Chanko Thief

Oonokuni Discussion

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Thank you all for your input. It is refreshing to know that I am not the only one who thinks of Oonokuni as a failure. He is one of my all time favorites and I think he gets a bad rap sometimes that is undeserved. He achieved more in his life than most people could ever dream of and should hold his head high and be proud.

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Ozeki Onokuni had a zensho yusho and two runner up finishes in the three tournaments before his promotion to Yokozuna. He won 40 and lost only 5 matches in those three tournaments. With that record, how could the NSK not promote him to Yokozuna?

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6 minutes ago, Kishinoyama said:

Ozeki Onokuni had a zensho yusho and two runner up finishes in the three tournaments before his promotion to Yokozuna. He won 40 and lost only 5 matches in those three tournaments. With that record, how could the NSK not promote him to Yokozuna?

Yes, I think the NSK had to promote him to be the 62nd Yokozuna based on those 3 consecutive results at Ozeki. The criteria for promotion to Yokozuna was 1) being of outstanding character and ability, 2) winning two consecutive championships at Ozeki, 3) the YDC could recommend an appointment with consensus of a wrestler who had "an equivalent record" to winning to consecutive championships. This third condition was a loophole to allow wrestlers who, in their opinion, had produced very similar results to the criteria and for which they could all agree deserved recommendation for promotion.

This loophole could be, and was, applied loosely or strictly depending on the situation (such as the nature of victories, the number of other Yokozuna on the banzuke, recent success/"failures" of Yokozuna, etc). Indeed, Futahaguro (Kitao) had been promoted to be the 60th Yokozuna after the Nagoya 1986 basho on the strength of 4 tournaments at Ozeki in which he produced 10-5, 10-5, 12-3 and 14-1 records but no championships. In the second to last of this streak, he met Chiyonofuji on the final day with them both on 12-2 and with the winner of the match to take the title. In the last basho of these four, he carried a 13-1 record into the final day and again met Chiyonofuji, who was 14-0. Kitao won the regular match to force a pay-off but succumbed to Chiyonofuji in the re-match and couldn't claim the title. Matching well against the lone Yokozuna at the time, and given that he was about to turn 23, this bright young hope was promoted to yokozuna with no tournament victories (and he would never win one, although he went to another playoff against Chiyonofuji in his 3rd basho as yokozuna). Against that yardstick, Onokuni had a better claim.

Hokutoumi became the 61st Yokozuna just a few months after Futahaguro after recording an 11-4, 12-3Y and 13-2 record to start 1987. In the last tournament of this streak he went in with the possibility of forcing a playoff for the title with Onokuni but wasn't able to beat his fellow ozeki (who won the title 15-0 and started his own Yokozuna promotion run). Hokutoumi had been an ozeki for only 5 tournaments, but was recognised as having a strong future at just shy of 24 years old. Also in his favour was the yusho he had taken just over a year before when he was a sekiwake. Certainly to his advantage was that, as a stablemate of Chiyonofuji, he would not meet "The Wolf" in regular matches at basho (only playoffs), but got to hone his skills in keiko against the best of his era.


9 hours ago, Kishinoyama said:

I remember reading that in an old issue of sumo world magazine. It would have been a much better ending if the NSK would have accepted his resignation. 

 Now, to me, this is the more intriguing part of the whole matter. The fourth article of the by-laws regarding Yokozuna related to their retirement, and the conditions for these were: 

4) Under the following conditions, the YDC may conduct an investigation of a Yokozuna and, by a vote of two-thirds of its members, take such action as issuing a warning or recommending retirement: 

  1. He has numerous absences. However, when extended absence is due to injury or illness, the possibility of recovery can be taken into consideration and a sufficient treatment period be granted. 
  2. He dishonours the rank of yokozuna
  3. He has an extremely poor record for a Yokozuna, one judged not deserving of the rank 

Now 7-8, and the first time that a Yokozuna had completed a 15 day tournament with makekoshi after these by-laws came in in 1958, to me seems to meet the third definition. A losing record is not deserving of the rank of Yokozuna (on the face of it). 

In the tournament before (Nagoya 1989), he had to withdraw on Day 5, and so recorded a 1-4-10 record. At this time, he was sharing the Yokozuna ranks with Chiyonofuji and Hokutoumi (as Futahaguro had been forced to retire after his oyakata handed in resignation papers in early 1988). All three were occasionally sitting out basho due to injury, but the yusho always went to a Yokozuna (but only once to Onokuni) and you could say that sumo was in a relatively healthy place, even if the pall of Futahaguro still hung over proceedings. Based on that situation, there perhaps wasn't the same need to refuse Onokuni's resignation as if he was the sole Yokozuna and losing him would create a very different landscape. It's also interesting to watch videos of the last two days of the tournament (available on the Sumo Reference page here), as Onokuni isn't taped on his legs, nor do his movements seem to be stilted or hampered by injury. Obviously, we can't tell just what might have been going on purely by the video, but nothing jumps out. 

Now, I'm not going to second guess here, because it is perhaps precisely the fact that there were other Yokozuna (and Asahifuji also joined the ranks while Onokuni was out injured) that allowed Onokuni the time off to rest his injuries. After going makekoshi in September 1989, Onokuni sat out Kyushu, came back in Hatsu 1990 to record 8-7 (but with 4 straight losses to end the tournament), and then sat out 4 straight basho before seemingly returning to his old self with 10-5, 10-5 and 12-3. Another absence in Natsu 1991 did not bode well, and he retired mid-basho at Nagoya in 1991.


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