Let’s not be too hasty.
First of all, I don’t understand why the need to rush what would be the weakest Yokozuna promotion in decades — not only based on the record of (12-3)x2 but based on strength of schedule. Terunofuji, the lone Yokozuna has been at home recovering for the last two tournaments, so that has meant Takakeisho fighting for the yusho in the musubi-no-ichiban twice in a row. That’s supposed to be thrilling, right? His senshuraku bouts have been against M9 Abi (he went 1 for 2) and M13 Kotoshoho. He has obviously faced zero Ozeki and zero Yokozuna over that time span yet still racked up three losses in each tournament.
A year ago, I was frankly worried that Takakeisho would be the next Ozeki to earn demotion. Thank God I was wrong about that. Over the last four tournaments, he’s turned in that impressive consistency that we expect from an Ozeki, with 45 wins or an average of just over 11 wins per tournament. Double-digit wins is what we expect from an Ozeki and he has accomplished it four tournaments in a row. Not bad. His last makekoshi record was a year ago, of which he’s had just six during his 21-tournament tenure at the rank (28.6%). That’s much better than Shodai’s 7 of 14.
But the comparisons to Kisenosato are unfair. Kisenosato was a staggeringly consistent Ozeki. Before his Yokozuna promotion, he had one make-koshi tournament out of, get this, 31 tournaments at the rank (3.2%). He averaged more than 10 wins per tournament over that entire span. That one make-koshi was a 7-8. And he did this against a full slate of Yokozuna and Ozeki, from Hakuho and Harumafuji to Kotoshogiku. In fact, a loss to Kotoshogiku was the only blemish on his 14-1 Yusho run, where he beat Ozeki Terunofuji and Yokozuna Hakuho on senshuraku. Let me say that again. He beat Hakuho on senshuraku to earn his rope. His tsuna-tori was accomplished with a storybook win over the GOAT. Let’s compare that to…checks notes…Kotoshoho? Come on.
Further, it would be a mistake to skip over the 12-3 Jun-Yusho and it’s a mistake to poo-poo that feat. He defeated each of the three Yokozuna, in succession — including obviously the yusho-winner, Kakuryu. Sadly, for Kisenosato, the storybook really ended after the next tournament with that dual victory over Terunofuji. The almost two years of kyujo is unfortunately how many remember his career but he was certainly deserving of the tsuna.
In my humble opinion, Takakeisho has not got there — yet. His 12-3 playoff loss cannot be compared to Kisenosato’s — and certainly not to Kakuryu’s 14-1 playoff loss to Hakuho. But Takakeisho is now, deserving of his tsunatori (Rope Run). If he wins in Osaka, he will certainly be promoted. I’d put the odds at 50-50. Nishikifuji yusho, anyone?