whole, was the North American "Pirates vs. Ninjas" Splatfest: Pirates won by 64 points despite having only 28% popularity. The way the Splatfests work may actually have given the smaller team an advantage.
  • In The Elder Scrolls, the Tang Mo are a race of "monkey-folk" native to Akavir, a continent far to the east of Tamriel. They are described as kind and brave, but also very simple. Despite this, they are capable of raising armies and have successfully defended themselves time and again against their far more powerful and hostile neighbors, including the Kamal "snow demons" and Tsaesci "snake vampires".
  • In MAG, the SVER mercenary company was in-universe a motley gang of criminals, mercenaries, rebels, people looking for a cause, and former KGB and Spetznaz soldiers. As the poorest PMC, equipped with outdated Warsaw Pact weaponry and improvised body armour, they competed with Raven Industries (a prestigious European PMC with the best equipment money could buy) and Valor (a PMC comprised of veteran American special forces) and held their own through numbers and sheer guts. Out-of-story, SVER was the dominant PMC throughout the game's competitive lifespan, only briefly dethroned by Raven for about a month before SVER climbed back to the top - and stayed there until the servers shut down in 2014, four years later.
  • At one point in Trails of Cold Steel III, you have to bet on a horse race as part of the plot, and you get a bonus for picking the right one. One of the horses (Lino Bloom) is old and set to retire after one last race, but has been training for it really hard. Odds on it are 10:1. Guess which horse wins?
  • In Danganronpa, the underdog main character of the visual novel installments is often the only character that either has no talent, doesn't know theirs, or severely doubts the one they do have. Either way, their self-esteem issues are up front for everyone to see, practically guaranteeing their survival (and thus "winning" the Deadly Game) in the end. This gets to a point where the one time a protagonist had a talent, was aware of it, and accepted it, she died in the same chapter she's introduced and was subsequently replaced by a boy more in line with the previous protags.

    Web Comics 
  • Survivor: Fan Characters loves this trope: nine times out of ten when a positive underdog player or alliance is played up as being hopelessly outmatched by a more numerous and villainous alliance, one of its members will go on to win the whole thing, with four out of its first nine winners fitting this trope perfectly. The only real exception to this is Norman from Season 6 who was the last guy remaining but seemed to have a fighting chance against the crumbling female alliance, only to be eliminated in the same episode.
  • In Weak Hero, once it becomes obvious that Ben and Jake are going to have a showdown, a poll is taken by Yeongdeungpo students as to who they think would win. Jake wins the poll with a solid 67%, and even in the fight proper Ben is sure that Jake can't be defeated. Then Ben activates his Heroic Safe Mode and manages to just come out victorious.

    Western Animation 
  • The main recurring element of Popeye, and a staple of his design in the cartoon. Popeye is always set up as the underdog in whatever he's doing, usually for Olive's affection but also in contests, work, and pretty much any rivalry he can get. The other guy, be it Bluto or some one off character, is always stronger, seemingly more cultured, efficient, or otherwise more powerful, and it's up to Popeye to really earn his victory, with or without spinach depending on the cartoon.
  • A Bugs Bunny cartoon has him, alone, facing a baseball team of giant ape-like players (one of them uses what appears to be an entire sequoia tree as a bat). He wins.
    • Claude, the Hickville rooster, hits a grand slam against Giants star pitcher Dizzy Dan to win the game at the end of "Boulevardier From the Bronx" (1936). In the bottom of the ninth with two out and the Giants ahead 3-0, Dan intentionally walked the bases loaded just so he could strike out Claude. How the mighty have fallen.
  • David Spade beating Steven Seagal in a Celebrity Deathmatch.

Non-Straight Examples:

    Anime & Manga 
  • Meta: As noted above, Japanese sports anime, especially baseball-related, will often go with the subversion: the underdogs will usually not make it to Koshien — at least, not in a first season — but will give a good accounting of themselves.
  • Parodied in Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu's rugby episode. While the In-Universe underdogs do win in the end against the much more powerful Opposing Sports Team, it's because the underdogs' insane new coach doesn't understand rugby and instead trains them how to kill the opposing team.
  • Played with in Chihayafuru: Mizusawa does do better than a school with its lack of history and high-ranking players probably should, but they also can and do lose multiple tournaments before they finally win one. This applies to the characters, too - despite being the protagonist and significantly better than Taichi or Nishida, Chihaya loses multiple tournaments in a row in season 1, sometimes even in the first round. She does about a little better in season 2, but given that she was working with a broken finger at the time, that was pretty impressive.
  • Played with in ViVid Strike!:
    • Fuka makes it all the way to the finals of her first tournament with only four months of training. This is justified due to several factors. First, she is the handpicked apprentice of the current world champion (who has the Genetic Memory of one of the greatest fighters who ever lived). Second, a good chunk of her training was spent sparring with other high-level competitors (including several above her age bracket). Third, she doesn't go to school, meaning that she could devote time to training where others would have to worry about studying and homework. Finally, the way that the tournament bracket was set up meant that she wouldn't have had to face any truly skilled opponents until her semi-final match (and the one she would have faced had to drop out due to injuries in her quarter-final match).
    • Otherwise it's completely averted since any time she does face a skilled opponent, she loses. Badly. The only exceptions were against Corona (who was limiting herself to hand-to-hand when she normally fights with Improvised Golems), and Rinne (who was on the verge of an emotional breakdown at the time).
  • In Dragon Ball played with this for all it's worth:
    • In the 21st and 22nd World Tournaments, Goku ends up making it to the Finals, but loses to Jackie Chun/Master Roshi and Tienshenhan respectively (Roshi's legs are longer than Goku's, giving him more strength to his final kick while bad luck on Goku's part in the form of a truck meant that Goku ringed out before Tien).
    • In the 24th World Tournament, Mr. Satan is clearly the underdog against the much stronger Android #18 and knows it, but only wins because 18 throws the match in favor of being paid double the prize money.

    Comic Books 
  • Both parodied and lampshaded in a certain Tom and Jerry comic. Two footy teams are in the final of some championship: one crack-tough, and other lame losers. The latter is presented by the commentators as "their good side is, uhm, that you must be very curious how did they get to the finals".
  • Continuously subverted in Peanuts, where Charlie Brown's underdog team pretty much always loses. Friendly rival Peppermint Patty even highlights their underdog nature by always assuming her team will win.
    • Also subverted in the first movie A Boy Named Charlie Brown in which Charlie loses the spelling bee and is afraid his life is over and everyone hates him. Linus shows him that life goes on.
  • MAD enjoys parodying, subverting and deconstructing many tropes, so it's natural that they'd do it with this one. It happens when they parody Rocky
    "Nicky": This movie shows what can happen to an underdog who keeps his faith and fights valiantly against tremendous odds!
    Man: You mean he wins in the end?
    "Nicky": No, he gets his brains beaten out!

    Fan Works 
  • Played with over the course of the season in Run At The Cup. The newly-formed Zaun Sumprats are not treated as a serious threat by other teams at the start, derided as a collection of players abandoned by their former teams. They soon prove otherwise, especially once Vi gets off the disabled list. After a record-breaking winning streak, the Sumprats are considered one of the stronger teams in the RHL. By the time they do win the Cup, nobody is surprised anymore.
  • Played with in The Tainted Grimoire, during the Acqua Alta race. While Luso the underdog definitely defeated the expected winner Diez Carnosa, he only got second. Vaan got first and he certainly ain't no underdog.

    Films — Animation 
  • Monsters University plays with this. Oozma Kappa do work their way to the final competition of the Scare Games and take the trophy... only to face the tragic discovery that a teammate cheated for them. While their victory was nullified, they were permitted back into the Scare Program because they did prove themselves.
  • In Argentinian film Metegol (Underdogs in the USA) the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits nearly manage to turn around the score and save their town, but in the end, The Rival manages to score a goal on an empty net... but the public applauds their spirit and unwillingness to give up, while the Opposing Sports Team, fed up with The Rival's egoism, consider them Worthy Opponents and share their T-shirts with them.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • First Subverted in The Bad News Bears, where the team comes within reach of winning but ultimately loses by one run because the coach decides to give the less talented players a chance. The fly ball that would have been a game-winning home run is instead caught at the fence. It thereby started the related Second Place Is for Winners trope.
  • In Friday Night Lights, the rag-tag Permian High School team is the underdogs. They lose the state championship game when their running back fails to reach into the end zone by less than an inch. Ever seen the guy who flubbed the critical play crying his eyes out in the locker room, while his teammates stand around and look awkward?
  • In The Grizzlies, the titular Inuit lacrosse team only score one point before they lose in the national finals. Their underdog status doesn't stop them from giving it their best.
  • Rocky:
    • Though the point isn't so much to beat Apollo Creed as to "go the distance" against him. This counts as a subversion because even though Rocky explicitly tells Adrian he cannot win against Apollo, the film's power relies on the audience expectation that this trope will be played straight. To emphasise that it's not about the winning, the actual result of the match is greatly downplayed. Amid the cheering crowds, rousing music, and "Adrian! Adrian!", the announcement of the scores is barely audible, and Apollo's celebration is only briefly seen in the crowded ring. Some audience members may have gone away thinking Rocky had won. Rocky was based on a true story, even more impressive than the movie. Granted though, most movie makers would still end the movie adaptation with him winning.
    • The same subversion is used in Rocky Balboa, however, where he goes the distance with Mason "The Line" Dixon and only loses in a split decision, exactly how he lost to Creed in the first movie. What makes it more impressive is that Rocky is in his 60s at the time of the fight, leaving no impression that had he been younger he could have easily defeated Dixon.
  • Bring It On has both cheer teams as underdogs for different reasons. The main characters are the reigning champions, but they discover that their previous captain had stolen all of their old winning routines. They're all forced to start again from square one. The Opposing Sports Team is from an inner-city school that invented all of those winning routines but didn't have the money to compete. Once they get an Oprah Expy to fund them in the Nationals, the two teams go head-to-head, each with something to prove. Naturally, the team with more underdog credentials wins (though it is justified since it was their routines that had won five years in a row - it was just a different squad performing them).
  • In The Great White Hype portrays the exploitation of this trope. The crooked boxing promoter scams boxing fans into believing that a white boxer (gasp!) has a shot at taking down the dominant black champ. The white boxer, who hasn't entered a ring in years, receives some slipshod training and gets thrown to the wolves. He actually lands a good shot, teasing the trope even further, before the champ actually starts paying attention and curb-stomps him. The crowd realizes too late that their Great White Hope was really just hype to make the promoter more money.
  • Subverted in Whip It, where the Hurl Scouts make it to the finals, but lose to the Holly Rollers in the last few jams. What makes it a subversion instead of a plain old aversion is that the girls are ecstatic to have made it all the way from last place to the finals.
  • In Real Steel, the climax of the movie is the bout between scrappy "junkbot" Atom and the undefeated champ Zeus, who's never had a fight last more than one round. The match ends when the clock runs out in the fifth round. Zeus wins in points and keeps the title, but the crowd clearly favor Atom for having put up such a good fight. Not to mention if the clock had lasted another ten seconds, Atom would have won. Zeus took longer than that to get back up after the bell.
  • Snowball Express: Triple subverted. Despite being a novice snowmobile rider, Johnny enters the snowmobile race, not necessarily expecting to win but hoping he can get one of the top three cash prizes. He ends up taking the lead in the home stretch, passing the local champion, Martin Ridgeway. Then, at the last moment, Johnny loses control, swerves off-course, and doesn't even finish the race.
  • Cool Runnings ends with our unlikely heroes, the Jamaican bobsleigh team, crashing out on their final run, as it happened in real life. This is all cast in a heroic light by having the team pick up their sled and walk over the line to finish their run.
  • Tin Cup. Roy screws his chance of winning the US Open, but still gets the girl.
  • In Other People's Money, a scrappy, old-school New England businessman has to face down a ruthless corporate raider from New York who wants to take over and dismantle his business. At the big stockholder's meeting, he gives a heartfelt speech about tradition and hard work and the American dream. The corporate raider gives a speech pointing out that, nice as that is, the company is going to go under and the only way the stockholders are going to get any of their money back is by voting for him. He wins the vote easily.
  • In Necessary Roughness, the undermanned Texas State team got their brains beat in for most of the season, before tying Kansas and beating the Texas Colts to finish the season at 1-8-1.
  • Ultimately subverted in Major League: The Cleveland Indians win the big game vs. the New York Yankees, but the sequel revealed they lost the subsequent playoff series and are pretty much back where they started when ML 2 starts.
  • Played straight in Kingpin until the hero pulls ahead and the villain needs a Million to One Chance to win. Then, that trope takes over...
  • The final game in Little Big League has the underdog Minnesota Twins facing the Seattle Mariners for the "wild card" spot in the post-season playoffs. Trailing by one run and with a man on base, the team's best hitter hits a long fly ball - which Seattle Mariners star Ken Griffey Jr. jumps up to catch just before it goes over the fence to become a home run.
  • Averted in the film Kano. Just as in real life, the underdog Kano school makes it all the way to the finals, But a blister on their star pitcher's finger causes control problems and Kano loses as a result of it.
  • Subverted in Roll Bounce: In the climactic skating competition, the underdog Garden Boys manage an honorable draw vs. the reigning champion, the Sweetwater Rollers. Refusing to even concede that much, Rollers leader Sweetness challeges protagonist Xavier to a winner-take-all one-on-one skate off. Despite being happy with the tie, Xavier accepts. Xavier looks to take the win, until he gets carried away and tries to finish up with a Triple Lutz - a move he's never tried before. He promptly wipes out and loses. But he wins Sweetness' respect in the end.
  • Subverted in A Shot at Glory in which a small Scottish football team from the Third Division (managed by Robert Duvall and owned by Michael Keaton) reaches the Cup Final against all odds - and loses.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (2022) gives Sonic a rival in the form of Knuckles. In their first fight, Sonic's Super-Speed is easily countered by the Super-Strength of his much larger and more skilled opponent. Sonic pushes himself much harder in the rematch and learns to avoid the ineffective head attacks that didn't work the first time, but in the end, he still loses despite Knuckles' difficulty hitting him. When Knuckles' attacks do connect, he puts Sonic down for the count without much difficulty, while Sonic cannot do any real damage to Knuckles.

  • Arguably, subverted in Unseen Academicals, in that the United team hadn't had as much time to practice with the new football and new rules as the Unseen University team, nor did it include an orangutan goalkeeper. Of course, in this instance, the real issue wasn't who'd win the match, but who'd survive the match. The United captain said at the end that his team probably could have won if certain members hadn't wasted their efforts on shenanigans.
  • The Pirates Covered in Fur mostly focuses on a group of twenty-something skaters with little weapons training trying to stop a wolf pirate from destroying their city. And at first, all their efforts proved to be working, and it looked like they would triumph. By the end of the story, the entire group is dead, and the city is bombed by the military. The only thing they accomplish is killing the Big Bad in the second to last chapter, and by then the Big Bad's allies have also been killed.
  • Harry Potter has the Chudley Cannons, Ron's favorite Quidditch team. 21 league championship victories... and none since 1892. Their motto went from "We Shall Conquer" to "Let's just keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best." One fan asked what it would take for them to win, the answer involves replacing every team member and downing several cauldronfuls of Felix Felicis.
    • While they look like the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits, the Gryffindor Quidditch team are hardly underdogs for much of the series run. The other teams often have one or two good players, generally the captain and the Seeker (when they aren't the same person, at least), and Draco Malfoy infamously bribed his way onto the Slytherin team with a gift of a full complement of top-of-the-line racing brooms, Gryffindor rarely lost a game that Harry played. In fact, in six books, Griffindor losses can be counted on one hand. In Stone, Harry was in hospital from his confrontation with Quirrell and Voldemort; in Azkaban, Harry was mobbed by Dementors in a critical moment (and even then, Cedric Diggory tried to call a rematch when he realised Harry had been attacked); in Phoenix he was disqualified by Umbridge for two of the three games, and in Prince he was knocked out by Cormac McLaggan in a fit of pique. Harry Potter is a brilliant Seeker with a strong pedigree who was sequentially gifted two of the best brooms on the market, the Weasley twins are widely recognised as fantastic Beaters from, again, a family of good players, the Chaser trio were a tight-knit team with few weaknesses, and Ginny is a prodigy who excelled at both Seeking and Chasing. Though they all seem disparate and lackadaisical, the team make up for it in raw talent. Nearly all of their losses were bare attempts at sabotage.
    • The real underdogs of Hogwarts, Hufflepuff House, can never catch a break. Because Helga Hufflepuff did not believe in cherry-picking the finest for her students, the house has a reputation for being those too stupid for Ravenclaw, too cowardly for Gryffindor and too unambitious for Slytherin, being an uninspiring bunch of 'the rest'. They rarely win the House Cup, and in the first book they came last after Gryffindor's clutch victory, their only known good Quidditch player was Cedric Diggory, their head of house is the least prominent of the four, and Harry never visits their common room or makes any major friends in the house in the entire series. Even Diggory, who was Hufflepuff's only shot in recent memory for any kind of glory, was unceremoniously (though not undramatically) murdered by Wormtail and subsequently scrubbed from press reporting of the Triwizard Tournament, despite being joint winner. There's a reason that Hufflepuff is a by-word for 'well-meaning but unimportant loser'.
  • Slapshots: The Stars are a rookie team with lots of eccentric players (like a boy who can only skate backwards) but after losing their first three games in the first book, they start getting impossible to beat.
  • The Superteacher Project: The Brightling Bobcats have a long losing streak and not many applicants at the start of the book, but being coached by a super-analytical robot with a contagious sense of investment in the team turns the field hockey team into champions.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Game of Thrones: Littlefinger believed this as a child when he tried to duel Brandon Stark for the hand of Catelyn. It... didn't work. He lost so badly that Catelyn had to step in and plead for his life on his behalf. This humiliation made him realise he will never win by playing by the rules, turning him into the scheming, power-hungry, sociopathic Manipulative Bastard we all know today.
  • Glee:
    • Actually subverted in the season one finale, in which New Directions is a big hit with the audience at regionals but ultimately loses — fair and square, because several of the judges are snobs.
    • And subverted again in the season two finale, in which New Directions loses badly at Nationals, as a direct consequence of trusting to their underdog powers of 'heart', enthusiasm and lack of preparedness, as well as the unprofessionalism of their default lead singers.
  • Also subverted in a Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode where the inexperienced crew plays a baseball game against a super-skilled team of Vulcans. They get clobbered, but they do manage to score one run in the last inning and celebrate anyway because the Vulcan captain is an asshole and had declared the DSNiners wouldn't score at all. They did it just to piss him off and succeeded.
  • A downplayed example in the Babylon 5 episode "TKO". Walker Smith, the underdog, fights the Sho-Rin Gyor to an honorable draw.
  • Averted in an episode of PBS' Nature focusing on a soccer team from Madagascar who went to the mainland to play a match. They get the crowd cheering when they score a goal but still lose 4:1. The team captain says they had a good time anyway.
  • Too many to mention, but many reality TV competition shows will give at least one of their contestants the "underdog edit". Although this doesn't mean said contestant will necessarily win, this can give them a huge boost with fans of the show, giving them great exposure and success even if they lose. Many applicants are aware of this, and will sometimes intentionally try to invoke the "underdog edit" on themselves, by telling (and sometimes embellishing) their backstories or motives to get a favorable edit on the show.

  • Kids Praise: Averted. Psalty's baseball team in the eighth album loses spectacularly in their first game, though after more practice they manage to win by a single run in a (much more believable) rematch.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Horribly averted by Triple H at WrestleMania XIX in his match against Booker T. Booker was presented as the underdog all the way in: HHH cut some truly horrible promos (some of which bordered on racism), and by the time the feud was white-hot, Booker could not have been more underdog. HHH had been presented as an unstoppably dominant force of selfish evil, and Booker a man who'd made some poor decisions, but could redeem himself at 'Mania. In the match, it turned out that HHH was an unstoppably dominant force. Given that 'Mania title matches usually feature performers kicking out of finishers (to show the importance of the event), HHH duly kicked out of Booker's finishers. When Booker got hit with HHH's first finisher, he stayed down, and HHH got the strap. What made this even more galling was that HHH botched the finish, and as a result, it took him twenty-seven seconds to make the pin, meaning he not only squashed the underdog, he inadvertently got a legitimate thirty count against the Booker Man. After that, it was pretty much all over for T, and it wasn't until his "King Booker" gimmick a few years later that he managed to build up the slightest credibility as a main eventer again. Needless to say, there's a reason that HHH's 2002-2004 season is alternately called "The McMahon/Helmsley Error" or "The Reign of Terror." It was also around this point that Triple H's status as son-in-law to Vince McMahon (he was dating Stephanie McMahon at the time and they were married later that year) came under intense scrutiny from Smarks.
  • Spike Dudley's singles run in ECW was built on alternately playing this trope straight and subverting it. A Spike Dudley match would just as likely end with Spike pulling off an improbable victory (taking a beating in the process) or getting utterly trashed (but never giving up).


    Video Games 
  • Played with in Fallout 3 with the Tenpenny Tower quest. Despite having enough money to purchase a room, Roy and his ghouls are denied entry into the complex because they're ghouls. Obviously the underdogs in the affair, helping them gain entry is the morally high option. Come back later and the "underdogs" have killed every human in the tower. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.

    Web Comics 
  • In Everyday Heroes, Jakob Freilander came to the USA just after World War II. Being a big strong guy who played semi-pro football on the weekends, he decided to try out for the NFL. It didn't end well.
  • Parodied in this strip by Amazing Super Powers, where the Genre Savvy coach realizes that, even though his team is better funded, equipped and trained and ahead by 20 points at halftime, the other team will win precisely because the odds are stacked against them.
  • No Black Plume inverts and parodies this trope in this comic.

    Web Original 

    Web Videos 
  • Averted in the Achievement Hunter series Schooled. Geoff Ramsay and his daughter Millie recruited a team of young gamers about Millie's age with the idea that a group of kids could absolutely crush the Achievement Hunter team and if the kids lost, he would get a tattoo of Gavin Free's nose. Many viewers expressed doubt that the kids would lose, feeling that it would look bad that a team of adults would trounce a team of kids. While the kids did do good, they ultimately did lose. On the plus side, they were really accepting of their loss and even expressed a desire for a rematch.

    Western Animation 
  • South Park:
    • Parodied in the episode "Stanley's Cup" in which Stan's pee-wee ice hockey team is made to look more and more like underdogs as the episode goes on (as well as setting up every other trope that should lead to a dramatic victory), culminating in a game against an official NHL team. They lose. Badly. They even had a straight example for the other team.
    • Another time they were trying to get out of little league by losing, but the other teams were better at that until they rallied Stan's dad to get them disqualified by fighting.
    • Played almost straight in a rather early episode where Jesus fights Satan in a boxing match. This is the first time Satan appears on the show, and we see that he is huge and very muscular, while Jesus is just an average-looking wimp. Everyone places their bets on Satan to win the fight, and Jesus is ready to forfeit, believing there's no way he can win. However, one person has bet a huge amount of money on Jesus to win, which renews his spirits and gives him the courage to face Satan in the ring. Satan goes down with a single punch... because he was the one who placed the bet, and Jesus' low odds of winning meant that Satan walked away with an armload of cash.
    • Also parodied in the fourth episode ever made, "Big Gay Al's Big Gay Boatride", with South Park's junior football team being the underdogs against their rivals Middle Park (who so far have a 70 point spread on them). The only player on the team who doesn't suck is Stan, and he goes missing before the match to find his runaway dog. He returns at the end in time to help score a point, leading to South Park "only" losing by 63 points, which is treated as a huge victory.
  • In The Legend of Korra, we follow the plucky Fire-Ferrets, a pro-bending team composed of a young Avatar-in-training and two brothers off the street. They are very much expected to lose against the defending champs, the Wolf-Bats. Thanks to some beyond-blatant cheating from the Wolf-Bats, they lose the championship game... though the winners lose their bending.
  • Sheep in the Big City parodied this trope (like they did with everything else) in the episode "Here Goes Mutton" where Farmer John is hired by the coach of a local football team after seeing him outrun General Specific's soldiers to save Sheep. Said team is the "Fuzzy Little Bunnies", a team that is so bad that they've lost 14 out of the last 13 games (one game they lost twice) and their strategy seems to mostly consist of running away screaming from the other team. The sports anchor even calls them "the worst team in the history of the sport". It then averts this trope when, even with Farmer John on the team, they STILL get their asses kicked until the end when Farmer John has to save Sheep again, and even then they only manage to score a point.
  • The season 1 finale of Legends of Chamberlain Heights first plays this straight, then averts it at the last second. Grover is chosen to shoot a freethrow that will decide an important match after the Jerk Jock star player is injured. After the game is delayed due to a blackout, Grover spends the next 24 hours terrified over screwing up, but in the end, makes the throw and wins the game, seemingly fulfilling his dream of becoming a Chamberlain Heights legend. Then, the next game, when the coach decides to let him play instead of just warming the bench, the team loses by 110 points, and Grovers only score in the whole match is a self-goal, leading to things going back to where they were.
  • In the The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius episode, "The Retroville 9", the titular baseball team keeps losing games, so Jimmy invents a performance-enhancing bat and gloves, causing them to win. Eventually, the team qualifies for the Junior World Baseball Championships in Nagoia, Japan. Just before the big game starts, Jimmy's conscience is aroused by "Tremendous Jackson's" (an obvious spoof of Bo Jackson) opening speech, in which he expresses pride over the fact that Jimmy's class qualified fair and square, without resorting to any technological tricks. Jimmy confesses to the rest of the team that he's been using an advanced bat and mitts, then gives them a Rousing Speech that they can win if they just believe in themselves. However, they're playing against Japanese professionals, and the match ends with them having gotten 0 points.

Alternative Title(s): Underdogs Always Win, Underdog Victory