With 6 days to go, let’s take a look at some storylines we’ll be following the rest of the way, aside from the yusho race.
Mitakeumi (8-1) has solidified his hold on the East Sekiwake rank early. In January, he’ll be making his 28th appearance in lower san’yaku and his 18th at Sekiwake, good for 6th place all-time and 3rd among those who did not reach Ozeki (a list I’m sure he’d like not to end up on). I’d lay 2:1 odds against West Sekiwake Meisei (4-5) retaining his rank, but it’s even money whether he manages to limit his fall to Komusubi. The two incumbents at the 4th rank, Ichinojo and Kiribayama, sport identical 3-6 scores and will most likely drop into the rank-and-file.
M2w Takanosho (6-3) leads the race for the first open promotion slot. The other leading contenders are M6w Tamawashi (7-2), M7e Ura (7-2), M4w Endo (5-4), and M5e Takayasu (5-4).
Recall that two slots in the top division will be vacant in January, one due to Hakuho’s retirement and the other to Asanoyama’s suspension. We can almost certainly add a third one to the list, to be vacated by the lowest man on the banzuke, M17w Shohozan (2-7). The other two most-endangered incumbents are M17e Kaisei (4-5) and M13w Tochinoshin (2-7), each needing 4 wins for safety. Several other rikishi still need 2 or 3 wins to guarantee a return, and I am estimating that a total of 5-6 slots will be open. However, it’s not clear that there will be that many Juryo men with strong promotion cases, so we may see some lenient stays.
Who is in contention down in the second division? The clear leader is J7e Oho (9-0), the wrestler formerly known as Naya (a shikona now confusingly held by his brother), who’s been looking absolutely dominant so far. J1w Wakamotoharu (6-3) is building a solid resume for joining his brother in Makuuchi, and J4w Ichiyamamoto (7-2) seeks a quick return after flaming out of the top division in September with a 4-11 record. J6e Kotoshoho (7-2) also seems to finally have regained some of the form that saw him ranked at M3 as recently as January. Beyond that, the list of contenders is pretty thin, and made up primarily of rikishi ranked near the top of Juryo but currently sitting on the wrong side of a 50-50 record.
Again, two slots are already open in Juryo, one also due to Hakuho’s retirement and the other due to his protege Hokuseiho’s disappointing early withdrawal in his long-awaited sekitori debut. J14e Kyokushuho (4-5) is in the worst shape of those participating, so we may see only one or two other slots open up. Eight of the ten wrestlers in the Ms1-Ms5 promotion zone can still finish with a winning record, but only two have already clinched it: veteran Ms2w Shiba and former high school Yokozuna Ms3e Kitanowaka, both 4-1. I don’t think either is quite guaranteed a sekitori promotion yet, but a lot would have to go against them. Also in contention is Ms13e Roga (5-0), the only undefeated man in the extended promotion zone, who can only earn promotion by going 7-0. To do so, he’d have to go through recent Juryo regular Chiyonoumi and then probably none other than the division yusho favorite Ryuden, on his way back up following his suspension. It’s a tall order, but Roga memorably handed Terunofuji his first (playoff) loss during the latter’s comeback, one of only 4 the Yokozuna suffered during his 5-basho romp through the lower divisions.