It struck me that we’ve seen lots of exciting newcomers to Makuuchi recently (Takakeisho, Onosho, Abi, just to name a few) and that the rikishi newly promoted to the top division seem to stick around. Obviously, given the fixed number of 42 Makuuchi slots, this would mean a fair bit of turnover. I decided to do a bit of research to see if this impression is accurate, and how top-division debutantes tend to fare.
There are many ways one could go about this analysis. To keep things simple, I looked up the rikishi making their Makuuchi debuts between Nagoya 2015 and the current tournament. This gave me a pool of 26 men. I first asked how many of them are fighting in the top division in Nagoya. The answer is 18, meaning that the majority (70%) of the recent newcomers have stuck around, and that almost half of the Makuuchi ranks from 3 years ago have turned over.
I then looked a little more closely at the 18 rikishi currently in Makuuchi, as well as the 8 who’ve dropped out of the top division since making their debuts. A few interesting categories emerged (the groupings below are somewhat subjective; please leave your own thoughts in the comments).
Head of the class
There are two clear standouts. Both made their debuts almost three years ago, one basho apart, rose rapidly through the ranks, and never dropped to Juryo, or come anywhere close. The difference between them is that while Mitakeumi (17 consecutive basho in Makuuchi) has become a San’yaku mainstay, Shodai (16 consecutive basho in Makuuchi) ascended rapidly to his highest rank of Sekiwake, but since then has dropped into the upper maegashira ranks. The potential is still there for him to take his sumo to the next level.
Those in this group have been in Makuuchi for at least 10 consecutive basho and achieved a rank of M5 or higher. Daishomaru, Chiyoshoma, Hokutofuji, and Takakeisho have never dropped to Juryo since making their debuts; Kagayaki went back down after his first top-division tournament, but hasn’t looked back since rejoining Makuuchi a couple basho later.
The rikishi in the group so far lack either the seniority, the consistency, or the performance quality of the group above, but may well get there with time and good health. By necessity, this group is rather heterogeneous, and the fates of its members may diverge over time. It includes recent mainstay Daieisho, the underperforming but determined Nishikigi, former Komusubi Onosho, who is returning from injury, Asanoyama, who could use a ranking above M11 and a few more top-division basho under his belt, as well as Ishiura, Abi, Ryuden, and Yutakayama.
Too soon to tell
Kyokutaisei (second Makuuchi basho) and current debutantes Kotoeko and Meisei.
Up and down
Hidenoumi made the earliest debut of the entire pool of riskishi considered in this post (Nagoya 2015). Since then, he’s dropped back to Juryo 4 times, and returned to Makuuchi on 3 occasions, most recently in March. We’ll see if he improves, fades, or continues to yo-yo as his career progresses. Daiamami spent 3 basho in the top division following his debut, but dropped out after his 4-11 performance in May. He is currently ranked J2, and I expect to see him back.
The very, very sad injury
Cup of coffee
The following rikishi spent either one or two [edit: 3 for Seiro] tournaments in Makuuchi, none recently: Seiro, Akiseyama, Kitaharima, Amakaze, Chiyonoo (as Chiyoo).