Natsu Basho Story 2 – Wakatakakage

Haru yusho winner Wakatakakage, the guy has been in the top division for a couple of years, and it was fairly clear he had potential since his first appearance at Maegashira 16 in November of 2019. He went kyujo on day 5 after starting with 4 consecutive wins, and dropped back to mid-Juryo. By July of 2020 he was back to stay, and proceeded to turn in a pair of double digit winning records in Nagoya and Aki. From there it was a fairly steady grind to the top, with his only make-koshi being his first posting to Komusubi last July with a 5-10.

His form in Osaka was excellent, he faced a variety of opponents that brought a catalog of sumo styles to the dohyo, and he bested most of them. His 12-3 yusho was a fairly low score to take the cup by a historical measure, likely due to a period of weakness in the Ozeki and an absent Yokozuna. His three losses were

  • Kiribayama – Day 4 (He beat Mitakeumi the following day…)
  • Mitakeumi – Day 13
  • Shodai – Day 15

His day 15 loss to Shodai forced a playoff against Takayasu for the cup. He had previously faced Takayasu on day 11, which he won by yorikiri after overpowering the former Ozeki. In a barn burner of a match, it was Wakatakakagi that pulled out a last moment victory by hauling Takayasu out while they were both off balance and moments from stepping out. Hey, watch it with Jason

What an outstanding performance.

So the question we are all asking ourselves, was this Wakatakakage’s “Golden Basho”? Much like Goiedo in Aki 2017, where he tore the guts out of everyone including Harumafuji, he somehow managed to make his sumo align and won the cup. Or is this simply his new normal?

He has turned in double digit records before, but this is his first in the san’yaku. I would also point out he did not get to face the Yokozuna (through no fault of his own). He has faced Terunofuji 8 times in the top division, and lost them all.

Clearly this guy is headed for dominance in the coming years. He is 27 as of today, in the prime of his sumo years, and he’s leap ahead of just about everyone else to be a favorite for higher rank – soon. Yes, with that 12-3 yusho from Sekiwake, he’s started an Ozeki bid in fine fashion, but the route from here is tough. The promotion criteria is not simply numbers, but the quality of the wins, and the quality of the opponents. No one can argue that he was up to Ozeki form in March, but consistency is key in being considered for promotion. He knows he needs a double digit score in May and July to even have an argument for promotion, and don’t be surprised if he can’t put his first attempt over the finish line. Many rikishi fail their first time.

10 thoughts on “Natsu Basho Story 2 – Wakatakakage

  1. I’d argue that a good performance in May will be enough to gain promotion. He has 21 wins over the last two with a yusho. That he is starting the run from M1e is not that unusual. Historically there have been plenty of promotions to Ozeki with runs starting in the top few M ranks. Another 12-3 would give him the 33 wins, and they may even consider an 11-4 good enough if they are good quality wins and strong performances in the losses.

    • Given how new he is to the upper ranks, I think it will need to be really convincing: 12-3 at a minimum, more likely 13+ wins.

      • I just can’t get over the Terunofuji promotion, younger(23 vs 27), even less time at the upper ranks, and an even less convincing start to his ozeki run(8-7 from M2). For those who think this matters(I certainly don’t but a lot of people obviously do when listening to the Mitakeumi talk), there were 3 Yokozuna and 3 Ozeki when he got promoted, so no problems there.

        Given Terunofuji got promoted, I find it hard to see WTK not get promoted off a 9-6, 12-3, 12-3, assuming he manages to actually get 12 wins which of course is no easy feat.

        • The only thing I’ll add is that Terunofuji’s 12-3 in the 3rd basho was a yusho, and I think that’s a major factor. 12-3 Y should definitely do it.

        • Terunofuji in his 8-7 from M2:
          bats 2 Ozeki (Kisenosato and Goedo), 1 Sekiwake (Aoiyama) and 2 Komusubi (Tochiozan and Takayasu)

          Wakatakakage in his 9-6:
          beats 1 Sekiwake (Takanosho) and 1 Sekiwake (Meisei), no other Sanyaku wins

          Terunofuji in his 13-2 Jun-Yusho
          Beats 1 Yokozuna (Hakuho the 14-1 Yusho winner, 2 Ozeki (Giku and Goeido, lost to Kisenosato), 2 Komusubi (Tamawashi and Miyogiryu)

          Wakatakakage in his 12-3 Yusho:
          beats 1 Ozeki (slumping Takakeisho, but loses to the other 2), beats 1 Sekiwake (Abi) and both Komusubi(Hoshoryu and Takanosho)

          Terunofuji in his 12-3 Yusho
          beats 2 Ozeki (Giku and Kise, didn’t face Goeido for some reason), 2 sekiwake&Komusubi, lost to Hakuho

          Quality of wins also mattersand there is a huge difference so far between this 2 cases. Mitakeumi was still Sekiwake in the first basho, but he is 1-5 over the last 2 basho vs the 3 current Ozeki and 0-1 vs. Terunofuji.
          Teru back then had beaten everyone but Kakuryu who was Kyujo and Harumafuji (same stable) during his run and had a 6-2 record vs. the 3 Ozeki.

          I would be a bit surprised if a mere 33 wins were enough. Takakeisho started with 9-6 from Komusubi followed by a 13-2 yusho from komusubi and another 11-4 from sekiwake and needed to wait another basho (10-5) to get promoted. this case is both more recent and more comparable in terms of quality of wins I think.

  2. Wakataka is the man. I really enjoyed what he said right after winning the basho:

    “Takayasu! You need to get a sex change, so you can get the balls to come out here and face me!”

  3. I absolutely LOVE Conan the Sumortorian’s Joke about what Wakatakakage said to Takayasu! I am still laughing as I am typing!

  4. Loving these articles as a lead-in to the basho. NHK World is doing something similar. Today, at 2:10 (Central time) they’re re-airing one of the best sumo programs I’ve seen on the channel: Dokusoi Sumo Salon. There’s studio hosts, along with Kisenosato, Terutsuyoshi, Ishiura, Enho, and others, all discussing “giant killers” – how the little guys in sumo win against the heavyweights. There’s both personal stories and numerical data shown in this interesting hour of programming. Why can’t NHK do something like this more regularly for the world service?

    • And now, May 1, AT&T U-Verse has dropped NHK World from its channel lineup. I’m gonna have to watch all my sumo streaming style via the NHK English website now. I’m gonna miss DVR-ing the sumo highlights show to rewatch at my leisure.

  5. There wuz a kewl sumo show on nhk bout small wrestlers called giant killers and had lots of interesting info

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