The Pokemon games and anime put a strong emphasis on rivals. Sometimes battling them, and sometimes befriending them.
In the anime, Ash has had several other trainers that can be considered rivals. They are on the same journey and often throw a wrench in Ash's plans.
Ash Ketchum's rivals are nearly as iconic as he is. Some of the most gutwrenching moments in the anime are losses to the rivals. While some of the most celebratory are victories over those rivals.
Note: This list is subjective and reflects the opinion of the writer. It does not reflect the opinion of others regarding Ash's best rivals from the Pokemon anime.
The best rivals Ash faced in the Pokemon anime
#5 - Ritchie
Not many remember Ritchie, but he is one of Ash Ketchum's oldest rivals in the Pokemon anime. Ritchie was really the first trainer in the anime that had nicknames for his Pokemon.
Sparky, Zippo, Happy, and more were the names of his companions. Ash and Ritchie's battles were a true test of their friendship, rivalry, and bond with their Pokemon.
#4 - Alain
Alain is Ash's main rival in the Kalos region. Eventually, he became Kalos League Champion after handing Ash a devastating loss in the finals. Alain didn't even want to enter the Kalos League but did so to honor his promise to battle Ash once again.
Being able to mega evolve his Charizard is what put him over the edge against Ash. The battle was intense and proved that Alain deserved to be Pokemon League Champion.
#3 - Sawyer
Sawyer is another rival of Ash in the Kalos region. This Pokemon trainer was a novice when they first met and wanted nothing but to study battles and understand how to train Pokemon.
Their battles were one of learning and respect. Despite being rivals, Ash and Sawyer actually gained a lot from each other. After Ash's time in Kalos, Sawyer and their battles were what he reflected upon the most.
#2 - Gary Oak
Gary Oak is the original rival of Ash Ketchum. "Smell ya later" still echoes in the minds of fans that were more than annoyed by Gary's treatment of Ash. Gary has popped up throughout the Pokemon anime, maintaining his status as one of Ash's strongest rivals.
Gary always got the best of Ash, but once Ash finally beat him, it was a tear shedding moment for any Pokemon fan. It also made Gary a little more personable and less hardheaded.
#1 - Paul
Paul is the best Rival Ash has ever had in the Pokemon anime. He started as an abusive and impatient trainer, only wanting power and dominance from his Pokemon. Pokemon were just a tool to him.
Paul would demean Ash's battling ability any chance he could get. He would release Pokemon if deemed too weak.
Thankfully, after Ash defeated him in the Sinnoh League, he seemingly reformed himself. He found a place in his heart for his Pokemon and Ash, no longer being the overly aggressive Pokemon trainer he once was.