While James having Gyrados could have worked (4x weakness to Pikachu's electric attacks, after all), I suppose they did the right thing in not having him just recall it. Not only would it wreck the arc, but TR was never really meant to beat Ash, even though I would have liked it if, now and then, they did manage to do so in some. (But, TR beating Ash = them taking Pikachu = ... well, the end of Ash and the series. Although, a long, several episode long arc where they DID manage to steal Pikachu, hand him over to main Team Rocket and then Ash swoops in to save him after 4/5/6 episodes of chasing TR down and going through grunt after grunt would be fairly epic)
Also, the narrator in the beginning "Holy Titanic!"
And, of course, I loved Pikachu shaking hands with Meowth ... and then shocking him.