As far as Dragon Ball Z is concerned, Vegeta actually has a better win/loss rate than Son Goku himself. While Vegeta never gets the chance to defeat any of the arc antagonists, he consistently fights more often than Goku starting with the Namek arc and he ends up winning most of the battles he participates in.
That said, when Vegeta loses, he tends to lose bad. Far worse than Goku ever does. This isn’t a bad thing, though. As one of the most developed characters in the franchise, Vegeta’s losses directly contribute to his character arc. Every loss is a moment to grow, and that goes double for someone as egotistical as Vegeta.
10 Vegeta Versus Zarbon
While this isn’t the first loss Vegeta suffers in the series, it is the first he endures as one of the “heroes.” At this point on Namek, Vegeta has single handedly taken out most of Freeza’s army. He’s posed himself as a major threat, not just threatening Freeza, but Gohan and Kuririn as well. When it comes time to fight Zarbon, it seems as though things will proceed business as usual.
Only for Zarbon to utterly waste Vegeta. This is an important loss not only because it puts Freeza’s power in perspective (quite literally in the manga since this is the moment Zarbon reveals that Freeza can transform,) but it leads Vegeta to start abusing Zenkais on Namek, a thread that directly parallels him and Goku.
9 Vegeta Versus Bojack
If nothing else, the original Dragon Ball Z films are worth watching to get a glimpse of how our heroes react to familiar situations with new villains. Bojack Unbound is for all intents and purposes a retread of the Cell Games, but it manages to put a unique spin on both Gohan and Vegeta’s characters.
For most of the film, Vegeta refuses to fight— following up on his decision to never fight again after Goku’s sacrifice— but push comes to shove and he swoops in to help fight off Bojack. Naturally, Vegeta loses miserably, but the fact he fought at all does end up giving him a minor arc in the film.
8 Vegeta Versus Perfect Cell
There’s something beautifully cathartic watching Perfect Cell eviscerate Vegeta once he transforms. Vegeta put Semi-Perfect Cell through the ringer, but he refused to finish him off. It’s this arc where Vegeta is at his worst, constantly playing with his food and trying to one-up Goku at every turn.
Fans shouldn’t be rooting for the villain, but Perfect Cell dishing back everything Vegeta served him is a humbling moment. It’s a reminder that Vegeta is a flawed character, one who lets his ego take control. While this won’t be the last time Vegeta messes everything up, it is his first meaningful step towards redemption.
7 Vegeta Versus Broly
Just like with the Bojack film, Vegeta spends most of the original Broly movie refusing to fight. Unlike the Bojack movie, however, Vegeta’s reluctance to fight Broly is actually a massive plot point, lasting virtually all of the film. In the face of the real Legendary Super Saiyan, Vegeta can’t muster up the courage to fight a seemingly unstoppable foe.
He comes around in the end only to get predictably throttled. If there was one Dragon Ball Z film where Vegeta should have meaningfully contribute to the main villain’s defeat, it was this one. If nothing else, seeing a more explicitly insecure Vegeta does help round out his character in a strangely human way.
6 Vegeta Versus Majin Boo
Stemming from the end of the Cell Games, responsibility ends up becoming one of Dragon Ball Z’s last major themes. This is most personified through Goku’s desire to make sure those responsible for the Earth take care of the Earth, but him and Vegeta end up embodying this idea by the end.
In large part due to the fact that they released Majin Boo. Unable to deal with the fact that he’s once again endangered the world and his family, Majin Vegeta takes on Fat Boo knowing that it’ll inevitably end with his demise. While Vegeta doesn’t manage to kill Boo with his Final Atonement, his kamikaze stands out as one of the few genuinely beautiful moments in Dragon Ball.
5 Vegeta Versus Reacoom
Vegeta losing to Reacoom doesn’t directly lead to him developing as meaningfully as other fights, but it’s just such an insanely well choreographed fight that it would be a disservice not to mention it. Easily one of Toriyama’s best works, Vegeta throws everything he has at Reacoom in a frenzy of unforgettable action.
The manga especially does an incredible job at showcasing Vegeta’s pure skill. He’s able to volley Reacoom all across Namek. Of course, Reacoom is barely hurt when all is said and done, beating Vegeta to a pulp, but it’s one hell of a battle to watch unfold.
4 Vegeta Versus Pure Boo
The final battle against Pure Boo in general is criminally underrated. It’s far and away the best bout in the Boo arc, allowing Goku, Vegeta, Fat Boo, and Mr. Satan to all shine. Vegeta in particular get an amazing showing during this fight even if he ends up losing. It’s here where Vegeta’s arc comes to its natural close.
After recognizing Goku’s talents, Vegeta admits that Goku will always be number 1. He can’t and won’t surpass his rival, but that’s alright. Vegeta shows this new mindset outright by choosing to fight Boo one on one, knowing that he will lose just so Goku could charge the Genki Dama and save the day.
3 Vegeta Versus No. 18
Few moments in the series are as memorable as the Artificial Humans making extremely short work of the Z-Fighters. Once awakened, 17 and 18 go to town on the main cast, but it’s Vegeta who ends up receiving the worst of it. A newly transformed Super Saiyan, Vegeta genuinely believes that he’s unstoppable.
Unfortunately for him, No. 18 has infinite stamina. No matter how hard Vegeta hits her, she doesn’t seem to take any meaningful damage. Worse yet, the strain of being a Super Saiyan ends up stalling Vegeta during the fight while 18 keeps her composure throughout. It all ends with 18 snapping Vegeta’s arm in two and an ear piercing scream.
2 Vegeta Versus Freeza
There are two moments that stand out in Vegeta’s eternal struggle: when he gives his life to defeat Majin Boo and when he realizes that he’ll never be able to defeat Freeza. Of course, Vegeta does compose himself after forcing Kuririn and Dende to give him a Zenkai, but Freeza proves far too much for the Prince of All Saiyans.
The anime tries to pretty things up a bit by putting Vegeta on an even playing field, but the manga shows readers that, even with a Zenkai, Vegeta is nothing to Freeza. The galactic tyrant manhandles Vegeta, breaking his spirit and his body in that order. Moved to tears, Vegeta has no choice but to beg Goku to finish Freeza off.
1 Vegeta Versus The Earthlings
Vegeta’s first visit to Earth is anything but pleasant. While he does manage to subdue Goku after transforming into an Oozaru, Vegeta suffers one of the worst beatdowns of his life. Not only does Goku, a low class warrior, humiliate Vegeta through sheer force of will, the Earthlings band together to put Vegeta in his place.
It all culminates in Kuririn holding Vegeta at swordpoint. For the first time in his life, Vegeta is at the mercy of another fighter, and said fighter is significantly weaker than him at that. This fight is important not only because Goku ultimately spares Vegeta, but because it shows audiences that teamwork will always beat out pure strength.