Every Pokémon League Champion, Ranked Worst To Best

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The main purpose of nearly every main series Pokémon game is to beat the gym leaders and Elite Four members and eventually challenge the reigning Champion. Give or take some detours – fighting the regional evil team, catching some Legendaries – this is the basic goal of every generation.

RELATED: 10 Pokémon That Would Be Better Left Un-Evolved

Considered the strongest trainer in the entire region, the Champion battle will most likely be the toughest of all. Pokémon Champions will constantly heal, have powerful and even rare Pokémon, and a killer musical theme. But who is the best Pokémon Champion? Most definitely live up to the hype and deliver a truly spectacular fight, but there are always some expectations.

Updated on April 14th, 2022 by David Caballero: The recent release of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl delivered arguably the best Champion Battle in Pokémon history, the perfect combination of intelligent and challenging strategies and a well-balanced and powerful Pokémon team. The battle reignited players’ love and excitement for the Pokémon League challenge, just in time for the upcoming releases of the first Generation IX games, Pokémon Scarlet & Violet. 

10 Diantha

Diantha reaching out in the Pokémon Anime

By far the least interesting, least memorable, and weakest Champion is Diantha, the final challenger in Pokémon X & Y. Her team is surprisingly weak; not only does she have two Pokémon with six 2x weaknesses, but one of them, Aurorus, is 4x weak to Fighting and Steel. Mega Gardevoir, one of the best dual-type Fairy Pokémon, is her team’s saving grace, but she alone can’t make up for four lackluster teammates.

Unlike other Champions, Diantha lacks a substantial role in the game. She shows up only a couple of times and never helps the player in any meaningful way. Unfortunately, Diantha is outright disappointing, both as a challenger and character.

9 Wallace

Wallace with his left hand raised, next to his Milotic

After Steven steps down, Wallace becomes the Hoenn region’s Champion, and, suffice it to say, he doesn’t live up to the challenge. For starters, he runs a Water-type team, which makes the battle considerably easier. The Water-type has several strong Pokémon and only two weaknesses; however, one is to the very common Grass-type.

Wallace’s team is not as easy to beat as Diantha’s; indeed, his Earthquake-knowing Gyarados and his ace, the bulky Milotic, can make things difficult for players. However, Wallace seems more like a Gym Leader than a strong Pokémon Champion, a letdown compared to his mighty predecessor.


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8 Alder

Alder Pokemon

One of Unova’s two Pokémon Champions, Alder is the League’s final challenge in Black & White. Alder has the unique privilege—or misfortune—of being the only Champion that players can’t battle after the Elite Four. Instead, the player goes against fan-favorite character N, who already fought and defeated Alder.

At one point in the games, Ghetsis, one of the best villains in the Pokémon games, even suggests Alder didn’t win the Champion title but took it after the League asked him to as somewhat of a favor. Alder runs a diverse-enough team, though he has three Bug-type Ppokémon. Alder is far from the best Pokémon Champion in the games, and his reputation further decreases considering his successor, Iris, is simply much better.


7 Leon

Is Pokemon Gen 9 Games Waiting For Nintendo Switch Pro Leon Charizard

Leon is the most recent addition to the Champion canon and Sword & Shields resident superstar. He is very much involved in the storyline, and he is even the brother of the main rival character, the too-good-for-this-world Hop. Leon is hyped up for much of the game, and multiple characters talk about his strength.

RELATED: Cynthia Vs. Leon – Which Pokémon Champion Would Win?

In the end, Leon does put a good fight, but he’s far from the best Pokémon Champion in the games. His team has some real threats, mainly Decidueye and Dragapult, and his ace, the Gigantamax Charizard, has some surprises under its wings. Still, after so much talk about his talent for battle, he ends up being more bark than bite.


6 Professor Kukui

Professor Kukui smiles and pushes his cap up

Although not exactly a Pokémon Champion, Professor Kukui acts as the final challenger in Sun & Moon. No Pokémon League exists in Alola before the games’ events, so the player is taking part in the first-ever League Challenge. Kukui, the League’s founder, bestows the Champion title to whoever manages to defeat him.

Kukui has a very balanced team that covers up to nine different types. He also has whichever Starter is strong against the one the player chose, further enhanced by the generation’s gimmick, a Z-Crystal. Lycanroc and the frustratingly bulky Snorlax are his team’s main threats, making Kukui a worthy rival that never quite becomes one of the strongest Pokémon Champions.


5 Lance

Split image showing Dragonite and Lance in the Pokémon anime

Originally an Elite Four member in the Generation I games, Lance becomes the Indigo Plateau Champion in Gen II’s Silver & Gold and their remakes. A Dragon Master, Lance was quite the opponent when the games first came out, especially considering the Dragon-type was still extremely overpowered.

Four of his Pokémon are weak to Ice. However, Blizzard is wildly unreliable, and Ice Beam wasn’t available in Gen II. That leaves Aurora Beam, Ice Punch, and Icy Wind as the only attacks to exploit the weakness, and none were guaranteed to OHKO. Lance’s ace, Dragonite, is one of the best non-Legendary Dragon-types in Pokémon, and he had three. While this Dragon Master’s reputation has decreased considerably in recent years, he was a fearsome foe when his games debuted.


4 Iris

Iris in the middle of a Pokémon battle in the Pokémon anime

Another Dragon Master, Iris is Unova’s second Champion, appearing in the Gen V sequels, Black 2 & White 2. In White, she acts as Gym Leader for Opelucid City before taking on the mantle of Champion.

Despite being considered a Dragon-type trainer, she only has three dragons in her Champion battle. One of them, the terrifying Hydreigon, is extremely tough to beat, but her Dragon Dance-spamming Haxorux is the real challenge. Iris puts a more exciting and difficult battle than Alder’s. Her rematch battles are just as tough, proving that she is one of the best Pokémon Champions in the franchise.




3 Blue

Pokemon Blue Rival Cover

When players first enter the Champion chamber in Pokémon Red & Blue, they expect to meet the leader of the Indigo Plateau. To their surprise, they instead find Blue, the rival character, revealed as the newest Pokemon Champion after just defeating the previous one.

RELATED: Each Generation Starter Pokémon Trio, Ranked

Blue’s battle carries a significant and unique weight; not only is he the player’s main rival, but he’s also an actual rival. Unfriendly, unkind, and cocky, he relishes always being ahead of the player and acts as annoying as a rival should. His team is extremely balanced and includes the Starter strong against the one the player chose and a slew of Kanto superstars like Arcanine, Golem, and Exeggutor. The battle is thrilling and challenging, and even though the player prevails, Blue’s reputation is intact, for he truly is one of the best Pokémon Champions.


2 Steven

Steven Stone Pokemon

In the Generation III games, Ruby & Sapphire, Steven Stone is the Campion of the fan-favorite Hoenn region. A collector of rare stones and the son of the president of the Devon Corporation, Steven specializes in Steel Pokémon and wanders the Hoenn region, helping the player on several occasions.

Steven’s team only has three Steel-types, plus three Rock-types and two Psychic-types. However, despite his seemingly unbalanced team, Steven is a juggernaut. His Arnaldo is particularly deceitful, but his Metagross is the real threat. In ORAS, Metagross can Mega Evolve, adding an extra layer of difficulty to the battle. Steven’s reputation has prevailed over the years, and some even consider him the best Pokémon Champion. Alas, he’s only a very close second.


1 Cynthia

Cynthia in Pokemon BDSP

From the moment the iconic piano music starts playing, players know things are about to get real. Indeed, Cynthia has been terrifying gamers since 2006, thanks to her well-balanced team. When the games first came out, her Spiritomb had no weaknesses. Her Gastrodon was deceitful, her Lucario freakishly strong, and her Togekiss a menace in disguise. Still, her Garchomp was the real nightmare, and there are numerous videos on the internet to prove it.

Pokémon BDSP made her battle even tougher by introducing battle strategies that would make most competitive players shake with fear. Her Milotic was a Special Defense-boosting Flame Orb, and her Togekiss now has the overpowered Fairy-type. God help the miserable player who lets her Garchomp use Swords Dance. The Gen IV remakes confirmed that Cynthia is the absolute best Pokémon Champion, and she’s not likely to be outranked any time soon.

NEXT: Cynthia Vs. Blue – Which Pokémon Champion Would Win?

Split image of various video game stills


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