The first basho has been pretty eventful, with a yusho deciding bout on senshuraku, a surprise winner, and, unfortunately, injuries and a big name retirement – Goeido.
The dust has vanished by now, so this should be a good opportunity to try to guess next basho’s banzuke !
First of all, let’s have a look back at last basho’s banzuke:
Who will drop out ?
How to demote an injured rikishi hasn’t always a clear-cut answer. However, having seen Tomokaze demoted to juryo in January hints at subsequent demotions for Kotoyuki (M3, 0-0-15) and Meisei (M5, 1-7-7). Apart from these inevitable downfalls, everybody looks to have hold up his own, except Kotoeko, whose 2-13 record asks for an obivous demotion – let’s hope he can bounce back.
Who will join maku’uchi ? Lower maegashira issues
Firstly, it’s important to note that, due to Goeido’s retirement, another slot will be opened at maku’uchi’s bottom. I wonder when’s the last time we had a maegashira 18 in the top division…
It means that the three demotions and Goeido’s retirement will provide four spots. I think the solution is quite easy this time – Nishikigi and Daimami’s impressive 11-4 records will bring them back to maku’uchi, whereas Kotonowaka and Hidenoumi’s 8-7 at juryo 2 has brought uncertainty, but they seem the ideal candidates to complete our banzuke. Kotonowaka would then be shin-maku’uchi.
Chiyoshoma (J1, 7-8), Wakatakakage (J5, 9-6), Daishoho (J5, 9-6) and Terunofuji (J13, 13-2) all seem to have narrowly missed their chance. But they will all be in good position to storm back to maku’uchi in May.
The middle of the pack – mid maegashira issued
Having determined who will (most likely) be demoted and promoted, let’s not see how our banzuke should shape up:
Our answers about promotions have settled a few spots at the bottom of the banzuke.
The middle of the banzuke has been pretty hard to draw. If you acknowledge Ryuden, Yutakayama and Kagayaki are due to fill some upper spots, and seeing a bunch of make-kochi starting from M9, the result looks a bit artificial.
I surprised myself, in particular, moving Aoiyama down to quite a few slots, despite an afwul 4-11 record at M8 – he finds himself no lower than M12.
Some rikishi (Takanosho, Sadanoumi, both 7-8) haven’t lost a single rank – they’ve just been moved from East to West.
Anyway, I think the banzuke has a pretty decent configuration.
The san’yaku battle – upper banzuke issues
Let’s finish our topic in original fashion – with the top ranks !
Both yokozuna, having won just one bout, should just retain their ranks. As a consequence, Kakuryu, the west yokozuna, will be marked as both yokozuna and ozeki – Takakeisho is the only remaining ozeki after Goeido’s retirement.
Asanoyama failed to get ozeki promotion but has secured his east sekiwake slot with a 10-5 performance.
The debate on who will fill the remaining places is wide open, and guessing right is no simple task. Three candidates are needed after Takayasu, Abi and Daieisho’s make kochi. All three are easy guesses, would I say – Endo (M1, 9-6), Hokutofuji (M2, 11-4) and Shodai (M4, 13-2).
Some believe Tokoshoryu will reach san’yaku. However, I’m quite certain he won’t be promoted that far. Remember Kyokutenho, back in 2012 ? He won the yusho at M7, with a 12-3 record – and ended up at maegashira 1.
I might have promoted him a bit too shily, though…
Anyway, the order of Endo, Hokutofuji and Shodai’s promotion is anyone’s guess. I believe the key here is to have in mind that the board is looking for ozeki candidates – the sooner, the better. And I tend to believe Hokutofuji, of the three, will be first on their minds – hence, he’ll grab the second sekiwake slot. And finally, Shodai’s impressive 13-2 record should outclass Endo’s 9-6 result at M1.
What’s your opinion on this banzuke ?