Have ozeki forces been expelled from the dohyo ?

Asanoyama has deservedly been promoted to the ozeki rank, right after a solid 11-4 performance in Osaka. Long life the ozeki!

By the way, in terms of roles, what, exactly, is an ozeki?

The ozeki are sumo’s second highest rank, and should provide yokozuna serious competition for the Cup.

However, how often hs this been the case recently?

Recent records show us that ozeki have largely been disappointing. Let’s dig deeper into this topic, knowing that we will look back until 2010:

  1. Who has been an ozeki since then?

Kaio, Kotomitsuki, Harumafuji, Kotooshu, Baruto, Kotoshogiku, Kisenosato, Kakuryu, Goeido, Terunofuji, Takayasu, Tochinoshin and Takakeisho. That’s a total of 13.

Used to lift small cars for training: former ozeki Baruto (left)

2. Since 2010, who has not won a single basho as an ozeki?

Sadly enough, many of them: Kaio, Kotomitsuki, Kotooshu, and the four last of them: Terunofuji, Takayasu, Tochinoshin and Takakeisho. It’s more than the half: 7 out of 13.

On the contrary, Harumafuji has been the most successful, as he collected eight of his nine yusho during that period.

3. How to analyze ozeki records?

To sum up grossly ozeki ranks since 2010, Kaio was in his late career, and Kotomitsuki got dismissed in 2010.

By the end of 2011, an unseen sextet of ozeki took place after Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato’s promotions.

The trademark Kotoshogiku stretch

Harumafuji had won a yusho (Nagoya 2011) as an ozeki right before. He repeated that feat twice in a row in Nagoya and Aki of next year, securing his promotion to yokozuna.

Of the sextet, only Baruto was immediately successful, winning the January 2012 basho. But that was it, for the time being, and the sextet disagregated.

We had to wait until Osaka 2014 to see another ozeki win a yusho, namely Kakuryu – he got promoted to yokozuna right after.

A successful rise to the top: yokozuna Kakuryu

We had to wait almost two years to see more ozeki success. In fact, we could witness twelve months of ozeki bless, with three of them notching a yusho: Kotoshogiku in January 2016, Goeido in September 2016, and Kisenosato in January 2017. His second win in March came as a yokozuna.

And, incredibly, that was it. Ozeki tried, lost twice in a playoff in 2017 (Terunofuji in March, Goeido in September) ; Takayasu came close to meeting Takakeisho in a playoff in November 2018. But they visibly failed to delivered since Kisenosato’s promotion ; their health condition has been a great concern. Terunofuji fell into the abyss, Takayasu and Tochinoshin got definitively demoted. For all three of them, demotion did not came too long after their promotion – about two years. Goeido’s physical condition caused him to retire, but he had quite a long spell – a bit less than six years. Kotoshogiku failed to regain the ozeki rank early in 2017; the final blow was given by a very infamous henka by Terunofuji, and caused great scandal.

What about Takakeisho? Considered a great hope, he already suffered two grave injuries during his younr career, a knee and his chest having been hit. If he did manage to get a spot in a playoff in Aki of 2019, he hasn’t won a yusho as an ozeki yet, and I’m afraid we might not see him lift the Emperor’s Cup ever again, due to his precarious health condition.

A great future already behind him ? Ozeki Takakeisho

Unfortunately, this is truly been the ozeki’s stumbling block.

To sum up:

Only 8 bashos have been won by an ozeki since 2010 : 1 by Baruto, Kakuryu, Kotoshogiku, Goeido and Kisenosato ; 3 by Harumafuji.

Three of them have been promoted to yokozuna after the yusho; the other three have stayed at the rank but failed to deliver again.

  • From 2010 to 2012 included: 4 ozeki yusho (Baruto, Harumafuji thrice)
  • From 2013 to 2015 included: 1 ozeki yusho (Kakuryu)
  • From 2016 to January 2017 included: 3 ozeki yusho (Kotoshogiku, Goeido, Kisenosato)
  • From March 2017 to present: no yusho.
Set to break the curse? Ozeki Asanoyama

Time is ticking, and let’s hope Asanoyama will be able to break that new, worrying ozeki curse…

Update: I got a very interesting question from Abi Fan, which I thank a lot for that. He asked how ozeki fared in the previous decade.

16 yusho were won by ozeki back then:

– Chiyotaikai – 2 (July 2002, March 2003)
– Kaio – 4 (his first yusho came as a komusubi)
– Tochiazuma – 3 (January 2002, November 2003, January 2006)
– Asashoryu – 2 (November 2002 and January 2003)
– Hakuho – 3 (May 2006, Maech and May 2007)
– Harumafuji – 1 (May 2009)
– Kotoosho – 1 (May 2008).

Remarkably, the majority of all yusho winner of that decade is quoted on that list.

30 thoughts on “Have ozeki forces been expelled from the dohyo ?

  1. Looking at the list of recent ozeki promotions the thing that jumps out at me is the prevalence of injury trouble. Takakaeisho and Tochinoshin both went kyujo on their debuts at the rank. Takayasu pulled out of his second ozeki basho, and Terunofuji withdrew from his fourth. A bit further back Goeido and Kotoshogiku broke down in their fifth and sixth respectively. In don’t think that a shin-ozeki has completed a healthy first year at the rank since Kakuryu in 2012-2013.

    • Even Hakuho would be in there for injury trouble as Ozeki…followed by some rather ridiculously consistent dominance.

      • I completely missed that. Kyushu 2006 in his fourth ozeki basho. He didn’t miss a match through injury for the next nine years. Kisenosato famously missed only one match before his yokozuna promotion. Asashoryu doesn’t count for statistical purposes as he was so damn good he only spent 3 basho at the rank: for him, ozeki was just a brief transitional phase.

    • As a maegashira. The aim of the article is to point out ozeki effectiveness.
      Well, Terunofuji and Takakeisho won a yusho too. But not as ozeki.

    • Not as an Ozeki he was ranked Maegashira 3 in that tournament. He was promoted for Nagoya in July.

  2. There could be three more ozeki yusho if two of them had been promoted after consecutive yusho instead of yusho-junyusho. And I think key to the small output is we’re still in the era of Hakuho, though the end of it, which started in 2006.

  3. Let’s be fair to Kaio – he won four basho as an Ozeki. Sure none in the defined period but he was very close to Yokozuna promotion. He battled in an era of awesome Yokozuna’s – Takanohana, Akebono, Musashimaru – and even early days against a young Hakuho!!

    • Yes and no. In the most recent years, he has been kyujo or somewhat injured rather frequently, giving opportunities to other rikishi. These have not been taken by ozeki – instead either by Kakuryu or an assortment of others up and down the banzuke.

      • Yep, exactly. His last ultra dominant period ended in 2015. Three ozeki stepped up in 2016, and that was it.
        And Hakuho was utterly dominant in terms of win in 2011-2012; it didn’t impede four ozeki yusho during that time.

  4. This is super interesting. But is there a contrasting decade-long era where the ozeki were winning much more often?

    • Ha, interesting question! Let’s see… From 2000 to 2009, ozeki who won a yusho were:
      – Chiyotaikai – 2 (July 2002, March 2003)
      – Kaio – 4 (his first yusho came as a komusubi)
      – Tochiazuma – 3 (January 2002, November 2003, January 2006)
      – Asashoryu – 2 (November 2002 and January 2003)
      – Hakuho – 3 (May 2006, Maech and May 2007)
      – Harumafuji – 1 (May 2009)
      – Kotoosho – 1 (May 2008).
      That’s 16 yusho.

      • The 1990’s had 23 Ozeki Yusho winners, but a lot of those are by future Yokozuna. In chronological order:
        Asahifuji 2x
        Akebono 2x
        Takanohana 5x
        Musashimaru 5x
        Wakanohana 4x

        The Ozeki only Yusho:
        Kirishima 1x
        Konishiki 2x
        Takanonami 2x

        In addition Takanohana had 2 more Yusho before reaching Ozeki, AKebono and Wakanohana had one Yusho before reaching that rank, all in the 90’s. There have been 6 more Yusho winners who were either Sanyaku or Maegashira in that decade.

        If you compare that to the 2010’s, there have only been 16 non Yokozuna Yusho. The 2020s will probably be like the 1990s, as there was also a changing of guards right at the start of the decade. Chiyonofuji had his last Yusho in November 1990.

        The 1980’s had 17 non Yokozuna Yusho, 4 of them below the rank of Ozeki. that decade was even more top heavy than the 2010’s

    • He’s still very young, but it seems that the effects of his injuries are preventing him from consistently and effectively using the techniques which made him an ozeki. To deploy the ‘wave action,’ he first needs to create a bit of space between himself and his competitor, which now is problematic for him. His tachiai no longer is rocking his opponent back on his heels. He needs to develop new techniques, but his short arms and small hands limit the array of styles available to him.

      • Injuries can make you age real fast. I wouldn’t write him off, but I don’t blame anyone who says they are worried.

        • In a way, writing Takakeisho off is provocative, as sumo fans often talk about him as the big hope (now with Asanoyama).
          So this is a way of saying that hey, he hasn’t won anything for one year and a half now, and he’s not looking particularly good.
          But I do believe his body is too seriously broken. Maybe he won’t even hold to the rank for too long.

          • I don’t know what exactly his problems are atm. I mean Onosho took basically two years off after his injury and seems to be on a promising track again now. It might just take more time for him. On the other hand, it has been debatted at the time of his promotion already, that he has a very limited toolset and if that is not going to work anymore, he probably can’t adjust. It would be quite sad.
            However I believe that he has a very strong determination, so if the things that plague him can be overcome, he surely will overcome them.


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