Yesterday, I came across a viral post from a Dragon Ball Z fan account called Dragon Ball Perfect Shots showcasing Vegeta’s victory over Goku in the after-credit scene in the new film Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero. In Vegeta and Goku’s cinematic fight, which served as the B-plot of the film, the all-powerful saiyans had an exhibition match where they weren’t allowed to power up. Vegeta won.
While many fans consider this to be the first time Goku has lost to Vegeta, it’s actually the opposite. You see, Vegeta has never lost a fight against Goku.
In this KotakuTalk, I will be exploring each of Goku and Vegeta’s fights to explain how the DBZ community has suffered at the hands of a widespread misconception that Vegeta, my short prince, has ever taken an L from Goku in the two times they’ve fought.
The first battle Goku and Vegeta had was in the Saiyan Arc. In it, Vegeta and his lackey, Nappa, came to Earth to use the dragon balls to grant themselves immortality. After the death of many of Goku’s allies and Vegeta’s team killing of Nappa, Goku and Vegeta finally squared off.
The two threw Earth-rattling blows in an ebb-and-flow match-up. Goku, as many remember, gained a clear advantage by using his kaioken power-up and arbitrarily multiplying his output. However, the damage kaioken inflicted on Goku’s muscles, along with Vegeta crushing Goku in his Ozaru form, resulted in Goku not being able to continue their fight. On Planet Vegeta, we tech those, but for whatever reason, the fact of Vegeta’s victory gets lost in translation and turned into a Vegeta L because he gets jumped by Gohan, Krillin, and Yajirobe, and flees Earth. His tactical retreat was interestingly co-signed by Goku because he wanted the chance to fight Vegeta again.
During the first quarter of the Majin Buu arc, Vegeta and Goku had their second fight. Prior to their battle, Vegeta “heel turned” on the Z-fighters by purposely allowing a villain named Babidi to transform him into Majin Vegeta. In theory, this transformation was meant to put Vegeta under Babidi’s control but in actuality, Vegeta used it as a means to get a power-up and force Goku to fight him before his time on earth expired (it’s a long story). Basically, all you need to know is that Vegeta has an “M” on his forehead and he’s still got that dog in him.
The pair’s face-off in a rocky wasteland is, in all honesty, better experienced through the anime than the manga since Toei Animation added its own anime-only beats to the source material’s brief battle. But regardless of how you experience the fight, the outcome is the same. In the end, Goku and Vegeta postpone their bout to help their friends battle Majin Buu–but not before Vegeta knocks Goku out and goes into the fight alone. Classic Vegeta. He dies after this, btw.
The majority of Dragon Ball Z fights run on wrestling rules that aim to protect the franchise’s biggest stars from character-defining losses. For example, big-money matches between fan favorites like Piccolo and Vegeta have never happened in the entirety of the series despite fan interest in discovering which of the two is stronger. My theory for why they haven’t fought is to generate hype over a “what-if” scenario between the two that creator Akira Toriyama and Toei Animation can pull the trigger on in a future manga chapter or movie.
In that same vein, the creators have occasionally created top-billing “twice in a lifetime” matches between Goku and Vegeta only to throw shenanigans into the mix to protect their characters’ mystique. Sometimes a nail-biting fight ends because of outside interference, the sudden presence of a bigger threat—leading to an impromptu team-up—or a good old-fashioned draw. These kinds of inconclusive battles happen a lot in anime.
And Goku fans, possibly seeing what they want to see, have used some of these scenarios to reinforce the idea that their poster boy hero has at times emerged victorious. To their credit, DBZ’s power creep and incessant need to create a new form for Goku while occasionally throwing Vegeta a few of his own would lead anyone to believe Goku has more W’s under his weighted clothes than he actually does.
If we’re counting the filler Dragon Ball Super fight (which we shouldn’t) where Goku defeated Duplicate Vegeta, then sure, Goku technically beat “Vegeta” once. But as far as the official record shows, Vegeta is still undefeated.