The Pokémon anime is full of different characters and personalities that Ash Ketchum crossed paths with during his journey to become a Pokémon Master and a champion. Of course, these people have all allowed Ash to become a better character and trainer because he learned a lot from the wins and losses he experienced at the hands of these trainers. As such, they are all important parts of the journey that Ash underwent during his time as the protagonist of the Pokémon anime.
In that regard, a lot of these trainers stood as some of the greatest of their time, and we can’t fathom just how strong some of these trainers are. They have the track record and the Pokémon to back up their success as trainers, and it was incredible that Ash was able to defeat some of them. So, with that said, let’s rank the strongest Pokémon trainers we’ve seen in the Pokémon anime.
Table of Contents show
17. Professor Kukui
16. Gary Oak
5. Steven Stone
2. Ash Ketchum
No one could ever forget about Whitney, both in the games and the anime, as she is one of the strongest trainers that Ash had to go up against. While she may not be a member of the Elite Four and was never one of the characters that were deemed to be stronger than the others, she was still a challenging opponent for Ash and even for the gamers that played the Gold and Silver games due to how tricky she is.
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With her powerful and tanky Miltank, Whitney gave Ash a lot of trouble in the anime because her go-to Pokémon can dish out punishment and take it as well. In fact, she defeated Ash in their first battle due to how Pikachu just didn’t have the firepower that could match up against Miltank. However, Pikachu did indeed stop Miltank’s powerful Rollout move as she awarded Ash her badge. And the fact that she was a tough cookie to crack for Ash gives her a spot on this list.
The thing about Alder is that he doesn’t seem as strong as he actually is because of his energetic nature. But this middle-aged man was actually one of the most powerful trainers of all time during his youth, as he was once obsessed with being the strongest trainer in the world. In that regard, he used to be incredibly strong during his younger days but was quick to understand that being a Pokémon trainer wasn’t about being the strongest and most successful.
Despite the fact that he had already become a happy-go-lucky man that loved to have fun, Alder was once the champion of Unova until Iris defeated him. It was that loss that pushed him to retirement as he now understood that he could hand his title as champion to the next generation. But a younger Alder might have been a lot stronger than he was during his older years, as we can only imagine just how great he used to be during his youth.
Ash has had his own fair share of rivals during his run as the main character of the Pokémon anime, and Paul was one of the rivals that he had to go up against. Much like Gary, Paul was a strong rival that gave Ash a lot of trouble, but the problem was that he didn’t have Gary’s carefree and kindhearted nature. Instead, Paul was a mean-spirited young man that was a jerk to people and Pokémon alike.
Still, the fact was that he had natural skills as a Pokémon nature, and it was his cold and calculated nature that allowed him to excel in battles. He pushed his Pokémon to their very limits when he was training and using them for battles. As such, he had powerful Pokémon that had his mean-spirited personality. That is why he is one of the strongest trainers in the entire Pokémon anime, despite the fact that his methods were downright wrong.
17. Professor Kukui
Professor Kukui is probably the strongest out of all of the professors in the entire Pokémon anime, as not all of the professors actually excelled as trainers. Despite the fact that he focused more on his life as a professor, Kukui was actually a famed trainer in the Alola region called the Masked Royal, who could actually hold his own against some of the strongest trainers in that region. That is why he is one of the strongest characters we’ve seen in the anime.
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Of course, let’s not forget that he is still a professor, and that means that he has the brains and the knowledge that allow him to excel as a Pokémon trainer. He is capable of defeating some of the strongest characters in the Pokémon anime and was able to hold his own against Lance and the other members of the Elite Four. In that regard, he could have been much more powerful if he had focused more on his trainer career rather than his job as a Pokémon professor.
16. Gary Oak
Arguably the most popular rival that Ash has ever had was the original one. As far as rivals go, nobody could beat the OG in the Pokémon anime because Gary simply had the spunk, personality, and skills that allowed him to excel as a Pokémon trainer. The fact that he was much better than Ash during the early years of the Pokémon anime allowed him to become a great rival to the main protagonist, who was still learning what being a trainer was all about.
As the grandson of Professor Oak, Gary had all of the natural tools and abilities that allowed him to excel as a Pokémon trainer from the very first moment he started his own journey. While he was much stronger than Ash at the start, he ended up ceding the crown to his rival after he was finally defeated. Gary focused more on following his grandfather’s footsteps as a Pokémon professor, but we can only imagine just how strong he could have been if he had continued his trainer days.
Flint himself was a member of the Elite Four in his own region and was strong enough to actually challenge Cynthia, who is one of the strongest trainers in the world of Pokémon. Of course, while he did give Cynthia a tough battle, he was still defeated but was able to prove himself good enough to give her a run for her money. And his strongest Pokémon is his powerful Infernape, which is capable of defeating two of Cynthia’s Pokémon.
His fiery and spunky nature allowed Flint to rise up as one of the strongest Pokémon trainers in the entire anime, but it was his lack of willpower that often held him back. Of course, Ash battled Flint, only to end up losing to him during their first go. And it was that battle that sparked Volkner, Flint’s rival, to train once again to become a powerful trainer.
Aaron might not look like the strongest gym leader when you only look at his appearance, but he is actually a handful, especially if you consider the fact that he is from the Sinnoh region, which is one of the toughest regions in the entire Pokémon anime and games. And the fact that he came out of the Sinnoh region as one of the members of the Elite Four says a lot about how strong of a trainer he is.
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As young as he is, Aaron is pretty strong and mature. He is a master of bug-type Pokémon, which are often overlooked in the Pokémon series and games due to how frail they look. However, Aaron proved that bug Pokémon are powerful in their own right and are capable of taking down some of the strongest Pokémon in the anime. And the fact that Aaron is able to keep up with Cynthia makes him a strong trainer in his own right as well.
We all know that dragon-type Pokémon are often some of the strongest in terms of raw abilities, and that is why Raihan fancies himself as a master of dragon Pokémon. In fact, in the anime, Raihan claims himself to be a rival of the powerful Leon, and it is that fact that allowed him to train hard enough to try to catch up with one of the strongest Pokémon trainers the anime has ever seen.
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Raihan is the Hammerlocke Gym Leader in the Galar region and is known for powerful dragon Pokémon that can easily throw a trainer off due to how difficult it is to contend with dragon Pokémon and their many powerful moves and resistances. His strongest Pokémon is Duraldon, which is enough to force Leon into a tough situation. Ultimately, Leon’s Charizard was stronger than Raihan’s Duraldon.
We can never have enough powerful dragon-type trainers on this list, as Clair is one of the strongest trainers in the world due to her special affinity for dragon Pokémon. In fact, Clair’s affinity for dragon Pokémon runs in the family because she is actually Lance’s cousin. And that means that she is just as strong as her cousin, who specializes in dragon Pokémon as well.
Clair is the gym leader of Blackthorn Gym and is one of the toughest opponents that Ash encountered in his journey. After that, Ash encountered Clair numerous times because she was one of the trainers that pushed Iris to become strong enough to handle dragon Pokémon. And Clair herself is no slouch due to the powerful Pokémon that she has at her disposal, and those who played the games would know just how tough of a gym leader she is.
Let’s not forget about the original bad guy of the Pokémon anime, as Giovanni is also one of the strongest trainers in the world. Of course, we know him as the boss of Team Rocket, and he was also the one that commissioned the creation of Mewtwo. But he was also a gym leader of Viridian City, and that means that he has the strength of a gym leader and the leadership abilities of a criminal organization boss.
If Giovanni still had Mewtwo, which he used to defeat Gary easily, he would be at the top of this list. But even without Mewtwo, he is still a handful because he is quite a charismatic individual and a capable gym leader. Of course, he is much stronger with Mewtwo in his arsenal, but he could have been stronger if he had only focused on training his Pokémon the right way.
Iris, of course, makes this list because she had one of the most inspiring journeys in the entire Pokémon anime. She was Ash’s old traveling companion but was able to work her way up to become the champion of Unova after all of the different experiences she had with her journey with Ash. Her core group of Pokémon consists of Haxorus, Excadrill, Emolga, Gible, and Dragonite.
Back in her earlier days, she struggled to make it into the deeper rounds of the tournaments. However, she has now earned her championship through hard work and effort. Of course, while she did lose to Ash in the past, she ended up earning rank 7 in the World Coronation Series, which consists of the eight strongest Pokémon trainers in the world. As such, she was ranked higher than Ash when they entered the tournament.
While Ash has had a lot of strong rivals, Alain is arguably the strongest out of all of his rivals because of the fact that he was able to work his way up to become a champion. In fact, he was the champion of the Kalos region and had a lot of strong Pokémon that include his Mega Charizard, which was strong enough to battle a legendary Pokémon like Zygarde, who we know is one of the toughest legendaries in the anime. Alain was also able to go up against Ash’s Ash-Greninja, who many people argue is his most powerful Pokémon.
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That said, Alain is one of the toughest Pokémon trainers in the anime and is Ash’s strongest rival. He has had a lot of different wins in his lifetime and is incredibly accomplished for someone as young as he is.
Lance is one of the OG characters of Pokémon and was once the strongest trainer in the world in the eyes of many fans. After all, he won the Elite Four Cup and the Pokémon World Tournament. As such, he ended up entering the World Coronation Series ranked as one of the strongest trainers, behind the likes of Leon, who we know is the strongest trainer in the world. As such, we know that he is an incredibly gifted and skilled trainer.
Arguably the strongest dragon trainer in the entire anime, Lance was able to give Leon a hard time before losing to him as a runner-up. Even so, he was always one of the strongest trainers in the world and was able to showcase his strength not only as an Elite Four member but also as a person that arrests bad guys for a living. In that regard, we know that he is capable of taking down entire criminal organizations with his powerful Pokémon.
While a lot of the strong trainers in Pokémon are strictly trainers, Diantha is an exception because she also works as an actress. In that regard, she lives a pretty glamorous life but is still an incredibly strong trainer. She is a Pokémon champion from the Kalos region and is one of the top trainers that were ranked during the World Coronation Series. That means that she is not someone any trainer should mess with.
Coming into the World Coronation Series as the fifth strongest trainer in the world, she defeated Lance himself and has a pretty balanced team that consists of powerful Pokémon, such as Gardevoir, Tyrantrum, Hawlucha, Aurorus, Gourgeist, and Goodra. One can only wonder how strong she could have been if she had focused more on her career as a trainer.
While he wasn’t a character ranked among the eight strongest trainers in the world during the World Coronation Series, there is no doubt that Brandon is still one of the toughest trainers in the world. He is the Pyramid King of the Battle Pyramid and has the strength and Pokémon that allowed him to obtain his rank. And the reason why he is as strong as he is can be attributed to the fact that he has three legendary titans in his roster.
Brandon is one of the few trainers that forced Ash to battle him multiple times before losing. Ash needed to bring in some of his strongest Pokémon from the Kanto region to stand a chance against Brandon. And Brandon only used Regice in that battle, as he could have easily defeated Ash if he had used all of his legendary Pokémon.
5. Steven Stone
There are a lot of recurring characters in the Pokémon series, and Steven Stone is one of them because of how important he is in the storyline of the anime. In that regard, he is similar to the likes of Lance and Cynthia due to his status as a recurring character. And he is also similar to them due to the fact that he is incredibly strong.
Steven Stone is the champion of the Hoenn region and is one of the strongest trainers in the world. In fact, he has one of the higher ranks in the World Coronation Series, as he is behind only the likes of Leon, Cynthia, and Lance in that regard. And the fact that he has powerful steel Pokémon is the reason why he is considered one of the strongest trainers in the anime.
Even though Tobias wasn’t ranked in the World Coronation Series, he is still one of the strongest trainers in the Pokémon anime because of the fact that he has legendary Pokémon at his disposal. In fact, he is known for possessing powerful mythical and legendary Pokémon in the likes of Darkrai and Latios. And this is why he is one of the strongest trainers in the entire series.
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Tobias once claimed that he defeated every powerful trainer in the Sinnoh region using his Darkrai alone, and that means that he is no slouch. In fact, the only trainer to ever defeat his Darkrai was Ash. However, using his Latios, Tobias cleaned the floor with Ash’s Pokémon as it is safe to say that he could stand up to almost every other trainer in the anime if he were to use his full power.
Cynthia is one of the recurring names in the Pokémon anime due to her status as one of the strongest trainers in the world. In fact, entering the World Coronation Series, she was ranked second behind only Leon himself, and that means that she was known as the strongest trainer in the world at that time. We know her as the champion of the Sinnoh region and a trainer that has a balanced team of Garchomp, Gasrodon, Glaceon, Roserade, and Kommo-o.
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Of course, Cynthia played important roles in Black & White and Diamond and Pearl due to her status as one of the strongest Pokémon in the world. In fact, her status as one of the strongest trainers in the world allowed her to consistently train and beat the likes of Flint and Aaron, among others.
2. Ash Ketchum
There is no doubt that the protagonist of the anime series makes it on this list as one of the strongest Pokémon trainers in the world of the Pokémon anime. Ash Ketchum is a character that worked his way from the bottom all the way to the top. He used all of his failures and victories to improve himself and find a way to become a better Pokémon trainer in a real-world span of more than 20 years.
In fact, those who grew up watching Ash were touched and overjoyed when he finally made it to the World Coronation Series as one of the top trainers in the world. And when Ash defeated Leon in the final battle with his partner, Pikachu, the entire world could not help but shed a tear, as everyone knows how long of a journey he took to make it to the top of the world as the strongest Pokémon trainer.
While we did say that Ash Ketchum defeated him in the final battle of the World Coronation Series, we still regard Leon as the strongest Pokémon trainer in the world due to the fact that he has consistently been at the top of the standings. In fact, his resume says it all, as he is stronger than the likes of Cynthia, Lance, and Steven. That means that he has consistency on his side despite the fact that he lost to Ash just recently.
Coming into the World Coronation Series as the top Pokémon trainer in the world, Leon has never had a weak moment. In fact, his weakest moments were still strong points for him, especially when he went up against the likes of Eternatus. His most powerful Pokémon is his Charizard, who is capable of defeating legendary Pokémon due to how strong he is.
Ysmael “Eng” Delicana is a writer based in Davao City, Philippines. He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics at Ateneo de Davao University before continuing to teach part-time at the same university. While teaching was a fun gig, being a geek and a writer seemed to be his cal...