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"Hey, wait a second. I know who you are now! You're that guy! The one who kept getting pissed off at me for not remembering... something."

They have all the typical trappings of a rival, except their objects of jealousy don't take them seriously. Or even notice them most of the time. Or even recall their name, which just ticks them off even more. This character will do anything to be able to reach the level of their rival regardless of the actual level of skill required.

Usually the hero acknowledges their presence as comforting when a serious plotline goes down, no matter how annoying they were previously. They may even pitch in to help and establish a weird kind of friendship.

If the rival commands some level of respect, they may have a minion or two.

Extremely common with non-evil antagonists, giving writers a character who can be mean or obnoxious with impunity. Compare But for Me It Was Tuesday. See also We Meet Again, which is usually followed by a "We have met before?", much to the would-be-rival's chagrin.

There are two main types of Unknown Rivals:

  • The more common and well-known is that Person B hates Person A but Person A doesn't know/has forgotten that Person B exists.
  • The second is that Person A does know who Person B is and is aware of their antagonism but doesn't return the animosity, and could in fact consider them a friend, or at least, doesn't take their hatred to same depths as Person B.
Examples of Unknown Rival include:

Anime and Manga

  • Part-time model Kaori Sakiyama in Airmaster becomes an amateur wrestler, semi-berserker streetfighter solely to challenge Maki Aikawa. Subverted in that she is too loud and crazed to fully ignore, to the point everyone memetically mentions her full name when she appears.
  • Ryuuka, the pompous rich leader of the Jihiyou rival house in Hanaukyo Maid Tai. In episodes 7 and 11 of the first series Taro doesn't know who she is, even though he met her in episode 4.
  • In "Samurai Deeper Kyo", Kyo is approached by a man who had survived an encounter with him in the past. After being stunned by Kyo's swordsmanship, he trains constantly to match Kyo's level by cutting up anyone he comes across. When he meets Kyo in the plot, he proclaims that he has returned for revenge and Kyo responds with, "Who are you?"
  • Naga, in The Slayers, considers Lina Inverse to be her rival in sorcery, but really just ends up being her sidekick.
    • This is mostly Flanderization from the original novels, where she was comic relief, but despite that was Lina's honest partner and was as good with White Magic as Lina was with Black Magic.
      • This actually shows up in the anime as well; Naga occasionally surprises Lina with her knowledge of White Magic, is pretty darned good with Black Magic too, and in general is all but stated outright to really be Lina's equal in magic (excepting Lina's knack for the Dragon Slave spell). She just happens to be several orders of magnitude flakier.
  • Momoko in Chou Kuse ni Narisou considers Nagisa to be her rival, but Nagisa doesn't learn of Momoko's identity until the second half of the series.
  • Variation: Haitani and Shirai, Urashima Keitaro's best friends at the beginning of Love Hina, disappear for a while once the plot gets going. Eventually, they reappear just to "see how Keitaro's doing", that is to say, mess up his life more. A Running Gag in the manga has the other characters constantly asking who they are and how they know Keitaro.
  • Might Guy to Hatake Kakashi in Naruto. Guy is the intense one, and whenever he brings up the "rivalry" Kakashi says something to the effect of "I'm sorry; did you say something?"
    • It's basically accepted that Kakashi acts like that because he doesn't terribly want to be Guy's rival, and really wishes he would just shut up and go away. That's why, when Kakashi chooses their 'competitions', he tends to pick something that will be over quickly and doesn't take any effort, like rock-paper-scissors. Not so much 'Unknown Rival' as 'Unwanted Rival'.
      • Alternately, the two are genuinely good friends and both enjoy the rivalship. Kakashi just pretends to ignore Guy because it gets such a good reaction. When the fighting gets serious, they fight well together.
      • Indeed, episode 219 of Shippuden seems to support this, as Kakashi does acknowledge Gai as his rival, and says that even after he's named Hokage (Which ends up not happening), he'll still make time for his challenges. All in all, Kakashi probably just wishes Gai wasn't so damned enthusiastic about it.
    • Humorously, Guy later has Kisame as an Unknown Rival of his own. Guy can vaguely remember him, but never remembers his name until Kisame kills himself.. Which doesn't sound so hilarious in context as here.
    • Danzou was fiercely envious of the Third Hokage. He had a severe inferiority complex towards Sarutobi, especially during a flashback where he wasn't able to volunteer himself for a suidical mission sacrificing his life for the rest of his teammates, but Sarutobi did. In his eyes, Danzou wasn't able to live up to his families and his own beliefs. Not to mention the Second Hokage naming Sarutobi his successor in front of Danzou, something he had longed for and bitterly desired for the rest of his life. However at the same time, he did respect the Third and was even on a First-Name Basis with him. Which is actually kind of a big deal, because nobody else is shown to be on a first name basis with the Third. Hell, Danzo is the first person to actually use his first name in the entire manga.
    • Naruto himself was this to Sasuke at the beginning of the manga, as he was constantly trying to outdo Sasuke, but Sasuke didn't really care about him. He Took a Level In Badass though, which got Sasuke to acknowledge him. Unfortunately, to Sasuke, if Naruto could challenge him, it meant his own skills were inadequate, which contributed significantly to his defection.
  • Sakaki never notices Kagura's self-proclaimed rivalry, even when it is proclaimed to her face, in Azumanga Daioh. Despite that, Kagura doesn't take their rivalry personally and is nice to Sakaki even before they get to know each other. Kagura eventually moves on to establish a genuine rivalry with Tomo, as both have similar levels of energy.
    • This is probably because Kagura doesn't want a "rival"; She wants a "Rival!" in the dramatic, shonen manga sense. The kind where the two characters compete furiously in their chosen area, but leave the audience wondering "Are they gay?"
  • Gintama has Sougo Okita, the 1st captain of the Shinsengumi, constantly trying to kill his superior, vice-commander Toshiro Hijikata, just so he can take over his vice-commander position. Hijikata, in turn, never seems to take notice of any of this (even regarding Okita's attempts on his life as "unfunny pranks").
  • Protagonist Miki Onimaru of Muteki Kanban Musume can never remember Kankuro Nishiyama, despite his attempting to serve her with a formal challenge to battle nearly every episode.
  • In the El-Hazard: The Magnificent World OVA, Makoto is largely unaware of Katsuhiko Jinnai's hatred for him. Whereas Jinnai thinks that Makoto has a secret vendetta against him, given the number of times that Makoto has coincidentally gotten in his way and/or pissed him off.
  • In Death Note, Near blatantly ignores Mello's attempts to beat him, until he becomes Not So Harmless.
    • Ironically, Not So Harmless Mello ends up actually helping in the end, with his own death.
  • Kamina of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann seems to have a remarkably poor memory; when the recap episode shows his fight with Viral, he asks Simon if that really happened. This also works for his allies; Kittan is infuriated when Kamina doesn't remember him.
    • Yoko was also this for Nia for a few episodes, taken Up to Eleven when Nia kept on being better than everything than Yoko without even trying. The two of them became best friends at the end of the episode after Nia puts her faith in Yoko to rescue her.
  • Lambo from Katekyo Hitman Reborn has tried to kill Reborn on a few occasions, but Reborn refuses to even acknowledge his presence, even when Lambo uses a gun to temporarily age himself up.
  • Tachikawa Satoka from Gate Keepers 21 spends most of her non-BFS-swinging time talking to/critiquing/lecturing Badass Bookworm Isuzu Ayane only to get ignored, or ditched when her back is turned, much to her chagrin.
  • Haruka in Mai-HiME and Mai-Otome (all adaptations) apparently has an ongoing rivalry with Shizuru, which Shizuru never seems to acknowledge. Though it should be mentioned that Shizuru absolutely is the sort of person who would pretend not to notice just to screw with Haruka's head.
  • Cowboy Bebop inverts this trope with Andy, who is The Rival to Spike for one episode and never remembers Spike, constantly confusing him with the episode's bounty.
  • XxxHolic has Doumeki, who more often than not is involved in Watanuki's Embarrassing Rescue. Watanuki views him as a rival (mainly due to Watanuki's convinction that Doumeki is vying for Himawari's affection, which is all in his mind) while Doumeki clearly does not take him seriously. Later, the main reason Doumeki seems to show great annoyance at Watanuki's antagonistic view of him seems to be because he wants Watanuki to trust and... like him more.
  • To Aru Majutsu no Index: Mikoto hounds Touma on a regular basis trying to get him to fight seriously with her, having misinterpreted his mysterious ability to negate her lightning as a sign of some incredible power that he's holding back. His nonchalance toward her and her otherwise remarkable power is a blow to her pride as one of the strongest espers in the city.
    • While no evidence he keeps forgetting her is shown, An instance of this occurs When he receives amnesia, which causes him to forget their meeting.
    • Because of Magic Versus Science and The Magic Versus Technology War, various magical organizations try various plots to destroy Academy City, which are constantly foiled by Touma and friends. Other than the heroes and a few of Academy City's higher-ups, no one in Academy City is even aware of magic or that several science-hating mages want to destroy them.
  • Greta from A Little Snow Fairy Sugar.
  • Takumi of Initial D, for the first season or so, doesn't seem to really care that his enemies--and his friends for that matter--are quite envious of his racing skills; this is not helped by the fact that his first race came after five years of tofu delivery runs. His first race has him not caring about the racing aspect of drifting.
  • Hikaru no Go: Morishita considers himself Toya Meijin's rival, and strives to create the same rivalry between his students' and Toya's. Morishita's students are somewhat startled by the realization that the Toya school is largely unaware that there's a rivalry going on.
    • Also from Hikaru No Go, Kaga's backstory involved his numerous attempts to defeat Akira. Those ended when he realized, to his shock, that Akira had never considered him a rival - their difference in skill was simply too great.
    • For that matter, after Sai's first (and even after his second) game against Akira, Hikaru did remember the occasion and the guy, but didn't take him terribly seriously and was completely flummoxed by his 'rival!' attitude, since he hadn't even played those games of go and had no idea how important it was to Akira. Of course, most of the show is then consumed with their burning rivalry that was written in the stars.
  • The Bakuman。 manga has a hilarious variation on this: the main protagonist sees genius mangaka Eiji as his rival, but Eiji's not ignoring him because he's conceited. It's because Eiji is such a total fanboy of the protagonist's work that he barely seems capable of understanding why he'd consider him his rival.
    • Eiji is conceited, but in a clueless, Genius Ditz kind of way, and he gets into the rivalry on a couple of occasions, since it is visibly true that they're both less commercially and critically successful, and having a harder time finding their voice than he is, and he wants to encourage them.
    • As Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata's project right after Death Note, it's milking the 'rival' thing Obata used to such acclaim in both Death Note and Hikaru no Go, and as an outrageously meta project, it's playing with it.
  • In Keroro Gunsou, rival assassin Zoruru has some beef with Dororo, but Dororo doesn't remember him.
  • Once Al faces off against Barry the Chopper in Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. Barry gets rather annoyed when Al reveals he's never heard of Barry's infamous past.
  • Saki has Touka. While she considers Nodoka to be her great rival, Nodoka doesn't even seem to notice that she exists, which is a testament to her ability to ignore everything except the game itself considering how much Touka grandstands.
  • There are such characters just in every Gundam series.
    • Yzak Joule to Athrun Zala, and in a degree to Kira Yamato, in Gundam Seed.
    • Mobile Suit Gundam 00 has many. In the first season, Patrick Colasour is this to Tieria Erde, while Neil "Lockon Stratos" Dylandy hunts down Ali Al-Saachez for personal issues. In season 2, Mister Bushido fills the role to Setsuna F. Seiei, his season 1 rival. Soma Peries is this to Andrei Smirnov after he killed his father/her mentor Sergei, while Andrei is this to Saji Crossroad for love's sake.
  • Laura from Mnemosyne is considered by Rin to be nothing more than a nuisance.
  • Happens twice to Mugen in Samurai Champloo; In the second episode, Mugen is confronted by the man whose arm he cut off in the first episode, who freaks out when Mugen says he doesn't remember him. To be perfectly fair, this appears to have happened just a week or so earlier and it's hard to imagine that week being so jam-packed with excitement that Mugen would lose track of all the guys he maimed. Second is in the three part finale, where the three brothers crippled by Mugen during the raid on the sugar ship converge on him; leader Umanosuke loses his mind even more than Ryujiro did when he hears Mugen has no idea what he's talking about. Again, it's hardly unreasonable to expect him to remember this since the sugar ship raid is one of the major formative experiences of his recent life.
    • But then again, Mugen's a self-centered blockhead.
  • Giriko to Justin. To an extent, Black Star to Kid, who only recently has gained any conceivable chance of posing a problem for one of the actual gods in the series. It takes Black Star's efforts putting his life in danger for Kid to a) fight him seriously and b) claim that he has potential. Before this he was fairly indifferent to the assassin's sense of rivalry.
  • In Neon Genesis Evangelion Asuka often comes across as this to Rei, especially where Shinji is involved. Subverted in that Rei's internal monologue indicates that she actually does consider Asuka something of a rival, but since this is Rei she gives no outward acknowledgment of this.
  • Ranma ½ has Ryoga Hibiki, who at first glance seems to be this; Ranma basically used to always get the piece of bread that Ryoga wanted at lunch when they were in school together, and then went to China after Ryoga was four days late for the duel that Ryoga had arranged over the bread. In series, though, he's actually The Rival. Tatewaki Kuno gets roughly the respect from Ranma that would put him towards this trope, but he's so thoroughly irritating that Ranma is perfectly aware of who he is. The closest the series comes to using this trope is the anime-only Villain of the Week the Frog Hermit, who is flabbergasted to discover Ranma had never even noticed that he and his father, while dueling at Jusenkyo, had broken the bamboo pole the Hermit was sitting on and dumped him into the Spring of Drowned Frog.
  • Peorth is this towards Belldandy in her introductory arc in Ah! My Goddess. It goes away once the gang gets Peorth to explain exactly why she's so angry at Belldandy.
  • Nogizaka Haruka no Himitsu: When Yuuto Ayase met his rival for the second time, Yuuto didn't remember the first time until Shute, his rival, reminded him.
  • Lupin III's Fujiko Mine. She may plan backstabbing moves on him, but he continues to blindly trust her, nevertheless.
  • In Fairy Tail, Evergreen was jealous of Erza for having the nickname "Titania" (townspeople were awed by her strength and called her that, meaning "Queen of the Fairies") and tried to kill her so she could take it. Erza defeats her and says that she never cared about that nickname.
  • Inverted and later played straight in Eyeshield 21 where initially Kotaro considered himself to be Musashi's rival despite having no idea who Musashi is. And later, after finding out, became the normal kind of unknown rival himself to Musashi.
    • We never find out the real identity of the real Eyeshield 21 ... until the Christmas Bowl.

Comic Books

  • In the Nightwing comic, Nightwing has a "nemesis" in the form of Shrike who isn't quite unknown (they both underwent assassin training in their childhood, but Nightwing was undercover and Shrike wasn't) but Shrike is the only one who considers them archenemies. Even during their fight, while Shrike is trying to stab Nightwing to death, Nightwing just ignores him.
  • The X-Factor comics circa mid-1990s had a great deal of fun with this one.
    1. In one issue the action switched to a Mad Scientist who had successfully turned himself into a half-dinosaur monster, all for the purpose of destroying those horrible mutants. After leaving his lab, he was immediately hit by a truck.
    2. In the next issue, the scientist's brother, eager to avenge his brother's demise, was shown having successfully replaced his hands with enormous, razor-sharp propeller blades...only to discover that he couldn't open the door out of his lab with them. When he tried to slap himself in the forehead in frustration, he cut the top of his head off.
    3. When the third brother showed up in the next issue, he'd completed a massive robot battlesuit to avenge his brothers. He didn't fare any better than his brothers.
All of this led up to an X-Factor annual issue where a mutant-hating former classmate of Strong Guy's showed up, having devoted his life to the dark arts and become a servant of Mephisto. In order to defeat X-Factor, he brought back their three greatest enemies from the dead — the three brothers who had died over the past three issues, none of whom had so much as been seen by X-Factor. So in the massive, climactic battle, an Unknown Rival resurrected three more unknown rivals. When the villains introduced themselves, Polaris asked if they were sure they had the right X-team.

  Strong Guy: That figures! Only we could have a bunch of "greatest enemies" that we never heard of.

  • Slyde. For a moment he had Spider-Man on the ropes! Read the issue (Spider Man Unlimited v3 #1, for the record), it's very entertaining. And in this case, Spider-Man does know who Slyde is; you don't have a guy as an decently recurring enemy for years without remembering him. He just regards him as little more than an occasional nuisance.
    • There's a similar scene in Ultimate Spider-Man, when Shocker manages to capture Spider-Man. Throughout the series, he was played up as a joke, a character who didn't even really qualify as a supervillain that Spidey would easily subdue in the opening pages of an arc to show "business as usual." While he has Spider-Man hanging upside-down he reveals that from his point of view, things weren't nearly so funny, revealing a level of anger and humiliation made only worse by the fact that Spider-Man never gave him a second thought.
    • In Venom's original backstory, he was just a reporter whose shoddy journalism was exposed by Spider-man. Eddie Brock claimed to have interviewed the Sin-eater, but it turns out the guy was just a compulsive confessor, and Spidey caught the real criminal. Eddie snapped and held a grudge against Spider-man that only got worse after bonding with the Venom symbiote. At this time Spidey had never even met Eddie face to face.
  • Amok, an Icelandic supervillain whose only appearance is in Superman: The 10 cent Adventure. He was stopped by Superman four years earlier. Understandably, this became the defining moment of his life. Just as understandably, Supes saw it as another five minute battle against a bank robber, and never gave it another thought. Amok is quite shocked to realize this.
  • Big Ron Gomz insists that he is number one on the JLA Most Wanted list, that he knocked Superman through a building, put the Martian Manhunter in a coma, and that he's the guy who broke Batman's back, but none of the Doom Patrol members he tussles with has ever heard of him.
  • Kearson DeWitt put Iron Man, or rather Tony Stark, through six kinds of hell during the "Armor Wars II" storyline; he was commissioned by the Marrs twins to take Tony out, but for him it is clearly, indeed emphatically personal. He rants and raves at Stark for some cruel injustice that was done to him - but when the story finally comes to a head, and - after a long and devastating battle - DeWitt's face is revealed to Tony, he does not recognize him. Atypically for the trope, this shocks him profoundly.
    • In the later three-annual-crossover "Assault on Armor City", it is revealed (in retcon, natch) that DeWitt is the son of an unrecognized engineering genius, whose designs - DeWitt believes - were stolen by Stark and formed the basis for Iron Man, while the true inventor died 'a broken and penniless man'. It's kind of a bum move which pulls the sting out of the original story.
  • During one Spider-Man story, he is attacked by C-list villain Will O'the Wisp. Spider-Man's response is "And you are...?" Wisp gives a rundown of every encounter they've had, to which Spider-Man repeatedly responds that he doesn't remember any of this. Subverted by Spidey's narration, where he reveals that he knows perfectly well who Will O'the Wisp is, and is just messing with him.
  • An Incredible Hulk Annual had a story of Coyote Cash, an arch-criminal who's foiled repeatedly over the years by various versions of Hulk, beginning with the Hulk accidentally crushing his get-away car while escaping from the Army. After a 3rd release from prison, he tracks down Rick Jones and destroys his house with a bazooka. While he makes a triumphant speech about "being ready for the Hulk", Hulk emerges from the rumble in trademark anger.

 Hulk: I hope you're ready now, you stupid two-bit hood!

Cash: I.. I give up!

Cash is meekly dragged away by police as Hulk watches.

  Hulk: I wonder who that guy was? It's a funny world, when you can be minding your own business and along comes some stranger to complicate your life.

  • Deconstructed in the graphic novel version (but not the film version) of Kick-Ass: Big Daddy doesn't actually have any personal connection to John Genovese; that's just a story he made up for Hit Girl to justify raising her as his sidekick. Big Daddy is actually just a comic nerd who wanted to be a superhero and chose Genovese as his arch-enemy more or less at random.
  • Sam & Max poke fun at this with Mack Salmon, a very angry fish in a bowl who has a bone to pick with the duo for "setting in motion the events which caused his current state." Neither of them knows who he is or what he's going on about (neither does the reader); they decide to just smack him around like any other ineffectual villain they come across.
  • Lex Luthor fits the second option like a glove. Superman knows who Luthor is, openly regards him as his Arch Enemy and the most dangerous man on Earth but doesn't spend every second of every day obsessing over Luthor like he does over the Man of Steel. Superman goes out to live a life.
  • The Quintessons in The Transformers. The Cybertronians know who they are but generally regard them as harmless little gremlins that can be killed at one's leisure. The Quintessons regard the Cybertronians as mighty warriors whom it is their destiny to defeat.

Fan Fiction

  • In Kira Is Justice, O is this, being Mello's counterpart. Justin doesn't even know of him, and the closet thing that O had done so far to challenge him was to send SIS agents to Chicago-partially to bring out L.
  • The Kree and the Skrulls to the Kryptonians in The Last Son. Kryptonian technology is so advanced that both empires are really just screaming children to be dismissed.
  • In Close Encounters of the Gem Kind, the Paladins of Voltron respond to a Gem distress signal only to learn that the Gems are so technologically advanced that the Galra Empire can be dismissed as nothing more than an annoyance to them. It's not even clear if Yellow Diamond knows who the Galra are. Moonstone later tells Pidge that the Kree Empire also qualifies as this because the fact that Gems are immortal and born ready for battle allows them an enormous edge over organic conquerors.
  • Several Victorious fanfics play up this aspect of Tori and Jade's relationship. A good example is Stardust where Jade views Tori as a Humanoid Abomination come to undo all her work in becoming a star while Tori just views Jade as a cliché mean girl.

Films — Animated

  • In Aladdin, Aladdin and Jafar spend a good two-thirds of the film unaware of each other's true identity/intentions. Jafar assumes Aladdin died in the Cave of Wonders, then when he returns as Prince Ali neither of them knows who the other is. It's not until Jafar sees "Ali" has the lamp that he puts it together.
  • Disney's Hercules: Hercules doesn't even know he has an arch-nemesis until the final act of the movie.

Films — Live-Action

  • Odd example from The Fifth Element: Corbin, the hero, and Zorg, the villain, never actually meet in the entire movie, despite being clearly the good guy and the bad guy. It's not even clear that the two of them realize they're in competition with each other over the stones.
    • The closest they ever get to interacting is either when Zorg orders one million of his employees fired, a pink slip shows up in Corbin's mail tube in the next scene, or when Corbin and Co enter one elevator as Zorg steps off the one next to it.
  • The live-action Street Fighter movie has a situation similar to the above Superman one. Chun Li pledged her life to bring down M. Bison for having her father shot. But for Bison, it was Tuesday.
  • Salieri in Amadeus hates Mozart with a passion. However, he never lets on that he does, and actually is rather nice to the younger man when they are in each other's company.
  • This is the case for the first half of The Man with the Golden Gun. James Bond is tracking down Scaramanga on the basis of the bullet carved with his number which was sent to MI 6 and interpreted as a threat. The bullet was actually sent by Scaramanga's assistant Andrea, who wanted Bond to kill him, and Scaramanga even admits when he meets Bond that he has nothing against him.
  • In Big Fish, Ewan McGregor's character unknowingly grew up with a rival who was constantly overshadowed by him. They end up fighting over the same girl when they become adults.
  • Sort of happens in Black Swan. While Nina feels threatened by the new dancer Lily, Lily's not really threatened by her.
  • Enter the Dragon has the Big Bad confront two minor characters before he ever meets the protagonist of the movie, played by none other than Bruce Lee. Oddly enough, Lee was sent there for the specific purpose of bringing the villain down while the two minor characters were at the tournament for unrelated reasons.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Ant-Man establishes that Hank Pym has a blood feud with Howard Stark to the point that he refuses to contact Tony Stark for help with a mission that could endanger the world. By Captain America: Civil War, he's passed on this hatred to Scott Lang who tells Tony that Pym was right to never trust a Stark. Tony, having literally no idea what he's talking about, can only honestly ask who he is. Ant-Man and The Wasp and Avengers: Endgame show that Pym's Irrational Hatred of Stark truly backfired when Tony, in a night, is able to master and refine the technology that Pym spent decades struggling to build and could have easily brought back Janet had Hank ever sought out his aid.
      • Zemo to the Avengers in Civil War. Most have no idea who he is or that he even exists but he manages to use this anonymity to fracture the Avengers. For a time anyway.
      • Secretary Ross and Captain America function as an odd version of this to each other in Civil War. Both know who the other is and their goals but vastly overestimate their own importance in the other's agenda. To Steve, Ross is every Corrupt Politician who wants to kill Bucky. In practice, Ross barely seems to care about Bucky and is only interested in Cap because he's proving Ross' point about Enhanced needing regulation. To Ross, Cap is trying to subvert the Sokovia Accords and keep the Avengers an NGO Superpower. In practice, Cap doesn't know enough about politics to understand what any of that means and is more focused on preventing the other five Winter Soldiers from being released.
    • Adrian Toomes/Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming considers Tony Stark his Arch Enemy but Tony has no idea he exists. It's entirely an Invoked Trope on Toomes' part as he knows he can't fight Iron Man head on and does his best to stay under the Avengers' radar.
    • The Avengers, Thor and Scarlet Witch in particular, to Thanos in Avengers: Endgame. Past!Thanos knows who the Avengers are, from 2012, but has no idea why some of their 2023 members are so eager to kill him. As he aptly says to Wanda, "I don't even know who you are."


  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy takes this to an extreme. Mild-mannered and mostly confused Arthur Dent is captured and accosted by Agrajag, who claims that Arthur Dent has killed him in every one of his reincarnations, including a bowl of petunias, a bystander at a cricket match, and one in a time and place Arthur has yet to visit.
    • This, as one may imagine, has left Agrajag rather unhinged, so that when Arthur insists that he's not doing it on purpose and the universe is just "playing silly buggers" with them, Agrajag point-blank refuses to believe it.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian stories he and Thoth-amon never actually meet and Conan is never the direct object of Thoth-amon's attacks. In The Phoenix on the Sword Thoth sends a demon to kill the man who enslaved him after he lost his powers who is leading an assassination attempt on then king Conan, actually inadvertently saving him although he also tells the demon to kill everyone with his erstwhile master thus putting Conan in danger again. In The God in the Bowl Conan just happens to be robbing the museum where a deadly gift from Thoth-amon to a rival is being kept. In The Treasure of Tranicos Thoth-amon is after one of several parties after the title treasure, Conan, once again just happens to inadvertantly get in the way. In The Hour of the Dragon Thoth-amon is just mentioned by a group of Stygian priests seeking a way to combat him after his return to power.
  • In Warrior Cats,(spoilers for Rise Of Scourge and The Darkest Hour) Scourge desperately wants to kill Tigerstar, who has no idea who he is.
  • In Austin Grossman's novel Soon I Will Be Invincible, the relationship between the hero Core Fire and the villain Dr. Impossible is like this.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire has a couple of possible examples. Cersei very definitely sees Magaery Tyrell as a rival, but it is not clear whether Margaery is actually trying to undermine Cersei or not. It is certainly true that Margaery's family is trying to increase their power at Cersei's expense, but it is unknown if Margaery is knowingly assisting in their schemes, or is genuinely trying to be friendly with Cersei and is upsetting her largely by accident. The latter seems unlikely, since she is shrewd enough to immediately see through Cersei's plan to get her damned in trial by combat, and calls her a "vile, scheming, evil bitch".
    • Viserys Targaryen is one for Robert Baratheon: Viserys sees himself as the Big Good to Robert's Big Bad, but Robert (correctly) sees Viserys' sister as more dangerous (though for the wrong reasons). Despite this, Robert still considers him a threat, but would likely reconsider this if he knew just how staggeringly incompetent and useless Viserys really is, making this a strange example of Viserys being a Partly-known Rival who deserves to be treated as an Unknown Rival, and probably would be treated as an Unknown Rival if Robert actually knew anything about him.

Live-Action TV

  • Although Angel knows precisely who Lindsey is, he doesn't take him very seriously as a threat during the show's final season, while Lindsey sees himself as Angel's archrival. They eventually team up against a bigger threat, and in the end, when Lorne shoots Lindsey on Angel's orders, the only thing Lindsey's angry about is that he apparently wasn't important enough for Angel to kill personally.
    • Inverted with Sahjhan in season 3 who wants revenge against Angel, who has no idea who he is. In season 5 it's revealed Sahjhan really just wanted to keep Connor from killing him in the future, which he does.
  • Over on Buffy, the Trio start out this way. They gradually are noticed more and more, culminating in Warren's accidental killing of Tara. That got the Scoobies' attention. Specifically, Willow's.
    • And then there was Harmony who no one took seriously at first. She eventually got the gang's attention... well for a moment, but once Buffy saved Dawn, Buffy completely forgot about her. Harmony continued to think Buffy was after her though, even asking Spike to harbor her. Harmony even hid in a coffin when Buffy came to Spike's crypt once thinking that Buffy had found her and was going to kill her. Buffy was actually there to question Spike as usual and had no idea Harmony was even still around.
  • The Great Intelligence appears to be one to the Eleventh Doctor in Series 7 of Doctor Who. In their first encounter, Eleven seems to only dimly recall the Intelligence and when they're face to face in The Name of the Doctor, it's implied that Eleven can't properly recall the Intelligence and is bluffing his way through the conversation so as to not anger it. By contrast, the Intelligence hates the Doctor and views him as its Arch Enemy to the point of being willing to invoke Taking You with Me.
  • In Power Rangers Wild Force, Jindrax sees himself as having a grand rivalry with Taylor. Taylor... doesn't. After their Enemy Mine moment before Jindrax and his partner Toxica ride off into the sunset, Jindrax expresses regret that their 'famous rivalry' is over, and Taylor graciously says "Well, you were a... worthy opponent, I guess."
  • An interesting example is Nimueh from Merlin. Though she is a formidable opponent, most of her evil plans are done from a distance, and Prince Arthur never discovers who she truly is after she pulls a Decoy Damsel on him. She interacts only once with King Uther (who would be her major foe) but then dies in the season finale without any sort of confrontation with either Uther or Arthur. In fact, it's unclear whether they even know that she's dead.
    • It happens again with Morgana. As of the end of series 4, Arthur has no idea that Morgana killed Uther, resurrected Lancelot, enchanted Guinevere to cheat on Arthur, or brainwashed Merlin into trying to kill Arthur.
    • A Love Triangle variation occurs when Princess Mithian arrives at Camelot in the hopes of marrying Arthur. At this stage Guinevere is in exile, and although Mithian eventually tumbles to the idea that Arthur isn't interested because of another woman (asking "who is it that trumps a princess?" and "what great family does she come from?"), Guinevere never learns of Mithian's existence at all.
  • Mad TV took quite a few shots at Saturday Night Live, but as far as I know the only time SNL ever even referenced Mad TV was a Weekend Update bit where Seth Meyers made a joke referencing his brother Josh being a cast member on that show.
  • Community, Dr. Rich gained one in Jeff due to his Nice Guy persona and gifted ability at pottery.
    • This extends to Real Life where Community views itself and Glee as Dueling Shows. Community makes fun of, and its fans constantly bash, Glee but Glee has never mentioned Community once and its fans seem unaware of the rivalry entirely.
  • On The Colbert Report the following exchange takes place:

Colbert: Ted Nugent has condemned your generation as lazy and apathetic. Your response?

NYU Student: Who's Ted Nugent?

  • Mad Men gives us Ted Chaough (pronounced like "Shaw"), who declares himself the rival to Don Draper. Draper had never even heard of the man when they first meet, although Chaough's challenge leads Draper to do some things to prove who's the better adman.
  • Not quite unknown, but in The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon spends a good deal of mental energy seething against his "arch-rival" Wil Wheaton. Wheaton, for his part, just laughs off Sheldon's challenges and easily defeats him whenever they come into contact. Lampshaded when Sheldon finds a new target for his wrath.

 Sheldon: You've already signed something for me, Brent Spiner. Your name on my list. From this moment on you are my mortal enemy!

Wil Wheaton: Don't worry, it doesn't take up a whole lotta your time.

  • Jade West to both of the Vega sisters in Victorious. While Tori knows who Jade is, she doesn't obsesses over her like Jade does with Tori, which seems to only aggravate Jade's insecurities, and, as is made clear several times, does not view Jade as a rival. Trina by contrast, seems only dimly aware that Jade exists, despite how much Jade hates her, and it's implied that Trina can't even remember Jade's name half the time, usually resorting to Hey, You.
  • In The Good Place, Neil deGrasse Tyson, a world renowned astrophysicist, is apparently this to Eleanor, a self-described trashbag from Arizona. Eleanor was this to Tahani in the first season.
  • In the Mirror Universe of Star Trek: Discovery, the Klingons regard the Terrans as Worthy Opponents. The Terrans regard the Klingons as animals. They should have taken them more seriously.
  • The Blackadder dynasty to the Flashheart lineage.


  • Jonathan Coulton has the song Nemeses which is driven by this trope. As the song progresses, a bit of Foe Yay starts to seep into the tone before the singer seems to have a Villainous Breakdown as it starts to sink that the person they're singing about doesn't seem to know who they are.

 Ah yes, my old friend

You are a master of this game

The hidden blade when you pretend

That you don't even know my name

Well played

Sometimes it's hard to tell

If you even notice me


Professional Wrestling

  • TNA, as part of its campaign to compete with WWE, markets itself as a Darker and Edgier alternative to WWE, being more violent and bloodier, even going so far as to make occasional not-so-veiled quips at their "competition". WWE responds by...going about their business as usual, not paying any mind to them.
    • Then there was that ridiculous and pointless storyline where BG James and Kip James as the "Voodoo Kin Mafia" would spend weeks mocking Shawn Michaels, Triple H, and Vince McMahon. They would often challenge the three to a fight, wait a few minutes, then denounce them as cowards for not showing up. The three never gave any indication they were aware of this.
  • Perhaps the most well-known wrestling example: Starting in the mid-nineties, Shane Douglas has spent over a decade running down Ric Flair. Flair barely paid him any attention. This didn't stop even after Douglas finally got a program with Flair in WCW in 2000 (and beat Flair twice).
  • The Miz was this to John Cena during their first feud in 2009. Averted Trope since then, however.


  • Nippon Ichi just seems to love this trope, examples include: Vyers from Disgaea, who was unflatteringly re-named "Mid-Boss" by Laharl during their first encounter and never referred to by his real name again, Axel from Disgaea II, and Alexander (referred to as 'asshat', or simply 'Alex', by Zetta) from Makai Kingdom. As befitting of their storyline status, these characters tend to fill the Goldfish Poop Gang mold to a tee.
    • Of course, neither of the latter examples can compare to the irony of the first, who happens to be the main character's dead father having temporarily returned to test his son's strength and character. Bet getting called "Mid-Boss" wasn't part of his plan.
    • Another Nippon Ichi example: Odie in Soul Nomad and The World Eaters basically invokes this trope within half a minute of his first appearance. He shows up and immediately boasts to the hero about how awesome he is, gets angry when she ignores him, and then tries to kill her when he finds out that she honestly doesn't know who he is, calling upon an old farmer and his two dogs. Yep, you guessed it, they're the Goldfish Poop Gang.
  • Parodied in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Butt Monkey Gumshoe announces himself to be Phoenix's rival, who is both confused and flattered - but mostly amazed.
    • Even more so with Winston Payne, who is hardly remembered by Phoenix and completely ignored by fellow prosecutor Edgeworth.
  • Don Paulo has sworn revenge on Professor Layton. Layton has no clue why until the third game.
  • Fire Emblem Tellius had a knight called Kieran, who was the sworn (friendly...ish) rival of Oscar. Kieran constantly trained so that he could someday outdo Oscar; Oscar largely ignored this and only ever mentioned their alleged "rivalry" in order to manipulate Kieran into accepting a gift that he refused to take.
    • Keep in mind KIERAN LEADER OF THE FIFTH PLATOON OF CRIMEAN KNIGHTS! SECOND COMMANDER OF THE CRIMEAN ROYAL KNIGHTS! is a guy who shouts his name and rank at his opponents in battle, and wants to keep an axe given to him by his mentor on a mantel. Really, his ending for Radiant Dawn sums him up perfectly "Kieran served the royal family with nearly fanatical verve. His voice could be heard from anywhere in the castle."
    • Silvia and Erinys are an amusing example in Geneology of the Holy War:

 Silvia: Hey Erinys, you don't by any chance have a thing for Lewyn, do ya??

Erinys: What? I don't. He's just... Prince Lewyn is an extremely important person to Silesia.

Silvia: I seeee. So you don't mind if him and I go out??

Erinys: No, I don't mind... (?)

Silvia: Really?? You're not pretendin' t'not like him or somethin' are ya?

Erinys: Pretend? What ar-... why would I need to pretend??

Silvia: I don't know. Well, then I'm goin' after him.

Erinys: Umm... whomever is to be the next queen of Silesse needs to have a little grace and dignity like our own Queen Rahna.

Silvia: So you're sayin' I'm no good somehow!? How rude!

Erinys: No, I'm just...

Silvia: Hmph, Fine! You just wait and see!

Erinys: ......

  • Paul Phoenix in Tekken starts out as the only guy powerful enough to ever end up in a draw against The Hero (sort of) Kazuya Mishima, and he's even designated as The Rival in the first game. However, as Tekken evolves and the Mishima family starts to take most of the importance of the story, Paul is slowly thrown out of the picture in the rivalry. He still sometimes consider himself Kazuya's rival, but he's largely ignored, especially since he now focuses his rivalry on a bear, or ensuring that Hilarity Ensues, along with his Bruce Lee Clone of a friend, Law.
    • To make matters more interesting, Paul technically won the third Iron Fist tournament (Tekken 3), since he was the one who beat Ogre. He didn't stick around after the fight, though, which meant Jin got the credit after beating True Ogre.
  • Shogo: Mobile Armor Division, an early FPS game by Monolith (of F.E.A.R. fame) featured a Goldfish Poop Gang character named Samantha Sternberg, who would show up, try to kill you, promptly get blown to pieces, and come back again a few levels later for more. This was played for laughs in a plot that was otherwise reasonably serious (i.e. Samantha was the only character to inexplicably survive death multiple times, whereas all other characters died when killed). Notably, Samantha was determined to kill your character, whereas your character seemed to regard her as something of a weird annoyance.
    • Her MCA is destroyed, but she doesn't necessarily die. Toward the end of the game, if you decide to oppose Gabriel and face him in battle, you destroy his MCA in the final boss battle, but he survives and comes to his senses as Toshiro. On the other path, if you destroy Ryo Ishikawa's MCA, he comes out to face you, and then you have to finish him off.
  • In Valkyria Chronicles, one of your soldiers, Edy Nelson, dreams of becoming a famous singer and actress. However, Rosie is already a fairly popular singer, which rouses Edy's jealousy and prompts her to view Rosie as her number one rival. Of course, Rosie is completely oblivious to said rivalry.
    • This isn't just Gameplay and Story Segregation either. Rosie's Big Sister potential allows her to be buffed if Edy is nearby. Edy's Rosie Hater potential allows her to be debuffed if Rosie is nearby. Put the two together and Rosie will be stronger than normal and Edy will be weaker than normal.
  • Henry from No More Heroes. When he is first encountered, he kills the Rank 5 assassin Letz Shake before the protagonist, Travis Touchdown, has a chance to in a pre-organised fight. However, after the player defeats Henry in a final bonus battle, Henry reveals himself to be Travis's twin brother (although the ambiguous plot of the game means that this is not necessarily true).
  • Inverse Example: Street Fighter IV has Rufus, an obese but agile American warrior who spends the tournament pursuing Ken. However, he doesn't know what Ken looks like and is prone to mistaking others for Ken. Played straight in that Ken doesn't really care much for the guy.
  • "Dynamite" Dan of the Daiku no Gensan series views Genzo as his rival. Genzo barely even knows he exists, and views him as just another of the Kuromoku-gumi annoyances he has to deal with.
  • In Fate/stay night, Issei considers Rin to be his arch-nemesis. Rin never responds to his enmity, which only makes him more suspicious and jealous. And on a less humorous note, Shinji has this going on towards Shirou, but this grudge reaches Not So Harmless levels fairly quickly.
  • In Iji, Komato Assassin Asha considers Iji to be his complete and utter nemesis after she beats him; Iji makes no comment except for a remark about being bountied. This changes after he kidnaps and later (possibly) murders her brother.
  • Katamari Damacy has Kawaiiko Ichigo, who's incredibly jealous of how the King of All Cosmos calls her Dojikko cousin Honey cute. So far, there's no sign Honey is even remotely aware of their so-called rivalry — and given the series' nature, it's unlikely that's going to change.
  • Paper Mario has Jr. Troopa, a baby Koopa Troopa that never left his eggshell. After being trounced by Mario in the first chapter of Paper Mario, he swears revenge, and returns to face Mario at the end of nearly every chapter. Goombario's tattle always seems to ridicule his persistence, and he never really plays any significant role in the plot. Mario's performance as the Heroic Mime adds much humor to Jr. Troopa's appearances and monologues.
  • Gilgamesh and Bartz play this out in Dissidia 012: Final Fantasy. Bartz has lost his memories of his home world, and doesn't remember Gilgamesh, who shows up and demands a duel.
    • The icing on the cake that Gilgamesh doesn't even seem to realise that Bartz has absolutely no idea who Gilgamesh is in this continuity; Gilgamesh misinterprets Bartz's look of confusion at his arrival as his being dumbstruck at seeing him again. Bartz only accepts his challenge because he feels it'd be a fun way to pass the time.

 Gilgamesh: Steel yourself! For I am not the Gilgamesh you remember!

    • Similarly, Gilgamesh doesn't seem to recognize Squall, Zidane or Vaan despite having encountered them as a boss during his rift traveling shenanigans. Not that they do either.
  • In Tales of the Abyss, Dist is not actually this to Jade, but Jade likes to pretend he is - mostly because it really, really annoys Dist, which Jade clearly finds hilarious.
  • Lt. Carter Blake in Heavy Rain tries to see himself as a rival to Norman Jayden due to the fact that he dislikes and resents him like all cops. However, due to the fact of working together, Jayden doesn't acknowledge him as a rival.
  • In Fallout: New Vegas, Ulysses is this to the Courier. Ulysses is obsessed with the Courier for destroying the budding nation in the Divide by delivering a package that caused the nukes hidden underneath to detonate. The Courier, however, is completely unaware of the part he/she played in those events and has no prior knowledge of Ulysses.
  • Happens in Stronghold for al the wrong reasons. The developers for the initial four animal lords recycled animations and voice clips from the first game to Crusader and makes the Rat sound like he is reminding you that he is your nemesis in case you forget.


  • Las Lindas has Alejandra to Mora. This is more a Deconstruction of the trope, since Mora doesn't really care and is more worried about keeping her farm up and running, Alejandra's near-overwhelming desire to crush Mora into dust mostly just harms her mental state and her company's reputation and financial state.
  • Inverted in the webcomic Order of the Stick, in which main character Roy Greenhilt is the Unknown Rival of the Big Bad Xykon, who's vaguely aware that there's a guy called Redpommel or something who swore revenge on him for some reason or other. Even after Roy personally thwarts his plans and destroys his body and lair, the most he gets from Xykon is the page quote.
    • And more-than-likely the case with Ian Starshine, who thinks his own plan to topple Tarquin is significant to the latter, to the point that he (very, very falsely) believes that Elan was sent by Tarquin to infiltrate the Order of the Stick to get close to Haley and then, by extension, Ian himself. Tarquin hasn't said a single word about Ian since he was introduced, and his interest in Haley hasn't gone any farther than "she is Elan's girlfriend". When they actually meet, Tarquin fails to recognize Ian, though the fact that Ian's been in jail for a long time might have something to do with it.

Web Original

Western Animation

  • The Monarch, of The Venture Brothers, considers Dr. Venture his mortal arch-enemy and embarks on several attempts to kill him and his sons for no particular reason. Through most of the first season, the Ventures repeatedly undercut the Monarch's claims to be their most hated foe. By the end of the second season, however, their status as nemeses has become much more solidified, though Dr. Venture still doesn't really care for him.
    • Also from Venture Brothers, Henchman 21 is convinced that he is destined to destroy Brock Sampson, who almost always responds to 21's exposition with "Who are you again?"
  • Leonardo Leonardo in Clerks the Animated Series, whose plots against the clerks were always inadvertently defeated, even though they didn't realize he considered himself their sworn enemy. ("Well played, clerks, well played!")
  • Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law: X the Eliminator started out as a villain hired to steal Birdman's crest. After years of failure, X becomes an obsessive stalker, initially unknown to Birdman.
  • In Rocky and Bullwinkle, the protagonists seem completely unable to recognize the show's only recurring villains, Boris and Natasha. It helps that the villains are spies who deliberately try to stay covert, and they typically only meet the heroes face-to-face in disguise (paper-thin or otherwise; doesn't matter too much when the heroes wouldn't recognize you if you were wearing no disguise at all.) Rocky occasionally remarks that he recognizes Boris' voice, but that's the closest they ever get to remembering the villains between episodes. This even continues into the movie!
  • Transformers:
    • In an episode of The Transformers, Megatron created a remote controlled clone of Optimus Prime to infiltrate the Autobot base only for this trope to quickly arouse their suspicions. Optimus suddely didn't remember his troops' names.
    • In Transformers Animated, Megatron has this attitude towards Optimus Prime. He knows who he is, and might have a certain degree of respect for him, he just can't be bothered to learn Prime's name. Megatron saw the Autobots in general as his enemy rather than having a specific nemesis - not even Ultra Magnus as the Autobot leader. He never even calls them by their names unless he has to. It's only by the final episode that Megatron develops a very personal beef with Optimus for thwarting his plans, thus establishing the true rivalry that they're famous for.
    • MECH views itself as the third faction of the Cybertronian war in Transformers Prime. Though they have some moments of scary competence, the Autobots generally regard them as an annoyance while the Decepticons, or Megatron at least, seem unaware that they exist. Whenever the Autobots realize that the Decepticons couldn't have been the culprits, it takes them a while to realize that it was probably MECH.
  • The original Hunter from Gargoyles wanted to kill Demona as revenge for slashing and scarring his face. During his final fight with Demona, Demona confesses that she doesn't even remember that act, that's how insignificant it was to her. The later Vinnie Grigori pursues Goliath throughout the episode "Vendettas", wanting revenge on Goliath and the Manhattan Clan for unknowingly causing a lot of trouble for Vinnie. He ends up shooting Goliath with a cream pie, then walking away with Goliath still having no idea who he is.
    • Vinnie Grigori is arguably a subversion of this trope, because it's only the narrative device that leads us to see him as a deranged, obsessed rival. (He is a bit deranged and obsessed, but in a less serious way than most examples of this trope.) In the grand scheme of things, his reasons for hating the gargoyles are both justified and yet not all that bad. They got him fired twice, wrecked his motorcycle, and cost him his driver's license - that sucks, but it's not on a par with facial scarring or repeated killing through reincarnation. His ultimate retribution, a pie in the face, is proportionate if not merciful.
  • Teen Titans has Control Freak, he thinks he's an important villain, but the Titans don't think much of him. He is rather peeved when he's not put on the "list of notorious villains" and the Puppet King is.

 Control Freak: They only fought him that one time! I'm a recurring villain!

    • Although Puppet King was serious Nightmare Fuel while Control Freak is mere comic relief, so this makes a degree of sense.
  • Barry from The Tick, who is annoyed at the titular hero for having 'stolen his superhero name' while the Tick doesn't take him very seriously at all (and considering the things the Tick does take seriously, that's saying something).
  • The Box Ghost from Danny Phantom.
  • Not quite enemies, but: "MY! NAME! IS! HOMER! SIMPSON!"
    • Smithers, who was that cow just yelling at me?
    • The situation is different when Homer changes his name:

 Burns: Ah! Max Power! How's every little thing?

Homer: You remembered my name!

Burns: Well, who could forget the name of a magnetic individual like you? Keep up the good work, Max!

    • Homer experiences the other side of this trope with Frank Grimes, who hates Homer's guts, while Homer thinks they're friends, but only in the first act. And then his son, who takes revenge on Homer, "How is old Grimey?"
  • Mr. Turner to Mr. Dinkleburg in The Fairly Odd Parents
  • On Kim Possible, Dr. Drakken can never remember Ron Stoppable's name, although he may have trouble with sidekicks generally as seen when Kim teamed with her mom:

 Dr. Drakken: And so, Kim Possible and her... sister?

Dr. Possible: Is he hitting on me?

Kim: No, sidekicks really confuse him.

    • This is something of a recurring theme among Kim Possible's enemies. The only ones who can remember Ron's name are the Seniors, and that's only because they ASKED. They're polite that way.
      • Monkey Fist, too, but then he's more Ron's enemy than Kim's in the first place.
    • Professor Dementor seems to regard Dr. Drakken as a second-rate wannabe, though at least he remembers Drakken's name.
  • In the Where's Waldo animated series, Waldo and Wizard Whitebeard are completely unaware of Odlaw's existance.
  • Dr. Destiny on Justice League. When the Justice League originally busted him, he was just another of LexCorp's many Faceless Mooks. He wants revenge for this. They have no idea who he is, or why he's so intent on killing them.
  • In The Spectacular Spider-Man, when Spidey unmasks Mysterio as Quentin Beck, Beck says "All right, you got me, it's me," and Spider-Man's response is "And you are...?" Beck is flabbergasted that Spider-Man doesn't remember him.
  • On Jimmy Two-Shoes, the titular character considers Lucius a friend. This is because he's such a pollyanna that he's completely unaware of just how much he is loathed by him.
  • The title characters of Phineas and Ferb usually have no idea they're doing anything wrong with their Beyond the Impossible projects, so they don't seem to understand why their older sister, Candace, is so dead-set on getting their mother to see them. They even help her sometimes, unaware that her goal is to get them grounded for as long as possible.
  • In the South Park episode "Crippled Summer" Nathan is this to Jimmy.
    • Cartman is this to Wendy in "Dances With Smurfs". He regularly calls her out a shames her publicly only for her to...go about her business. Everyone but Wendy sees this as a big deal. It's not until the end of the episode that she responds and she absolutely destroys him.
  • In some episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants, the titular character doesn't seem to acknowledge Plankton as an enemy.
  • On Doug, the titular character thinks of Guy Graham as a rival, particularly because Guy also has his sights set on Patti Mayonnaise. However, Guy is completely unaware that he's such a burden to Doug.
  • On Hey Arnold, Lila is this to Helga, since Arnold has a crush on Lila while Helga has a crush on him. Olga as well.
  • Used in the Futurama episode, "A Taste of Freedom" when Fry, Leela and Bender ready their secret weapon against the invading Decapodians.

 Fry: You haven't won yet, Mervin! You didn't expect us to even go to a museum, much less steal this ancient heat-seeking missile.

Ambassador Mervin: I don't even know you.

  • Voltron: Legendary Defender:
    • Lance to Keith in the Pilot Movie.
    • Allura suspects that, before Voltron was reassembled, the Blade of Marmora was this to the Galra Empire, being so risk-averse that Zarkon never even noticed their operations.
  • In the Steven Universe episode Beach Party, the Crystal Gems are banned from Fish Stew Pizza but don't take the banishment even remotely seriously, helped by the fact that they don't have to eat, and when it's later revoked, Pearl asks Steven which store banned them.
  • Ben 10: Omniverse:
    • Billy Billions regards Ben as his Arch Enemy and tried to banish him to an alternate dimension when they were 12, all because Ben was more popular than him in grade school. When Billions fired his ray, it harmlessly reflected off Ben, who was Diamondhead at the time and didn't feel a thing. When Billy returns, it's the first time that Ben actually acknowledges him.
    • The Cerebrocrustaceans are engaged in a blood feud with the Galvan over which species is smarter. The smarter Galvan generally ignore this rivalry on the basis that proving which species is smarter is a colossal waste of time and resources.

Real Life

  • In March 2009, New York Radio station WXRK changed from a rock format to Top-40. They then immediately positioned themselves as the The Rival to established Top-40 station Z-100. Since then they've been bashing Z-100 constantly in commercials, including a shameless ripoff of Mac's "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC." ads, and a spot accusing them of supporting hip-hop artist and domestic violence accusee Chris Brown. If Z-100 has noticed, they have yet to show it.
  • Almost every political assassination. Bobby Kennedy's last words might as well have been "Who are you?"
  • The England vs. Germany football rivalry continues to rage harder and harder into the 2010s... or at least it does in England. The Germans could not care less about England and are much more concerned with their actual arch-rivals, the Dutch.
    • At least, one would think so until the Germans beat England and the celebrations had mention of undoing the hurt of forty years ago, or so least football pundits reported. And since when have sports commentators been prone to hyperbole?
    • The South American version of this is the "Rivalry of the Pacific Ocean", with Peru being this to Chile - and double if they have a match in Peru itself. Since the Chileans tend to focus more on Brazil and especially Argentina, their supporters and media outlets tend to react with outright shock at how utterly and completely seriously the otherwise more or less friendly Peruvians take their matches.
  • The city of Baltimore lost their longtime football team, the Colts, to the city of Indianapolis in the spring of 1984. The fans of the team have since sported a longtime hatred of the team for abandoning them, as well as the owners of the team (Robert Irsay at first, then his son Jim after Robert passed away). Since Baltimore gained a new NFL team (the Ravens), whenever the Colts have visited, they have been introduced as the "Indianapolis professional football team" (pointedly avoiding the nickname "Colts"), among other indignities. Those in Indianapolis have no particular hatred of the Baltimore Ravens (or the city of Baltimore in general), whether or not they are aware of the rivalry (many are).
  • Uwe Boll is reportedly trying to start a rivalry with Michael Bay. Bay is... unimpressed.
    • Which is playing against character somewhat. You'd expect Bay to hit back in a ridiculously flashy, over-the-top but above all talentless fashion.
      • Why would he even need to? Boll is a walking joke in the filmmaking community and Bay's films are all multimillion dollar successes.
  • Subverted between Noah Antwiler and Dixie Carter, Dixie shot back at Spoony multiple times, for no real good reason either.
    • Due to differences between regional dialects, he had no idea what she was even trying to say to him until Angry Joe and others translated for him.
  • Pepsi seems to be this to Coke. Most of their ads are in the form of a Take That, trying to show how Pepsi is superior, while Coke's ads just show people having fun while drinking Coke, and never even mention Pepsi. The Irony of the whole thing is that by showing Coke products in their ads, Pepsi is effectively advertising for Coke as much as they are themselves, because most people don't pay close enough attention to commercials to pick up more than basic messages like logos and names.
    • This may not have been true in the past, as the flavor change known as "New Coke" in the 1980s was a direct reaction to Pepsi's growing popularity. "New Coke" met with mixed popularity, to the point that the company had to later reintroduce the original formula as "Classic Coke". Eventually, the new formula was phased out, and "Classic Coke" regained the "Coke" name. One of the bestselling books on the subject of business in the 1980s was called "The Other Guy Blinked", about how Pepsi's market challenge scared the Coca-Cola company into moving away from what had made them successful. The entire debacle was the subject of much news coverage, and of many comedians' jokes.
  • Fans of the San Diego Padres absolutely hate the Dodgers, bitter at how Dodgers fans have a habit of traveling en masse to San Diego for games and often nullifying their home-field advantage, as well as how the Dodgers are simply their closest geographical rivals in general. Unfortunately for them, their hatred can never be reciprocated, as the Dodgers tend to save all their hate for the Giants, their ancient enemy.
  • The policies of some more extremist American politicians seem to have made the country this to a few other countries.
    • Many Americans enjoy bashing Canada as their, as The Simpsons put it, "goody two-shoes brother" and mock the country as full of fatally-polite hicks and yokels. Canadians, at least those who think about America, seem to look down on it as a Crapsack World on the brink of societal collapse populated by overweight, war-hungry, Bible thumping, zealots.
    • For all the vitriol that America threw at France for not joining in the invasion of Iraq, France seems to dismiss the US as a loud smelly place that no one should be aware of.
  • In the NHL the Nashville Predators and the Columbus Blue Jackets both see the Detroit Red Wings as a major rival. The Red Wings on the other hand are focused on the other Original 6 teams, particularly Chicago, and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
  • In the First Person Shooter genre of video games the developers of the Battlefield games view themselves as rivals against Call of Duty and want to take their throne as King of FPS games away from them. This has created a chasm between Battlefield fans and Call of Duty fans where Battlefield fans claim that their games are a more unique First Person Shooter and Call of Duty is generic and doesn't deserve all the sales and popularity it has as a franchise. Call of Duty's response? Call of Duty developers were quite surprised to hear that developers and fans of the Battlefield games even care all that much about it and doesn't see why the two franchises can't learn from each other and make the industry as a whole stronger. Battlefield just wants to beat Call of Duty, Call of Duty doesn't even acknowledge the existence of a rivalry.
  • The relationships between the three big video game makers, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft is very interesting, as none of them seem particularly interested in each other. Nintendo pays the other two little to no mind, Microsoft generally advertises as being the best option without acknowledging the other options, and Sony, interestingly enough, advertises as being the best, but doesn't mention what they're the best at.
  • NCAA Division 2 Lone Star Conference. Midwestern State University and Tarleton State University are hated rivals. Like, Red Sox-Yankees hated rivals. Both of them completely ignore West Texas A&M, who simply believe that both schools are their biggest rivals, and focus on each other. This even got taken to new heights in the 2012 LSC Championship semifinals, where TSU played WTAMU. WTAMU's fans even tried to invade Tarleton's side of the court. What did Tarleton do? Absolutely nothing. Not even attempt to drown them out.
  • The Entertainment industry seems to have a bone to pick with the internet. Justified, as there's much piracy and whatnot going on online. The users of the internet in general couldn't care less... until you tried to force through SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA, that is.