Pokemon: Ash Won His First Championship Far Sooner Than You Remember

While many Pokemon fans consider Ash's Alola League victory his first championship, most have forgotten that Ash has been a champion since Season 1.

In 2019, people of the world briefly set aside their differences to celebrate Pokemon’s Ash Ketchum finally becoming a League champion. From CNN to SportsNation, Ash’s triumph was everywhere.

For 20 years, the never-aging, aspiring Pokemon Master lost tournament after tournament. Ash did manage to win the Orange League, but that barely counts because he only had to win four badges and there wasn’t even a tournament. However, most fans seem to have forgotten Ash has been a champion ever since Season 1, thanks to a certain Primeape’s victory in the P1 Grand Prix.

The P1 Grand Prix is a tournament for Fighting-type Pokemon, with the victor earning a championship belt and the coveted title of P1 Champion. The word “championship” was heavy on Ash’s mind during this episode — little did he know how soon his dream would become reality. When the group encounters a Hitmonchan they believe to be wild, Ash tells Pikachu that it’ll be a world champion Pokemon if it can win. Sadly, Pikachu is comedically beaten, delaying Ash’s dream a little while longer.

After Hitmonchan’s trainer Anthony appears, he invites the gang to enter the P1 Grand Prix and soon departs the scene. However, his daughter steps out from behind a tree and requests that our heroes enter the tournament and defeat her father so he’ll quit training and come home to his family. An interesting tactic, considering losing seems more likely to encourage him to keep trying. Nevertheless, she’s pretty cute so Brock happily agrees and drags Ash into it as well.

Apparently, Misty is the only one in the trio who remembers Ash has a Primeape. After Brock asks Ash if he has a Fighting-type to enter with, Ash responds with “oh yeah” when Misty answers that he does. Primeape is a wild, angry Pokemon that hasn’t learned to obey properly yet, so he’s never used it in the time since he captured it. True to form, Ash instantly accepts the tournament challenge, confidently declaring Primeape will win the whole thing.

When the P1 Grand Prix begins, Primeape is up first and almost seems confused by being let out of its Poke Ball. When Ash fails to give Primeape any commands, it’s thoroughly pummeled by a Machop and sent hurtling out of the ring. To his credit, Ash loves his Pokemon whether they return the sentiment or not. When he dives to save Primeape from crashing to the ground, the wild fighting monkey is clearly touched by the gesture and hops back into the ring with a new respect for its trainer.

Now that Ash and Primeape are on the same page, they proceed to wipe the ring with their opponents en route to the championship match. Meanwhile, Anthony and his Hitmonchan struggle against Team Rocket and their stolen Hitmonlee, which apparently doesn’t know what its trainer looks like. When Anthony’s daughter climbs into the ring to protect Hitmonchan from a Mega Kick, Anthony takes the hit instead to protect her.

Having learned his lesson the hard way, Anthony forfeits the match for Hitmonchan’s sake and vows to spend more time with his family. Team Rocket and Hitmonlee advance to the final round, where destiny awaits Ash and Primeape. After an admittedly tough battle, Primeape emerges victorious, giving Ash his first-ever championship (belt).

As per the rules of the Pokemon anime, whenever one of Ash’s Pokemon has an outstanding achievement or skill, it is promptly released or given away. Despite having just promised to spend more time with his family, Anthony offers to train Primeape to become a real P1 Champion, apparently having missed the match just minutes ago where it became a P1 Champion. Though Primeape is visibly saddened by parting ways with Ash, the newly championship-winning trainer is proud of his Pokemon.

All jokes aside, Ash’s win in the P1 Grand Prix is far from equal to his success in the Alola League. However, his accomplishments are so few and far between that they’re all equally deserving of celebration. Primeape had a short, rough go of it with Ash, but at least it got a fancy championship belt out of the deal.

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