September Sumo: Hoshoryu looks to defend his title

Hoshoryu looks to continue his climb to the Yokozuna ranks after winning his first championship in July.

Sumo rolls into its next tournament with the Aki Basho in Tokyo at the Ryogoku Kokugikan and Hoshoryu looks to nail another championship but this time as a newly crowned Ozeki.

Hoshoryu, 24, finished 12-3 with a playoff win over Hokutofuji in a decisive victory and now the newly christened Ozeki will go for Yokozuna in this month’s tournament. He finished with the required 33 wins over 3 tournaments to collect his new rank and the championship win sealed his promotion. “Of course, I am excited,” said Hoshoryu, “There’s just one more rank to go grab and I will to the best of my ability get there.” Hoshoryu has been sumo’s golden child since 45-title winner Hakuho retired and Terunofuji is more than likely on his last legs but with 8 championships to boot.

The minimum requirement for a Yokozuna is to win at two tournaments at the Ozeki rank or win one tournament at rank plus have one tournament with an equivalent or semi-equivalent (at least tied for 1st with playoff match or a 13/14-win runner-up) performance in the succeeding tournament to qualify for the rank.

Yokozunas cannot be demoted but can be penalized to retire if they are not performing to the best of their abilities.

However, the Aki Basho could be the last tournament for 37-year-old Aoiyama, who was ranked a Maegashira East 17 for the previous tournament, he started 2-6 but reeled off 7 straight victories to finish 9-6. The 400lb Aoiyama, who is one of Bulgaria’s most popular sportsmen, said that he’s getting tired and wrestling is definitely starting to take its toll on his knees. Aoiyama did state that he would stick around in Japan as a coach. He has also been studying very hard for his master’s in chemistry plus it’s been said that he’s been wanting to retire for a while but consistent finishes as of late have pushed that back.

The 73rd Yokozuna Terunofuji is scheduled to make his return to dohyo (ring) this tournament. However, it looks like he is definitely beginning to show signs of fatigue in the Makuuchi division as well as some wear and tear in preparations for the upcoming tournament. He looked noticeably thinner (about 40-60 pounds lighter than his billed weight of 403lb) and was training a little less hard than usual at the tender age of 31.

Hakuoho, 19, an understudy of Hakuho, looks to surprise the wrestling world with his amazing and meteoric rise in the makuuchi division ranks. After finishing 11-4 at the last tournament, “I just did what I had to do to win, that’s all” says Hakuoho, “not a big bother.”

Kadobans to watch in the Aki Basho

Kirishima’s newly christened Ozeki status is already in jeopardy as he had a poor tournament last month which caused him to finish 6-7-2. He needed to finish with an 8-win or better mark to retain his status. Now he will be in danger of demotion if he doesn’t win 8+ matches in the Aki Tournament. However if he loses the ranking for the November basho, he can regain it if he has a strong performance as a Sekiwake in said tournament.

Takakeisho, who sat out the entire tournament with an injury is also in danger of demotion if he doesn’t win 8 or more matches in the Aki Tournament. Takakeisho has been very inconsistent since winning the January tournament (11-11-23) as he has also been vying for sumo’s ultimate rank.

As it stands, Kirishima has a 59.5% chance of retaining his rank while Takakeisho sits at 36.1% according to sumo fan polling.

Akiseyama retires

Akiseyama Mitsuhiko has retired at the age of 38. Akiseyama’s rather uneven sumo physique earned him his fighting style of “grandpa power” from big fans of sumo to which he took in loving stride. He told a Tokyo Newspaper, “I heard some people on a youtube channel calling me Grandpa! But I take it with stride and like it. I heard some people in the background going: Let’s see that grandpa power!” Akiseyama only made it to Makuuchi for 4 tournaments, amassing a paltry 21-33-7 mark but he managed to win 2 titles at the Division 3 and 6 ranks. Akiseyama took on the Izutsu elder stock (wrestlers in the stable) in his retirement (becoming a head coach in the process) and also plans to become a professor at the Waseda University during the academic year owing to his love of books (he enjoys the Lord of the Rings, Wheel of Time, and Star Wars series) and his doctorate in literature.

The Trump Cup returns for the September Basho

The Prime Minister of Japan, Fumio Kishida has announced that the Trump Cup will return. The 65-pound trophy worth a whopping $600,000 which was won by Asanoyama in the July Tournament in 2019 will return to the Aki basho. Asanoyama called winning the Trump Cup, “the coolest thing since I made the highest division.”

Makuuchi Rankings for the 2023 Aki Basho

Ozeki’s with an X are considered kabodan (threatened with demotion)

Yokozuna East – Terunofuji
Ozeki 1 East – Kirishima – X
Ozeki 1 West – Takakeisho – X
Ozeki 2 West – Hoshoryu
Sekiwake 1 East – Daieisho
Sekiwake 1 West – Wakamotoharu
Sekiwake 2 East – Kotonowaka
Komusubi 1 East – Nishikigi
Komusubi 1 West – Tobizaru
Maegashira 1 West – Hokutofuji
Maegashira 1 East – Meisei
Maegashira 2 West – Abi
Maegashira 2 East – Asanoyama
Maegashira 3 West – Shodai
Maegashira 3 East -Tamawashi
Maegashira 4 West – Takanosho
Maegashira 4 East – Ura
Maegashira 5 East – Gonoyama
Maegashira 5 West – Shonannoumi
Maegashira 6 East – Onosho
Maegashira 6 West – Ryuden
Maegashira 7 East – Takayasu
Maegashira 7 West – Oho
Maegashira 8 East – Kotoeko
Maegashira 8 West – Hiradoumi
Maegashira 9 East – Midorifuji
Maegashira 9 West – Hakuoho
Maegashira 10 East – Kinbozan
Maegashira 10 West – Endo
Maegashira 11 East – Mitakeumi
Maegashira 11 West – Hokuseiho
Maegashira 12 East – Takarafuji
Maegashira 12 West – Sadanoumi
Maegashira 13 East – Myogiryu
Maegashira 13 West – Nishikifuji
Maegashira 14 East – Aoiyama
Maegashira 14 West – Kotoshoho
Maegashira 15 East – Atamifuji
Maegashira 15 West – Chiyoshoma
Maegashira 16 East – Kagayaki
Maegashira 16 West – Tsurugisho
Maegashira 17 East – Daishoho

Japan Sumo Association is considering adding another tournament for 2024 and a record low in debutants at the top rank

Thanks to a resurgence of interest in sumo wrestling in 2023 and returning of crowds to pre-pandemic levels, the Japan Sumo Association is looking to recoup some of the ticket sales lost due to the pandemic by adding a new staggered tournament. The JSA is also going to be launching a paid streaming service of sorts so that fans who can’t attend the matches can watch online.

The Japan Sumo Association will have a meeting about this additional tournament that is staggered. Next season would see wrestlers competing in 3 straight tourneys (JAN-FEB-MAR, MAR-APR-MAY, MAY-JUN-JUL, JUL-AUG-SEP, SEP-OCT-NOV) in one year. The JSA is also looking a possible U.S. Sumo Exhibition which would take place in Hawaii, Los Angeles, and Dallas with a $20,000,000 top prize to whomever has the most wins through the 3 cities. Sumo is actually very popular in the United States especially on the coasts and also Hawaii and the American Samoa.

Chairman Hakkaku who is in his final year as the head of the Japan Sumo Association as he is electing against serving another term says that the extra tournament will generate new revenue and also get new wrestlers to the top faster.

This year alone has seen a record low number of new debutants into the makuuchi ranks and it has been very frustrating for Hakkaku himself saying that there’s just been too much competition in the Division 2 Juryo ranks.

Who will win the next basho? We’ll find out on September 10th.

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Joshua Leuschner

Orioles/Ravens/Capitals/Terrapins/Inter Miami CF fan. Runs a podcast who tells it like it is (I-95 East Coast Sports Podcast) and loves sports, sports betting (responsibly of course), and finding arcane statistics in professional sports. He is also a devoted classic cartoon enthusiast (1930s rubberhose and 1940s-1960s silver/golden age animation), video game player, Enya enthusiast, devotee of classical music (Mozart, Sibelius, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, and others), Hair/Classic/80s Rock fan, beer connoisseur, gym goer, former Slow Pitch Softball Player, and traveler.

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