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Out of loyalty to their slain chief, Vitale's men immediately defected to Ross.
—Woody Allen, "A Look at Organized Crime"
In a normal Defeat Means Friendship scenario, someone formerly opposed to the hero joins their side or at least becomes more affable towards them shortly after being defeated by them. In this trope, the defeat is the sole reason for their Heel Face Turn. The defeated character effectively says, "Okay, now that I know you're stronger, I'm gonna join up with you now. " The reasons for this varies:
- They're a Proud Warrior Race Guy, Blood Knight, or other character type that admires strength. Since you proved to be stronger than them, they respect you enough to want to help you.
- They're an opportunistic Reliable Traitor who feels that his/her interests would be better served on the hero's side.
- They wanted to join the hero's side all along. They just wanted to test the hero's power first
- They're a Dirty Coward who doesn't want the hero to finish them off.
- Kenpachi Zaraki in Bleach eventually does a Heel Face Turn (sort of, its complicated) and decides to help out Ichigo and his True Companions, on the basis that if Ichigo survives, Zaraki will get to fight him again.
- In Rei's first appearance in Fist of the North Star, he's helping bandits to invade Mamiya's village, but then betrays them when he sees how strong Kenshiro is and uses this trope as justification.
- Stratos 4:
Mikaze: Whose side are you on?
- Thorkell in Vinland Saga repeatedly inverts this trope, in that he tends to join the weakest side because the stronger side is funnier to fight. He ends up playing it straight after being beaten up by Thorfinn and then stared down by Canute -- of course, the fact that the latter has proclaimed that he's going to pick a fight with the King of Denmark may also be a contributing factor.
- Breo's girlfriend in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, who automatically dumped him and hit on the guy who beat him.
- The Archies Sonic the Hedgehog comics: Sergeant Simian only works for the strongest; when Scourge attempted to win over the Destructix into working for him, he had to convince Simian that he was strong enough to earn the latter's respect and loyalty.
- In his earliest appearances in Superman comics, Bibbo Bibbowski was like this - He broke his hand punching Superman, and from then on Superman was his "fav'rit" because he was tough. When he saw the Man of Steel getting beaten up by Lobo, his reaction was "Yer even tougher than Superman. Yer my new fav'rit". In later appearances he respected Superman for always doing the right thing.
- Blazing Saddles. After Sheriff Bart has defeated Mongo:
Mongo: Mongo stay with Sheriff Bart. Sheriff first man ever whip Mongo. Mongo impressed, have deep feelings for Sheriff Bart.
- Sao Feng, in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End says "There is no honor in fighting for the weaker side" when it's revealed he's been working with Royal Navy.
- In Untold Tales of Blackest Night, the Rainbow Raiders (a group carrying on the legacy of the original Rainbow Raider) attempted to side with the Black Lantern Corps. However, they have no idea how becoming a Black Lantern actually works and end up killing themselves for nothing.
- Every single member of the kif species from the Chanur Saga by C. J. Cherryh. Since the kif have nothing that's recognizable to other oxygen breathing species as a conscience or sense of morality, this is how their entire society is organized.
- Wormtail from Harry Potter as he'd just be pathetic otherwise.
- In Destiny of an Emperor, Lu Bu decides to serve Yuan Shao upon seeing how big and powerful his army is.
- Near the end of the second book in Harry Turtledove's Tale of Krispos series, the Big Bad Avshar's Haloga mercenaries start to desert him when Krispos finally manages to beat him. The first man to join Krispos tells him that he only followed Avshar because he thought he was the strongest man in the world, but Krispos beat him, so that means that Krispos is the strongest and he must serve him.
- Somewhat subverted with Isabella on Robin Hood. She specifically states that she wants to be on the winning side, and this (along with an ill-timed break up speech) is what causes her to turn against Robin and the outlaws.
- In Firefly, this is how Jayne Cobb ended up aboard Serenity. We find out in "Out of Gas" that Mal convinced him to betray the mercenaries he was currently working with, (and robbing Mal at the time), in exchange for a higher pay and his own bunk.
- Paul Heyman. Constantly backstabbing the wrestler he was sponsoring once "the next big thing" comes along.
- Alucard in Castlevania III Draculas Curse as well as Legends is a Type 3 example. Both boss fights are just tests to see if the Belmont is capable of taking on his father.
- Grobyc from Chrono Cross is this.
- This is why Zevran joins the party in Dragon Age Origins. In his own words, even if he managed to kill the hero through backstabbery, he might be killed by his masters on principle for failing the first time anyway. Basically, he enlists because it's his best chance to survive.
- When reaching the village of Haven, which is isolated from most of the Darkspawn invasion, Sten will threaten to take control of the party because he feels you are too weak and thinks you are fleeing from the battle. Once you beat him in a duel he admits that you are strong enough and will follow you with no more complaints.
- In Farscape there is a human alien named Vreena that betrays her people because of this.
"Peacekeepers, scarrans, what does it matter who rules? I'll never be in charge. I'm just doing what I have to to survive."
- In the Kamen Rider Dragon Knight video game, if chosen as the player character, Kamen Rider Strike, originally having joined Xaviax because he percieved him as strongest, comes to believe that good guys have better odds and decides to turn on Xaviax. While his ending does have him saving the world, the story mode still pits him against the heroes...
- In Killzone, ISA gets a good deal of traitors amongst them throughout the invasion of Vekta, Adams shut down the defense line that allowed the invasion to happen and the Colonel allowed nuclear weapons to fall into enemy hands.
- King Bulbin from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess as quoted above is the Trope Namer, and a Type 1 example. He gives you a key that helps you progress through the final dungeon, and he stops harassing you.
- The Dual Blade Lufia and The Fortress of Doom behaves like this.
- Dragons in Skyrim will only follow those who prove themselves to be the strongest. Odahviing, the right-hand of Alduin, aids the Dragonborn after the Dragonborn forces Alduin to run away at the Throat of the World and captures Odahviing himself. Odahviing explains that he is doing this because a) he wants to free himself and b) after Alduin fled like a Dirty Coward Odahviing and the other Dragons are no longer certain that he is worthy to lead them. After the Dragonborn defeats Alduin, Odahviing will swear his loyalty, allowing the Dragonborn to summon him with the "Call Dragon" shout.
- Also in the case of the Civil War, if the Stormcloaks win, Jarl Elisif, who Ulfric Stormcloak widowed to become High King, will submit to the Stormcloaks since the Empire is now gone from Skyrim and she has no other choice. She still despises Ulfric however.
- An interesting variation. Paarthurnax betrayed Alduin and sided with Mankind during the last Dragon War, teaching the Ancient Nords the Thu'um, which allowed them to turn the tide and defeat Alduin and his followers once and for all. Essentially, Paarthurnax chose to follow the strongest side as all Dragons do... he just happened to make them the strongest side first.
- Saia in Tactics Ogre the Knight of Lodis offers Alphonse a deal after being bested in combat, agreeing to fight against other demons alongside Alphonse since he only cares for power.
- You meet a lot of these guys in the Suikoden series. A lot of characters won't join until you have a castle of a certain size, which depends on how many other characters have joined you; some won't join until you have a certain number of characters, period. The implication is that they want proof you have a large enough army to do anything before they sign up.
- A (semi)heroic example in Tales of Symphonia: Zelos utters this line after betraying the party to Yggdrassil. Of course, in all but one of the endings he turns out to be lying.
- Warcraft 3 has Varimathras, a Dreadlord who switches sides to avoid being killed by Sylvanas, and who even has "I'm always on the winning side" as one of his responses. In World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King it's revealed that he lied and never left the Burning Legion, using his position as second to Sylvanas to be The Starscream.
- Happens to Augus in Asura's Wrath. As shown in episode 15.5's interlude, Augus wasn't interested in joining the eight Guardian Generals at first, stating that they were "weaklings". Then Deus came along and fought him to a tie. After the fight, Deus promises Augus that all battles will be like the one they were in if he joins his cause. Augus complies.
- The Transformers gives us Sludge of the Dinobots: "Me Sludge follow strongest leader. Always."
- In the Transformers mythos, most Decepticons or Predacons serve only the most powerful among the faction. Should a leader be deposed through either trickery or combat, the bulk of the army will quietly settle under the usurper's authority without much in the way of objection after the dust settles (though the process is rarely smooth if the usurper isn't up to snuff). As far as the 'Cons are concerned, you're only worthy of authority if you can hold onto it. If somebody else takes it, then they deserved it more than you. As you'd imagine, this policy tend to lead to a lot of scheming among the higher ranks.
- Older Than Feudalism with the story of St Christopher; a warrior that went out to search for the strongest lord to follow. He found the strongest living man in the world but also learnt that he was afraid of the devil. Then he learnt that the devil was scared of God and went on a search to find him. After an eventful river-crossing he found Jesus and learnt the weight that rests on his shoulders and forever served him...before being killed by Roman Emperor Decius. Of course being a saint martyrdom did nothing to cramp his style.
- There's an old tale about a man who goes in search of the most fearsome thing in the world. He makes progress by asking each creature to tell him its fear, and works his way up to some mighty, powerful being ... only to find that the mightiest giant fears something tiny and weak, taking him full circle.
- Tyr from Andromeda uses this as an Exact Words scam on a temporary ally. He never said he was on their side, he said he'd chosen the winning side.