While eagerly waiting for a fun, combattive sumo year 2021, let’s have a look back and pay tribute to the most famous rikishi – some of our readers’ favorite wrestlers – who called it a day in 2020. Some produced unforgettable moments in the past, and deserved an entirely unofficial farewell on our website. Sadly, the list always seems too extended…
Age of retirement: 33
Best rank: ozeki
Number of yusho (makuuchi): 1
Number of kinboshi : 1
A famous name from sumo retired early on in 2020, following the loss of his ozeki rank in January. Goeido could have benefitted from a chance to bounce straight back in March as an ozekiwake – in front of his home crowd. But Goeido did not believe his body to have enough energy left, and announced his retirement.
It took the Osaka-born rikishi quite some time to reach sumo’s second highest rank (in September 2014), having produced an incredible fourteen basho streak at the rank of sekiwake.
From then, it’s fair to say Goeido has not met expectations. His first tournaments as an ozeki were underwhelming – he got 8-7, 5-10, 8-7, 8-7 and 8-6-1 records. Actually, he got infamously nicknamed one of the kadoban brothers, alongside Kotoshogiku. But more on that later…
Goeido’s career highlight was undoubtedly his stunning zensho yusho in September 2016, which suddenly turned him into a yokozuna candidate. The dream lasted during Kyushu’s first third of the tournament, where Goeido stayed undefeated. Unfortunately, he could not keep momentum, and ended up 9-6.
Goeido had one last surge at the same place, the following year. Spectators were close to watch a nokozuna, where no less than three yokozuna were kyujo, and Harumafuji was struggling at the beginning. However, the yokozuna showed class, and also benefitted from Goeido’s incredible meltdown in order to force a playoff, and give the ozeki no chance.
Age of retirement: 33
Best rank: maegashira 2
Number of yusho (makuuchi) : 0
Number of kinboshi : 3
Poor Arawashi. While watching juryo during the Mongolian’s late career, the first stumbling block was to spot him properly. Indeed, the physical ressemblance with his “twin brother” – who actually isn’t his twin at all -, Chiyoshoma, was truly puzzling.
Then, injuries preventing him from maintaining himself among the salaried ranks. His last basho in juryo ended up in embarrassing fashion, as Arawashi stated, during a pre basho interview, that targeted the yusho, and nothing else. Alas, his weakened body abandoned him. Arawashi started strongly (3-0), but could add just two more wins, end ended up in makushita.
However, it is impossible to turn the 2020 chapter without having a look at Arawashi’s highlights. Following a fine 11-4 performance in Kyushu 2016, the Mongolian rocketed to a career high maegashira 2 the following basho – a rank that seemed too high for the light rikishi. 2017 started horribly with five losses, and then came the unexpected: Arawashi’s first two wins of the tournament, defeating Kakuryu, then Hakuho! I hotly recommend those who haven’t seen that bout against the dai yokozuna to watch Arawashi’s genius at the tachi-ai, some kind of “Harumafuji not henka” paving way to a death spin. Hakuho was left stunned, and so were we all.
Arawashi got no special prize for that feat, as he ended up make koshi. He slowly slided down the banzuke, all the way back to makushita – but not without earning a third and last kinboshi in March 2017, this time against another great wrestler, Harumafuji.
Age of retirement: 33
Best rank: sekiwake
Number of yusho (makuuchi): 0
Number of kinboshi: 6
Tochiozan was a hugely gifted, yotsu wrestler. The number of kinboshi he earned is impressive, but actually comes as no surprise. Several rikishi’s names immediately spring to mind, when discussions of Hakuho-less alternative reality occur: Kisenosato, of course; Harumafuji, and Kakuryu. But Tochiozan may have enjoyed an even better career – and indeed, ozeki promotion was within reach.
But Tochiozan was a wrestler of missed opportunities. He missed out on a golden chance to win a yusho in May 2012 – he cracked under pressure and let Kyokutenho lift the Cup instead.
If Tochiozan was a giant killer, giants also liked to defeat him – Harumafuji litterally bullied Tochiozan on his birthday, at the Haru basho in 2015! During his late career, Tochiozan had no less than comical bouts against Hakuho, where he seemed certain to get a seventh kinboshi, before losing in ridiculous fashion. Only Tochiozan had the secret of such losses… Without doubt, the Kochi-ken born rikishi has left the dohyo with many unanswered questions.
Age of retirement: 21
Best rank: sandanme 32
Having the privilege to watch a wrestler from Texas is a rare thing. Previously, American sumo fans had been able to watch another local hero, but for a very short period only – Brodik Henderson, known as Homarenishiki on the dohyo, retired under mysterious conditions, amid intimidation fears, in 2016, one year after his sumo debut.
Wakaichiro, in real life Ichiro Kendrick Young, lasted longer. He entered mae zumo in November 2016, and struggled to stay in sandanme during the first years. Results improved in 2019, and Wakaichiro actually retired early in 2020, after a series of kashi koshi that would have enabled him to slowly set his sights in makushita, being ranked sandanme 32.
Unfortunately, a series of chronic injuries prevented him to realistically target a place in the salaried ranks. Of course, one can reasonably wonder what lower ranked rikishi can get by staying down the banzuke – you don’t get paid before reaching juryo.
Earlier this year, Bruce dedicated a great article paying tribute to Mr Young.