The first step to becoming the Champion of the Pokémon League in any given region is defeating the eight Gym Leaders that reside there. You have to travel the land and face all of them in battle. Defeating each Gym Leader will result in you winning a Gym Badge, which will allow you to use all of the HM moves and force high-level Pokémon to obey your commands.
In order to conquer each Gym, you need to defeat the trainers that reside there. Once they have been beaten, you are free to challenge the Gym Leader who runs the place. The Gym Leaders will present some of the most challenging battles you will ever have in a Pokémon game. This is because they aim to teach new trainers about the intricacies of battle, which will force you to overcome all of the most common and difficult strategies ever utilized by an enemy.
We are here today to look at the secrets of the gatekeepers of the Pokémon League. From Brock's cheating tactics in HeartGold & SoulSilver, to the original name of the most feared Gym Leader of them all.
Here are Twenty Weird Things You Didn’t Know About The Gym Leaders!
20 Brock Learned His Lesson & Became A Cheating Scumbag
The first Gym Leader that a lot of players will have faced is Brock in Pokémon Red & Blue. They will also remember beating the crap out of his team if they chose Bulbasaur or Squirtle. Charmander players had to be a little bit smarter, but a victory was still achievable with a Butterfree or Nidoran.
In Pokémon HeartGold & SoulSilver, the player will have to return to Kanto and face the old Gym Leaders once more. Brock's team is now a lot stronger than it was before, with a better mixture of Pokémon.
Brock is so desperate for a victory that he actually cheats during this battle. He uses a Rhyhorn that has the Sturdy Ability, even though Rhyhorn cannot acquire this Ability through normal means.
19 Janine Is Not Ready For Her Close-Up
Koga is one of the few characters in the Pokémon world to ever receive a promotion. He was invited to join the Elite Four, which meant that he had to abandon the Fuschia City Gym.
The Fuschia City Gym was left in the hands of Janine, who is Koga's daughter. The player has to battle her during their trip throughout Kanto in Pokémon Gold & Silver.
Due to Janine being introduced as part of Kanto in the second generation of games, she is the only Gym Leader to have never appeared in the Pokémon anime. Ash defeated Koga during his initial journey and was never given a reason to return to the Fuschia City Gym when he went back to Kanto.
18 Falkner Flew Too Close To The Sun
The first Gym you will encounter in Pokémon Gold & Silver is the one in Violet City. This is the Gym owned by Falkner, who specializes in Flying-type Pokémon.
Falkner is an unusual Gym Leader for many reasons. In Pokémon Gold & Silver, he is the only Gym Leader who doesn't give out a TM, due to the fact that there weren't any Flying-type specialized TMs for him to give away.
Falkner is the weakest Gym Leader in the series in terms of the levels of his Pokémon. This is despite the fact that he has an illegally underleveled Pidgeotto on his team. A Pidgey can normally only evolve into a Pidgeotto when it reaches level 18, while Falkner has one that is level 9.
17 Clair Is An American Superstar
Clair is the final Gym Leader of the Johto region and is one of the most difficult opponents in Pokémon Gold & Silver. Her team of Dragonairs will want to make you pull your hair out due to the reliance on Thunder Wave and its paralyzing effect. This is topped off by a vicious Kingdra that will sweep what destroy of your team.
The anime version of Clair actually debuted in America before she appeared in Japan, even though the episodes are shown there first. This is because the "Born to Be a Winner" intro that was used in the American version of the show featured exclusive clips from upcoming episodes. Clair's appearance in this intro predates her debut in the Japanese version of the anime.
16 Norman Is Your Daddy
The Pokémon franchise has a serious lack of father figures. We still don't know anything about Ash Ketchum's father, though theories abound on the potential candidates for the position, such as Professor Oak or Silver.
In the Pokémon video games, we have only ever seen the father of one of the player characters. Norman of the Petalburg Gym is the father of the protagonist of Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire, which becomes an important plot point. The rest of the Pokémon protagonists only have a mother, with no explanation as to where their father has gone. This has helped create a fan theory that suggests that a great war happened in the recent history of the Pokémon world and that most of the older men died in the fighting.
15 The Lost Original Gym Leader Of Kanto
Game Freak spent years working on different games in order to acquire the funds needed to finance the Pokémon games. It took a lot of help from Nintendo in order to see Pokémon Red & Green come to fruition, which ended up paying off big time for both companies.
In 2015, Ken Sugimori uploaded some of his original concept artwork for the Gym Leaders of Pokémon Red & Blue to Twitter. His pictures showed that Brock wasn't going to be the original Gym Leader in the game.
The original Gym Leader of the Kanto region was going to be a young boy with a strong resemblance to Giovanni. This explains why the first Gym you encounter (in Viridian City) is locked and you have to return to it at a later point, as it was originally planned to be the first one you would visit.
14 Bugsy The Beautiful Boy
The anime aesthetic is more likely to use androgynous character designs than the kinds you will see in western animation. This was especially bad in series like Naruto, as fans were left wondering if characters like Deidara and Sai were girls when they were first introduced, which wasn't helped by the lack of gender pronouns in the Japanese language.
Pokémon has had its fair share of androgynous characters. One of the most deceiving is Bugsy, who could easily be mistaken for a female character at first glance.
It's not just the player who has mistaken Bugsy for a girl. The protagonist of the Gold, Silver & Crystal chapters of the Pokémon Adventures manga asked Bugsy out on a date because he believed he was a girl. Bugsy had to break his heart by revealing that he also had boy parts.
13 Lt. Surge Is A Cheating Scumbag
The Pokémon anime made Lt. Surge seem like an unstoppable badass. The beatdown that his Raichu gave Pikachu was so thorough that Team Rocket briefly ended their evil mission in order to support the good guys.
Lt. Surge was only powerful because Ash was an idiot. All it takes to beat Lt. Surge is a single Ground-type Pokémon, as it would be immune to Electric-type attacks.
In order to make up for this imbalance, Lt. Surge decided to cheat in Pokémon Stadium 2. He uses a Raichu that knows both Surf and Reversal. Raichu can learn these moves individually, but it cannot have both of them at the same time, as one comes from an event and the other through breeding.
12 Skipping By Winona's Gym
Winona can be one of the trickiest Gym Leaders in Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire. This is partly because she is a cheating scumbag like Brock, Falkner, and Lt. Surge. Winona uses an illegal Pokémon, as her Altaria is level 33, even though Swablu doesn't evolve until level 35. Her Altaria also knows Dragon Dance, which it isn't supposed to learn until level 40.
You can avoid that jerk Winona by simply never going to her Gym. You never actually have to conquer her Gym until you are ready to take on the Elite Four, as there are no barriers preventing you from skipping her Gym in Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire. This was changed in the remakes, so you now need to face Winona's illegal Pokémon on her terms.
11 The Reverse Gym Glitch
Pokémon Red & Blue were notoriously buggy games. It was due to shoddy programming that the Glitch Pokémon like MissingNo were birthed into existence. Players have spent years breaking these games apart in an attempt to see what the programmers tried to hide.
The programming is so shoddy in Pokémon Red & Blue that it is possible to defeat almost all of the Gym Leaders in reverse order. The exception to this is Erika, as you need her Gym Badge in order to be able to use Cut outside of battle.
It is possible to do this through a combination of glitches that allow you to pass through natural barriers. These allow you to bypass the locked door of the Viridian City Gym, as well as the jerk who blocks your way to Mt. Moon until you beat Brock.
10 The Darkness Within The Gym (Or Lack Thereof)
It didn't take long for the first few Pokémon games to feature a Gym that covered every different Pokémon type. Since then, the only new kinds of Gym that we have seen are the Double Battle Gym in Hoenn and the Fairy-type Gym in Kalos.
In all of this time, there is one Pokémon type that has remained unrepresented by a Gym. There has never been a Dark-type Gym in any Pokémon game to date. The reasons for this are unknown if indeed there is any specific reason at all.
Dark-type representation is mainly done among members of the Elite Four, as three of them have specialized in Dark-type Pokémon; Karen of Johto, Sidney of Hoenn, and Grimsley of Unova.
9 The Starting Garden
It's implied that the starter Pokémon in each region are exceedingly rare. This is why you rarely see them in the hands of enemy trainers.
The only Gym Leader who uses a starter Pokémon from the same generation that they are in is Gardenia. She is the Leader of the Eterna Gym, which specializes in Grass-type Pokémon. When you battle her, she uses a Turtwig in battle. Turtwig was the Grass-type starter in Pokémon Diamond & Pearl. If you have a rematch with Gardenia, then she will use a Torterra, which is Turtwig's final evolution.
Flint of the Sinnoh Elite Four also does the same thing. He uses an Infernape in battle, which makes him the only Elite Four member to use a starter Pokémon on his team.
8 The Return Of Misty & Jessie
If you watch one of the new episodes of the Pokémon anime, then you might notice that the recurring characters sound different. This is because all of the original cast members lost their jobs in 2006. The Pokémon Company was looking for a way to cut costs, so they sold the licensing rights to TAJ Productions, who brought in a new cast for less money. This caused a significant fan backlash at the time.
A few of the old cast members have returned in different roles. The first one to return was Rachael Lillis, who had previously voiced Misty and Jessie in the 4Kids dub of the show. She returned to play the role of Maylene, who was the Gym Leader of Veilstone City.
7 The Luchador Gym
Fray Tormenta is a Mexican priest who has become famous for the fact that he was secretly working as a masked wrestler in order to make enough money to keep an orphanage afloat. Tormenta has long since retired from the ring, but his story became famous around the world. The idea of a masked wrestler who secretly supports children inspired fictional characters like King from Tekken. The story of Tormenta also inspired Nacho Libre, though he is likely less proud of that achievement.
The Gym Leader of Pastoria City is a masked wrestler named Crasher Wake. He was also inspired by the story of Fray Tormenta, as the player can learn that Wake gives all of his prize money from battles to the poor.
6 The Weakening Of Fantina
One of the common complaints made against Pokémon Diamond & Pearl is that the enemy trainers all jump significantly higher in level than the player towards the end of the game. This means that most players will be stuck training on the Victory Road in order to become strong enough to tackle the Elite Four, which is to say nothing of Cynthia, who is the most difficult Champion in the series.
Pokémon Platinum addressed some of these complaints by making some of the battles easier. One of the biggest victims of this was Fantina, whose position in the order of Gym Leaders was switched. Her team was significantly weakened from the original one that she used in Pokémon Diamond & Pearl.
5 Sabrina Can't Win In Japan
Sabrina is easily the most terrifying character in the Pokémon anime. Ash's battle and imprisonment in the Sabrina episodes is like one of the dream sequences from Akira. The idea of a trainer keeping her opponents captive with psychic powers is something that the series never touched on again, as the creators decided to be more family friendly in the later episodes.
Sabrina was a lot less terrifying in Pokémon Red & Green. In order to defeat her, all you had to do was lose during your battle and then return to the Gym. The game will treat it as if you have defeated Sabrina and you will be awarded the Marsh Badge. This glitch was fixed in Pokémon Blue and the international versions of the game.
4 Lenora's Offensive Apron
The early days of the Pokémon franchise were filled with controversy. The "Electric Soldier Porygon" incident almost destroyed the anime before it had a chance to find its audience, while animal rights groups pounced on the series when it became big outside of Japan. This is to say nothing of the accusations of Jynx's design being racist and the lawsuit by Uri Geller over the design of Kadabra.
You would think that Game Freak would learn their lesson, but they were forced to edit the games/anime again during the Pokémon Black & White era. This is because Lenora (the Gym Leader of Nacrene City) was a black woman who wore an apron as part of her outfit. The edit was made because her outfit resembled the "Mammy" stereotype, which is considered to be racist. Lenora has since taken to wearing the apron like a cape.
3 Iris' Sheer Force (Does Nothing)
Iris was Ash's companion throughout Unova. In the games, she was the final Gym Leader in Pokémon White and went on to become the Champion in Pokémon Black 2 & White 2, where she had defeated Alder and taken over his position.
Iris is a master of Dragon-type Pokémon, which she uses in her battles with the players. It seems that she never learned about how Pokémon abilities worked, as one of her Pokémon has one that is useless.
The Druddigon that Iris uses in Pokémon White possesses the Sheer Force ability, which increases the strength of a move but removes any secondary effect it has. The Druddigon doesn't possess any moves with a secondary effect, so the Ability is useless.
2 Juan Are You?
Pokémon Emerald shakes up the order of the opponents that you face throughout the game. In Pokémon Ruby & Sapphire, the final Gym Leader is Wallace and the Champion is Steven Stone. In Pokémon Emerald, the final Gym Leader is Juan and Wallace has moved up to the Champion position. Juan is Wallace's former teacher and he took over as the Leader of the Sootopolis City Gym as a favor for his favorite student.
As the Pokémon anime was still being developed during the release period of Pokémon Emerald, the episodes hinted that Wallace was going to be the final Gym Leader in the promotional artwork and teasers for the show. They had to retroactively add Juan as the series progressed, in order to make Ash's battle match the events of Pokémon Emerald.
1 Gyarados Oak!
The most powerful Gym Leader that you will encounter in the Pokémon video games is Blue from Pokémon Red & Blue. He took over the role of the Viridian City Gym Leader after Giovanni disappeared. Blue is a tough opponent, which is befitting his status as a former Champion. He uses a diverse team of powerful opponents, which puts him just below Red in terms of strength.
According to Ken Sugimori's Twitter account, the original name for Blue was going to be Gyaro, which was going to reflect his status as a trainer who used a powerful Gyarados as his main Pokémon in battle. This means that we were deprived of the rival in the original Pokémon games being called Gyaro Oak.