Dragon Ball: 10 Fights That Almost Happened (But Never Did)

Dragon Ball lets the action move the story, and sometimes that means setting up fights that unfortunately never get to happen.

Even though the series began with a comic tone, it didn’t take particularly long for Akira Toriyama to find Dragon Ball’s voice and embrace the martial arts at the center of the story. Beginning with the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai, battles would become regular, with Dragon Ball often allowing the action to drive the narrative forward.

A good fight can make an arc even better, especially when it’s the culmination of chapters & episodes worth of build-up. On that same token, the promise of a fight is sometimes just as gripping– arguably more so when said battle never comes to be due to unforeseen circumstances. The series lets the action move the story, and sometimes that means setting up fights that unfortunately never get to happen.

1. Goku Versus Vegeta (28th Tenkaichi Budokai)

In hindsight, it’s quite clear Toriyama was building up to Dragon Ball’s finale with the 28th Tenkaichi Budokai, but it almost does feel like the start of a new arc in its own right– although one that’s quite a flash-forward into the future. Goku enters the tournament specifically for Uub, but Vegeta’s presence suggests that maybe the two rivals will have a chance at fighting again. They never do, and it was never coming, but Dragon Ball doesn’t shy away from reflecting on Vegeta when all is said and done. In the Kanzenban release, the ending is changed so Vegeta now vows to surpass Goku one day– putting the prospect of them fighting again at the center of the story’s finale.

2. Gohan Versus Pure Buu

Gohan is the strongest unfused character by the end of the Buu arc, so it is reasonable that he’d be the safest bet for fighting off Pure Buu– a version of Majin Buu who’s far weaker than Evil Buu. Goku even suggests that they get Gohan to finish off Buu, but Vegeta brushes this off, deciding that Earth themselves should save the day.

It’s also important to consider the fact that Gohan had already failed to defeat Buu. He was outsmarted and let both himself & Gotenks get absorbed. Goku and Vegeta also caused this mess to begin with, so it’s narratively more appropriate for them to fight Buu solo.

3. Goku Versus Buutenks

Any instance of Goku fighting Buutenks in the anime is irrelevant to the DBZ series. In fact, the anime’s approach to the Buu hierarchy isn’t quite right– positioning that Pure Buu is the strongest, with each appearing form stronger than the last. This isn’t the case in the manga, where Evil Buu is far and away from the strongest form of Buu.

Goku already didn’t want to fight Evil Buu, but he was disinterested in fighting back when he comes face to face with Buutenks. Goku throws his Kienzan and hopes for the best. When push comes to shove, Buutenks is just too much for Son Goku.

4. Gotenks Versus Evil Buu (Rematch)

Credit where credit is due, Evil Buu enters the Buu arc’s last act with a master plan. Having already been beaten into submission by Gohan, Evil Buu blows himself up in order to formulate a plan. Or so it seems. In truth, Buu felt Gohan’s Ki long ago and has been trying to orchestrate a situation where he can absorb Gotenks & put Gohan in his place.

5. Gohan Versus Majin Buu

In allowing himself to be possessed by Bobbidi, Vegeta becomes the warlock’s greatest weapon in reviving Majin Buu. Goku doesn’t exactly help matters, as he’s more than content to duke it out with Vegeta now that the opportunity’s revealed itself. While the two Saiyans are trading blows, however, Gohan & Kaioshin are rushing to prevent Buu’s revival.

This sequence builds to both a rematch between Gohan & Dabra and a battle with Majin Buu– both of which never come. Buu is ultimately revived, eating Dabra more or less immediately and removing Gohan from the battle before defeating Kaioshin.

6. Goku Versus Vegeta (25th Tenkaichi Budokai)

The early Majin Buu arc is a magical time where it feels as though anything can happen. And anything does happen when the 25th Tenkaichi Budokai, which had been built up for multiple chapters, is derailed by Bobbidi’s goons. It’s really disappointing since Goku and Vegeta were actually set to fight right away.

To Dragon Ball’s credit, the story makes this a crucial plot point. The fact that Vegeta misses his fight with Goku ends up lighting a fuse that only blows when Vegeta allows Bobbidi to possess him. Had Goku & Vegeta gotten to fight at the tournament, perhaps Vegeta could have worked through his issues in a healthier manner.

7. Android 16 Versus Perfect Cell

Withholding information ends up being something of a problem during the Cell arc. Yamcha fails to inform Goku that Dr. Gero & 19 can absorb energy– leading to Goku pumping Android 19 full of Ki– and later no one ends up telling Android 16 that his bomb was diffused– leading to his unnecessary death.

Had someone actually informed Android 16 of the bomb removal, he might have tried to actually fight Cell instead of attempting to take them both out together. Unfortunately, failing to convey this information results in Android 16 is one of the few characters to die in Dragon Ball and are gone forever.

8. Tenshinhan Versus Perfect Cell

It’s hard to believe the last time Tenshinhan fights on-screen is during the Saiyan arc (and his last fully choreographed fight is against a Saibaiman, not Nappa.) This isn’t to say Tenshinhan does nothing for the rest of Dragon Ball’s run, however. While Tenshinhan is too dead to do much during the Namek arc, he helps out during the Cell arc.

Preventing Cell from absorbing Android 18, Tenshinhan saves Piccolo, 16, & 18’s lives. He’s too weak to actually engage Cell in a fight, but his Shin Kikoho keeps Cell subdued long enough for Goku to teleport everyone to safety & for 16 to get away with 18. Had Goku not arrived in time, Cell would have started a fight that quickly would have become a massacre.

9. Goku & Vegeta Versus Ginyu & Jeice

One of the better fakeout moments in Dragon Ball comes midway through the Frieza arc. Goku is finally on Namek, the Ginyu Force is cut down to just two members, and Goku & Vegeta are about to work together to defeat Captain Ginyu & Jeice. Only for Vegeta to immediately leave the scene, abandoning Goku to fend for himself.

10. Piccolo, Killin, & Gohan Versus Vegeta

It’s overshadowed by the raw emotions of Piccolo’s death, but Piccolo, Krillin, and Gohan come dangerously close to killing Nappa. Had Gohan been able to muster up his courage and join in the combo attack, it’s likely they would have done enough damage to defeat the Saiyan. Heck, Krillin’s Kienzan nearly connected much earlier, potentially ending the fight right there.

But what happens if Nappa does die? Goku hadn’t arrived yet, and he wouldn’t for a long time. Had Piccolo, Gohan, and Krillin actually been forced to fight Vegeta, it’s highly unlikely they would have survived to see Goku again.

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