We all know that not every fighter in the Dragon Ball franchise is equal. Characters like Goku and Vegeta have far exceeded most of the other heroes in their training, while other characters who continue to train are still total pushovers. But the characters that intrigue, as well as frustrate, the fans most frequently are the ones who looked like they were getting ready for a turn in the spotlight, only for that opportunity to be snatched away.
There are a lot of different characters in the franchise who fit that criteria, and either died too soon, or else just continually tease the fans that they're going to do something cool, but don't deliver. Some of these characters could have been incredible fighters, while others would have added really interesting wrinkles into the plot. Alas, what they all have in common is that their big moment never came. Here is Dragon Ball: 15 Characters With The Most Wasted Potential.
15 FAT BUU
Fat Buu might seem like an odd choice to include on this list, given how dominant he got to be against Gohan, Vegeta, and Goku. But we're not talking about Buu when he was a villain; we're talking about after he decided to join the Z Fighters. He was useful for a bit by helping to fight back against Kid Buu, but after that, we're left questioning why he was even kept around.
Buu was already reincarnated as Uub, so having Buu too seems weirdly redundant. But then despite how powerful Fat Buu was portrayed as being, he does absolutely nothing noteworthy in Dragon Ball GT or Super. In GT he merges with Uub to take on Baby, but they just get beaten down. And Buu is totally outclassed when he takes on Beerus in Super.
There were already plenty of Z Fighters just sitting around, so why add one more to the bunch? It's not like Fat Buu was some super popular character. Now his presence just makes us constantly question why he's not doing more to help out when he could theoretically just transform any villain into candy and get rid of them.
There are two recurring problems we're going to see a lot of for this list. One is that the offspring of powerful warriors seldom live up to their breeding, leading to a new generation of characters who have little reason for even existing. And the second problem is women in the Dragon Ball franchise have never truly gotten a chance to shine as fighters. So what happens with Bulla is doubly frustrating because she could have not only been a great female fighter, but a kid who embodied the intelligence of her mother as well as the strength of her father.
Bulma is a great scientist and inventor, frequently depicted as one of the franchise's most intelligent characters. Vegeta is a Saiyan warrior and a prince, always in the running to be one of the franchise's most powerful warriors. You'd think the offspring of those two would be someone great, but in Dragon Ball GT, Bulla does nothing significant as a fighter or an inventor. It's especially baffling given how much Vegeta wants Trunks to be a warrior. You'd think he'd want all of his family to achieve great things, but Bulla goes all of GT without a stand-out moment.
13 KING COLD
Unlike most of the characters in this list, it's not that King Cold was ever portrayed as strong and then suddenly got forgotten about. The problem with King Cold is that he was an intriguing character in Dragon Ball Z, but then got killed before he even got to do anything significant. He was obviously someone who was considered powerful. How could someone who fathered Frieza and Cooler not be strong himself? Considering he was a king, he should've been even stronger than Frieza at this time. So it was honestly kind of disappointing that we didn't get to see him do anything.
Even if King Cold wasn't going to be some nagging antagonist for dozens of episodes, it would have been nice to see him hang around a bit longer to flesh out the backstory surrounding Frieza some more. We don't even have an official name for Frieza's race, so there was definitely more potential here to flesh out Frieza's culture and lineage. It doesn't look like King Cold is ever coming back, though, so now we're left with even more questions than before we knew he existed.
Videl might seem like an odd choice at first, but she actually did achieve a lot for a human. Considering she lacked so much of the training that other characters had, she learned quite quickly under the tutelage of Gohan. Videl and Goten even learned to fly at the same time as each other. There aren’t many humans who can say they’ve learned to fly, especially not in such a short time. But Videl was clearly interested in becoming a better fighter, which makes it a bit baffling that the plotline just seemed to disappear.
Sure, Videl got beaten down by Spopovich, but every good fighter has lost before. She’s the daughter of Hercule, who despite being comically arrogant, is legitimately one of Earth’s strongest fighters. Videl should have bounced back from her defeat and gotten a chance to prove herself. But she’s one of many characters from the Buu saga who looked poised to be the new generation of heroes, only to have that snatched away.
While Broly—Second Coming isn't remembered as one of the great Dragon Ball movies, it was still a decent watch and about on par with the rest of the movies. If nothing else, Broly was such a fun character that fans weren't averse to seeing more of him, so that popularity made him the only antagonist to star in three of his own movies. Unfortunately, Bio-Broly wound up being perhaps the worst movie in the entire franchise.
The potential here was so obvious. Fans just wanted to see more of Broly kicking ass. Sure, he did that in two movies already, but Dragon Ball fans are willing to put up with repetitive fights. Just look how long Frieza's fight against Goku lasted, after all. But apparently the writers for this movie feared fan-fatigue and thought they needed to add in a new twist to keep Broly fresh. That twist was terrible, though.
Broly got turned into a generic slime monster instead of his cool Super Saiyan form, and he lost all of his personality. This could have been a great send off for the Broly trilogy, but poor planning led to this hugely tarnishing his character.
The end of Dragon Ball Z was clearly going for a denouement that implied that a new generation of heroes would be the main protectors of the world. Gohan went back to being a studious professional, Vegeta settled for being a gym rat, and Goku was quite content to abandon his family at a moment’s notice to run off and train the newcomer Uub. It didn't seem like Akira Toriyama actually planned to delve any further into that dynamic, though, so it all worked out and we could just imagine Uub would be the Earth’s new hero. Until Dragon Ball GT came along, anyway.
At the beginning of GT, Uub doesn't really seem any more remarkable in his power than Goten or Trunks have become. The only difference is that since Uub is a human, it's impressive that he was able to get even that much strength. Then, during the Baby saga, Uub merged with Fat Buu and got a significant increase in power. Even Goku couldn't beat Baby at this time, so it finally looked like Uub's time to shine. But then Uub lost anyway, and that was pretty much his last significant moment in the franchise. So much for Goku's successor.
9 ANDROID 18
It's hard to believe that out of all the female characters in all of Dragon Ball, pretty much the only one to be treated as a serious threat was Android 18. 18 wasn't someone who got lucky in a fight, or was just strong enough to finish off a minor character. She and 17 were originally intended to be the main antagonists of what would become the Cell saga, so she was able to take on Vegeta in his new Super Saiyan form and totally dominate him. The disappointment sets in when you realize her one fight against the Z Fighters where she broke Vegeta's arm was pretty much the only significant thing she did in the franchise.
Once Cell appeared, 17 and 18 got sidetracked taking a pointless road trip... in a van. They can fly so much faster, but they decided to drive until they maybe found Goku. Cell found them first, and neither android got a good chance to put up a fight against him. They're quickly absorbed, and then after being saved, 18 decides to settle down in a family life with Krillin.
Really the only time 18 ever got another shot to look menacing was in Future Trunks' timeline where they killed off every Z Fighter except Trunks. While 17 at least got to be a villain in GT and nearly kill a Super Saiyan 4 Goku, 18 just quickly lost all of her menace.
Raditz is another character who, while not great in terms of power, had so much more story potential in him at the time he died. Dragon Ball Z came out and flipped so much of what we knew on its head, with Raditz explaining that Goku was actually an alien, and had originally been sent to Earth to destroy it. Even more shocking was that Raditz was Goku's long-lost brother. With Raditz having so much previously unknown information about Goku, it looked like he'd surely be an important character for years. And yet after one short battle, Raditz was killed off and never seen again.
Raditz’s death felt so premature. He could have easily taken on the role Vegeta wound up having; developing an antagonistic relationship with Goku that would eventually transform into respect and friendship. Many fans wished Raditz would have stuck around if for no other reason than to see what he would have looked like as a Super Saiyan 3, since he already had long hair. This was Goku's last chance to hear more about what his parents were like, but Raditz disappeared as suddenly as he arrived.
Goten started off pretty strong, becoming the youngest Super Saiyan the franchise had seen at that point. It looked like he was getting built up for big things. The table was perfectly laid out for Goten to be one of the saviors in the Buu saga, with Goku deliberately stepping aside to give his son a shot. Goten and Trunks learned the fusion dance, and instantaneously became one of the show's strongest fighters as Gotenks. After only a few hours in the Hyperbolic Time Chamber, Goten was even able to become a Super Saiyan 3 as Gotenks. How do you screw that up?
The answer is that Goten was still a child, so he treated all of his fights like a game. As Gotenks, Goten and Trunks had ample opportunity to finish off Majin Buu for good. Goten had witnessed this monster kill his own mom, so he should have been eager for revenge. Instead, the two Saiyans goofed around making up names for their attacks and wasted so much time that Buu was able to absorb them and become even more powerful than before. That was Goten's one big contribution to the franchise, really. He wasted his natural talent through his immaturity, and then just became another helpless bystander during fights.
6 KID TRUNKS
What a difference a separate timeline makes. Future Trunks immediately became one of the most powerful characters in DBZ when he first appeared, transforming into the second Super Saiyan we ever saw. Future Trunks was a skilled fighter in DBZ, was able to play a strong part in the battles against Cell, and got the honor of being the first character to truly kill Frieza. Given all that, you'd think Kid Trunks had a powerful legacy to look forward to.
Kid Trunks did impress by becoming a Super Saiyan at a young age, but he never really did much beyond that. Sure, he could become Gotenks and transform into a Super Saiyan 3 while fused, but he never beats anyone with that form. Kid Trunks is too cocky and naive to finish his battles when he can. And then he stops training as he grows older in GT, totally squandering his potential.
Meanwhile Future Trunks comes back in Super and not only single-handedly stops Babidi and Dabura, but even winds up being the one to finish off Zamasu. It's pretty clear that if you're looking for the good version of Trunks, you have to go to the future.
When a character is good enough to beat Goku in a fight, you’d think that would solidify them as someone important going forward. Tien appeared late in the original Dragon Ball, but quickly became one of Goku’s toughest adversaries yet. Even after Goku evened up their win/loss record, Tien had exhibited so many useful techniques that it felt like a sure thing he'd have a big part to play as the story progressed. Then he encountered Nappa, and we all know how that went.
While it was shocking to see so many of the Z Fighters dominated early on into DBZ, it also seems pretty wasteful in retrospect. It made the Saiyans look too insurmountable, and all the human characters look useless. Tien was meant to be a fighter, but after his swift defeat, he and too many others were left awkwardly standing on the sidelines during so many big fights.
What was the point of Tien even being brought back to life if he wasn’t going to get any more important moments? His last hurrah was getting to impede Semi-Perfect Cell for a while with his Tri-Beams, but after that, all we can say is we hope there weren’t too many Tien fans out there. You’d have very little to look forward to.
Yes, Krillin is the character everyone jokes about because he constantly gets beaten up by people stronger than him. He’s also probably the strongest human on all of Earth. It’s just an unfortunate reality that as the franchise progressed, alien races were written as so much stronger than humans, and humans were given no way to catch up again. This is also a big part of why Tien and Videl made this list too, since they were cool characters, but had such a low ceiling on their abilities thanks to the favoritism towards Saiyans.
Krillin might have been outclassed as a fighter, but had so much potential as a person. He was Goku’s best friend from a young age, was frequently the voice of reason, and was always brave enough to face down the villains even though he knew he would probably lose. He’s one of the more endearing characters on the shows, and it’s a shame he gets shoved aside just because skyrocketing power levels became the focal point. If power was that important, Omega Shenron would be one of the most popular characters in the franchise. But personality goes a whole lot further than strength, even though it may not get rewarded as often.
Even though Pikkon is a character who only exists in the anime, he made a strong impression on fans. He was pretty much just introduced during a filler story arc to keep the anime from running out of manga material, but the show certainly treated him as someone to take notice of. Immediately after Gohan defeats Perfect Cell, we see Pikkon take out not only Cell, but the Ginyu Force, Frieza, and King Cold all by himself. So this means that Pikkon was probably the strongest character in the franchise during this brief period.
Even Goku wasn't as strong as Pikkon at first, so Pikkon became Goku's inspiration to improve himself and attain his Super Saiyan 3 form. Given how strong Pikkon is, it becomes a glaring question of why Pikkon isn't brought in to help fight against Majin Buu. Goku and Vegeta get to fight Buu despite both the Saiyans being dead, so why not Pikkon? It shows a lack of forethought to introduce someone this powerful and not use them.
The female fighters in Dragon Ball have not had a fair shake in general, but none have failed to live up to their potential more than Pan. She was clearly interested in fighting from a very young age, as shown at the end of DBZ, and as a third generation Saiyan, she should be able to tap into her powers quite easily. Goten and Kid Trunks became Super Saiyans at a very young age, so it's only logical Pan should do the same. And yet, just like every other female character, Pan couldn't transform at all.
Rumor is that there were no female Super Saiyans because Akira Toriyama couldn't figure out how they should look, but that's just a really silly reason to deny the female fighters a chance to shine. By all rights, Dragon Ball GT should have had Pan as the protagonist, showing her ascent to power and maybe even being the first Super Saiyan 4. Instead, Pan just became the new generation's Bulma with a few special attacks. If Dragon Ball Super winds up extending to when Pan is old enough to fight, hopefully the series remedies the treatment of Pan and allows her to take her logical role as the first female Super Saiyan.
Of all the characters in Dragon Ball, none has frustrated the fans more than Gohan; specifically, the trajectory of his importance in the story. The majority of Dragon Ball Z is built up hinting that Gohan has an incredible power in him waiting to be unleashed, and then in the battle with Cell, that potential finally comes to fruition. It looked like Gohan was set to take over the role of the protagonist from his dad and be the main hero going forth. And then the Great Saiyaman Saga happened.
Gohan's credability tanked with his silly new alter ego, and he stopped training as well, meaning he had now become much weaker than the other characters. There was a brief tease that Gohan might still take charge when he gained his Mystic form, but a tease is all it was.
Gohan never did anything useful in DBZ after Cell's defeat, he was useless along with most of the other characters in GT, and so far in Super he's been on the sidelines. Gohan is training again in the new series, so he might finally be getting back into form, but fans have had their hopes crushed with Gohan too often to get their expectations up.
Are there any other Dragon Ball characters you had higher expectations for? Tell us in the comments about who you think could have gone on to do more if they were just given the chance!