Hey everyone,

I’m back with the second part of my report card for sumo’s 2023 natsu basho. Took a little longer than I would have hoped, but things have been very busy lately. I went back to college this summer, working towards a shift of careers from journalism to social work. Last week I finished up my first course so I was able to find time this week to indulge in what has become my favourite activity (writing for you folks).

Last time around I graded the bottom half of the rank-and-filers. That was an entirely free post, but this time around I will be adding a pay-wall. I don’t take this decision lightly, but the fact is, if I’m going to make time to write this newsletter (and take time away from paid work and studying), I need to at least create the opportunity to be compensated. Hope you all understand.

I’ll leave a big portion of this post free, though. With that, let’s get to the grades.

Report Card


Rank: East Maegashira 8
Record: 7-8
Grade: C-

Sadanoumi got off to a decent start this basho, but a four day losing streak scuppered his month. Losses to Tsururgisho, Oho, Koteoko, and then Chiyoshima on Day 13 meant a make-koshi (his third in a row). At 36, we are likely witnessing the slow decline of a very workman-like rikishi who, even in his prime, was never able to get over the hump and join the upper-ranks. That said, he’s probably the best measuring stick in the makuuchi. Six of the eight wrestlers who defeated him finished with winning records. All but one of his wins were against wrestlers who finished with losing records (like this smart hatakikomi against Takanosho).

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Rank: West Maegashira 8
Record: 7-8
Grade: C-

Takanosho’s tournament looked a lot like Sadanoumi. His efforts were largely forgettable and, like Sadanoumi, he served as a bit of a gatekeeper among the middle of the pack. However, for a 28-year-old former sekiwake he should be doing better. In a lot of his bouts he simply put his head down and tried to win off the tachiai. This lead to some brutal opening clashes (the one against Hiradoumi was especially violent).

With his 7-8 record Takanosho continues to be consistently inconsistent. This year he has floated around that mark each tournament. He’s been inconsistent much of his career, though. However, in years past he’s been able bookend 7-8 and 8-7 records with a fantastic result. That’s yet to happen in 2023 (and I doubt it will).


Rank: East Maegashira 7
Record: 6-9
Grade: D

It was a tournament to forget for Hokutofuji. His record is worse when you consider half of his six wins came against rikishi who were dreadful this tournament (Kotoshoho, Ryuden and Mitoryu). Hokutofuji seemed out of steam and out of ideas for much of his contests. His powerful pushes only worked a fraction of the time and many of his foes were able to withstand them and use that momentum against him.

This was Hokutofuji’s fourth make-kochi. That’s a career worst for the former komusubi.



Rank: West Maegashira 7
Record: 6-9
Grade: C-

Tamawashi rebounded, somewhat, after a terrible March tournament (where he went 3-12). In March Tamawashi’s sumo looked utterly uninspired as he over-relied on his thrust to the throat and appeared to give up whenever he was pushed to the edge.

This time around, he still took plenty of losses, but he looked a lot more energetic and keen, striving for ways to win even when his heels were firmly up against the straw. He was on the winning and losing ends of a number of razor thin finishes, like the loss to Takanosho below.

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Though not as bad as what happened in March, Tamawashi still looks a long way removed from his yusho form from last November. However, at least in this tournament the oldest man in the division (38) showed he might have a little bit of fight still in him.


Rank: East Maegashira 6
Record: 8-7 (shukun-sho)
Grade: B

Meisei finished with a pretty average record, but if you’re just looking at that you’re missing out on the exciting first half of the tournament he had, which climaxed with his win over Terunofuji. That win gave him his first career kinboshi and remained the only blemish on Big Teru’s dominating championship performance in his first basho since returning from a long injury lay-off.

Meisei did what nobody else could do this tournament, get Terunofuji on his bike. He did this with an incredible tachiai, launching himself at the yokozuna with perfect timing and a tremendous amount of menace. The impact both pushed Terunofuji back and prevented him from locking onto either Meisei’s mawashi or his arms (which could have lead to an extremely painful put-out, like he did to Tobizaru and Hoshoryu).

After the initial clash, Terunofuji tried to go for a grip again, but Meisei circled and then, as Terunofuji tried to keep up, he hit him again and established an inside grip of his own with his right hand. By moving his feet and pulling on the mawashi it looked as though Meisei may have gotten close on a hikiotoshi or katasukashi. Terunofuji noticed this and pulled his arm out of the danger zone. When he did this, though, Meisei closed the distance and was able to trap Terunofuji while he was completely upright. From that position, Meisei was able to drive him out for the statement victory.

It was an exhausting win to Meisei and, given the fact he went 0-6 to finish the tournament, you wonder how much of an adrenaline dump he experienced from the ecstasy of beating such an awesome yokozuna. The strength of schedule didn’t help his second half either. After beating Terunofuji he went up against Takakeisho, Daieisho, Kotonowaka, Abi, Asanoyama and Hokuseiho.

Despite that disappointing finish, and so-so record, he gets a B for that incredible bout with Terunofuji (and how pugnacious and strong he looked in his early bouts). Meisei also picked up the first shukun-sho (Outstanding Performance prize) to go along with his first career kinboshi.


Rank: West Maegashira 6
Record: 9-6
Grade: B

Despite going 9-6, I felt this was kind of a ho-hum tournament for Mitakeumi. His best win was his Day 13 yoritaoshi win over Daieisho, which killed Daieisho’s chance at getting ozeki status. In that bout he withstood Daieisho’s all-out pushing and shoving attack and was inches from being pushed out before he locked up a pair of underhooks and then drove the sekiwake back and over.

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Mitakeumi’s winning record was the product of a pretty one-dimensional arsenal for the former ozeki. His push and save offence was enough to run over and force out most the opponents he faced. However, he did get exposed a couple of times by creative wrestlers who were able to maximize on his top-heavy physique and toss him down.

The 9-6 record will get him a place or two higher on the banzuke, but that will also open him up to much better opposition in the next tournament. He’s still only 30, and just a year removed from a championship, so there’s chance he might be able to hang with the san’yaku in Nagoya.


Rank: East Maegashira 5
Record: 4-11
Grade: C-

It’s tough at the top. Kinbozan learned that in May in only his second tournament in the makuuchi. His debut in the top division was sensational, with the Kazakh earning an 11-4 record and the Fighting Spirit prize.

After being promoted to M5 Kinbozan saw his record flipped this tournament, as he was fed a steady diet of very good opponents. This tournament he faced (and lost) to the following wrestlers for the first time in his career: Meisei, Shodai, Kotonowaka, Midorifuji, Nishikigi, and Terunofuji.

He scored a banner win over Takakeisho on Day 10. Takakeisho’s nagging knee injury seemed to play a role in that win, but it’s still a good achievement for the 25-year-old (who would have picked up a hefty sponsorship bonus, too).

I could have graded him harsher for the 4-11, but given who he faced (for the first time ever), I think he deserves a little leniency here.


Rank: West Maegashira 5
Record: 2-10-3
Grade: F

This was rough to watch. In January Kotoshoho stumbled his way to an 11-4 record and a second place finish to his old high school classmate Takakeisho. In March he declined, sharply. His hectic and flustered style got lucky in January, but in March it resulted in, more often than not, face-plants or being thrown off the dohyo. It was more of the same in May. After beating Kinbozan on Day 1 he went on an nine bout losing streak, the ninth being a fusen. He sat out for three days and returned with a win over fellow struggler Takarafuji. On Day 15 he was beaten by Takayasu.

Expect a plummet in the rankings for Kotoshoho in the next banzuke.


Rank: East Maegashira 4
Record: 7-8
Grade: C+

Ura was must see TV, again, this tournament. That turned his C for a narrow losing record to a C+ in my books. He had some of the bouts of the tournament in May and added a few more highlight reel wins (and losses) to his extensive collection.

This bout against Tobizaru (a fellow chaos agent) is an entire highlight in itself.

In a battle to see who could out bamboozle the other, it was Ura who was able to outfox Tobizaru after multiple mad scrambles across the dohyo. This bout typified Ura’s entire basho showing that despite entering his thirties, and his long injury history, he is still capable of moments that make sumo worth watching. Additionally, this tournament showed he can give us those wild highlights, while also staying close to a winning record.

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Rank: West Maegashira 4
Record: 9-6
Grade: B

This was a very nice tournament for Nishikigi. After a rough 1-6 beginning to the basho he knuckled under and won eight straight. After losses to Terunofuji and Daiesho, Nishikigi broke out on Day 8 with a sukuinage win over the excellent Wakamotoharu. He followed that up by making short work of Takakeisho. Other wins in that kachi-koshi clinching streak came against Kotonowaka, Shodai and Abi (below).

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Here you can see what a load Nishikigi can be. After Abi over-commits and ends up perpendicular to his opponent, Nishikigi explodes with a push that completely takes Abi out of the fight. In the gif you can see how much of that push is down to the incredible musculature Nishikigi posses in his lower body. However, execution of a move like this also speaks a lot about his timing and intelligence.

Nishikigi’s performance this tournament will have him creep up the maegashira ranks and see him knocking on the door of a san’yaku promotion next time out. If he could get promoted to the upper ranks that would be a first for the 32-year-old.


Rank: East Maegashira 3
Record: 8-7
Grade: B

Tobizaru did a lot of what I’ve praised Ura for in his entry. Like his pink-clad rival, Tobizaru brings the chaos to every bout he enters. Both men seem committed to entertaining and aren’t afraid to…

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About the author
Tim Bissell
Tim Bissell

Tim Bissell is a writer, editor and deputy site manager for Bloody Elbow. He has covered combat sports since 2015. Tim covers news and events and has also written longform and investigative pieces. Among Tim's specialties are the intersections between crime and combat sports. Tim has also covered head trauma, concussions and CTE in great detail.

Tim is also BE's lead (only) sumo reporter. He blogs about that sport here and on his own substack, Sumo Stomp!

Email me at tim@bloodyelbow.com. Nice messages will get a response.

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