And the best basho of the 2010 decade is…

Admittedly, this article could have taken place at the end of last year. But slowly putting myself in the mood for the final basho of the year, I was thinking of past great sumo moments, and wanted to switch from an internal monologue to a broader discussion with you guys, sumo fans.

So my question is: in your opinion, which basho of the past decade would you consider as “the best” ?

Before we start, I’d like to point out the fact that this article will be purely subjective, and does not aim to be scientific or exact. I myself haven’t seen several basho from the beginning of the 2010 decade, so it’s likely I missed some great moments along the way!

I’d like to thank once again Jason Harris for his awesome coverage during the past decades, and his videos I took the liberty to upload here.

The favorites

1. Natsu basho 2012

Had this basho taken place somewhere between 2018 and 2020, the final outcome would not have appeared that weird. But back in 2012, that basho was truly an anomaly.

Seeing an under-par Hakuho losing to Aminishiki on shonishi quickly made it clear the yusho would be up for grabs.

The eventual winner, Kyokutenho, started indifferently, with a 2-3 record after five days, whereas the ozeki were largely disappointing. All, except one: Kisenosato, who had a comfortable two win lead after ten days. But Kisenosato being Kisenosato (and Tochiozan being Tochiozan)…

To sum up this basho, I could of course have selected the playoff, but Kisenosato’s final bout, against Baruto, impressed me quite a lot. The Estonian’s stubborn resistance at the edge, even though nothing was at stake for him at this point, is stunning. Kisenosato’s inability to finish the big guy off is all the more painful.

May 2012, day 15: Kisenosato v Baruto

2. Osaka 2017

Definitely one of the blockbusters of the 2010 decade. The Osaka basho 2017 is the tale of three men, one yokozuna, one ozeki and one sekiwake. Two months ago, all three were ozeki. Kisenosato got promoted to yokozuna, Kotoshogiku could not save his ozeki rank, whereas Terunofuji entered the basho being sadly kadoban yet again. And all three entered the dohyo in fine form.

The shin-yokozuna pleased a delighted crowd, day after day, winning the first twelwe bouts. Terunofuji’s knees seemed to finally let him produce his A-game, having lost just once in the process. Meanwhile, Kotoshogiku grabbed eight wins, and has to win the last two in order to complete what an ozekiwake wants to do: getting his ten, and reaching sumo’s highest rank again.

The rest is already part of the legend: an injury ending career, an infamous henka, a forgettable showing up on day 14, and a playoff of the crippled.

This time, I definitely chose to show the playoff, and not to bring further images of that Kotoshogiku – Terunofuji bout.

Osaka 2017, playoff: Kisenosato v Terunofuji

3. Hatsu basho 2019

My personal favorite, and the perfect definition of sumo chaos.

I can’t help but introducing that event with the usual pre-basho “bold prediction” thread from Grand Sumo Breakdown. Feeling that the upper ranks were far from their best, I predicted a total of no more than 30 wins, for all ozeki and yokozuna combined – that included Goeido, Takayasu, Tochinoshin, Kakuryu, Hakuho and Kisenosato, so an average of five wins per rikishi! Jason thought I was losing it; I held on my prediction. How many wins did those six eventually get? 30.

Back to chaos. First of all, this was Kisenosato’s last basho. After an encouraging 10-5 in September of last year, the injured yokozuna could not grab one single win in November or in January, and had to call it a day.

Kakuryu and Tochinoshin also did not end the tournament – with two wins for the yokozuna, zero for the ozeki. Goeido and Takayasu got their kachi koshi, but varely more (9-6 for both).

What about Hakuho? During the first days, he miraculously saved himself from seemingly hopeless situations – not without a bit of help of Tochiozan, who self destructed once again. Hakuho’s desperate fight against Hokutofuji was a particular highlight. He snatched the win, but injured his knee in the process, as we were to know several days after.

After the first days scares, the dai yokozuna seemed as good as ever – Herouth advised his stable to book a fish in advance, as Hakuho entered the last third of the basho with a two win cushion. From there, the yokozuna’s knee could not stand the effort anymore, and the basho ended up – of course – with a surprise winner.

I enjoyed Takakeisho’s win over Hakuho :

January 2019, day 13: Hakuho v Takakeisho

The outsiders

There were, of course, many more delightful sumo moments to enjoy during that decade. I remember Kisenosato’s fine effort on his quest for his first yusho, in May 2013, where he won the first thirteen bouts before succumbing to Hakuho and ending the basho 13-2.

Kotoshogiku’s unstoppable gaburi was fun, back in January 2016. After getting his kashi koshi as soon as on day eight, things became serious when he defeated Kakuryu, then showing Hakuho and Harumafuji who the boss is. His 14-1 yusho was stunning; perhaps even more than Goeido’s zensho yusho in September 2016, where  Hakuho was kyujo.

January 2016, day 11: Hakuho v Kotoshogiku

The Aki basho 2017 was symbolic in more than one way. The basho almost became a no-kozuna, as the only remaining yokozuna, Harumafuji, was seriously struggling with his elbow (how many no-kozuna have we witnessed since ?). It was also the Mongolian’s final yusho, before his sudden retirement a few weeks after. That basho was yet another anomaly – the last rikishi to win a yusho having sustained four losses was Musashimaru, in 1996.

Goeido’s meltdown was truly shocking – he had a three lead cushion to Harumafuji at some point. All in all, this basho’s scenario was really entertaining, much to Jason’s delight. 

Aki basho 2017, playoff: Goeido v Harumafuji

Jason would surely single out the Aki basho 2012, too. It saw Harumafuji’s second zensho yusho in a row, which prompted a fully deserved yokozuna promotion. On the other hand, Herouth might stress out Kakuryu’s yokozuna promotion, which took place in March 2014.

Aki basho 2012, playoff: Hakuho v Harumafuji

I would finally recall 2019’s Aki basho¸ which was really fun too, with many yusho contenders, and an enjoyable sekiwake duel between Takakeisho and Mitakeumi.

The Aki basho has definitely been entertaining during the past years. Would you pick one of the previous editions as your last decade’s favorite basho?

Quiz ! About shikona changes…

As we previously mentioned it, Shodai decided to keep his shikona following his promotion to the ozeki rank. Let’s try to figure out how much we know about rikishi’s shikona, shikona changes and real names…

As usual, try your best to get your kashi koshi!

1. Let’s start this quiz quietly. Ama became ozeki…

a. Goeido

b. Kakuryu

c. Harumafuji

d. Baruto

2. Which one of these wrestlers is currently fighting with his real name ?

a. Takarafuji

b. Takayasu

c. Takanosho

d. Takagenji

3. Who started wrestling using his real name – Fukuoka ?

a. Hokutofuji

b. Okinoumi

c. Ryuden

d. Daieisho

4. Who is the other Mr. Fukuoka in makuuchi ?

a. Abi

b. Terutsuyoshi

c. Meisei

d. Enho

5. Who started his sumo career with the shikona Wakamisho ?

a. Kiribayama

b. Tamawashi

c. Ichinojo

d. Terunofuji

6. The Bulgarian wrestler Aoiyama was given his current shikona after being asked a few questions about things he likes. What does “Aoiyama” mean ?

a. Red wind

b. Red mountain

c. Blue wind

d. Blue mountain

7. And by the way, Big Dan’s (Aoiyama) real name is…

a. Petkov

b. Dimitrov

c. Kotov

d. Ivanov

Big Dan: Aoiyama Kosuke.

8. Let’s now have some fun (and a few headaches !) with Sadogatake’s wrestlers. Who used to be called Kotokikutsugi ?

a. Kotoosho

b. Kotoeko

c. Kotoyuki

d. Kotoshogiku

9. Kotokamatani, on the other hand, is now known as…

a. Kotonowaka

b. Kotoeko

c. Kotoshoho

d. Kotoshogiku

10. Whereas Kotoenomoto has become…

a. Kotooshu

b. Kotoeko

c. Kotoshoho

d. Kotoyuki

11. And finally, Kototebakari is currently known as…

a. Kotoshoho

b. Kotoyuki

c. Kotonowaka

d. Kotoshogiku

12. Takanohana and Wakanohana are one of sumo’s most famous brothers. Their real name is :

a. Hanada

b. Koga

c. Sawai

d. Hagiwara

A sumo legend: former yokozuna Takanohana.

13. Which one of these rikishi used to be called “Sato” and changed his shikona as he got promoted to makuuchi ?

a. Takakeisho

b. Asanoyama

c. Mitakeumi

d. Shodai

14. Hanakaze is known for his incredibly long career, which started back in 1986 (!). Under how many names has he wrestled so far ?

a. One

b. Two

c. Three

d. Four

15. And finally, the great Hakuho has changed shikona :

a. Once

b. Twice

c. Thrice

d. He never changed his shikona

The answers :

1. Let’s start this quiz quietly. Ama became ozeki…

c. Harumafuji. Of course ! He took that name after his promotion to ozeki, following the Kyushu basho 2008.

Nine time grand champion: former yokozuna Harumafuji.

2. Which one of these wrestlers is currently fighting with his real name ?

b. Takayasu Akira.

3. Who started wrestling using his real name – Fukuoka ?

b. Okinoumi. He actually semmed to have some remorses after changing his shikona to Okinoumi, in March 2009. Two basho after, he went back to Fukuoka Ayumi, during just one basho. He then changed once again – for good – to Okinoumi Ayumi.

4. Who is the other Mr. Fukuoka in makuuchi ?

b. Terutsuyoshi. He has used only one shikona so far : Terutsuyoshi Shoki.

Terutsuyoshi Shoki, also known as Fukuoka Shoki.

5. Who started his sumo career with the shikona Wakamisho ?

d. Terunofuji. Terunofuji likes changes : he used to be called Wakamisho Yoshiaki, then Wakamisho Noriaki, then Wakamisho Yoshiaki again, then Terunofuji Yoshiaki, then Terunofuji Haruo.

6. The Bulgarian wrestler Aoiyama was given his current shikona after being asked a few questions about things he likes. What does “Aoiyama” mean ?

d. Blue mountain. Aoiyama likes blue color, and prefers mountain over sea.

7. And by the way, Big Dan’s (Aoiyama) real name is…

d. Ivanov. Daniel Ivanov, to be exact.

8. Let’s now have some fun (and a few headaches !) with Sadogatake’s wrestlers. Who used to be called Kotokikutsugi ?

d. Kotoshogiku. His real name is Kikutsugi Kazuhiro.

9. Kotokamatani, on the other hand, is now known as…

a. Kotonowaka. Outside the dohyo, he’s Kamatani Masakatsu

10. Whereas Kotoenomoto has become…

d. Kotoyuki, also known as Enomoto Yuki.

11. And finally, Kototebakari is currently known as…

a. Kotoshoho. His real name : Tebakari Toshiki

12. Takanohana and Wakanohana are one of sumo’s most famous brothers. Their real name is :

a. Hanada. Koga is Kaio’s name ; Sawai is Goeido’s name and Hagiwara is former Kisenosato’s name. Some great wrestlers down there.

13. Which one of these rikishi used to be called “Sato” and changed his shikona as he got promoted to makuuchi ?

a. Takakeisho. Asanoyama did change his shikona, but after promotion to juryo. Mitakeumi took just one shikona, whereas Shodai is fighting under his actual name.

14. Hanakaze is known for his incredibly long career, which started back in 1986 (!). Under how many names has he wrestled so far ?

c. Three. He started fighting under his real name, Yamagushi Daisaku, then switched to Tatsuyamagushi Daisaku, and to Hanakaze Daisaku. He holds that name since July 1999 !

15. And finally, the great Hakuho has changed shikona :

d. He never changed his shikona. Hakuho Sho. That’s the GOAT’s shikona.

Simply the best: yokozuna Hakuho Sho.

 

Happy Birthday, Wakamotoharu!

Today is Wakamotoharu’s 27th birthday. Happy birthday, Wakamotoharu!

He was born in Fukushima, and belongs to Arashio stable.

For the record, the juryo rikishi is one of the Onami brothers – his real name is Onami Minato.

Last basho left me quite disappointed, as I wished him to break through makuuchi. After several years spent in makushita, Wakamotoharu finally reached the sekitori ranks, got relegated twice, and eventually looked to establish himself for good in sumo’s second highest division. He actually got his highest rank in Aki 2020, namely juryo 3. Unfortunately, he could not make it – for now – to the highest division, failing to reach makuuchi with a 6-9 make koshi.

Wakamotoharu Minato

Hopefully, he’ll do it in 2021!

I spoke about the Onami brothers – Wakamotoharu actually has one older brother, and one younger bro.

The oldest Onami brother is argubly the least known of the three, namely Wakatakamoto – Onami Wataru is his real name, and will turn 29 in December the 29th. The family’s oldest bro couldn’t reach the sekitori ranks, even if he came quite close in 2018: then ranked at his best, makushita 7, Wakatakamoto couldn’t follow with a kachi koshi, and ended up 2-5 instead. He is currently ranked makushita 22, from where he will slightly slide down the banzuke, following a 3-4 make koshi.

The youngest Onami brother is also the most successful one, and the most famous: Wakatakakage Atsushi!

Establishing himself as a new makuuchi force? Wakatakakage Atsushi

Wakatakakage is notably known for his paradoxical makuuchi debut, back in November 2019. The youngest Onami brother was actually the only rikishi to compete in makuuchi and not to lose one single bout on the dohyo! Sadly, an injury prevented him from competing from day 5, and he ended 4-1-10 – after having won his four first bouts.

He showed glimpses of his talent during the first days, and it was clear it was not the only time we would see him causing headhaches in sumo’s first division. Indeed, he came back in makuuchi after two basho, and got back to back double digit wins: 10-5 in July, 11-4 in September! He’ll turn 26 also in December, the 6th.

But today’s attention is focused on the family’s second born child: once again, happy birthday, Onami Minato!

New stars rising on the sumo horizon!

While having the privilege to witness the East Japan University sumo championships, it’s tempting to try to guess tomorrow’s stars. Doubtlessly, some of them have a bright future before them.

I’m grabbing the opportunity to set my eyes elsewhere, mainly in the upper makushita ranks. Which sekitori hopefuls are on their way to juryo, if not higher ? Who are our best hopes ? Who can match Shodai’s achievement ?

Let’s try to figure this out.

1. Shiraishi Masahito

Shiraishi is the first name that springs to my mind. Alongside Azumaryu and Fujiazuma, his situation has been highlighted last month, as the whole Tamanoi beya was prevented from competing at the Aki basho, due to Covid concerns. The question was, of course, if being kyujo the whole fifteen days would result in a huge demotion. Luckily for them, it was decided the rikishi would just keep their current rankings.

That means Shiraishi will have another shot to enter the sekitori ranks, currently holding the fourth highest makushita rank (makushita 2 West). He entered sumo being sandamne tsukedashi 100, won 7-0 outright, then went 5-2, 4-3, 6-1, 2-5 (his only make koshi), 6-1 and 6-1!

Shiraishi (right) being brought down by Terunofuji in July 2019

Prior to that forced break, the Tokyo-to born wrestler’s rise seemed inevitable. Aged 24, he’s doubtlessly one guy to follow.

2. Suzuki Yuto

The second wrestler I’d think of would undoubtedly Suzuki. He’s from quite a small heya, Fujishima, where’s he’s actually the second highest ranked sumo wrestler, after Bushozan (who I also could have included in that list, by the way!). He’s a nice baby – 181 cm for 145 kgs at his beginning.

Suzuki enterd mae zumo recently, in January 2019, and was ranked jonokuchi 20 in March. For the record – and the comparison is interesting, Terunofuji started his renaissance the same basho, ranked jonidan 48. Suzuki seemed to follow the Mongolian’s path, not conceding a single make koshi along the way (4-3, 5-2, 6-1, 6-1, 4-3, 4-3, 4-3, 6-1, 5-2)! Terunofuji’s last basho – so far – outside the salaried ranks took place in November 2019, then ranked makushita 10. At that time, Suzuki was sitting in the banzuke ranked sandanme 10.  

Aged only 20, he’ll find himself in the upper makushita ranks, and I’m eager to see him show his fledging skills.

3. Kitanowaka Daisuke

I could replicate much of what I said concerning Suzuki – in a slightly improved way, in fact. As heavy as Suzuki, but eight centimeters lighter at his start, he, too, has not conceded a single make koshi. His meteoric rise started two months later – maezumo in March 2019, jonokuchi 16 in May. He conceded just fifteen  losses overall, and will already compete in the upper makushita ranks in November, after a 4-3 winning record in Aki.

Kitanowaka Daisuke

He belonjgs to Hakkaku beya, alongside Okinoumi and Hokutofuji. Without doubt, he’ll benefit from both sekitori’s experience, in order to break through sumo’s highest ranks.

4. Yoshii Ko

Just a bit further down the banzuke, is sitting Yoshii. He belongs to the Tokitsukaze stable, which has recently been on the spotlights – the Shodai – Yutakayama also belongs to that stable.

By the way, it seems I’m not the first one to dedicate some of my time to him – credit to Chris Sumo for that video :

His measurements reminds me a bit of Takakeisho – 177 cm for 150 kg at his beginning.

His overall record is also spotless – no make koshi. He finished the Aki basho with a 4-3 record, ranked makushita 44. What’s more impressive, he’s only 17 !

His elders may be one step forward, but it’s fair to say he’s undoubtedly one of tomorrow’s talents. Good luck, Yoshii !

5. Murata Ryo

Murata sadly allows me to open a consequent chapters on young hopes being hit by injuries. Indeed, wounds are inherent to sumo, and can stop any rikishi’s career at any time. Thinking of Terunofuji, Ura and others is straightforward, but many brillant young guys are easily forgotten, without having been able to show their skills at the highest level. These sad circumstances prevent me from mentionning the likes of Ryuko (currently makushita 20) and many others, as having more successful futures – but who knows.

Going back to Murata, the path he followed is kinda impressing. Propelled to sumo as sandanme tsukedashi 100, he quickly rose to the very first makushita rank, before sustaining grave injuries. As a consequence, he fell right to jonokuchi – after one failed comeback – a division he never met !

That was too little to scare the Mie-ken born wrestler, though : a little bit more than a year later, he’s back to the upper makushita ranks (Ms 16 during the Aki basho), thanks to 7-0, 7-0 (that helps), 5-2, 6-1, 4-3 and 4-3 records.

He’s 26, but obviously still has a lot to offer.

Of course, my list isn’t exhaustive, and we might well see another breakthrough during the coming months.

I’m also keeping an eye on Kamito Daiki, who recently celebrated his 25th birthday.

Finally, I’d mention…

6. Onosho Fumiya

Wait, Onosho ? THE Onosho ?

Absolutely !

Emulating Shodai’s remarkable rise? Onosho Fumiya

As a complement on my last article about Shodai’s ozeki promotion, I’d like to add a few lines about Onosho. I feel these lines were missing.

Indeed, Shodai and Onosho’s careers have followed quite a similar path – until now. Just like the newly promoted ozeki, Onosho quickly through the ranks from jonokuchi. True, he spent some time in juryo, with one downstep to the non salaried ranks. But it took just three basho from his makuuchi debut, in May 2017, to attain san’yaku! Quite impressively, he performed three double digits records (10-5 thrice), before being propelled to komusubi.

As a matter of fact, Onosho never endured a make koshi over fifteen days, in san’yaku. Here’s the sad part : he seemed to suffer from a serious injury sustained in January 2018, which eventually provoked demotion from makuuchi to juryo. If Onosho bounced back without much trouble, thanks to a 12-3 juryo yusho, he has stayed quite anonymously in the maegashira ranks since, just like Shodai did.

If the Tokitsukaze resident suddenly saw his sumo quality improve dramatically, we can only wish similar fortunes to Onosho.

Hakkeyoi !