November Banzuke Crystal Ball

Banzuke Bathroom at Azasu New York

The official rankings chart for the November basho will be released on October 26. In the meantime, it’s fun to speculate about about how the positions of the wrestlers will be reshuffled based on their September results. Please note, I’ve been asked to hold this post until after the Guess The Banzuke deadline, as some players think the predictions might be affecting the game.

There is no doubt about the top eight positions on the banzuke. Barring something completely out of the ordinary, we will have East Yokozuna Hakuho, West Yokozuna Kakuryu, East Ozeki Takakeisho, West Ozeki Asanoyama, and East Ozeki 2 Shodai. The order here is based strictly on the results (or lack thereof for the Yokozuna) at Aki, with the exception of Shodai, as a newly promoted Ozeki (or Yokozuna for that matter) is always ranked below the incumbents. They will be followed by East Sekiwake Mitakeumi, who’ll be moving over from the West side after posting an 8-7 record, West Sekiwake Takanosho, making his san’yaku debut after going 10-5 at M1w, and East Komusubi Terunofuji, who went 8-5-2 at M1e.

Here’s the full prediction for the maegashira ranks. Keep reading below for some thoughts on how I arrived at it (and to see who I think will occupy the final san’yaku slot at West Komusubi).

With everyone in the M2-M4 ranks posting losing records, we have to look lower to fill the West Komusubi and M1 ranks. Three rikishi rise above the rest: M5e Kiribayama (9-4-2), M6e Takayasu (10-5), and M8w Wakatakakage (11-4). Any order among them is defensible, but I think Takayasu’s extra win puts him ahead of Kiribayama for the Komusubi slot, and his prior san’yaku experience puts him ahead of Wakatakakage. I also predict that Kiribayama will be ranked M1e and Wakatakakage M1w, but this is a really close call.

S2e Daieisho (5-10) and M9w Onosho, with a mirror 10-5 record, are the clear candidates for the M2e and M2w ranks, and I’ve listed them in my predicted order, once again going with rank over wins. They should be followed at M3e and M3w by M6w Kagayaki (8-7) and M2e Hokutofuji (6-9). The promotions in this part of the banzuke are very generous, and demotions lenient, a trend that continues down to M7. In fact, everyone from Myogiryu through Terutsuyoshi is pretty closely bunched in terms of their rank-record combinations, and many orderings are defensible. I’ve generally gone with rank over wins, and, following the banzuke committee’s approach from last time, put Takarafuji half a rank lower than his previous position after his 7-8 record, rather than leaving him in place. I’ve given fallen Komusubi Okinoumi and Endo rather favorable treatment befitting their san’yaku status.

Starting with Aoiyama, everyone down to Enho fits pretty neatly into appropriate slots. M4e Yutakayama sees a pretty modest 8-rank drop to M12e given that he only managed 2 wins before pulling out, but this is justified both by his place in the joi and a lack of candidates to place above him. M12w Kaisei (7-8) gets to maintain his rank as the only alternative is over-promoting Hoshoryu, Ichinojo, or Chiyonokuni even more than they already are.

As is often the case, correctly guessing the ranks at the bottom of the banzuke (in this case, M14-M17) is especially challenging. After deciding on likely division exchanges, we need to figure out how to intersperse the rikishi coming up from Juryo among Makuuchi incumbents who just barely escaped demotion. I expect that Abi, Kyokutaisei, Kotoshogiku, Shohozan, and Ishiura will be going down, to be replaced by Chiyonokuni, Kotonowaka, Kotoyuki, Chiyoshoma, and Akua. The first two demotions (and the corresponding promotions) are certain. The next three promotion cases are not that solid, but the rank-record combinations for Kotoshogiku, Shohozan, and Ishiura are so weak that it’s hard to see them staying up. Kotoshogiku, in particular, managed to post only 2 wins at M11. There have been 60 prior instances in the past 60 years of a wrestler ranked M10 or M11 ending up with 2 or 3 wins. Three retired; the other 57 were demoted. Recall that last time, Ikioi dropped to Juryo from M9 with 3 wins. It would take unprecedented leniency by the banzuke committee to keep the Geek in the top division. While Shohozan’s 5 wins at M15 and Ishiura’s 4 at M13 are a little better, these win totals at these ranks have been just as much of a demotion guarantee historically.

The two top-division holdovers in the bottom 7 slots on the banzuke are M11e Chiyotairyu (5-8-2), who did just enough to earn a stay, and M15e Shimanoumi (6-9), whose rank and record would get him demoted on many a banzuke, but I don’t see a viable 6th promotion candidate to take his place (J6e Chiyonoo, 9-6, is the best of the bunch). In general, Makuuchi records hold more sway than Juryo records, as they’re seen to be achieved against tougher competition. I’ve placed Chiyonokuni ahead of Chiyotairyu on the strength of his 14-1 yusho-winning performance and his past track record in the top division, but the banzuke committee could easily flip them. Shimanoumi should get a drop that at least somewhat reflects his 6-9 record, so I’ve placed him below the Juryo rikishi making a return to Makuuchi, but above Akua, who would be making a rather lucky top-division debut.

All Tamanoi Beya Rikishi to Keep their Ranks

Remember the story of Tamanoi beya? It suffered a coronavirus outbreak shortly before the Aki basho, with many rikishi and staff testing positive, and all 28 rikishi in the heya were made to go kyujo for the entire September tournament as a precaution. This raised the question of what would happen to their positions on the banzuke: would the absences be treated as losses, as they normally are, meaning large drops in rank, or would special dispensation be given? At the time, the NSK said this issue would be considered after the basho.

Well, we have our answer. As could be inferred from the announcement of the Juryo promotions, everyone will keep their place, including the two sekitori, J7 Azumaryu and J14 Fujiazuma, and one resident of the Makushita promotion zone (Ms1-Ms5), Ms2 Shiraishi. I know there was a difference of opinion about how this should be handled, but personally I believe this was the right thing to do under the exceptional circumstances.

Here’s the story on NHK; it’s in Japanese, but you can get the gist with Google Translate.

New Juryo for November

The banzuke committee met today, and while the full results won’t be released until October 26, we do get a few tidbits now to hold us over. In addition to Shodai’s promotion to Ozeki, the new promotions to Juryo have been announced. Four rikishi will receive sekitori status, none of the them for the first time.

The promotions are Ms1e Takagenji (4-3), who rose as high as M10 and is returning to Juryo after a one-basho absence, former Komusubi Ms1w Jokoryu (4-3), who’s spent the past 9 basho in Makushita, Ms2e Chiyonoumi (4-3), who, like Takagenji, is making an immediate return, and, wait for it, Ms5w Ura (6-1)!!!

It is a bit of a surprise that Chiyonoumi got the nod over Ms4w Naya (5-2), who will have to wait at least one more basho for his sekitori debut. Chiyonoumi lost to Daishoho on his visit to Juryo, while Naya defeated the same opponent, and such results have been weighted heavily in promotion decisions recently, but apparently the difference in rank proved decisive.

The corresponding demotions are not announced, but we can make some educated guesses. First, there are no new sekitori retirements. Second, we know that one slot opened due to Kizakiumi’s retirement prior to the basho, and that J13 Oki (0-15) and J14 Kitaharima (5-10) are certain demotions. That leaves one slot to account for. My guess is that the last man out is J12 Daishoho (6-9), and that the two sekitori members of Tamanoi beya, J7 Azumaryu and J14 Fujiazuma, who were held out of the basho with their entire heya as a COVID-19 measure, get to stay in Juryo, presumably with similar treatment for lower-division members of the heya. Otherwise, there should have been a slot for Naya, unless only the higher-ranked Azumaryu’s sekitori status has been preserved, and Fujiazuma will go down in place of Daishoho. Let’s see if any news trickles out; otherwise we’ll know in late October.

Shodai’s Ozeki Promotion Official

During the board meeting held today, Shodai’s promotion was approved unanimously. Here he is raising the customary fish. Congratulations and best wishes, Shin-Ozeki!

The whole ceremony (including all the awkward stage directions and transitions) was streamed live on YouTube, and can be seen here: