“… the Mirror shows many things … some never come to be …”J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring.
What will the upcoming July basho bring, assuming that it takes place as scheduled? Some rikishi must fervently hope that the mock Natsu basho was a preview of things to come, while for others, it’s a scenario to be avoided at all costs. Let’s take a look at three camps:
Would take the mock basho results in a heartbeat
Mitakeumi This is almost too obvious to state. A 13-2 record, an unprecedented third non-Ozeki yusho, back-to-back victories over both reigning Yokozuna, and a solid chance to make Ozeki in the following basho—what’s not to like?
Asanoyama No shin-Ozeki hangover here: a solid 12-3 jun-yusho, a win in what’s shaping up to be a great rivalry with the yusho winner, and victories over both Yokozuna, including a first-time defeat of Hakuho. Sure, Asanoyama must wonder what might have been without the losses to lower-ranked Takanosho, Daieisho, and Aoiyama, but you can’t have everything.
Shodai, Daieisho, Yutakayama, Takanosho, Onosho, Aoiyama A winning record in lower san’yaku or joi maegashira is never something to sneeze at. Shodai would extend his run at Sekiwake to a 3rd-straight basho, Daieisho would have his first san’yaku kachi-koshi, Yutakayama would make his first-ever san’yaku appearance, and Takanosho would record a 5th-straight career-high rank.
Chiyotairyu, Tokushoryu, Ishiura, Sadanoumi, Kotoshogiku, Nishikigi Everyone in this group recorded 10-11 wins, not something one would predict. And while former Ozeki Kotoshogiku might not be happy to find himself lumped with the other names on this list, a 10-5 record would be a remarkable turn-around after 6 straight losing records that saw him drop from M1 to M14.
Acceptable, with room for improvement
Hakuho The greatest rikishi of all time cannot be satisfied with an 11-4 record, including back-to-back losses to Onosho and Takarafuji, but finishing the tournament with a solid Yokozuna kachi-koshi and being in the race until the final day certainly extends his career, providing more opportunities to add to his unequalled laurels.
Wakatakakage, Kotoshoho When your Makuuchi debut is derailed by an injury after a promising 4-0 start, sending you back to Juryo for two tournaments, you’ll take a 9-6 record in your second top-division appearance. And while Kotoshoho failed to claim his conditional kanto-sho on the final day, a kachi-koshi has to count as a successful start for the shin-Maku.
Everyone else with a kachi-koshi or mild make-koshi, with the exception of Kakuryu (see below) and Takayasu (injury).
Let’s pretend this never happened … oh wait
Kakuryu The often-beleaguered “other Yokozuna” surely wouldn’t want to withdraw for the 4th time in the last 5 tournaments.
Takakeisho The only acceptable outcome for a kadoban Ozeki is reaching 8 wins.
Okinoumi Seven losing records in seven san’yaku appearances? Not great!
Endo His worst performance in almost two years would bring to an end an 8-basho streak in the joi.
Enho Everyone’s favorite pixie surely would not want to follow his worst record in the top division with an even worse one.
Kaisei, Tochinoshin Two proud veterans we’re used to seeing much higher up the banzuke would find themselves on the demotion bubble.
Chiyomaru, Kotoeko, Kotoyuki The first rule of the top division is that you want to stay in the top division.
Terunofuji Saving the worst for last: obviously, the former Ozeki does not want his return to Makuuchi for the first time since January 2018 to ignominiously end with an 0-7-8 record. The last time the kaiju finished a basho in the top division with a winning record? May of 2017, when he recorded his second-straight jun-yusho from the East Ozeki rank, and looked headed for Yokozuna, not Jonidan.
Which rikishi do you hope put up either similar or very different performances in the next real tournament? Let us know in the comments.