Nagoya Storylines, Day 14

The Yusho Race

It all comes down to the final bout between our two active Yokozuna. If Kakuryu wins, he claims the championship. A Hakuho victory would mean a second, playoff bout between the two for all the marbles.

Lower San’yaku

For now, the only open slot is West Komusubi, being vacated by 4-10 Ryuden. East Komusubi Abi‘s record stands at 7-7, and he will fight Kotoshogiku tomorrow with his rank on the line. If Abi prevails and there is only one promotion, the lucky rikishi will be the winner of the bout between M1w Hokutofuji and M2w Endo, both 9-6. An extra victory by Endo would overcome the one-rank difference between them on the banzuke.

Should Abi lose, the winner of Hokutofuji-Endo would be East Komusubi, but the identity of West Komusubi is unclear. The leading contenders are M7e Tomokaze (11-3), M3w Daieisho (8-6), and Abi himself. Also in the conversation are M2e Aoiyama (7-7) and M4w Ichinojo (8-6). Tomokaze should get it with a win, unless he gets the “Asanoyama treatment” from the banzuke committee—ranked outside the joi, hasn’t been in san’yaku before, etc. Daieisho will be the leading candidate with a win and a Tomokaze loss. If both lose, the committee might opt to merely slide Abi to the West side with a 7-8 record, as they did with Mitakeumi after the March tournament, and victories by Aoiyama or Ichinojo might not be enough to alter that equation. Never mind; I forgot that if Abi falters, the loser of Hokutofuji-Endo will be in pole position for the second slot, although Tomokaze could be in with a chance if he goes 12-3 and Endo goes 9-6.

Division Exchanges

  • Definite demotions from Makuuchi: Kaisei, Yoshikaze, Yago.
  • Needs a win and banzuke luck: Tochiozan.
  • Will be safe with one victory: Chiyomaru.
  • Probably safe, but could use another win: Takagenji (Toyonoshima is safe with today’s victory).
  • Definite promotion from Juryo: Tsurugisho, the Juryu yusho winner.
  • Very likely promotion: Yutakayama.
  • Likely promotion, but could use another win: Ishiura.
  • Could earn promotion with another win: Azumaryu, Chiyoshoma.
  • Need a win and banzuke luck: Wakatakage, Takanosho, Daiamami.

With only 3 definite open slots in Makuuchi, 3 additional top-division rikishi in danger of demotion, and up to 8 Juryo men still nursing promotion chances, there is a lot at stake on the final day.

At the bottom of Juryo, we still have only two clear demotions and one retirement. Chiyonoumi, Arawashi, and Kotonowaka need final-day victories to be safe, and the schedulers are not making this easy. Chiyonoumi is matched with 7-7 Kyokushuho, who is going for his kachi-koshi. Arawashi is up against promotion-seeking Azumaryu. And, as I predicted yesterday, Kotonowaka will fight Ms5w Wakamotoharu, 5-1, for a place in the paid ranks.

Both Makushita 1s, Seiro and Irodori, will make an immediate return to Juryo. Wakamotoharu will likely be third in line with a win and 4th with a loss, with Hoshoryu vanquisher Tamaki occupying the other place in the promotion queue. Finally, Ms4w Kaisho (4-3) probably has a good-enough record if a 5th Juryo slot opens.

Nagoya Storylines, Day 13

The Yusho Race

Kakuryu’s loss to Tomokaze today, combined with Hakuho’s victory, leaves the two Yokozuna tied at the top of the standings with 12-1 records. Because they will face each other on the final day, at least one of them will end up with no more than two losses, and therefore 3-loss Tomokaze is out of the race. Still in it, however, is 2-loss M16w Terutsuyoshi! The last man on the banzuke, who is short in stature but not in fighting spirit, must win out and hope that each Yokozuna picks up another loss, in which case he would be an extremely improbable playoff participant. His formidable opponent tomorrow is M1w Hokutofuji, followed on Day 15 by perhaps Tomokaze or Mitakeumi. Kakuryu has Mitakeumi tomorrow, and their record is almost even at 6-5. Hakuho faces Kotoshogiku, whom he’s defeated 56 times in 61 meetings on the dohyo.

Here are the yusho scenarios:

  • Both Yokozuna win on Day 14: their Day 15 bout decides the champion.
  • Both Yokozuna lose: their Day 15 bout decides either the champion or Terutsuyoshi’s playoff opponent.
  • One Yokozuna wins, the other loses: The winner can claim the championship with a Day-15 win. The loser can force a 2-way or 3-way playoff.

Excitingly, we now know that no matter what happens tomorrow, the Day 15 Yokozuna face-off will definitely have the highest of stakes for both rikishi! We haven’t seen a playoff since Harumafuji’s memorable victory over Goeido at Aki 2017, and the last one between two Yokozuna was all the way back in January of 2014, with Kakuryu prevailing over Hakuho on that occasion. The last playoff to feature more than two wrestlers was the March 1997 battle royal in which Takanohana outlasted Akebono, Musashimaru, and Kaio.

Lower San’yaku

Mitakeumi’s 8th victory means that he’ll remain East Sekiwake for Aki, with Takakeisho dropping down into the West Sekiwake slot. Abi avoided his make-koshi today, and still has a chance to hold on to the East Komusubi slot with two more victories. He will try to pick up his 7th tomorrow against Ichinojo, whom he has yet to beat in 3 tries. Hokutofuji’s 8th victory today solidified his lead in the san’yaku promotion queue, with Endo (8-5) hot on his heels. The only other rikishi still hanging on to promotion hopes are Tomokaze, Aoiyama, Ichinojo, and (barely) Daieisho, who would need a second slot to open.

Division Exchanges

  • Definite demotions from Makuuchi: Kaisei, Yoshikaze, Yago.
  • In serious danger of demotion: Tochiozan.
  • Will be safe with one victory: Chiyomaru.
  • Probably safe, but could use another win: Toyonoshima, Takagenji.
  • Definite promotion from Juryo: Tsurugisho.
  • Likely promotion, but could use another win: Ishiura.
  • Should earn promotion with another win: Azumaryu, Yutakayama.
  • Still nursing promotion chances: Takanosho, Chiyoshoma, Wakatakage.

Ms1 Irodori won his “exchange bout” with J12w Ryuko, sending the latter to Makushita and most likely earning a slot in Juryo. J14w Kotonowaka staved off demotion for now, but still needs two victories to stay in the second division. It is likely that either 3 or 4 slots will Juryo slots will be open, although the J10 duo of Chiyonoumi and Arawashi, both 5-8, are not completely out of the woods yet. Two of the slots should go to Ms1e Seiro (4-2) and Irodori. The others in contention are Ms2w Hoshoryu, Ms3e Tamaki, and Ms4w Kaisho, all 3-3, and Ms5w Wakamotoharu, 5-1. Tomorrow, we have a “Darwin bout” between Hoshoryu and Tamaki and a Juryo test for Kaisho against Arawashi. Wakamotoharu’s fate will be decided on the final day, in what I’m guessing could be an exchange bout against Kotonowaka.

Nagoya Storylines, Day 12

The Yusho Race

Kakuryu (12-0) leads by one over Hakuho (11-1). The two Yokozuna are chased by … checks notes … M16w Terutsuyoshi (10-2). The only other rikishi with a mathematical shot is M7w Tomokaze (9-3). Not that it’s likely, but what odds could one have gotten on a Terutsuyoshi yusho at the start of the tournament? In case you’re wondering, he wouldn’t be the lowest-ranked rikishi to raise the Emperor’s cup—that honor will probably always be held by M17w Dewaminato, who triumphed in January 1939.

It’s interesting to speculate what matchups the schedulers will come up with for the final days, given the unprecedented absence of all four Ozeki. On Day 13, Kakuryu faces Tomokaze, while Hakuho fights M7e Myogiryu (8-4), whom he’s bested 18 times in 19 prior meetings. Terutsuyoshi’s challenge is not being taken all that seriously yet—his opponent is M8e Onosho (6-6). Kakuryu’s last two opponents will almost certainly be Mitakeumi and Hakuho. It’s unclear whom Hakuho will fight on Day 14—I would guess Tomokaze, but Terutsuyoshi is an interesting option. More likely, the latter will face one of the joi maegashira, one of the Komusubi, or Tamawashi, and could be the logical opponent for Mitakeumi on senshuraku (remember that the next day’s schedule is usually made before the results of the previous day’s bouts are known, although if the yusho contenders are in doubt, the schedulers can wait for Day 14 results to make the Day 15 schedule, like they did in May).

The Lower San’yaku

No real changes from yesterday, except that Abi’s loss means that he now needs to win out to secure his rank. Hokutofuji has dropped two in a row, and while he continues to lead the race for the first open san’yaku slot, he is now closely pursued by the likes of Endo, Ichinojo, Daieisho, and even Tomokaze. Daieisho can open a second slot by beating Abi tomorrow (the career record is 4-3 in favor of Daieisho), and Hokutofuji and Ichinojo go head-to-head for the lead of the promotion queue; the two have split their previous 8 bouts.

Division Exchanges

In Makuuchi, we have Kaisei and Yoshikaze dropping down to Juryo, and Yago needs 3 wins and strong banzuke luck to avoid joining them. The others still needing victories to reach safety are Toyonoshima, Tochiozan, Chiyomaru, Nishikigi, and Takagenji, but two certain demotions and a lack of strong promotion candidates in Juryo means that most or all of them could survive even they drop their last 3.

Juryo yusho leader Tsurugisho may have already done enough to make his top-division debut at Aki; one more victory will do it for sure. The other unconvincing contenders all still need two or three victories to secure promotion, although one or two of them may do it with one. The best-placed of these is our old friend Ishiura, followed by Azumaryu, Yutakayama, Wakatakakage, Takanosho, Tokushoryu, and Chiyoshoma.

Two slots will open in Juryo with Aminishiki’s retirement and Akiseyama’s demotion. Kotonowaka and Ryuko likely need to win out to avoid demotion. Others still in danger are Chiyonoumi, and possibly Arwashi and Ikioi if they lose out. The only certain promotion from Makushita at this time is Ms1e Seiro (4-2). Ms4e Chiyootori (3-4) lost his “exchange bout” with J13 Kizakiumi, postponing his return to sekitori status. Tomorrow, we’ll have another exchange bout with Ms1w Irodori (3-3) facing Ryuko. The other Makushita promotion contenders—Hoshoryu, Tamaki, Kaisho, and Wakamotoharu—won’t see action until the weekend.