With the Kyushu results in the books, we can take our customary look at how they will reshuffle the rankings chart for the Hatsu basho. Strap in, folks, it’s going to be a wild ride.
Yokozuna and Ozeki
This is easy. Whether or not he fights, Terunofuji will be the sole Yokozuna, and Takakeisho will be the sole Ozeki. As has been repeatedly mentioned, this is the first time in over a century that this precise scenario has taken place. It is also only the second time in modern sumo history that the two upper ranks combined had only two occupants, the first time coming exactly 30 years ago, at Hatsu 1993, when we had two Ozeki: Akebono and Konishiki. In that instance, the ranks were bolstered by future Takanohana’s promotion to Ozeki, with Akebono simultaneously becoming the first foreign-born Yokozuna.
It’s hard to see where such reinforcements would come from this time. After his 12-3 with a playoff loss, Takakeisho could potentially see a promotion with a strong yusho in January. As for anything resembling Ozeki runs, the best we have are Wakatakakage’s 11 and 8 wins at Sekiwake, Hoshoryu’s mirror 8 and 11, and Takayasu’s 11 and 12 at M4 and M1. The former two would need a yusho with no fewer than 13 wins to start the conversation, while the latter would need two maegashira basho to be included in the run, something that has never happened under modern promotion criteria. In all likelihood, the uppermost ranks won’t get bolstered until May at the earliest.
Three Sekiwake are locked in: S1e Wakatakakage (8-7), S1w Hoshoryu (11-4) and O1w Shodai (6-9), who will have the customary one shot to regain his rank with 10 wins. There’s some question regarding whether they could be joined by M1e Takayasu (12-3); while recent precedents suggest that he’ll only be Komusubi, there’s a chance that he gets fast-tracked to Sekiwake in order to set him up for a potential early Ozeki promotion in January.
Of the four current Komusubi, only K1w Kiribayama (8-7) will get to stay. The second slot could be filled by the above-mentioned Takayasu if he isn’t bumped up to Sekiwake. Otherwise, it would go to M1w Kotonowaka (9-6), who could also be in line for an extra Komusubi slot if the regular ones are taken by Kiribayama and Takayasu. The last three maegashira to go 9-6 at M1w when no san’yaku slots were open got stuck at M1e, and this may yet be Kotonowaka’s fate, but it would make an already difficult puzzle of filling out the upper maegashira ranks all but impossible. It’s such a mess, in fact, that I could see M2e Meisei (9-6) and (less likely) M4e Wakamotoharu (10-5) or even champion M9w Abi (12-3) get bumped up to Komusubi, though the banzuke committee seems really disinclined to create extra slots that aren’t absolutely forced.
We’ve seen some logjams in this part of the banzuke recently, but this one takes the cake. First, we have no fewer than four dropping san’yaku rikishi with mild make-koshi: S2w Mitakeumi (6-9), K2e Tobizaru (7-8), K2w Daieisho (7-8), and K1e Tamawashi (6-9). The first three would normally drop to M1, which obviously isn’t possible for all of them, while we have the very recent precedent of Ichinojo to suggest that Tamawashi should only drop to M2. That’s all four M1-M2 slots spoken for, but in addition to the above-mentioned Meisei, who must be ranked no lower than M2e unless they start demoting winning records, we also have Wakamotoharu, M3w Midorifuji (8-7), M4w Sadanoumi (8-7), and M5w Nishikifuji (9-6). It’s possible to fit everyone in, but it entails either historically harsh demotions for the falling san’yaku rikishi or no promotions for maegashira with 8-7 and even 9-6 records. I’ve made a few drafts, and they are all extremely unsatisfying, which is why I even raise the possibility of extra Komusubi.
Makuuchi to Juryo
Chiyotairyu’s retirement opens up one slot in the top division. M16e Terutsuyoshi (0-15) and M15w Atamifuji (4-11) will be vacating two more. M8e Takarafuji (3-12) is on the bubble. So we’ll have at least three promotions, and at most four, as all other incumbents are safe.
J3e Tsurugisho (10-5) is definitely coming back up. The other contenders, in a virtual tie, are J1w Chiyomaru (8-7), J3w Mitoryu (9-6), and J5e Akua (10-5). Losses by all three on the final day, coupled with a win by Takarafuji, left the door open for the possibility that one will miss out, in favor of keeping the incumbent, but I think it’s a close call as to whether that happens, and who would be the odd man out, though Mitoryu seems like the most likely possibility.
Makushita to Juryo
This, at least, was made straightforward by two exchange bouts on the final day. One slot in Juryo is open due to Chiyotairyu’s retirement. The least likely top-division champion in decades, and possibly ever, J12e Tokushoryu (4-11), will drop out of the salaried ranks for the first time in over 10 years. Will he fight it out in Makushita or retire?
The two open slots are accounted for by former Ozeki Asanoyama, who finished 6-1 at Ms4e, and Ms1w Shonannoumi, who will make his sekitori debut after posting a 5-2 record.
J14e Tsushimanada (7-8) should stay after besting Ms2w Fujiseiun (3-4), and the same goes for J10w Kaisho (5-10), who beat back the promotion challenge from Ms5w Hakuyozan (5-2). Hakuyozan is the owner of the only winning record in the promotion zone to miss out, so the former Juryo mainstay will get to try again from higher rank, and without Asanoyama in his way. Other notable names fighting it out for Juryo promotion in January should include Ms1 Shiden (3-4), third-tier champion Tamashoho, former maegashira Tomokaze and Chiyonoo, and exciting newcomer Ishizaki (and possibly Kawazoe).
I think that’s a wrap! I should have a more complete banzuke prediction post closer to January; in the meantime, let me know what you think in the comments.