Drayden Versus Iris: Past, Present, and Future! (Japanese: ソウリュウジム！アイリスVSシャガ！！Soryu Gym! Iris VS Shaga!!) is the 101st episode of the Best Wishes series, and the 758th episode of the Pokémon anime. It first aired in Japan on November 8, 2012 and in the United States on February 23, 2013.
Iris has been challenged by Opelucid Gym Leader Drayden, and she’s back in town to battle him! But as soon as she arrives (with Ash and Cilan in tow), a crisis of confidence sends her scurrying up a tall metal tower for some fresh air and solitude. Her retreat doesn’t last long, though—Officer Jenny is quickly on the scene to order her back to the ground, and she makes Iris promise never to do that again. It seems the aspiring Dragon Master has a bit of a history here...
Upon running into her former dorm advisor Martha, Iris reveals that she used to be a student at Opelucid Academy, one of the most famous schools of Pokémon knowledge in the Unova region—led by none other than Gym Leader Drayden as the academy president. It seemed the perfect opportunity for her to make an intensive study of Dragon-type Pokémon, but the free-spirited Iris had trouble fitting in with the other students, and soon became homesick and lonely. She first climbed the tower in an attempt to get a glimpse of home, and the fresh air reminded her of her beloved Village of Dragons, so the top of the tower became her favorite retreat. After a battle against one of her classmates went wrong and she got a stern talking-to from Drayden about connecting with her Pokémon, she decided the academy just wasn’t for her, and returned home before setting out on her journey with Axew.
Now it’s time for Iris to prove to Drayden how much she and her Pokémon have grown together! The battle begins with Drayden’s Haxorus up against Iris’s Excadrill—it’s a rematch of the battle they had in the Village of Dragons when Iris was younger! This time, it ends in a draw, as Excadrill and Haxorus manage to knock each other out at the same time. Next up, Drayden calls out his Druddigon, and Iris turns to her Dragonite. She initially plans to attack from the air because Druddigon can’t fly, but quickly remembers that Dragonite prefers an even playing field, and shifts her strategy to match her Pokémon’s wishes. The two seem evenly matched, and Druddigon eventually comes out on top.
Iris is defeated, but the battle has served its purpose, and Drayden is satisfied with her potential and the strength she’s shown. He advises her to keep training and getting stronger, and asks her to come back and visit when she’s ready. As he leaves, Martha reveals that it was actually Drayden who suggested to the Village Elder that Iris go on a journey...and that he’s been planning for her to take over as the Opelucid Gym Leader when he retires!
Iris is stunned by this news, and asks for some time to consider her decision while she continues her journey. Next stop: Vertress City and the Unova League!
Ash and his friends arrive in Opelucid City, the location of Iris's Gymbattle against Drayden, the local Gym Leader. Iris isn't in a good mood, and the boys ask her if she's okay. She says yes, but then runs off and climbs to the top of the city's radio tower. A crowd of pedestrians gathers, including Officer Jenny who orders her via megaphone to climb down immediately. After a bit of arguing, Iris descends the tower and is scolded by the Officer. An elderly woman named Martha recognizes Iris and brings the group to the Opelucid Academy, a prestigious school about Pokémon types, and where it is revealed that Drayden is the principal. Drayden notices the three and asks Iris if everything is okay after the tower incident. Iris replies positively, and Drayden leaves with his assistant, telling Iris that they should meet soon at the Opelucid Gym. Martha, the school's caretaker, appears and guides them inside.
While having lunch, they discuss Iris's time as a student. It is revealed that after her loss to Drayden, Iris left the Village of Dragons and enrolled in Opelucid Academy's course for Dragon types. However, because the city life and demeanor of her fellow pupils did not match her personality, Iris couldn't adjust or make friends, and thus became sad. She wouldn't even eat until Martha discovered and brought her favorite food to cheer her up. Iris also reveals the reason she climbed the radio tower earlier: she regularly did that in her school days to get fresh air and "feel the Village of Dragons." Officer Jenny, of course, was always there to scold her.
They then enter Iris's former dorm and notice that she had drawn her Pokémon friends from back home on a wall. Finally, Iris says that after lots of postcards from her best friend Shannon, she became homesick and secretly left school to go back. This was also the reason she had been avoiding Opelucid City and Drayden all this time.
She also talks about a Fraxure belonging to the Academy that she used to battle. In a battle against another Student's Altaria, Iris commanded the tired Pokémon to constantly attack because of her frustration. Due to her lack of focus, Iris lost the battle, and Drayden scolded her for not recognizing Fraxure's exhaustion and pushing it to battle despite its condition. Iris reminisces about the day the elder gave her Axew to start her journey. Finally, she goes to the school playground and apologizes to Fraxure for what happened years ago. It accepts the apology and Iris promises that she will do her best to defeat Drayden and become a Dragon Master.
With her past issues dealt with, Iris and her friends finally head to the Gym, as she is more than ready to battle Drayden. This time, it will be a two-on-two match. Drayden starts up with Haxorus while Iris sends out Excadrill, hoping that she will fare better this time. The moves used at the beginning of the battle replicate those of the last time Haxorus and Excadrill battled. However, Haxorus has to use Rock Smash to deflect Excadrill's Focus Blast, pushing Haxorus backward. The two strike full-force with Drill Run and Giga Impact, causing a huge explosion, and their blows knock each other out simultaneously. Each Trainer is satisfied with their Pokémon's performance, and Drayden congratulates Iris for her progress.
With one Pokémon left on each side, Drayden's Druddigon meets Iris's Dragonite. Although he has aerial superiority, the prideful Dragonite convinces Iris not to take advantage, making it a fair fight. Dragonite's Thunder Punch and Ice Beam land hits despite Druddigon's successful Dragon Claw hit, negation of Flamethrower with Flash Cannon, and momentary Double Team defense. Iris tries to finish the match with Dragon Rush, but Druddigon catches Dragonite by the neck, slams him down, and strikes with Dragon Tail, giving Drayden the win. Even though Iris has lost, she receives Drayden's praise and leaves the Gym happy and exhilarated.
Before departure, Martha says that Iris's journey to be a Dragon Master is far from over and that she should continue on until she reaches that point. She reveals that it was actually Drayden who recognized that his school was not helping Iris and recommended to the village elder that Iris be allowed to go on a journey so she could learn at her own pace, meaning that Drayden had no problem with her leaving school. In a stunning announcement, Drayden says that he wants her to become the next Opelucid Gym Leader. A shocked Iris replies that she wants time to consider her decision. She and her friends then depart from Opelucid City. In the end, Ash tells Iris that he will not fall behind her, as he is going to win the Unova League.