Everyone knows one of the major appeals of the shows of Dragon Ball is the fighting. No matter how powerful the characters get they always find a way to surpass their plateaus and up the ante even further. After a while it seems like it would be hard to do anything new in the fights, but despite the hundreds of episodes we've had in the anime, plus the movies, the fighters can still surprise us.
A major injury can often be just what a big fight needs to take it the next level. We're not talking about death scenes during this article since the most violent kills could be found on their own list entirely. We're keeping things non-fatal, but that doesn't mean the damage will be any less vicious.
Lopped off limbs, impalement, and decapitations? We're going to see all of that as we get into the 17 Most Brutal Dragon Ball Injuries, Ranked.
17 SPOPOVICH BRUTALIZES VIDEL
Videl's time as a fighter proved to be very short-lived. She became interested in it after she realized the power Gohan had, and she blackmailed him into teaching her some techniques, such as how to fly. Videl quickly grew in power enough that she would certainly have been able to hold her own against most normal humans. She entered the World Martial Arts Tournament no doubt expecting to wipe the floor with most of her competition. However, Spopovich threw a wrench in that plan.
None of the Z Fighters knew that Spopovich was under the evil control of Babidi, so they were totally surprised at the power he had. Videl was completely outmatched by the fighter and wound up being tortured by him. Spopovich could have ended the fight at any time, but he dragged out the bout to savor it by making her scream. Despite Videl not suffering any lasting harm, it was still an uncomfortable scene to watch.
16 ANDROID 18 BREAKS VEGETA'S ARM
After Vegeta became a Super Saiyan it looked like nothing could stop him. We had just seen Goku fall sick with his heart disease and get dominated by Android 19, but Vegeta killed 19 easily. This was a rare occasion where Vegeta was actually the strongest member of the Z Fighters. There's no doubt he could have easily killed off Android 20 as well, but instead he came upon 16, 17, and 18.
Initially Vegeta took on 18 one on one, but it quickly became evident he was outmatched. The rest of the Z Fighters jumped in to save their friend, but 17 came to his sister's aid and the two androids wiped the floor with the heroes. Vegeta was still resilient, though, and wound up fighting to the end. Unfortunately for the Saiyan Prince, that meant he suffered the biggest blow to be put down: 18 broke the warrior's arm with a kick and left him screaming in pain.
15 RECOOME BREAKS GOHAN'S NECK
The Ginyu Force debuted looking pretty comical, but seeing as how their arrival was enough to frighten Vegeta, it should have been clear that they were no laughing matter. For anyone who still doubted these new villains, the jokes quickly stopped once Recoome stepped up to challenge the Z Fighters. Guldo had died without too much of a fuss, but Recoome was every bit of the powerhouse he looked. He trashed Vegeta and still had more left in the tank - and then he moved onto Krillin and Gohan.
This is usually the point where Gohan's anger comes to the forefront and he is able to inflict some serious damage. Gohan did tap into his rage here, but he was still so untrained that he put it all into one attack which didn't finish the job. Recoome counterattacked against an exhausted Gohan and didn't hold back, taking the young Saiyan out with a strong kick that left Gohan's neck twisted.
14 VEGETA RIPS OFF ANDROID 19'S HANDS
Ranking all of these injuries we can hardly call this one of the top three injuries within the anime or anything like that. Robots getting hurt just doesn't have the same impact as humans getting hurt. With humans we know the injury will likely be permanent, but with robots there really should not be anything stopping them from just getting a new mechanical limb or whatever else they need replaced.
Still, it's not often that fights in Dragon Ball result in missing body parts, so this moment certainly stood out. Android 19 was feeling cocky having dominated a Super Saiyan Goku, but Vegeta was a Super Saiyan who wasn't suffering from a heart virus. The Prince of all Saiyans immediately showed how devastating a healthy member of his race could be when he beat down 19.
In a desperate attempt, 19 latched onto Vegeta with his energy-draining hands, but Vegeta just pulled back with all his might to rip 19's hands right off.
13 GOKU BLACK STABS VEGETA WITH A SWORD
Dragon Ball Super has been fun so far, but fans have definitely noticed how it seems to have scaled back on the brutality that Dragon Ball Z introduced. The show is a lot less bloody, and serious injuries don't crop up anywhere near as often. But there have still been some vicious moments here and there. Goku Black can be credited with a number of them, as a matter of fact, since the villain's arc was when the series really started getting into high-stakes confrontations again.
Goku Black had already devastated Future Trunks' timeline worse than even the androids had, but he also quickly demonstrated his power against the strongest heroes. Vegeta stepped up to challenge Black, no doubt happy for a chance to pummel any version of Goku, but Black had a few surprises to share.
Black was able to manipulate his energy into forming weapons, something he demonstrated by encasing his hand in an energy sword and driving it straight through Vegeta's chest. It shocked everyone, and was so brutal that it knocked Vegeta out of his super form and left him to fall to the ground.
12 FRIEZA IMPALES KRILLIN ON HIS HORNS
When we first see Frieza on Namek he really does not look that intimidating. He is small, frequently uses a hovercraft to get around, and is always relying on lackeys to do his dirty work. It could give the impression that Frieza is all talk with no power to back it up. But the tyrant quickly cleared up that misconception when he began unveiling his transformations. As early as his second form, Frieza was already devastating the Z Fighters.
Probably the most brutal moment we witness in Frieza's second form is when he finally shows his horns are for more than decoration. While Krillin is floating in the air Frieza charges upward and rams one of his horns right through Krillin's body. Frieza laughs at Krillin's pain and even bucks him around on the horn before tossing him off and expecting to leave him for dead. Fortunately Dende saved Krillin before he succumbed to his injury.
11 CELL BLOWS A HOLE THROUGH PICCOLO'S STOMACH
It really is incredible how quickly the tables can turn in Dragon Ball. Not too long after Androids 17 and 18 whooped the Z Fighters, the heroes all went about powering up as quickly as possible. For Piccolo, that meant fusing with his other half who he had been separated from since the days of the original Dragon Ball: Kami. Though they had little love for each other, the two Namekians were willing to fuse and join their power if it meant stopping Cell. So Piccolo became a Super Namekian and went for a rematch against Android 17.
Piccolo was holding his own this time, and was even the strongest of all the Z Fighters at this point. Then Cell arrived, also freshly powered up after absorbing lots of civilians. Piccolo stood no chance against Cell and couldn't even hurt him. Cell said point blank that Piccolo was trash to him now, and didn't bother playing games.
Cell blew an energy blast straight through Piccolo's body, disintegrating part of his abdomen, and threw him into the nearby water to die. Piccolo's regenerative abilities saved him, but even the androids were horrified at Cell's brutality.
10 ANDROID 20 IMPALES YAMCHA
The androids sure did introduce a vicious streak into the franchise, didn't they? There were definitely violent moments before they arrived, but so many of these entries are featuring the androids for a reason. This was actually the first demonstration we had of the power of the androids, and it definitely made an impact. Yeah, Yamcha is one of the weakest Z Fighters, but he can still hold his own far better than an average human. This encounter seemed to dampen his interest in trying to continue fighting though.
Androids 19 and 20 were on a killing spree in a city, but the Z Fighters showed up to put a stop to it. Yamcha had the misfortune of unknowingly being the first one to encounter the enemies, and he didn't even get a chance to attack them.
Android 20 immediately demonstrated his power by clamping a hand down over Yamcha's face to begin absorbing his power. Then he lifted Yamcha up and 20 stabbed his hand through the warrior’s stomach. The Z Fighters arrived in time save their friend, but it's obvious that much longer and the wounds would have left Yamcha dead.
9 GOHAN PUNCHES A HOLE THROUGH BOJACK
The movies don't usually have the time to do as much with their fights as the shows in Dragon Ball, but we have still seen some pretty fun encounters. The only injury of the movies that really ranks among one of the most brutal moments we've seen came from the movie Bojack Unbound. This came after Gohan had defeated Cell and had access to his Super Saiyan 2 form, but still needed encouragement to tap into it.
Bojack definitely gave Gohan incentive to show his strength when he endangered all of Gohan's friends fighting at his side. Gohan's rage finally got the better of him, and he easily wiped out each of Bojack's underlings until only the two of them were left. Whatever confidence Bojack had left was shattered when Gohan punched straight through the villain's torso, signaling the imminent end of the antagonist. Bojack could have survived, but Gohan was past being merciful.
8 CELL DESTROYS ANDROID 16'S BODY
How much can one fighter lose and still not die? Android 16 shows the answer to that question in pretty brutal fashion when he stands up to Perfect Cell. 16 believes he still has a bomb in his body that could destroy Cell, and he latches onto the antagonist with the plan to detonate himself. It turns out Bulma had already removed the bomb earlier, leaving 16 in a pretty awkward situation. So since 16 wanted to explode so bad, Cell gives the android his wish.
Cell easily destroys 16's entire body, sending metal flying everywhere. It looks like the certain death of 16, but like Guldo, 16 manages to live on as just a head. It's impressive, but also like Guldo, 16 isn't long for the world in this new state. Cell eventually finishes the job, but 16 technically could have survived and presumably been rebuilt even despite suffering this injury.
7 PICCOLO CHOPS BABIDI IN HALF
Despite Babidi being a wizard capable of manipulating some of the strongest fighters we had seen, the villain himself was no threat to the majority of the capable fighters around. Initially Babidi hides behind Dabura, but once he has Majinn Buu, he becomes even more overconfident. The danger of this is that when Babidi's minion is preoccupied, he is extremely vulnerable. Piccolo is quick to take advantage of this vulnerability.
Piccolo has been around long enough to know not to waste time talking when there’s an advantage to be had. The Namekian shows he has a brain by seizing the opportunity he has and attempting to kill Babidi while he has the chance. He chops right through Babidi and severs the wizard at the waist. It’s a miracle Babidi even survived that much, but he likely would have bled to death if left on his own. However, Buu also reveals he has healing powers and is nice enough to piece his master back together.
6 PICCOLO RIPS OFF HIS OWN ARM
Though at this point it's common knowledge that Namekians can regrow their body parts, when fans were first introduced to this technique it was quite shocking. Piccolo demonstrates it in the original Dragon Ball in his fight against Goku. It looked like Goku had gained the advantage by debilitating one of Piccolo's arms, but Piccolo just ripped it right off and grew a fully formed new one in its place. Even if you can regrow body parts that still has to be agony to go through.
We see this technique demonstrated a few more times in Dragon Ball Z, but it never gets any less disgusting to watch. Piccolo makes use of the move a couple more times when he needs to, even regrowing his withered arm after Cell drains it with his tail. Nail also gets to show off the move in his fight with Frieza, but it does little good in keeping him alive for much longer.
5 TIEN LOSES HIS ARM
It seemed like Dragon Ball Z was looking to show how much more brutal it could be than its previous show right off the bat. We started with the very first fight of the show resulting in Goku's death, and then in the second big fight against Nappa and Vegeta the Z Fighters wound up dropping like flies. The original Dragon Ball raised the stakes towards the latter portion of the series, but DBZ came right out of the gate with the tension being high.
Tien, in particular, showcased the darker tone of the series with how viciously he was treated by Nappa. Tien had been one of Goku's toughest opponents not that long ago, but here he was outmatched by Nappa to the point that he got violently maimed. Nappa punched right through Tien's arm, severing the limb for one of the show's most gruesome injuries. Fortunately he got the limb back after he was sent to the afterlife.
4 GOHAN GETS HIS ARM CHOPPED OFF
Being a warrior in the world of Dragon Ball certainly does put you at risk of dismemberment pretty often, doesn't it? Even with all the other instances we have mentioned of characters losing body parts, Gohan probably had it the worst in that regard. Gohan couldn't just regrow his arm like a Namekian, and he also didn't die shortly after only to regain his arm in the afterlife like Tien. Gohan actually had to live with the result of his disfigurement.
This only happened to Future Gohan in the timeline where Androids 17 and 18 take over the Earth, but it's no less difficult to watch, knowing the main timeline's Gohan could have gone through this. Gohan protects Trunks at all costs in the future, and it finally has a price when the androids try to blast Gohan away in an amusement park. Gohan and Trunks survive, but the former's arm is gone for good.
3 GULDO GETS DECAPITATED
As crazy as it sounds, this was not initially a terminal injury. Guldo was a pretty unique character and he stayed that way to the end. He started out as the weakest member of the Ginyu Force, but he was welcomed among this team of elite warriors due to his ability to freeze his opponents in place by holding his breath. Guldo was actually very close to being successful in killing Gohan and Krillin, but then Vegeta intervened.
While Guldo was distracted, Vegeta quickly ended the fight by cutting off his enemy's head. That obviously would have been the conclusion of the encounter right there, but not for the reason you'd immediately think. Guldo wasn't dead, and in fact was still capable of talking. We can't imagine Guldo would have been able to control his body anymore, though, so perhaps he would have simply lived on as a talking head for the remainder of his years. We never found out, though, because Vegeta used an energy blast to finish Guldo off.
2 FRIEZA GETS SLICED IN HALF
You thought Piccolo was insane in injuring himself by ripping off his own arm? Frieza upped the ante on that in his climactic fight against Goku on Namek by quite a margin - though admittedly Frieza was not intentionally injuring himself. The tyrant had simply grown so frustrated by Goku's Super Saiyan powers that he was desperate, so he launched an attack quite similar to Krillin's Destructo Disk at Goku. Unfortunately for Frieza, his aim was control over the move was poor and he diced himself clean in two.
Frieza's race is quite resilient, though, as evidenced by the fact that Frieza went on to withstand the explosion of Namek. Not only did Frieza survive severing his own legs, but he even continued his fight against Goku despite the injury. By that point it was beyond hope, but you have to admire Frieza's tenacity. People remember him being humiliated by Goku, but with nothing left to lose, Frieza showed he’s a pretty tough villain.
1 GOKU BLOWS OFF CELL'S HEAD WITH A KAMEHAMEHA
If you thought Guldo had it rough being decapitated and yet still surviving, Cell managed to outdo him. In fact, Cell might just have the most brutal non-lethal injury we have ever seen. It transpired during the Cell games when Cell had attained his Perfect form and was looking to test it out against challenges. Of course Goku inevitably stepped up to accept that challenge.
Goku gave it his all, but as he predicted before the fight ever began, he could not beat Cell. You can't say Goku did not try, though. It looked like Goku actually had the fight won at one point when he used Instant Transmission to get up close and personal for a surprise Kamehameha that obliterated Cell's upper half, head included. But every single piece of Cell had to be destroyed simultaneously or else he would always just come back, as demonstrated during this fight.
Have there been any other injuries that left you wincing throughout Dragon Ball? Tell us which beat down you think was the most brutal in the comments!