Some rikishi put up great performances in Fukuoka. Others … not so much. Let’s take a look at some of the highs and lows.
For the obvious reason, and also because a yusho-winning performance makes it that much more likely that he can make it to the Olympics.
The shin-Komusubi more than justified his promotion to san’yaku, picking up 11 wins, a share of the jun-yusho, and a technique prize (his first, but his 6th special prize). He will be fighting at his highest career rank again in January, and while he may not be on an official Ozeki run, he can get there with a dominant performance in January, or soon thereafter if he stays healthy.
This time, his 9 wins at East Komusubi all came on the dohyo (last time, one was by default and another by disqualification). While a Sekiwake promotion is unlikely, Abi has firmly established himself as a san’yaku regular.
He spent much of the year acquitting himself well in the joi, and it will be hard for him to continue flying under the radar after he knocked off the Dai-Yokozuna to pick up the outstanding performance award and earned his san’yaku debut.
Bruce’s frequent whipping boy showed that he is no double-digit maegashira, recording 11 wins and picking up his third fighting spirit prize and first jun-yusho by upsetting Asanoyama on senshuraku. Tachiai hopes that this gives him a much-needed confidence boost on his return to the joi in January.
Winners: Enho and the Pixies
After his every promotion, we hear how Enho has hit his ceiling. Every defeat brings talk of him being “figured out.” Yet the smallest man in the top division recorded his third-straight kachi-koshi, and will once again reach a career-high rank in January. Heya-mate Ishiura has apparently been taking notes, and he displayed his best sumo in recent memory to finish 9-6. And fellow small rikishi Terutsuyoshi rebounded from his 4-11 drubbing at Aki to finish with a winning record at Kyushu.
Winners: Takanosho and Kagayaki
Somewhat quietly, they were the only two men in the top-division, aside from the yusho and jun-yusho winners, to record double-digit victories. For Takanosho, this will mean a new career-high rank by some margin.
We may never know just how big a role the head wound he suffered in his Day 3 victory over Meisei had in his 6-9 performance, but Mitakeumi is undoubtedly the biggest loser of the basho, at least among those able to participate to the end. He went from aiming for Ozeki promotion as the defending yusho winner to (in all likelihood) dropping out of san’yaku altogether for the first time since January 2017. I still believe that Mitakeumi is a big part of sumo’s future, and wish good health and fighting spirit in 2020 to the man with two top-division titles and 8 special prizes in his 25 Makuuchi tournaments, all but 7 of them as Sekiwake or Komusubi.
Losers: Tochinoshin, Takayasu, Goeido
The three recent Ozeki all entered the tournament but managed only 12 bouts and 5 victories between them. As a result, Tochinoshin will be a mid-maegashira in January, Takayasu will be a Sekiwake, and Goeido will be a kadoban Ozeki for the 9th time in 32 basho at the rank.
Losers: Nishikigi, Daishomaru, Daishoho
This low-ranked trio combined for 12 wins and will be fighting in the second division at Hatsu.
Sad Stories: Tomokaze and Wakatakakage
Injuries were obviously a big and unfortunate part of the Kyushu basho. They forced Ichinojo to sit out the tournament, which will result in a drop deep into Juryo, kept Kakuryu from participating, derailed Tochinoshin’s and Takayasu’s bids to be Ozeki in January, and sealed Goeido’s kadoban status. But none hit harder than watching two young rising stars felled in eerily similar hops off the dohyo on Days 2 and 4. Wakatakakage’s Makuuchi debut was a revelation as he opened the tournament with four straight victories (in an odd footnote, he was the only participating rikishi to be undefeated on the dohyo). Although the sample size was admittedly small, he looked like a future top-division mainstay, as well as a likely candidate for double-digit wins and a special prize. Instead, he’ll be back in Juryo in January, hopefully fully recovered.
Even worse, given the severity of his injury, is what happened to Tomokaze. Although in September he came up one win short of maintaining his record of never finishing a tournament make-koshi, and his sumo may have regressed somewhat, the Oguruma beya man looked destined for san’yaku, and was frequently tipped as the next Ozeki/Yokozuna hope. Instead, he will drop into the lower divisions and have to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Tochinoshin, Terunofuji, and Ura in fighting his way back toward the summit. The good news is that it sounds like the surgery went well, and the recovery time may be shorter than the originally reported year.