Thursday, May 29, 2014


With Prince Oberyn Martell facing off against the Mountain in the next episode of Game of Thrones, it marks another in a long line of underdog fights in TV and movie history. And why not? Everybody loves a good underdog fight, except maybe for Barney Stinson.

But underdog fights are great. It's good vs evil, small vs big, right vs wrong. In many cases, good prevails because that's what the audience likes. In some cases, the good guy loses but has some kind of moral victory. In the movies, the bad guy rarely wins. George R.R. Martin isn't one to follow convention so the Oberyn/Mountain fight may have a quick and painful end for us, but who knows. Actually, book readers know so no spoilers! So Barney not withstanding, let's take a look at some of the more entertaining underdog fights in pop culture history.

Daniel LaRusso vs Johnny Lawrence

In The Karate Kid, Daniel LaRusso basically gets his ass kicked by Johnny Lawrence the entire movie. And why wouldn't he? Johnny has had it driven into his head that "mercy is for the weak!" It looks all over for Daniel in the final match as Johnny went for the leg that was hurt in Daniel's prior match. But it just takes one swift crane kick to the face to change Johnny's mind, and Daniel wins the All Valley Championship and comes out on top.

Indiana Jones vs The German Mechanic

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy is completely outmatched by his stronger and larger opponent. Even using trickery and his wits doesn't work. It's only through sheer dumb luck and a little help from Marion that Indy survives this fight.

Frank Dux vs Chong Li

In Bloodsport, American Frank Dux squares off against undefeated Kumite champion Chong Li. He's big, he's mean and he put Frank's friend in the hospital. Frank actually has the upper hand in this match at the beginning, but Chong Li cheats and blinds him. It doesn't look good for Frank, but he remembers his training which conveniently included fighting while blindfolded, and defeats Chong Li by making him tap out.

Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader

Specifically lightsaber duel from The Empire Strikes Back. Young, upstart Luke abandoned his Jedi training to save his friends but ran into a trap set by Darth Vader. The fight moved from the carbonite chamber where Han Solo was frozen to a central air shaft. Luke actually got a good hit in on Vader's arm but he finally lost the battle when his hand got cut off. And to add insult to injury, Vader revealed his identity to Luke causing him to scream in agony and fall through one of the vents to escape. So Luke lost this round, but we all know how this ended up for the underdog.

Wong Fei Hung vs John

In Drunken Master II, Jackie Chan's Wong Fei Hung easily dispatched several opponents until he got to John and his furiously fast kicks. But after imbibing some industrial alcohol, the Drunken Master took over. This isn't just one of the best underdog fights, it's one of the BEST fights in cinematic history.

T-800 vs T-1000

In Terminator 2, it's the older, obsolete model fighting against the newer, sleeker hotness. Arnold gets owned in this one as the T-1000 is just too versatile to defeat. But Terminators don't quit. Even losing a hand and having a spear stabbed through his chassis didn't stop the T-800. Persistence finally paid off as he shot the T-1000 with a grenade launcher and sent him into a vat of molten steel.

Neo vs Agent Smith

In the first Matrix, Agent Smith literally pummeled Neo in the subway fight. But Neo's persistence eventually got him a very lucky win. Unfortunately, Agents, much like Terminators, don't stop. They finally did kill Neo, but thanks to Trinity, he came back from the dead with a new understanding of the Matrix and easily defeated Agent Smith.

Po vs Tai Lung

In Kung Fu Panda, Po is a true underdog. He's fat, unskilled, and when he focuses on kung fu, he stinks. Tai Lung looks virtually unstoppable and ultimately does get the dragon scroll. But unlike Po, he doesn't understand the meaning of it. Po's belief in himself allows him to redirect all of Tai Lung's attacks back at him and defeat him.

Rocky Balboa vs Apollo Creed/Ivan Drago

Rocky is the ultimate underdog. A small time boxer given a shot at the heavyweight title. Creed is the superior skilled fighter, but Rocky displayed an unbelievable ability to absorb punches and refused to be knocked down. The war eventually ended with Rocky losing a split decision, but it wasn't about winning or losing. It was about showing he had what it took and that he belonged there.

Contrast that fight with the one with Ivan Drago, literally a mountain of a man. Drago is bigger, stronger, and trained by science. Plus, he killed Apollo Creed giving Rocky even more incentive. But Rocky still has his indubitable will and ability to take a punch and it actually even won over the Russian crowd. It took 15 rounds, but Rocky finally prevailed and in the process probably ended the Cold War as well. ;)

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