All Pokemon Champions Ranked Weakest To Strongest

Pokemon Champions
All the Champions of Pokemon through Kalos..... wait where's Wallace?

There are 15 characters in the main series of Pokemon who you fight as Champion or were confirmed to be Champion in the past. And with many of these, the relative simplicity of Pokemon is ignored in favor of tough battles. Some Champions didn’t get the memo and aren’t even the hardest battle in their games (you know who you are). With such a small number, ranking them from weakest to strongest is a difficult task. Given the nature of Pokemon, objectively determining strength is complicated, but for my money, here are all the Pokemon Champions in ascending order.

15. Trace (Let’s Go! Pikachu and Let’s Go! Eevee)

Trace doesn't deserve to be called Champion

Let it be said I like most of the Champions on this list as characters. Trace is the glaring exception. Not only is he probably the worst friendly rival in the series, but he also takes over Blue’s role in the story and battles, including the final Championship match. You don’t do the original rival dirty like that.

Calling Trace “discount Blue” is fairly accurate, as not only does he take over Blue’s story role and do it worse, he even uses remixes of Blue’s music. He does differ a bit in the handling of Team Rocket, actively opposing them with you and gaining a Cubone from their misdeeds. But aside from that, he’s Blue but overly nice. 

And his Champion team? Mega Pidgeot, Vileplume, Marowak, Rapidash, Slowbro, and Jolteon/Raichu depending on the version. And they all only have three moves! None are terrible Pokemon, but they’re horribly underutilized and just don’t stack up to other Champions. Trace has a lot to learn.

And yeah, there isn’t much more to this guy. Lackluster team, a boring character who replaces a great one, and all we get for it is some slight Rocket involvement. Pass, this guy more than deserves the bottom spot.

Pokémon Let's Go Pikachu & Eevee : Champion Battle Music (HQ)


14. Geeta (Scarlet and Violet)

Geeta looking far more impressive than she is

I didn’t expect Geeta to rank this low when I first played Violet. She starts strong, being presented as the Top Champion of Paldea’s League. She is referred to as La Primera, Spanish for The First, and is friendly and encouraging of new Trainers. It is even said she is incapable of holding back in battle.

So why is her team such a joke? Espathra, Gogoat, Veluza, and Avalugg are capable of putting up a fight but not that hard. And then Kingambit and Glimmora…. oh boy.

These two show a fundamental lack of strategy in her team building. Her ace Glimmora has no business being last, as its Ability sets up Toxic Spikes for the opponent when it's hit. She 100% should have led with this thing. 

And Kingambit? Its Ability gives it a 10% power increase for all its attacks for every fainted Pokemon in the party. Why exactly is this not her ace so she can hit you with 50% stronger moves? It wouldn’t have put her close to the top, but just putting Glimmora first and Kingambit last would have made her much harder. At least her theme is cool.

So we have a propped-up Champion who doesn’t live up to the hype, anything else? Yes actually: most of the Gym Leaders don’t like her very much. Of the eight, four express dissatisfaction, distaste, or nervousness around her, and a fifth seems to not care for her as well. That means only three of the eight seem to like her. Not the best performance La Primera. 

In fact, the only people to openly like her are your rival Nemona and Rika of the Elite Four. Rika’s pretty straightforward with simply praising her, while Neoma openly admires her and is admired in return. She is openly supportive of Nemona’s desire to find a true rival in the player, giving her some good traits.

She is also largely credited for much of the design and building of parts of Mesagoza’s academy. This does fit with her desire to see strong new Trainers arise in Paldea, as the academy teaches them and helps them on their path, much like you in the games. 

So overall Geeta is… a terrible Champion despite all the buildup. And her traits as a character leave a lot in doubt as well. As Scarlet and Violet still have DLC incoming, she does have the chance to improve and possibly go higher on this list, but as of now, Geeta is the second-worst Champion in the series.

Pokémon Scarlet & Violet - Champion Battle Music (HQ)


13. Peony (Sword and Shield)

Peony posing for the camera

And here we have Peony, the first former Champion on the list. And this makes him a bit harder to rank, as he’s old and retired when you battle him. But given what we know about him, I do feel comfortable putting him above Trace and Geeta.

Peony is Chairman Rose’s younger brother, and while both specialized in Steel types, Rose was seen as the more gifted one. Peony grew to resent his brother, and while he was Champion, Rose ascended to Chairman of the League. Peony resigned soon after and left for the Crown Tundra to research its Legendary Pokemon.

When the player meets him, he is a fairly fun guy, often boasting and wanting people to come on his “adven-tours”. His daughter Peonia has no interest in these and wants to live her own life, showing a disconnect between the two. His searches do indeed turn up Legendary Pokemon, with one even possessing him, making for a wacky adventure. 

As for his team? Perrserker, Bronzong, Scizor, Aggron, and Copperajah (evolved from the Cufant he had as a child).... he only has five Pokemon. Five solid Pokemon for a Steel-type expert sure, but only five. Despite this, they are largely good Pokemon and do have some coverage for their weaknesses. It's hard to say where to place a team like this compared to the others, but he’s definitely harder than Trace and Geeta. With a very groovy battle theme to boot.

Peony, as with the case of some DLC characters, feels unfinished. What we have is a game character and a fairly challenging former Champion, but considering his connection to the game’s main villain, I would have liked more. But as it stands, this tough adventurer is in thirteenth place and off on another adven-tour. 

Pokémon Sword & Shield - Peony Battle Music (HQ)


12. Diantha (X and Y)

Diantha doing.... something

The Champion of Kalos Diantha is rather hard to rank, but after some thought, 12th felt right for her. She was almost unanimously dubbed the weakest Champion when X and Y came out, which… still holds true, as everyone ranked lower than her came out after her. But looking at her in retrospect, she isn’t that bad.

Diantha’s Champion team consists of Hawlucha, Tyrantrum, Aurorus, Gourgeist, Goodra, and Mega Gardevoir. A pseudo-legendary, two strong fossil Pokemon, a Mega with the powerful new Fairy-type, and two decent supports. This isn’t a terrible team, so who is she so low? Well, two reasons.

X and Y are known for being easy, and in this battle with what should be a strong team, that still holds true due to bad AI. Coupled with the Kalos League having a smaller level jump from the Elite Four to the Champion than most games, Diantha has a lot against her. So sadly, she can’t rank any higher (great theme though).

Outside of being the Champion Diantha is… a movie star. Okay cool, do we get to see anything of this? The previous games in Black and White literally had a movie studio you could visit, but here in Kalos? Nothing. So this aspect of her character accounts for little more than window dressing in the games.

Diantha has a very slight connection to the villain plot of Team Flare due to being a celebrity and knowing its leader. She appears on occasion in connection to this but this doesn’t amount to much. Finally, she appears in the Kalos Battle Chateau at the highest rank, fitting her role in the region.

Diantha overall is, like Peony, incomplete. Unlike him, she has a sizable role in the region and a more balanced team, edging her ahead slightly. There is potential for her to be better, it just isn’t realized. 

Pokémon X/Y - Champion Diantha Battle Music (HQ)


11. Wallace (Emerald)

Wallace's welcoming GBA sprite

As a character, Wallace has a lot going for him. As a Champion…. well he’s not the worst. He just had to replace Steven Stone though. A move that I still don’t understand to this day.

Wallace is, like Steven, an influential person in the Hoenn region. He is directly involved in the main villainous team story regardless of version, and in the remakes, he has access to the restricted Sky Pillar due to his heritage. And here, Steven asks Wallace to take over as Champion, a clear reference to his role in Emerald.

And said Champion team? Entirely Water like him as Gym Leader, with Wailord, Tentacruel, Ludicolo, Whiscash, Gyarados, and Milotic. It's not bad at all, and can even be challenging, definitely more so than the Champions ranked below him. However, when you realize he shares his theme with Steven (the remix below is from Masters and came out over a decade later), the problem starts to become clear.

Wallace isn’t bad in a vacuum, but he replaced a much better Champion, both in terms of character and team strength. You face a lot of Water in Pokemon, so it's a lackluster final boss, especially compared to Steven’s Steel (not to mention the final Gym is also Water). If Wallace was in a different game and didn’t replace someone much better than him it would sting less, but even then, Water for the Champion is likely never going to be that hard.

In all his appearances, Wallace is a Contest Coordinator as well, a title most befitting of his character. This is most fleshed out in the remakes but mentioned in the others. His Milotic is trained for both Contests and battles, showcasing Wallace’s versatility. 

I do still like Wallace as a character, and with his involvement in the Hoenn region, he’d rate quite highly there. But as a Champion, he fails on multiple accounts. It could be argued he’s more thematic for Hoenn, but when that’s all he has going for him, it's not looking great. He really should have stuck to Contests.

Battle! Wallace - Pokémon Masters


10. Nemona (Scarlet and Violet)

A grand battle against the Goku of Pokemon

Returning to Paldea for the other Champion, we have the rival Nemona. Praised by Geeta as the actual best in Paldea and a constant presence in the Victory Road storyline, Nemona does a decent job of living up to the hype. While not the strongest Champion out there, her team very much makes the most of what it has, more than can be said for some earlier Champions.

As Champion, her Goodra, Lycanroc, and Pawmot from earlier matches return, along with the starter she’s been using all this time. Added onto this are newcomers Dudunsparce and Orthworm, both just as strong as the rest. Coupled with a more grand-feeling remix of her battle theme and the setting being the center of Paldea’s largest city, this battle feels as epic as it should be. 

Nemona may not have the craziest team compared to some other Champions, but she definitely makes it work. For all the talk about Pokemon getting easier, Scarlet and Violet can be surprisingly competent when it comes to their AI. And with her team having solid movesets, Nemona can deal your Pokemon a lot of hurt if you’re not careful.

Nemona is your main rival in the Victory Road path, appearing several times in it to encourage and battle you. She has a presence in the postgame Area Zero content and following that enjoys being proper rivals with you. She is humanized a bit by being bad at throwing PokeBalls and not having the best stamina (she calls the academy’s stairs her greatest enemy). 

It is established Nemona becomes Champion before the events of the games, and with that has more Pokemon. We see her use a Paldean Tauros in the opening cutscene, and it's mentioned she uses a Lechonk and Smoliv on the games website. But outside of this, nothing. She has more, likely stronger Pokemon out there, and we just haven’t seen them. 

 Nemona is how an incomplete Champion still feels right. We haven’t seen all there is to her, and she doesn’t have a massive role in the story. But what is here is very good and makes me eager to see more, while the others need more to make me interested in the first place. More characters like this would be very welcome in Pokemon going forward.

Pokémon Scarlet & Violet - Champion Nemona Battle Music (HQ)


9. Lance (Gold and Silver, Crystal, HeartGold and SoulSilver)

Lance looking seriously at his Poke Ball

Lance the Dragon tamer, Elite Four of Kanto, and Champion of Johto. This guy has been around for a long time and is a very good character in all appearances. As Champion, he is… a mixed bag.

Lance is faced many times in the series, but as for his Champion battle? Merely Gyarados, Aerodactyl, Charizard, and THREE Dragonite (all of which are under its evolution level, leading to many people calling him a cheater). Ironically, despite being presented as a Dragon tamer, these all share the Flying type, not Dragon. And while Dragon may have been tricky to deal with in Gen 1, by the time of Gen 4 and even 2, there were plenty of counters.

This isn’t to say Lance is weak, he isn’t. It's just that he has some issues living up to the hype presented for him. His rematch team does bring in several much stronger members, but as it is an optional postgame fight, it is not as relevant. As it stands, Lance can present a challenge, but if you have the right counters he’s an easy sweep.

As a character though, Lance is great. The Dragon Master is played up heavily here, with him being strongly heroic and using Dragons for the difficulty of it. And he has a large collection of capes, because why not, capes are cool.

Lance is directly involved in the Johto games by helping the player stop Team Rocket, showing his strong sense of justice. And while this doesn’t happen in the games, the red Gyarados Team Rocket experimented on ends up on his team in the anime.

The Dragon taming seems to run in his family, as his grandfather is the elder of a Dragon clan and his cousin Clair is Johto’s Dragon Gym Leader. Yes, this makes for another last Gym/Champion type overlap, but as Dragon is significantly rarer than Water, it's less of an issue. Plus it leads to a fun Double Battle against the two in the postgame alongside your rival. 

As a character, Lance would be near the top of this list for how iconic he is alone. But as this is a list of strengths, I can’t comfortably put him any higher. But that’s okay, Lance is great the way he is. Keep being you Lance, we need more cape-wearing heroes.

Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver - Champion & Red Battle Music (HQ)


8. Iris (Black and White 2)

Iris attempting to look dramatic 

From an Elite Four turned Champion to a Gym Leader doing the same, Iris is up next. I’ll admit to never liking Iris as a character much, nor liking her replacing Alder as Unova’s Champion. But, unlike Wallace, it does make a lot of sense with certain thematic aspects of the region. And unlike Lance, her team is much more varied.

In the original Black and White, Iris shows up a few times as a helpful ally, with her further role differing by version. In Black, she is merely Drayden’s apprentice and he is the final Gym Leader. In White, however, he has stepped down from the role in favor of her, and she does it the same as him, even helping stop Team Plasma with the other Gym Leaders.

And then in the sequels (both versions, even though she wasn’t Gym Leader in Black), Iris is the Champion. It is revealed that during the time between the games, she challenged and defeated Alder, taking his spot as Champion. Her mentor Drayden gave her a new outfit in celebration, one more befitting of her role (ironically looking like something out of a fairy tale).

And as Champion, her team is…. fairly competent. She uses the Dragons Hydreigon, Druddigon, and Haxorus, along with some other coverage in Archeops, Aggron, and Lapras. While it's not an amazing team, it's strong and not as easy to exploit as Lance’s, landing her above him. Her theme’s pretty good too.

As for her replacing Alder, while I do prefer him as Champion, I can’t deny Iris taking over makes sense. Unova is a region of dualities: truth and ideals, past and present, yin and yang. Why not throw old and young in there too? With the young Iris replacing the elderly Alder, another duo is made in Unova.

Iris is a strange choice for a Champion, but that doesn’t make her a bad one. Her team is capable of posing a sizable challenge, and she’s a decently entertaining character. And she’s still quite young. Who knows, maybe we’ll see more of this fairy-tale prodigy. 

Pokémon B2/W2 - Champion Iris Battle Music (HQ)


7. Blue (Red and Blue, Yellow, FireRed and LeafGreen)

Blue looking as confident as ever

And now we have the one who originally defeated Lance, Blue Oak of Pallet Town. The original rival and all-around jerk whose signature line is “Smell ya later!”. While he didn’t hold the title of Champion for long, his team is no joke, and he rightfully deserves this rank.

Blue is a constant presence in the Kanto games, serving as the player’s constant rival and former childhood friend who wants to prove he’s better than you. Blue is mean (just not to the level of Silver in the Johto games), and he doesn’t care properly for his Pokemon, allowing you to defeat him. A bit on the nose, but it was the first game and it made him a good antagonist.  

When you get to that Champion battle, his team isn’t significantly different from before, just at a much higher level. He has Pidgeot, Alakazam, Rhydon, and the starter strong against yours, finally rounding out his team with two of Gyarados, Exeggutor, and Arcanine (depending on your starter). By modern standards, not too threatening. But in Kanto? 

In Kanto, this was a menace. His starter was strong and high leveled, his backup was nothing to mess around with, and even his Pidgeot could be tricky. But his Alakazam is why he’s really here. Back then, Psychic had few weaknesses, and even few were good Pokemon Alakazam couldn’t take out in one hit. Thankfully it was fragile, but this thing put a stop to many players’ Championship dreams. 

Moving on from that battle with its iconic theme, Blue… lowers in rank. The next time we see him, he’s Kanto’s eighth Gym Leader. The same happens in the Let’s Go games, where he is no longer the rival. And in other games, he is often with Red as a traveling Trainer, sometimes representing Kanto in tournaments. 

Blue started very strong and fell very fast. His cockiness got the better of him, making his time as Champion rather short. But it was good while it lasted, and he’s still a memorable character. So enjoy your time off Blue, shouldn’t smell too bad in Alola.

Pokémon Red, Blue & Yellow - Champion Battle Music (HQ)


6. Mustard (Sword and Shield)

The silly old man prepares for battle

Having come a long way from Peony, here is Galar’s other former Champion. And unlike Peony, Mustard has the history and maintains his strength. And is just a fun character to boot.

Mustard became the Champion 50 years before the games and held this title for 18 years, by far the longest-known period for any Champion. Even crazier, he attained this position by defeating the Fairy specialist Opal with a team of Fighting types, showing he is quite versatile. He only lost his title when his partner Pokemon died and he lost the will to fight, leaving when the chairman wanted to rig a match for him. 

He goes on to travel for a while before purchasing an island that would become the Isle of Armor. Here he established strict training that many Trainers would go through, including future Champion Leon. This is where the player meets him, battling him several times over the course of this training.

The final of these battles shows his true power as Champion. He boasts Mienshao, Luxray, Corviknight, Lycanroc, Kommo-o, and Gigantamax Urshifu. This is a very well-rounded team, containing a pseudo-legendary, a literal Legendary, and several other powerful Pokemon. If this was his strength, it's easy to see why he was a Champion for so long.  

While in battle Mustard is still serious even as an old man, outside of combat he’s a goofball. He’s constantly making jokes, often at the expense of his students (his wife seems to like this side of him). And in his retirement he has become an avid gamer, waiting until then to keep his image as a strong Fighting-type Champion.

Mustard may not look like much now, but his team doesn’t lie. He maintained his title for 18 long years for good reason, and in the end, he left not from being overwhelmed, but from grief. Definitely the mark of a great Pokemon Trainer. 

Pokémon Sword & Shield - Mustard Final Battle Music (HQ)


5. Leon (Sword and Shield)

Leon about to have a Champion time

Finally, Galar ends with the undefeated Champion Leon, who wants everyone to “have a Champion time!”. Leon is a prominent part of Sword and Shield, being the brother of your main rival and even the one who gives you your starter. Leon’s role in the story isn’t perfect, but seeing a Champion play such an active role is interesting.

Leon sets you and his brother Hop off on your adventures and appears several times as a guide of sorts along the way (ironic given his infamous terrible sense of direction). He deals with threats to the region and has a strong rivalry with Raihan, making him integral to the story. And finally, after a rather dumb detour with the villain Chairman Rose, you face Champion Leon in front of all of Galar. 

Leon’s team has some variation. While Aegislash, Dragapult, Haxorus, and Charizard are constants, he’ll have the starter yours is weak to and either Seimitoad, Mr. Rime, or Rhyperior to round out his team. These are all very strong, although it should be said his Cinderace team is weakest due to having two Fire types. And the music with its remix of the old Hall of Fame theme is top-notch.

But overall, his team is very solid and does a solid job of living up to the hype. With a sizable level jump from the last battle, it's really only Sword and Shield’s bad AI holding him back from being near the top of this list. Perhaps if he comes back someday he will seriously challenge the best. 

After his defeat, Leon… is no longer the Champion? This was odd at the time and still is, for never before in the series had you taken a Champion’s title upon defeating them. They always stayed there so you could rematch them. But here, nope. Leon relinquishes his title and you, the player, are Galar’s new Champion, with NPCs even referring to you as such.

Instead, Leon takes to other pursuits. He establishes the Battle Tower and Galarian Star Tournament, both aimed at showing the world how powerful Galar is. And with all this, he never loses his charm, always remaining 100% himself.  

Leon of Galar may no longer be undefeated, but I don’t think he minds. While it lasted he was famous and enjoyed it, and now he’s still famous and having a grand time as League Chairman. As he would say, have a Champion… oh wait that doesn’t work anymore. Get on that Leon!

Pokémon Sword & Shield - Champion Battle Music (HQ)


4. Red (Gold and Silver, Crystal, HeartGold and SoulSilver)

Red choosing a terrible vacation spot

As the original protagonist, Red stands out as a bit of an oddity in this list. He has indeed become a recurring Trainer since the Kanto games and is considered a Champion rank Trainer despite never being battled with that title. His appearance in Unova’s Champion tournament is proof enough of this. And with his team, it's not too hard to see why.

As the player, Red goes through the events of the Kanto games. He challenges the Gyms, stops Team Rocket, and deals with Blue along the way. After the games wrap, Red takes to traveling and secludes himself at Mt. Silver, where he won’t even contact his own mother. 

Eventually, at the very end of the Johto games, the player finds him here. In the originals, it's in a dark cave, in the remakes a snowy mountain peak. But regardless of which, seeing Red, the character many players remember being in the previous games, still stands out as one of the most memorable moments in Pokemon history.

And then you battle him. Given he was the player, determining his team was a daunting task, but Game Freak did the most logical choice here and gave him entirely Pokemon practically given to the player in Kanto. He has the four starters in Pikachu, Venusaur, Charizard, and Blastoise, and the Snorlax that was a required fight to progress. His final Pokemon varies between versions, being Espeon (from the Celadon gift Eevee) in the originals, and Lapras (given at Silph Co.) in the remakes. 

Regardless of the version, Red is an immensely powerful Trainer, with his Pikachu in the remakes being the highest-level NPC Pokemon in the series for a very long time. Because yes, remakes Red is in the level 80s, with the previous notable Trainer being barely 60. A level jump for a postgame boss isn’t too uncommon, but this stands out as the most drastic. Just a shame he doesn’t have his own theme and has to share it with Lance.

After the Johto games, Red does leave isolation, appearing in the Pokemon World Tournament in Black and White to represent his home region. He then takes to traveling with Blue, appearing with an older design in Alola to work at its new Battle Tree. Red is still very much himself here, with Blue jokingly making fun of him to no avail. 

As the player doesn’t really talk, Red has remained silent in his appearances. Any “conversation” with him amounts to little more than “............”, a fact which led Blue to call him a “chatty gossip”. His only appearance to break this pattern is the mobile game Masters, which has a scarce few lines of dialogue (the first literally being “words are unnecessary!”)

Red is an iconic part of Pokemon and for good reason. He’s the original Trainer and has since become a staple recurring NPC with Blue, both of them appearing in more mainline games than any other player and rival. And he did all this without speaking a single word.

Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver - Champion & Red Battle Music (HQ)


3. Alder (Black and White)

Alder producing a Poke Ball from a random pocket

Alder is such a breath of fresh air as both a Champion and a character. Instructing the Elite Four to watch over the League, he spends much of his time wandering, as befits his nature. For he is an old man who doesn’t like to be tied down and overall a complex character. A perfect fit for the layered region of Unova.

While Alder is only the Champion in the original Black and White, where he is met a few times before the League. His main purpose here is stopping Team Plasma and helping guide your friend/rival Cheren in his dream to become Champion. 

Then you get to the League, ready to fight the Champion…. only for him to be defeated by N of Team Plasma in front of you. Now instead you must defeat Team Plasma for the credits to roll, and the Champion? He is an entirely optional fight in the postgame.

But before this, we learn about Alder. He never won the title of Champion himself, instead being chosen by the Pokemon League to fill a vacant position. So while we don’t know a massive amount about his past, this does suggest he showed promise even then. 

Alder’s Pokemon died. Through dialogue, we learn his first Pokemon in Volcarona died of illness, and the path it led him on made him who he is in the games. Before then he was much like Cheren, a man in pursuit of being the strongest. Losing his beloved Pokemon changed him, and now he simply seeks to enjoy life. That is why he lost to N: N simply wanted to win more.

So his team can’t possibly be that powerful right? Well…. Nope, it's got a monster. His team varies quite a bit in his three battles across the games he’s in, but his Champion team is Accelgor, Buoffalant, Druddigon, Vanilluxe, Escavalier, and a new Volcarona. Some of these may not seem like much, but all of them can be dangerous given the chance. Especially Volcarona if it's given the chance to set up with Quiver Dance. Give it time to set up and you’re pretty much done for. 

The next time you face him in the sequels, Conkeldurr and Braviary have replaced Druddigon and Escalavier, forming a different but still challenging team. And in his final team in the Pokemon World Tournament, Runiclus, Krookodile, and Chandelure have replaced the other members of his original team barring Volcarona. All of this is to the beat of his perfectly fitting theme.  

Now, who noticed the trend among his Pokemon? Yes, they are all Pokemon new to Unova, even in the sequels where older Pokemon were available. In addition, his final team has a Pokemon that represents the type of each member of Unova’s Elite Four. This is fantastic attention to detail that shows Alder cares about his region and League to such an extent that he represents them on the highest stage in the land.

And all those Pokemon? He has them with him at all times due to not understanding how the PC system works. They can be seen hanging from his neck and waist, and this is perfectly befitting of him as the wandering old man. He doesn’t understand it and doesn’t feel a need to learn how it works, he’d rather have them on hand. 

The sequels further expand on him, as he is battled in his hometown of Floccesy (notably not in the originals). Playing further into the young and old divide mentioned with Iris, Alder refused to work at the Trainers’ School in favor of someone young, leading to Cheren taking the role. And finally, we meet his grandson Benga in these games, a young man who takes a liking to Dragons but still has a Volcarona like his grandad.

And so Alder ended in just the way he should have: stepping down for the next generation. While I still prefer him as Unova’s Champion over Iris, it would be a disservice to his character to claim he should have kept the job. Instead, this fiery man with the fiery moth can live out his life in peace, no longer burdened by the duties of running a League. It's what he would want after all: to live life to the fullest.

Pokémon Black & White - Champion Alder Battle Music (HQ)


2. Steven Stone (Ruby and Sapphire, OmegaRuby and AlphaSapphire)

Steven in his fittingly fabulous battle intro

Moving from a Champion who had every reason to step down to one that’s more complicated, we have Steven Stone of Hoenn. As evidenced by his place on this list, Steven is one of the strongest Trainers in the entire series and would be number one if not for a certain Champion. It's just his reasoning for stepping down is, well, not the best. 

Like Alder and Lance and the like, Steven helps out against the villainous team (Aqua and/or Magma in this case). He is also a mysterious traveler, as we don’t know much about who he is until we step into the Champion room and see him there. It was clear he was someone of power in Hoenn, but nothing more than that.

And that Champion battle is truly one of the series’ hardest. A bulky lead Skarmory that can set up Toxic and Spikes, hard-to-take-down threats in Cradily and Armaldo, and the powerful Claydol and Aggron. Then there’s his ace, Metagross (Mega Metagross in the remakes). Regardless of the version, when the music picks up and he sends out this monster, you know it's about to get real.  

This team may not have incredible type diversity compared to others, but Steven makes that not matter much. His Pokemon are all rather tanky and have many ways to mess you up. And trying to use the new Fairy type in the remakes? Forget about it, most of his team will murder it before you can blink. 

Steven’s team does vary a bit in other appearances, as he’ll swap in different fossil Pokemon or Steel types in general, such as Unova’s Excadrill. As a rule, if it's metallic or looks ancient, Steven will probably like it and make it a threat. 

And then in Emerald, he steps down. Wallace takes his place and he becomes a super boss in the postgame you can only battle once. This is played up as Steven wanting to spend more time traveling and studying rocks and minerals. But… he was already doing that? This has never set right with me. I like Wallace fine as a character, but Steven is just in another league compared to him as a Trainer. And yes, a Water Champion in Hoenn of all places is a bit much on top of that.

But regardless, Steven is still Champion in most timelines, just often sharing the title with Wallace (and as a duo, they do represent Hoenn rather well). Later games see him as a traveler studying other regions, and he represents Hoenn alongside Wallace in the Pokemon World Tournament. Much like the number one on this list, he is a prominent presence in the Pokemon world who won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire - Battle! Champion Music (HQ)


1. Cynthia (Diamond and Pearl, Platinum, Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl)

The face of a monster (in battle)

Could it really be anyone else? As much I love the likes of Alder and Steven, I couldn’t reasonably put either above Cynthia. As a Champion, she has no equal. And that was before the remakes. 

Much like Steven, Cynthia is a mysterious traveler who appears a few times to help and deal with Team Galactic. She is interested in history and mythology, two areas that very much overlap in the Sinnoh region. Later games have her travel the world as well, featuring prominently in Unova in its tournaments as well as having a beach house there where she can be battled. 

Now as for why her placement at the top was so assured. Her original Sinnoh team is Spiritomb (which had no weaknesses then), Roserade (fragile but powerful), Togekiss (fairly bulky and good coverage), Lucario (hits very hard), Milotic (pain of a tank), and Garchomp (the thing which nightmares are made of). This is her Platinum team, Diamond and Pearl were the same but Togekiss was swapped for Gastrodon (pretty strong but gave her two Water types).  

This team is a monster. No repeating types, incredible coverage both offensively and defensively, and the AI to back it up. Looking at it now, it makes sense why so many people consider Cynthia to be the strongest Champion, and I have to agree. And then the remakes happened….

It's her Diamond and Pearl team, so Gastrodon instead of Togekiss. That’s the only “easy” thing about it. It is competitive to the extreme. They have perfect natures to complement their movesets, are EV trained for their best stats, and have items to make it harder on top of all that. Good luck outspeeding her Garchomp now, and even if you do it has a held berry that halves damage from the first Ice move to hit it. I may not be the most knowledgeable about modern competitive Pokemon, but even I can tell this team is a monster due to being the most competitive-ready NPC team in the series. 

Cynthia has some other Pokemon in her other appearances, all being just as powerful as her original Sinnoh team. The Unova games see her use Eelektross, Braviary, and Glaceon, two Pokemon from there and I don’t know why the Glaceon. And her rematch team in the remakes brings in a Porygon-Z that’s just as broken, swaps Gastrodon for Togekiss AND has levels that match Red’s remake team. Definitely the hardest battle in the series, bar none.

Outside of battle, Cynthia is kind-natured and seemingly rich, as evidenced by her frequent traveling and many houses. A line of dialogue in Platinum suggests she is not originally from Sinnoh, but if that’s the case we have yet to see her home region. 

While not my favorite character on this list (that honor goes to Steven), Cynthia is undeniably the strongest. And with her latest showing, that title will be very hard to take from her. Perhaps someday it will be, but for now, the woman with the monstrous Garchomp claims the title of Pokemon’s strongest Champion.  

Pokémon Diamond, Pearl & Platinum - Champion Cynthia Battle Music (HQ)


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Gamer Since: 2002
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