At this point in the Dragon Ball anime, Piccolo is several levels behind Goku, but a way does exist for him to become the strongest Z-Warrior again.
Despite not being near the level of Goku, it’s actually possible for Piccolo to surpass him as the strongest warrior in the Dragon Ball anime. The last time Piccolo was anywhere near Goku’s level was in the Android Saga. As the fight with Perfect Cell approached, Goku grew much stronger and left Piccolo behind. The gap between them widened after that, with Piccolo becoming more and more irrelevant as the series progressed.
There was a time when Piccolo was the Z-Warriors’ best hope of survival when Goku wasn’t around, but those days have long since passed. Several heroes ended up exceeding him in power, and for this reason Piccolo hasn’t been the force to be reckoned with that he used to be. In the Buu Saga, he was limited to the role of a guide for Goten and Trunks, as it was made clear early on that what power he possessed was no match for Majin Buu. This continued into Dragon Ball Super, with Piccolo being significantly weaker than the show’s main villains. However, his victory over Super Saiyan 2 Gohan and performance in the Tournament of Power has proven that Piccolo hasn’t given up on improving his fight ability.
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While Piccolo has gotten considerably stronger, he’s still a long way from Goku and Vegeta. Since the two Saiyans are always reaching new heights, no amount of training would allow Piccolo to catch up to them. That being said, there is a way for him to get back on their level. Doing so would hinge on the Namekian fusion ability. Piccolo can merge with other Namekians to create one being. By fusing with Nail, he attained enough power to challenge Frieza. Also, it was with the addition of Kami’s essence that he was able to fight evenly with Android 17. It was thanks to this ability that he was Dragon Ball’s strongest Z-Warrior for a short time in the Android Saga.
Dragon Ball Super’s Tournament of Power arc introduced two Namekians who could give Piccolo the power he’d need to overtake Goku and Vegeta. During the story, Piccolo and Gohan found out that all of the Namekians of Universe 6 merged into two members of their species, Saonel and Pilina, in an effort to boost Universe 6’s chances of winning. With every member of their people living on in Saonel and Pilina, the two Namekians were strong enough to match up well with Ultimate Gohan, who is the anime’s third strongest hero. If Saonel and Pilina were to fuse with Piccolo, he’d have every Universe 6 Namekian within him. As for why that would happen at all, it could be that a future villain will threaten the existence of both Universe 6 and Universe 7. If something like that were to occur, it could be that they’ll decide to make the same sacrifice that their race made leading up to the Tournament of Power.
It’s worth noting that Piccolo is incredibly strong as he is. Plus, based on the impressive gains he made in the manga continuation, there’s a good chance his power could even rival Android 17’s at this point. Adding the energy of two characters close to Ultimate Gohan’s level to what Piccolo already has would be more than enough to push him beyond Goku. Since Goku is the show’s main protagonist, such a change would be unlikely to last for long, but since Dragon Ball Z let Piccolo pass him once before, the anime could do it again, albeit briefly. Even if Goku quickly surpasses him again, the dramatic increase in power would still make Piccolo an invaluable ally in the battles to come.
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