Hatsu 2020 Banzuke
It's Banzuke Day!
The official rankings for the first basho of 2020 have been announced. The overarching theme is symmetry. We've got two Yokozuna, two Ozeki, two Sekiwake, and two Komosubi, which means we also get down to Maeagshira 17 West.
Rankings next, with commentary below.
It was all predictable, but Takayasu is out of the Ozeki rank for the first time in 15 basho, while Tochinoshin and Mitakeumi drop from the Sanyaku for the first time in a long time themselves. This makes this banzuke look very different. If Goeido can't mount the dohyo, we'll see even more changes by March.
Asanoyama gets his Sekiwake debut. Technically, he will see the same level of difficulty as last time out, when he got 11 wins. On the other hand, he does have a new highest career rank. He also is not actually on an Ozeki run, according to the Japan Sumo Association. (If he wins 14 or 15, you think they'd give it to him, though.)
The biggest jump in the rankings goes to Shodai, unsurprisingly. He moves from Maegashira 10 to Maegashira 4 after his 11 wins. This is more familiar territory for Shodai.
Shodai is also the last member of the joi, which means he is the lowest ranked wrestler guaranteed to face the top of the banzuke. The usual caveats about injuries changing everything and stablemates creating distance apply here. The stablemate pairings who mess this up are Endo-Daieisho and Hokutofuji-Okinoumi. Meisei and Enho could easily face much tougher competition. That's better news for Enho, who is stablemates with Hakuho.
The bottom six on the banzuke are the six Juryo promotions, which is certainly not typical. Five of these rikishi are familiar faces, with Azumaryu, Ikioi, Tochiozan, Kaisei, and Tokushoryu making return trips to the top division. The debutant is Kiribayama, a 24 year old Mongolian who ended the last basho in a four way draw with Azumaryu, Ikioi, and Kaisei at 11-4. So these guys are even, basically, except Kiribayama is way younger.
If you're wondering what happened to the demoted wrestlers, Tomokaze went from Maegashira 3 to Juryo 1 after getting injured on Day Two. Wakatakakage descends to Juryo 5 from Maegashira 15 after compiling the amazing record of 4-1-10. Ichinojo fell to Juryo 7 from Maegashira 12 after sitting out the tournament completely. Daishomaru is Juryo 3, Nishikihi is Juryo 4, and Daishoho is Juryo 5. They were not injured, merely terrible, in Kyushu.
Actual sumo begins on January 12th. Keep posted for updates until then.