One could argue that tournaments are the lifeblood of early Dragon Ball. Three of the franchise’s six pre-Z story arcs center around the Tenkaichi Budokai, with the Red Ribbon Army arc featuring a smaller-scale tournament through Uranai Baba’s 5v5 challenge.
Some of Dragon Ball’s finest moments happen during the Tenkaichi Budokai, often because of the variety of characters in play at any given time. The Tenkaichi Budokai is as exciting as it is for Dragon Ball both because of the action and the eclectic characters who briefly join the cast.
Speaking of Spopovich, he may be a minor villain in the grand scheme of the Buu arc, but he has an interesting place in Dragon Ball’s universe. Spopovich previously fought Mr. Satan in the 24th Tenkaichi Budokai, losing relatively early into the tournament. Spopovich allows Babidi to possess him as a means of revenge, but his mind is weak & he ends up doing Babidi’s bidding.
Considering Dragon Ball’s last plot point is directly tied to Uub’s strength, it is obvious that he’s one of the strongest Tenkaichi Budokai participants in the franchise. Uub is able to trade blows with an End of Z Goku like it’s nothing. But then again, Uub is the reincarnation of Majin Buu, bursting with the Djinn’s latent potential.
3. Tao Pai Pai
Tao Pai Pai’s reintroduction into the 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai is quite a shocking development, especially because Goku killed him with a grenade on-screen all the way back in the Red Ribbon Army. But that’s why Tao Pai Pai returns as a cyborg, and alongside Tsuru Sennin– both ready to tie up some loose ends and kill Goku & Tenshinhan.
Akira Toriyama isn’t very good when it comes to writing either women or romance (Bulma being the exception to the rule,) but he does gradually improve as Dragon Ball goes on. Notably, Videl stands out as the one love interest who can really stand on her own as a three-dimensional character, developing quite a bit through her relationship with Gohan.
5. King Chappa
King Chappa is a fascinating, recurring character in early Dragon Ball. Considered one of the strongest martial artists in-universe, King Chappa is basically Pamput written as a proper Dragon Ball character (which is funny considering Chappa is introduced first.) As strong as King Chappa may be, however, he never makes it into the tournament itself.
The penultimate opponent during Uranai Baba’s tournament, Akkuman is a former Tenkaichi Budokai champion and a surprisingly dangerous character, all things considered. His signature technique, the Devil Mite Beam, expands all the evil in one’s heart, exploding them in the process.
It’s kind of incredible how dangerously close Goku comes to losing the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai. The first foe to require more than one chapter to defeat, Giran gives Goku a hard time during their match. Giran even manages to ring him, Goku only coming back into the arena thanks to Kinton.
Giran gives Goku a hard time because of his unique abilities, Namu gives Goku a hard time because of his sheer will to win. Dragon Ball still has its comedic roots front & center during the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai, but Toriyama begins playing around with more dramatic storytelling through Namu.
Jewel is a fairly substanceless character introduced during the Majin Buu arc mainly to showcase how much the 25th Tenkaichi Budokai has fallen. Jewel’s not the only character who fills this role, of course, he seems to be the strongest of the lot & the one is given the most focus.
A repeatedly occuring element with the stronger supporting characters in the Tenkaichi Budokai is that they’re often used to set a benchmark between realistic standards for strength and Dragon Ball’s standards for strengths (often tongue in cheek, always self-aware.) Pamput is one of the earliest, and clearest examples of this fact.