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The hero is about to do something awesome, something that they will always be remembered for. This is the defining moment for the character, the moment that will forever leave an impression in the readers/viewers/listeners/whatever. The music is swelling, the tension is rising, and it appears to the viewer that awesomeness is about to grace their eyes.
So he charges at the Big Bad's army armed only with a broken sword. She prepares to jump through the skylight so as to crash The Omniscient Council of Vagueness' meeting. He's about to lay a can of whoop-ass after getting beaten to a pulp. She's about to show the baddies why she's got the reputation for badassery she has.
A Negated Moment of Awesome is when a character is about to get their Moment of Awesome, only for it to never come. The MOA in question ends up accomplishing nothing, making things worse, or, if the MOA was a hero apparently emerging victorious in battle, the enemy gets back up and just completely turns the tables back on them. Compare Hope Spot, Reality Ensues, and What Could Have Been. Contrast with just Moment of Awesome and Offscreen Moment of Awesome. Is surprisingly common in more cynical works or even modern comedies poking fun at tropes and various cliches. Pretty much every Shoot the Shaggy Dog story ends like this.
Warning: High chance of spoilers.
Anime and Manga
- In the Lucky Star OVA, Tsukasa got one of these in the volleyball game against Kagami.
- At the very end of the very last episode of Zan Sayonara, Zetsubou-sensei, the overall series's eponymous song and undoubtedly most awesome track begins to play... and then is abruptly cut off in favour of yet another obnoxious drawing game.
- Does Ichigo trying to attack Aizen and nearly getting cut in half for it count? Aizen even stopped his theme music!
- The fact that it negates Ichigo's awesome makes Aizen look all the more awesome.
- Happened again in the final battle with Aizen. Ichigo supercharged himself, threw everything he had into one attack, and nailed Aizen with an attack that could demolish a mountain. Unfortunately, Aizen's One-Winged Angel form had a Healing Factor, and Ichigo used up all of his Shinigami powers in the blast.
- Chad's battle with Kyoraku. His final attack, after numerous failed attempts, is accompanied by a Theme Music Power-up (to Number One's instrumental version, which is like shorthand for 'big heroic deal!'), relevant emotional flashbacks, and a promise to Ichigo. Typical setup for a shounen victory, negated by Kyoraku striking him just once after Chad's attack has brought down a nearby building. The captain doesn't have a scratch on him.
- Ichigo launches a Getsuga Tensho against Yammy, which appears to be quite effective at the end of the chapter, but at the start of the next chapter, Yammy gets up, revealing that it had almost no effect on him, and gains the advantage over Ichigo before Kenpachi and Byakuya arrive to fight him.
- Captain Unohana Retsu gets one of these in the current Filler arc. She's cornered by the Inaba and the Reigais of both herself and her vice captain. She holds her own briefly using some high level kidos without incantation and then promptly leaves presumably because the battle was unwinnable depriving fans of the chance to see some of her fighting badassery.
- The fact that it negates Ichigo's awesome makes Aizen look all the more awesome.
- Asuka's battle with the mass-produced Evas in End of Evangelion. To be specific: The would-be ace pilot who has become a helpless mess from her continual losses and having her worst fears and memories thrown into her face, Asuka, is confronted by nine enemies individually stronger than her own Giant Mecha, armed only with a single knife and less than two minutes battery power. She then proceeds to destroy them one by one, wreaking carnage in her wake in the way she had promised for so long she could. As the last of her battery power drains she is tearing the final one apart, her victory complete, only to whip around her AT Field to meet a thrown blade. It turns into a weapon that can pierce the field, impaling her through the eyes just before the power cuts. Then the ones whom she defeated smile and get back up. What follows is best not described.
- In Naruto, Konan's fight with Madara ultimately turns out to be this. Konan detonates enough paper bombs for the explosions to carry on for ten minutes... only for Madara to No Sell it by using his never-before-mentioned Reality Warper powers (said powers had been brought up earlier, but were only attainable with both Uchiha and Senju DNA, and it is only revealed afterward that Madara had acquired the Senju's power). Doing so cost him an eye, but he simply replaces it with a Rinnegan, rendering Konan's efforts completely useless and making Madara stronger than before.
- Nanoha Force example. Woah, looks like Hayate's about to cast a pretty awesome spell! Why, it's a powerful enough spell than it has the all-powerful Huckebein worried... And of course, Villain Sue Cullen pops out of freaking nowhere and stabs Hayate in the back before defeating Vita and Erio without even paying attention. Despite the fact that Vita and Erio were armed with weapons that would bypass the Huckebeins' Anti-Magic abilities.
- Ranma ½: The Moko Takabisha. Ranma has finally stopped abusing himself to try to beat Ryoga's Shi Shi Hokodan. He's actually eerily confident... then he casts his counter-attack - a variant of the Shi Shi Hokodan based on confidence. Ryoga replies with an even stronger Shi Shi Hokodan. Time for a massive Beam-O-War, right? Wrong. Pop. Perfected Shi Shi Hokodan Curb Stompb Battle ensues. And the way Ranma does win is arguably rather anticlimatic, too.
Ranma: Look! I can see Akane's underwear!
- One early story in The Avengers ended with the Avengers lunging towards the Masters of Evil, about to defeat them once and for all, but the Enchantress decided to turn back time to before the story began.
- In the first volume of Preacher (Comic Book), Cassidy learns that The Saint of Killers is after his new friend Jesse and despite the fact that they recently parted ways on bad terms, (Jesse didn't react well to finding out that Cassidy was a vampire, and Cassidy didn't react well to Jesse forcibly stopping Cassidy from feeding) Cassidy tries to be a Big Damn Hero and save Jesse by ramming a truck into the Saint at high speed. The Saint doesn't even budge as the truck crumples around him and Cassidy goes flying right through the windshield for his trouble.
- In How I Became Yours, Azula gets her bending powers back due to the Power of Love and is about to help Katara and Sokka against Sho and Mai, but then Mai throws a knife into her chest, fatally injuring her
- Pops up in Spy Kids 3D: Game Over when The Guy comes onto the scene with 99 lives in tow. Says a few words while exuding an aura of awesome. And gets killed immediately afterward, losing all of them in one shot.
- In Deep Blue Sea, the protagonists are trapped in an underwater facility surrounded by giant hyperintelligent sharks. The place is flooding, everything looks bleak and the protagonists keep bickering. Then Samuel L. Jackson begins this rousing speech, it's the turning point of the movie...aaand then a shark jumps out of the water and eats him.
- A double subversion occurs in the Land of the Lost film with Will Ferrell after he makes a jump that was foreshadowed with an earlier image of a demotivational poster that he possesses. Unfortunately, said poster proves accurate, and he jumps directly into the Tyrannosaurus' mouth. The catch is that he later saves the day when it is revealed that while he was in the dinosaur's stomach, he was able to unblock its sphincter.
- Monsters vs. Aliens: upon seeing the giant alien robot, Missing Link vows to "turn that overgrown tin can into a dented-up overgrown tin can." But when he rushes it, he is knocked out by its deflector shield, and is out cold for the rest of the battle.
- Combined with a subversion of Soft Glass in A Life Less Ordinary: Ewan McGregor's character (a janitor at an office building) finds out he is being replaced with a cleaning robot. Outraged, he picks up the vaguely R2D2-esque droid, storms into his boss's office, yells "This is what I think of your robot!" and hurls the thing at the window pane... only to have it bounce off the glass, get up, and proceed with cleaning the room.
- Matthew McConaughey's leap from the clock tower to deliver a badass killing blow to the Big Bad dragon in Reign of Fire. He ends up becoming chow for the beast. See Also: Never Trust a Trailer as every trailer and TV commercial for the movie would end with everything leading up to (but not including) the act that negates how badass it all would've been.
- Elizabeth Swan, after fleeing from pursuing pirates in her home, runs into a drawing room with a coat of arms over the fireplace set with two swords. She runs up, grabs a sword, the music swells, and all she does is pull the whole thing off of the wall.
- Walt Disney's Alice in Wonderland had Alice become a giant and start a speech about the reasons the Queen of Hearts sucks, but she shrinks while she says it. No one takes it seriously as a result.
- At the end of Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Arthur and the knights are about to take on the Frenchmen that have mocked them throughout the film in what looks to be an epic battle. Then the police come in and arrest him for killing a historian that was describing the Arthurian legend earlier in the film.
- In Quigley Down Under, there is a scene when Matthew Quigley tries to jump from the roof of a burning building onto the roof of a shed. The music is about to kick in with the heroic theme as Quigley crashes through the roof.
- The Vord in the Codex Alera are good at this. Very, very often, a High Lord or group of legionaires will strike what ought to be a devastating blow, only to find out the Queen anticipated it or has enough reserves to render their heroism moot. Though not outright said, it is hinted that this is partially because Tavi bled on the Queen's mound in the Wax Forest, and it inherited his intelligence.
- The works of Steven Hunt consist of roughly 60% setup, and 38% this, with the Big Bad who has curbstomped their way through dozens of Senseless Sacrifices and Badass Armies turned abruptly Red Shirt losing abruptly within the last five to ten pages as the surviving heroes finally get it right.
- Bleys, in the Chronicles of Amber, has a truly epic example of this at the end of the first book: he near-singlehandedly fights his way up the side of a mountain covered in troops (probably the single most impressive feat of swordsmanship we ever see, for all that he's supposedly only the fourth or fifth best swordsman)... and then gets knocked off the mountain only a few meters from the top. His army is soundly defeated thereafter, and we barely hear from him for the rest of the series. Bummer.
- In the Season 3 finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wesley is there for the final battle with the Mayor's vampire forces, looking all stone serious. He goes to join the fray... and is instantly knocked down and out. His last appearance on the show was being loaded into an ambulance, complaining as the stretcher is moved.
- This was by Alexis Denisof's choice. Joss Whedon offered him the opportunity to man up and hold his own in the battle, but Alexis thought just getting knocked out would be funnier.
- Wesley made up for it on Angel by taking A-Levels in badass.
- In the Season 5 finale Doc bests Spike in combat, then faces up to Buffy knife in hand, saying "This should be interesting." Buffy throws him off the tower without even breaking stride.
- A similar joke is done in Jekyll. The first several minutes of an episode are spent building up a badass marine-type who was recruited solely to head up anti-Hyde security. Squad training, combat montage, weapon drills. Then when he actually meets Hyde he charges at him and is flung carelessly off the rooftop.
- Cheese in the series finale of The Wire. He spends several seasons working his way up through Prop Joe's organization and when he betrays Joe and Marlo is arrested, Cheese looks to be the next drug king of Baltimore. He steps up and starts of give a rant to bring all the other leaders under his wing, only for Slim Charles to get sick of his bullshit and murder him mid-sentence.
Slim: That was for Joe.
- From Robin Hood. After spending the entire season as a whiny ball of uselessness, Kate manages to sneak herself out of the besieged Nottingham Castle in order to warn King Richard, promising the outlaws that she'll "be back with an army." She gets captured. Off-screen. Again. And it turns out that King Richard and his army isn't even back in the country yet anyway. It's up to the men to bail her out of trouble, fight off the soldiers at the battlements, and blow up the castle with the Byzantium Powder, whilst Kate simply stands about telling them to "hurry up" in the most helpful way possible.
- Rhys from Torchwood has finally had enough of the interruptions on his wedding day and is about to get rid of the shape-shifting alien with a chainsaw when it conks out for no apparent reason.
- In the pilot episode of Angel Doyle is about to crash through the gates of a rich vampire's mansion in order to rescue his friends...except the gates hold fast and he just ends up with a dented car.
- Played for laughs in Supernatural. During the episode "Like A Virgin," Dean is told that in order to pull the Sword of Brunswick out of its stone, it needs to be pulled by a brave knight willing to slay the dragon. He steps up to the stone, the music swells dramatically... and he slips and falls on his ass. Twice. So he blows up the stone. Badly.
- During the seige of Atlantis Dr. Rodney McKay finally gets a chance to become a bonefied Badass. He fails spectacularly.
- The Merlin writers love doing this with Guinevere. In the episode Lamia she almost gets to kill a monster...until she's knocked off her feet and Arthur stabs it in the back. In The Hunter's Heart she runs all night and all day to warn Camelot of an impending attack from an army of mercenaries...but no one listens to her. And in The Sword and the Stone she goes toe-to-toe with Morgana...and is promptly disarmed and has to be saved by Merlin.
- A few shows/movies have had a football team make a touchdown or goal in the last few seconds- in/on the wrong side.
- M*A*S*H (series) had Henry telling about how he taped the ankle of the hero of the high school football team with seconds left so that the hero could make a touchdown. Henry taped the wrong ankle. "Tank still comes over once a year and shoots out my porch light. And he's a judge now."
- A later-in-the-series episode had Donald Penobscot mess up a race that he was very close to winning.
- In Game of Thrones, Theon gives an epic Rousing Speech before a Last Stand, but as soon as he finishes, one of his men knocks him out, because all of the others except Theon were offered the freedom to return home if they surrendered. They decide to accept the offer. Heck, the guy who knocks out Theon even says that he only let Theon talk so long because it was a good speech and he felt Theon deserved a chance to finish it before getting a massive thump to the head.
- Invoked in Exalted. This is a game where you're encouraged to attempt as many CMOA as possible, but a basic power that Ebon Dragon grant to his Exalts is the power to negate somebody else's CMOA. The Ebon Dragon is the dracomorphic embodiment of dickery.
- Halo: Reach: the Covenant just love doing this. Call in a Big Damn Gunship to finish your mission? A Covenant supercarrier blasts your ship out of the sky. Use a Heroic Sacrifice to destroy the supercarrier? half a dozen more Covenant ships jump into orbit around Reach. It's like the aliens are just waiting for you to get your hopes up.
- League of Legends: This can happen often, depending on how good/unlucky you are.
- If your character in Super Smash Bros. Brawl can't pull off a Final Smash unless the opponent comes in close contact, attempts to use this attack on distant opponents can result in unfinished attacks. Captain Falcon in particular seems to express frustration when the Blue Falcon fails to hit his adversary.
- Blazblue: When Bang Shishigami goes into his super mode, his theme music starts to play interrupting your usual stage music, and you expect the Bang player to kick some butt, but then gets DENIED. Made worse by the fact Bang's theme continues to play throughout the animation, even though both players know what's going to happen.
- In Red vs. Blue: Reconstruction, Sarge, Grif and Simmons (who until then, had not appeared in the series at all) suddenly come riding out of nowhere in their jeep, once again with the country music to attack the blues. Then they crash into a wall, then are crashed into by an object moving only two miles an hour. Perhaps a rare example where even after their Negated Moment of Awesome, the characters still prove to be a significant threat to their intended targets - the jeep's chain gun still works after all this.
- In Final Fantasy III Triology, Setzer arrives to the "Chosen Ones'" battle with Kefka on his airship, having survived his fall in Part 1 by having landed on Relm's corpse (who died breaking Sabin's fall). He jumps out to join the fight, with "I need a Hero" playing in the background, but hits the edge of the cliff and gets broken in half, the music cutting off as he lands.
- In Tales of the Questor, Quentyn has just recovered his stolen sword, and is about to open an epic sized can of Whoopass on the Tumbledowns gangs, when reality intervenes...
- In Homestuck, John has discovered Jack Noir over his dead Dad, and Rose's dead Mom, he gets a very serious look on his face, the music swells and... Jack teleports behind him and stabs him through the chest.
- Also, we have Tavros about to discover his true inner power by saving Vriska... then Vriska pretty much saves herself and gains her own inner power, literally stealing his Crowning Moment.
- Aeon Flux... well... let's just say that she managed to make this an art form in her TV series.
- Aang in Avatar: The Last Airbender finally manages to control the Avatar State... and then Azula zaps him in the back right in the middle of the Transformation Sequence, because she's Dangerously Genre Savvy like that.
- Numbuh 3 brings out her training mecha to fight a mutant turnip, and as she's locking and loading... it turns out the turnip was much, much bigger than the mech.
- Virtually every time she gets in her mecha, it's hyped up as a big awesome sequence, only for it to be destroyed immediately every single time.
- In one episode of Celebrity Deathmatch, James Van Der Beek fought Saddam Hussein. Near the end of the match, Van Der Beek wrapped Hussein in the American flag, and beat him to a bloody pulp with a flag pole. It seems as if Van Der Beek had won the match. However, referee Mills Lane slapped handcuffs on him, and had him arrested for desecrating an American flag, rendering the match a no contest.
- This turns out to be the entire punchline of the Dexters Laboratory TV film Ego Trip.
- In Texas high-school football in 1994: Plano East rallies from a 41-17 deficit with 3:03 to play to take a 44-41 lead over John Tyler, thanks in part to three straight successful onside kicks in the final 2:36. The amazing comeback falls short, however, as John Tyler returns a kickoff 97 yards for the game-winning touchdown with 11 seconds remaining. Final: John Tyler 48, Plano East 44.
- The New Orleans Saints were trailing by 7 going into the last play of the game in a game they needed to win in order to make the playoffs. They proceed to execute a hook-and-lateral (forward pass combined with runs and lateral passes to keep the ball alive) and scored a touchdown. The kicker then missed the extra point, so the Saints lost by 1.
- In 1918 the Germans mustered all their remaining reserves, including the cream of their armies, for one more tilt at winning the First World War (or at least forcing a favourable peace) before the US Army deployed in full strength. Having battered the British Fifth Army to pieces and gained more ground in less time than anyone had managed in the past four years, the Germans were well on their way to winning. All of a sudden, the gains they made became the end instead of the means. Paris beckoned as a shiny distraction, the British rallied, US forces began to trickle into the battle... and the downhill slide began. For the Germans, this overlaps with Nice Job Breaking It, Hero.
- It was more that, while the Germans were gaining ground, they were also taking just horrific casualties in the process, while marching away from their railheads, which meant that they were outrunning their supplies. They hit their culminating point, the Allied counteroffensive began, and what was left of the German army just collapsed, while the unprotected border with Austria was endangered by the annihilation of the Austrian army at Vittorio Veneto.
- In December 1995, Michael Jackson was preparing a concert, One Night Only, at New York City's Beacon Theater; his first live concert in over two years, and his first in the U.S. since 1989, it was to be simulcast on HBO. Three days before the show was to air, he collapsed onstage during a rehearsal and was rushed to the hospital. The show was never rescheduled (no reason why has ever been given), and the incident and the subsequent New York Post headline "Jacko On His Backo" became fodder for a Saturday Night Live sketch that ran the night the concert was to have aired.
- In 1917 Italian general Pietro Badoglio realized that the Austro-Hungarian army was about to launch an offensive that could have broke the Italian lines, so he carefully set up an artillery trap to annihilate the enemy forces at a chokepoint. The Austro-Hungarian offensive came and broke the lines at Caporetto, the enemy forces arrived at his chokepoint... And the Italian artillery didn't open fire because he had ordered them to wait for his orders and had remained isolated.