Natsu 2019 Rikishi Preview
The Banzuke is posted, and we can officially begin looking towards the start of the Natsu Basho. Here is a look at each and every member of the top Makuuchi division. (All photos from the Japan Sumo Association.)
白鵬 翔 | Hakuho Sho
Last 3 Basho: 15-0, 10-4-1, 0-0-15
Previous Rank: Yokozuna East
The White Peng is still the best in the world if he is healthy and participating, with another sensho yusho (his record 15th) adding to his record number of championships with a 42nd Yusho. His recent on-off injury history is a worry for any Hakuho Fantasy Basho owner. If he mounts the dohyo, he's still the favorite.
鶴竜 力三郎 | Kakuryu Rikisaburo
Last 3 Basho: 10-5, 2-4-9, 0-0-15
Previous Rank: Yokozuna West
Kakuryu often feels like "the other Yokozuna," and a 10-5 record off of two injury plagued basho is certainly not comparable to an undefeated record. He is a fantastic reactive wrestler, so if he is 100% healthy (huge if), he will be a serious contender. His injury reports are most key to watch.
豪栄道 豪太郎 | Goeido Gotaro
Ozeki 1 East
Last 3 Basho: 12-3, 9-6, 8-4-3
Previous Rank: Ozeki 1 West
Goeido enjoyed the home cooking in Osaka, piling up a total that would get a jun-yusho or even a yusho in other basho. Now, consistency has never been Goeido's strength, so he seems almost assured of not making it to 12 wins in May. Then again, when he's on form, he is an absolute force.
高安 晃 | Takayasu Akira
Ozeki 1 West
Last 3 Basho: 10-5, 9-6, 12-3
Previous Rank: Ozeki 1 East
Takayasu's 10 wins aren't exceptional for an Ozeki, and he will slide over to the Ozeki 1 West spot. That shouldn't overshadow the fact that he is a consistently excellent performer at the top of the banzuke. He seems as safe a bet as anyone to collect at least 9 wins, if not a few more.
貴景勝 光信 | Takakeisho Mitsunobu
Ozeki 2 East
Last 3 Basho: 10-5, 11-4 J, 12-3 Y
Previous Rank: Sekiwake East
With 10 wins, and 34 in 3 basho, he finally did it, and Takakeisho will be the newest Ozeki for the Natsu basho. 10 wins was his worse total over the three basho, but as a 22 year old Shin-Ozeki, he is still the best bet for being the next Yokozuna. More immediately, he is also one of the safest bets for 10 wins in May.
逸ノ城 駿 | Ichinojo Takashi
Last 3 Basho: 14-1 JS, 6-9, 6-9
Previous Rank: Maegashira 4 West
March saw the Ichinojo who set Makuuchi on notice in his debut in September 2014, rather than the inert boulder who couldn't gain any traction of more recent basho. His 14 wins would have won most tournaments, but his new style--absorb an initial blow and toss the other guy to the ground--is what could lead to success in the future.
栃ノ心 剛史 | Tochinoshin Tsuyoshi
Last 3 Basho: 7-8, 0-5-10, 8-7
Previous Rank: Ozeki 2 East
The Georgian Bear has fallen out of the Ozeki ranks after a few injury plagued basho. He gets a chance at returning to Ozeki with 10 wins in Natsu, but if he doesn't, he would have less than a year at Ozeki. That shouldn't take away from Tochinoshin's achievement of making it in the first place.
碧山 亘右 | Aoiyama Kosuke
Last 3 Basho: 12-3, 7-8, 11-4
Previous Rank: Maegashira 7 East
Well, someone has to get put up here, and it might as well be the guy who won 12 in the last basho. Aoiyama was so dominant in Osaka because he knows how to use his immense size and upper body strength. Of course, he was also facing much less difficult competition than he will be as a Komusubi.
御嶽海 久司 | Mitakeumi Hisashi
Last 3 Basho: 7-8, 8-4-3, 7-8
Previous Rank: Komusubi East
Mitakeumi is maintaining his Komusubi rank thanks to no one else performing well enough to jump up into it. 7-8 is a bit of a disappointment and the five straight losses in the middle of the basho were especially bad. Likely, this is because he was suffering from an injury, although this being sumo, it wasn't ever announced.
北勝富士 大輝 | Hokutofuji Daiki
Maegashira 1 East
Last 3 Basho: 7-8, 9-6, 7-8
Previous Rank: Komusubi West
In his debut at the Sanyaku ranks, Hokutofuji didn't manage to hold on to the Komusubi slot. But 7-8 is respectable for a first shot in the titled positions. His Haru was more of a speed bump than a detour in his path up the rankings.
琴奨菊 和弘 | Kotoshogiku Kazuhiro
Maegashira 1 West
Last 3 Basho: 11-4, 6-9, 10-5
Previous Rank: Maegashira 8 West
The Former Ozeki, at this point it's nearly Kotoshogiku's honorific, has won enough to edge back towards the Sanyaku ranks. The strange thing about Kotoshogiku is he has all of his skills but his athleticism is 90% of his prime. That means if he gets an advantage, he can win, but it's harder and harder for him to get it.
遠藤 聖大 | Endo Shota
Maegashira 2 East
Last 3 Basho: 7-8, 10-5, 9-6
Previous Rank: Maegashira 1 West
Endo's level appears to be just a smidge below the Sanyaku ranks. This is kind of who he is right now, a Maegashira 2. Of course all it takes is one change in technique or strategy to shoot up fast. Endo certainly has all of the ability to do just that, but it hasn't come together yet.
大栄翔 勇人 | Daieisho Hayato
Maegashira 2 West
Last 3 Basho: 7-8, 9-6, 9-6
Previous Rank: Maegashira 2 East
Daieisho got shot up the banzuke for March, but still managed to hold his own at Maegashira 2. It is extremely difficult to get underneath Daieisho, and he is still young enough to develop the sort of skills to reach Sanyaku. If he makes it through the first week, he'll be able to claim a Sanyaku spot for Nagoya.
千代大龍 秀政 | Chiyotairyu Hidemasa
Maegashira 3 East
Last 3 Basho: 8-7, 8-7, 7-8
Previous Rank: Maegashira 5 East
Chiyotairyu went 8-7 in Osaka, because of course he did. However, with few other rikishi approaching his typical level of adequacy, Chiyotairyu went a few spots up the rankings for May. He will now face more challenging opponents who won't simply bounce off the bulbous mass of his belly.
玉鷲 一朗 | Tamawashi Ichiro
Maegashira 3 West
Last 3 Basho: 5-10, 13-2 Y, 9-6
Previous Rank: Sekiwake West
Following up a surprise yusho with a 5-10 is certainly not how Tamawashi would have wanted it. Interestingly, he has often bounced back from poor showings with a strong basho. He is who he is, a big strong pusher-thruster, but it is a heck of a package.
隠岐の海 歩 | Okinoumi Ayumi
Maegashira 4 East
Last 3 Basho: 8-7, 7-8, 11-4
Previous Rank: Maegashira 6 East
Okinoumi is the very model of solidity, which made him stand out for Haru. It seems like at worst Okinoumi is only going to be slightly below even, and at best he will win against anyone's tricks. He is always a solid value, maybe even if he has to face the top ranked wrestlers.
阿炎 政虎 | Abi Masatora
Maegashira 4 West
Last 3 Basho: 8-7, 10-5, 6-9
Previous Rank: Maegashira 6 West
If you're new to Sumo, Abi's matches all start the same way, with him putting both hands to his opponent's throat. About a third of the time, that works to push his opponent out. If it doesn't work, he dances at the edge of the dohyo. Weirdly, half of the time that works for him. Make of that what you will.
妙義龍 泰成 | Myogiryu Yasunari
Maegashira 5 East
Last 3 Basho: 6-9, 5-10, 8-7
Previous Rank: Maegashira 2 West
Considering that a year ago, Myogiryu looked like he was headed for a Juryo demotion, this is a nice spot. Considering just his 2019, he is falling down the Banzuke at an alarming rate. He is a smart and skilled veteran, but once again the question is if that is enough.
竜電 剛至 | Ryuden Goshi
Maegashira 5 West
Last 3 Basho: 10-5, 6-9, 6-9
Previous Rank: Maegashira 11 East
Ryuden is a highly skilled rikishi, but he always appears to be at a serious athletic disadvantage. At Maegashira 11, that was enough to make him a double-digit winner. At Maegashira 5, he has yet to prove he is a serious contender. Few rikishi had winning records for Haru, so he's at Maegashira 5.
宝富士 大輔 | Takarafuji Daisuke
Maegashira 6 East
Last 3 Basho: 8-7, 9-6, 7-8
Previous Rank: Maegashira 7 West
If effective functionality is your thing, Takarafuji is your man. That doesn't really describe most people, and Takarafuji will rarely generate enthusiasm. What he does generate is a steady amount of wins.
嘉風 雅継 | Yoshikaze Masatsugu
Maegashira 6 West
Last 3 Basho: 10-5, 3-12, 7-8
Previous Rank: Maegashira 12 West
Yoshikaze is approahing the sunset of his career, although his effot would never betray that. His results quite often do show he is not going to last long. That at least guarantees a fun match most of the time, even if making any predictions about him is foolish.
正代 直也 | Shodai Naoya
Maegashira 7 East
Last 3 Basho: 5-10, 7-8, 8-7
Previous Rank: Maegashira 3 West
Shodai hasn't been this low on the Banzuke since November 2017, when he got 9 wins. Perhaps his general approach of let-the-other-guy-charge-absorb-the-blow-then-figure-out-a-counter is genius against the mid-Maegashira ranks. His tachiai-less sumo certainly hasn't worked against the best of the best.
明生 力 | Meisei Chikara
Maegashira 7 West
Last 3 Basho: 9-7, 8-6, 9-7
Previous Rank: Maegashira 11 West
Meisei has continued his slow climb up the Maegashira ranks. He has never been an overwhleming Sekitori, but he's continued to find ways to win enough so far. It will be interesting to see how well he can keep that up.
魁聖 一郎 | Kaisei Ichiro
Maegashira 8 East
Last 3 Basho: 3-12, 10-5, 3-9-3
Previous Rank: Maegashira 1 East
The constant question with Kaisei is: How healthy is he? If he's 100%, he should dominate everyone he faces at Maegashira 8. If he is not, his weight and bulk will make him problematically immobile.
朝乃山 英樹 | Asanoyama Hideki
Maegashira 8 West
Last 3 Basho: 7-8, 8-7, 6-9
Previous Rank: Maegashira 8 East
The question with Asanoyama is which version will show up each day. Is it the future Sanyaku rikishi? Or is it the guy who is always seemingly hopeless? Any day could bring either Asanoyama, but for a tournament it tends to keep him roughly even.
錦木 徹也 | Nishikigi Tetsuya
Maegashira 9 East
Last 3 Basho: 4-11, 7-8, 8-7
Previous Rank: Maegashira 9 East
Nishikigi's run at the upper end of the Maegashira ranks has temporarily stopped. It is worth remembering that he got himself there in the first place. Maybe a drop in the rankings will provide a motivational boost to him.
友風 勇太 | Tomokaze Yuta
Maegashira 9 West
Last 3 Basho: 9-6, 10-5 (Juryo), 12-3 (Juryo)
Previous Rank: Maegashira 13 East
With 9 wins in his Makuuchi debut in Haru, Tomokaze has still not had a losing record as a professional sumo wrestler. That fact alone should make him worth watching in the future. His consistency should make him a great value.
輝 大士 | Kagayaki Taishi
Maegashira 10 East
Last 3 Basho: 9-6, 6-9, 5-10
Previous Rank: Maegashira 13 West
Kagayaki had looked hopeless far too recently, but Haru saw a change in his fortunes. He is 24 until June 1, and he has put together enough strong performances that his ascendancy up the banzuke could still take place.
阿武咲 奎也 | Onosho Fumiya
Maegashira 10 West
Last 3 Basho: 5-10, 8-7, 11-4
Previous Rank: Maegashira 5 West
Onsoho could be viewed as a disappointment compared to old school rival Takakeisho. It is worth remembering that he is still only 22, immensely talented, and has a history of strong basho. For May, it's unclear what Onosho will do, but his long-term future is still bright.
松鳳山 裕也 | Shohozan Yuya
Maegashira 11 East
Last 3 Basho: 7-8, 5-10, 10-5
Previous Rank: Maegashira 10 East
Shohozan has not been this low on the banzuke for two years. Will that make him excel in Natsu? Probably not, as he went 7-8 at 2 slots higher than he is now and will face similar competition.
栃煌山 雄一郎 | Tochiozan Yuichiro
Maegashira 11 West
Last 3 Basho: 3-12, 6-9, 8-7
Previous Rank: Maegashira 4 East
Tochiozan has fallen down from the top part of the Banzuke. That has also taken place about a year and a half earlier. Can he recover one more time? He is definitely tough enough to cause havoc and veteran enough to make life painful for opponents.
志摩ノ海 航洋 | Shimanoumi Koyo
Maegashira 12 East
Last 3 Basho: 13-2 (Juryo), 13-2 (Juryo), 9-6 (Juryo)
Previous Rank: Juryo 1 East
Flashback to November, Shimanoumi looked like a guy who would stall out at Juryo. Then, at age 29, he put together back to back 13-2 performances in the second division. It is a complete unknown if he has any ability to do this in the top division, where's he's older than half the banzuke.
矢後 太規 | Yago Takanori
Maegashira 12 West
Last 3 Basho: 6-9, 9-6, 10-5 (Juryo)
Previous Rank: Maegashira 10 West
Yago took a small stumble after making a strong impression on his Makuuchi debut. His strength lies in his solid fundamentals, but he can also withstand most tachiai from opposing rikishi. He just needs to remember not to get too clever and perform straight ahead sumo.
千代丸 一樹 | Chiyomaru Kazuki
Maegashira 13 East
Last 3 Basho: 10-5 (Juryo), 10-5 (Juryo), 4-11
Previous Rank: Juryo 1 West
The Eternal Circle (that's his name roughly translated as well as a description of his torso) is back in the top division. Chiyomaru proved too much for the Juryo ranks, but whether he can make an impression on Makuuchi again is still to be seen.
佐田の海 貴士 | Sadanoumi Takashi
Maegashira 13 West
Last 3 Basho: 5-10, 9-6, 7-8
Previous Rank: Maegashira 9 East
Sadanumi's solid sumo did not result in solid results for him in March. That saw him tumble a bit down the Banzuke. That could make him be poised to put up a more than solid record for Natsu.
徳勝龍 誠 | Tokushoryu Makoto
Maegashira 14 East
Last 3 Basho: 9-6 (Juryo), 7-8 (Juryo) , 7-8 (Juryo)
Previous Rank: Juryo 4 West
It's amazing Tokushoryu is back in Makkuchi. He spent two years in Juryo, and never really came close to dominating in a way that made him seem to be fast-tracked back to the top division. Poor performances from a surprising amount of rikishi gave him the opening with 9 wins.
炎鵬 晃 | Enho Akira
Maegashira 14 West
Last 3 Basho: 8-7 (Juryo), 9-6 (Juryo), 9-6 (Juryo)
Previous Rank: Juryo 2 West
Enho will make his debut in Makuuchi after 8 wins in Juryo, which isn't how anyone would design it. Enho will be the smallest man in the top division, but he has a range of skills and tricks. He has to be hoping that will surprise enough people to make some noise.
照強 翔輝 | Terutsuyoshi Shoki
Maegashira 15 East
Last 3 Basho: 6-9, 8-7 (Juryo), 10-5 (Juryo)
Previous Rank: Maegashira 14 East
Terustuyoshi had a very rough first week in his Makuuchi debut for Haru. He fought back well enough to just save his skin against some terrible records from other wrestlers. He'll be wanting more of his second week results come Hatsu.
琴恵光 充憲 | Kotoeko Mitsunori
Maegashira 15 West
Last 3 Basho: 7-8, 7-8, 8-7 (Juryo)
Previous Rank: Maegashira 15 West
Kotoeko has managed to just hold onto his place in Makuuchi during his two basho return. That isn't nothing, but it also isn't spectacular. If he wants to keep sticking around, he will need to find a new trick or two.
大翔鵬 清洋 | Daishoho Kiyohiro
Maegashira 16 East
Last 3 Basho: 7-8, 8-7 (Juryo) 8-7 (Juryo)
Previous Rank: Maegashira 16 East
Daishoho's slow and steady climb up the rankings stopped after Haru, as he is in the same position he was in for March. Being just under .500 allows him another shot at going 8-7 and creeping up the banzuke once more.
石浦 将勝 | Ishiura Masakatsu
Maegashira 16 West
Last 3 Basho: 6-9, 9-6 (Juryo), 8-7 (Juryo)
Previous Rank: Maegashira 15 East
Ishiura had two bashos in March. His first week of Haru was spectacular, as he opened up 4-0 and sat at 5-2 after Day Seven. He managed to lose his last 6 straight, and isn't back in Juryo after one basho because enough people had double digit losses around him. He can get too cute for his own good, and it bit him hard.
千代翔馬 富士雄 | Chiyoshoma Fujio
Maegashira 17 East
Last 3 Basho: 7-8, 6-9, 7-8
Previous Rank: Maegashira 17 East
You know it was a weird basho for the low end of the banzuke when the guy who was at the very foot of it gets a losing record and returns to the very foot of it instead of dropping to Juryo.