While often overshadowed by big guns Goku and Vegeta, Gohan has seen his fair share of intense battles over the years. Some of these battles have resulted in epic wins, proving himself to be a true force of nature. Other times, however, the half-Saiyan’s performance has been less than stellar, either losing in a humiliating fashion or not quite having the juice to pull off the W.
Regardless of whether he’s saving the world or in need of saving, Son Gohan is a major staple of the Dragon Ball franchise – one that is here to stay. Here are Gohan’s five most triumphant victories (and five of his most humiliating defeats).
10 VICTORY: FRIEZA (FUSION REBORN)
Kicking off the list at number ten is that time Gohan completely dominates Frieza with a single blow. The event occurs in Fusion Reborn, the fifteen film in the Dragon Ball Z movie franchise. While Goku is off battling Pikkon and extra-dimensional beings in the Otherworld Tournament, super villain Freiza escapes Hell with an army of vanquished warriors, looking to take revenge on Goku’s newfound home planet. After arriving on Earth, Freiza and his intergalactic horde are confronted by none other than the Great Saiyaman himself, teen Gohan.
Recognizing the youth as the son of his archenemy, Frieza unleashes the full scope of his military power. Unfortunately, and much to the changeling’s chagrin, Gohan easily zips through the cloud of warriors, delivering a devastating ki-punch to Frieza’s gut, exploding the villain from the inside.
9 DEFEAT: BEERUS (DRAGON BALL SUPER)
Speaking of one-hit-quits, matching Gohan’s uncontested victory over Frieza is his equally crushing defeat at the hands of Beerus: the god of destruction. In the first saga of Dragon Ball Super, Beerus, who wipes out whole planets if their cuisine sucks, decides to visit Earth and taste some of the local delicatessens. Finding a party cruize ship full various cooked foods, Beerus makes this his starting point. Well, that ship just so happens to belong to Bulma who just so happens to be celebrating her birthday with her Z-fighter friends. Goku and Vegeta are absent, of course, which leaves dealing with Beerus up to lesser-qualified members of Earth’s ultimate defenders.
Thus, it’s adult Gohan who steps up to teach the party crasher a lesson, but when he rushes Beerus head-on, the god of destruction swats the half-Saiyan away using none other than Fat Buu’s own body as a club. Gohan is knocked out cold as a result.
8 VICTORY: BOJACK (BOJACK UNBOUND)
Another badass win for the eldest son of Goku takes place in the movie Dragon Ball Z: Bojack Unbound. In this feature film one-off, Bojack, a villain with universe-conquering tendencies, has recently escaped a prison built by the likes of the four Kais, which was destroyed when Perfect Cell self-destructed.
As a result, Bojack is unbound, immediately returning to his maniacal mission of cosmic domination. Earth’s only hope? Ten-year-old Gohan, champion of humanity. How does Gohan defeat this new foe? Not easily, but after a pep-talk from his father in the spirit dimension, Gohan returns and incinerates Bojack with a super Kamehameha wave.
7 DEFEAT: VEGETA (DRAGON BALL Z)
Even though Gohan was still a kid and totally out of his league, the experience was a humiliating one at that. After just being wished back to Earth (along with all the people Frieza killed on Namek), a resurrected Vegeta vows to grow his power and take over the world now that Goku isn’t around to stop him.
And when Gohan confronts the prince of all Saiyans, Vegeta taunts the boy, stating he will keep the kid alive to shine his boots and call him “lord.” In a fit of rage, Gohan attacks and is given a beating he’s not likely to forget.
6 VICTORY: CRIMINALS (DRAGON BALL Z)
Despite being scoffed at, filler episodes offer moments of reprieve in the Dragon Ball franchise, balancing out long, intense battles with levity and fun. While some of these fillers are less than stellar (looking at you, Black Water Mist), others such as Goku’s stint at Driving School or the Great Saiyaman Saga, make for humorous developments in the lives of the characters beyond saving the world. In the latter, where Gohan dons a cape as a literal superhero, the young half-Saiyan has grown into a strapping teenager. He attends the Orange Star School in Satan City (Hercule City in releases outside of Japan), and has put aside training to focus solely on academics… Or so it seems.
In truth, Gohan has taken up crime-fighting, donning a helmet and cape to protect the innocent and serve up justice where justice needs serving. In one instance of such heroics, Gohan merciless destroys a gang of balaclava-wearing bank robbers after they ransack the Satan City Bank. The robbers unload on Gohan with machine guns of all shapes and sizes, but the super Saiyan catches the bullets with ease and puts these mere mortals down without batting an eye.
5 DEFEAT: FRIEZA (DRAGON BALL SUPER)
Unlike the non-canon film mentioned above, Freiza’s true return takes place in the Golden Frieza portion of Dragon Ball Super. In this version of the rematch between demi-Saiyan and changeling, Frieza annihilates the son of Goku while still in his first form, laughing diabolically from his hover pod.
Even as a Super Saiyan, Gohan is no match for the resurrected prince, who beats on Gohan with a bombardment of death beams from his fingertips. Gohan collapses unable to move, but before the galactic terror can kill him once and for all, Piccolo interferes in a callback to their battle with the Saiyan behemoth Nappa in Dragon Ball Z.
4 VICTORY: CELL JR. (DRAGON BALL Z)
One of Gohan’s most savage victories occurred while defending Earth in the infamous Cell Games — a tournament to decide to fate and future of humankind.
The time? Perfect Cell Saga. The place? The final round of the tournament. It’s down to Gohan and the games’ evil host, Perfect Cell, greatest of the androids. If Gohan wins, humanity is saved. If he loses? It’s all over. The gong sounds and two warriors explode into action, striking, dodging, countering each other’s attacks. As the match develops, Cell is impressed with the young Saiyan but senses the boy has more power hidden within. And he’s right, Gohan admits there is a greater power that only surfaces when he becomes enraged. Desiring to draw out this power, Cell produces small, blue clones, called Cell Jr.s, unleashing them on Gohan’s friends.
In a fit of blind rage, Gohan’s hidden power awakens. He levels up into a Super Saiyan 2, and with blinding speed takes out each of the Cell Jr.s in an act of total domination. In short, Gohan rips and tears until it is done.
3 DEFEAT: FAT BUU (DRAGON BALL Z)
This one is as lopsided as Gohan’s one-hit-quit on Freiza in Fusion Reborn. In the episode titled “The Terror of Mr. Buu” Gohan and Supreme Kai arrive at the site of a giant, brown egg — an egg housing the hybernating super villain Majin Buu. Looking to dash Babidi’s hopes of unleashing Buu on the world, the young half-Saiyan and his divine mentor sling ki blasts at the shell, all of which bounce off of the surface like rubber bullets.
When the egg finally hatches, they attack the gum-like creature with all the fury of Earth and Heaven. But the harder they strike, the more Buu shrugs them off with taunts, laughter, and childlike malevolence. And when it’s Buu’s turn to fight back, the result is deadly. Supreme Kai is immediately humbled after a series of devastating blows, and when Gohan attempts a head-on assault of his own, Buu blasts the Saiyan in the face with an energy beam so powerful it nearly kills him.
2 VICTORY: PERFECT CELL (DRAGON BALL Z)
Defeating Perfect Cell is hands-down Gohan’s most triumphant victory in all of Dragon Ball. At the time, Gohan is a ten-year-old kid facing off against the series’ most powerful villain. Not only this, but Cell has already defeated the likes of Vegeta, Androids 17 and 18, the world’s greatest martial artists, and killed Goku in a sacrifice play to destroy the planet.
In other words, all of the odds are stacked against Gohan as he shoulders his way through a hellish gauntlet of punishments, culminating in a duel of Kamehameha waves. With the aid of ghost Goku and a weak-sauce Big Bang Attack from an exhausted Vegeta–which momentarily distracts Cell–Gohan empties his last reserves of energy into the beam, vaporizing Cell down to an atomic level.
1 DEFEAT: RECOOME (DRAGON BALL Z)
Completing the list at number 1 is Gohan’s battle with Ginyu Force member Recoombe. In the infamous Ginyu Saga, the Z-fighters find themselves pitted against Frieza’s elite, intergalactic fighting force determined to capture all of the Namakeian dragon balls (because Freiza wants to be immortal, of course).
In this installment, after the Z-fighters are pounded to a pulp by the hulking goon Recoome himself, a wounded kid Gohan rises to take on the carrot-topped Nappa doppelganger alone. Despite Gohan’s courage, however, he’s easily dismantled with a powerful kick to the face, knocking the boy clean out of the fight.
Gohan has the most potential of any Dragon Ball fighter, but he's also experienced some terrible losses.