After previewing wrestlers who’ll be fighting in the second division, let’s take a look at some of the more interesting faces in the third division. Stay to the end for a quick Sandanme bonus.
The most exciting action in Makushita takes place in the Ms1-Ms5 ranks, where promotion to salaried status is at stake. It is also possible to earn promotion by going 7-0 in the Ms6-Ms15 extended promotion zone.
Right at the top of the division at Ms1e, where a 4-3 kachi-koshi all but ensures promotion, we find Takakeisho’s stablemate Takakento, who’s been struggling after a promising Juryo debut in 2021. Across from him at Ms1w is highly touted Kinbozan, who only started at Sd100TD in November and has posted a combined record of 24-4 with two yusho in his 4 professional tournaments. Like Kinbozan, Ms2e Roga is at a new career high. He’s been on every “ones to watch” list since his 2018 debut, but hit a wall in upper Makushita, falling short in 3 previous appearances in the promotion zone. Is he finally ready to seize the opportunity? Ms2w collegiate star Kanno made his debut at Sd100TD at the same time as Gonoyama, but hasn’t quite kept pace. Can he make the leap to Juryo just one basho later? Finally, I’ll be watching Ms3e Tomokaze, who looked like a sure bet to be the next Ozeki after taking the top division by storm back in 2019, rising as high as M3, and earning a kinboshi against Kakuryu before a horrific leg injury caused him to miss over a year and drop all the way to Jonidan. His comeback has not been anywhere near as meteoric as Terunofuji’s, but his 6-1 record at Ms10 in May, with the only loss coming to the eventual champion Oshoma, suggests that he may be rounding into form.
Although no one in the extended promotion zone looks like a good bet to go undefeated, I have my eye on Ms8e Fujiseiun, who started his career a little over a year ago by racking up three consecutive 7-0 records in the three lowest divisions, but has struggled a bit in Makushita. Also worth watching is Ms12w Shiden, who missed his sekitori debut when he got caught up in gambling allegations along with Hidenoumi, although the investigation ultimately concluded he wasn’t at fault. Like many fans, I am rooting for him to make his way back up to Juryo. And at Ms14e we have the Ukranian Shishi, who, like many rikishi who blast through the lower divisions, has found Makushita to be tougher sledding.
Unlike some recent tournaments, there isn’t a clear favorite for the Makushita yusho, although I’d probably consider Kinbozan the frontrunner. There are certainly names outside the promotion zone who could take the prize, including Ms21 Mukainakano, Ms24 Nobehara, and Ms27 Kanzaki. I’ll try to cover the single-elimination championship race once it gets to the “Sweet 16” stage around Day 6.
Oh, and the promised bonus: Asanoyama will start his comeback at Sd22. He is the prohibitive favorite for the 4th-division title, and a 7-0 record could vault him all the way up to the Makushita extended promotion zone, where another 7-0 would place him in Juryo in November, but even a single loss would delay his expected return to the top division by an entire tournament. It’s not clear who could challenge him, but the other headliner in Sandanme is Sd27 Kototebakari, who could easily face Asanoyama in week 1. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because he is Kotoshoho’s younger brother. He will be fighting in just his 3rd basho, and the first two produced 7-0 yusho in Jonokuchi and Jonidan. Definitely one to watch.