Vegeta's story is curious. A character never truly appreciated by the creator of Dragon Ball Akira Toriyama, who slowly becomes the fan favorite. On the complexity front, the Saiyan prince has always shown interesting nuances, but there is a field in which he is never, never managed to overcome the rival of a lifetime.
Goku is stronger than Vegeta, and it has been since the Freeza saga in Dragon Ball Z. In twenty years the Saiyan prince has never managed to reach the level of the protagonist, who has always exceeded him in strength, tenacity and tactical intelligence, as admitted by the same Vegeta after the fight with Hit in Dragon Ball Super. Goku is not, however, a character written to be stronger, nor a hero who always makes the best decision. So what are the reasons that make him superior to the Saiyan prince? First of all, the motivation for which he wants to improve.
During the Majin Buu Saga, Vegeta admits for the first time that he is not on par with his rival. Until then the protagonist had always trained to become stronger, fighting to protect the people he cared about and not for the mere taste of increasing one's power. Vegeta begins to understand it only at the end of Dragon Ball Z, after a long series of episodes spent training to fill the gap, desperately trying to reach his rival. As admitted by Akira Toriyama in an interview, Saiyans who are born alone must learn new techniques without any help. Goku begins his journey without knowing how to fly or use waves of energy, growing after facing gradually stronger opponents and learning empathy and respect. On the contrary Vegeta was born and raised from number one, eliminating weaker breeds with the help of his companions. Between two, only one really grew, while the other simply used his strength.
The second reason is that between the two, Goku never gave up. After seeing Gohan reach the form of the second level Super Saiyan in Dragon Ball Z, Vegeta's pride suffers a severe blow and the Saiyan even promises to stop fighting. Freeza, Cell and Majin Buu are just a few examples: Vegeta cannot recognize his limits, but loses the will to fight when he realizes he is weaker than his opponent. This mentality will lead Vegeta to lose against all Dragon Ball villains, while Goku's will - combined with the awareness of not being inferior to anyone - will lead him to unlock the Ultra Instinct.
On the battle front, the discussion changes slightly, because Vegeta has always been a technically more capable warrior. Having been born on a planet of warriors, Vegeta has a less crude technique, a quality that has often led him to have the best in sporadic clashes with Goku. However, the protagonist has enormously superior intelligence, at least as regards the clashes. Goku isn't the brightest of characters, but he turns into a real genius during the fights. His ability to analyze allows him to discover in advance the secret of Hit's technique in Dragon Ball Super, to understand the weakness of Bergamo and even to take advantage of Kefla's energy wave to beat her during the Tournament of Power.
Finally, Goku has an extreme passion for combat, and precisely this has often stood out for courage and self-denial. Goku does not split well and badly, which is why he often leaves extremely dangerous opponents alive. During the Tournament of Power, Goku's team was 60% made up of former villains, including the character who exterminated his entire race. Goku does not train to fill a gap but because fighting has made him what he is, and there is no problem discussing or allying with anyone who can help him grow.
Goku has beaten almost all the Dragon Ball antagonists, unlocked more transformations, learned more techniques and always worked to improve himself. Vegeta on the other hand has proven time and again that he is a warrior of the highest caliber, but has never really surpassed his rival.
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