A Pokemon trainer can only be matched by his rival. And the anime has had multiple rivals for Ash to face off over the years. Some generations have had more than one rival for Ash. These rivals always had engaging battles and this list counts down five of the best.
This guy is lowest on the list because he mostly took a backseat to Trip and didn’t play much to push Ash when it came to battles. Nevertheless Stephan was an intense and passionate battler with a couple of strong Pokemon to back him up. The only problem was that it was literally only a couple. Aside from Zebstrika and Sawk we saw no other Pokemon under Stephan’s ownership before the league and didn’t get to see much of his team and by extension him grow. Nevertheless he had potential to be an engaging rival to Ash.
Although he didn’t appear until the Hoenn League itself, the anime wasted no time showing Tyson as a humble and likable trainer. He had a powerhouse team that packed some brute force and tactically utilized the strengths of his Pokemon, which contrasted perfectly Ash’s more outside-the-box ideas. The Hoenn League episodes prior to Ash’s battle showcased these things quite well and it even though Ash lost, it felt like a legitimately fair loss.
This was a rival largely inferior to Ash at first but looked up to him as a friend and rival. Though Sawyer suffered his fair share of losses at the beginning, he would always record his knowledge after every battle and aspired to be stronger. And as the episodes continued, Sawyer’s confidence and knowledge would increase and be largely reflected in his Pokemon to the point where he eventually surpassed Ash. Regardless, both trainers continued to be the best they could be culminating in one heck of a league battle between the two.
2. Gary Oak
This was the longest rivalry in the anime and it developed well from start to finish. Gary was the jerk who at first was far ahead and Ash was the naïve beginner who didn’t know what he was getting into. While Gary lost before Ash in the Kanto league pretty much taking away the prospect for Ash and Gary to face off. But this proved to take an interesting turn as while Ash was on the Orange Islands afterwards, Gary was also training. The two met up once again when Ash returned home and Gary won thus reviving their rivalry. But it changed things, as no longer was Gary the snobbish jerk when Ash and his friends would meet up with him in the future but still remained ahead. This put a good weight on their rivalry which gave way to their battle in the Johto League which changed the both of them greatly but still kept to the heart of their rivalry: Gary was ahead and Ash had a lot to learn.
He was cold-hearted, distant, and even downright abusive to his Pokemon. With that being said, Paul was still a layered character. Though both him and Ash had different paths, the two had the same goal. And even though Paul was mean trainer time and again he had his own bonds with his Pokemon like Electivire, Torterra, Honchkrow, etc. and showed himself to be quite strategic. What made Paul interesting was his story came from his older brother’s inability to beat the Battle Frontier Brain Brandon to the point he drove himself to be far better and challenged Brandon on the spot. Though Paul was swept just like his brother it still drove him to train his Pokemon better leading to the battle at Lake Acuity. Ash and Paul had several rival battles and Paul would often come out on top. And these battles had a profound affect on Ash resulting in each of their battles building on the next. Chimchar was the centerpiece of their rivalry and showed the differences in both trainers. Paul wanted to bring out Chimchar’s blaze but even with all his force was unable to do so to the point he angrily released it. Ash managed to do so through nicer means but often with catastrophic results. Though both disagreed with one another both had some level of acceptance for their styles, we saw how the best and worst results of their styles, and by the end learned to respect each other. These two had two full battles and they are easily the best in the series in just how much they are reflected in their Pokemon. Cynthia’s saying “when one life meets another life, something will be born” was largely reflected in these two and though a mutual hate was born at first, a bigger insight grew from it.
Are there any other rivals you think deserved to be here? Any you agree or disagree with? Well leave your thoughts in the comments below.