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"You know, we never settled who was the Fastest Man Alive..."

When Cast Speciation isn't strict enough, or characters just have vaguely similar amounts of damn near anything, inevitable comparisons will be drawn between them. This might even get acknowledged by the writers and a subsequent episode will pit their abilities against each other. Although they get acknowledged, villains tend to lose. The audience may find it a little convenient, but they've been seasoned to expect that.

In contrast, heroes of equal footing are harder to write for; it's safer to concede a tie, or set up a situation which distracts or prevents a clear-cut judgment. Often, if the contest is interrupted at the start of the episode, the show will set it all up again at the end but fade to credits before it starts up again. See Left Hanging and No Ending. Let's You and Him Fight is a convenient (and thus overused) set up because the heroes can simply identify the real bad guy before a winner can be decided.

While this is usually just a dramatic device, especially for characters who are Strong as They Need to Be, a lot of fans take this much more seriously, spawning the infamous fanwanky and subjectivity-filled fight threads in online discussions.

See also Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny.

Examples of Evasive Fight Thread Episode include:

Anime and Manga

  • At the end of the Battle City arc in Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yugi and Jounouvhi begin a duel to resolve the question raised by their previously unresolved duel (which Yugi had thrown to save Jounouchi's life). The episode ends before the first card is played, leaving it unresolved (though the fact that Jounouchi inexplicably has his Red Eyes Black Dragon back in the next arc would suggest that he indeed won).
  • Not to mention the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny Series Finale of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX. However, the cards in play heavily suggest that Judai lost, but on his own terms. And the important part was that he was finally having fun with the game again anyway.
  • Variable Geo ends on the first exchange of blows in the battle that will determine who is actually champion of the eponymous tournament around and against which the entire show's action takes place.
  • Ami and Michiru in Sailor Moon, who happen to have water based abilities, held a swimming race at the start of the episode. Michiru is somewhat suspicious Ami slowed down to give her a sporting chance. Naturally, their rematch is interrupted by the end of the episode.
  • The entire final episode of S-Cry-ed is a continuation of the fight between the two main characters, Kazuma and Ryuho, which had been interrupted on several different occasions. The second-to-last scene of the episode (and the series) has both characters severely injured. It is never explicitly stated who won the fight, although it is popularly believed that Kazuma triumphed based on the fist made by the victor (which is the only thing we see, and in silhouette so that we can't be absolutely sure whether those are Kazuma's scars).
  • Subverted in the second season of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. Fate and Signum's battles were always interrupted with neither one getting an upper-hand, and on the last episode, the two promised one another to have a rematch sometime in the future to finally decide the better fighter. Thus, the season ends with the question of who's stronger left unanswered, right? Well, while that was the last anime episode of the season, there was still one Sound Stage episode left, and it revealed that those two had more than one rematch, with Signum kicking Fate's ass in the vast majority of them.
    • In a straighter example, a supplementary manga chapter of the third season had Signum mentioning a combat tactics exhibition she had with Nanoha which quickly escalated into a bloody brawl. She mentions that the fight ended without a conclusion. This same chapter also involved everyone being compared, trying to determine who was the strongest. No actual fights occurred, thanks to Nanoha redirecting their curiosity with a Logic Bomb.
    • And in a special StrikerS chapter released a few years later and set a few years later, Nanoha and Signum get a rematch in another TSAB sponsored event, this time, with the fight shown in full. It began with the two of them fighting with just the basics before going at it with everything they got for the final minutes. It ends in a draw after both of their last attacks hit home. However neither Signum's new Unison or Nanoha's Starlight Breaker (or higher Blaster system levels) are used just to stir things a little more.
    • Also at the end of StrikerS. Captains vs. Forwards grand royale and we never saw it, bummer.
  • Averted in Naruto, with the first series ending when a fight between Naruto and Sasuke (And NOT a friendly one either) ended with Sasuke knocking Naruto out.
    • Though there's is much Fan Wank over whether it was because the winner was "better" or because his opponent pulled his attack. Regardless, in their next encounter Sasuke's superiority was firmly established.
    • Played sort of straight on two later occasions: first when Suigetsu and Kisame decide to fight while Itachi and Sasuke are fighting 1-on-1, which is both completely off-screen and turned out to have been interrupted, but Sasuke tells Suigetsu that he's not strong enough yet. Second, when the fight between Sasuke and the Raikage is interrupted by Gaara stopping an attack by the Raikage that would kill Sasuke but get himself killed shortly thereafter, and Sasuke exits by causing a cave-in.
  • Averted in the manga of Yakitate!! Japan. In the space between two international Cooking Duels, the members of the Japanese team decide to have a practice battle between themselves. But then, a message arrives saying that the next duel has been hurried and is gonna start right away.
  • This happened to Jushiro Ukitake from Bleach twice. One was the battle he and Shunsui Kyoraku had against Head Captain Yamamoto. Supposedly, they were two of the first to become captains and were chosen by Yamamoto himself, but we never get to see how powerful they are in comparison because the episode ends, and by the next episode Aizen's treachery is revealed, and they stop fighting each other to fight the real Big Bad. Though, the fact that they could hold their own against the man who made Nanao faint just by looking at her is saying something. The other was when his Lieutenant Kaien Shiba was possessed by a hollow, and Ukitake said he would destroy Kaien's body to destroy the hollow inside and save Kaien's soul, but he collapsed from an attack of his illness before the first blow was exchanged. It's a little different though, in that Kaien dies afterward by Rukia's hand.
    • The Fake Karakura Town arc kind of remedies this, slightly, until Ukitake is impaled by Wonderweiss. Just after telling Kyoraku he's well enough to fight, and defending his mate from Starrk. Kyoraku and Yamamoto have been pulled well out of Informed Ability territory as Combat Pragmatists of differing kinds.
  • The Strawhat Pirates are occasionally set up to determine who's the strongest of them (though, the captain is usually considered to be, but earlier Zoro was quite close to him) Anyway, none of them were conclusive so far.
    • A particularly humorous example is Luffy and Zoro's fight, caused by a misunderstanding. After brawling for a bit they charge at each other...and are then both punched out by Nami, who tells them to knock it off.
    • The fact that the duel between Luffy and Usopp actually played out to the end was a surprising aversion, given how horribly mismatched the combatants were. Of course, the other surprise of the fight was that Usopp could give his monstrously-powerful opponent a run for his money.
    • It happens multiple times during the Marineford arc, with combatants breaking off off panel (Jinbei vs Gecko Moria, Ivankov vs Kuma, Crocodile vs Doflamingo, Curiel vs Gecko Moria)
      • Averted in the anime version of Marineford. Due to Adaptation Expansion, the fights end much more conclusively, with Jinbei defeating Moria, then losing to Hawkeye. Due to the chaos, winners and losers are still separated before a finishing blow, but the victor is made clear.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima appears to have one of these between Jack Rakan and Nagi Springfield, although considering that Jack is the one telling the story, and Nagi was considered the World's Strongest Man, it might be a case of Unreliable Narrator.
    • Negi and Kotaro seem to have one of these going: Negi narrowly defeated Kotaro in their first battle, and ever since then they've had a number of sparring and training matches, with no clear victor. Although once Negi starts training in Black Magic, Kotaro himself thinks Negi would win.
  • In Fairy Tail we're told that Erza can defeat Natsu easily. When they agree to a match, they're both prepared to give it their all, with the crowd gathered around excitedly. The match is then broken up by more powerful magicians to arrest Erza.
    • When Natsu wants to have their battle afterwards, Erza says she's tired and doesn't want to fight. Natsu attacks her anyways. She takes him out with a single punch.
    • Although it is hinted that if Natsu ever taps his true power, no one can defeat him.
  • Shortly after Dororo's introduction in the Keroro Gunsou manga, Giroro tries to take out Koyuki, unaware of her relationship with Dororo. Though Dororo is reluctant, it quickly becomes clear he can't go easy on his friend; fortunately, Natsumi interrupts before either one lands a decisive blow.

Comic Books

  • Batman is widely accepted to be the clear victor in all fights, including against Superman himself, on account of him being so Crazy Prepared. Provided he knows who he's up against and he has a little time, he can work out a way to beat his opponent. No exceptions.
    • There is a legend that in the '80s DC had a memo posted in the editors offices that indicated that anyone with their own comic could defeat Batman once and only in their own comic, and only if he was surprised. Beyond that there was said to be a list of 5 characters that could beat a prepared Batman in his comic but that these battles were to be saved for big events only.
      • Interestingly, Batman has been defeated, repeatedly, in his own comic. Specifically, the first time he fought Bane, he was absolutely destroyed. Then again, Bane deliberately manipulated Batman so that he would be taxed to the absolute limit of his endurance and unable to put up a fraction of the fight that he could have if he'd been healthy and rested.
      • This is because in Batman's comic, people are used to him being awesome. He doesn't need to be a Memetic Badass during these times. However, it's always nice to remind people in other comics just how awesome Batman really is.
    • While it's not strictly canon, we do get to see Batman and Superman actually go at it in The Dark Knight Returns. The aged Batman uses x-ray activated homing missiles, a powered exoskeleton, sonic scramblers, acid-to-the-face, the tank version of the Batmobile (driven by Robin), a synthesized kryptonite arrow (fired by the one armed Green Arrow), and the is helped by the Sun (source of Superman's power) being blotted out thanks to a recent nuclear blast (that Superman was caught in and not yet recovered from). In the moment of victory, Batman's heart gives out and Superman wins by default

  (Batman's internal monologue): It's been far too long since you knew what it was to be human, Clark, to be vulnerable. I want you to remember this moment with my hands around your throat. I want you to remember the MAN who beat you.

      • Of course, it turns out to be The Plan to cover his retreat from such a public crime fighting role anyways, but still.
    • We get to see Batman kick the alien out of Superman with nothing but a Kryptonite ring he always carries in Hush.
      • To be fair, he doesn't actually win. He just keeps Superman occupied until Catwoman can threaten Lois and break Poison Ivy's hold over him. He states that he could tell that the S-man was holding back unconsciously because it's such a deeply ingrained characteristic to not hurt people. When he's actually under the influence of Max Lord, he puts Batman into traction.
    • Of particular note is that despite at least 3 chances to have seen an outcome, we have yet to truly see who would win a fair fight between Batman and his closest Marvel Universe equivalent in Badass, Captain America[1]. See:
      • Batman technically won the fight in the DC vs. Marvel miniseries, but it was only because of a environmental hazard got Cap distracted (a burst water pipe in the sewer they were fighting in, if I remember correctly)
      • In the WWII-era pastiche crossover between the two, they stopped as soon as they realized each of them (they were in their secret identities) were actually Batman/Captain America.
      • Then there was JLA-Avengers, where the two initially begin to fight but soon stopped when they both came to the conclusion they were probably being played.
    • Swamp Thing appears to be a rare subversion, as he has had the gumption to beat Batman twice, once when Batman wasn't prepared (he thought the superpowered swamp monster was just a guy in a funny suit) and once when he was (he brought plant poison to the fight and outfitted the Batmobile with giant plant cutters, but underestimated Swamp Thing's regenerative powers). Both times Swamp Thing spared Batman, as he realized Batman meant well and was just trying to protect Gotham from what he saw as a threat.
    • A fight between Batman and a brainwashed Cassandra Cain (Batgirl) ended this way.
  • This trope is how all fights between Sonic the Hedgehog and Knuckles the Echidna ended in Archie Comics Sonic the Hedgehog. Partially justified, because the two never had a good reason to fight each other, they both were just temperamental and would engage in blows every time they met, before being distracted by whatever it was they were doing in the first place.
  • Averted in the Crossover between Savage Dragon and Hellboy in which Dragon was clearly shown to be stronger. The issue was co-written by both character's creators.
  • There was a one-shot comic entitled Spider-Man vs. Wolverine released in the eighties where the two characters fought without a clear winner (it ended in a deadlock and was broken up by bad guys). Later, a Marvel Comics Presents story with the same title also showed an inconclusive fight (Spider-Man attacked a person whom he thought was impersonating Wolverine and stopped after a few traded blows once Wolvie proved he was the real deal).
    • Spidey has a similar relationship with Daredevil despite the two of them being close friends. They would always fight to a standstill. Often, Spider-Man would be hindred in some way (mind-controled, wounded, etc.) in order to make the fight more even since he had Super Strength and DD didn't.
  • This does not stop with super teams, either. Usually, every super team goes up against another super team at least once with no clear team being the victor. However, individual members can sometimes have clear victories. More often than not, there will be an equal number of teammates on both sides once the dust settles.
    • New Warriors once fought X-Force with no clear winner, although there was a double-KO when Speedball and Cannonball collided.
    • In JLA-Avengers, while many heroes on both sides defeated their counterparts, no team was ever the clear winner by the end of the miniseries.
    • The Fantastic Four once fought X-Men and, despite being clearly outnumbered, held its own and there was never a winner of the fight.
    • The Avengers also went up against the X-Men a few times with similar results.
    • This trope was averted in the X-Force/XFactor fight during the Executioner's Song Crossover. X-Factor defeated and captured the X-Force, bringing them in for questioning on the wherebouts of Cable.
  • This trope is often averted when The Punisher fights other heroes, perhaps due to his Anti-Hero status. Spider-Man, Daredevil, and Captain America have all had clear victories over Frank Castle.


  • Rocky III, between Rocky and Apollo.
  • Freddy vs. Jason is pretty much an evasive fight thread movie, right down to its ambiguous ending.
  • A fair amount of outrage was generated in The Phantom of the Opera fandom when the latest Gerard Butler version had Raoul beat the Phantom in a sword-fight outside the masoleum.
  • Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man depicts a climatic battle between the two Universal monster classics. The fight ends when both monsters are caught in a flood with no winner.

Live Action TV

  • In a recent Pair of Kings episode, we never do get to find out which twin was born first. To make matters worse, commercials aired for weeks prior promising we'd find out, and the whole episode was drummed up big time.
  • In Stargate Atlantis, Ford and Ronon go toe to toe on two separate occasions but the audience never gets to find out which one would win, mostly because Ronon is the Suspiciously Similar Substitute replacing Ford.
    • Ronon, being The Big Guy, also gets to spar with Teal'c, The Big Guy of Atlantis' sister show, Stargate SG-1. Gate fans have likely been waiting for this since the day Ronon was introduced. Neither has the upper hand when Carter breaks it up.
      • Well, Teal'c did manage to draw first blood after an hour long fight, but still, very even.
  • In The X-Files, a fight between Skinner and X comes to an ambiguous conclusion. Both actors still insist they would have won.
  • Averted in Angel season 5: when Spike gets his body back, it takes them a matter of hours to come to blows (though the bad guys helped arrange it). The clear winner is Spike, which doesn't much help the confidence issues Angel was going through.
  • In the final episode of Kamen Rider Kiva, the eponymous hero and his half-brother have a fight - at the suggestion of their mother - in order to work out their past aggression (since most of the way through the series they were mortal enemies). The scene cuts away before we see who won, but since it was a Lighthearted Rematch it really doesn't matter.
  • Kamen Rider Decade's Rider Vs. Rider fights are filled with nothing but this. Every time a fight begins, it will never be finished. Someone will always interfere, or they will simply retreat. In fact, there was one episode where Decade and Shinken Red were about to transform and fight each other, but were interrupted. The only time Decade ever won a Rider Vs. Rider fight was when that rider happened to be the Big Bad of a world, or when he taps into his Super-Powered Evil Side. The only Decade Vs. Rider fight he did win outside of these conditions was against Imperer.
    • Averted in the first movie, where the entire point is a Rider tournament. We see brief flashes of several fights, but see (or learn) the outcomes of the ones that matter. Decade vs Black RX? RX dominates most of the fight, but Decade wins in the end. Kuuga vs X-Rider? Kuuga wins it. Decade, Diend, and Kuuga vs V3, Super-1, and Black? Diend punks out early, Kuuga gets eliminated Taking the Bullet for Decade, and Decade takes out all three opponents at once through clever use of his AttackRide: Illusion card.
  • Averted in the Power Rangers Dino Thunder Reunion Show. The main three Ninja Storm Rangers are brainwashed by Lothor and walk all over their Dino Thunder counterparts. The second time is closer to the trope: they start off using their out-of-suit powers, and the other Ninja Storm Rangers intervene and de-brainwash their friends before anyone morphs.
  • Averted in Merlin. Arthur can beat anyone in combat...except Lancelot.
  • The TV versions of Green Hornet and Batman once had a fight along with their respective sidekicks. Legend has it, Robin was supposed to defeat Kato while Batman and Green Hornet stalemated. Bruce Lee (Kato) refused to do the episode unless it was changed. The studio relented and there was no clear winner in either fight.
    • To say that Bruce Lee refused is a bit of an understatement. Rather, he was furious that his character was to lose and loudly proclaimed on set that when the cameras rolled, he was going to give Burt Ward a genuine beat down. The producers pacified him by changing the script to have the fight end in a draw.

Video Games

  • This is a recurring theme in the video game Lufia 2 where protagonist and fated hero Maxim, an incredibly skilled swordsman, is constantly challenged by other famous warriors, including fellow party members Guy, Selan, and Dekar, to see if he is truly the best. Such duels either occur off-screen with no clear winner given or are never able to occur at all. (though it is usually implied that Maxim would indeed win these fights) The trope is even subtly parodied when Maxim first meets Guy and they challenge each other to a duel, and just as Guy leaps into the air to strike the first blow, monsters literally teleport into the middle of town and the two must join forces to fight them.
  • Happens a lot in Street Fighter between Ryu and Ken. They've had several off-screen fights to determine who's stronger, with the overall results being a tie, as near as can be determined. It's also subverted in the case of Oro and Akuma: Oro is shown to be much stronger than Akuma is.

Web Animation

  • For part of the flash series TTA, whenever The Hero and The Rival attempted to fight, they were interrupted by the silent, mysterious, obscenely powerful Giga.

Web Comics

  • Subrosian and Wise_Mankey (Characters who show up in many sprite comics hosted by The Fallout Shelter, but do not appear to have comics of their own) had a rivalry, which they were given a chance to settle in Akuma TH's "Last Chance" event. However, their fight was interrupted by Silver Fox, who was there to settle his own grudge with Subrosian. He managed to defeat both of them (Along with the referee), and was then defeated by Cream the Rabbit and Big the Cat, which Subrosian and Mankey found so embarrassing that they couldn't bring themselves to continue the match.

Western Animation

  • In Superman: The Animated Series, the for-charity footrace held between Superman and the Flash gets detoured by the plot. The episode ends just as they start it over again. An episode of Justice League Unlimited takes place in Coast City's Flash Museum, which has a display about the race containing a big trophy, leading to the Wild Mass Guess that Flash won.
    • The charity race also happened before the Speed Force event in Justice League Unlimited, which makes it clear that the Diniverse's Flash is, in the very least, several orders of magnitude faster than Superman... Though it would likely kill him to try doing it again.
    • In the comics, there were seven separate Superman/Flash races; all but two ended ambiguously. Flash won both the clear ones: in the first, Flash (Barry Allen) won by a couple feet, after they crawled across the desert without the use of their legs. It's implied that Superman is less used to running as compared to flying, while running is what the Scarlet Speedster does all the time. In the second, Flash (Wally West) won by mere inches, and Superman confirmed that Wally was The Fastest Man Alive.
      • This Troper swears the comics established that in a foot race Flash would always win, but if Superman flew, then he would always win.
    • Subverted in 2009 Flash: Rebirth storyline when Superman chases after the Flash only to have Barry remind him, "Those races were for charity Clark" and abruptly leave Supes in his literal dust. Indicating that who's faster should never have been a real question.
    • Averted in Smallville, which makes it very clear Bart Allen is much faster than Clark. When the two race, Clark nearly catches up, and then Bart enters superspeed from Clark's perspective, after keeping up with him while running backwards.
      • Of course, later episodes establish Clark as being faster than bloody light...of course, there's a lot of room between "faster than light" and "faster than The Flash."
    • Superman did clearly beat the Flash in a race once, when he was Superman Blue... but we don't talk about that.
  • Similarly, in Justice League Unlimited, "Grudge Match", a fight between Huntress and a mind-controlled Black Canary is interrupted when the mind-control tech is destroyed; at the end of the episode, they decide to go at it again, and the episode ends with the first blow.
    • In yet another Justice League Unlimited example, Superman wins via wits even though it's made fairly clear that in a straight-up fight between Superman and Captain Marvel, neither the Man of Steel nor the World's Mightiest Mortal have the upper hand. This is mostly a fan bonus legacy nod to how similar the characters were originally in the comics, though you will have nitpickers complaining the Diniverse Superman is inconsistently weaker in this adaptation. It also serves as a bit of a deconstruction of the "Who would win in a fight?" concept, as it's made clear that it's Lex Luthor who gains the most from two good guys pounding each other.
      • It's also a nod to the comic Kingdom Come, where Superman fights a Luthor-manipulated Captain Marvel - especially obvious with Marvel using the magic lightning against Superman, who is vulnerable against magic. Both fights pretty much ended the same way, though.
  • A relatively recent Looney Tunes short featured a race between Speedy Gonzales and the Road Runner. The results were obscured when Sylvester and Wile E. Coyote, who had been chasing the duo through the whole cartoon, accidentally overtook them in a rocket car and crossed the finish line just before them in a cloud of dust. An overlap of Evasive Fight Thread Episode with the Dark Horse Victory.
    • Though Speedy came in second place, beating the Road Runner in that race.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Thanks to an unauthorized online leak, much anticipation surrounded the sword fight between Jet (twin tiger-head hook swords) and Prince Zuko (dual dao sabres). Before it came to a clear finish, the two were interrupted by the Ba Sing Se law enforcement, and Jet was arrested.
  • Subverted, of all the crazy places, in The Simpsons. At the end of "The Great Wife Hope", Bart challenges Lisa to a fight to settle the bad blood between them. They jump at each other and the scene freezes and breaks to the start of the credits, only to subvert the trope and unfreeze a few seconds later as Lisa lays Bart out with a single punch.
  • The My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Fall Weather Friends" was all about a rivalry between Applejack and Rainbow Dash to determine who was the most athletic pony. Rainbow Dash won the most events in an "iron pony competition" between the two of them, but after Applejack objected that Rainbow had an innate advantage in some of the events due to the latter being a pegasus they decided to settle the matter once and for all by competing in a marathon footrace. The race eventually devolved into the two of them pulling dirty tricks on each other, delaying them both until they wound up tying for last place. At the end of the episode they reconcile their grudge and decide to re-run the race fairly, but the credits roll right after they get started.
  • Regardless of his speed compared to The Flash, Robot Chicken has Superman in a race with Santa Claus.
  1. Well, technically, Batman's Marvel counterpart would be Daredevil, but that's not the point.