Nagoya 2023: Shonichi Preview — Takakeisho Out

Sanyaku News

Action doesn’t begin until Sunday morning in Japan, but let’s not waste time before taking a look at the opening day schedule for the July Tournament. It should not come as much of a surprise to our regular readers but Ozeki Takakeisho is out from Day 1. He really struggled to clear kadoban back in May. It is difficult to reconcile his current condition with the rope run that he had to start the year.

He has struggled with endurance over the course of his Ozeki tenure, not just during the course of a long bout but from tournament to tournament. If he ends up kyujo for this entire basho, he will be kadoban again in September. Let’s be honest. It is the smart move here. But it was also the smart move in his second tournament as Ozeki where the kadoban Ozeki faced demotion to Sekiwake but needed to heal. In this case, the rest could bring out of him a barn-storming yusho run in the Fall but something really has to change with his conditioning if he wants to go from kadoban to Yokozuna. Kyujo is the smart move.

From the AWOL-zeki to the Shin-Ozeki, this will be the first tournament that we get to see Ozeki Kirishima. If you were under a rock after the May Tournament, you may have missed the news that not only did Kiribayama secure enough wins to earn his Ozeki promotion, he also changed his shikona to Kirishima in honor of his coach, the first Ozeki Kirishima (now Michinoku-oyakata).

And if one Ozeki promotion wasn’t enough for you, we can close out this tournament with three (count ’em — 1, 2, 3) more! This is the first time since Takanohana Sr when there were three Sekiwake with Ozeki runs going into a tournament. Daieisho sits on 22 wins over the past two basho, while Hoshoryu and Wakamotoharu are on 21. We’ve heard rumblings from the Arashio camp that Wakamotoharu is nursing an injury and has already been dampening expectations but all three men will need to come out strong with convincing wins in Week 1 before their schedules get more difficult in Week 2. Simultaneous promotions would be cool.

Day One Match-ups

Aoiyama vs Hakuoho. Makuuchi action will start with the headline-grabbing, Hakuho’s (oops, HakuOOho’s) top division debut. Miyagino-beya’s ace recruit has rocketed into the ranks of Maegashira in just his fourth tournament. Aoiyama, on the other hand, narrowly escaped demotion by defeating Hokutofuji on the final day of a disastrous May. Morale may be low as Kasugano-beya buddy, Tochinoshin, just retired and the man-mountain, himself, has been struggling to find consistency of late. Hakuoho’s first professional loss was a surprise hatakikomi loss to Tamashoho. Can Aoiyama pull it off?

Endo vs Bushozan. Endo is at his lowest rank since 2016, when he spent a tournament in Juryo. Usually a solid, mid-rank maegashira, he pulled out early from a May tournament that he shouldn’t have started. We will find out quickly if he needs to stay out longer. This should be an easy win for Endo if he can get inside and get a hold of Bushozan.

Ryuden vs Takarafuji. Both men were rather busted up in May. Takarafuji is managing to cling on to the lower-third of the Maegashira. Ryuden is falling back to Earth after he rocketed up into the joi earlier this year. This bout could be a painful one to watch, and may be an early tea break in this household. Trying to pick a winner seems almost cruel. My concern for these two is not who will win the bout, but rather later in the tournament, will they be Juryo-bound to start Week 2? And if we add Endo and Aoiyama to the conversation of these veterans, which swan sings his song first?

Daishoho vs Shonannoumi. I am just surprised this pair will meet in Makuuchi and not in Juryo, this time. Congratulations are in order for Shonannoumi, reaching the top division for the first time. After years of languishing in Makushita, he finally started eating his Wheaties and appears to have turned a corner, rising quickly through Juryo with a handful of strong performances this year. Daishoho will probably struggle to grab hold of Shonannoumi and it would be nice to see the rookie off to a good start.

Gonoyama vs Kotoshoho. Goeido’s top recruit will face off against the elder Tebakari-bro. This will be a great match-up, assuming Kotoshoho is healthy. That is not a safe assumption, though, since he did leave the May tournament early and has been yo-yo-ing between the top two divisions as he nurses injuries.

Chiyoshoma vs Tsurugisho. This is an eagerly awaited rematch because of Tsurugisho’s beautiful henka when these two last met, on Nakabi in May. A henka here, by either opponent, should be expected. So that should mean that it won’t happen and both will have a rather light meeting at the tachiai. I expect a subsequent hit-and-shift from Chiyoshoma as he bowls Tsurugisho into a celebrity in the front row.

Kotoeko vs Myogiryu. This will be a fun, lively brawl between fan-favorite, Myogiryu, and Kotoeko. Kotoeko’s odds improve if Kotoeko can work some mis-direction into the bout early. Otherwise, he is bound to get bounced.

Kinbozan vs Hokutofuji. This is an intriguing rematch from May’s tournament, and another firework-friendly event. Hokutofuji took the win in that first meeting by getting behind Kinbozan.

Takanosho vs Nishikifuji. Nishikifuji may not be healthy so the heavy favorite would be Takanosho.

Sadanoumi vs Tamawashi. Why is Tamawashi up here and not down in the swan song matches that we discussed earlier? He’s a beast, that’s why. Sadanoumi holds the edge in their rivalry but Tamawashi knows how to get business done. No ring rust here.

Takayasu vs Oho. I’m not dancing around this one. Takayasu for the win. He’s far enough down the banzuke where he should be churning out wins in Week 1 and in the conversation for the yusho race in Week 2.

Hokuseiho vs Onosho. This is another second-time match-up where both wrestlers fought in May for the first time. Onosho, the makuuchi mainstay will face the upstart Hokuseiho, looking for revenge. Hokuseiho has the physicality and strength. But that lumbering stance of his leaves the door open for someone like Onosho, who is no stranger to the joi. Onosho has claimed kinboshi from Harumafuji and Hakuho but has not been ranked in the sanyaku since 2017! (With this sudden surge from Wakamotoharu…an Ozeki run, no less, I couldn’t believe that.)

Hiradoumi vs Ura. Suddenly, Hiradoumi is the featured face at Sakaigawa-beya. He’ll take on the wild-card in Ura in their second meeting. Hiradoumi needs to stick to his fundamentals and have patience but I think he can claim his first win in the short rivalry.

Asanoyama vs Meisei. Asanoyama must have his eyes on sanyaku in his return to the joi. This tournament will be his biggest test since returning from suspension as he should face only the elites. Meisei is among the easier match-ups on his card, and he defeated Meisei back in Tokyo as he churned through low-rankers.


Kotonowaka vs Midorifuji. When I see a lop-sided record like this, where Kotonowaka has won six of their seven bouts, I often think, “ooo, now is time for an upset!” Unfortunately, the ring-rust on Kotonowaka would have to be substantial here. Keep your feet under your frame, keep Midorifuji in front of you, and you’ve got this.

Mitakeumi vs Wakamotoharu. We’ve got a reversal of fortunes here. Where Mitakeumi had been obviously injured during his short tenure as Ozeki, he appears to be healthy and should be in the mix in Week 2. With three top-division titles already, it would be great to see him back in the hunt rather than fighting while hurt. Wakamotoharu, on the other hand, is already downplaying any chances of promotion. “It’s an honor just to be nominated.” I have been known to fall victim to reverse psychology. I hope Mitakeumi does not.

Shodai vs Daieisho. In this duel of a former Ozeki against a future (?) Ozeki, who is surprised that Daieisho leads the rivalry 17-8? Both have won top-division yusho, a fact that I still can’t wrap my head around. Shodai would probably relish playing spoiler to Daieisho’s Ozeki run.

Hoshoryu vs Tobizaru. Neither of these men have won a title.

Nishikigi vs Kirishima. Fresh off Kirishima’s promotion and with a title under his belt, Kirishima will figure to start out strong. Jitters against a mid-maegashira regular, like Nishikigi, would be an auspicious start. Let’s hope Kirishima breaks the recent trend of weak Ozeki.

Terunofuji vs Abi. Abi will not let this opportunity go to waste. He will aim for a strong start, and there’s no start stronger than a win over the Yokozuna. He will have to watch out, though, and make sure Kaiju doesn’t rip those arms off and banish him from the dohyo. This should be a highlight bout.

19 thoughts on “Nagoya 2023: Shonichi Preview — Takakeisho Out

  1. I predict Daieisho will take the yusho with a 12-3 plus a playoff win over Asanoyama. I don’t think Terunofuji will finish. He seems to have re-aggravated one of his many nagging injuries. I also think Hoshoryu and Wakamotoharu will come up just short of the number of wins they need to be promoted to Ozeki.

    • I’m a big Hoshoryu fan but I have a sinking feeling that he may need to go beyond the 12 wins to be at 33 over 3 basho. I say this because the old boys in the NSK don’t like him and may hold it against him that 2 of his wins in the prior basho were by default. So being mean-spirited they may view him at 19 wins right now instead of 21.

      The other factor at play is the terrible optics for the NSK of having a Mongolian Yokozuna, 2 Mongolian Ozeki, and a weak and fading Japanese Ozeki come September.

      My first wish (forget Asanoyama and Kirishima) is to see Hoshoryu, Daieisho, and Wakamotoharu each post enough wins to be Ozeki in September. Can you imagine a banzuke with 5 Ozeki?

      My second wish would be that The Bear (Takayasu) FINALLY gets his yusho and if not him then either the Kaiju, Hoshoryu, or Tamawashi.

      Lastly, I’m wishing that Man Mountain (Hokuseiho) has picked up additional sumo skills beyond just standing there.

      All most likely long shots but as they say, wishing is free.

      • I don’t think Shibatayama would have said Hosh is on an official ozeki run if they were planning to hold him to 14 wins…

      • There’s no reason to believe that Hoshoryu will be held back by the two fused win: both Kiribayama and Asanoyama each had two fused wins (and Asanoyama only had 32 wins in total). A win is a win. My money is on Hoshoryu to get to 33 in Nagoya.

      • “I say this because the old boys in the NSK don’t like him”

        I’d love to know your source for this.

    • 12-3? We’ve had several of those lately. I’m hoping for a few 14-win yusho but 12-3 will probably mean several guys in the race on the final weekend.

  2. I don’t think the yokozuna wins this basho, and wouldn’t be surprised to see Daieisho finish strongest of the three Ozeki challengers

    That said, a strong yusho challenge or win from Kirishima would make things super interesting in terms of the future of sumo (and I wonder if he takes his name back as a yokozuna)

  3. Lots of great comments, thx all!!!

    I always enjoy the bashos and look each one but this is the first time in a few years that I’m actually really excited. So many good and intriguing story lines:

    1) Will the 3 Ozeki candidates get to 33 wins? I hope all 3 do.
    2) How will Asanoyama do now that he’ll face a more challenging schedule? Is he really a contender or has he been over-hyped up to this point?
    3) How will Kirishima do in his Ozeki debut? Did all the fuss and obligations following his promotion inhibit his ability to fully train and be ready? Will he have a bit of a new Ozeki let down? Or……will he take the yusho and start a rope run?
    4) Is the Kaiju up to the task of being “The Man” and story teller like last basho? How much more mileage can he get out of that beat up body?
    5) Is Oho finally blossoming or was the last basho an outlier?
    6) How will the new promotees from Juryo do?
    7) Will Hakuoho continue his metioric rise?
    8) Has Hokuseiho added more skills to his tool kit? If so, he’ll be a top contender going into the future.
    9) Can Big Dan summon one more winning record and be with us in Makuuchi for September? I hope so.
    10) Will Takayasu and/or Tamawashi find their groove and be relevant in week 2?
    11) Is Mitakeumi healed up and recovered to the point where he can bring his A-Game and be in the mix?
    12) Which version of Shodai will we get? I know his fans are hoping that The Wall of Daikon reappears and that he’s shaken off the ho-humness of the past few basho.
    13) How many henka will Chiyoshoma throw this basho? I’m betting at least 2.
    14) What bag of tricks will Ura the Unusual bring this time around? Win or lose he’s always very entertaining to watch,
    15) What brand of Flying Monkey sumo will Tobizaru give us? The 10-5 version from September 2022 or the 6-9 version from March 2023?
    16) Will Abi continue his 8-7/9-6 slow march and rise back to Sekiwake?

    Like I said, I’m excited.

  4. Andy and Josh – thanks for covering the early part of the basho for me. To readers – I am having a bit of “newborn kyujo”, but hope to enter the tournament by the mid-point. Until then join me in reading what Andy and Josh come up with, their commentary is always excellent, and usually more accurate than my own!

    • Wonderful, wonderful news, Bruce, congrats.
      In other news: Enho and Chiyonokuni both kyujo in makushita, two more cases of intai watch?
      Looking forward to what I expect to be an exciting basho in makuuchi, withonlys a few more hours to go…

      • Sadly, Gaia is gone, too. Since he’s been scrubbed from the Tatsunami homepage, it was likely an abrupt haircut. I’m gutted.

    • Indeed, congratulations, Bruce! I hope your newborn sleeps well and lets you and mom do the same. Crying can be saved for a rikishi crying baby contest!

    • Congratulations! Another sumo fan (hopefully). :)

      LOL. We’ll see how it goes. I usually get a bit loopy around sanyaku.


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