Flawless Victory: Pop-Culture Rematches to Rival Olympic Win
It's not often anyone get a chance to rewrite history, to turn a crushing failure into ultimate success, but that was the case for the US Women's Soccer Team at the 2012 London Olympics. Team USA was able to avenge their defeat at the hands of Team Japan in the final of the 2011 World Cup just 54 weeks ago, winning the gold over their intercontinental rival. The gold medal final showcased the top two teams in the world in a technical masterpiece in front of a record crowd for women's soccer of over eighty thousand people and millions around the world.
The rematch is a classic staple of literature, two diametrically opposed forces meeting again: their skills proven, wounds healed, introductions unnecessary. All that is left is the business, oftentimes personal, that is clearly unsettled. In the following battles, the best examples of the form in fiction may lack the benefit of being real, but nevertheless reverberate as timeless stories of redemption.
The Combatants: Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader
Round 1: At the climax of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker abandons his Jedi training with Master Yoda when he receives visions of his friends, Han Solo and Princess Leia, in distress in Could City on the planet Bespin. Realizing that this might be trap, but heading in anyway, the (if not in title then in spirit) Jedi Padawan charged into battle only to be funneled down to the tibanna gas foundry’s carbonite freezing chamber where he faced for the first time the Dark Lord of the Sith: Vader. Although clearly outmatched in skill and power by Vader, Luke nevertheless manages to avoid the final part of the trap, the freezing mechanism, and buy time for his allies to escape. Luke takes a serious beating in the process, losing a hand and in one of the greatest twists history, his sense of self as well. It’s only luck and a strangely powerful connection to Princess Leia that allows Luke to escape Vader.
Winner: Darth Vader
Time Elapsed: One Galactic Standard Year
The Rematch: In Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi, Luke feels that his growing power with the Force is threatening the Rebellion’s stealthy mission on the forest moon of Endor. He surrenders himself to the Empire in the hopes to not only protect his allies but for another chance to confront Vader, this time not to defeat him, but to reach the good in him before it is too late. Taken to the Imperial throne room, Luke, Vader and the Emperor himself debate the nature of the Dark Side of the Force. This being the original trilogy, the talking quickly gives way to action. The young Skywalker uses the dark environment to his advantage and Vader’s attempt at psychological manipulation only serves to enrage his foe who gives the Dark Lord a near fatal beat down.
Winner: Luke Skywalker
Round 1: Rocky III takes place three years after the Italian Stallion’s own rematch win over Apollo Creed, and the interviewing time has causing the champ to get a bit soft. Success and celebrity has gone to his head, and when fiercely aggressive James "Clubber" Lang bullies the champ into accepting his challenge Rocky’s manager Mickey knows it won’t go well. After Rocky slacks his way through pre-fight training, Clubber comes out of his corner in the title bout and lays a beating on the champ like he’s never had, knocking him out in the second round. Compounding the tragedy, a pre-fight scuffle gives the elderly Mickey a heart attack which leads to his death shortly after the fight.
Winner: James "Clubber" Lang
Time Elapsed: One year
The Rematch: Friend and rival Creed refused to let that result stand and pushes Rocky into the training montage to end all training montages (at least until the next movie), transforming the aging fighter into the kind of fighter that can counter Clubber Lang’s strength with speed and endurance. In their return bout Rocky wears the younger fighter out by absorbing and dodging until the winded Lang is vulnerable to a knockout blow.
Winner: Rocky Balboa
Round 1: After finding the sleeper ship Botany Bay drifting in deep space, the crew of the Starship Enterprise under Captain James T. Kirk awaken its time-lost crew and discover they are remnants of a race of genetically modified 'super-men' who one held dominion over a vast swath of late 20thCentury Earth. Their leader, Khan Noonien Singh, quickly charms the crew with his intelligence and guile, all the while plotting to take over the Enterprise and use it to start their conquests anew. When the plot to hold Kirk hostage fails, the captain and the 'super-man' from the past duke it out in an all-out brawl on the engineering deck. Kirk is able to overcome his foe's superior strength with a series of double fisted punches, a huracanrana and finally by beating him about the head and back with a miscellaneous piece of an engineering console.
Winner: James T. Kirk
Time Elapsed: Fifteen years
The Rematch: Kirk showed a quaintly of mercy in dealing with Khan, instead of blowing him out an airlock for crimes both distant and recent, Kirk marooned the crew of the Botany Bay on a wild, untamed planet. After an ecological catastrophe, Khan and a small remnant of his people escaped on the Reliant to seek revenge on Kirk. The pair this time clashed in a battle of wits aboard their respective starships where Kirk's vast experience proved the decisive advantage. Despite being the victim of a surprise attack, Kirk ultimately outmaneuvered Khan, forcing the 'super-man' to try and win via a suicide attack that was foiled by the sacrifice of Commander Spock.
Winner: James T. Kirk
Round 1: A 55-year-old Bruce Wayne has come out of retirement as Batman to again wage his war on crime in Gotham City and to break the resolve of the largest gang of criminal miscreants, The Mutants, he must defeat their unnamed leader. After attacking the Mutant gathering site in his upgraded, now tank-like Batmobile, Batman accepts a challenge to single combat against the younger, stronger Mutant Leader. In a straight up fight, the Mutant Leader is able to use his superior speed and fitness to overpower Batman, nearly killing him if not for the intervention of the new Robin, Carrie Kelley.
Winner: The Mutant Leader
Time Elapsed: One week
The Rematch: Even though the Mutant Leader ended up behind bars after the fight, his Mutants remain a threat as long as their leader remains unbowed by any authority. Understanding this, Batman arranges to have the Mutant Leader escape custody, and leads him back to a mud-hole where members of the Mutant gang have gathered. There, in front of his followers, Batman uses his experience and knowledge of human anatomy to systematically and painfully cripple the Mutant Leader, shattering the gang's resolve.
Round 1: Having bested six of the seven members of the League of Evil Exes and confronted his personal shortcoming by absorbing the NegaScott, Scott Pilgrim charges to the opening of the Chaos Theater to confront the League’s mastermind and try to win Ramona back. Unfortunately the millionaire evil genius and master emotional manipulator is able to steal Scott's Power of Love sword and quickly stab Scott thought the chest, killing him.
Winner: Gideon Graves
Time Elapsed: Five minutes
The Rematch: Fortunately though Scott had not yet used the Extra Life he got from defeating Todd Ingram and is able to use the wisdom he gained in the afterlife to realize that he's not that different from Gideon and is willing to use that knowledge to be a better person. That realization earns him the Power of Understanding sword (and a new T-Shirt) and with Ramona's help, is able to finally defeat Gideon with a Chrono Trigger style X-Strike.
Winner: Scott Pilgrim