Yokozuna and Ozeki
Hakuho (14-1) has once again confirmed his standing at the top of the sport, and this will be made official when he assumes the rank of East Yokozuna for a record 51st time in his storied career but the first since May. Kakuryu (0-1-14) will move over to the West side, and Tachiai hopes that he’ll be fit to fight in January.
Takakeisho (9-6) had a solid tournament and put up his first winning record as Ozeki. He’ll be the East Ozeki at Hatsu, joined on the West side by Goeido (0-2-13), who’ll be kadoban and looking for 8 wins to maintain his rank. Takayasu (3-5-7) failed in his attempt to clear kadoban, and will have his one shot to return to Ozeki by picking up 10 wins at Sekiwake. That mountain proved too high to climb for the second time for Tochinoshin (2-3-10), who says good-bye to his hopes of regaining the rank and should be ranked around M8, his lowest banzuke position since May 2017.
Sekiwake and Komusubi
The final-day results made a potentially messy situation fairly clear, unless the banzuke committee does something unexpected. There should be two Sekiwake and two Komusubi on the next banzuke, which, combined with only two Yokozuna and two Ozeki, will give us the smallest slate of san’yaku-ranked rikishi since November 2005. Consequently, the joi ranks will extend all the way down to M4w, even barring any absences, and we will see the reappearance of the M17w rank.
The key outcomes were losses by Sekiwake Mitakeumi (6-9) and Komusubi Endo (7-8), which should drop both into the rank-and-file along with Komusubi Hokutofuji (7-8), who was already make-koshi. For Mitakeumi, this would end a streak of 17 straight san’yaku appearances, second-longest in history and two basho short of the record. This leaves both Sekiwake slots open. The East Sekiwake rank should be occupied by Komusubi Asanoyama (11-4), while the West side is spoken for by Takayasu. East Komusubi Abi (9-6) will hold on to his rank, and the open West Komusubi slot should go to M1e Daieisho (8-7), removing the need for any extra slots.
Apparently, the shimpan department has declared that Asanoyama is not on an Ozeki run after posting records of M2 10-5 K 11-4 jun-yusho in the past two basho, but this probably just means that simply hitting 33 wins by going 12-3 at Hatsu won’t be enough, and it will take 13+ wins and/or a yusho.
This is where things get crowded. Unless the baznuke committee goes against precedent and creates extra san’yaku slots without being forced to do so, there are four rikishi who warrant the M1 rank—Mitakeumi, the two 7-8 Komusubi, and M2e Myogiryu (8-7). My guess is that we will see Myogiryu, who must be promoted, at M1e, followed by the higher-ranked Komusubi, Endo, at M1w, with Hokutofuji and Mitakeumi having to settle for M2.
After that, the 8-7 M4 duo of Tamawashi and Kotoyuki should neatly move up in tandem to M3. M10w Shodai (11-4) should return from the lower ranks to the more familiar banzuke territory of M4, where he’ll probably be joined by M1w Okinoumi (6-9). And rounding out the top 10 maegashira at M5 should be M2w Meisei (6-9) and M6w Enho (8-7), who keeps proving his doubters wrong, delighting his fans, and moving ever higher up the banzuke.
Somewhat unusually, none of the competing maegashira ended up on the bubble—they either clearly did enough to stay in the top division, or unambiguously earned a trip on Bruce’s infamous “Juryo barge.” In the latter group are M15w Daishoho (3-12), M14w Nishikigi (4-11), and M15e Daishomaru (5-10), all posting double-digit losses at the very bottom of Makuuchi. They’ll be joined in the second division by absent Ichinojo and injured Wakatakakage.
That’s five demotions, and as it happens, there are five clearly deserved promotions from Juryo. Three are Makuuchi mainstays making a return: Ikioi, Tochiozan, and Kaisei. One, Kiribayama, is a promising newcomer who shrugged off a senshuraku henka attempt by Chiyoshoma in a de facto promotion playoff, and whom Heruth has compared to Harumafuji. And last but not least, we have the Juryo yusho winner, Azumaryu, who defeated Ikioi and Kaisei in a playoff (avenging regulation losses to both). Azumaryu entered sumo 11 years ago, and has spent most of that time in Juryo, with 5 previous appearances in the top-division, most recently in September. He seems to be hitting a peak at age 32; this is his first yusho at any level, and he is likely exceed his career-high rank of M14e.
The one wildcard is M3w Tomokaze (0-3-12). Sadly, we know he won’t be competing any time soon, but his banzuke position has historically usually been high enough to protect him from a fall to Juryo even with zero wins. But that’s not a certainty this time, as J1w Tokushoryu (8-7) has a strong if not ironclad promotion case. If I had to guess, I’d go with them promoting Tokushoryu, but this is a really tough call.