We have known since banzuke day that Yokozuna Hakuho was recovering from double-knee surgery undertaken in August, and was unlikely to even start Aki. Now word from Japan that Yokozuna Kakuryu is declaring himself “not ready” for the Aki basho, and should be considered doubtful to compete.
With the prospect of no grand-champions in the September tournament, the Emperor’s Cup will be a wide-open contest. The Ozeki will be motivated to possibly claim a start of a promotion run, but in this era, even strong members of the rank-and-file have to be considered contenders if they can remain strong into week 2. Some fans will remark (and rightly so) that a basho without a Yokozuna is a weak basho, but these broad, multi-way brawls to advance have their own glorious appeal. We will miss the Yokozuna dohyo-iri, but the possibility that we will have an all-out slug fest between the Ozeki, the San’yaku and most of the joi-jin is compelling to me.