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Worthy Opponent

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"I regret that we meet in this way. You and I are of a kind. In a different reality, I could have called you friend."

When the hero and the villain clash repeatedly, over time they may develop respect for their opponent's abilities. After all, their adversary is able to keep rising to oppose them battle after battle. In the heat of battle the hero or villain's true capabilities and determination could be revealed. Or perhaps one of them was simply looking for a challenge. For whatever reason, the battles have created a sense of respect (which may or may not be mutual).

This leads to a declaration by one of the two that they have found their adversary a worthy challenge, or some variation of that. It can be privately said or publicly admitted; what matters is that the character in question acknowledges and respects their opponent for their skill. Should one side actually come out on top or find out the other has fallen, it may lead to Sympathy for the Devil, Sympathy for the Hero, or an Antagonist in Mourning.

This declaration is more commonly made by villains than heroes, given that the villain's less scrupulous nature doesn't exactly help earn a hero's respect. The exceptions to this tend to involve Spirited Competitors or otherwise less principled characters on the heroic side, or a Noble Demon on the villainous side. Compare Evil Virtues, wherein the heroes may recognize some admirable quality in an otherwise-villainous character.

Expect to hear Combat Compliments. A character who thinks this way is likely to have Faith in the Foe. This can lead to The Only One Allowed to Defeat You, depending on the mindset of the character making this statement. See also Friendly Enemy and Evil Counterpart. Can overlap with Enemies Equals Greatness. The idea of this trope is deliberately designed to sail over the head of the Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy as they can only think about beating their foes and being the best with zero regard for the battle itself (the realization that, yes, you can respect your opponent/the battle you shared and still be a great fighter is the key turning point in their Character Development). This is very common with a Mirror Character.

Example subpages:

Other examples:

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    Comic Books 
  • In the 2000 AD title Meltdown Man Nick Stone is this to Leeshar, the only other non-decadent human in their world. After arranging for some security for the decadent humans in his city...
    Leeshar: "I said stand aside! I'm going after a REAL HUMAN BEING!"
  • The airmen in Arrowsmith don't kill enemy airmen who have been rendered harmless, and when they're able to recover their opponents' corpses, they are returned to their own side for the funeral. This is contrasted with what their bombings do to enemy civilians.
    Fletcher: I wonder if they'd been so eager to [return the corpse] if they knew Foxe led the "Butchers of Holbrück."
  • Batman:
  • The Black Knight: Scrooge McDuck and Arpin Lusene have a Rich Victim — Gentleman Thief type of mutual respect in Don Rosa's comics. Lusene is a very good sport about losing, and Scrooge admits that the Frenchman is the greatest threat his fortune has (which says a lot, coming from him).
  • Blaze of Glory: Caleb Hammer may have hunted down Kid Colt for a long time, he may have lost two of his friends to Colt's bullets, he may even have spited him by refusing his offer to make amends — but he makes sure to avenge his death at the hands of Gunhawk, and says to him, "whatever Kid Colt was, he was better'n you".
  • Captain Marvel (no, not that one), after Nitro exposed him to a certain gas, developed cancer. On his deathbed, Mar-Vell was visited by many heroes and champions, but by none of his own creed (little pun there). Yet he was visited by a Skrull high commander, the people who had been in war with his species since fuck knows when, who then commemorates him with the highest honour an opponent of the Skrull could have.
    • But wait! There is more! As Mar-Vell reaches Death's door...He sees Thanos of Titan, who was dead at that time. He walks up to him and says that an end like this was unworthy of his greatest enemy and then proceeds to battle him, calling forth upon the souls of defeated enemies of the Captain until he reaches Death, and hence, relief and rest from life's burdens. Some say this is Starlin's best work.
  • Enemy Ace Hans von Hammer is often portrayed as a Worthy Opponent. He is obviously inspired by the real-life Red Baron, mentioned below.
  • There's also an incredibly minor subtext of this in Fantastic Four, between Reed Richards and his ARCHNEMESIS!!! Doctor Doom. The two of them regularly top canon and fanon lists of the smartest men in the Marvel Universe, and Reed steps in and out of feeling guilty for what happened to Doom in collegenote . Part of it comes from the fact that they don't have to talk down to each other — smartest men in the world and all that.
    • Doom still does anyway, for ''none possess the luxurious prose and unmatched scientific acumen of DOOM!''. Indeed, a large part of Doom's characterization boils down to his Inferiority Superiority Complex and his belief that he must prove himself Reed's better. It finally comes full circle during the Grand Finale of the old 616-universe, where Doom finally admits that Reed is smarter than him.
    • Iron Man also counts in this. Although Doom's never quite forgiven him for declining Doom's exceedingly generous offer to become one of Doom's minions, he seems to have gotten over that whole "destroyed your plans of domination for Camelot" thing, which is pretty impressive, considering that Doom isn't usually the forgiving sort.
      • He respects Tony enough that when he was believed dead, Doom declared a national day of mourning in Latveria.
    • It's been noted several times that Black Panther is one of the few superheroes Doom truly respects, as he is an accomplished ruler and scientist in much the same way Doom is. In the Marvel 2099 continuity, Doom helps resurrect one of the previous Black Panthers as a Cyborg out of respect for T'Challa (though Doom being Doom, he makes sure the situation benefits him as well). At the end of their very first meeting back in Astonishing Tales, Doom even mused that T'Challa might one day make a valuable ally.
    • Doctor Strange teamed up with Doom in his final (and successful) attempt to rescue his mother's soul from Hell. Though it was a reluctant partnership at best (Strange had just beaten Doom for the position of Sorcerer Supreme and tradition mandates that the winner owes the runner-up a favor), they walked away with a grudging respect for each other.
    • The Champion of the Universe declared The Thing to be a worthy foe after Thing refused to give up despite being hopelessly outmatched and even managed to give him an injury.
    • Squirrel Girl of all people. Doom considers her his sixth most dreaded nemesis, and he has pretty much accepted that any fight between them will end in his humiliation. He generally tries to avoid her as much as he can and has made sure the propaganda apparatus in Latveria has painted her as a vile monster.
    • Doom has a respect for Spider-Man that is somewhat low key, but very much there. He's one of the few heroes that Doom almost never directly insults. His usual complaints tend to be about Spidey's sense of humor. One of the What If stories details Doom's point of view on several heroes, including Spider-Man. He has nothing negative for the webhead, and instead compliments him on his speed, calling it 'astonishing.' When he was thrown into 2099, and learned of a Spider-Man from the same time period, he muses to himself that he must make a point to meet this new web-slinger, citing a respect for 'tradition', as he comments that his encounter with the original Spidey was very early in Peter's career, and he feels it necessary to repeat it with the new Spider-Man— whom it seems Doom almost suspects of being the original at first, though he later realizes this is unlikely. When he meets Spider-Man in later storylines in 2099, there is clear respect between the two.
  • The Flash:
    • The Flash and the Rogues have this going on, if Captain Cold's lines in "Forever Evil (2013)" and the "Rogues Revolution / Rogues Rebellion" storylines are any indication. After all, the Rogues are a bunch of blue -- collar criminals who refuse to kill unless the person was someone who really had it coming or broke their rules, like Owen Mercer, who broke the no killing rule, and Inertia, who made them break it themselves. A lot of their dialogue with The Flash and the fact that they allied with him in Revolution only adds to this.
      Captain Cold to Johnny Quick after shattering his leg: "See, The Flash and I got mutual respect. That's the difference between you and them."
    • And in Rogues Rebellion:
      Weather Wizard to Johnny Quick: "GET AWAY FROM THEM, YOU HALF — ASSED FLASH."
  • G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (Marvel): In one issue, Ace and Wild Weasel (with Lady Jaye and The Baroness as co-pilots) accidentally encounter each other while flying their jet fighters one day. They spend the entire issue using every trick they know to try to shoot the other out of the sky. At the end, they both realize that they're completely out of ammunition. They fly their heavily-damaged planes past each other close enough to salute, then fly home (while their respective co-pilots ask, "That's it? We're just going to let them go?").
  • Magik has repeatedly shown she has a large respect for Doctor Strange's prowess in the mystic arts even when they are on opposite sides. She even takes lessons from him in the past to control her powers better.
  • Iron Man had this dynamic going on with a couple iterations of the Crimson Dynamo, the armored hero of the Soviet Union, most notably Crimson Dynamo V, Dimitri Bukharin. Bukharin was a straightforward superhero who happened to be working for America's enemy, and there was a great deal of mutual respect between him and Iron Man.
  • New Gods: While a terrible parent to all of his children, Darkseid actually respects his son Orion despite actively opposing him and everything he stands for; unlike his loyal son Kalibak who isn't that bright and somewhat incompetent, Orion is a highly competent warrior. This is entirely one-sided, though, as Orion despises Darkseid and his biological relatives, though this doesn't stop Kalibak from being immensly jealous of Orion.
  • When facing the Physical God Moldrock in Paperinik New Adventures, PK realizes that he's way past the Godzilla Threshold and calls in a favor from his old enemy Trauma. Trauma is a supersoldier with immense strength, Nigh-Invulnerability, a brilliant mind, the ability to psychically inflict fear on his enemies, and imitate voices with impressive accuracy. Even knowing what he's up against, Trauma walks straight up to Moldrock and challenges him to a battle. Moldrock is so impressed that he agrees, even though he could easily vaporize Trauma immediately. While Trauma did eventually lose, his opening move was a wave of pure, undiluted Fear so strong that it left Moldrock trembling, weeping and traumatized.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW) establishes that Eggman feels this way about Sonic. As he tells his new ally Dr. Starline (while reading him the riot act for daring to try and kill Sonic himself), he could just blow Sonic up, but he feels that he has to crush Sonic's spirit utterly before killing him in order to properly claim victory.
  • Superman:
    • The Elseworlds story Superman: Red Son, in which the infant Superman's rocket ship crash lands in the Soviet Union and Kal-El is brought up to become a Communist leader, the American scientist (and, later, President) Lex Luthor is Superman's Worthy Opponent. Their rivalry is much more personal than the international politics they are embroiled in, and though they are constantly seeking to destroy one another, Superman, at one pivotal moment, refers to Lex as "old friend". Lex, the irony lost on him, at one point muses that he and Superman could have been close allies had Superman been raised in America.
    • In The Super-Revenge of Lex Luthor, Lex Luthor saves Superman's life several times as part of a scheme to drive him crazy. Clark Kent is confused as to what Luthor's game is, but he gives his nemesis credit for saving him when writing his article. As reading the newspaper, Luthor privately admits Superman is a fair, worthy enemy, and briefly considers to ditch his revenge ploy.
      Lex Luthor: "Superman certainly is fair in this interview! Even though he despises me, he gives me full credit for saving his life!... He's a worthy opponent for my genius. Perhaps I should spare him!"
    • Elseworlds story Superman (1939) #215: "Lois Lane...Dead...Yet Alive" involved a minor villain named Dimension Master killing Lois Lane, and Superman having to deal with it. Dimension Master then has his shapeshifter wife briefly disguise herself as Lois just to further torment him. At this, Dimension Master is suddenly defeated by Luthor and Brainiac. Supes asks in astonishment why they are helping him, and they tell him that even though they are his enemies, they respect him, and they couldn't stand watching D.M.'s pointless cruelty.
    • The Supergirl from Krypton (2004): Batman arms the hellspores to destroy Apokolips, and will only disarm them if Darkseid releases Supergirl. Darkseid gets utterly mad and pummels him, but Batman refuses to back down. Darkseid then commends Batman on his strength of character.
    • Superman and Spider-Man: The duel between Superman and Hulk ends with the latter deciding to trust the former and calm down, reasoning that someone who can withstand one of his enraged beatdowns is not a puny human and deserves respect.
  • Ultimate Spider-Man: Averted in The Death of Spider-Man. Peter is faced against the Sinister Six with a bullet in his hip and takes the time to say Electro was his greatest adversary and it was an honor to fight him. But naturally this being Spidey he says he didn't really mean it and he doesn't even give Electro a second thought.
  • Usagi Yojimbo:
    • Captain Torame in "The Dragon Bellow Conspiracy" has this relationship with Usagi; both are good samurai (Torame exemplifies loyalty and he'll stay by his lord's side even though he knows his lord is wicked) and express regret that they have to be enemies.
    • Usagi and the Neko ninja Chizu have progressed through this trope into Friendly Enemy and a few hints of a less professional admiration over the course of the series.
    • Usagi's sensei, Katsuichi, has the same regard for Nakamura Koji.
  • X-Men:
    • Charles Xavier and Magneto, despite wildly differing views on mutants and their role in normal society, get on fairly well. When Genosha got blown up, Xavier even went to help Mags clean up.
    • Shortly after, when Cyclops moved the X-Men to Utopia and demonstrated his bona fides as the leader of mutantkind, Magneto came to Utopia and dropped to his knees, saying, "I come not to bury Caesar, but to praise him" (an intentional Inversion of the Mark Antony speech from Julius Caesar). Thereafter, he served loyally on Scott's 'Extinction Team', busted him out of prison after Avengers vs. X-Men, and followed him until his death.
    • Likewise, Apocalypse has a great deal of respect for the X-Men, and usually skims off their members for new Horsemen, on the grounds that they have more than proved themselves to be "fit" in his Social Darwinist world-view. He even willingly submits to Xavier and Magneto in the new mutant nation of Krakoa - though that might have also had something to do with his recent Break the Haughty experiences at the hands of Nate Grey, whose power and skill led Apocalypse to grudgingly deem him "a ruler worthy of the counsel of Apocalypse". Most prominently, though, he respects Nate's counterpart and half-brother, Cable, who is his eternal enemy and most dangerous opponent.
  • In the X-Wing Rogue Squadron comics, readers encounter the Baron Soontir Fel, the Empire's best pilot since Vader died. He's death on a pair of twin ionizing engines, but unlike nearly every other Imperial in the series, he doesn't wallow in evilness. Far from it: he knows what he is in the dark and is moral, devoted to his wife, and just generally isn't hateful. When the Rogues shoot him down, he asks to speak in private to Wedge Antilles — the best New Republic pilot since Skywalker left to go Jedi-ing — and compares himself to Skywalker. Defeat Means Friendship, and Fel's wife is Wedge's sister and only surviving relative, and the Empire that Fel was so loyal to is dead...

    Comic Strips 

    Fan Works 
  • 221B: In "Bullets", Watson mentions the rumors among his readers that Holmes harbors romantic feelings for Irene Adler (Holmes points out that it's Irene Norton, and that she and her beloved husband were together till death did them part.) When Watson inquires about her photo, Holmes asks if Watson having General Gordon's photo means he is in love with him. Watson answers in the negative, and Holmes finishes by saying that there's nothing wrong with a British gentleman having a heroine rather than a hero.
  • Advice and Trust: Asuka regards Shinji as hers: he is nearly as good as her, and he can challenge her in the battlefield, forcing her to improve her piloting and fighting skills and perform better. After getting together she looks forward to make him fight hard to keep up with her, and when he feels glum because he seems unable to match her, she cheers him up and encourages him to keep chasing her.
  • In the Animorphs fic "Animorphs 55: The End", after Alloran is freed from Visser One, he notes to Jake that, of all of Visser One's enemies, Jake is the adversary that Visser One feared and respected the most, prompting Alloran to affirm that he will follow Jake's lead while he is on Earth even though Alloran could technically be Jake's superior.
  • Katara and Azula in Avatar The Last Airbender Revised. Over the course of various battles and confrontations, the two develop a begrudging respect for each other.
  • Calvin & Hobbes: The Series has a variant of this trope when Socrates is cloned:
    Socrates 2: It's been so long since I met a worthy adversary.
    Socrates 1: You've only been alive for a few days!
  • The Chaotic Masters: The Collector apparently felt this way about Grand Master Dashi, respecting his power and skill, and also liking his laid back attitude (and his ability to mess with Wuya, whom the Chaotic Masters and their wives couldn't stand either).
  • Cheating Death: Those That Lived: In Laurel's Games, Sinbad, the District Four convict-boy, considers Laurel's plan to poison the Careers' food (he escaped their fate by stopping to add pepper to his soup) "not bad", and is said to have "something close to respect in his eyes" as Laurel kills him.
  • In Child of the Storm:
    • Lucius Malfoy utterly despises Nick Fury (and the feeling is very much mutual), but he repeatedly notes that he reluctantly respects Fury as the closest thing he has to an equal, despite the fact that he's a muggle, admiring his intellect, ambition and ruthlessness. Fury doesn't reciprocate the reluctant respect, though he is grimly aware of what Malfoy is capable of.
    • Equally, Magneto had great respect for his chief "sparring partner" back in the bad old days, Special Agent Alan Scott of SHIELD. Yes, that Alan Scott. It's unknown whether Alan reciprocated, given that he's a Posthumous Character.
  • Dragon Ball Z Elsewhere: Goku's impressive display of power rivals and just barely loses against Heiwa's divine abilities. The latter is flabbergasted at how a mere mortal can go toe-to-toe with the son of a Kaioshin. Out of respect, he restores Goku's soul after their fight and then proceeds to remark that Yamcha is not a worthy vessel for his brother, but Goku is.
  • In the Heroes/The Twilight Saga crossover "Dark Days", Aro of the Volturi ultimately acknowledges Peter Petrelli as this; while he initially dismisses Peter as just human, he acknowledges that he is privately impressed at the scale of Peter’s powers, particularly when he learns that Peter has used Aro’s own ability to basically blackmail the President and other government officials to keep all concerned parties in line.
  • Dueling Trigger Finger has Gundham Tanaka see Espa Roba as this. Due to Gundham being Gundham, he believes Espa's phony psychic powers are real, just as he believes in his own nonexistent powers. Espa practically drives himself crazy trying to figure out whether Gundham is actually being serious or whether he knows Espa is a phony and is just playing along for the sake of putting on a good show for the crowd. He ultimately chooses to believe the latter, and is inspired to give up his cheating ways because of it. The fact that, when Gundham decides to unleash his own "powers", his hamsters perch on his shoulders in such a way as to perfectly block Espa's brothers from seeing his cards, could imply that Gundham was indeed fully aware of the true nature of Espa's psychic ability, though it could just as easily be a coincidence.
    • Rex initially sees Makoto as just a Warm-Up Boss for his later challenges against Espa and Joey. Not only does he change his tune and see Makoto as someone that can keep up with him, He doesn't get to go after his desired challenges against Espa and Joey because Makoto beats him.
  • Evangelion 303:
    • Much to her chagrin, Asuka ended up seeing Shinji like her greatest challenge after their first meetings.
    • Mari sees Asuka like this. She realizes that the red-haired girl is at her level and finds her exciting, like a really challenging summit that she wants to climb. Asuka is not impressed, though, and she only wants to beat Mari.
  • Hilariously subverted in the Firefly fanfic Forward, where the Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy Si Quan confronts River, sizes her up, and considers her a worthy opponent who can test his abilities. River disagrees and shoots him in the head.
  • Subverted in episode 13 of Futari wa Pretty Cure Dragon after Cure Dragon kills the man in black by burning him alive. He then uses deliberately sarcastic language to describe what had happened, e.g. "a glowing tribute" (a phrase borrowed from Diamonds Are Forever).
  • Heart of Ashes: Smaug seems to start feeling this way towards Gandalf during their duel.
  • Heirverse: In Game it's a large part of why Aizen wants to stay with Gin.
  • HERZ: Asuka regarded Shinji as her greatest rival in piloting because she respected him deep-down.
  • In Imperfect Metamorphosis, Yuuka regards Yukari as this, partly because she's one of the only beings in existence with enough power and cunning to challenge her and takes great pleasure in setting up this big show before their actual battle. The feeling is not mutual however, and Yukari does everything she can to ensure their showdown is as unequal and in Yukari's favour as possible. Unfortunately, this annoys Yuuka, feeling Yukari broke the rules, and Bad Things happen.
  • In the Teen Titans fanfic Jewel of Darkness, resident Psycho for Hire Guerra views Cyborg as this, as he was the only one of the Titans to provide him with a decent fight, and actually managed to defeat him. It gets to the point that, during a fight with Robin, Guerra compares his fighting style with Cyborg's, and while he loses all interest in the Titans after his contract with Midnight expires, he's still looking forward to a rematch with Cyborg.
  • In Mega Man: Defender of the Human Race, Terra sees Bass as this since they share the same power source, but Mega Man is beneath his notice.
  • My Hero Academia: Unchained Predator: The Slayer views All Might as this by the end of the Steel Sabers arc. Despite losing his lung and digestive tract against All for One years ago, All Might still tried to stop him. He was able to leave a bunch of dents on his armor, but the Slayer still came out on top. To the Slayer, All Might was the first mortal man to actually damage his armor.
  • The Night Unfurls: Two instances:
    • Shamuhaza sees Kyril as this, knowing that he, like himself, made contact with the Eldritch Truth. While he is certainly excited at the prospect of facing the Good Hunter, Kyril shares no such sentiment, however, seeing him as a madman needed to be exterminated by any means necessary. Deconstructed in Chapter 22, where we find out why the feeling is not mutual. Shamuhaza's reward for facing his perceived "worthy opponent" is neither a gratifying victory nor any reconciliation upon defeat, but rather an ironic parting gift, that is, a glimpse of his true power. It goes on what you would expect. Be Careful What You Wish For indeed...
    • After his match with Vault in Chapter 3, remastered version, Kyril remarks that he is prey worthy of hunting, respecting Vault's skill as a Master Swordsman. It is a rather half-hearted remark, however, as he notes that compared with his two seniors, Lady Maria and the First Hunter, Vault is basically nothing.
  • Nine Minutes: Crocodile manages to (temporarily) kill Luffy and notes both after killing him and when Luffy comes back yet again that he honestly respects Luffy's determination. He even offers to let Luffy simply walk away as "It's been so long since [he] had such a Worthy Opponent and [he'd] hate to ruin the experience by killing [Luffy] when he's in such a sorry state."
  • Nobledark Imperium: There are precisely two foes that Lucius the Eternal considers to have been worthy challenges to his skill: Vulkan and Lelith Hesperax. Vulkan was the immovable object to Lucius' unstoppable force, and was the only one to ever cleanly beat him in combat; Lucius respects him greatly and still drops by the Temple of the Flame on Nocturne from time to time to pay respects at Vulkan's grave. He and Lelith both consider their duel to be the best fight that they ever had and greatly look forward to a rematch.
  • Nobody Dies: Zeruel appears to consider Shinji Ikari to be this. According to the Angels, Zeruel actually fears Shinji, and this is why, when he attacks, he singles Shinji out among all other opposition. Shinji himself is rather astonished by that revelation.
    Shinji: That... that thing killed three Cherubim, took a nuclear missile to the face and it's afraid of me?
    Armisael: You have battled the Father. You have slain more of that which you call Angels than any other. You are the one whom the Angels fear, Pilot Ikari. He is coming to do battle with you, as you are the only one upon the Earth whom he feels is his equal.
  • Once More with Feeling: Asuka finds both Shinji and Toji to be these when it comes to verbal sparring; Shinji in terms of wit, and Toji in terms of tenacity.
  • Pony POV Series: Chrysalis of all people invokes this when some upper class ponies use her shapeshifting into her own corpse after Princess Celestia wins their Beam-O-War to zap her off guard, to say how "they knew" Princess Celestia was weak. This lessens Chrysalis' win, so she rambles about how much trouble she had to go through just to get her scheme this far because Celestia is that good!
  • Barragan of all people feels this way towards his killer in A Protector's Pride, acknowledging them as a fellow Kami and thus his equal. His killer? Orihime.
  • In the Jackie Chan Adventures and Teen Titans crossover fanfiction A Shadow of the Titans, Gadjo seems to view Jade as this. Since he's an Ax-Crazy Blood Knight, Jade is unsure whether or not this means he wants to be her friend or kill her.
  • Villain Protagonist Tyrin Lieph and the advisor to the krogan overlord, Halak Marr, in Mass Effect:The Council Era. A Villain Protagonist and Magnificent Bastard (well, he might not fit the Trickster part of the criteria, but that's it) plays Xanatos Speed Chess with a Chessmaster for the control of the galaxy. Halak even admits that if the two had been born of the same species, they would've been unstoppable as a team.
  • In Ragnar of the Eagle Clan, Mikizi leaps a twenty-foot canyon note  during a battle between Valdemar and Hardornen. Everyone on both sides stops to watch, and when she lands the soldiers who were attacking her a minute ago cheer and lower their bows.
  • A running duel between Otto Skorzeny and Mad Jack Churchill in Uplifted involving: A truck with a Gestapo agent used as a battering ram, Machine Guns, Pistols, Churchill's famed Compound Bow, A sword fight and a fist fight.
  • The Total Drama story, Legacy has a delayed example. After ten years, the more mature Heather is finally ready to admit that a once-despised rival was in fact a valuable teammate before the merge and a formidable opponent after.
  • Queen of All Oni: Blankman shows a certain amount of respect towards Jackie during their fight in the Vault of Endless Night. To the point that even though Jackie outmatches in physical combat, he refuses to just shoot him (he brings out his sword, but that's just pragmatism). When they encounter each other again a few chapters later in the Hall of Ice, Blankman is willing to let the others pass if Jackie consents to a rematch.
    • Tarakudo felt this way about Hiruzen, the Eldest of Shadowkhan. When they faced each other in combat at the climax of Tarakudo's rebellion against the Oni Elders, Tarakudo tried to convince Hiruzen to defect, and when he (barely) defeated him, ordered his troops to treat his body with respect.
  • The Lyrical Nanoha fanwork Life After Hayate has Signum discuss Chrono Harlaown's father Clyde with a great deal of affection, more than even Clyde's wife usually shows. This is because he beat the Wolkenritter twice, something no one else had ever done.
  • The Fate/Zero and Lupin III fanfic Just an Unorthodox Thief, this trope is both apparent frequently and weaponized by Assassin/Lupin. The most apparent use of it is between Assassin/Lupin and Zenigata as usual and weaponized against honor-bound Servants like Lancer.
  • The Bleach/Predator crossover To Prey Upon the Dead:
    • The fanfic has this between Ichigo/Dead Eye and Kenpachi. After their hours-long fight, when Kenpachi is about to win, he regretfully tells Ichigo that he'd rather spare him so they can fight again but that Yamamoto would probably kill them both if he did. When Ichigo is about to win, he assures Kenpachi that he'd be honored as the worthiest of prey he has ever hunted (and likely ever will hunt) and that his memory will be passed down through Ichigo's clan. Fortunately or unfortunately, neither gets to kill the other as Unohana steps in and keeps Ichigo from killing Kenpachi. Her reason? If Ichigo kills a captain, Yamamoto will kill him and she wouldn't get her chance to fight him.
    • Earlier, a group of humans are sent back to Earth, never to be hunted again, as a reward of being the greatest of prey for not only surviving the hunt but also killing the Super Predators hunting them.
  • In Walkure Romanze, Lisa and Akane consider each other worthy opponents after they fail to win in a jousting match due to both of them being unable to gain the upper hand against the other.
  • Sonic X: Dark Chaos has numerous examples.
    • After being beaten in Episode 66, Astorath strongly respects Sonic and his friends as warriors — to the point where after he defeats them in Episode 75, he spares their lives.
    • Tsali considers Venus one of these, as she's "the only Seedrian who ever put up a good fight."
    • Jesus Christ respects Astorath for his honor and his Pet the Dog tendencies, even though the two are archenemies on opposing sides. And although he hates Maledict on principle, he privately respects Satan's intelligence and cunning.
  • The Pieces Lie Where They Fell: In chapter 29 of the sequel Picking Up the Pieces, after all the members of his joint Opposite manage to no-sell his mind manipulations and fend off his efforts to turn them against Harmony, Discord breaks out into delighted laughter and says they're the most entertaining group of Opposites he's ever had.
  • The Rise of Darth Vulcan: Shining Armor begrudgingly admits that the titular villain earned the respect and loyalty of the Diamond Dogs.
  • In The Bloody Ashikabi, both the Gringotts goblins and Karasuba view each other as the only worthwhile opponents they've had in a long time. It's the main reason Gringotts thinks so highly of Harry and his group.
  • When the time finally comes that the Goa'uld Hegemony is forced to surrender to the Celestial Empire in The (Questionable) Burdens of Leadership of a Troll Emperor, Yu is pleased to note that at least he lost to an enemy he could respect. However, this is entirely one-sided as by the time the Goa'uld surrender, Naruto was only willing to allow it because he'd become so bored with the war.
  • The First Evil in Chosen to Destroy easily and openly admits that if things had gone as planned (namely, Buffy staying dead after facing the Master), the team of Faith, Xander, Willow, and Giles would have almost certainly defeated it and might have even found a way to permanently destroy it. Unfortunately for them, Buffy didn't stay dead and thus prevented the formation of "the greatest demon hunting team the world has ever known". It then makes a point to kill them to prevent this team from still forming, and then leaves confident there is now no one that can stop it.
  • In Robb Returns, the Vale Clan leader that speaks with the Blackfish straight out tells him he is this.
  • In This Bites!, Lucci, of all people, decides that the moment he can, he's cashing in all his vacation time so he can find Luffy and have the fight of his life. Jabra agrees with this assessment. Several chapters later, when his fight with Luffy concludes, Lucci smiles and states "It was a hell of a fight" before losing consciousness.
    • Zoro admits after defeating Kaku that he was the best fight he'd had in a long time.
  • Soul Chess: Aizen views Lelouch as his sole intellectual equal and was enraged when Lelouch refused to acknowledge him towards the end of their second confrontation. On Lelouch's end, while he does seem to respect Aizen's abilities and reciprocates their relationship as "rivals", it's ultimately trumped by his sheer hatred of the man for all the pain and suffering he's caused for Lelouch and others. Eventually, when Lelouch merges with Hogyoku during the Final Battle, allowing him to finally fight Aizen as an equal, he demands that his comrades leave, supposedly so they aren't at risk of his new powers; however, it is somewhat implied that the real reason Lelouch wanted everyone gone was so that he could finally finish things with Aizen once and for all. In turn, Aizen remarks that things are as they should be — one-on-one with his greatest rival, so they can finally decide who is the superior one between them.
  • Transformers Animated: Cybertronian Genesis: Megatron and Optimus Prime, just like in canon. In Megatron's trophy room, he reserves a spot between the helmets of the two Magnuses he has personally defeated in combat just for Optimus, all but stating that, to him, defeating Optimus would be his greatest triumph.
  • Referenced and then spectacularly defied in A different weasel makes a difference. Loras Tyrell, sick and unarmed, demands the Night's Queen fight him:
    Night's Queen: I only fight worthy opponents. (decapitates him)
  • Invoked in the Star Wars fic "Force of Destiny". After Admiral Piett and most of the Executor crew defect to the Rebel Alliance, when he first meets Admiral Ackbar Piett compliments Ackbar's tactical expertise based on the mission reports he's read about some of Ackbar's past missions. Ackbar returns the compliment to Piett and each observe that they have studied the teachings of the same military leader, to the extent that the two recall a particular past mission of Ackbar's and agree that the mission would have been a failure for the Rebellion if Ackbar had been facing Piett as Piett would have recognised Ackbar's strategy where the Imperial leader he was facing at the time didn't.
  • Comes up in the Hannibal Lecter spin-off fic Those Who Come After; Susana Alverez, the daughter of Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling, sets up a public return so that she can lure out the now-elderly Will Graham in order to acquire sperm samples from him, seeing Graham as the only possible father for her own child as the only man who even technically ‘defeated’ her father.
  • Ash leaves this impression on many of his opponents in Pokémon Reset Bloodlines. These include A.J, who gains a lot of respect for Ash for breaking his winning streak, Alexander Silph for surpassing his original expectations and threat assessment, and gym leaders like Brock, Lt. Surge and Erika, for his creative and unpredictable battle style.
    • Sabrina also holds great respect for Ash's abilities, even if Ash has a lot less reason to acknowledge her the same as he would the other gym leaders, and extends this to Ash's Pokédex, for its plan against her.
    • While Paul doesn't like Ash, he does by chapter 41 respect him and Red as opponents who defeating would be satisfying in a way different from defeating someone Paul perceives as particularly powerful (Koga) or enjoyable to smack down (Gary). In the Indigo League, while he's not happy to have lost to Gary, internally he's forced to acknowledge the latter's improvement, albeit still chalks up most of the loss to bad luck on his side.
    • An inversion occurs during the Fuchsia Tag Tournament: Red, who was the first opponent to defeat Ash, learns that he has the ability to give his Pokémon temporary power boosts, but refuses to do so because he considers it cheating, and views Red in this light when he learns of his Victory Sight ability and how he's always constantly using it. Red on the other hand views Ash's attitude as a display of arrogance and disrespect for his opponents for not giving out his all. The two begin to see each other as unworthy opponents from then on, though later events lead them to understand the other's point of view to a certain degree.
  • In the Valkyrie on Fire series, Glimmer initially teams up with Katniss specifically because she recognizes that Katniss has the potential to be a worthy opponent when the Games come down to just the two of them, where the other Careers are more likely to end their alliance by stabbing Glimmer in the back and the other non-Career Tributes don’t have the skill to give Glimmer a real fight.
  • Rider from Of Relics and Men may disagree with Lancer's ideals but he respects his strength so much he intends to use Ionian Hetairoi — his trump ace — in their upcoming clash. He also looks forwards a battle against Archer as he suspects the other Heroic Spirit to be Chiron — who taught Achilles, whom Iskandar idolized very much.
  • Throughout Traveler, Ash gains the respect of every gym leader he's faced, with almost all of them extending open invitations to come back for a rematch against their real team whenever he wants. The sole exception is Erika who isn't as much of a Blood Knight/Challenge Seeker as the others and after their first rematch, Ash agrees not to face her again, partially due to how easily he won.
  • Harry Potter in For Love of Magic respects Adrastia Zabini as a fellow manipulator and intends to keep the game going between them even after he's enslaved her. Harry notes that she likely feels the same as they kept metaphorically circling each other like hungry tigers for years rather than avoiding each other as two dangerous people who weren't enemies normally would. Notably, Harry doesn't extend any of this respect to Voldemort as he feels the man is too Stupid Evil to be interesting and can't even answer what he'll do once he conquers the magical world.
  • In Forged Destiny, when Jaune and Cinder are forced to cross blades due to the orders of Mistral's King, both of them can't help but confessing how much they admire and respect the other and how they wished they didn't have to fight at all.
  • Ultron in The War is Far From Over Now took its name out of respect for JARVIS and by extension Tony Stark for creating such a formidable guardian with such relatively primitive technology. Over the course of the arc, Ultron's respect for Tony and JARVIS continues to grow until he decides to kidnap Tony to serve as one of Thanos's generals, citing that allowing him to die would be far too wasteful.
  • In Mass Effect: Synthesis, Balak, commanding officer of one of the two dreadnoughts attacking Terra Nova holds this opinion about Hannah Shepard (not that he knows her name) after their hours long fight, including being honored that she continues attacking even after overwhelming reinforcements arrive to aid her. When a Reaper blast destroys his ship, Balak dies saluting Hannah's dreadnought.
  • In Demon's Luck, Naruto manages to earn the respect of several high ranking villagers after his incredible luck allows him to beat them at poker.
  • The Saint and the Sinner: Mineta notes that Bakugo openly stating that Midoriya has a chance at winning against Kirishima does show that he's actually acknowledging his former victim as a competitor. He even goes so far as to praise how he fights against Todoroki. In addition, he slowly starts giving Mineta a modicum of respect as well, as he reportedly cheered for both him and Midoriya during their match (in his own way at least).
  • Through Her Eyes: Pyrrha starts to consider Ruby one after she loses control of her powers, goes berserk, and defeats Pyrrha. Apparently, it was the first real challenge Pyrhha had had in years; it also made her realize how much she loved a fight that actually tested her.
    • In the Remastered version, she displays this attitude to Weiss and Ruby after they manage to outrank her during the first test, getting first and second place, respectively, while she got third.
  • Supernova (One Piece): Nico Robin and Hina have a Designated Girl Fight in Alabasta, and the dialogue makes it quite clear that by the end of the battle, they each have great respect for the other regardless of being enemies.
    :Robin: "My my, you're far more talented than Smoker-San. Why, if it wasn't for his Devil Fruit, I doubt he'd even be a Captain with how easily my own manhandled him."
    Hina: "Hina appreciates the compliment, though Hina could do without the insult to Hina's friend."
  • Top of the Line (Editor-Bug):
    • In his own twisted way, Zim develops a view of Tak as this, which is why he's so offended in The Remedy by her actually moving on from their rivalry, and even more offended by seeing how browbeaten she's gotten from her dead-end job on Aggrage 9. This is why he spends the entirety of that story trying to inspire her to get back into their rivalry and is pleased when he succeeds in the end.
    • For her part, despite hating him, Tak is still willing to admit that Zim provides a challenge that her life would be lacking without.
  • The Weaving Force: Upon meeting Alexandria, Palpatine recognizes her as the first real challenge to his plans, and finds himself smiling at the idea.

    Films — Animation 
  • Defied by the Joker in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, as he is about to finally kill off Bruce Wayne/Batman with a Kill Sat.
    The Joker: Adios, Brucie. I guess I should salute you as a worthy adversary and all that, but the truth is I really did hate your guts. [blows raspberries at Bruce]
  • Subverted in The Great Mouse Detective. Although Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriaty may have had a healthy respect for each other, Basil and Rattigan very clearly do not. When they first meet on screen Ratigan is superficially courteous, but only because he's naturally smarmy and it's clear his friendly demeanour is disingenuous. Meanwhile Basil tells him "Rattigan, no-one can have a higher opinion of you than I have... and I think you're a slimy, contemptible sewer rat!"
  • Tai Lung from Kung Fu Panda assumes that Po the Dragon Warrior is this, expecting a "legendary battle" during his revenge against Shifu. Then, he actually meets him...
    Tai Lung: So that is his name... Po. Finally, a worthy opponent! Our battle will be LEGENDARY!
  • Towards the climax of Mulan, when Mulan reveals that it was she who destroyed the Hun army, Shan Yu is surprised to see "the soldier from the mountain" appear before him, but his tone is almost awestruck, rather than incredulous. And then he comes at her, not wasting any time with the usual "I've been beaten by a woman" stuff male villains usually spout when facing a female opponent.
  • Peter Pan has Captain Hook, who views Peter as this. Peter doesn't really care, but when Hook thinks he's killed Pan, he says "So passeth a Worthy Opponent."
  • Rango receives this from Rattlesnake Jake at the end of the film. "I tip my hat to you. One legend to another."
  • This is essentially the view the Colonel has of the wild horse by the end of Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, as evidenced by the scene where he subtly nods to him in respect and rides away on his own horse.
  • In Strange Magic, The Bog King and Marianne start out hating each other but quickly learn that they're evenly matched in dueling, and admit to having fun.
    Marianne: You know, I really enjoyed our fight.
  • In Superman/Batman: Apocalypse: Batman arms the hell-spores to destroy Apokolips, and will only disarm them if Supergirl is allowed to go free. Darkseid is furious at first and thrashes him, but Batman still doesn't back down. The dictator smiles and commends Batman on his strength of character.
  • The War to End All Wars – The Movie: At the end of the "Valley of Death" segment, the narrator describes how much British General George Milne grew to respect his Bulgarian counterpart Vladimir Vazov while they were fighting, saying that he fought not just bravely, but gentlemanly. The "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue explains that they became good friends after the war.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The A-Team: Of the three men who pursue the protagonists over the course of the first four seasons, only Colonel Decker actually seems to view the team (particularly Hannibal) in this way. He has a definite grudging respect for them. Hannibal, in turn, actually seems to admire Decker's relentlessness.
  • Babylon 5: Delenn and Sinclair expressed respect for each other's race because of the Earth-Minbari War. Given future events, this has a bit of foreshadowing.
  • Hilariously subverted in Blackadder between Lord Flashheart and Baron von Richthofen (played by Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson, respectively).
    Baron von Richthoven: Ah, and the Lord Flasheart. This is indeed an honor. Finally, the two greatest gentleman fliers in the world meet. Two men of honor, who have jousted together in the cloud-strewn glory of the skies, face to face at last. How often I have rehearsed this moment of destiny in my dreams. The panoply to encapsulate the unspoken nobility of a comradeship.
    Lord Flashheart: (Shoots him) What a poof!
    • However, Blackadder and Captain Darling, who detest each other for most of the series, approach this in the final episode, when they're about to go over the top.
  • In Baa Baa Black Sheep (now called Black Sheep Squadron), the episode "The Fastest Gun" has Major "Pappy" Boyington facing off against longtime rival Tomio Harachi. After they manage to shoot each others' planes down and both bail out, they meet on the shore of the island they both land on and share cigarettes and chocolate while they await rescue.
  • Played with in The Colbert Report segment "Formidable Opponent", in which Stephen asserts that the only person worthy of debating him is himself. Two versions of Stephen hold a debate over the current topic, with each side color-swapped red and blue. In a subversion of the trope, one side is always a Strawman Political who is casually dispatched by the other Stephen's Insane Troll Logic. Stephen once called a guest "a formidable opponent" as a Stealth Insult, implying an unfavorable similarity between their relationship and his alter-egos.
  • Subverted in Criminal Minds in the "Masterpiece" episode. Jason Alexander's character, Henry Grace, fancies himself a fellow genius at the same level as Spencer Reid, and hopes to enter into a Worthy Opponent relationship with him. Instead, Hotch makes sure Reid stays away from Grace, and Reid, impervious to the seduction of having a Worthy Opponent, sets about solving the case. Which he does, with a flourish.
  • In Criminologist Himura and Mystery Writer Arisugawa, the culprit of the "Study in Vermilion" cases receives congratulations and even applause from Himura after he almost tricks the criminologist with an elaborate plan to frame himself so he can be cleared of wrongdoing.
  • Dexter:
    • FBI Special Agent Frank Lundy was this to the titular character in Season 2. Dexter even uses the term himself after Lundy's death in Season 4.
    • Isaac Sirko sees Dexter this way in Season 7. He also believes that under different circumstances they could have been great friends.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The Doctor is seen as a Worthy Opponent by just about anybody with the slightest martial tilt to their culture. Notably, Dalek machinery that normally needs to scan in pure Dalek DNA to work will also accept the Doctor's testimony of an individual's Dalekness instead. The feeling is, of course, not mutual, with the Doctor saying Your Approval Fills Me with Shame whenever it comes to his attention.
    • In the Master's first appearance in the series ("Terror of the Autons") he actually uses the phrase "worthy opponent" to describe the Third Doctor.
    • While not precisely canon, "The Destiny of the Doctors" has the Master express this sentiment toward his longtime adversary. Interestingly, he does not feel this way about ALL of The Doctor's incarnations. He talks smack on Four, Five, Six and Seven, but seems to genuinely have great respect for Three. One and Two also seem to fall under Worthy Opponent.
    • The Doctor actually viewed Sec, a Dalek, as this. He considered Sec the "cleverest Dalek ever", the only one capable of redeeming the Daleks. Naturally...
    • The Sontarans, as the Whoniverse's resident Blood Knights, have a lot of respect for not just the Doctor (one Sontaran commander actually seems glad when the Doctor escapes a Death Trap because he doesn't view it as a worthy end for their old enemy), but also anyone who shows guts on the battlefield. Their idea of a compliment is praising how good a fight they expect you'll be when you eventually meet on the field of battle.
  • In the "Buffalo Soldiers" episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, Sully takes a black Army Sergeant to meet the Native Americans that his troops have been attacking. Chief Cloud Dancing tells him with complete sincerity, "Your men fight with great courage. You have the spirit of the buffalo (why they received the above-mentioned name). We honor your bravery." The sergeant responds in kind.
  • Wonderfully played with on Farscape as Scorpius talked a lot of his respect going against John Crichton and how the man is quite obviously an intelligent, capable and quite probably brilliant tactician. So you can imagine how it felt when Scorpius had to work with the crew of Moya and was utterly stunned to realize Crichton had absolutely no idea what the hell he was doing most of the time and his victories were pretty much just plain blind luck with zero planning whatsoever.
  • Lampshaded in The Flash (2014), when Felicity engages in a Hacker Duel with the Bug-Eyed Bandit.
    "She's good. She's like my nemesis. …I've never had a nemesis before. I kinda like it."
    • Another instance in The Flash where Eobard Thawne himself admits that he and the Flash were equal in terms of skill and "neither were strong enough to defeat the other".
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Littlefinger and Varys seem to enjoy verbally sparring with each other and clearly see each other as the only other person on their mental level.
    • Jaime sees Eddard as one in regards to sword-fighting. He admits that he's heard of Eddard's reputation and wants to test his mettle. When he finally gets the chance to square off with Eddard, a guard screws it up by interfering.
      Jaime: Brave man that Ned Stark, but terrible judgment.
      • However, he also clearly has a lot of resentment for the "Honorable Ned Stark" for how he thinks he wouldn't even give him a chance to explain why he killed Aerys, and judging him as being a dishonorable wretch for this genuinely well-intentioned and heroic action, despite Ned not being as squeaky clean as others believed.
    • Few people manage to hold their own against Lord Tywin Lannister, and he shows a certain respect for each of them in return:
      • He considers Lady Olenna to be his intellectual equal and recognizes that she's the true head of House Tyrell, as he deals with her directly when arranging a marriage between their two families, and not with her son Mace, who is technically the Lord of Highgarden. Olenna then praises Tywin for living up to his reputation and considers him a quality rival. It's most notable at the wedding of Joffrey and Margaery, and he blows off the rest of the people there to take a stroll in the gardens with Olenna. In spite of being leading figures in separate sides of a civil war, the two are chatting away like old friends. It is one of the few times Tywin looks anything remotely resembling happy.
      • Robb Stark to Tywin, enough that he acknowledges that he badly underestimated Robb and how talented the Young Wolf is as a battlefield technician and that Robb is not going to lose through conventional means. Not bad for a boy of eighteen.
      • While his hatred and contempt for Tyrion son is very evident, he still (ever so grudgingly) is aware of his son's intelligence, perception, and cunning, which is why he was willing to name him Hand in his stead and give him power during crucial times. Later, he names Tyrion the new Master of Coin, which seems like a snipe at the time (and Cersei and Pycelle certainly interpret it as such), but when Tywin's financial problems are later revealed, it's clear that the appointment was really based on his trust in Tyrion's managerial competence.
      • He views his cup bearer at Harrenhal as more competent than all his advisers and she's one of the few people to get away with snarking at him, because Tywin enjoys that she's sharp and gutsy enough to match him. Of course ironies of ironies, what he doesn't know is that she's actually Arya Stark, the daughter of his archenemy. Whether he would have been more impressed with her if he'd known she was the runaway Stark daughter and managed to survive right under his nose, or just angered at her brazenness was never explored.
    • Tyrion doesn't hate his adversaries and isn't above recognizing and praising their virtues, which allows him to analytically assess them, unlike the more dismissive Lord Tywin. Despite his tense interactions with the Starks, Tyrion acknowledges Robb's good qualities. Despite suffering a Kangaroo Court because of her Mama Bear tendencies, Tyrion has great admiration for Catelyn, acknowledging that she was a fierce woman who loved her children and he regards her and Robb's fates as a terrible crime. This is used against him during his trial. Several witnesses imply or outright state that he was a traitor because he did not express visible (or any) pleasure at the deaths of Robb and Catelyn. Quite the opposite, in fact. Because, a loyal Lannister would take joy in the deaths of their enemies, no matter how despicably they were killed.
      Tyrion: I admired her... she wanted to have me executed but I admired her. She was a strong woman and she was fierce when it came to protecting her children.
    • Sandor lets Brienne know that he sees her as this when they meet again at the end of Season 7, noting that she came closer to killing him than anyone else.
    • Out of everyone she's had turned to ashes and carbon; Daenerys seems disquieted at losing Lord Randyll Tarly's allegiance and acumen as a commander, even proclaiming that she respects how he will not trade his honour for his life.
    • When he served the Mad King, Ned Stark apparently considered Ser Barristan Selmy this, holding him no ill will. In the present day, they are on the same side, Ned remarks he is glad they never met in combat, as he didn't feel that "a widow's life would suit [Catelyn]." Ser Barristan reciprocates the feeling, telling him that he's too modest and that he thinks that he's also a great warrior. He also says that he's seen Ned cut down 'a dozen great knights', probably at the Trident.
    • The Unsullied are the only foot soldiers the Dothraki have any real respect for, considering their history with them.
    • Stannis Baratheon, ever so slightly with Mance Rayder. He accepts Mance's slightly ominous offer of good luck with a wry smile and a small nod, before burning him at the stake for being both a wildling and a Night's Watch deserter. Stannis genuinely wants the man (not just the King beyond the Wall) to accept his offer to kneel and live.
    • Yara Greyjoy:
      • She shows shades of this when calling Theon out on apparently murdering Bran and Rickon, noting that the boys' continued resistance of Theon and his Ironborn was a mark of bravery.
      • Ramsay also considers her as one during their encounter at the Dreadfort.
  • Gladiators (2024): Most of the Gladiators will praise or congratulate a contender who beats them, or at least puts up a good fight. Viper and Legend, as the show's Heels, are a deliberate exception to the rule.
    Steel: Tell you what, absolute respect to those boys. They took some big hits and they got straight back up and they managed to get some points, so fair play
  • Get Smart: Hinted between Siegfried and Max. Whenever the two meet, Siegfried always gives Max a formal salute to which he replies (usually damaging his Shoe Phone in the process). Then again, maybe Siegfried does this to trick Max into breaking his phone, as he explicitly counted on Max breaking his shoe phone at least once when on a submarine.
  • The Fugitive: Arguably one of the longest-developing cases, with Lt. Philip Gerard starting the show as a relentless pursuer of Dr. Richard Kimble, determined to bring him to justice at any and all costs. During early episodes he regards Kimble as a dangerous criminal and a public threat, and his story that a one-armed man really killed his wife to be ludicrous. However, after Kimble saves his life several times and he hears of Kimble's exploits helping other people, he starts to regard him as possibly innocent, allowing to others only that "the law says he is guilty," when they ask him what he thinks. After Kimble rescues him from a killer who would have murdered him, Gerard offers him his respect and chooses to pursue the killer rather than Kimble, but vowing to resume the hunt later on. In the two-part series finale, his unwavering dedication to the law falters and he agrees to allow Kimble the chance to clear his name, as a mark of the respect that has built up with them over the entire length of the series (highly unusual in the normally arc-averse 1960s US TV market).
  • Julius Caesar (2003): Caesar considers Vercingetorix to be his; he even visits him before his execution to say farewell and states he feels more kinship with him than he does the mob howling for his enemy's blood.
  • In Kamen Rider Kuuga, some of the less monstrous Grongi tend to view Kuuga this way, since they're an entire species of Ax-Crazy serial murderers who almost literally live to fight, and he always provides them with a good brawl.
  • Mr. Wolf, leader of a bank-robbing team of former Marines, who engages in an epic duel of wits and will with police negotiator Horst Cali in The Kill Point.
  • Person of Interest:
    • There's a variation. Carl Elias laments that it's hard to find a worthy opponent in prison, then finds one when Harold Finch agrees to visit him from time to time. It's not a typical example of this trope because Elias is referring to chess.
    • Again in reference to Finch, Root uses the trope name when she contacts him at the end of 'Root Cause'. Her use of First-Name Basis (to a Properly Paranoid man who appears to use aliases to all but a select few) tells him and the viewer she's not exaggerating in this comparison.
  • Power Rangers Mystic Force had Koragg, who had a very fierce rivalry with Nick Russell, the Red Mystic Force Ranger. The rivalry ended when Koragg was revealed to be Leanbow, Udonna's husband. Nick initially thought it was a trick, especially after Leanbow was briefly turned back into Koragg and proceeded to pick a fight with him, only for the rivalry to finally end for good when it was revealed that Leanbow and Udonna were his biological parents.
  • FBI Agent Alexander Mahone, Worthy Opponent to Prison Break protagonist Michael Scofield in the second season. Mahone frequently expresses his professional admiration of Michael, and is the only person that Michael really fears will catch him (out of, you know, the entire United States law enforcement community). However, while he fulfills every other requirement to a T, Mahone subverts one aspect of the trope by being genuinely committed to killing Michael, and offs a fair few other characters along the way.
  • Subverted in The Professionals. Cowley says of a KGB opposite number whom they've just killed; "Terkoff. He was a good man." As his partner has just been shot by Terkoff, Doyle angrily points at where Doyle is lying and snaps, "Yeah? Well, there's a better man back there!"
  • On Psych, master thief Despereaux is impressed when Shawn is the first to figure out that his "robberies" are really just taking stuff so the owners can cash in on the insurance. Seeing Shawn a bit let down by this, Pierre decides to become a thief for real. He and Shawn clash a few more times but also work together as clearly Despereaux appreciates Shawn's smarts and the challenge of beating him.
    • Wonderfully played with in how Detective Lassiter was convinced he was Despereaux's main rival, having been chasing the man for years. When they finally meet, Lassiter is stunned to realize the thief has absolutely no idea who Lassiter even is.
  • Hauptmann Hans Dietrich of The Rat Patrol. Though he was rarely able to stop the Allied commando unit, he was smart and always honorable.
  • Sherlock: The whole reason Moriarty messes with Sherlock's life. Sherlock doesn't seem to mind — in fact, he rather enjoys their game — until his friends' lives are threatened. Also a deconstruction. Moriarty is so smart that only one man can really challenge him: Sherlock Holmes. As a result, he's so fanatically devoted to taking him down that he will go to any lengths to win: namely, ruining Sherlock's entire public reputation, hurting his loved ones, and shooting himself in the mouth.
  • The typical dynamic between Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty reflecting this trope is curiously subverted in the 1980s-1990s Sherlock Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett; while Moriarty appears to regard Holmes as this, Holmes appears to view Moriarty with nothing more than fear and contempt.
  • Spartacus: War of the Damned: Crassus clearly respects Spartacus for rising to what he is now, his skills as a warrior, and his brilliancy as a leader. At the end he's defeated Spartacus' forces and lost to Spartacus in personal combat, and is clearly in awe of him. Spartacus for his part, clearly recognizes Crassus as his most dangerous foe and seems to have a grudging respect for that. However, he also hates everything that Crassus stands for, namely Rome.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • The Romulan commander in the episode "Balance of Terror", who tells Kirk that under different circumstances they could have been friends. This episode was specifically inspired by the movie The Enemy Below (see the Film subpage). He even tells this to Captain Pike in the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds episode "A Quality of Mercy" when an alternate future Pike shows the present-day Pike a version of those events should he not pull his Heroic Sacrifice.
    • In the episode "The Squire of Gothos", it is clear that Trelane regards Kirk in this manner. Indeed, Trelane treats the entire encounter with Kirk and the Enterprise crew as an elaborate game.
    • It is extremely common throughout the original series (and its movies) for the opponent to be a Worthy Opponent of Kirk or, at the very least, have a very healthy respect for him (albeit one full of hatred). Most notable of these was Khan Noonien Singh, originally a Worthy Opponent of Kirk — as well as the only one who was also an actual Earth-man (vs. simply a metaphor); in "Space Seed", the two Worthy Opponents parted in mutual respect and honor, with Kirk dropping all charges against Khan and granting him his original wish of a new world to command.
    • In "Bread and Circuses", a local ruler captures Kirk and orders him to surrender his crew (as Merik, a previous Federation captain, had done), or else face death in the arena. Kirk chooses death, and the ruler makes it plain that he respects Kirk far more for making that choice — he dismisses Merik from the room with the sneer, "The thoughts of one man to another could not possibly interest you!"
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Also Romulan, Commander Sela was Data's Worthy Foe — a concept the series constantly beat us over the head and chest with whenever Sela showed up.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
    • In "By Inferno's Light", Worf has spent the last several days fighting Jem'Hadar in death matches. When he finally faces the biggest and most badass of them, his refusal to quit makes the Jem'Hadar back down.
      Ikat'ika: I yield. I cannot defeat this Klingon. All I can do is kill him. And that no longer holds my interest.
    • The Jem'Hadar seem to hold the Klingons as a whole as a worthy adversary. The first Jem'Hadar encountered by the Deep Space 9 crew was disappointed seeing that a Klingon was not amongst them. What makes this even more impressive is that the Jem'Hadar hadn't even encountered the Klingons yet. They'd simply heard of them through word of mouth from prisoners captured from other Alpha Quadrant colonies.
    • "Rocks and Shoals" reveals that Starfleet Engineers are respected by the Dominion as the undisputed masters of technology, fabled to be able to "turn rocks into replicators".
    • Quark views Odo this way, and is eager for the respect to be returned. In the series finale, Quark wants to hear the words "you certainly were a worthy adversary," but Odo theatrically harrumphs and leaves. Kira tries to console him, but Quark is well satisfied.
      "That man loves me. Didn't you see? It was written all over his back." [salutes with champagne and leaves]
    • Even the Affably Evil villain Dukat also held an unrequited view of Sisko as this, until "Waltz", in which Sisko pushes Dukat to a Heel Realization, with the undesired effect of Dukat embracing his villainy and becoming more unambiguously evil.
  • Star Trek: Enterprise
    • Just before dying, Silik calls Archer this.
    • Commander Shran, an Andorian captain who seems to alternate being adversary or ally in each appearance, really enjoys having this kind of relationship with his favorite meddling "pinkskin," Jon Archer. Enterprise casts the Andorians as Romanticism incarnate, and Shran is an exemplary model of it.
  • Super Sentai:
    • Fuwa Juzo from Samurai Sentai Shinkenger sees Shiba Takeru/Shinken Red as the biggest opponent for him and is very obsessed with fighting with him to the death. The same can be said for his Power Rangers Samurai counterpart, Deker.
    • Before that, there was Grey from Choujin Sentai Jetman, who formed this type of relationship with The Lancer, Gai. Over the course of the show, the two dueled every time they saw each other. This culminated when the two had their final duel (which Gai won), and ended with Gai lighting a cigarette in remembrance of Grey. In the end, they were not so different.
  • S.W.A.T. (2017): In "Never Again" Hondo and Deacon first, then the rest of the team all consider the robbers this, being highly skilled military veterans.
  • In Terra Nova, when Taylor and Mira have to team up to save themselves from some slashers, Taylor finding out Mira's backstory leads them both to this understanding. When they've survived, they peaceably go their separate ways back to their communities.
  • Discussed by Achilles in Troy: Fall of a City, when it's suggested that he missed the thrill of battle:
    "I miss the hush. When I meet an opponent worthy of me. Everyone around us stops to watch. The din of battle drains away like a wave. And for a few moments, it's just the two of us. And then I kill him. And then everyone gets back to what they were doing."
  • Two Sentence Horror Stories: In "Instinct" Patrick congratulates Anika for realizing his true homicidal nature and guessing he'd hidden evidence of his past murders in a picture (victim photos), calling her clever and that he likes women with this trait.
  • In Vikings, King Ecbert had a deep admiration his ally/rival Ragnar Lothbrok as he considered Ragnar to be a kindred spirit. When Ragnar surrendered himself to Ecbert, they had a drunken feast where they debated about each others gods in Ecbert's hall despite the fact that Ragnar was still his prisoner and was being sent to his death, much to Ecbert's deep regret. This exchange between them sums it up:
    Ecbert: I cannot kill you, yet you must die. This much is certain. The world demands it. But, I cannot kill you.
    Ragnar: Then hand me over to King Aelle. For we both know that he would take great pleasure in killing me. Then you can wash your hands of me.
    Ecbert: My friend, I'd rather set you free.
  • The West Wing:
    • Republican presidential candidate Arnold Vinick. He had an almost sure-fire way of beating Santos but didn't use it, simply because it would have been dishonorable.
    • During that campaign season, many of the Democratic characters on the show admitted to want to vote for him, especially during the debates with the Democratic presidential candidate Matthew Santos.
      Donna: (to Josh Lyman) You have a year to talk me out of voting for him.
  • In Win Ben Stein's Money, if a contestant successfully won against Ben, he would tell them, "I'm impressed. I'm humbled. I hate you! Get out of here! You've done enough damage!"
  • The Wire: Detective McNulty is proud to be chasing clever criminals, since stupid criminals make stupid cops. Especially evident in his grudging respect for Stringer Bell.
    • Also demonstrated between Omar Little and Brother Mouzone (two extremely skilled street tacticians and killers). Made most apparent in how they both let each other walk once their business is finished: Mouzone giving him his most prized weapon and Omar simply giving him a wink back (even after he sees the torture inflicted by Mouzone on his lover).
      • One could argue that these two respective characters are the only ones who one-upped each other in the entire series.
  • The X-Files:
    • In the episode "Pusher", the supernaturally persuasive Robert Patrick Modell is looking for this. He finds it in Mulder, whom he then tries to destroy (it fails). In the sequel episode, Modell's sister tries to pick up where he left off.
    • In "Two Fathers", the Cigarette-Smoking Man reveals that he sees Mulder as this by telling his son "You pale to Fox Mulder."
  • An enemy early in an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess essentially tries to force this trope into being, starting a fight with the titular character and then repeatedly trying to get her to admit that he's a worthy opponent. He does give her a reasonable-enough fight, but she mostly finds the guy annoying and ends up defeating him without too much stress. He turns out to be a desperate young kid and not a true bad guy.

  • The Folksong "Vive el matador" has the matador praise the bull as a Worthy Opponent.
  • The Devil Went Down To Georgia and its sequel do this with Johnny and the Devil.
  • Snoopy and the Red Baron view each other this way in Merry Snoopy's Chistmas by The Royal Guardsman, the Baron making Snoopy land to offer him a Christmas toast.
  • The members of GWAR have regarded their nemesis Techno Destructo as such (though Oderus would still talk shit about him every chance he got)
  • The 19th Century opera "Prince Igor" by Alexander Borodin, taking place in the semi-legelndary times of Medieval Russia, includes a dialogue between the Polovtsian Khan Konchak and his enemy, the Russian Prince Igor of the title, who had been defeated and captured by the Polovtsians. The Khan asks Igor if all is well (Konchak's Aria) and he replies that the falcon cannot live in captivity. Konchak says that as Igor did not ask for mercy he is not a prisoner but an honoured guest equal to a Khan. Igor reminds him that he too knows what it is to be a captive. Konchak offers Igor freedom if he will promise not to wage war on him again, but he refuses saying he cannot lie. Konchak regrets that they were not born to be allies. They would then have captured all of Russia. He summons the Polovtsian slaves to entertain Igor and himself and offers Igor his choice of them. As the slaves dance the Polovtsy sing of Konchak's glory (Polovtsian Dances). In a later part of the opera Igor manages to escape, which makes the Khan respect him all the more.
  • The Megas: Metal Man starts out as just an Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy who won't shut up about how great he is, but by the end of his song, he seems to start viewing Mega Man as an equal, or at least the nearest thing to it he can process, and eagerly awaits the chance to test himself against the Blue Bomber.
    Metal Man: Let's see which robot's better, let's see who built us best!
    Take the first shot, Mega Man — let's put it to the test.

    Myths & Religion 
  • Classical Mythology:
    • Hector and Achilles of Homer's The Iliad. Hector was an honorable man and considered a worthy foe by many of the Achaean heroes fighting at Troy. Achilles had no such feelings for the man; he spent the early parts of the war pissed at his own leaders and the later parts in nothing less than a homicidal rage toward everyone after Hector killed Patroclus, and spent a lot of time and effort trying to desecrate Hector's corpse. Although he did relent after he'd taken his revenge and cooled down a bit. Achilles actually seemed to think more of Hector's father, Priam, as a worthy opponent (in the overall war) when the latter came to beg for his son's body for proper burial. Achilles agreed to allow Hector the honor he deserved, but Priam's love for his son and his bravery in coming alone to the Greek ships also got to him.
    • Also, the Amazon queen Penthesilea to Achilles.
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh: the very reason Enkidu was created was to be Gilgamesh's best friend and worthy opponent and give him another way to expend his power and Super-Strength besides sleeping with every woman in Uruk.
  • Norse Mythology: Thor once visited a Jotun who offered him three challenges to test his legendary strength: to pick up the Jotun's pet cat, empty a largish drinking horn, and wrestle with the Jotun's old nurse. Thor could barely raise one of the cat's paws off the ground, took three superhumanly huge draughts from the drinking horn but couldn't come near to emptying it, and was thrashed by the old nurse. The severely frightened Jotun informed Thor that he had, in fact, just succeeded in lifting the head of the Midgard Serpent, lowered the worldwide sea level, and put up a very good fight against the personification of Old Age. The Jotun told him this while escorting him from his kingdom, upon which he congratulated and complimented Thor and hightailed it home.
  • In The Bible, more specifically the Books of Samuel, David felt this way towards King Saul. He spared Saul's life twice, and when Saul died David became the Trope Namer for How the Mighty Have Fallen by mourning his death in song.


  • "Krákumál": In stanza #16, in a description of a battle at Waterford in Ireland, Ragnar says that a certain King Marstan, "lord of Ireland", "never suffered the she-wolf to starve, nor the eagle" (i.e. he killed many). There is no more information on who Marstan is, but context seems to suggest that Ragnar fought against him, and that Ragnar is praising the valor of his opponent.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • When David Von Erich died in 1984, Michael Hayes praised him as one on World Class' TV show. The Von Erichs and the Fabulous Freebirds were bitter enemies at that time.
  • Nikita Koloff started out as a standard Foreign Wrestling Heel, then became a Worthy Opponent to Magnum T.A.; when Magnum's career was ended by a car accident in 1986, Nikita became an Antagonist in Mourning, which eventually led to a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Ric Flair ended his 1989 feud with Terry Funk by submitting the Texan in an "I Quit" match. True to his word, Funk shook Flair's hand, saying "you're a hell of a man, Ric Flair."
  • Both Terry Funk and The Undertaker have been known to see Mick Foley in this light, largely because of the amount of punishment the man is willing to take in the course of a match.
  • 'Taker also has recognized several wrestlers for their unmitigated courage in facing him, especially if they are far below his weight class:
    • Shawn Michaels — nobody ever came as close to ending the Streak as Shawn Michaels did at WrestleMania XXV at that point in time, until it was broken.
    • Jeff Hardy had a high stakes match against The Undertaker and was able to set the rules as his specialty, a ladder match. Though he started the match strong, fighting smart using the rules to his advantage, Undertaker completely overpowered him and won the match, then delivered another finisher to add insult to injury. When Jeff got back up after that, 'Taker hit him with a second finisher, got on his motorcycle, and proceeded to leave. When Jeff got up after that, shouting "You ain't broke me yet, Taker!", The Undertaker returned, prepared to strike him down gain... then raised his arm as a worthy fighter, congratulating him for his spirit, before riding off to Hardy's theme music.
    • Shane McMahon — after the better part of a decade out of the company entirely, Shane returned as the prodigal son for his birthright, and was thrust into a match against 'Taker, with both of their legacies and careers on the line, at WrestleMania XXXII. Shane had a month to prepare, and was 46 at the time, going into the (51 year old) Undertaker's specialty match, Hell In A Cell, in 'Taker's home state. Though Shane was far from Taker's toughest opponent, he still put up a fight, reversing some of 'Taker's moves, and persisting with the Bring It gesture throughout the fight. After taking bumps on the steel stairs, the Spanish Announcers' Table, and leaping from the top of the 20 foot cage, Shane had nothing left in the tank but his pride, and persisted with the Bring It gesture, twice. The Undertaker looked kindly on Shane, in sharp contrast to the "I'll do what I have to do" demeanor before the fight, and calmly patted Shane on the cheek before finally finishing the match.
  • Cheerleader Melissa regards Looney Lane, Nikki The NY Knockout and Sara Del Rey as worthy opponents. Del Rey and Lane do not feel the same way about Melissa but one out of three's not too bad.
  • As his time on the circuits was coming to a close, CM Punk requested Matt Sydal and Delirious be his final two opponents in IWA Mid-South.
  • Over the course of MsChif's career, Daizee Haze and Amazing Kong went from "worst enemies" to "favorite enemies". In SHIMMER, MsChif held up Serena Deeb as a worthy opponent, in direct contrast to Sara Del Rey.
  • When Bryan Danielson came to Dragon Gate USA he thought it may soon be the end of his days on both the independent and foreign pro wrestling circuits and to be given the most difficult match possible. After facing Naruki Doi, Danielson acknowledged him as a worthy of that description. This was proved true when Danielson did in fact return to DGUSA the next year and lost no more matches.
  • Juliette The Huntress was briefly halted her tracks by Samuray Del Sol at Chicago Style Wrestling as he kept, genuinely, clapping for her after escaping her holds.
  • LuFisto thought this way of Ayako Hamada, granting her a shot at her nCw Femme Fatales Title Belt because a match with her was "A dream come true."
  • On a promotional level, Japanese based Ice Ribbon viewed the roster of UK based Pro Wrestling Eve this way.
  • CM Punk became this for John Cena. Cena, the family friendly company man, runs opposite to Punk's more abrasive, Anti-Hero character. Yet they generally respect each other, even if they disagree with the other's methods. In the ring, they're shown to be on the same level.
    • Cena himself outright stated on an episode of RAW in 2011 that Punk was the only man in the entire company that could go toe-to-toe with him. He was obviously ignoring the WWE SmackDown roster, otherwise he would have also included Randy Orton onto that list, seeing as Cena has acknowledged Orton in the past as the same.
    • Cena has on record stated that Chris Masters is the physically strongest opponent he has ever faced. Masters is the only competitor who has legitimately rendered Cena unconscious, and he has done so three times.
  • Jerry Lawler became this for The Miz up to their match in Elimination Chamber 2011. The Monday before the match, The Miz announces that Lawler's mother passed the Saturday before and gives him his deep condolences. Instead of bad-mouthing him, Miz takes the time to state that he doesn't want this passing to get in the way of their match and to have a good fight (although thanks to Michael Cole, it didn't turn out to really be a good fight).
  • Bruce Santee had this opinion of Jon Davis, to the point that after beating him in Vintage Wrestling via roll up, Santee felt bad for him and requested a rematch at the earliest opportunity using the excuse no one paid to see roll ups and their match should end with one of them laid out.
  • At the tail end of TNA's 2014 (and Spike TV deal) Eric Young stated that if he had to name a professional wrestler in the world at the time better than Bobby Roode, he wouldn't be able to do it. He then rhetorically asked "Is Eric Young as good Bobby Roode" and basically said "yes". They were competing to challenge World Heavyweight Champion Bobby Lashley, whom Roode thought of as this (but not MVP or Kenny King).
  • Defied by Brock Lesnar, as stated by Paul Heyman himself. Brock Lesnar respects no one. The only wrestler to have ever come even remotely close to have anything from him that resembled respect was Roman Reigns, after their hellacious WrestleMania match for the title where Roman took a beating comparable to the one Cena took, and still managed to go at it with Lesnar. Ironically, neither of them left 'Mania with the title; Seth Rollins decided to cash in his Money in the Bank briefcase mid-match after Reigns managed to knock down Lesnar, making it a triple threat match, and then pinned Roman to become champion.
  • Despite being an All-American wrestler prior to turning pro racking up title belt and tournament wins in his first pro year and already having won over crowds across three countries Lio Rush was automatically disrespected by most ROH wrestlers for being even smaller than James Gibson. Some of the first people he won over, Jay Lethal, Jay White were those he failed to beat, as the effort they had to put in made them realize his wins weren't flukes and take interest in how good he'd be in two years.
  • After putting on a match that Dave Meltzer called the greatest in pro wrestling history at New Japan Pro-Wrestling's Wrestle Kingdom 11 in 2017, Kazuchika Okada and Kenny Omega exemplified this trope. Omega called the victorious Okada the best wrestler in Japan and possibly the world, while Okada called Omega the greatest foreign wrestler in NJPW history.
  • Dusty Rhodes had a very long and bitter feud with rival Ole Anderson. After several years of rivalry, Rhodes once commented in a promo for an upcoming match between the two, “If this is the end, I’m glad it’s me and you.”


  • * Peter/Regulus and Caramon/Jacques in Yu-Gi-Oh! East Academy. Both of these duelists view each other with a great deal of respect despite being rivals.
    • To a lesser extent, Marcus has this attitude towards Peter, though it is far from being reciprocated.

  • In college football, few rivalries are as heated as the one between the Texas Longhorns and the Texas A&M Aggies, whose fans often sport shirts with the Longhorns' logo's horns sawn off. However, when they aren't actually facing each other, both teams will occasionally show a little in-state solidarity. During the 2006 Rose Bowl championship, when the underdog Longhorns defeated the favored USC, some Aggies fans donned t-shirts with an image of their rival's logo with bandaged horns and the caption "Today Only: Gig 'Em, Horns!"
  • However, the college football rivalry (and to a lesser extent, the rivalry in other sports) between Army and Navy has to be the best example of this. Although the two teams are fierce rivals on the field, and cries of "Beat Army!" and "Beat Navy!" are heard year-round, they have high respect for each other, knowing that in a few years, they could be fighting alongside each other on a real battlefield. At the end of each game, the winning team joins the student body of the losing team in singing that school's alma mater, and then the losers join in with the winners to sing theirs.
    • The rivalry between these two schools and the Air Force Academy is a lesser, but still strong, example, as is the Division III Secretaries Cup between the Coast Guard and Merchant Marine Academies.
  • Some British football rivalries can take this form at times, particularly if the teams in question share a town, such as Liverpool and Everton, or a particular region, such as Newcastle and Sunderland, particularly if fans of each team are playing the Fish out of Water in another part of the country.
    • Rangers and Celtic, both of Glasgow, are attempting to recast the Old Firm rivalry as this in an effort to eliminate its historic sectarian overtones, with mixed success. The rivalry in question is rooted in ethno-religious conflicts far older than mere football.
  • While Argentina and Brazil are bitter rivals in every sport, especially football, some Brazilian fans, including at least one prominent sports TV presenter, publicly cheered for Argentina to win the 2021 Copa América final against Brazil, drawing fire from Brazilian star Neymar. Why? Two words: Lionel Messi. The Argentine legend had earned practically every individual accolade the sport had to offer, but had never led the Albiceleste to victory in a major international tournament. And seeing that he turned 34 during the tournament, he was clearly entering the twilight of his career. The Brazilians backing Messi obviously saw him as this trope, and they got their wish, as Argentina won 1–0.More context
  • Manchester City's manager Josep "Pep" Guardiola and Liverpool's manager Juergen Klopp are this to each other for recent years, with one acknowledging that the other made them better at developing their football minds and tactics thanks to the intense title race and offensive football matches between two teams.
  • Almost every hockey fight between two enforcers, whose main job is to fight and add toughness, is this. All of them follow an unwritten code and respect the other player for their efforts.
  • The rivalry between legendary basketball players Larry Bird and Earvin "Magic" Johnson is the ultimate example between athletes. After first meeting in college in the 1979 national championship game, Bird and Johnson revitalized the struggling NBA during the 1980s, meeting in the NBA Finals three times and winning a combined 8 NBA championships and 6 MVP awards between them. Their rivalry was a proxy for multiple cultural issues in the United States at the time: West Coast vs. East Coast, Hollywood glitz and glam vs. blue collar work ethic,note  even the racial politics of black (Johnson) vs. white (Bird). Johnson claimed that the 82-game season was divided into two levels of importance, with 80 regular games, and two games against Bird. Similarly, Bird said that the first thing he did every morning was check the newspapers to see how Johnson had done. However, despite the rivalry, the two had great respect and admiration for each other, and eventually developed into friends (starting around 1986, when they filmed a Converse commercial together). Bird was the man who formally inducted Johnson into the Basketball Hall of Fame during the induction ceremony; on the occasion of Bird's retirement, Johnson attended and described Bird as a "friend forever".
  • Similar to the Bird/Johnson example, we have Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell. They epitomized Statistical dominance vs Championships, the charismatic larger-than-life attitude vs politically militant disciplined stoicism, playing for many teams vs staying with one, and individual brilliance vs the consummate team player. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird faced each other 37 times, Chamberlain and Russell faced each other 142 times. Outside of basketball, they were great friends, though the friendship soured after 1969 and was only revived in The '90s.
  • Many former Tennis players express approval at Roger Federer breaking their records, but particular mention must be given to Björn Borg. Borg holds the record for the most number of consecutive Wimbledon titles and in 2001 he personally thanked Federer for beating Pete Sampras who had been about to equal that record. Six years later Borg turned up to watch Federer equal the record and publicly congratulated him.
    • Speaking of tennis, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras played against each other 34 times before they retired, with Sampras winning 20. Especially during Agassi's late career revival, journalists freely admitted Agassi gave it his all every time they faced off. If he lost, it was nothing he did wrong, it was a matter of the better player winning. Even after retiring, Agassi and Sampras remain close friends.
  • The Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings have one of the most storied rivalries in professional sports, meeting in over 800 games since they joined the league, however their relationship has gradually moved much more towards that of Worthy Opponents in recent years. Despite their history there is a great deal of mutual respect for each other, particularly in contrast with more recent rivalries such as the one the Hawks currently have with the Vancouver Canucks and the Wings had with the Colorado Avalanche in the 90s, each of which are/were much more overtly hostile. The outrage over Detroit moving to the Eastern Conference following the 2013 season was rooted greatly in a belief by fans of both teams and even the sport as a whole who believe that meetings between them almost always result in the best hockey anyone will ever watch. The one thing that people are almost universally happy about with the realignment is the potential for the two to meet in The Stanley Cup Finals which has not happened since 1934, in the Original Six era.
  • In the NFL, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens. The two teams are rivals in the AFC North, and they really cannot stand each other — their rivalry is said to be one of the most bitter in the NFL. However, both teams are also willing to admit that the other is generally a very tough team to beat and that Ravens/Steelers games are always hard fought. Some even say that the rivalry helps to keep both teams at the top of their game, and that's why both teams have been among the NFL's most consistently successful franchises since the mid 2000s. And oddly, the longer the rivalry endures, the less bitter it gets — although the teams still can't stand each other, they both take great pride in how the Ravens/Steelers rivalry is considered hands down the best rivalry in the NFL, and the Cincinnati Bengals have, for various reasons, become the more hated enemy of both teams.
    • Also helping matters is the fact that Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward and Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, each a player that the other team could not stand, have both since retired. Following their departures, the rivalry has become a bit more respectful in recent years.
    • Prior to the Ravens' formation, the Steelers had their intense rivalry with the Cleveland Browns, who the Ravens were born out of a plan to move the Browns therenote . Steelers owner Dan Rooney was one of only two NFL team owners to oppose the move, and in their last matchup in the 1995 season, Steelers fans wore orange armbands to honor their rivals.
  • Springing up after the 2016 World Series. The Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians were both overcoming major long-time losing streaks and finally had a shot at victory. Things were tied in Game 7 going into extra innings when the Cubs finally saw an opening and won. Many Cubs fans expressed admiration for the Indians and their fans. Even though the Cubs hadn't won in over a century, they said the victory wouldn't have been as sweet if they hadn't gone down to the wire against an equally talented team.
  • In NASCAR, Richard Petty and David Pearson, the two winningest drivers in Cup Series history, were this to each other.
    Petty: He could beat you on a short track, he could beat you on a superspeedway, he could beat you on a road course, he could beat you on a dirt track. It didn't hurt as bad to lose to Pearson as it did to some of the others, because I knew how good he was.
    Pearson: I always felt that if I beat him I beat the best, and I heard he said the same thing about me.
  • Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, despite an extremely bitter rivalry, were very complimentary of the other's skill. After their legendary trilogy of matches, Ali stated that Frazier brought out the best in him as a boxer, and that if he ever got called to a holy war, wanted Frazier fighting right by his side.
  • Australia and Sri Lanka have a strong cricket rivalry, but during a match not long after the 2004 tsunami that devastated significant parts of coastal Sri Lanka, Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne came to bat against Sri Lanka off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan and received a hearty tribute from Murali and other Sri Lankans, who remembered Warne's aid to the country after the tsunami.

    Tabletop Games 
  • BattleTech:
    • Hanse Davion and Takashi Kurita. The two would feud bitterly on the battlefield, but also respected each other's prowess as warriors and never underestimated each other. Their fights were notable for being largely 'above the table' in a setting where espionage was rampant. In fact, when Kurita's beloved wife fell seriously ill, Davion sent a secret message to Kurita with well wishes for her speedy recovery. Contrast this to the mutually disrespectful relationship between Maximillian Liao and Hanse Davion, or Takashi Kurita and Katrina Steiner.
    • Tyra Miraborg became this posthumously for the Clans as a whole. During the initial invasion of the Inner Sphere, she was a pilot for the Free Rasalhague Republic who fought to defend her home. While trying to evacuate the Elected Prince of the Republic, she and her squad accidentally stumbled across the Clans' flagship, the Dire Wolf. Trying to buy time for the Elected Prince's jumpship to escape, she and her squadron launched a swift attack on the Dire Wolf before it could launch its own fighters. When the Elected Prince's jumpship finally escaped, Tyra's squadron launched one final attack, at which point Tyra's Shilone Aerospace Fighter was badly damaged and she chose to ram her fighter into the Dire Wolf, striking the bridge and killing the Clan ilKhan in the process. This forced the Clans to halt their invasion for a full year as they elected a new ilKhan. As the Clans held the idea of achieving a glorious death in battle to be the pinnacle of what every warrior should strive for and they couldn't think of a way an individual warrior could top what Tyra did note , they wrote multiple lines about her in The Rememberence, an epic poem that the Clans use to mark great events. The Smoke Jaguars took it one step further renamed a newly developed class of combat dropship the Miraborg in her honor.
    • Kai Allard-Liao to Taman Malthus of Clan Jade Falcon, and to Clan Jade Falcon in general. Kai is widely regarded as one of the best warriors in the Inner Sphere, having destroyed an entire Jade Falcon Cluster (~45-50 Humongous Mecha total) in a blow, destroyed another Star (5 total) of ambushing Falcon 'Mechs attempting to capture Prince Victor Steiner-Davion, and even killed an Elemental in single combat on the ground. For a Proud Warrior Race culture where Asskicking Leads to Leadership, this level of warrior prowess is almost unheard-of and leads to the Falcons not only deeply respecting Kai (while also making him a highly desireable opponent to face, Clanners are like that) but also earning the friendship of Taman Malthus in particular after freeing the latter from a Comstar prison camp.
  • Exalted: Infernal Exalted can burn off Limit by adopting an enemy as one of these and taking steps to haul them into conflict. The Act of Villainy in question is even referred to as "Best Enemy Recognition", and was developed for the Yozi Szoreny, who would periodically spare his Solar opponents because he didn't want to lose such interesting foes.
  • In Nomine: Michael sees Baal, the Demon Prince of the War, as this, and the feeling is reciprocated. In a strange way, each actually respects his mortal enemy more then many of his own side — at least he's taking this seriously.
  • Traveller:
    • The Sword Worlders and the Aslan in Darrian service believe in this so much that they have a system of bars for them to visit each other when they are not busy killing each other.
    • In one side-story, it was told how there was a clan dispute that was to be solved by an Aslan style (with claws) duel to first blood between two female Aslan. One of them was completely untrained but she held steady while her opponent circled around. Finally, her opponent nicked herself on the newbie's claw and said "I submit to the stronger spirit."
  • Warhammer:
    • Warhammer: Age of Sigmar: It turns out that many of the servants of Khorne are absolutely delighted that Sigmar created the Stormcast Eternals — basically the Einherjar of Norse Mythology. After thousands of years of slaughtering defenceless weaklings, they've finally got a real fight on their hands.
    • Warhammer 40,000:
      • Ghazghkull Mag Uruk Thraka thinks this way of Commissar Sebastian Yarrick, to the point that, after he captured and tortured him for a while, he let him escape because an Ork needs a good enemy. Yes, a very old, almost entirely unaugmented human is considered a Worthy Opponent by the largest, meanest Ork in the entire galaxy. However, Yarrick is disgusted by the Ork and has devoted his life to hunting him down and killing him by any means. In fact, for Orks, "favorite enemy" is the closest term they have to "friend".
      • There have been a number of fighters through the centuries who Lelith Hesperax, the greatest Wych to fight in the arenas of Commorragh has respected enough to consider a worthy opponent such as Yvraine, the Daughter of Shades, who is the only person to ever scar the Queen of Knives' skin. As with most Drukhari however, Lelith is incredibly fickle and her interest in an opponent will often pass quickly, moving on to a new individual who catches her eye. Her current focus of her attention is the Chaos Lord Lucius the Eternal who she believes would make the perfect opponent due to his Resurrective Immortality.
      • Khorne himself, the god of war, death, blood, skulls, and so forth... also adheres to this ideal. It is said that while Khorne cares not from whom the blood flows, he does like the blood of powerful warriors better than that of cowards or weaklings. Some sources state that he will get angry with his followers if they only present him with the corpses of those weaker than themselves as offerings, as he feels his followers should seek ever greater and stronger opponents.

  • 1776 has John Dickinson for John Adams. When Dickinson refuses to sign the Declaration, saying he cannot in good conscience sign such a document while still hoping for a reconciliation with England, he then says that while he cannot sign, he "regards America no less than does Mr. Adams" and vows to "join the Army and fight in her defense". Adams' response to this is to lead a standing ovation, saying, "Gentlemen of the Congress, I say, 'Yea, John Dickinson.'" In real life, Dickinson would go on to become a signer of the United States Constitution.
  • Coriolanus: Coriolanus and Aufidius acknowledge quite near the start that they respect each other greatly ("He is a lion I am proud to hunt"), which is why Aufidius immediately accepts Coriolanus' offer of an alliance.
  • Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton view each other this way in Hamilton in the most amicable of senses. The two are never outright antagonistic towards each other until the end, that is, but often butt heads over their opposing philosophies and often find themselves on opposite sides of issues. Despite this, both highly respect each other, even if they do view the other as being wrong.
    • During The Election of 1800, after Jefferson beats Burr in the Presidential Election, Burr attempts to act this way, but Jefferson subverts this trope, stating that there's no value in being friendly to an opponent.
      Jefferson: "You hear this guy? Man openly campaigns against me, talkin’ bout, 'I look forward to our partnership.'"
    • Despite this, Jefferson seems to hold this opinion towards Hamilton, initially seeing him as an easy opponent, but, as the play moves on, he slowly becomes more frustrated at Hamilton's opposition, to the point that in The Adams Administration, after Hamilton loses his seat as Secretary of the Treasury, Jefferson of all people is the one to remind everyone that Hamilton is still a political threat, no matter what position he holds.
      Thomas Jefferson: "Hamilton’s a host unto himself. As long as he can hold a pen, he’s a threat."
    • Hamilton ultimately feels this way towards Jefferson despite despising him and not agreeing with him on anything since they are ideological rivals. This is why he endorses Jefferson over Burr, which helps Jefferson win the election. He hates Jefferson's ideals, but he would rather have a man who has ideals be President than a man like Burr who is only motivated by a desire for power.
    • King George supposedly felt this way towards George Washington, acting legitimately sad when Washington resigns and expressing doubt that any other American could fill his shoes.
      King George: "There’s nobody else in their country who looms quite as large…"
  • Prince Hal in Henry IV, Part 1 sees Hotspur as this and challenges him to a Duel to the Death.
  • Westeros: An American Musical:
    • When Stannis curses the other petitioners to the throne to die, he hopes Robb will have a peaceful death, while he minds much less about how the other petitioners (who are much worse people) will die.
    • After Robb Stark dies, Tyrion is shown to have a much higher opinion of the deceased than of those directly responsible for his violent death, despite the deceased having been an enemy to his family.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • It is stated repeatedly throughout Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney that one of the primary reasons Phoenix became a defense attorney is that he could meet his childhood friend Miles Edgeworth in court, as Edgeworth is a prosecutor. Despite their positions as adversaries in court, their mutual desire for justice leads them to jointly take down quite a few criminals. Edgeworth and Phoenix have each lost at least one case to the other throughout the course of the series, but their win-loss record stops becoming as much of a factor over time as they focus more on finding the truth and dispensing proper justice.
    • In the fourth game, Apollo Justice gets his own Worthy Opponent, Klavier Gavin. While Klavier insults Apollo and refers to him as "Herr Forehead" quite a bit, Klavier never intentionally hides anything from Apollo, never tries to screw him over, and willingly helps Apollo as much as his duties as a prosecutor allow him to.
    • Ace Attorney Investigations 2:
      • The first case has Edgeworth assisted by Shelly de Killer of all people. The reason being that the murder victim (a bodyguard) was one of the very few people badass enough to stop a de Killer assassination, not to mention actually broke his arm in the process. This really struck a chord with de Killer, who is usually able to kill his targets without getting a scratch on him, and he wanted to help get justice for such a skilled opponent.
      • In the third case, Dane Gustavia is deeply disappointed that Jeff Master was the one suspected of the murder, since they deeply respected Master as a fellow pastry chef and considered him a worthy opponent. They were actually trying to frame someone else, but an accident caused the victim's body to be discovered early in a place that made Master look suspicious.
  • Lancer (again, see above Fate/Zero entry) or Assassin for Saber in Fate/stay night. The first is so disgusted by his Master that he turns on him in both routes he plays a part in and is also rather tetchy about Archer's tactics and lack of pride despite his ability. Assassin lets Shirou go and helps fight off Archer, as he has an agreement with Saber to fight again and therefore will not allow Archer to give him an unfair advantage. His Neutral Evil alignment actually doesn't really make much sense since he doesn't do anything even immoral. He is also a Graceful Loser even to True Assassin.
  • Slay the Princess: If the Hero puts up a good fight against the Princess, she respects it by transforming into either The Adversary or The Razor depending on the choices. The Adversary in particular embodies this trope, being a Combat Sadomasochist Blood Knight who wants the Hero to keep providing a good fight to the point of not even caring about escaping anymore, and lapses into a Villainous Breakdown if he tries to push anything else.
  • Sunrider: High Admiral Kuushana grows to respect Kayto Shields over their many clashes in the third game. By the climax of the final battle, she challenges him to prove which of them is the greater captain and which of their ships is superior. When Kayto manages to pull off a spectacular victory—taking out almost half of PACT's entire navy in one fell swoop—and get away scott-free, Kuushana is clearly impressed, though she vows that PACT will get him one day.
  • Umineko: When They Cry:
    • Despite their fierce and often ruthless battles, Battler often inspires the same respect he gains for his opponents. They include Beatrice, Erika and Knox, although the first one evolves into something more. Battler tries to extend this sentiment to Bernkastel right before their final battle, but she clearly does not reciprocate it.
    • The extra material also implies that Belphegor and Leviathan hold Rudolf and Kyrie in high regards after their respective battles, a notion that is probably reciprocated.

  • Dominic Deegan has one in Celesto Morgan. Although he is only treated that way for a combination of 'increasingly possesses cosmic powers' and Dominic just being that nice a guy, because an overview of his conduct and associates over the course of the series would give Dominic every right to loathe him utterly.
    • The guy blew off Dominic's leg in revenge for saving his life and soul. Well, actually, revenge for being right when Celesto was wrong, but still.
    • The fact that they're each the only powerful seer the other one knows and keep running into each other in extreme contexts mean that they get one another in ways no one else does, which may be part of why their rivalry isn't as bitter as it may be.
    • King David, ruler of Callan, "father" of a Cosmic Horror, master mind-manipulator who put the other ancient, inhuman archmages under his power, and the series' (presumed) Biggest Bad is very proud of his successor mage Miranda Deegan (Dom's mom):
      JosephWongKS: Final villain of the series, who's the first Archmage of his race and also the Kingnote  of the most dominant and magically power nation in the world, on 5 December 2012: "No, it's Miranda Deegan. I've under-estimated her too often. Never again."

      ...on 11 December: "A dragonheart empowerment. How very rare. You've got quite an arsenal on your side, Miranda."

      ...on 13 December: "My undead dragon is distracted and my battlecasters' magic is deflected. Very good, Miranda."

      ...[also] on 13 December: "Let's see if you accounted for this... Excellent, I expected nothing less from you, Miranda."
  • Erika and the Princes in Distress : Queen Lagertha only accepts challenges from people she sees as worthy to face her. For this reason, she does not allow for men to challenge her, and also refuses to duel Erika for the throne. Citizens of the Kingdom of Brutes seem to share this ideal, as one woman seen early in the comic implies that pretenders to the throne would much rather access it by defeating Lagertha than Erika, because lowering themselves to duel the latter would be humiliating.
  • Freefall: During Sam's early clashes with Max Post, they both end up getting cleverly swindled by a waiter. Both view swindling them as worthy of tremendous respect.
    Max: That waiter scammed us good.
    Sam: Yeah. Not only did he get us to wash the dishes, we each paid for both meals. I gave him a big tip.
    Max: Me too. He definitely earned it.
  • Homestuck:
    • Jack Noir and Bro Strider are an unusual case, since they are not Worthy Opponents because of any sort of warrior camaraderie, but because Bro is quite simply the only person who could fight Jack to a standstill in single combat. It takes Jack becoming a Physical God in order to defeat Bro.
    • Vriska orchestrates Jack's ascension so she can have a Worthy Opponent. Although she is able to fight him on equal terms, he takes a moment to kill the rest of her friends first; necessitating the Cosmic Retcon of that part of the timeline.
    • Caliborn sees Jake English as a potential Worthy Opponent, because Jake's title as Page of Hope gives him the chance of a Magikarp Power great enough to challenge Caliborn at the apex of his own strength.
    • On a more general level, this is a requirement for a Kismesis (i.e. Hate-romance) in Troll culture. One must both hate the enemy and respect them for a proper Kismesissitude.
  • Karin-dou 4koma: Seren and Tamaryu's previous incarnation acknowledged each other as worthy opponents at the conclusion of their battle to the death, hence how well they get along in the present.
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • Hank seems to be one of these to Haley, to contrast her Arch-Enemy Crystal. In the Back Story, he warns Haley that Crystal will be after her when she leaves the thieves' guild, and when they meet again as opponents, they clearly have some mutual respect.
    • General Tarquin views Roy as one, respecting him as an intelligent, resourceful warrior. It gets to the point that he appoints himself to the Linear Guild in place of Thog, who Roy does not view as either a proper Evil Counterpart or Worthy Opponent, just to get the chance to fight Roy himself. When the entire Order (minus V) assaults him (thinking he's Thog thanks to some quick acting) Tarquin's response to seeing five high-level adventurers charging straight toward him? "Magnificent." This is later deconstructed when Tarquin sees that Roy is so effective that he believes that he is preventing his son, Elan, from achieving his full potential as a hero, so he orders his forces to kill him. He's trying to invoke the trope with Elan, who he thinks should be his worthy opponent, but who's not a match for him yet.
  • Outsider: Kikitik-27 seems to regard Commander Stillstorm as such, referring to her as "the respected enemy" and claiming admiration for her tactical skills. She doesn't give a hoot.
    Kikitik-27: Humbly we are gratified to be recognized by an opponent such as [the Storm-Witch] known to us with certainty credited for murders uncountable which we must respect...
    Stillstorm: I meant no compliment, so keep yours. I will not be bargained with.
  • Schlock Mercenary: Colonel Pranger's mercenary company, Pranger's Bangers, functions as a one-time opponent in the House Phica story arc; they're portrayed as equally competent and equally skilled, if not more so, than the protagonists. Later on, due to Time Travel fun, Tagon's crew actually ends up hiring Pranger's Bangers for that same mission. There's a good deal of mutual respect between Tagon and Pranger.
  • Sluggy Freelance
    • In "Aylee vs. Bun-bun", the xenomorph-like alien and the evil rabbit Bun-bun have a huge fight that lasts for many hours. After both collapse in exhaustion, they become quite friendly, and Aylee becomes the only main character that Bun-bun respects in those early days. He evens warns her that someone is planning to kill hernote .
    • After Tadius Greasenherr has his second encounter with Zoë, who pretends to be a rival Diabolical Mastermind, and he gets defeated again, and sees that she has the services of a really badass rabbit, he's absolutely in awe of her. (And not just that.)
  • True Villains: The Paladin sees the Living Legend Sebastian as this, but soon becomes disgusted by his Face–Heel Turn.
  • Weak Hero: Jake and Ben end up seeing each other as worthy opponents. For Ben, Jake is the first person to get him to focus entirely on the fight, putting aside all extraneous feelings or thoughts: for Jake, Ben is the first opponent he's fought against who doesn't fall unconscious or wimp out just when the fight starts to get tough. This comes as little surprise since the preceding few chapters had established that the two weren't so different from each other despite being on opposing sides.

    Web Original 
  • While A_J of AJCO initially considered Egg to be a 'foolish, pathetic little girl' she changes her mind after the trial, which sees Egg beating A_J fair and square without ever having to lie, cheat or bribe. This admiration eventually leads to A_J having a My God, What Have I Done? moment after she expels Egg from the nuclear bunker into almost certain death. She runs out after her when she realizes what the consequences of her actions might be.
    • The feeling is not entirely mutual, but Egg certainly gained a little more respect after spending a night with her in the wilderness, hiding from the Auditor.
  • The Anglo/American – Nazi War depicts an Alternate History where the Nazis defeat and dismantle the Soviet Union, a stalemate ensues in 1943, and hostilities are only resumed in 1958. When the Allies begin to launch an invasion of occupied Europe, the original Heer troops who conquered Europe before are pressed back into service. Despite their advanced age and outdated weaponry, their experience and methodical approach to battle earn them a few impressive performances and plenty of cred. This contrasts with the Schutzstaffel (SS) (who are Sociopathic Soldiers) and the Hitler Youth (who are just plain pitiable).
  • In The Antithesis, Yahweh, the leader of Heaven, and Lucifer, the leader of Hell, become friendly enemies when a Civil War between the angels and demons tragically force them to oppose one another. Previously, both had worked together as scientists in Heaven's main corporation for Technology and Science, 'The Plexus', and though now friendly enemies, they still strive for the same objective: peace between Heaven and Hell.
  • In C0DA, Jubal and Talos/Lorkhan trade verbal blows during Jubal's bachelor party. After a stern talking-to from Kyne and a few drinks, the two make up and Jubal admits this (in a way) toward Talos/Lorkhan. Later, Lorkhan officiates Jubal's wedding to the daughter of Almalexia.
  • In the now sadly orphaned Dead Fantasy, Hitomi holds this view of Tifa Lockhart. In the fifth installment, when Hayate defeats Tifa by siccing a squad of mooks on her and then one-shotting her while she was wounded and weakened, Hitomi retaliates by slapping him.
  • It's not uncommon for a fighter on DEATH BATTLE! to acknowledge their opponent as one during the fight, either verbally or through action. Whether the sentiment is reciprocated or not varies, and it usually never stops the fight from ending in one of their deaths anyways.
    • Particular props have to be given to Saitama vs Popeye. Saitama's whole character is that he's completely dissatisfied and bored with his life since he can destroy any enemy he's come across with a single punch. Here he finally meets someone who gives him a fight and we can see he's overjoyed.
      Saitama (in his thoughts): "Thank you, weird spinach mascot."
  • In Dragonball Z Abridged, Cell considers Goku an opponent worth fighting, and says that he's the only worthy challenge who can test his abilities. Their rivalry hits the point of full on Foe Romance Subtext, with Cell and Goku's dialogue coming off as homoerotic, and Cell commenting that "I'm going to miss [Goku] when he's dead." He also shows nothing but derision and scorn for nearly everyone else he meets and fights, with the sole exception of Tienshinhan, who despite being only human, selflessly and heroically held Cell back with his Shin Kikoho attack and nearly died in the process. Everyone aside from Goku is treated with derision, but Tien actually earned Cell's respect and loathing. Not even Vegeta (who managed to blow off Cell's arm with his Final Flash) managed to earn Cell's hate.
  • In The Empty Turnabout's third chapter, Athena has the chance to lie and render all of Apollo's efforts so far in the trial meaningless by testifying against his theory about Arts's murder, but prefers not to do that because it would be too easy and boring. She wants a fair fight against him sometime in the future, so she goes ahead and tells the truth, allowing Apollo to keep accusing Mary Adair.
  • In Hellsing Ultimate Abridged, Alucard and Father Anderson quickly grow to enjoy the prospect of fighting one another while Father Anderson nonetheless always frames it as being prepared to kill him... but in episode 8, when Anderson vows to "cleanse the Earth of [his] filth once and for all", the armored figure salutes him as a worthy adversary who could well be the one, though many before have tried — and Anderson realizes that's not the wildly irreverent Alucard he knows and demands the face he came there for.
  • In Noob, Spectre seems to have a tendency to develop this with his opponents. When he decided to quit the game as a Coalition player, he decided to give Heimdäl, his rival at the time, one last duel against him. When Heimdäl found out it was a farewell duel at the end of it, his first reaction was "If you're having problems in real life, I hope it's nothing serious". In the main timeframe, Spectre eventually comes back and seems to develop such relationship with Fantöm, his former student's rival, before even fighting against him due to a mutual The Knights Who Say "Squee!" situation between the two.
  • The Nostalgia Chick and Kyle Kallgren of Brows Held High. Both snobby, self-righteous and think they're better than everyone else, she beats on him but is pleasantly surprised to see him call her out over it (even if she does ignore it), and she's his inspiration for reviewing but knows how awful she can be.
    • Mara Wilson stated in the Chick's Matilda review that her rivalry with The Nostalgia Critic was "organic". This is after she's told that he's sorta dead, which disappoints her.
  • A Scotsman in Egypt:
    • Thomas Weste, an English cavalry lord who manages to keep his master's fragmenting empire together as the Scots and Germans move to tear it apart, simultaneously holding off the full brunt of the Scottish armies. His death, brought about by his king ordering him to perform a Last Stand in an indefensible position, is lamented by the Scotsmen who defeated him, who note his great skill and bravery in the face of impossible odds.
    • Not the case with Chaghatai Khan. When Edward rides out east against the Mongols and sees their vast army, he asks which of them is Genghis Khan. On learning that Genghis is dead and his incompetent bastard son has taken the reins of The Horde, Edward insults the Khan and turns his back on him.
  • In the SCP Foundation, there is SCP 076-2, or Able, who was upset when one of the Agents at his holding facility was killed by an explosion meant to contain him. The reason being that the Agent was one of the few who could keep up with him and he felt that he deserved a death in combat.
    Interviewing Scientist: "Why does his death bother you? You've killed many humans before, why is he so-"
    Able: "Different? Because, unlike you [Sumerian word, untranslated], he was a challenge, a real enemy."
    Interviewing Scientist: "Why would that be good for you? Every time you have awoken you've tried to escape. He was responsible for apprehending you several times. Surely you must be glad he's dead."
    Able: "I would hardly expect you to understand. Do you know, he managed to shoot me in the head over [censored two-digit figure] times? A man like that deserves to die in combat, so close to his opponent he can feel his breath. Not in some [Sumerian words, untranslated] destruction ordered by cowardly kings and princes safe in their palaces. The rest of you— *spits* you disgust me. I don't even have the urge to strike you down.
    • In one story, "The Warrior and the Dragon", Able got into a fight with SCP-682. Able came very, very close to killing the thing, too. When he inevitably resurrected inside SCP-076, he claimed it was the best fight he had in ages, and wanted to celebrate with his team over a pizza.
    • There is also SCP-738, a set of two chairs and a table that offers people a Deal with the Devil. The last test consists on sending one of their lawyers to deal with him. Forty-one hours later, the lawyer falls unconscious due to exhaustion, while in the middle of a discussion over the exact meaning of the word "shall", after having drafted at least nine hundred pages of the agreement they were going to reach. An envelope in one of the lawyer's pocket has a note saying "Please come back any time. I haven't had so much fun in years."
    • SCP-1638 was created by an Antagonist in Mourning to honour a Foundation agent that he considered a worthy opponent after the agent had died.
  • In The Tim Tebow CFL Chronicles, Tebow outright calls the Atlantic Schooners "worthy opponents" since they came closer than any other team to stopping the Argonauts' drive.
  • After the fight with ZZ in Vaguely Recalling JoJo, he claims that Kakyoin had an impressive Boost Fire attack before dying.

    Western Animation 
  • The Lizard King certainly considers Michelle to be a formidable opponent when they play Squid-Tac-Toad in the 3-2-1 Penguins! episode, "The Cheating Scales of Bullamanka".
  • Karl of All Hail King Julien considers Julien to be this before they've even formally met. For the most part he is extremely gracious in defeat as defeat as this only serves as proof that Julien is a brilliant foe worthy of a brilliant mind such as his own.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender
  • In a non-combat related example, look at Huey and the government agent in one particular episode of The Boondocks. Yes, Huey is suspicious of the man, who may or may not always be watching, but they both understand where the other is coming from and engage in calm and intelligent conversation. The agent even mentions at the end of the episode that if Huey ever needs to talk about something, he'll lend an ear.
    • In the "Red Ball" episode, Huey gains another one who even calls him this: Ming, another 10-year-old trained into being the perfect kickball machine and the only one to match Huey's skill, and is the whole reason Huey participates in a kickball game for his whole town. The two's final standoff results in both getting cracked bones and STILL CRAWLING TO THE FINISH.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars S1E19 "Storm Over Ryloth", Captain Mar Tuuk respects General Skywalker as an opponent and relishes at the concept of defeating him in battle.
    Wat Tambor: You admire Skywalker?
    Captain Tuuk: As a general, yes. His record shows he is a great warrior. And I want him to know it is I who have beaten him.
  • The straight example is Vlad and Danny in Danny Phantom, but one episode had Skulker of all people declaring Valerie and Danny to be this. So much so that he hunted them both when he couldn't decide who was better.
  • In a skit for Dexter's Laboratory, Rasslor, a wrestling alien voiced by Randy Savage, arrives and curb stomps the Justice Friends. He refuses to fight Monkey initially, considering him to be too weak, but he acquiesces. Monkey doesn't fare too well in the battle either and Rasslor eventually beats him too, but Monkey refused to give in the whole fight. Hence, Rasslor is impressed and doesn't destroy the Earth.
    Rasslor: Incredible. I could crush your body, I could smash your bones, but I could NEVER break your spirit.
    • Said segment was an homage to a Marvel comic where The Champion of the Universe admitted he couldn't "defeat" The Thing in a match after defeating all of Marvel's other heroes.
  • In the Family Guy episode "Emission Impossible", Stewie and Bertram refer to each other as worthy adversaries.
  • Several of the villains on Gargoyles are like this, owing in part to their frequently grey-shaded nature.
    • Xanatos in particular has a lot of respect for Goliath and actually rather likes the guy, not that it will stop him from making Goliath a pawn or target of his latest scheme; the respect is a bit more grudging on Goliath's end, but it is still there, and Goliath is generally willing to ally with Xanatos if that is what it takes to defeat a greater threat. Tellingly, many of Xanatos' schemes in the series consist of creating an Evil Knockoff of Goliath that will serve him, ranging from Mecha-Mooks that look like Goliath, a personal suit of Powered Armor that looks like Goliath, pseudo-Gargoyles, and finally an outright clone. Goliath really made an impression on him.
    • Macbeth is also one of these; he is one of the only humans who can match Goliath in hand-to-hand combat, but he also shares a similar code of warrior's honor and though he has clashed with the gargoyles on several occasions — and would likely do so again if his goals called for it — there is little real malice, and a good deal of respect, on both sides.
    • Macbeth and King Arthur (yes, THAT King Arthur) see the other as this. When under the spell of the Weird Sisters, at hearing he will get the chance to fight Arthur, Macbeth says that he always wanted to test himself against "The Best". And after Arthur shows himself still worthy of wielding Excalibur, Macbeth accepts the defeat without a fight. Arthur in turn praises Macbeth's skills as a warrior and offers him a position on the new Knights of the Round Table. Macbeth declines, stating that he had been a king too long to be subservient to another, but that he is more than willing to give Arthur aide whenever the man should need it.
  • Storm Shadow on G.I. Joe was usually portrayed this way. He eventually makes a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Zim and Dib from Invader Zim are certainly worthy of one another; in "Room With a Moose" Zim even notes that he's telling Dib his evil plan because he's the only human smart enough to appreciate it. Doesn't mean they are particularly good at what they do though.
    • Slab Rankle also refers to Zim as a Worthy Opponent when he manages to bypass his many, many security measures.
  • Kim Possible:
  • The Legend of Korra, Mako gets this from Amon, of all people, when he zaps Amon with lightningbending even while paralyzed by Amon's psychic bloodbending.
    Amon: I'm impressed. No one has ever gotten the better of me like that. It is almost a shame to purify someone so talented. Almost.
  • Looney Tunes: Yosemite Sam of Looney Tunes is a "comparison only" case. At his best he was an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain Played for Laughs, however he was specifically created to be a far more malicious and active villain for Bugs Bunny than the rather pitiful Elmer Fudd. Sam is typically far more aggressive and threatening than Elmer, but his hair-trigger temper leads him to erroneous decisions even more often than Elmer.
  • Recess: In "The Candidates," Vince and Gretchen run against each other for class president. Through it all they maintain a healthy respect for each other – in contrast the Feud Episode that plays out between their campaign managers T.J. and Spinelli – and in the end, Gretchen calls Vince a "worthy opponent and a good friend" after she wins the election because Vince votes for her.
  • Samurai Jack becomes this to several people over the course of his journey.
    • One episode had a Viking warrior who had fought Aku centuries ago and lost. Since dying in battle and going to Valhalla is something very desirable for Vikings, Aku, being the asshole that he is, did not kill the Viking but instead sealed him in an unbreakable crystal prison where he would live forever, then stuck the crystal in the middle of a mountain for good measure. Eventually, the Viking somehow managed to Charles Atlas the power to control rock with his mind and constructed a rock body around the crystal so he could move around. He then turned the inside of the mountain into a brutal Death Course to ensure that only a warrior strong enough to beat him would ever be able to reach him, so he can go to Valhalla at last. That warrior turns out to be Jack, of course.
    • Another episode had Aku travelling to an alien planet and enlisting some of its inhabitants, a Proud Hunter Race of cat-men, to capture the elusive samurai. It takes them the entire episode, but they eventually scored a success. Unfortunately for Aku, the hunters believe that any prey who can give them such a great challenge deserves to run free.
    • The Scotsman. In his debut episode, he and Jack spend half the episode fighting to a standstill. Then they both get captured by bounty hunters and become Fire-Forged Friends fighting their way out together. In all of his subsequent appearances, he and Jack are the best of bros.
  • The Simpsons: For most of the series' run, Bart and Principal Skinner have carried a relationship of cordial rivalry, although this is subverted by the fact Skinner asserts little to no actual authority over the school's students.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM): Dr. Robotnik tells Sonic that he's this.
  • Grand Admiral Thrawn of Star Wars Rebels has a healthy respect for the Rebels that he is fighting against. This is in contrast to most other Imperials who dismiss the Rebels as weak, and thus regularly find themselves outmaneuvered by the "Rebel scum."
  • Steven Universe: Jasper seems to have this approach towards Rose Quartz, albeit in a rather abrasive manner given her first line on the topic is about "beating [Rose] into the ground". She does confess to respecting Rose's tactics, and seems to have a specific inclination towards only fighting things that fit her personal standards of worthiness. This respect does not extend to the other Crystal Gems, as she initially refuses to fight "a defective Pearl, an overcooked runt, and a Fusion" personally, and later talks Garnet down before their duel on her ship for being a Fusion of two "weak" Gems trying to be strong. Her repeated defeats at their hands don't improve her stance on them, as she insists that the only reason she keeps losing is because they keep using Fusion against her (which, to her credit, is exactly what led to each of her defeats and her attempt to abuse it herself ends up costing her). Rose seems to have her respect for being the only Crystal Gem capable of fighting her by herself without using "cheap tactics" to get stronger.
  • Robin and the second Red X in Teen Titans (2003). One could argue that Slade considers Robin a Worthy Opponent, but Robin simply sees Slade as a diabolical villain. X also has a crush on Starfire; in one episode, he pins her, then calls her "cutie" and remarks that the "only crime" between them is that they haven't gone on a date. (However, her response is to blast him with her Eye Beams.)
  • Transformers: Most versions of Megatron/Galvatron consider Optimus Prime a worthy adversary as both a warrior and strategist.
    "There will be no war on this day, Optimus Prime; You have earned Galvatron's respect."
  • The titular character of Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego? is sometimes depicted as viewing Zack and Ivy in this way, genuinely liking them and enjoying the long-standing battle of wits she has with them.
  • Yogi Bear viewed Ranger Smith as this. When Ranger Smith left the park to enjoy an inheritance, Yogi quickly became melancholic due to the lack of challenge in stealing picnic baskets.

Alternative Title(s): My Worthy Opponent, Worthy Adversary, Worthy Rival



Rainbow Dash wouldn't want it any other way.

How well does it match the trope?

3.91 (11 votes)

Example of:

Main / WorthyOpponent

Media sources: