Let’s look at what the Natsu results mean for the next banzuke. One fun fact: Asanoyama’s surprise victory means that the Makuuchi banzuke will contain a near-record 9 top-division yusho winners: Hakuho, Kakuryu, Goeido, Takakeisho, Tochinoshin, Mitakeumi, Kotoshogiku, Tamawashi and Asanoyama (plus a 10th, Terunofuji, currently toiling in Sandanme).
Kakuryu will regain the top East Yokozuna rank, displacing absent Hakuho. And there will be four Ozeki on the banzuke for the first time since January 2017. The last such quartet consisted of Kisenosato (promoted, retired), Goeido (still here!), Terunofuji (demoted, just went 6-1 in Sandanme, and should be fighting at the bottom of Makushita next time), and Kotoshogiku (demoted, strong maegashira). The order of the Ozeki should stay the same: Goeido, Takayasu, Takakeisho, with Tochinoshin rejoining at O2w. And with that, we wave goodbye to the M17e rank along with its current holder.
Three of the four slots opened up with West Sekiwake Tochinoshin’s re-promotion and the impending demotions of East Sekiwake Ichinojo (5-7-3) and East Komusubi Aoiyama (6-9). As a result, the only returning member, West Komusubi Mitakeumi (9-6), will move up to East Sekiwake. He will be joined at sumo’s third-highest rank by the other “San’yaku regular” over the past couple of years, M3 Tamawashi (10-5).
The open Komusubi ranks will be filled by M4 Abi (10-5) and the yusho winner M8 Asanoyama (12-3). I am not sure which will get the nod for the more prestigious East side: Abi’s tougher schedule or Asanoyama’s championship.
The New Joi
With 10 rikishi in the named ranks, the joi-jin should include the top 6 maegashira, although the line frequently extends further due to absences and occasional scheduling conflicts. The identities of the top 8 maegashira are clear, although their exact order is anything but. We have newcomers M5 Ryuden (10-5), who fought a full San’yaku slate at Natsu and should record his highest career rank of M1e, and the M7 duo of Shodai and Meisei, both also 10-5. For Shodai, this marks a return to his customary upper maegashira rank, while fast-rising Meisei will reach a new career high for the 5th consecutive basho!
Joining them will be San’yaku dropouts Aoiyama and Ichinojo, as well as upper maegashira survivors M1 Hokutofuji and the M2 duo of Endo and Daiesho, all 7-8. With all 8 rikishi arguably deserving to be ranked M1-M3, someone will experience bad banzuke luck.
The Makuuchi-Juryo Exchange
M17e Chiyoshoma (5-10), M16w Ishiura (5-10), and M14e Tokushoryu (4-11) have all booked seats on the Juryo express. Going in the other direction are Juryo yusho winner J2e Takagenji (13-2), who should make his top-division debut in the mid-maegashira ranks, and returnees J6e Kotoyuki (11-4) and J1e Toyonoshima, who just managed to scrape together the necessary 8 wins. The only “edge case” is M15e Terutsuyoshi, whose 6-9 record at that rank is enough to warrant demotion, but the 4th-best promotion case in Juryo belongs to J4w Azumaryu (8-7), and I don’t think that’s good enough to force the exchange.
As was the case last time, the bottom of Makuuchi is a mess, and it will be hard to come up with a banzuke that satisfies all the constraints and doesn’t promote anyone with a losing record. After Kotoeko, who should vault all the way from M15w to M11e (or higher if they place Takagenji here) with only an 8-7 record, there are 3 rikishi with minimal 7-8 make-koshi (M13e Chiyomaru, M13w Sadanoumi, and M14w Enho), two rikishi with weak promotion records from Juryo, and such under-performers as Tochiozan, Nishikigi, Yago, Kagayaki, Kaisei, and Terutsuyoshi, all with between 3 and 6 victories. All deserve to be ranked M14 or lower, yet someone must occupy the M11-M13 ranks.
The Juryo-Makushita Exchange
Basho-long absences and corresponding demotions of J7w Chiyonokuni and J11e Hakuyozan effectively created two extra open slots in Juryo. These should be complemented by the certain demotion of J14e Churanoumi (5-10) and the likely demotions of J13 Irodori (6-9) and J14w Seiro (7-8). Seiro’s survival is made less likely by the fact that there is no luck of strong promotion candidates at the top of Makushita.
Making it across the heaven/hell boundary should be Ms2w Takanofuji (7-0), Takagenji’s twin and fellow yusho-winner, Ms3e Ichiyamamoto (5-2), Ms3w Kizakiumi (5-2), Ms2e Kotokamatani (4-3), and Ms4e Ryuko (6-1). With the exception of Takanofuji, who’ll be making his 3rd trip to Juryo, the others are all debuts, marking an influx of exciting new names into the sekitori ranks. Ms4w Hoshoryu (4-3) will just miss out, but he will be in a great position to earn promotion in July.