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You know, I actually like working for someone else. It lets me be a little more...hands-on.
—Slade, Teen Titans
Contrast Dragon Ascendant, the inverse, and Big Bad Duumvirate, when the previous Big Bad isn't explicitly subserviant to the new one. Demoted Big Bads will almost always become The Starscream or a Dragon with an Agenda.
Examples of Demoted to Dragon include:
Anime & Manga
- In NarutoOrochimaru is eventually revealed to have been the previous dragon to Pain, who turns out to have been the Dragon with an Agenda to Tobi.
- In the first Michael Bay Transformers movie, Megatron is the Big Bad. In the sequel, he's resurrected, but the Big Bad is The Fallen.
- As of Dark of the Moon, Megatron is still The Dragon. This time under Sentinel Prime.
- More of a Big Bad Duumvirate. Or even, Sentinel was arguably a Dragon-in-Chief, though Megatron was still quite dangerous alone.
- It seemed as if Megatron thought that they were either a Big Bad Duumvirate or that Sentinel would gladly become his Dragon-in-Chief, until Sentinel promptly kicked him to the wayside. Even then, Megatron was perfectly happy to sit on the sidelines and watch everybody else rip each other apart until Carly called him out on being reduced to dragon. Realizing that she is right and refusing to answer to a former Autobot, Megatron intervened in the final battle between Optimus and Sentinel.
- Which was exactly the wrong thing to do. While this was likely the only way he could hope to beat Sentinel, it also gave Optimus the opening to decapitate Megatron and shoot Sentinel in the head.
- As of Dark of the Moon, Megatron is still The Dragon. This time under Sentinel Prime.
- In Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, the previous film's Big Bad Davy Jones is demoted to being The Dragon for Cutler Becket. Justified by Becket possessing the heart of Davy Jones, and therefore being quite capable of having Jones killed and replaced if he doesn't obey Becket's orders.
- Poor King Ghidorah of the Godzilla franchise. He started out as the Big Bad in Ghidorah: The Three-Headed Monster and was considered the ultimate evil in the universe. The next film, Invasion Of The Astro-Monster reduced him into the mind-controlled pet of an evil alien-race. And he's pretty much been that way ever since.
- James McCullen spends most of G.I. Joe the Rise of Cobra as the Big Bad. Then his Mad Scientist revealed himself as Cobra Commander, Turning McCullen into his Dragon Destro in the process.
- Gantu becomes the Dragon to Hamsterviel in the third Lilo and Stitch movie. The second movie doesn't actually feature any villains. Hamsterviel himself becomes the dragon in the anime.
- Brokenstar was the Big Bad of Into The Wild, the first book of the Warrior Cats series. Then he gets driven out of his clan and killed, leaving Tigerstar in control of his army. Later in the Omen of the Stars arc, Tigerstar and Brokenstar meet up in the afterlife and Brokenstar becomes Tigerstar's dragon.
Live Action TV
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: When Angel became Angelus, former Big Bad Spike became Angel's Dragon.
- Angel: A varient for the good guys - after Angel has a Heroic BSOD and fires everyone in Angel Investigations, he gets better and asks for them to return, as his bosses not his employees - he demotes himself to Dragon. Eventually he goes back to being the boss but it's never quite established how.
- It's because Wesley betrayed the team's trust in a misguided attempt to protect Angel's son, and was subsequently booted from being the boss of AI later in Season 3. He later returned, but stayed as The Smart Guy. And really, from that point on everyone had their own role on the team, with nobody being 'in charge' again until Season 5, when they took over Wolfram and Hart.
- A strange variant in Smallville's Season 10 episode, "Dominion". General Zod, the Bigger Bad of Season 5, and Major Zod (his clone), the Big Bad of Season 9, were fused into a single being by Darkseid, the Season 10 Big Bad, and used as his surrogate in the Phantom Zone.
- Darken Rahl is the Big Bad of the first season of Legend of the Seeker. Then he's killed in the season finale. Come season 2, the Keeper has become the new Big Bad, seeking to kill every living thing, with the Rahl's soul being his Dragon. Not only that, but he reveals that he has always served the Keeper after making a Deal with the Devil for more power, and all his murders and slaughters were partly to appease his master. Then again, Rahl is a dick either way and really enjoyr killing. Of course, he turns out to be a Dragon with an Agenda and betrays his master by the end.
- Additionally, in the episode where Zedd's spell goes awry and rewrites history, Rahl becomes Richard's willing assistant, after Richard brainwashes him. Then the spell is broken, and Rahl is back to his old self.
- The Undertaker, as the leader of the Ministry of Darkness, was clearly seen as the biggest threat in the WWF at the time, to the point where it seemed even Vince McMahon was getting face cheers over him and was being portrayed somewhat sympathetically. However, Taker began making references to a "Higher Power", and when it was time for the reveal, it was none other than McMahon himself who had been pulling the strings all along. The Ministry merged with The Corporation to form the Corporate Ministry, and Undertaker immediately became McMahon's dragon.
- In Super Mario Land. Tatanga is the Final Boss. In the sequel, Wario is the Final Boss, and that Tatanga is simply guarding one of his coins for some reason. It's implied he may have been working for Wario the whole time, given that Wario takes over when Mario was distracted by Tatanga.
- Dr. Cortex becomes Uka Uka's Dragon in the third Crash Bandicoot game.
- Happened to Lechuck in Escape from Monkey Island, though he does turn on the game's new villain in the endgame when they're defeated.
- In Final Fantasy X, the seemingly Big Bad Final Boss called Sin turned out to only be an armor used by Yu Yevon, the center of the world's only religion and pretty much their god. From the moment the cast learns this, Sin is technically Demoted to Dragon, because the player had expected that Sin/Jecht would be the Big Bad.
- Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Time/Darkness/Sky actually took this literally with Primal Dialga.
- Medusa, the villainess of the first Kid Icarus game, is actually reduced to this in Kid Icarus: Uprising.
- In Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, Darth Sion starts out as one half of a Big Bad Duumvirate with Darth Nihilus, but after Nihilus dies he becomes The Dragon to Darth Traya.
- In the arcade version of Double Dragon, Machine Gun Willy is the leader of the Black Warriors and the final boss in the game. In the NES version, he's simply the last guy the player must face before the final battle against the player's twin brother, who became the main villain in the NES version. Note that while the sibling battle also occurs in the arcade version, it was an optional fight that only occurs if two people were playing, whereas in the NES version it's mandatory to completing the game.
- Sagat was the final boss in the original Street Fighter. In Street Fighter II, he's simply the last fighter the player must face before M. Bison.
- Also happens to Geese Howard in Fatal Fury Special, where he is the last opponent the player must face before facing Geese's half-brother Wolfgang Krauser.
- In Real Bout Special, it happens the other way around.
- In the Genesis version of Golden Axe, the player must face Death Bringer (a console-exclusive final boss) after defeating Death Adder (the final boss in the arcade version).
- As of Kingdom Hearts 3D: Dream Drop Distance, Ansem, Seeker of Darkness and Xemnas, the Big Bads of the first and second game, respectively, have both been Demoted to Dragon under Master Xehanort (either that, or Master Xehanort was playing the Man Behind The Men the entire time) For the record, this doesn't really apply to Ansem considering he's the heartless incarnation of Master Xehanort.
- The second Ninja Gaiden game for the NES managed to pull a double dragon demotion.. Jaquio, the Big Bad of the first game, is revealed at the start of the sequel to have just been the dragon of Ashtar, the true Big Bad who had been pulling the strings all along. But then Ashtar ends up dying halfway through the game, and the player spends the second half wondering who's really in charge. Turns out it was Jaquio all along. Ashtar was actually The Starscream of Jaquio's organization, so Jaquio let Ashtar think he was in charge so he'd stick his neck out and get killed by the hero. It worked, and as a result Jaquio is more powerful than ever.
- In Harry Potter Comics, Voldemort is revived by a mysterious Necromancer for the sole purpose of being his Dragon (and fully opening the Chamber of Secrets).
- On Atop the Fourth Wall, Mechakara was the Big Bad starting from the May 2009 episodes. After the storyline concluded in February 2010, Mechakara later reappeared as The Dragon to the new Big Bad, Lord Vyce.
- Magmion was the Big Bad of the first season of Gormiti the Lords of Nature Return. Season 2 introduced Obscurio, and Magmion was reduced to his main henchman
- The Trix from Winx Club were the main villains in season 1. In season 2 and 3, they work for the more powerful villains Lord Darkar and Baltor.
- In G.I. Joe, this happens to Cobra Commander when Serpentor is created.
- Slade from Teen Titans is demoted to Trigon's dragon when the latter tries to take over the world. An unusual case where the former Big Bad is actually more of a threat to the heroes when he's serving as someone else's henchman, because Trigon gave him a truckload of powers in the bargain.
- Shendu, from Jackie Chan Adventures. For the first season he was the one calling the shots but after his defeat he is forced into servitude to the other demons. Though in this case, he demoted himself so they'd stop beating the crap out of him for leaving them to rot in their prison.
- In Danny Phantom the Fright Knight became Pariah Dark's Dragon when he awoke. Though in this case, the Fright Knight was always Pariah's Dragon, his boss was just Sealed Evil in a Can when the Fright Knight was unleashed the first time. Vlad convinced him to turn against his master offscreen.
- Transformers Prime: This is played with when Unicron shows up. Megatron wants to serve him, but Unicron doesn't give a crap about Megatron, viewing him as beneath him.
- Which is a total reversal of the G1 situation ("serve me or get eaten") and the Transformers Armada situation ("you've actually been serving me all along.") where it's an unwilling Megs being made to work for Unicron until he can turn the tables. (If you go with the All There in the Manual Retcon that there's just one Unicron, it could be that the Chaos-Bringer has just learned that Megatrons don't make good servants.)
- Vilgax from Ben 10 becomes the Dragon to Bigger Bad Diagon in the Ben 10: Ultimate Alien season 2 finale, though he is hinted and confirmed in the series finale to be a Dragon with an Agenda.