In the world of Pokémon, few rival trainers are as impactful to Ash Ketchum’s journey as Paul. Paul, a trainer from Veilstone City in the Sinnoh region, brought to light an important facet of the Pokémon world; Pokémon trainers who value strength over friendship, but not in a malicious capacity.
Sure, Paul was grating and antagonistic towards Ash for much of the seasons he was in, yet in the end, the respect that was built between the two was worth the confrontations.
Who is Paul?
Paul is a rival Pokémon trainer in the Pokémon the Series: Diamond & Pearl & Pokémon Journeys: The Series. Paul acts as the main rival of Ash Ketchum, the main protagonist for the entire Pokémon anime franchise, for the Diamond & Pearl series, while coming back for a cameo episode in Pokémon Journeys.
Paul’s main strategy as a Pokémon trainer is finding powerful Pokémon and finding Pokémon with the highest potential power. This stands in contrast to many characters in the Pokémon franchise, especially Ash who typically uses Pokémon that are not that strong in the beginning and become stronger through friendship.
While Paul is not necessarily cruel to his Pokémon, his training regimen is shown as difficult and intense. Paul also rotates members of his team frequently, looking to take advantage of type matchups whenever possible and also purposefully posing his Pokémon in bad type matchups to make them stronger.
When I play the Pokémon games, I end up following similar patterns Paul displays in the show in using Pokémon who are either wielding powerful stats or natures that will make them stronger over time. However, unlike Paul, I do still use Pokémon I like or think are cool, sometimes to the detriment of power. Not everyone sees the value in Poliwrath or Persian, but they still find ways onto my teams!
Paul Before First Appearance
Before Paul appears properly in the Diamond & Pearl series, he went through many trials as a Pokémon trainer. His hometown is Veilstone City in the Sinnoh region, the setting for the Diamond & Pearl series.
He has traveled and journeyed through the Kanto, Johto, and Hoenn regions, the settings for the first three generations of the Pokémon games and the previous Pokémon anime series. Paul started his journey due to being inspired by his brother Reggie being massively successful on his journey, and Paul still leaves any Pokémon not used on his current team with Reggie back in Veilstone City.
Paul’s first Pokémon was a Turtwig, later becoming a Torterra through his travels. Through all his travel in various regions, Paul managed to complete Gym challenges and collect a vast amount of Gym Badges. However, he had yet won any of the Pokémon League Championship tournaments, unlike his brother Reggie.
A major event in Paul’s life before his debut is witnessing his brother Reggie lose to Brandon, one of the Kanto Battle Frontier Brains who later is shown to use Legendary Pokémon such as Regice and Registeel. Brandon beating Reggie prevented Reggie from completing the Battle Frontier, causing Paul to become determined to become more powerful. This leads to Paul seeing Brandon as a milestone of his skill, secretly vowing to defeat him one day.
Paul’s Key Episodes
Debut: Two Degrees of Separation – Sinnoh, Episode 2
Paul’s debut episode. All that happens of note is Paul appearing to Ash and asking for a battle, but the battle was postponed since Ash did not have 3 Pokémon on account of Pikachu being missing. Paul notices later that Pikachu can use Volt Tackle and once Pikachu is rescued, Paul re-challenges Ash in a 3-on-3 battle.
When Pokémon World’s Collide – Sinnoh, Episode 3
Paul’s first battle against Ash. The 3-on-3 battle consisted of Paul’s Starly, Chimchar, and Elekid against Ash’s Starly, Aipom, and Pikachu. The final result was a tie, which annoyed Paul. In the end, Paul releases his Starly due to its loss and says it is not worth his time of training.
Different Strokes for Different Blokes – Sinnoh, Episode 6
Paul battles Ash again, this time resulting in Paul winning. The major elements of the episode are Paul’s Chimchar winning against Ash’s Turtwig and Paul catching a rampaging Ursaring, which is used many times later in the series.
Shapes of Things to Come! – Sinnoh, Episode 15
In this episode, Paul makes his first Sinnoh gym challenge against the Oreburgh City Gym Leader, Roark. Ash chooses to watch the battle to see if Paul’s harsh training attitude would be successful in a gym battle. Paul reveals he has caught an Azumarril, a Water-type with a type advantage against Roark’s Rock-type Pokémon.
However, Azumarril is defeated quickly, and it is Paul’s Chimchar and Elekid that manage to win him the battle and his first Sinnoh League badge. In the following episode, it is revealed that Paul gave Azumarril away to an unnamed young boy, due to Azumarril not having any potential to get stronger.
Top-Down Training! – Sinnoh, Episode 40
Paul reveals he has a Torterra, a powerful Grass/Ground Pokémon, and the final evolution of Turtwig, during a battle against the Sinnoh Champion, Cynthia. Cynthia’s Garchomp manages to defeat four of Paul’s Pokémon, after which he surrenders.
Tag! We’re It…! – Sinnoh, Episode 50
Paul is forced to team up with Ash for a Tag Battle Tournament. Through the Tournament, Paul’s Elekid evolves into Electabuzz, and Chimchar is seen being pushed by Paul to the point of exhaustion. In between battles, Ash witnesses Paul putting Chimchar through harsh training. He has all of his other Pokémon fire off attacks while Chimchar attempts to either dodge or fend them off — and fails to do so.
Later, Paul chooses to use Chimchar in their final tag battle, but it almost faints. Paul turns his back on Chimchar, forcing Ash to have his Turtwig protect Chimchar.
He manages to win the tag battle by giving orders to both Pokémon. Afterward, Paul is shown releasing Chimchar, giving one last berating about Chimchar being weak, before Ash offers Chimchar a home with him, with Chimchar accepts.
Chim-Charred! – Sinnoh, Episode 81
Paul meets back up with Ash, leading to an argument between the two about Ash’s skills of being a Pokémon Trainer. A battle between the two inevitably starts, leading to Paul’s Ursaring versus Ash’s Chimchar.
Chimchar struggled initially but started to turn the tide when its Blaze ability activated, giving its Fire moves increased power. However, the battle was forced to a premature end because Blaze caused Chimchar to lose control. Paul was impressed that Chimchar’s Blaze had gotten more powerful than the version he had seen before, even with it being uncontrollable for now.
A Pyramiding Rage! – Sinnoh, Episode 128
Paul crosses paths with Ash again, just after Ash won his 7th Gym badge and challenged the Ice-Type Gym Leader, Candice. However, instead of a Gym Battle, Paul challenges the Frontier Brain of the Battle Pyramid, Brandon. The battle commences — a full 6-on-6 battle — with Paul’s motivation being revealed by his brother Reggie, who is also attending the match.
The battle is fought on two fronts; the literal Pokémon battle where Brandon is stronger, and on the mental battlefield where Brandon and Paul berate each other over inner strength. After both losing handily in the Pokémon battle and being chastised by Brandon, Paul becomes increasingly frustrated, which leads to a perfect 6-0 sweep in favor of Brandon.
In the end, Brandon says he is willing to battle Paul again once he has learned to control his emotions. Reggie puts forward a new challenge for Paul — a full battle against Ash in ten days. Brandon echoes that this would do them both good, and both Paul and Ash accept.
Much of this episode focuses on revealing Paul’s true motivation and character to the audience, both in-world with Ash in the stands watching and the narrative audience watching the TV show. Paul is shown to be extremely passionate about battling.
His inner strength is his willpower, yet he is also shown to get emotional, often to the detriment of his battle judgment. I see this as the first real point of change within Paul, being handed a crushing defeat both on the battlefield and in his convictions.
Pedal to the Mettle & Evolving Strategies! – Sinnoh, Episodes 131 & 132
10 days removed from his defeat at the hands of Brandon, Paul meets back up with Ash at Lake Acuity for their full 6-on-6 battle challenge. Over the two-episode battle, Paul’s Ursaring shows its true strength in taking out half of Ash’s Pokémon by itself and activating its Guts ability to further increase its power.
Paul’s Magmar from the previous battle against Brandon is shown to have evolved into Magmortar. Despite Ash’s Chimchar having a milestone achievement by evolving into a Monferno, Paul pulls out the victory with only two of his Pokémon having been defeated.
This battle marks a milestone for the Paul/Ash rivalry greater than their previous battles. Not only does Paul get to see firsthand Chimchar’s growth and evolution into Monferno, which perfectly exemplifies Ash being a competent trainer, but Paul also is surprised by various maneuvers Ash employs and learns more about his opponent from the battle.
His brother, Reggie, was also in attendance for this battle since he suggested it before, and comments to Paul about his and Ash’s similarities and how much the battle was needed for Paul after the crushing defeat from Brandon.
Familiarity Breeds Strategy, Rear Rival Rouser!, and Battling a Thaw in Relations! – Sinnoh, Episodes 186, 187, and 188
Paul and Ash finally meet up at the Sinnoh League Tournament, in the fourth round, for another full 6-on-6 battle. The three-episode arc shows off the skills of both trainers appropriately, both Ash’s ingenuity in battle and Paul’s overwhelming will.
Paul has the clear upper hand for most of the battle, using his first two Pokémon to both deduce what Ash’s strategy would be and show off that he has learned some of Ash’s “unique” techniques from their last battle. Many great moments occur in this fight, from Paul’s Electivire once again besting Ash’s Pikachu to Ash’s Infernape fulling controlling its Blaze ability to defeat Electivire.
This final confrontation, Electivire versus Infernape, leads to Paul’s loss here and the end of his tournament progression.
After the battle, Ash runs to find Paul, who is leaving since he is no longer in the tournament. There is a moment of recognition from both trainers that while their methods may be different, they both desire to be the strongest trainers and become Pokémon Masters. Paul finally recognizes Ash’s strength as a trainer and silently agrees with Ash’s desire to have a full battle again soon before taking his usual silent leave.
Training Battle of Flames! – Journeys, Episode 114
Many seasons later (Diamond & Pearl was generation 4 of the games, while Journeys takes place during generation 8, Sword & Shield), Ash is set to compete in the Master’s Eight of the World Coronation Series alongside many notable Pokémon League Champions, such as Lance (Champion of Kanto & Johto), Cynthia (Champion of Sinnoh), and Steven (Champion of Hoenn).
In his preparation for the tournament, Paul appears at Professor Oak’s Laboratory to learn more from him, reuniting with Ash in the process. Paul helps Ash train for this fight by putting Ash’s new team members Lucario, Dragonite, and Gengar against Paul’s Gyarados, Garchomp, and Metagross, respectively.
Ash manages to defeat all of Paul’s Pokémon in this training, with each of his team members either learning a new move or mastering a new move in the process. Paul, visibly satisfied with the training outcome, wishes Ash luck in the tournament. It’s only then that everyone notices Paul’s choices of Pokémon were intentional; he mirrored one of the Pokémon used by three of Ash’s competitors.
Paul did this for Ash to gain experience fighting powerful versions of these Champions’ Pokémon before the tournament, to give Ash time to develop a proper strategy.
Paul has used many Pokémon through both series’ appearances. From here, I will list the ones with either major story importance or are seen the most.
Since Paul is a Pokémon trainer who keeps Pokémon he deems strong, and I am a Pokémon player who uses the stat spreads of Pokémon to compare them in terms of “better or worse,” I will include those as well. I will also put the Ability or assumed Ability after the stats.
Paul’s debut Pokémon, Electivire, was first seen as an Elekid. Elekid was already shown to have powerful moves, such as Thunder and Brick Break, and managed a tie against Ash’s Pikachu. Elekid was later shown to have evolved into an Electabuzz, then again into Electivire throughout the show.
Electivire is shown to be compatible with Paul’s harsh training methods, rarely going against orders or showing any resentment towards Paul. Electivire and Ash’s Infernape held an intense rivalry, stemming back to their Elekid-Chimchar days, and continued into their final battle at the Sinnoh League. This rivalry mirrored Paul and Ash’s relationship, starting in a realm of antagonism and developing into mutual respect.
Electivire Base Stats:
- HP: 75
- Attack: 123
- Defense 57
- Special Attack: 85
- Speed: 95
- Ability: Motor Drive
Torterra was Paul’s starter Pokémon back when it was a Turtwig. Torterra is Paul’s strongest Pokémon, having been with him or used by him in every adventure he went on.
Torterra was shown to sometimes go against Paul’s wishes, helping other Pokémon without Paul’s permission, but did not outright show resentment or restraint in Paul’s harsh training methods. Torterra was used multiple times throughout the series, including Paul’s battle versus Cynthia and in the Sinnoh League battle against Ash. Torterra can use powerful moves, such as Stone Edge, Frenzy Plant, Leaf Storm, and Hyper Beam.
Torterra Base Stats:
- HP: 95
- Attack: 109
- Defense: 105
- Special Attack: 75
- Special Defense: 85
- Speed: 56
- Ability: Overgrow
Chimchar, Fire (Formerly, now Ash’s Infernape)
Paul caught Chimchar before his debut and was shown later in a flashback to have incredible power in stress-induced situations, thanks to Chimchar’s Blaze ability. While having the ability to be powerful and use powerful moves, Chimchar was constantly berated by Paul for losing battles and not performing to Paul’s expectations.
This culminated with Paul finally releasing Chimchar after winning a tag tournament (with Ash as a partner), and Chimchar was immediately picked up by Ash, who felt Paul gave up on it. Since then, Chimchar gained enough strength to evolve into both Monferno and later Infernape under Ash’s care.
Chimchar Base Stats:
- HP: 44 (76 as Infernape)
- Attack: 58 (104 as Infernape)
- Defense: 44 (71 as Infernape)
- Special Attack: 58 (104 as Infernape)
- Special Defense: 44 (71 as Infernape)
- Speed: 61 (108 as Infernape)
- Ability: Blaze
Azumarril, Water (Water/Fairy in later generations, was given away)
Paul used Azumarril in his first Sinnoh Gym Battle against Roark, a Rock-type Gym Leader. Paul chose Azumarril due to the beneficial type matchup; however, this was not enough, and Azumarril lost to Roark’s Geodude.
Paul ultimately won the gym battle, but in the next episode, it is revealed Paul gave Azumarril to a young boy after the loss it sustained. Paul reasoned that Azumarril has little potential to get any stronger, so it was not worth his time training.
Azumarril Base Stats:
- HP: 100
- Attack: 50
- Defense: 80
- Special Attack: 60
- Special Defense: 80
- Speed: 50
- Ability: Huge Power/Thick Fat (unknown)
Ursaring debuted in an angry rage in the episode Different Strokes for Different Blokes (Sinnoh, Episode 6). Paul used Chimchar to weaken Ursaring before capturing it, scanning Ursaring with his Pokedex, and decided to keep Ursaring from seeing its attacks.
Paul used Ursaring over multiple episodes and in multiple battles against Ash, notably used to both train Chimchar and against Chimchar after it joined Ash’s team. Ursaring’s ability, Guts, doubles its 130 base Attack power when it is affected by a status ailment, such as burn or paralysis.
This ability made Ursaring a formidable foe and caused Ursaring to win many battles for Paul. Ursaring has a naturally aggressive personality, matching up well with Paul’s battle style and harsh training regimen.
Ursaring Base Stats:
- HP: 90
- Attack: 130
- Defense: 75
- Special Attack: 75
- Special Defense: 75
- Speed: 55.
- Ability: Guts
Paul used this Pokémon in his Sinnoh League battle against Ash. Drapion mainly set up Toxic Spikes on the field to slowly wear down all of Ash’s team but also managed to defeat half of Ash’s team (Buizel, Staraptor, and Torterra). The Toxic Spikes were able to poison most of Ash’s team, showing the use of Entry Hazard moves in the show and mirroring their use in Pokémon Competitive play.
Drapion Base Stats:
- HP: 70
- Attack: 90
- Defense: 110
- Special Attack: 60
- Special Defense: 75
- Speed: 95
- Ability: Battle Armor (assumed)
Paul first showed this Pokémon as a Lairon in his battle against the Frontier Brain Brandon, and then later again as an Aggron in his Sinnoh League battle against Ash. Paul used Aggron mainly to feel out Ash’s strategy in the early stages of the fight, using its powerful offense and defenses to last long in the fight.
Aggron Base Stats:
- HP: 70
- Attack: 110
- Defense: 180
- Special Attack: 60
- Special Defense: 60
- Speed: 50
- Ability: Rock Head
One of the Pokémon Paul is seen to own in Pokémon Journeys. Paul uses Gyarados to help Ash train for a possible battle in the upcoming Master’s Eight of the World Coronation Series against Lance, the Champion of both the Kanto and Johto regions and one of the most prominent Dragon-type Trainers in the series. Paul used Gyarados against Ash’s Lucario, who learned the move Steel Beam in the process.
Gyarados Base Stats:
- HP: 95
- Attack: 125
- Defense: 79
- Special Attack: 60
- Special Defense: 100
- Speed: 81
- Ability: Intimidate (assumed)
One of the Pokémon Paul is seen to own in Pokémon Journeys. Paul uses this Garchomp to help Ash train for a possible battle in the Master’s Eight of the World Coronation Series against Cynthia, the Sinnoh Region Champion (and one of the strongest Pokémon trainers in the whole series so far). Paul used Garchomp against Ash’s Dragonite, with Dragonite learning a new way to use Draco Meteor to win.
Garchomp Base Stats:
- HP: 108
- Attack: 130
- Defense: 95
- Special Attack: 80
- Special Defense: 85
- Speed: 102
- Ability: Sand Veil (assumed)
One of the Pokémon Paul uses in Pokémon Journeys. Paul uses this Metagross to help Ash train for his upcoming Master’s Eight of the World Coronation Series Tournament battle against Steven, the Hoenn Region Champion. Paul used Metagross against Ash’s Gengar, allowing Gengar to master its new move, Will-o-Wisp, in the process.
Metagross Base Stats:
- HP: 80
- Attack: 135
- Defense: 130
- Special Attack: 95
- Special Defense: 90
- Speed: 70
- Ability: Pressure (assumed)
How Does Paul’s Strategy Translate to Pokémon Games?
To play as Paul in the video games, or at least a similar playstyle, the first recommendation I have is to actively take notice of any Pokémon’s Nature. Natures have specific and intentional changes to the stats of any given Pokémon, with 25 variations.
To be brief, each Nature has a plus to one stat and a minus to another, such as Adamant having +Attack and -Special Attack. Natures do not prevent any Pokémon from raising the stat that has a minus; however, the stat will not reach the same heights as a stat with a plus.
On top of Nature, I have another recommendation to use a technique called EV training, or Effort Value training. Each Pokémon in the games has a certain amount of EVs they grant upon being defeated, usually in a range of 1 to 3 EVs in total. For example, Gastly, a first-stage Ghost Pokémon, yields 1 Special Attack EV upon being defeated.
A Pokémon can only have 510 EVs in total, with only 252 max in any one stat. So, to EV train a Pikachu to max out its Special Attack, it needs to have 252 Special Attack EVs and be a Special Attack boosting Nature, such as Modest or Mild. Items can assist this training. Vitamins such as Calcium or Carbos will add 10 EVs of their respective stats, and Held Items such as the Macho Brace can double EVs gained from a battle.
These methods would emulate Paul’s training for his Pokémon to maximize their potential. The harshness of the training is subjective and would only affect playing the games in this way if your Pokémon require high Friendship values to evolve, such as Lucario or Crobat.
Without that high Friendship initially, these Pokémon and others would not reach their final forms. Still, afterward, items such as Medicinal Herbs would lower that Pokémon’s Friendship meter.
Why is Paul Important to the Pokémon Series?
Despite the hostile-turned-rival relationship between Ash and Paul, Paul provides a key worldbuilding facet previously unseen in the Pokémon anime as a whole. Plenty of Pokémon trainers have been shown to believe “powerful Pokémon are the only ones that matter” or some variation of that mantra.
Paul changes that script to put the focus on powerful Pokémon into the space of a rival, to an even higher degree than Ash’s last serious rival, Gary Oak. Gary started the franchise looking to catch strong Pokémon. Still, his motivation changed to becoming more of a ”Pokémon Professor-in-training,” and found traveling the Pokémon world and learning everything he could about Pokémon more fulfilling.
Paul stands as almost the audience insert role, shining a mirror back on the viewers who hunt for Pokémon with powerful stats or only look towards the competitive side of the Pokémon communities. Concepts such as EVs (or Effort Values) training or IVs (Individual Values) act as the “min-maxing” of the Pokémon games, getting the most out of any Pokémon’s damage or tank possibilities.
These concepts are not explicitly referenced in the show, with Paul being the first trainer to be shown scanning his Pokémon as soon as he caught them. I mentioned earlier that I play Pokémon games in a similar way, searching for Pokémon with specific Natures or breeding for Egg Moves.
Yet Paul goes a further step than I and actually releases his rejected Pokémon. This stands in stark contrast to Ash as well, who has only released a handful of Pokémon throughout the entire series.
Also, each time Ash has released any Pokémon, he did so because his Pokémon asked to depart or because it was best for them. This forms the bridge in the relationship between Ash and Paul, as Paul’s released Chimchar became Ash’s Infernape — one of his strongest team members during the series.
As Ash’s Pokémon got stronger, Paul started to recognize the rivalry and become less antagonistic toward Ash. This relationship is shown to have developed into mutual respect when Paul returns in Pokémon Journeys to assist Ash in training for his upcoming battles versus reigning League Champions Steven (Hoenn), Cynthia (Sinnoh), and Lance (Kanto/Johto).
Paul also uses Pokémon that mirror the ace Pokémon of each Champion so Ash can get a feel for what those Pokémon can do. This training shows the growth between these two characters and highlights the growth in Paul specifically since his debut.
Question: Is Paul in the Pokémon Video Games?
Answer: Paul is not in the games specifically. However, his closest counterpart would be the rival in Pokémon Gold, Silver, & Crystal in Silver, another trainer who valued power over friendship with his Pokémon.
Question: Is Paul evil?
Answer: No, Paul is not evil. He acts as an antagonist, yes, but not one with malicious intent or evil desires.
Question: Who is Paul’s strongest Pokémon?
Answer: According to the show, Paul’s strongest Pokémon is his Torterra, his starter. However, I would look towards Paul’s Garchomp, Metagross, or even Electivire as being potentially stronger Pokémon due to their stat spreads and variety in moves covering for their weaknesses.
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