As I have stated before, in my opinion Hakuhō Shō (白鵬 翔) is the most dominant Yokozuna in Sumo, possibly ever. His record is unmatched, and when he is healthy there is really no stopping him from winning any tournament.
Hence the big question for the upcoming Tokyo Aki Basho. Hakuho was clearly injured somewhere around day 9 in Nagoya, and was at quite a bit less than full form. While a toe injury was publicly cited, it seemed he was having problems with a knee as well.
Clearly showing the champ’s toe healing from whatever happened to it.
There are a lot of elements of the upcoming tournament that pivot on Hakuho’s health. If he is at full strength and fighting form, I expect him to sweep the ranks as he normally does. If he is still injured, or is forced to withdraw as he did September last year, it opens a lot of doors, especially for Kisenosato.
Having recapped Nagoya, handicapped demotions and promotions, it’s time to feed all of this into the giant spreadsheet of love and come up with what we think the Banzuke / ranking sheet for the fall will show.
I have Harumafuji switching to East as the winner of Nagoya, and Hokuho moving to West. Only a prestige move, but reflecting Hamumafuji’s Yusho. Hokuho looked very banged up at the end of Nagoya, and I will be interested to see if he can bounce back and return to his normal form. I consider him to be the “Michael Jordan” of Sumo. He’s so dominant that when he is healthy and in his grove, he has been basically unstoppable.
Kesenosato maintains a Ozeki 1 east rank, with Terunofuji, who saved himself from kadoban and demotion in Nagoya (in part by a henka move against Yoshikaze) in Ozeki 1 west. The two Ozeki who are on the bubble fill in below them. The odds predict that one of them will not survive as Ozeki, and we will have a new Ozeki come the winter ranking sheet.
Takayasu moves up to Sekiwake, and is my statistical leader for the next Ozeki should one of the two kadoban Ozeki fall. His performance at Nagano was fantastic, and if he continues strong in Tokyo he has a path to promotion. Tochiozan moves up from Maegashira 1 in Nagoya to Sekiwake for the fall. Good luck to him in a really tough rank.
Enjoying promotion from Maegashira to San’yaku we find Takarafuji, who scored a kinboshi against Hakuho in Nagoya along with Kantō-shō along with Okinoumi who scored a kinboshi against Harumafuji.
Yoshikaze moves to Maegashira 1, as a fan I would have loved to see him back in San’yaku, but crunching the numbers can’t get him higher than M1e. He shares the top rank and file slot with a descending Tochinoshin who falls from Sekiwake. Kaisei falls from Sekiwake to Maegashira 2, which he shares with a promoted Shodai.
Former Juryo rikishi Amakaze, Ura, Gagamaru and Homarefuji fill out the bottom of the ranks.
That’s my guess, the real Banzuke will be out Sunday August 28th. It’s still at least 3 long weeks until Sumo returns, and Tachiai will be covering the action in Tokyo.
As grim it is to talk about all the great Sumotori who are facing a lowered rank, the fun part is talking about how those who excelled at Nagoya are set to rise in rank with the arrival of the Banzuke for the Aki Basho in Tokyo, starting September 11th. Although the ratio of winning records to losing records was 2 winners for ever 3 losers, some great wrestlers are going to find new rankings come August 28th.
The upper levels of the top Makuuchi division are the toughest and most competitive. Wrestlers who achieve Komusubi (小結) or Sekiwake (関脇) frequently lose that rank on their first tournament, as they must face all the other San’yaku wrestlers and all Yokozuna. It’s a tough slot. Coming out of Nagoya, the only San’yaku Rikishi with a winning record was Takayasu who went 11-4, who also took home the Ginō-shō (技能賞) / Technique Prize. We can expect him to go from East Komusubi to East Sekiwake in the Aki Banzuke
Noteworthy Predicted Promotions – (Nagoya) East
Okinoumi – At Maegashira 2, he turned in a minimal winning record of 8-7. But it may be enough to move him into San’yaku as Komusubi
Shodai – Great to see Shodai get his kachi-koshi (winning record) at Nagoya. Expect to see him towards the top of the Maegashira ranks (1 or 2) from Maegashira 5 at Nagoya.
Chiyonokuni – Came to Nagoya as Maegashira 9 for the East team, and withdrew after day 13 due to injury. Be he did so with a winning record. He looked in good form and had some great moves in Nagoya, I expect him to be Maegashira 5 or so if he is healthy enough in September
Takanoiwa – As Maegashira 10 at Nagoya, he was nearly in a 3 way playoff for the wining record (Yusho) of the tournament. He was awarded the Kantō-shō (敢闘賞) / Fighting Spirit Prize. I would expect him also to be around Maegashira 5 in September, where he may find the competition much more intense.
Noteworthy Predicted Promotions – (Nagoya) West
The west had a very ugly record in Nagoya, but there were a few bright spots, all of whom will rise for the September tournament:
Tochiozan – A solid kachi-koshi at 8-7, look for him to also be elevated to San’yaku, possibly as Sekiwake
Takarafuji – In addition for a kinboshi for dropping Hakuho, he turned in an impressive 10-5 performance an took home Kantō-shō / Fighting Spirit Prize. He will likely show up in the San’yaku ranks as a Komusubi for September
Yoshikaze – I have made it clear just how impressive Yohsikaze’s performance was at Nagoya. He was unstoppable. His problem of course is injury. It’s unknown if he will be back for September, but we can hope he is all patched up and ready to go. While I would like to see him at Komusubi, Maegashira 1e is more likely.
Nishikigi – An up and comer at Maegashira 14 in Nagoya, he was 9-6 and will likely be Maegashira 5 or 6 in the September tournament.
Noteworthy Predicted Promotions – Juryo
In addition to a re-shuffle of the Makuuchi ranks, high performing Rikishi from the Juryo rank will be promoted into the top division in September. Some of the great Sumotori I am expecting to see include:
Amakaze – Winner of the Juryo division (Yusho) pretty much assures us we will see Amakaze as a Maegashira in September
Ura – Really looking forward to seeing Ura in the top division. As mentioned in lower threads, he is exciting to watch.
Gagamaru – A winning record as Juryo 1, he is likely to show up lower in the Maegashira ranks. He comes from the former Soviet republic of Georgia
Homarefuji – A 10-5 record as Juryo 4 East, he is likely to be promoted to the top division as well
Now that we have had a look at the results of Nagoya, we get a clearer picture of who will rise in rank, and who will fall. As mentioned in Countdown To Banzuke (番付) – September Basho, Nagoya was a blood bath in the figurative and literal sense. For every 2 Sumotori with winning records, 3 had losing records, 5 withdrew from injuries, and practically everyone was banged up by the time it all wrapped with Harumafuji winning the cup.
2 Ozeki Kadoban (角番)
A big story to me is that 2 Ozeki are on the bubble for the September Tokyo tournament. While much of the Sumo world focus on if Kisenosato will make Yokozuna and break the Japanese drought, the far more interesting race is for the next Ozeki or two. When an Ozeki has a losing tournament, they are “Kadoban”, or at risk of demotion. When they have 2 losing tournaments in a row, they drop to the lower San-yaku ranks. This could open an Ozeki slot for some of the hard changing Sumotori to climb in rank. On the bubble for Tokyo are
Goeido – Could not pull off a win on the final day for kachi-koshi (勝ち越し)
Kotoshogiku – Withdrew due to injuries
Noteworthy Predicted Demotions – East
Kaisei – Sadly his 7-8 record means he is going to likely drop a rank
Kotoyuki – He had an abysmal tournament going 2-13. The Sen-yaku ranks are tough to hang onto, and he will be back to Maegashira, I would think.
Mitakeumi – At East Maegashira 1, he had a tough slot to fill. At 5-10 he will be looking to improve in Tokyo.
Osunaarashi – The Egyptian was out early with an injury. If he is healthy and is in the Tokyo September Banzuke, it is likely at a much lower Maegashira rank.
Toyonoshima – Did not even make it to his first bout, withdrew due to injuries. He is likely back to Juryo ranks for Tokyo
Noteworthy Predicted Demotions – West
Tochinoshin – The West Sekiwake is likely to be demoted due to a 6-9 result on Nagoya. He had some great matches, but as stated above, life in the San-yaku ranks is very tough.
Ikioi – A fan favorite, he went 5-10 and is likely to be well down the Banzuke, even though he was able to drop and injured Hakuho with a Slippi-toshi.
Endo – Dreadful tournament for this guy. 3-12 he was definitely not on top of his game.
Aminishiki – Withdrawing before his first bout, he is back to Juryo for Tokyo in all likelihood.
Sadanofuji – at 4-11, he is also headed back to Juryo, which sadly is not part of the NHK feed into America. Hope to see him back in the Makuuchi ranks soon.
Next up, we will look at which Rikishi are expected to rise when the Banzuke is published on August 28th