21-year-old Tenshinhan appears at the start of the World Tournament along with Tsurusen'in and Chaozu. Tenshinhan has Chaozu rig the tournament so that he can observe the others and fight the people he wants to. His first match after the preliminaries is with Yamcha. Yamcha is able to put up a decent fight, but even after using an improved Wolf Fang Fist, he is unable to hurt Tien. Yamcha resorts to a Kamehameha, only to have it deflected back. Tenshinhan knocks Yamcha out and then breaks his leg for good measure.
He later fights Jackie Chun (secretly Muten Roshi); it is not only a physical battle, but a mental one as well he warns Tien that he is going down an evil path if he does not stop doing bad things, eventually he figures out that he is Roshi and defeats him with a Kamehameha (which he learned from watching Yamcha) causing him to forfeit the match, after the match he questions why he gave up since he still had a lot of fight in him, he responds that he is getting too old and that the one of the younger fighters will eventually take his place and that he could be the one to do it if he stops listening to Tsurusen'in.
He eventually faces off against Son Goku in the finals. They seem to be pretty even until Goku suddenly stops moving; as it turns out Chaozu is being forced to control Goku's movements by Tsurusen'in. Tenshinhan tells him to stop, but Tsurusen'in would not let him and he orders Chaozu to continue the psychic manipulation but Chaozu declines, so Tsurusen'in threatens him. It is that moment that he realizes that the Crane Elder was evil all along, as Muten Roshi saves the day and blows Tsurusen'in away with a Kamehameha. With Tsurusen'in gone, the fight resumes and Tenshinhan tells Goku to forfeit who then refuses because he intends to win. He then tells Goku that he will destroy the fighting platform so that Goku will be forced to go out of bounds. Tenshinhan warns him that the technique he is going to use, the Kikoho, is very deadly and that no one has survived it. After using it, he is horrified that Goku appears to have died in the explosion, but as it turns out he leaped up into the sky and chases Tenshinhan. The fight continues until they both go crashing down into the earth after Goku forces him to go down by launching a Kamehameha backwards. Goku crashes into a truck and hits the ground first, making Tenshinhan the winner. Tenshinhan apologizes for his action afterwards and offers to share the prize money, which Goku declines.
Tenshinhan then becomes a member of the Z warriors making him a powerful ally, starting with the Demon King Piccolo saga which occurs immediately after these events. After Emperor Pilaf release the Demon King Piccolo from the electric rice cooker, he goes on a rampage to find the Dragon Balls. Kuririn, Roshi, and Chaozu are killed in his wake and Tenshinhan learns the Mafuba evil containment wave after witnessing Roshi do it. However, he fails to use it on Piccolo who then has his son Drum attack him. Goku then saves Tenshinhan by killing Drum before later defeating and killing Piccolo who then spawns a final son.
Tenshinhan later enters the next Tenkaichi Budokai when fighting against Tsurusen'in's brother, Tao Pai Pai, who has been cybernetically restored and enhanced. He had idolized Tao as a child but after seeing how unethical he was after scarring him with a katana, he then nullified Tao's Super Dodonpa with kiai and punched him unconscious. He then told Tsurusen'in to take his brother and never bother him again.
Dragon Ball Z
Tenshinhan later plays a role in Dragon Ball Z when he fights against the Saiyans, Vegeta and Nappa. He defeats one of their cultivated Saibamen warriors before going up against Nappa. Yamcha and Chaozu have already perished and then Tenshinhan puts the last of his lifeforce in one Kikoho which destroys Nappa's armor but does not harm him. Tenshinhan then dies and Piccolo (son of of the original Demon King Piccolo) also perishes.
The four deceased warriors then train on Kaio's planet and in an anime filler, the Ginyu Special Force is invited to battle them. Tenshinhan fights against Jheese and Butta and blasts them into hell.
Tenshinhan is later wished back to life and he plays a role in the Androids saga when he is called up against the Artificial Humans. He later attempts to fight Android 17, only to be knocked out cold. He later attempts to buy time for the Saiyan Z Warriors training by using his Kikoho on a Semi-Perfect Cell. He then is exhausted before Goku comes and saves him.
Tenshinhan is one of the Z Warriors in the Cell Games and he fights one of Cell Juniors before Son Gohan kills them all. After Gohan kills Cell, Tenshinhan hardly plays any roles except for attempting to fight Super Buu. Other than that, he and Chaozu only have cameos.