Natsu 2021 Day Fifteen
13 wins (After Playoff)
Hatakikomi. After fifteen matches, nothing was decided. Terunofuji beat Takakeisho with simple slap down for the yusho in a playoff.
Match of The Day
Ozeki 1 West Takakeisho versus Ozeki 2 West Terunofuji
They had two, of course, but it's the playoff that mattered more and was more interesting. Takakeisho got his pushing battle, but he couldn't make enough of an impression on Terunofuji. Instead, the big Mongolian could withstand Takakeisho's attack enough to slap him down.
Terunofuji continues to do things no one else has done before. His return to Makuuchi a year ago was remarkable, and then he won on his re-debut. After that, he put together one of the best years of sumo by a non-Yokozuna. Over 6 basho, Terunofuji has won 69 matches, two jun-yusho, and now three yusho. With his Emperor's Cup at Natsu, he has won back-to-back yusho.
He is literally the only person to do that who was not an Ozeki for his first basho in the double since the modern 15-match basho, six-basho a year set up was instituted. To find any precedent, you must go back to Futabayama in 1936. The word is that he will not get a Yokozuna promotion now, but is on a rope run for July. He is the favorite going in to the next basho and could become a Yokozuna as a 29 year old with a two-year gap from Makuuchi due to injury.
That is not guaranteed despite his recent performance. First of all, Takakeisho forced the playoff and gave him everything. The two keep trading wins, so Takakeisho can certainly topple Terunofuji in two months. He is also more than capable of getting a yusho, and he would have his own Yokozuna promotion on the table. Then there are Terunofuji's knees. Heavily bandaged and clearly bothering him, they seem to be a ticking time bomb on his ability. Despite looking painful, Terunofuji is still winning.
After this basho, it's probably fair to say that there isn't an obvious challenger to Takakeisho or Terunofuji's dominance. Asanoyama will face some disciplinary consequences for leaving his heya and lying about it after this basho. Shodai does not seem to be on the same level as the other Ozeki right now, although he's good enough to take any match. Mitakeumi and Takayasu are veteran Sanyaku men who will be around, but no more. A raft of good young rikishi, Wakatakakage, Meisei, and Hoshoryu notably, could become Sanyaku mainstays themselves, but they need some time and a boost in sumo to get there.
Nothing is guaranteed in sumo, and surprises were the currency of the sport in 2019 and 2020. 2021 is settling down into a stronger pattern of dominance from top rikishi. Terunofuji is not a Yokozuna, and if he keeps doing what he's doing, he will eventually get there. If he does, this will be seen as an extra stepping stone. If the worst does happen, and Terunofuji's knees do catch up with him, then just remember what an achievement this is.