Warning: This will contain major spoilers about Dragonball Z, if you don’t want to know what happens in the Sayian Saga (the first season) I would suggest that you stop reading now.
A major theme of Dragonball Z is the rivalry between Goku and Vegeta. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Goku ends the series as the stronger of the two. In the final saga, the Buu saga, Vegeta blames Goku’s constant overtaking of his power on Goku’s ‘natural talent’ but is that really what made the difference? Lets break down their power levels and which had the most potential. Goku and Vegeta fight meet on Earth after Goku kills Vegeta’s henchman Nappa. Both were roughly the same age and had been fighting for all their lives so the field should be reasonably level. Except Goku gets an instant advantage.
For the last YEAR Vegeta had been travelling to Earth in a tiny space pod, in contrast to Goku who had been training under the local GOD OF MARTIAL ARTS. That’s right, while Vegeta was getting cramped in a tiny little pod Goku was training under the best trainer in that corner of the universe. Not only did King Kai strengthen Goku’s body he also taught him the Kaio Ken attack and the Spirit Bomb. The Kaio Ken attack dramatically increases the users strength, speed and senses for short bursts of time, at risk of annihilation if done when the user is weak while being used. The Kaio Ken attack meant the difference between Goku having an advantage over Nappa and demolishing him. And that was only Kaio Ken level one, it can be taken right up to level ten, although in Goku’s fight against Nappa and Vegeta he only takes it to level four. BUT STILL.
The Spirit Bomb is the ultimate attack, borrowing a little energy from everything on Earth (people, animals, miro-organisms, wind, water, forrests, etc) and throwing it. Did I mention that it is impossible to miss with the Spirit Bomb? The user has a ‘sense’ of when the best time to use it would be when used JUST THEN the bomb is guaranteed to hit. These two techniques are rather large advantages that Goku has over Vegeta, but it doesn’t stop there.
When Vegeta and Nappa came to Earth they would fight the Z Fighter one at a time, that is, Nappa verses all of the Z Fighters all at once. When Goku breaks Nappa’s spine, rendering him unable to fight, they all also gang up on Vegeta. So for their first fight it was not Vegeta verses Goku, it was Vegeta verses Goku, Krillan, Gohan, Yajirobe and (through the Spirit Bomb) the whole planet.
Not to mention the strength boost that Goku got. A sayian is strengthened from a brush with death and they are at their strongest when they recover from near fatal injuries. So imagine the kind of strength that Goku would have gotten when he CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD just before his fight with Vegeta.
It seems that Goku is given a massive advantage by his death. If he hadn’t died and had never trained with King Kai he wouldn’t have stood a chance against Vegeta. But did he anyway?
And it’s generally accepted that Goku won the fight but where does that idea come from? Lets step through the fight. First Vegeta clearly had the advantage over Goku, then Goku started using the Kaio Ken attack. However, unlike when used against Nappa, Vegeta overcomes the Kaio Ken attack maintaining his advantage. It’s only when Goku triples the Kaio Ken that he lands an attack that damages Vegeta at all. Even then, using Kaio Ken times three, Goku can only match Vegeta. When forced into a beam battle where Vegeta uses Gallick Gun and Goku uses Kamehame Wave (which is implied several times to be more efficient than Gallick Gun, anouther unfair advantage that Goku has) the two are almost exactly matched.
Goku only overcomes Vegeta by taking the Kaio Ken attack to times four, not that it does Vegeta much damage. Vegeta stated that his attack is capable of destroying the planet (a boast which we are inclined to believe given that we have witnessed him destroying one before), yet when he is struck by Goku’s Kamehameha Wave he brushes it off like it is nothing before proceding to take his giant ape form.
Now, lets look at Goku and Vegeta before and after they fight a giant ape. First Goku fought Vegeta in giant ape form. Although Goku had been weakened by his use of Kaio Ken times four he had seemed to recover by the time he had to fight, while taking on the ape he never seemed to slow because of his injuries. Not that is does him any good, at full health Goku was crushed, till the point where he couldn’t move anymore. The only reason Goku wasn’t killed then and there was because Yagerobe snuck up on Vegeta and cut his tail off.
Compare this to how Vegeta faired against giant ape form Gohan. Although Gohan was a child he took on the body of a full grown ape. Just before this Vegeta had been struck by a weakened version of the Spirit Bomb, which was so strong is blew him right out of the atmosphere. When he came back down he was then CUT IN THE BACK WITH A SWORD. Although it is never stated how deep this blow was it is clear from the way Vegeta reacted that it REALLY hurt.You can clearly see that his shoulder has been seriously damaged, not to mention the general strain that his body has obviously taken. Yet Vegeta still manages to go toe to toe with the giant ape form Gohan, getting in some solid, damaging hits and eventually taking off Gohan’s tail face to face, not by sneaking behind when he was distracted like Yagerobi did. The only reason Vegeta got as damaged as he did was because Gohan just happened to fall on him.
Normal Vegeta vs Normal Goku: Vegeta easily wins
Normal Vegeta vs Double Kaio Ken Goku: Vegeta has the advantage
Normal Vegeta vs Triple Kaio Ken Goku: Equal
Normal Vegeta vs Four times Kaio Ken Goku: Goku has the advantage (for thr half a minute Goku can sustain it)
Giant Ape Vegeta vs Full Strength Goku: Vegeta dominates, Goku crushed to near death, was saved by others
Vegeta after Spirit Bomb and sword damage vs Giant Ape Gohan: Equal matchup, Vegeta won but was crushed by falling monkey
It’s clear to see that the only reason Goku had a chance at all was because of the special training he got from King Kai, if not for the Kaio Ken attack he would have been demolished early in the fight. From this we can say with confidence that Vegeta was the strongest fighter when he and Goku first met even with all of Goku’s unfair advantages and that his allies is the only reason Goku survived the encounter. Next time, I will look at how it was that even with all of this potential Goku managed to overtake Vegeta’s power level.