For as much as fans emphasize characters winning and losing, Dragon Ball as a franchise doesn’t really concern itself with its win records. Characters lose when it serves their development. Characters win when it serves the plot. Sometimes the streams intersect, but rarely does the series go out of its way to give a character a win, if ever.
As a result, win rates might not be as fans would expect. Looking at only who Toriyama considered to be main characters, fans can note how Toriyama perceived certain fighters’ roles. No filler, no movies, and— since the manga is still in publications— no Super, Dragon Ball’s win rates are a sight to behold.
10 Piccolo (41.2%)
For as much as Akira Toriyama likes Piccolo as a character— keeping him active from his introduction all the way to the end of the Majin Boo arc— he stands out with one of the worst win rates in the entire franchise, failing to keep up most of the Earthlings. Of the main martial artists, only Yamcha and Chaozu do worse than Piccolo.
To put things into perspective, though, Piccolo’s role after the Saiyan arc exclusively sees him losing. This inadvertently leads him down one of the series’ best character arc (sacrificing himself to Nappa, merging with Nail, fusing with Kami,) but the fact that most of his later fights all play out the same is underwhelming.
9 Tenshinhan (46.2%)
As far as win ratios go, Tenshinhan has one of the best introductions in the franchise. He wins every single fight he participates in during the 22nd Tenkaichi Budokai. Only to lose almost every single fight he participates in for the rest of the series. After the 22nd Tenkaichi Budokai, Tenshinhan’s victories can be counted on a single hand.
To his credit, though, Tenshinhan’s later losses are admittedly against insanely powerful arc villains. Realistically, he was never going to beat Cell or Boo, but the fact he fought at all is incredible. Plus, his loss against Nappa really isn’t all that bad. More often than not, Tenshinhan loses on his own terms.
8 Kuririn (48.1%)
If nothing else, Kuririn’s win rate proves that he’s the strongest Earthling in the franchise. Kind of. Of the main Earthlings in Dragon Ball, Kuririn has the best win rate of the bunch. Some supporting humans do end marginally better than him (Yajirobe, Mr. Satan, and Videl) but they all barely fight and can’t be considered proper leads.
Kuririn loses more often than he wins, but he wins at least one fight in every arc he’s in save for the Red Ribbon Army and Cell arcs. Other than those, Kuririn really does have a healthy record. It’s sub 50%, but it’s also worth noting that Kuririn has fought way more than most characters in the franchise.
7 Kid Trunks (50%)
Kid Trunks’ win-rate is such an interesting anomaly. He barely ever fights, but he wins half of the fights he participates in. It does make sense to some degree as Toriyama clearly liked Future Trunks and wanted that character’s presence to persist in the series. This does have a consequence, though: Goten’s win record.
Precisely because Kid Trunks ends up winning half of his fights, Goten barely even qins a quarter. He’s Trunks’ other half, but Son Goten may very well have the single worst win record out of the main characters. Worth noting, Gotenks factors into both of their track records and given Gotenks loses all his fights in the original series, he doesn’t exactly help.
6 Vegeta (50%)
Vegeta may be sitting at a clean 50% like his present timeline son, but his record is far more noteworthy than Kid Trunks’. Vegeta manages to maintain 50% despite losing fairly often. Everytime Vegeta falls down, he manages to spring back up and secure some sort of victory. It certainly helps that Vegeta tends to sort out the supporting villains.
It’s worth noting, however, that most of Vegeta’s wins come from the Namek arc where he takes out Freeza’s army one by one. As the series progresses, his wins start to taper off, but he does have a few victories under his belt in both the Cell and Boo arcs, something not even Goku can claim.
5 Son Gohan (52.4%)
Only doing marginally better than Vegeta, Son Gohan’s win record should really come as no surprise. He loses quite often, but he pulls his weight during the fight against Vegeta, on Namek, during the Cell Games, and for most of the Boo arc. It’s really not until the Boo arc where Gohan starts to lose more regularly.
Starting with Dabra, Gohan loses every single fight he participates in during the Boo arc. It’s not too big of a deal since his character arc is resolved nonetheless and his losses aren’t exactly on him, but it’s disappointing to see Gohan rapidly lose fight after fight so close to the end of the series.
4 Future Trunks (55.6%)
As the only main character to actively perceive a threat and then decide to immediately handle the situation instead of playing around, Future Trunks ends up with a lot of victories. Unfortunately, the back half of the Cell arc sees him losing rather frequently and consistently. After defeating King Cold, Trunks doesn’t win a single fight until the end of the arc.
That said, it’s for the good of his character arc. Trunks has to lose in the past so he can win in his future. It’s the natural trajectory of his arc. That said, it’s still upsetting to see such a cool character lose in all his best choreographed fights.
3 Son Goku (73.1%)
It’s no surprise that Goku would make the top three, but it is a surprise that he isn’t at #1. Fans seem to have this idea that Goku wins a lot— and he does— but most of his victories are pre-DBZ. Starting with the Saiyan arc, Goku’s win ratio tanks and only gets worse as the series progresses.
Goku’s last major victory in the original series is against Freeza on Namek. His last real victory is against Yakon in the Boo arc. It’s crazy to think that the main character of the entire franchise only wins a single fight in the last arc (and not a plot relevant one, either.) Goku wins no fights in the Cell arc as well.
2 Android 18 (75%)
For as ultimately irrelevant as Android 18 becomes, Akira Toriyama clearly did consider her a main character for a good chunk of the series. She’s featured on practically every piece of promo art from the mid Cell arc to the mid Boo arc and maintains her narrative relevance up through the end of the 25th Tenkaichi Budokai.
Interestingly, since Android 18 only exists near the end of the series— and in a role where she’s an active villain for a good chunk of her tenure— she ends up winning most of her fights. The 25th Tenkaichi Budokai does wonders for her win record in particular, giving her several clear victories to end the series on.
1 Muten Roshi (77.8%)
To put things into perspective, Muten Roshi only ever loses to Tenshinhan and Demon King Piccolo in the original series. Every other battle he participates in, he wins. He wins all his preliminary fights in both tournaments he fights in, and he ends up sweeping the 21st Tenkaichi Budokai entirely.His loss against Tenshinhan isn’t even a real loss, he quits. Piccolo also doesn’t kill him, either. Roshi ends up killing himself after the Mafuba fails to capture the Demon King. With that in mind, Roshi doesn’t really lose any fights. No one ever actually defeats him in combat if nothing else.