Absol is allllllmost great - it's strong, has a cool/extremely weird demon/wolf design, and is literally known as the DISASTER Pokemon (due to its tendency towards being located near horrible disasters in the Pokemon games). Unfortunately, it's lack of evolution holds it back just enough to make it not quite the ultimate badass we all know it could become (although its Mega Evolution in Pokemon X & Y is a nice consolation prize). Does that mean we've given up hope for an evolution sometime in the future? Absol-utely not. (*ducks barrage of tomatoes and boos*)
Salamance fits nicely into the "Generic-Looking Dragon" range of Pokemon - which is fine, because (like Dragonite and Mega Charizard), pretty regular-looking dragons are still pretty awesome. Salamance stands out a bit from its dragon brethren by following the typical bug/butterfly evolution pattern - little baby Pokemon, worthless cocoon stage, culminating in a winged-majestic-badass emerging. Except, obviously, dragons are about a thousand times better than the best butterfly. Yes, even Timid Butterfrees.
Who says you need to be a Legendary to be an amazing, unstoppable, badass Pokemon? Definitely not anyone with Metagross on their team. For all the dragons and gods of Pokemon, a robot spider with enormous defensive capabilities is sometimes exactly what you need. This applies to real life too.
The ultimate goal of Team Magma was to get Groudon and lower the sea level, which is actually a pretty sensible idea in this day and age, with sea levels on the rise thanks to our own indifference to polluting the planet. Really, Team Magma is probably the most pragmatic Pokemon gang ever. Besides its real world usefulness though, Groudon is an extremely powerful Pokemon, even though it's inherently super-weak against its primary rival, Kyogre. Still, letting this dinosaur-looking Ground-type have its way seems like a great idea: more land means less surfing and running into a thousand Tentacools. Groudon, you're the only god-like Pokemon that makes sense in this crazy world.