The Next Yokozuna, Pt. 3: The Near Yokozuna
The promotion qualifications for a Yokozuna are simultaneously extremely straightforward and difficult to pin down. Officially, a wrestler needs to demonstrate the requisite strength, skill, and hinkaku (品格). Roughly speaking, hinkaku means “dignity” or “grace,” but there is a range of meaning, complicated by its deployment. (More on that in a moment.) Unofficially, the Yokozuna Deliberation Council generally promotes an Ozeki who gets back to back yusho, although they can bend that as they see fit.
This promotion criteria leads to quite a few “Near Yokozuna.” A near Yokozuna is a rikishi who wins a yusho as an Ozeki, but does not get the second consecutive one or an “equivalent performance.” Any of them could have been Yokozuna. They were not. When considering which rikishi might be the next Yokozuna, it’s critical to consider these near Yokozuna.
A few quick caveats on definitions. In order to be a Near Yokozuna, a wrestler must be an Ozeki who won a tournament as an Ozeki. This will exclude Tochinoshin, Terunofuji, Musoyama, Miyabiyama, and Dejima. Also, to keep it to the same time frame as the Yokozuna considered in the first two parts of this series, this analysis will start with Konishiki, who was promoted to Ozeki in 1987. Since Konishiki’s Ozeki promotion, there have been 18 Ozeki who did not eventually make it on to Yokozuna. 10 of them will be considered as Near Yokozuna.
Konishiki really should have been in Akebono’s position as the first non-Japanese Yokozuna. Like Akebono, Konishiki was a Hawaiian native brought into sumo by Hawaii’s own Takamiyama. He was also as otherworldly a physical specimen, although in different proportion. Konishiki was built like a square, but yet also stood over 6 feet and had a notable gut. Despite that, he moved pretty well as a young man, before knee injuries caught up to him.
So he tore through the lower divisions after joining sumo as an 18 year old in 1982. By November ‘83, he was in Juryo, and in July ‘84 he was a Maegashira. Konishiki looked like he was an Inevitable Yokozuna and on track to be the first non-Japanese wrestler to get sumo’s top rank. He became an Ozeki in 1987 at just 23 years old, after a series of double digit win totals, jun-yusho, and special prizes.
That’s when trouble first began. Konishiki already had some injury problems that kept him out of a few tournaments. As an Ozeki, he seemed better able to maintain his rank than compete for championships. The future star seemed an imitation of his former self, still huge and physically unrivaled, but much less dominant.
At the Kyushu basho in 1989, he broke through with a 14-1 record and his first yusho. A real Yokozuna watch was restarted. Konishiki didn’t pull off consecutive yusho, but kept up a string of impressive records. Then he was injured again in January 1991. Yet 1991 would be a banner year for Konishiki. He went 14-1, 12-3, 11-4, 13-2, 12-3, and 13-2 over six consecutive basho. The first two were Jun-Yusho, and the fourth and sixth were Yusho. That was Yokozuna sumo.
But Konishiki was not made a Yokozuna. This is where things get strange. Konishiki had not achieved the automatic promotion criteria, but seemed to be worthy of it anyway. Asahifuji, the only Yokozuna at the time, also retired in January of 1992, during the fifth basho of Konishiki’s impressive streak. There was a sense that a Yokozuna might be necessary. The Yokozuna Deliberation Council instead said Konishiki had not quite done enough to become a Yokozuna yet.
The official announcement made it sound like a matter of wins and losses, but members of the YDC landed on the quality of hinkaku. As Konishiki was threatening to be the first non-Japanese person to reach sumo’s highest level, it had shades of racism. Konishiki supposedly made these claims to the New York Times. Then members of the YDC made public statements showing it wasn’t just shades of racism. One member said a foreigner could never be a proper Yokozuna. The official statement was that the YDC wanted to be “doubly sure” Konishiki was really of Yokozuna quality.
That basically meant Konishiki had to win an Emperor’s Cup one more time. He didn’t. In May 1992, Konishiki only managed 9 wins. He never even came close to another yusho. By the start of 1994, he wasn’t even an Ozeki anymore. Injuries saw him tumble from sumo’s second rank, and he ended his career after a lengthy coda at Maegashira. Ironically, that period made him a fan favorite for his ebullient personality and massive girth.
Of all the Near Yokozuna, Konishiki was certainly the nearest. He could have been in Akebono’s slot. Yet he also never fought like a Yokozuna after his almost promotion. The YDC’s decision to be doubly sure was an issue, but also left open a door for Konishiki to make Yokozuna. He never did it, but he fought like a Yokozuna for at least a little bit.
Compared to the list of Yokozuna and Konishiki, Kirishima made slow progress to Maegashira and to Ozeki. After joining sumo in March 1975 as a fifteen year old, he first joined Makuuchi in November 1983. Kirishima was a steady climber, rather than a dominant force. He was notable for two different things, being relatively lighter than average and having a shikona taken from a national park near his hometown.
In 1990, Kirishima elevated his sumo. In his fourth time in Sanyaku, Kirishima finally had it stick in spectacular fashion. Beginning with the Kyushu 1989 basho, he had a series of double-digit win bashos, including two jun-yusho. That got him to Ozeki. As a 30-near-31 year old, getting an Ozeki promotion in March 1990 seemed like the crowning achievement of his career.
Kirishima somehow managed a 14-1 yusho for Hatsu 1991 to get the real crowning achievement. As the Ozeki 1 East, Kirishima’s yusho technically did make him on the cusp of Yokozuna promotion. However, he had never performed this well before, was over 30, and he won his yusho with Yokozuna Chiyonofuji and Ozeki Konishiki out with injury. He followed up his yusho with a 5-10. Kirishima achieved three more jun-yusho, but did not really threaten the ultimate rank again. He retired as a Maegashira 14 after the March 1996 tournament.
Kirishima was a very good rikishi, but he was never really of a Yokozuna quality. His yusho was one of those nice moments, not a pathway to a promotion.
Takanonami might have been a Yokozuna with better luck. He entered sumo in March 1987 at 15 years old, getting to Juryo by March 1991. He only needed 4 basho in Juryo to pop up to Makuuchi for good. Within 9 more basho, he was a Sanyaku wrestler. Takanonami got 35 wins from September 1993 to January 1994 to reach Ozeki.
Takanonami was a great wrestler, but also a strange one. Tall at 196 cm (6’4”), he would often move backwards or sideways at the tachiai. Essentially, Takanonami was always fighting on the defensive. He won lots of matches with throws like kotenage and uwatenage, while also throwing in the hatakikomi, or slap-down, and the rarely used kimedashi, an “arm-bar force out.” He was basically using his superior reach to move his opponents off their gameplan.
Despite his unique abilities, Takanonami was facing an uphill battle. For his entire career, he had to face the likes of Akebono, Konishiki, Kaio, and Musashimaru when he was at his best. The last one he actually faced 58 times, a record for top-division matchups between two wrestlers. He was stablemates with Takanohana and Wakanohana, meaning he missed facing them in regulation bouts. Takanonami and Takanohana would still square off twice in playoffs.
Takanonami won the first playoff against Takanohana at Hatsu 1996 for his first yusho. At that point, he was a 25 year old Ozeki with one Emperor’s Cup and three Jun-Yusho. He was very close to the YDC blessing him with the rope. The great performances were just never put together right. He got five more Jun-Yusho and a second Yusho in November 1997. Then, too, he had to beat Takanohana in a playoff.
Takanonami would fall out of the Ozeki space by 2000 and the Sanyaku ranks by 2001. By 2004, he retired. Unfortunately, he passed away young at the age of 43 in 2015 due to congenital heart problems. He was remembered as the former Ozeki when he died, not as a Yokozuna. With slightly different circumstances, he could have been a Yokozuna.
Chiyotaikai was Takakeisho’s stylistic predecessor, a wide shouldered pusher-thruster who consistently won by being unrelenting to his opponent. This is key to understanding one part of Chiyotaikai’s inability to make it to sumo’s ultimate rank. The other key is that injuries might be the biggest barrier for some wrestlers.
Chiyotaikai entered sumo in 1992, as a 16 year old under the auspices of former Yokozuna Chiyonofuji at Kokonoe stable. He made his way to Makushita fairly quickly, by March 1993. He needed a while, with a few ups and downs, to jump up to Juryo and sekitori status. In Juryo, he took two years to get his promotion to Makuuchi.
He was still just 21 and he set the Maegashira ranks on fire. Within four basho, Chiyotaikai made it to Komusubi and never again was out of Sanyaku. WIth a 13-2 Yusho at Hatsu 1999, Chiyotakai got elevated to Ozeki. He certainly could have been fast-tracked to Yokozuna without too much extra luck.
He never had good luck after that. In his very first tournament at Ozeki, he suffered a broken nose that made him miss the next tournament. It would become a pattern. When healthy, Chiyotaikai was still an excellent rikishi. He wasn’t very versatile, basically never winning by yori-kiri or other grappling techniques. He was able to consistently post double-digit wins at his best. His best was interrupted once a year between 1999 and 2001 with missing a whole basho.
Finally, 2002 saw everything go right for Chiyotaikai. He began the year with a playoff-loss jun-yusho, added another jun-yusho in May and finally another Yusho in July. That put 2002 as the year Chiyotaikai could have made it to Yokozuna. He only got 10 wins in September, but November saw yet another injury. After missing the Hatsu 2003 basho, Chiyotaikai still had another Yusho in him in March 2003.
That was pretty much it for Chiyotaikai’s Yokozuna hopes. He would keep his Ozeki rank, in rather stunning and historic fashion. Chiyotaikai faced kadoban status, and a possible demotion from Ozeki, a record thirteen times. Twelve times he managed the necessary eight wins to keep his rank. At Kyushu 2009, the injuries caught up to him and he dropped down to Sekiwake after withdrawing from two straight tournaments. He retired in January 2010 as injuries still kept him from performing well.
Chiyotaikai was certainly an unusual Yokozuna candidate for being so heavily oshi-sumo based. Yet it was injury, not ability, that ultimately kept him from becoming Yokozuna.
Kaio never joined the list of immortals as a Yokozuna, but he still had an historic career on the dohyo. Almost all longevity records not having to do with being a Yokozuna were or still are held by Kaio. He had the most overall wins, most wins in the top division, most tournaments in the top division, most tournaments as Ozeki, and longest time as an Ozeki records at his retirement. He still holds the records for longevity as an Ozeki. (Hakuho has blasted aside the wins records already and is coming for some others.)
Kaio’s length of Ozeki service is telling. He won five Yusho and 11 Jun-Yusho in his career. Those five Emperor’s Cups are a modern record for someone who never became a Yokozuna. He was an excellent sumo wrestler, usually one of the top five in the world at his peak. He was just never the absolute best.
Kaio joined sumo in March 1988. Future Ozeki are usually the standouts of their recruitment classes, but Kaio joined at the same time as Akebono, Takanohana, and Wakanohana. Even in his formative moments, Kaio was overshadowed by three all-time greats. He took much longer to get to Makuuchi than any of the other three, too. His first basho as a Maegashira was March 1993, five years after he joined Ozumo and aged 21. But Akebono was already a Yokozuna, Takanohana got his third Yusho while ranked as Ozeki, and Wakanohana was a Sekiwake and gathered 10 wins. Kaio got 4 wins at Maegashira 14 and went back to Juryo.
He kept plugging along. Kaio was a belt man through and through, generally favoring a left-hand inside, right-hand outside grip. Those straight ahead but effective yorikiris were emblematic of his win totals. After a steady run at Sekiwake in his mid-20s, it seemed like he had hit his career peak. Kaio, generally speaking, looked like a long-term Maegashira with the occasional Sanyaku rank, but never more.
A funny thing happened when Kaio reached an age where most sekitori plateau and then decline. As a 27 year old in 1997, Kaio established himself as a Sanyaku regular again. Then, in 2000, he went on an Ozeki run, including a 14-1 Yusho in May as a Komusubi. He was at sumo’s second highest rank in September 2000.
Kaio wasn’t busting down the doors of a Yokozuna promotion, but he would come close. In many ways, he was helped by a changing of the guard moment. Although just a month older than Takanohana, Kaio was improving as the Yokozuna was struggling with injuries. Wakanohana had already retired. Akebono would retire in 2001. Only Musashimaru stood as a fully fit active Yokozuna. Despite that, Kaio never was able to join their ranks.
He did win again fairly soon, although bizarrely went Yusho-Kyujo-Yusho-Kyujo from March to September in 2002. Those were his best opportunities. After pulling out from injury, he had to restart his Yokozuna chase. He would get his 4th yusho in July 2003 and a fifth in September 2004. By then, Asashoryu had reached Yokozuna and was dominating sumo. When Asashoryu was winning nearly every tournament, and he won 18 of his first 24 tournaments as a Yokozuna, no one was going to sniff promotion. By 2007, Hakuho pushed through with similar dominance.
Kaio remained an Ozeki, retiring in 2011 after 11 years and 65 basho at the rank. No one had ever held the second most prestigious rank so long in the history of sumo. That record still brands Kaio as having never achieved the most prestigious rank.
Of all the near-Yokozuna, Tochiazuma might have been the best pick for “Next Yokozuna” before making his Makuuchi debut. Tochiazuma was the son of a former sekiwake, also named Tochiazuma, who was his stablemaster. The younger Tochiazuma entered sumo in November 1994 straight from high school and made quick work of the lower divisions.
In fact, he won his first 26 matches and yusho in Jonokuchi, Jonidan, and Sandanme over that stretch. By May 1996, he was in Juryo with another yusho in the Makushita division. He needed just three basho, getting 10, 10, and 12 wins, to achieve promotion to Makuuchi. So by the Kyushu basho in November 1996, Tochiazuma had just turned 20, won a yusho at every lower division, and possessed a 77-21-3 record. He initially did little to slow any enthusiasm for his future. Within a year of joining Makuuchi, he was a Sekiwake.
That’s about the time injuries got in the way of Tochiazuma’s ascent. They might have been the only thing that could. He was right about average height and weight for the top division, but possessed an amazing range of skills. Beginning as an oshi-zumo specialist, he turned out to be quite adept on the mawashi. He also did well against the toughest opponents, with a respectable 10-15 record against Asashoryu and a 5-8 against Hakuho. Against fellow Ozeki Chiyotaikai and Kiyabiyama, he had winning records.
There is a distinction Tochiazuma holds that really explains why he couldn’t make it to Yokozuna. He is the only wrestler since the rules changed in 1969 to twice lose his Ozeki status and regain it with 10 wins as a Sekiwake immediately after demotion. In both cases, he suffered injuries to put him into Sekiwake for one tournament. Around that, he won three Emperor’s Cups, but he did them stretched far apart over five years.
Tochiazuma had Yokozuna ability and occasionally performed like one. He’s another one who didn’t put it all together right, thanks mostly to injuries.
Kotooshu was the first Bulgarian in sumo. That is nowhere near the most singular thing about him. His shikona means “European Harp,” which is lazy considering he joined Sadogatake stable and was required to have a name starting with “Koto,” or harp. Kotooshu was a Greco-Roman wrestler in his homeland, with Olympic aspirations. The problem was that he was too big. He eventually stood 203 cm (6’8”), and quickly surpassed the weight limit for amateur Greco-Roman and switched to sumo. In the world of sumo, where large men are the rule, Kotooshu actually seemed weirdly skinny.
It didn’t matter. He joined sumo at the age of 19 in November 2002. Within 8 basho, Kotooshu made it to Juryo on the back of a 48-8 record in the lowest four divisions. He then took Juryo by storm, going 23-7 in two basho to get to Makuuchi and never look back. He was Komusubi for the first time in 3 more basho. Garnering 36 wins over the final 3 basho of 2005, Kotooshu achieved an Ozeki promotion at the age of 22.
While Kotooshu was clearly an excellent rikishi, he was still extremely odd. Although too big for Greco-Roman wrestling and a giant, he seemed slight for a rikishi. Pretty much everyone he faced was wider than Kotooshu. He also displayed his Greco-Roman background on the dohyo, winning the vast majority of his matches with some sort of grappling kimarite, with yorikiri being his most frequent winning maneuver to an absurd degree (36% of his wins). His matches just looked different. He would stand up at the tachiai, allow his opponent to get inside, and then use his freakishly long arms to grab an opponents’ mawashi. It worked much of the time.
Kotooshu was a solid Ozeki for the majority of his career. That can sound like a backhanded compliment in discussing men who almost made Yokozuna, but it’s a heck of an achievement. From January 2006 until he retired in March 2014, Kotooshu never had a losing record when healthy for an entire basho. In the middle of that streak, he went 14-1 at Natsu 2008. There he beat both Yokozuna, Asashoryu and Hakuho. By gaining that yusho, he was the first European to get a championship in Sumo’s top division. It was his crowning achievement and his only Emperor’s Cup.
Kotooshu kept having to fight for his Ozeki rank because he did have injuries fairly consistently, like many men on this list. He always managed to bounce back, until 2014, when he had to pull out of two straight tournaments with an injury and couldn’t keep up any more at Sekiwake. Thanks to only one yusho, Kotooshu never made it to Yokozuna.
However, he became a sumo elder after his retirement (he became a Japanese citizen just before hanging it up.) In 2015 he acquired the elder name of Naruto and opened a brand-new Naruto-beya in 2017. Although he hasn’t produced a sekitori yet, he will probably be aiming for a Yokozuna among his charges.
Sumo’s first and only truly significant Estonian, Baruto was another true physical specimen. Raised on a cattle farm, Baruto stood 199 cm (6’6”), was built like a square, and had unrivaled strength. In his prime, he was 185 kg but never seemed fat. He was a junior Estonian judo champion, which made his transition to sumo a bit easier. Arriving in Japan at 19, Baruto was, like many of sumo’s top wrestlers, a man who made quick work of the lower divisions. He made the second Juryo division a little over a year after entering Sumo.
In his first go-round at Juryo, Baruto notched a 12-3 record. That usually announces someone as a future star. Yet his second Juryo basho showed real trouble, because he went 0-1-14 thanks to injuries. Humans are not really meant to be as tall and heavy as Baruto. That made him a sensational rikishi. It also made him prone to injuries. Although admittedly, some of his injuries were unusual, as he had to battle appendicitis when he missed his second Juryo basho and was briefly demoted back down to Makushita.
Still, Baruto’s career was a series of exceptional performances punctuated by injury-plagued tournaments. His style mostly consisted of grabbing his opponent and using his overwhelming strength to force them out of the dohyo, sometimes even by lifting them out. In March 2006, he went 15-0 at Juryo, an extremely rare performance, to make it to Makuuchi. He almost repeated the feat, because, although he went up to Maegashira and did well in Makuuchi, Baruto went back down to Juryo after sitting out an entire basho due to injury. The same pattern held after he got a 14-1 at Juryo for May 2007. Injuries, it seemed, were always there to block his progress.
Eventually, Baruto stayed healthy enough and was undeniable. He made it to Ozeki in May 2010, after a 14-1 Jun-Yusho as a Sekiwake. He proved to be an effective Ozeki, maintaining winning records with mostly double-digit win totals, for a few tournaments. For Hatsu 2012, he went 14-1 and achieved his first yusho. That put him one more yusho away from getting to Yokozuna.
He never did, of course. Before the end of 2012, he suffered a big toe injury, which led to a loss of his Ozeki rank. He would next injure a thigh muscle, which contributed to a fall back to Juryo by the end of 2013. He decided to retire at that point. Baruto was without a doubt a Yokozuna caliber wrestler when he was healthy and on form. His body never allowed him to be there consistently enough, making him top out at Ozeki and retire before turning 29.
Kotoshogiku’s career closely paralleled that of a man who did make Yokozuna, Kisenosato. In fact, they fought 66 times in all divisions, by far the most either man fought against any opponent. They also moved in parallel at each stage of their careers. They both entered sumo in 2002 as teenagers and made Juryo by the middle of 2005. Kisenosato made Makuuchi in November 2004, while Kotoshogiku did it in January 2005. Kisenosato also beat Kotoshogiku to the Sanyaku ranks, getting a Komusubi slot for July 2006, while Kotoshogiku entered Sanyaku at Sekiwake for the March 2007 tournament.
This made each of them a great Japanese hope. Sumo was dominated in the 2000s by Mongolians, specifically Asashoryu and Hakuho. The only one to challenge this dominance was Harumafuji, another Mongolian. The non-Mongolian Ozeki to hold their own were the Europeans Kotooshu and Baruto. The surprise yusho winner, Kyokutenho in May 2012, was Mongolian. Even when a young upstart won, it was another Mongolian, Terunofuji. Kakuryu, also Mongolian, broke through with a yusho that resulted in a Yokozuna promotion.
In the middle of this period, for November 2011, Kotoshogiku made it to Ozeki. That meant he beat Kisenosato to the rank by one tournament. Officially, their promotions meant that they were on alert to become the first Japanese Yokozuna since Wakanohana’s promotion in 1998. Neither man, in all honesty, was fully primed to make the leap to the top rank. Kisenosato was more skilled. Kotoshogiku, however, was more entertaining, starting his ring routine with a crowd-pleasing back bend. His brand of sumo relied on putting both arms underneath his opponents’ armpits, followed by a series of belly bumps for a yorirkiri. Kotoshogiku was doing enough to keep his rank. Kisenosato kept racking up Jun-Yusho, but was never able to get his Emperor’s Cup.
Kotoshogiku did win an Emperor’s Cup in January 2016. Going 14-1, with wins over Kisenosato, Kakuryu, Hakuho, and Harumafuji. Now the possibility of a Japanese Yokozuna was more real than it had been in almost a decade. Unfortunately, Kotoshogiku couldn’t get there. He went 10-5 in May, but then pulled out of July’s basho with an injury. In the January 2017 basho, just a year after his yusho, he went 5-10 and loss his Ozeki rank.
At the same tournament, Kisenosato won his first Yusho, following up on significant Jun-Yusho performances. That earned him a Yokozuna promotion, getting the title of first Japanese Yokozuna in 19 years. Meanwhile, Kotoshogiku was tumbling down the Banzuke. His abilities were no longer overwhelming, although they were still on display at a lesser level. Kisenosato happened to be at Yokozuna, although significantly hampered by a left pectoral injury. That meant Kisenosato was forced to retire, while Kotoshogiku kept plugging away.
Of course, Kisenosato got the title of Yokozuna, and Kotoshogiku never managed it. But Kotoshogiku has had the longer career. Kisenosato is already an elder, while Kotoshogiku has an elder name in hand. From now on, their rivalry will be extended by their charges.
In theory, Goeido could still make it to Yokozuna, but that window is closing fast. He also picked up an ankle injury in the Kyushu 2019 basho that might lead to him losing his Ozeki rank finally. If that happens, he’ll have a much steeper hill to climb to get the Yokozuna rope. Sadly, that might cement Goeido’s ultimate legacy as one of unfulfilled potential.
Goeido was a future star before joining the professional ranks, when he was still Sawai Gotaro from Osaka. As a high schooler, he dominated his competition and even made it to the final four of the All-Japan Sumo Championships, a tournament where he was the only high schooler. Once he did join professional sumo, he won a yusho in Jonokuchi, Sandame, and Makushita within his first year (2005). Weirdly, he then stalled out in upper Makushita for five tournaments.
He also needed five tournaments to get out of Juryo, but his 12-3 yusho in July 2007 set him up well and his Makuuchi debut saw him get 11 wins. He was just 21, with a fine amateur background and excellent skills. Not blessed with overwhelming size, Goeido always wrestled like a charging bull. His superior athleticism meant he usually got the jump on an opponent and managed to bowl anyone out on his day.
If there was another signature element to Goeido’s career, it quickly became a frustrating lack if consistency. Goeido was rarely bad, just never as exceptional as he seemed he should be. He would make brief glimpses at Komusubi, but couldn’t hold onto the rank. He did have some injuries, and even went back to Juryo for one basho. He kept fighting well frequently, too, even getting a few Jun-Yusho and Special Prizes.
He went to Sekiwake for May 2012, and absolutely did hold onto the rank. For 14 straight tournaments, Goeido was ranked at Sekiwake, a modern record. That’s a weird achievement, because it meant Goeido never had a poor enough record to be demoted but also never did anything worthy of promotion to Ozeki at that time. At Haru, Natsu, and Nagoya in 2014, he achieved Ozeki promotion with 32 wins and two Jun-Yusho. His initial time at Ozeki continued his odd pattern of alternating success and disappointment, including a 5-10 and 4-11 record but not losing his rank.
Aki 2016 changed Goeido’s story. He won all fifteen of his matches for a zensho-yusho. Not only did he now have his Emperor’s Cup, he achieved it in remarkable style. There was a rather typically Goeido note to it, as he was on probation of losing his rank during that tournament. He was the first kadoban Ozeki to get a 15-0 mark, a rather dubious record.
Goeido went 9-6 at the next tournament, not even sniffing a chance at a Yokozuna promotion. In the three years since, he has been kadoban a further three times. To his credit, he has never lost his rank, always achieving the necessary 8 wins. He might not get to again in 2020 if he is injured enough. No one can take away Goeido’s 15-0 yusho. The problem for his legacy is he never put enough around it to break through like it always seemed he could have.
The story of the near-Yokozuna seems to be either that some Ozeki who never rival Yokozuna get the occasional yusho or those who are Yokozuna quality are injured too much to consistently perform well enough for a promotion. It’s another reminder that becoming a Yokozuna is extraordinarily difficult.