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SPOILERS: Masters Eight Discussion/Speculation Thread

Ghost Diplocaulus

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Unless I'm mistaken, the only previous episode that reveals that Gary had become a Pokémon researcher is the episode 15 of Pokémon Chronicles, a spin off series that many may not have even seen. So honestly, I don't think the audience found the battle and the outcome of it strange. In fact, I remember thinking it was super cool and happy that Gary would reappear in the next season.
Didn't Johto's ending have Gary flat out state that he didn't want to be a Trainer anymore and he'd rather follow his grandpa's footsteps?
 

CharizardFan7

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I'm just super excited that Ash will competing against the best of the best pretty soon. I hope these battles stand the test of time and are very memorable! :D
Didn't Johto's ending have Gary flat out state that he didn't want to be a Trainer anymore and he'd rather follow his grandpa's footsteps?
Yep.
 

Beatsy Ray

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Obviously it's going to vary indivdually, I just personally think Gary managing to keep up with Ash while not focusing on being a trainer anymore contributed heavily to the "Ash is stuck on a treadmill and not allowed to meaningfully improve as a trainer" problem that struck me as becoming very obvious during DP and never really stopped until Sun/Moon or JN.
It's definitely a matter of perspective, but I'm of the opinion that Ash's growth in AG and especially DP is self evident. If the challenges Ash faces increase at a similar rate to his own improvement, it can create the illusion that he's not actually getting stronger (see the power creep of DBZ). However, the actual content of the battles in those later series' tell a different story, which is why I don't think it's fair to use Ash's win/loss ratio as a representation of his skill.

Ash vs Roark was probably the highest level battle he had ever faced up to that point. On top of his Pokemon being stupidly overpowered (his Onix could kill with Screech), he deployed competitive level strategies like setting up Stealth Rock and spamming recoil moves freely with the Rock Head ability. And as was the theme with DP, everyone had like 3 health bars. Gone were the days of Frontier Brains getting OHKO'd with super-effective moves (or normal-effective in some cases). The amount of hits Ash was required to land in order to faint these guys, and the sheer degree of effort and strategy it took do so made everything that came before feel like easy mode. And it's clearly not that Ash is weaker, the animation conveys quite clearly how strong all these attacks are. Bone cracking Iron Tails, stadium-filling Thunderbolts, etc. Copy and paste for nearly every boss fight in the series (except maybe Crasher Wake and Candice).

Getting back to Gary (and Paul), it just makes sense for competitive and talented trainers to keep improving. It's better to have recurring rivals that constantly push you to improve, rather than ones that are immediately discarded after serving their purpose. If anything, it's a healthy message against complacency. The point of competing against your rival isn't to prove that you're objectively better, it's a symbiotic relationship where both parties work to reach a higher level than they ever could alone.
 
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FelipePR

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Didn't Johto's ending have Gary flat out state that he didn't want to be a Trainer anymore and he'd rather follow his grandpa's footsteps?

Oh, I remember that he wanted a fresh start, but I didn't remember that he said he wanted to follow in his grandfather's footsteps. It must have been almost 20 years since I saw the end of Johtho.
 
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Daren

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It's definitely a matter of perspective, but I'm of the opinion that Ash's growth in AG and especially DP is self evident. If the challenges Ash faces increase at a similar rate to his own improvement, it can create the illusion that he's not actually getting stronger (see the power creep of DBZ). However, the actual content of the battles in those later series' tell a different story, which is why I don't think it's fair to use Ash's win/loss ratio as a representation of his skill.

Ash vs Roark was probably the highest level battle he had ever faced up to that point. On top of his Pokemon being stupidly overpowered (his Onix could kill with Screech), he deployed competitive level strategies like setting up Stealth Rock and spamming recoil moves freely with the Rock Head ability. And as was the theme with DP, everyone had like 3 health bars. Gone were the days of Frontier Brains getting OHKO'd with super-effective moves (or normal-effective in some cases). The amount of hits Ash was required land in order to faint these guys, and the sheer degree of effort and strategy it took do so made everything that came before feel like easy mode. And it's clearly not that Ash is weaker, the animation conveys quite clearly how strong all these attacks are. Bone cracking Iron Tails, stadium-filling Thunderbolts, etc. Copy and paste for nearly every boss fight in the series (except maybe Crasher Wake and Candace).
Personally, I think Dragon Ball isn't a good comparison because it actually scaled up the challenges the protagonists face while Ash was still stuck just entering regional Pokémon leagues. There's a reason Goku didn't beat Nappa before the Red Ribbon Army--but Ash basically did that when he defeated Paul after Brandon.
If Sinnoh Gym Leaders are so strong shouldn't newbies in Sinnoh be screwed? But Dawn did better than Ash in that series--so are their battlers great but their coordinators are mediocre?
Honestly, I don't take the battle choreography as a sign of skill because it's so inconsistent; Ash fought more intelligently against Drake in the OI than against pretty much any of his later opponent, with well thought out switches and Pokémon choices, then does incredibly dumb stuff later on like sending Pikachu to fight Morrison's Steelix or bringing a bunch of underexperienced Pokémon to fight his main rival so Charizard and Snorlax could do everything, or trying to Seismic Toss a Dusclops...

So actual results are all I can go by because they reflect writer intent better--what does the outcome say about his progression--and Ash having his worst w/l rate in DP and ending with a win against a guy shown to be much weaker than his final opponenet in the previous series followed by one of his most one-sided losses is why to me DP felt like it's main theme for Ash was his regression as a trainer from nearly Elite Four to "okay", and killed my interest in the show for four or five years. I know it's less common now but when DP was airing it got criticzed quite a bit for nerfing Ash so much--but it seems many of those people are now out of the fanbase.

Edit: Ah, this has gone off-rails from the topic thread.
Bringing it back, I admit that whatever issues we've had getting here (like the lack of major opponents Ash has battled up to now) I'm very grateful to see him getting another unambiguous trainer advancement for the first time since AG ended.
 
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Beatsy Ray

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If Sinnoh Gym Leaders are so strong shouldn't newbies in Sinnoh be screwed? But Dawn did better than Ash in that series--so are their battlers great but their coordinators are mediocre?
Growing up in a more competitive region would make the trainers and coordinators there more talented as a result. In real life, Japanese VGC players are considered leagues above western ones because of how much harder they have to work to make the top cut. Mirroring that, a record low of 64 trainers were even able to complete the gym circuit and compete in the Sinnoh League.

Dawn's a unique case. I believe she genuinely had more latent ability than Ash or any of his other companions ever did, and that's because she was raised by a top coordinator. She grew up with a more realistic understanding of the effort it would take to realize her goal, and also displayed a much better work ethic from day 1 than Ash did until AG.

Honestly, I don't take the battle choreography as a sign of skill because it's so inconsistent; Ash fought more intelligently against Drake in the OI than against pretty much any of his later opponent, with well thought out switches and Pokémon choices, then does incredibly dumb stuff later on like sending Pikachu to fight Morrison's Steelix or bringing a bunch of underexperienced Pokémon to fight his main rival so Charizard and Snorlax could do everything, or trying to Seismic Toss a Dusclops...

So actual results are all I can go by because they reflect writer intent better--what does the outcome say about his progression--and Ash having his worst w/l rate in DP and ending with a win against a guy shown to be much weaker than his final opponenet in the previous series followed by one of his most one-sided losses is why to me DP felt like it's main theme for Ash was his regression as a trainer from nearly Elite Four to "okay", and killed my interest in the show for four or five years. I know it's less common now but when DP was airing it got criticzed quite a bit for nerfing Ash so much--but it seems many of those people are now out of the fanbase.
That seems stubbornly dismissive to me. It's no secret that the writing can be inconsistent at times, however there is still a clear line of progression if you look out for it. The animation depicts Ash's Pokemon as stronger and more agile as the series goes on, and the quality of his commands, strategies, and even training regiment all clearly improve in AG, and then again in DP (barring the occasional hiccup which are really few and far between). The stronger you get, the higher level competition you can compete in. Win/loss ratio means nothing without that context.

It doesn't make sense to compare Ash's battle against Brandon to Paul's. Ash managed to beat him in a battle where the only Regi he was using was Regice, and he limited himself to no substitutions. Regice itself was depicted as uncharacteristically frail in this battle, fainting to a single Volt Tackle after using Rest (Roark's Cranidos lived like 3 Volt Tackles). Paul on the other hand had to face a revolving door of 3 Regis, constantly switching out to counter him. On top of that, Paul wasn't able to prepare a balanced team to battle him, instead being handicapped by a team originally selected to counter Candice. Paul would have beat the Brandon in AG, and Ash would have lost to him here.
 
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puddleths

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So actual results are all I can go by because they reflect writer intent better
I'll be guilty of going off-topic here, too, but just wanted to respond to a couple things.
ending with a win against a guy shown to be much weaker than his final opponent in the previous series
Yes, Paul is shown to not be at Brandon's level, but it took Ash multiple tries to beat him, he used reserves (against Brandon, but never Paul), and he didn't face all 3 Regis in the same battle. I know there's the idea Brandon's other Pokémon are stronger because he might have used them to catch the Regis, but that still feels like a tough sell.
followed by one of his most one-sided losses
Tobias was a character created for the purpose of making a "believable" opponent for Ash to lose to after Paul. Their attempt at softening the blow was giving Ash the "honor" of being the first and only trainer to KO Tobias's Darkrai (and then Latios for good measure). Sure it was lopsided, but no one else performs as well as Ash. Ultimately, I think the intent is clear. If not for Tobias, Ash would have won the Sinnoh league.
 

FinnishPokéFan92

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Regice itself was depicted as uncharacteristically frail in this battle, fainting to a single Volt Tackle after using Rest (Roark's Cranidos lived like 3 Volt Tackles).
That was not a well-written KO, when you look into it. They probably meant for Volt Tackle to look like an epic finisher, but the problem with how they executed is exactly like you said: Regice had just finished healing, so instead of it feeling like a finishing blow, it felt like a OHKO out of nowhere. Especially when considering that Regice had earlier survived multiple super effective Iron Tails, but a single neutral Volt Tackle somehow was able to do what they couldn't.
 
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It doesn't make sense to compare Ash's battle against Brandon to Paul's. Ash managed to beat him in a battle where the only Regi he was using was Regice, and he limited himself to no substitutions. Regice itself was depicted as uncharacteristically frail in this battle, fainting to a single Volt Tackle after using Rest (Roark's Cranidos lived like 3 Volt Tackles). Paul on the other hand had to face a revolving door of 3 Regis, constantly switching out to counter him. On top of that, Paul wasn't able to prepare a balanced team to battle him, instead being handicapped by a team originally selected to counter Candice. Paul would have beat the Brandon in AG, and Ash would have lost to him here.
And on top of that it's likely those Regis have gotten stronger considering it took little to no time for them to breeze through Paul's pokemon while it was the opposite with Ash's,I think the refusal to dodge attacks on command plays a big part in that as well.

Paul either takes the hit,blocks or uses defensive moves while Ash is prone to commanding his pokemon to dodge which would explain how Torkoal was able to last as long as it did against Registeel compared to Paul's Nidoking,Hariyama,Ursaring and Electabuzz.
 

Ghost Diplocaulus

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VetProf

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This is genuinely awesome to see, but I hope it also means we'll get to see the Champions without Megas use the other gimmicks, because it'd be a bit boring imo if only Megas got wide use. Lance using Gigantamax seems like it could happen, since he did lose to Leon's G-Max Charizard.
Lance using Gigantamax Flapple/Appletun would be neat. It's one of the only two Dragon-type G-maxes that are available, and unlike Duraludon, we haven't seen anyone showcasing the Applin evolutionary line yet. Also, I'm wondering if anyone else will be using Z-moves in the tournament, considering that Ash is the only trainer representing that gimmick in the entire tournament right now. Even though I think Z-moves are the least interesting gimmick among the three, it would be nice to see someone else using them for a change. Maybe Cynthia could show off Clangorous Soulblaze in the quarterfinals before using her Mega Garchomp in the semifinals.
 

A Wild Luxray

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Our queen has finally done it. She has her Mega Garchomp and she's even more fearsome. Knowing its possible Ash has to face her, I'd be pretty afraid if I were him.
 

Beatsy Ray

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Also, I'm wondering if anyone else will be using Z-moves in the tournament, considering that Ash is the only trainer representing that gimmick in the entire tournament right now. Even though I think Z-moves are the least interesting gimmick among the three, it would be nice to see someone else using them for a change. Maybe Cynthia could show off Clangorous Soulblaze in the quarterfinals before using her Mega Garchomp in the semifinals.
I think it's a nice touch that Ash is the only one using Z-moves. Everyone and their grandma manages to get access to mega evolution, but outside of Alola, Z-moves feel like Ash's unique trademark as the Alola Champion. Alola is a relatively small and quaint region, so most high-profile trainers may not consider going there, let alone bother taking part in the island challenge to earn the Z-ring/crystals.
 

SamurottMan

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So whose Dragonite is Diantha's MGardevoir battling? Lance, Iris, Ash?

It seems like it's Iris's grumpy looking Dragonite.
 

Rainbow-Rain

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No lie Leon having G-Max Rillaboom took me by surprised in a very good way.

I honestly believed that Leon wasn't gonna have any Galar Starters nor would we see any of the Galar Starters G-Max forms (aside from possibly Cinderace at the end)

Also wait a minute. If Leon has Rillaboom...

This means Ash really was supposed to have Sobble! Holy Crap I knew it! My boy was ROBBED!


(Note: I'm Just Joking I know the anime doesn't work like that lol)

But Joking aside, In all seriousness,

Who will Ash use to defeat Leon's G-Max Rillaboom?

Imagine if that thing has Grassy Surge/Grassy Glide....
Ash better watch out...
 

Rath

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No lie Leon having G-Max Rillaboom took me by surprised in a very good way.

I honestly believed that Leon wasn't gonna have any Galar Starters nor would we see any of the Galar Starters G-Max forms (aside from possibly Cinderace at the end)

Also wait a minute. If Leon has Rillaboom...

This means Ash really was supposed to have Sobble! Holy Crap I knew it! My boy was ROBBED!


(Note: I'm Just Joking I know the anime doesn't work like that lol)

But Joking aside, In all seriousness,

Who will Ash use to defeat Leon's G-Max Rillaboom?

Imagine if that thing has Grassy Surge/Grassy Glide....
Ash better watch out...
Ash probably won't fight G-Max Rillaboom, this is just for the opening ceremony or for Leon's other battles to show that he isn't completely reliant on Charizard.

Also, there's a Leon/Diantha poster in Spoon magazine, completing the poster set. This is all I could find of it right now though.

FTxiRHqXoAALvrR
 

cricketlaxwolvesbandy

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Ash vs Steven? NOOOO we better get Ash Greninja vs MCX
Tracey and Hop being there is cool, but looks like reserves are out as they are just watching at Oaks...
 
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